Biglaw, Munger Tolles & Olson, Rankings

Best in the Biglaw Show: The 2013 Am Law A-List

Every year, the American Lawyer trots out its rankings at about the same time — first the highly influential Am Law 100 and Am Law 200, which are then followed up by the A-List. Think of this ranking as the legal professions’s Westminster: everyone is yipping excitedly over the possibility of being named “best in show” at this Biglaw beauty contest.

The A-List differs from the Am Law 100 and 200 rankings in that there’s only one financial metric here (revenue per lawyer). The other factors involved are pro bono work, attorney diversity, and perhaps most importantly, associate satisfaction. In years past, associate satisfaction has represented only 16 percent of a firm’s total A-List score, but taking a nosedive or making significant gains in this area can turn it into a game changer.

So, which 20 firms made the grade this year? Let’s find out…

For the past three years, the same three firms have dominated the top slots of the Am Law A-List, changing order slightly each time. For 2013, they placed as follows:

1. Munger Tolles & Olson (3rd place in 2012; 2nd place in 2011)
2. Paul Hastings (2nd place in 2012; 3rd place in 2011)
3. Hughes Hubbard & Reed (1st place in 2012; 1st place in 2011)

Poor Paul Hastings, always a bridesmaid and never a bride in the Am Law A-List. Keep up the good work with your associate satisfaction and pro bono work (near perfect scores on each), and maybe you’ll be able to snag a first place rating in 2014. For now, try to concentrate harder on making money.

Hughes Hubbard shows what a significant dip in associate satisfaction can do to a firm. In 2012, their associates gave the firm a 191/200 for their satisfaction, whereas this year, that score dropped by 36 points. While HHR made our list of the top five overlooked firms — one associate called it a “fantastic place to work” — we have to wonder if something is going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about that would cause such a drop in satisfaction. Feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477) if you know what’s displeasing the associates at Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

Alright, we’ve kept you waiting for long enough. Here are the top 10 firms of the 2013 Am Law A-List — with 11 firms actually listed due to a tie. Take a look:

The rest of the list is available here. Congratulations to all the honorees.

Note that in 2013, we’ve not yet covered attorney layoffs at any of these firms (except WilmerHale, which axed at least 14 staff attorneys in May). Also recall that Debevoise shuttered its T&E practice in February, but there were no layoffs; the group landed safely at Loeb & Loeb. As for Latham, it avoided Lathaming secretaries by offering them voluntary buyouts.

The American Lawyer reports on the three firms that were bumped off the A-List, and the one firm that squeezed its way in, all thanks to their associate satisfaction scores:

The three firms displaced by the newcomers—Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Covington & Bur­ling—rank 22nd to 24th, respectively, on this year’s Honorable Mention list. All three were hurt by double-digit drops in their associate satisfaction scores.

Within the A-List itself, Shearman & Sterling made the biggest jump, going from 18th last year to a 10th-place tie with Morrison & Foerster. The firm benefited from a 24-point increase in its asso­ciate score. “We . . . trace this improvement to some very specific steps—like the establishment of a leadership academy for senior associates,” senior partner Creighton Condon said in an email.

It’s worth noting that there are several firms listed on the A-List Honorable Mentions with sub-100 associate satisfaction scores. Here they are: Arnold & Porter (87); Sullivan & Cromwell (90); Steptoe & Johnson (99); Fried Frank (92); Irell & Manella (0); Winston & Strawn (97); White & Case (79); Williams & Connolly (0); and Kramer Levin (80). (We hope associates at the firms with satisfaction scores of 0 never turned in their paperwork to American Lawyer; otherwise, that seems very problematic.)

Memo to Biglaw firms: keep your associates happy, or suffer the consequences in the rankings.

The 2013 A-List [American Lawyer]
The 2013 A-List Honorable Mentions [American Lawyer]
The 2013 A-List: The Complete Report [American Lawyer]
The A-List: Best in Class 2013 [American Lawyer]

Earlier: The 2013 Am Law 100: A Year of ‘Slow Growth’
The 2013 Am Law 200: A ‘Hiring Binge’ Hangover
From the ATL Insider Survey: Overlooked Firms and Schools
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Staff Attorneys Getting Shafted
Debevoise Ditches Its Trusts and Estates Practice
Nationwide Layoff Watch: ‘Voluntary’ Departures at Latham

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