20 Most Prestigious Law Firms In America And How They Operate

20 White & Case

#20 White & Casehttps://www.facebook.com/whitecase

1,900 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “International work and opportunities”
  • “People don’t get worked to death”
  • “Good relationships with senior associates and partners”

Downers

  • “Lack of transparency”
  • “Unpredictable hours”
  • “Slim partnership prospects”

The Buzz

  • “Great international practice”
  • “Good work product”
  • “Slightly impersonal”
  • “Too big”

19 Jones Day

#19 Jones Day
The original branch in Cleveland.
Flickr/LakeTroutCapital

2,400 employees

Washington, D.C. headquarters

Uppers

  • “Team atmosphere”
  • “Stability of the firm and its client base”
  • “Attempt at work/life balance”

Downers

  • “It’s sometimes difficult to navigate the red tape at such a large firm”
  • “No transparency regarding compensation”
  • “The firm can be cheap in certain ways”

The Buzz

  • “Huge”
  • “International”
  • “Opaque”
  • “Fratty”

18 Sidley Austin LLP

1,693 employees

Chicago headquarters

Uppers

  • “Extremely pleasant place to work”
  • “Reasonable hours requirements”
  • “Commitment to diversity”

Downers

  • “Work flow can be unpredictable and a little unevenly distributed”
  • “Lack of transparency in bonus system”
  • “Biglaw is Biglaw”

The Buzz

  • “Obama worked there!”
  • “Great in Chicago”
  • “Hard-working”
  • “Conservative”

17 Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP

#17 Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLPScreenshot

595 employees

Los Angeles headquarters

Uppers

  • “You will get trial experience”
  • “Security in the financial outlook/success of the firm”
  • “Casual dress code”

Downers

  • “Extremely long hours and 24/7 availability expectation can be grinding”
  • “Skimpy perks”
  • “Unrelenting focus on the bottom line”

The Buzz

  • “Litigation powerhouse”
  • “Fun environment”
  • “Arrogant”
  • “Crazy hours”

Partners at the firm often wear flip flops to work.

16 Williams & Connolly LLP

#16 Williams & Connolly LLPScreenshot

270 employees

Washington, D.C. headquarters

Uppers

  • “The people are exceedingly smart, decent, and good to work with”
  • “Substantive work while still maintaining a reasonable lifestyle”
  • “We actually go to trial”

Downers

  • “No system of work assignment”
  • “Hours are too long”
  • “Could use more women and minorities in leadership roles”

The Buzz

  • “DC powerhouse”
  • “Litigation’s pinnacle”
  • “Law review editors only”
  • “Aggressive”

14 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

#14 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLPScreenshot

803 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “A case that is not in The New York Times is the exception rather than the rule”
  • “Being part of such a strong legacy of commitment to pro bono work and civil rights”
  • “Very strong economic outlook”

Downers

  • “Everyone is very intense”
  • “Too many hours”
  • “More document review than promised as a first-year”

The Buzz

  • “Top in litigation”
  • “Corporate practice is catching up to litigation”
  • “Crazy hours but interesting work”
  • “Aggressive”
Paul Weiss’s Roberta Kaplan successfully argued the case against the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court.

13 Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

#13 Debevoise & Plimpton LLPScreenshot

675 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Culture is very supportive and diverse”
  • “Work is challenging and high-profile”
  • “Compensation is lockstep with no billable requirements”

Downers

  • “Lack of transparency”
  • “The technology is antiquated”
  • “Passive-aggressiveness”

The Buzz

  • “Great people”
  • “Smart and hardworking”
  • “Boring”
  • “Nerdy”

12 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

#12 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLPGoogle/Screenshot

1,081 employees

Los Angeles headquarters

Uppers

  • “Free market assignment system lets associates chart their own course”
  • “Flexible work environment with great people who are happy with what they are doing”
  • “Relentless focus on doing the best work possible”

Downers

  • “Lack of professional development structure”
  • “Hours, hours, and more hours”
  • “Share offices [in New York]”

The Buzz

  • “At the cutting edge of litigation”
  • “Highly respected”
  • “Buttoned-up”
  • “Tough work schedule”
The firm is known for its work on famous Supreme Court cases including the game-changing campaign finance case “Citizens United” and the challenge to California’s gay marriage ban.

11 Covington & Burling LLP

#11 Covington & Burling LLPGoogle/Screenshot

890 employees

Washington, D.C. headquarters

Uppers

  • “Intellectually stimulating environment”
  • “Reasonable hours expectations”
  • “Ability to do lots of interesting pro bono work”

Downers

  • “Lack of transparency on certain issues”
  • “Too-reserved atmosphere”
  • “Slightly lower bonuses”

The Buzz

  • “Intellectual”
  • “Best in DC”
  • “Snobby”
  • “Political”

10 Latham & Watkins LLP

#10 Latham & Watkins LLPFacebook/Latham & Watkins

2,000 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “It’s all about the people — they’re fantastic”
  • “Involvement of associates in management of the firm”
  • “Unassigned program allows young associates to try a great deal of different things”

Downers

  • “Billable hours requirement”
  • “Have to be available 24/7”
  • “The sheer size of the firm makes some things very inflexible”

The Buzz

  • “Increasing energy presence”
  • “Relaxed for a big firm”
  • “Fratty”
  • “Overworked associates”

Latham is only firm in the top 20 that doesn’t offer automatic pay raises.

9 Kirkland & Ellis

1,660 employees

Chicago headquarters

Uppers

  • “Run your own practice”
  • “Cash money, baby”
  • Training is excellent”

Downers

  • “No transparency”
  • “Hours can be brutal”
  • “Lack of mentorship”

The Buzz

  • “Excellent training”
  • “Best in Chicago”
  • “Crazy hours but huge bonuses”
  • “Arrogant”

8 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LPP

#8 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LPPScreenshot

1,200 employees

New York headquarters

Uppers

  • “Incredible culture of collegiality”
  • “No face-time requirement”
  • “Transparent management”

Downers

  • “Hours can be unpredictable”
  • “People can be passive-aggressive”
  • “Unclear expectations”

The Buzz

  • “Good at everything”
  • “Incredible for international law”
  • “Nerdy”
  • “Brutal hours”
Cleary represented Greece in the largest ever sovereign debt restructuring and bond exchange.

7 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

#7 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLPScreenshot

845 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Extremely collegial atmosphere”
  • “Wide exposure to a lot of impressive deals”
  • Complex work and real responsibility at an early level”

Downers

  • “Firm governance is a little opaque to associates”
  • “Modest partnership potential”
  • “Unpredictable and long hours”

The Buzz

  • “Best M&A and private equity lawyers”
  • “Thanks for $160K!”
  • “Smug”
  • “Crazy hours”

6 Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

#6 Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Screenshot

1,200 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Exposure to complex, varied and interesting transactions”
  • “Laid-back culture”
  • “Brilliant colleagues”

Downers

  • “Always being on call”
  • “Unclear future opportunities”
  • “Lack of transparency”

The Buzz

  • “Elite restructuring group”
  • “Underrated”
  • “Fratty”
  • “Highly competitive”

Weil Gotshal recently made headlines when it had mass layoffs for the first time in its history.

5 Davis Polk & Wardwell

#5 Davis Polk & WardwellScreenshot

809 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Respectful culture”
  • “The work is cutting-edge”
  • “Opportunity to learn from the top people in the field”

Downers

  • “Hours and stress”
  • “Unpredictable workflow”
  • “Formal mentoring system has limited utility”

The Buzz

  • “Classy”
  • “Excellent work, even better people”
  • “Stuffy”
  • “Conservative”

4 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates

#4 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates Google/Screenshot

1,700 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Endless training resources”
  • “The work is top-notch”
  • “Global presence of the firm”

Downers

  • “Hours tend to be long”
  • “Too few counsel and partner positions available for associates”
  • “An intense place to work”

The Buzz

  • “King of M&A”
  • “Top dog”
  • “Workaholics”
  • “Cutthroat”

Skadden was the first law firm to report $1 billion in annual revenue.

 

3 Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

#3 Sullivan & Cromwell LLPScreenshot

816 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Commitment to excellence”
  • “Headline-grabbing cases”
  • “Early responsibility”

Downers

  • “Hierarchical structure”
  • “There is always more work to be done”
  • “Always being on call”

The Buzz

  • “Amazingly smart people”
  • “Goldman’s lawyers”
  • “Interviews are difficult”
  • “Pretentious but good at what they do”

2 Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

#2 Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Cravath associates serve on a Dow Jones panel.
 Flickr/djevents

434 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “Early responsibility”
  • “Top-tier work”
  • “Amazing exit opportunities”

Downers

  • “Lack of transparency”
  • “Uneven mentoring”
  • “Endlessly on call”

The Buzz

  • “Corporate powerhouse”
  • “Market leader”
  • “Annoyingly prestigious”
  • “Among the most demanding”
Every Monday at 1:00 p.m., Cravath’s entire New York partnership sits down for lunch together, a tradition dating back to the 1920s.

1 Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

#1 Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & KatzGoogle/Screenshot

244 employees

New York City headquarters

Uppers

  • “We get the best work”
  • “Every single day, I learn something new”
  • “Excellent compensation”

Downers

  • “On-call 24/7”
  • “More pressure than you would find at a lot of other firms”
  • “It’s life-consuming”

The Buzz

  • “The gold standard”
  • “Huge bonuses”
  • “Bring a sleeping bag”
  • “Intense”
This is the smallest firm in the top 20, but it handles a major portion of the world’s mergers and acquisitions. Martin Lipton, one of the firm’s founders, created the “poison pill,” a popular strategy to prevent hostile takeovers in publicly traded companies.
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