Believe it or not, Biglaw isn’t all about prestige, especially when looking at the legal profession through the lens of the “new normal.” These days, in a supposedly post-recession world, working at a large firm is an aspirational stepping stone on the way to a debt-free life. Associates willingly offer their wrists for Biglaw’s golden handcuffs in the hope of some day being able to escape them for happier pastures.
But for prospective Biglaw employees who have an embarrassment of riches available to them (i.e., offers from multiple firms), wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose the firm where you’ll have the best quality of life? Or any life at all? Such a thing does exist within the hallowed halls of large law firms, and there’s even a ranking to prove it.
Hot on the heels of its prestige rankings (which still matter to the people who care so very deeply about just how impressive they are), Vault has released its annual quality of life rankings. Sure, some firms may be more prestigious than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good places to work.
After a major shake-up in the rankings, which firms made Vault’s top ten this year?
Before we get to the top ten, here’s Vault’s methodology so we can see exactly what we’re looking at:
As part of this year’s Law Firm Associate Survey, nearly 17,000 associates rated their own firms on a 1 to 10 scale in more than a dozen different categories, including satisfaction, culture, compensation, hours, formal training, informal training and mentoring, associate/partner relations, transparency, business outlook, pro bono, diversity and selectivity in hiring. This year, we added two new categories: substantive work and career outlook.
In addition to individual rankings for each of these categories, we also use a weighted formula to determine the overall Best Law Firms to Work For based on associate ratings in the following areas: Satisfaction (25%); Hours (10%); Compensation (10%); Business Outlook (10%); Substantive Work (10%); Associate/Partner Relations (5%); Transparency (5%); Formal Training (5%); Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship (5%); Pro Bono (5%); Overall Diversity (5%); Career Outlook (5%).
It seems like the addition of the “substantive work” and “career outlook” categories was just enough to propel one leading law firm to the top of the Vault rankings for 2014. Here are the new top ten:
Congratulations to Paul Hastings, a Los Angeles-based firm that soared to the number one spot in this year’s rankings from #9 last year, after not even being ranked in 2012. Is anyone really surprised by this? The firm took the silver trophy on this year’s Am Law A-List, and with all due respect to famous departee Shinyung Oh, also placed on the top ten list of firms with women in leadership roles. PH also ranked first in the “hours” category; it must be nice to earn top dollar without sweatshop-like conditions.
Williams & Connelly, which had held strong at the top slot for several years, now falls to third place, and Ropes & Gray continues to carry second place. One of the most notable additions to the top ten is elite California firm Irell & Manella, a newcomer to the list, and a leader in overall compensation.
Hey, remember when Patton Boggs laid off partners, associates, counsel, and staff back in March? The firm continues to lose lawyers, partners and associates alike, via mass exodus. It looks like that “right-sizing” came back to bite the firm in the ass for the purposes of the new Vault rankings. Oopsie!
Congrats to all on the “best firms to work for” list — because even if your associates are rolling around in money, if they don’t have the time to stop and smell the
roses benjamins, what’s the point?