Rankings

Which firm does this happy lawyer work for?

Despite what you might have heard, Biglaw isn’t all about the Benjamins, and it’s not all about the prestige either. While stories abound about long days and even longer nights spent at the office, some people actually enjoy working those hours — because their firms make it somewhat pleasurable to do so.

Some firms provide the means for their associates to have a decent quality of life (see, e.g., Cleary associates who “have a baby” to go to a Katy Perry concert and Quinn associates who get paid to go away for a while), while others do not.

Do you want to work at a firm where your quality of life as an associate is rated as among the best? Vault’s annual Best Law Firms to Work For ranking will tell you where to look if you want to be truly happy…

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It’s mid-July and summer associate programs are poppin’ at Biglaw firms across the country. While some summer associates are working themselves to the bone, others are taking advantage of their ability to be wined and dined by their firms. Sure, being an actual associate is more work than play, but why not have fun while you still can?

Today, we’ve got a very timely ranking of the large law firms where summer associates have the most fun, courtesy of Vault. If you were lucky enough to summer at one of these firms, we bet you had a blast.

Let’s check out the top 10 firms…

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Each year, associates and partners wait with anticipation for American Lawyer to roll out its signature rankings. First comes the influential Am Law 100, followed by the closely watched Am Law 200, and finally comes the annual A-List, the most associate-focused ranking of them all. This ranking identifies the most “well-rounded” of all Am Law 100 firms (i.e., the firms that are “the total package”).

The A-List differs from other Am Law rankings in that only one financial metric is involved — revenue per lawyer (RPL). The other factors included in this ranking are pro bono work, diversity, and most importantly, associate satisfaction. Double the weight is typically given to firms’ RPL and pro bono scores, and we usually see the same firms in the top three. That was not the case at all this time around.

This year, we’ve got a wildly different top three, and a new number one. Which 20 firms came out on top?

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Staci here. Earlier this month, Vault released its closely watched rankings of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. It was there that we learned Wachtell Lipton held onto its title as the most prestigious firm in America for the twelfth year in a row — but not by much. Cravath was very close to snatching the crown, and we’ll see how this grudge match pans out next year.

In the meantime, please don’t think that we’ve forgotten how much our loyal readers enjoy Biglaw rankings. Perhaps your firm isn’t the most prestigious, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have clout. Some law firms reign supreme when it comes to certain practice areas, and others are known to dominate entire regions of the country.

Which law firms are considered to be at the top of their game by practice area and region? Let’s find out!

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Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Earlier this week, the good folks over at Vault released their annual list of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. As we noted in our analysis of the list, the top 15 for this year don’t look very different from the top 15 from last year.

Wachtell Lipton topped the list for the 12th year in a row. But as Vault noted, Cravath isn’t far behind — and could retake the crown that it relinquished to Wachtell back in 2004.

Yes, that’s right — Wachtell hasn’t always been #1. On this “Flashback Friday,” let’s look back at the Vault rankings from 2008 and 1998 and see how things looked in the past….

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When women in law aren’t being told how to dress and act appropriately, they’re busy watching their firms brag about their dedication to advancing women in the profession, while at the same time being constantly passed over for partnership promotions and leadership positions in favor of their male colleagues. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: “Biglaw lives to serve men, and in most cases, they are the ones claiming all of the power, the prestige, and most importantly, the money, while women are left in the dust.” At some large law firms, it’s a different story. Some firms offer women the chance to rise through the ranks to become major power players and to receive startlingly booming compensation — and rank among the most family friendly.

Thanks to the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), we have a way to find out exactly which firms are on top when it comes to offering women attorneys the chance to perform on par with their male colleagues in terms of prestige and pay. Let’s check out the list…

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It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.

If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?

But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.

The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?

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A happy paralegal.

* The latest Vault 100 rankings are out, and it’s time to find out which Biglaw firm is the most prestigious in all the land. Is it Wachtell? Is it Cravath? We’ll have the answer for you, and much more analysis, later today. [Vault]

* A former office manager at Vedder Price has been accused in a $7M embezzlement scandal. She allegedly used the money to buy “lavish homes, numerous vacations” — it’s as if she were trying to live like a partner. [ABA Journal]

* Since the Redskins’ trademark was canceled by the Patent and Trademark Office, sports fans are wondering whose offensive team name is next. The Cleveland Indians might get scalped. [WSJ Law Blog]

* According to ALM Legal Intelligence, paralegal pay is on the rise, and it’s almost $80/hr in top roles. Why should new attorneys care about this? Because they’ll probably have to work as paralegals. [ALM]

* Double the deanships, double the fun: Penn State Law’s campuses have been approved by the ABA to become separately accredited locations. We’ll take bets on which one closes first. [StateCollege.com]

Recently, a solo practitioner somewhere in the Midwest posted on Facebook about her “incredible” annoyance at the fact that the ATL Law School Rankings do not count solos (and therefore her) as part of a school’s “employment score.”1

That’s unremarkable, of course. We don’t expect or intend that our approach will please everybody. Anyway, the resultant comment thread was, for the most part, a thoughtful discussion of the pros and cons of excluding solo practitioners in evaluating a particular law school school class’s employment outcomes. Again, all of this is unremarkable, and — especially considering the ATL rankings were published back in April — hardly worth noting now. But one particular commenter really, seriously disliked the ATL rankings methodology. Before you say “so what?” (or “me too”), consider the commenter is indisputably one of the most influential law school deans in the country. Not only that, this dean made a “suggestion” in the course of the discussion that, if it were adopted, would be a game changer for how law schools would share employment data….


1 It must be noted that the solo did not read or did not understand our methodology in the first place. Our employment scores measure the most recent class ten months after graduation. She only recently began her practice. Prior to that she worked for a couple years as a public defender, a job that would have been counted under our formula.

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We know how much our readers love rankings, so this is probably a good time to let you know that the National Jurist has released its eighth annual list of the law schools thought to offer the “Best Value” to law students — usually a list dominated by public schools with a smattering of private schools. The magazine also released its second annual list of the “best value” private law schools at the same time.

The Best Value ranking system typically takes into account a law school’s tuition (weighted 25 percent), students’ cost of living expenses (10 percent), students’ average indebtedness upon graduation (15 percent), the percentage of graduates who got a job after graduation (35 percent), and bar passage rates (15 percent).

What’s so exciting about this year’s list? For starters, the list of the overall “Best Value” list includes the most private law schools to date, in part due to the fact that average indebtedness is down since law schools started tossing out scholarships like Mardi Gras beads just to convince students to enroll.

Let’s take a look at the 2014 “Best Value” rankings…

Please note the UPDATE on the second page of this post.

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