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ATL Law Firm Ratings: D.C. Edition

Washington, D.C. has the most densely concentrated population of lawyers in the nation. The capital has an astounding 1,356 percent more lawyers per capita than New York. One in 12 District residents is an attorney. The nation’s capital is home to just one-fifth of one percent of the national population but accounts for one in every 25 of its lawyers. Could there be some correlation between this total saturation of D.C. with J.D.s and the seeming contempt that the rest of the country holds for the place? Washington’s negative perception problem is such that Slate’s political gabfest felt compelled to devote this week’s podcast to explore the proposition “Washington Is Really Not That Bad.” Examples of this not-badness included the fact that people don’t have to bribe officials to get their social security benefits. So it was kind of a low bar.

In any event, D.C.’s lawyers work in myriad capacities in Congress, government regulatory agencies, non-profits, and lobbying firms. But obviously Washington is very much a Biglaw town as well. The frustration and malaise brought on by the sequester and partisan gridlock seem to be affecting the business of Biglaw. As Lat noted yesterday, large firms there are struggling: revenue, demand and productivity are all lagging at D.C.-based law firms when compared to firms nationwide. So this might not be the ideal time to check in on how lawyers at large D.C.-based firms perceive their professional experiences. But we’ll do it anyway.

Our ATL Insider Survey (13,500+ responses and counting) asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Washington stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…

The Insider Survey asks respondents to rate their firms in each category on a scale of 1 through 10 (with 10 being the best). Please keep in mind that we only publish rating for firms for which we have sufficient survey responses. Obviously, there are major firms missing. So, lawyers at, say, Williams & Connolly or Wiley Rein, or any other firm left out here, please take our survey here and we’ll revisit D.C. when we compile more information.


1. Patton Boggs 8.60
2. Hogan Lovells 7.75
3. Covington & Burling 7.65
4. WilmerHale 7.44
5. Arent Fox 7.33
6. Steptoe & Johnson 7.30
7. Arnold & Porter 7.08
8. Crowell & Moring 6.25

D.C Average: 7.42
National Average: 7.48


1. Steptoe & Johnson 9.00
2. Arent Fox 7.83
3. Crowell & Moring 7.25
4. Hogan Lovells 7.05
5. Patton Boggs 7.00
6. WilmerHale 6.72
7. Covington & Burling 6.43
8. Arnold & Porter 6.42

D.C Average: 7.21
National Average: 7.17

Firm Morale

1. Steptoe & Johnson 8.0
1. Arent Fox 8.0 (tie)
3. Hogan Lovells 7.05
4. Covington & Burling 6.87
5. WilmerHale 6.76
6. Patton Boggs 6.0
7. Arnold & Porter 5.83
8. Crowell & Moring 5.75

D.C Average: 6.78
National Average: 7.18


1. Steptoe & Johnson 8.30
2. WilmerHale 7.52
3. Covington & Burling 7.30
3. Hogan Lovells 7.30 (tie)
5. Arnold & Porter 7.08
6. Patton Boggs 7.0
6. Arent Fox 7.0 (tie)
8. Crowell & Moring 5.88

D.C Average: 7.17
National Average: 7.09

Culture and Colleagues

1. Arent Fox 9.00
2. Steptoe & Johnson 8.60
3. Covington & Burling 8.35
4. Patton Boggs 8.0
4. Hogan Lovells 8.0 (tie)
5. WilmerHale 7.68
6. Crowell & Moring 7.50
7. Arnold & Porter 7.42

D.C Average: 8.06
National Average: 7.99

Overall Score

1. Steptoe & Johnson 8.24

This firm is great about treating associates like professionals. Face time is a non-issue — as long as you get your work done, the partners are flexible about where the work gets done.

2. Arent Fox 7.83

A very open, welcoming, liberal, diverse culture. Supportive of minorities and very family-friendly.

3. Hogan Lovells 7.43

It is all about the culture. The number of a-hole partners is low and associates are genuinely valued.

4. Covington & Burling 7.32

Covington is a really pleasant place to work. The people are great, and as long as the work that needs to get done is getting done, people are very understanding about the fact that everyone wants a life outside of the firm. It’s a bit less social than a lot of other firms, which actually helps with having a life outside the firm — people spend their nights and weekends at home, not at the firm.

4. Patton Boggs 7.32

For each of the three years I have been at the firm, my year-end bonus has been higher than the lockstep bonuses doled out by New York firms.

6. WilmerHale 7.22

Wilmer is great. Colleagues whose significant others work at other big firms in town know that Wilmer is a more friendly and collegial BigLaw experience. All while working on front page matters with well-known partners. All around first-rate. Recruiting is very selective.

7. Arnold & Porter 6.77

[A]ssociate partner relationships the single most important factor in determining the types of cases and work you get. For the most part, great people to work with.

8. Crowell & Moring 6.53

Pros: hands on experience for junior attorneys, opportunities to write substantive pleadings, generally nice people and a clear value for pro bono. Cons: compensation is a bit of a black box process with minimal transparency.

D.C Average: 7.33
National Average: 7.38

So congrats to Steptoe & Johnson for the highest overall rating. (Just don’t confuse them with this firm, they hate that.) Comparing the D.C. average ratings to the national averages, what’s striking is how closely they track. In five out of six categories, the D.C. ratings are within a tenth of point of the national averages. The one exception? Firm morale, which is significantly lower.

Finally, for those of you who have yet to do so — whether in D.C. or elsewhere — please take a few minutes and take the ATL Insider Survey. Thank you.

Earlier: ATL Law Firm Ratings: Texas Edition
ATL Law Firm Ratings: Magic Circle in NYC Edition

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