Which Law Firms Have the Happiest Associates?

Published: Jul 08, 2014

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While prestige is certainly an important factor in the law firm job-seeking process, there are many other aspects of firm life to consider as well. In Vault’s annual Law Firm Associate Survey nearly 17,000 associates rated and commented on various areas of their work life including overall satisfaction, compensation, career outlook and more. Their answers generated Vault’s Quality of Life Rankings and our annual list of Best Law Firms to Work For. After an impressive eight-point jump to No. 1 in last year’s Best to Work For rankings, Paul Hastings has remained at the top of the list for 2015.

Despite a strong challenge from Ropes & Gray, which held the title in 2011, Paul Hastings was able to retain its position as the No. 1 Best Law Firm to Work For thanks to high ratings from its associates in numerous Quality of Life categories—the firm ranked No. 1 in Satisfaction and No. 2 in Hours, Firm Culture, Formal Training, Informal Training and Associate/Partner Relations.

This year’s Best 25 Law Firms to Work For rankings were calculated using a formula that weighs associate ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10) in the following areas: Overall Satisfaction (25%); Hours (10%); Compensation (10%); Business Outlook (10%); Substantive Work (10%); Associate/Partner Relations (5%); Leadership Transparency (5%); Formal Training (5%); Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship (5%); Pro Bono (5%); Overall Diversity (5%); Career Outlook (5%).

Based on this formula, the Top 10 Best Law Firms to Work For are:

Click here to see the full list of Best Law Firms to Work For and scores for each firm.

And the winners are…

Below is a list of the No. 1 firm in each Quality of Life category along with a sample quote from an associate at that firm. To see the full Quality of Life rankings, click here.

Overall Satisfaction: Paul Hastings (“I love the work I do and the people I work with.  I am given a high level of responsibility and am constantly challenged.”)

Compensation: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (“I made more in my bonus last year as a second-year than an associate at another top firm will make in bonuses throughout his or her entire associate career.”)

Firm Culture: Foley Hoag (“The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, but professional. People definitely tend to socialize, especially the younger associates . . . . Everyone seems happy to be here.”)

Hours: Foley Hoag (“The billable hour requirement is achievable [and] manageable…I have never been required to put in ‘face time’ just for the sake of being in the office. Weekend work and vacation work is inevitable in the business, but it is rare and recognized when it is required.”)

Associate/Partner Relations: Williams & Connolly (“Associate/partner relations are great at Williams & Connolly.  Partners see themselves as mentors for the next generation of partners, because the firm promotes almost 100 percent from within.”)

Leadership Transparency: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz(“Transparency is one of the things I enjoy most about this firm.  If I have a question, I can call the CEO and ask him.  The expectations are set and known from the beginning about advancement to shareholder, and how the firm performs is common knowledge.”)

Substantive Work: Williams & Connolly (“During my third year, I was taking depositions, appearing in court and writing substantive motions. And I’m not special. That’s standard here. Sure, there is some doc review when necessary, but it’s never the majority of anyone’s time.”)

Formal Training: Ropes & Gray (“I have found the training to be excellent.  I have walked out of training and immediately applied what I learned to a substantive assignment.”)

Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship: Ropes & Gray (“The partners and associates here are wonderful about taking the time to go over my work. I’ve been really impressed at how much substantive feedback I’ve received.”)

Pro Bono: Squire Patton Boggs (note that survey data was collected from the pre-merger legacy firm Patton Boggs; it merged with Squire Sanders on June 1, 2014) (“Commitment to pro bono is evident and institutionalized. The managing partner, members of the executive committee and powerful partners handle pro bono cases and projects.”)

Business Outlook: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (“Morale is high, business is good and the firm performed well during the recession.”)

Career Outlook: Williams & Connolly (“I have no doubt that promotion to partnership is realistic. When people do leave the firm, it is typically to go to the government, in-house, or to another firm outside of Washington, DC. The types of jobs people get are top-notch.”)

Selectivity in Hiring: Munger, Tolles & Olson

Munger, Tolles & Olson unseated Williams & Connolly, which had been No. 1 since 2011. As one Munger Tolles associate described, “Thehiring process is brutal, particularly lately. Applicants’ resumes are scrutinized intensely.” Another commented, “Most people come here with one, two or more clerkships under their belts.”

To view the entire rankings for all the categories mentioned above, click here.

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