What is it that associates at prominent legal firms care about more than money in the first place? Of course, there’s a lot of prestige involved. However, at the end of the day, being a market leader in compensation can be sufficient to increase a company’s reputation. In a stroke of good fortune, the much anticipated Vault 100 rankings have arrived to remind lawyers at the nation’s major law firms of which firms are considered to be the most distinguished.
Cravath, the firm that matched Milbank’s $190K associate salary scale three summers ago with over-the-top monetary compensation for senior associates and that matched the generous new salary scale set by Davis Polk this summer, managed to retain its number one ranking in last year’s Vault 100 rankings, with Wachtell Lipton being edged out of second place by Skadden for the first time in the history of the Vault rankings. The newest Vault rankings revealed that Cravath was able to maintain its reputation as the most distinguished Biglaw firm in the country.
Without a doubt, it was. Cravath’s rating in the recent rankings drew the attention of Mary Kate Sheridan, senior law editor at Vault. She said the following: “Cravath and status go hand in hand for the firm, which has consistently ranked at the top of the Vault Law 100 and in the top ten of various practice area rankings, including the top spot in General Corporate Practice. When Cravath talks, other law firms listen up and take notice. Since its founding, Cravath has set industry norms in recruiting and compensation, and even when it is not the first to move, the firm’s decision to enter the market has an impact on the market, as was the case with this year’s compensation and special bonus announcements.”
Despite the fact that Cravath is a biglaw firm on the Davis Polk scale, the company is still the namesake for pay because of its distinguished reputation, with poll respondents describing the firm as a “industry trend-setter” and a “compensation leader.”
- 1 1. Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
- 2 2. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
- 3 3. Skadden
- 4 4. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
- 5 5. Latham & Watkins
- 6 6. Kirkland & Ellis
- 7 7. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
- 8 8. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
- 9 9. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
- 10 10. Gibson Dunn
- 11 11. Sidley Austin LLP
- 12 12. Weil
- 13 13. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
- 14 14. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
- 15 15. Covington & Burling
- 16 16. White & Case LLP
- 17 17. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
- 18 18. Ropes & Gray
- 19 19. WilmerHale
- 20 20. Paul Hastings LLP
1. Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Cravath is the undisputed king of the elite law firms, having essentially written the book on legal practice and professional training. The organization recruits only the finest of the best and maintains a professional climate based on mutual respect among its employees. In the company, those who do well under pressure, have a strong work ethic, and are intellectually curious will do very well. Among Cravath’s many specialties are antitrust, banking and credit, capital markets, corporate governance, executive compensation and benefits, mergers and acquisitions, securities litigation, taxation and estate planning, trust and estate administration, and white collar criminal defense. Each of Cravath’s practice areas has a strong international component, and more than one-third of the firm’s clients are headquartered outside of the United States of America.
2. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Wachtell has extensive experience in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, strategic investments, takeovers and takeover defense, corporate and securities law, and corporate governance, among other areas of practice. They are responsible for some of the largest, most complex, and most demanding transactions in the United States and around the world, among other things. Firms that specialize in acquisitions and divestitures of public and private companies, handling sensitive investigative and litigation cases, as well as business restructurings, also advise boards of directors and senior management in crisis circumstances. They have a proven track record of developing innovative and ground-breaking solutions and developments that have had a significant impact on business and law.
Skadden is a legal behemoth with expertise ranging from mergers and acquisitions to taxation. It is a perennial fixture among the most respected companies in Vault’s Top 100 ranking. Skadden lawyers are a gregarious lot that place a high importance on teamwork and mentorship while also delving deeply into the most difficult of cases. Skadden Arps is one of the most successful and well-known legal companies in the world, with offices across the world. It was the first legal firm to record yearly revenue of $1 billion, and it is today regarded as an industry milestone. While the firm is most renowned for its mergers and acquisitions expertise, it is a true all-star in every practice area, with over 1,700 lawyers spread around the globe.
4. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Although Sullivan & Cromwell is one of the most prominent law firms in the world, it takes a generalist strategy, which allows practitioners to collaborate across sectors and subgroups. S&C is devoted to assisting its lawyers in determining their future career options, and the firm places a heavy emphasis on mentorship and career advice. BigLaw powerhouse Sullivan & Cromwell has followed, if not invented, the blueprint for legal success: it has expanded internationally and in response to the increasing cross-border M&A, restructuring, and finance transactional demands of the world’s largest corporate clients, including some of the world’s most well-known names in business.
5. Latham & Watkins
When you are offered a position with Latham & Watkins, you know you have made it in the legal industry. A global leader in dozens of practice areas, the company attracts the brightest and most accomplished individuals to join its ranks. Those looking for the freedom to shape their own practice, as well as significant training and support, will be delighted with the offerings of this legal behemoth. Latham & Watkins is one of the largest legal companies in the world. Latham & Watkins has more than 3,000 attorneys in 30 locations across the world, and it works in all of the major jurisdictions in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as regularly representing corporations doing business in South and Central America and Africa. The firm is a global leader in corporate transactions, environmental law, financing matters, litigation and trials, and tax services, among other areas of expertise.
6. Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland is a legal behemoth, both in terms of size and reputation, and it is the ideal firm for self-starters who are ready to seize the reins of their legal careers. Associates at the firm agree that their futures are bright because of the firm’s extensive training and the fact that the firm’s name appears on their resumes. Kirkland & Ellis, one of the world’s most prestigious law firms, is well-known for its work in corporate, intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and restructuring. In addition to having more than 2,900 attorneys, the firm is consistently ranked as one of the most successful in the world.
7. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Davis Polk is a corporate law behemoth and a securities litigation powerhouse that ranks among the world’s most elite law firms. A hallmark of the firm’s professionalism is that it is staffed by attorneys with good work ethics who are committed to supporting and mentoring one another. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP has one of the strongest and most comprehensive corporate departments in the country, with outstanding teams in the areas of capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, finance, restructuring, and tax. In addition to its renowned antitrust practice, it also has strong intellectual property and white collar criminal defense practices, as well as a strong civil litigation practice.
8. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is a long-standing Wall Street firm that houses elite teams in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, banking, capital markets, and securities regulation. Despite this, the company is a little more diverse than many of its peers, possessing impressive capabilities in private equity, litigation and intellectual property, among other areas. During the 1980s and 1990s, the company established itself as one of the world’s premier mergers and acquisitions firms, with a particular emphasis on private equity leveraged buyouts. Simpson Thacher has represented a number of financial institutions in recent years, including JPMorgan, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Wachovia, UBS, and Travelers. The Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), as well as First Reserve, Silver Lake Partners, and Hellman & Friedman, among others, are among the private equity firms that have worked with us.
9. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Known for its advocacy on civil rights and social justice issues, Paul Weiss attracts progressive types who appreciate the firm’s high-profile pro bono work as well as its internal commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives. The company is a litigation powerhouse that also has a thriving corporate practice to its credit. In addition, the firm is well-known for its competence in the areas of telecommunications and entertainment law. Currently, the firm is involved in racial justice initiatives and providing support to people who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as in immigrant rights, reproductive rights, and voter protection initiatives.
10. Gibson Dunn
Gibson Dunn is a V10 firm with an impressive practice and client list. The firm is a litigation powerhouse, appellate all-star, and corporate legal force, among other things. Gibson seeks out self-starters who will thrive in the company’s free-market structure and who will fit in with the company’s professional, amicable culture. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher is a formidable force with more than 1,400 attorneys spread across ten countries. Gibson Dunn is widely regarded as one of the nation’s premier litigation and trial firms, particularly for its thriving Appellate Litigation and Securities Litigation practices, as well as its outstanding antitrust, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and real estate work, among other areas of expertise.
11. Sidley Austin LLP
Sidley Austin LLP is the crème of the crop when it comes to law firms, thanks to its strong global network and list of high-profile customers. We invite you to come for the smart work and stay for the courteous, amicable Midwestern atmosphere—as well as a genuine dedication to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. Sidley is a global behemoth with roughly 2,000 lawyers spread over 20 offices throughout the world. In a variety of industries, the firm has amassed an impressive customer roster that includes the financial services industry, energy, health care, insurance, life sciences, and technology. In addition to extensive regulatory experience, the firm’s work in complicated transactional and litigation cases is reinforced by the presence of several former officials from government agencies in Europe, the United States, and China.
Weil is a legal rockstar who is known for being a leader in bankruptcy and restructuring. His name is one that will stand out on any résumé. For team players who like mingling yet aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and put in the necessary effort, the firm is a wonderful fit. The company has been a trailblazer in a number of important areas of law, including corporate governance, private equity, bankruptcy and restructuring. The business, which has over 1,100 lawyers and offices on three continents and in six countries, continues to be one of the world’s most profitable legal companies, earning approximately $1 billion in revenue last year.
13. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
Quinn Emanuel is the polar opposite of a stuffy BigLaw company, offering a unique combination of informality and ambition. Lawyers who work at this prestigious litigation firm are self-directed and highly driven, with the freedom to direct their own workloads and the determination to work long hours on difficult cases while still dressing casually in jeans and flip flops (if they so choose). Quinn Emanuel’s litigation experience is extensive, as evidenced by its ranking as the No. 1 firm in Vault’s General Commercial Litigation category. Antitrust, appellate, bankruptcy, corporate disputes, environmental, insurance, intellectual property, international matters, life sciences, media and entertainment, products liability, and a variety of other areas are covered by the firm’s practice areas, which are extensive.
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14. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is one of the most prominent law firms in the world, and is particularly well-known for its cross-border practice, which includes representing national governments. Intellectual curiosity and a pleasant attitude will go a long way toward assimilating into the firm’s distinctive “Cleary Culture.” A leading worldwide law firm with offices on four continents and an unrivaled reputation for breakthrough work, Cleary is a leading global law firm. While Cleary has long been recognized as a strong participant in the international and corporate business worlds, the firm has invested in the development of corporate and litigation capabilities that have enhanced and expanded the full range of resources available to its clients.
15. Covington & Burling
Vault Law 100 ranking, Covington & Burling is a staple in the top 20 for its work in white collar crime, antitrust, and corporate law, among other areas of practice. The business recruits intellectuals who are progressive in their outlook and who thrive on teamwork, hard effort, and giving back to the community through pro bono work. Antitrust, litigation, white collar defense & investigations, corporate, intellectual property, export controls, data privacy and cybersecurity, and regulatory work are some of the areas of expertise for this “brain trust” law firm, which has particular strengths in the sports and entertainment industries as well as the life science and pharmaceutical industries, as well as energy and technology, and media and entertainment industries.
16. White & Case LLP
Find White & Case in the thesaurus if you search for the phrase “global legal company.” The business, which is a leader in cross-border work, has a presence in more than two dozen practice areas. There is a genuine diversity of thought among the firm’s attorneys, and the business has made a commitment to establishing an inclusive environment from the top down. The firm’s work spans more than two dozen subject areas, ranging from antitrust and competition to white collar criminal defense and investigations. Consumer products, financial institutions, manufacturing and industrial, media, mining and metals, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and health care, power, private equity, real estate, technology, and a variety of other industries are among those in which it is active, as well as others.
17. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
A member of New York’s elite, Debevoise & Plimpton is a leader in the private equity and mergers and acquisitions sectors, as well as a go-to firm for white collar concerns. Known for being smart and respectful, the business offers a wealth of resources to its associates, ranging from intensive mentoring to career counseling. Strategic and private equity, mergers and acquisitions, insurance, financial services transactions, fund formation, complex litigation, white collar/investigations, and international arbitration are among the firm’s core franchise practices, as are M&A, insurance, and financial services transactions.
18. Ropes & Gray
Ropes & Gray is a V20 law company, which means it has a place at the table with the world’s most elite law firms. Private equity expertise, as well as general strength across a wide range of legal practice areas, are two of the firm’s most notable assets. To maintain the firm’s collaborative culture, which has no room for egos, training and mentoring are essential. Ropes & Gray is a global law firm with 11 locations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The firm is known for handling cutting-edge work and has 11 offices worldwide. The firm, which consistently ranks at the top of legal industry rankings, is well-versed in advising clients in complicated, highly regulated areas such as asset management, health care, life sciences, private equity, and technology.
WilmerHale is a litigation super star, having handled cases that have frequently made front-page headlines. The firm has a particular strength in intellectual property litigation. A respectful culture prevails at the firm, in which associates feel supported by partners and are provided with the resources they require to excel in high-level matters. WilmerHale has more than 1,000 lawyers in the United States, Asia, and Europe, and is particularly well-known for its work in intellectual property, securities, and appellate litigation, as well as its experience in the health sciences and technology industries. Aerospace, big data, and Brexit are just a few of the industries in which the business advises clients. Other industries include energy, environment, and natural resources; financial services; health care; insurance; media and entertainment; national security; professional services; and technology.
20. Paul Hastings LLP
Paul Hastings is consistently ranked among the best law firms in terms of quality of life, and the firm places a strong emphasis on associate mentorship, training, and long-term career growth. Lawyers looking for an amicable, collaborative environment where hard effort and excellent client service are rewarded would most likely find a suitable fit at the company. With a focus on employment, tax, and business law, Paul Hastings has developed from a mid-market U.S. firm to a multinational organization with customers from more than 80 countries with strengths in employment, tax, and business law. As a result of the firm’s presence in major Asian markets (Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo), it has grown particularly powerful in these transactions.