We recognize that prestige is just one factor among many for law students and associates searching for the right law firm. For some candidates, quality of life weighs far more heavily in their considerations than a firm’s reputation in the community. That’s why each year Vault compiles its “Quality of Life” rankings, in addition to its rankings of the most prestigious law firms.
As part of this year’s Law Firm Associate Survey, nearly 17,000 associates rated their own firms on a 1 to 10 scale in more than a dozen different categories, including satisfaction, culture, compensation, hours, formal training, informal training and mentoring, associate/partner relations, transparency, business outlook, pro bono, diversity and selectivity in hiring. This year, we added two new categories: substantive work and career outlook.
In addition to individual rankings for each of these categories, we also use a weighted formula to determine the overall Best Law Firms to Work For based on associate ratings in the following areas: Satisfaction (25%); Hours (10%); Compensation (10%); Business Outlook (10%); Substantive Work (10%); Associate/Partner Relations (5%); Transparency (5%); Formal Training (5%); Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship (5%); Pro Bono (5%); Overall Diversity (5%); Career Outlook (5%).
This year, despite strong challenges from previous winners—including Williams & Connolly, which had taken the No. 1 spot for the last two years, and Ropes & Gray, which held the title in 2011—Paul Hastings earned the title of Best Law Firm to Work For.
Paul Hastings’ rise to the top was bolstered by its performance in a number of individual categories. The firm ranked No. 1 in Hours and was among the top 10 firms in a slew of other categories. Paul Hastings received glowing reviews from its associates. “I think that Paul Hastings offers the best that BigLaw life can,” said one associate. “I could not be happier,” raved another. “I work with top-notch attorneys who respect my input, appreciate my work and value my time.” Associates praised the “substantive experience” and appreciate that the firm is “quite transparent” both about the firm’s business outlook and their own futures, noting that “there is significant feedback, mentoring and collaboration.”
Associates at Ropes & Gray, which maintained its No. 2 position, demonstrate great loyalty to their firm, saying they “love it here.” In addition to a No. 1 ranking in Formal Training, Ropes & Gray earned top-10 rankings in nine different categories. One Ropes & Gray associate reported that “the opportunity to do substantive legal work at a young level of seniority is one of the best things about the job.” And according to another, “There is no law firm at which I’d rather work.”
Meanwhile, Williams & Connolly, the No. 3 firm overall, made a remarkable showing this year, taking the topmost spot in seven individual Quality of Life categories, including Satisfaction; Culture; Substantive Work; Career Outlook; Business Outlook; Associate/Partner Relations; and Selectivity in Hiring. The consensus among Williams & Connolly associates is that “there is no better place” to practice law. According to one associate, “After six years at this firm, I can say one thing for sure—if I ever leave this firm, it will not be to move to another firm. Practicing at a law firm simply does not get any better than W&C.”
Here’s a look at the No. 1 firms in each of our 2014 Quality of Life Rankings:
Overall Best to Work For: Paul Hastings (“I love my job and this firm. I hope to stay here for my entire career.”)
Satisfaction: Williams & Connolly (“I am exceptionally happy with my experience with the firm. It is a wonderful place full of dedicated and collegial attorneys who make working here a pleasure.”)
Culture: Williams & Connolly (“I am constantly amazed at what a collegial, close-knit, respectful environment exists at this firm. It's truly unique for big law.”)
Associate/Partner Relations: Williams & Connolly (“Partners treat associates with the utmost respect. They offer associates challenging and important assignments and allow them to manage critical parts of a case.”)
Transparency: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz (“The firm shares information about shareholder advancement, lawyer performance, and general expectations that no other firm would dream of disclosing.”)
Substantive Work: Williams & Connolly (“I spend the vast majority of my time on substantive legal work.”)
Hours: Paul Hastings (“I am quite satisfied with my quantity of work. It is exactly what one would expect at a large law firm, without having a "bill more hours" mentality.”)
Compensation: Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz (“Our compensation is legendary, and it lives up to the expectations.”)
Formal Training: Ropes & Gray (“Ropes does an incredible job of providing formal training opportunities.”)
Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship: Quarles & Brady (“I have wonderful mentor relationships with attorneys who I feel are invested in my success and are willing to act as my advocate.”)
Pro Bono Commitment: Patton Boggs (“Patton Boggs is more committed to pro bono work than any firm I've encountered.”)
Business Outlook: Williams & Connolly (“There is more work than we can handle. Everyone wants a piece of W&C.”)
Career Outlook: Williams & Connolly (“Because the firm promotes from within, associates are viewed as potential partners, which helps them view themselves that way.”)
Selectivity: Williams & Connolly (“Grades and your law school are what get you in the door, but once you come for a callback, your personality and fit are exceptionally important.”)
For a look at the rest of this year’s Quality of Life rankings, click here.
The Vault Quality of Life Rankings for 2014 also includes several categories related to Diversity.However, as has been the case in previous years, those rankings will be released during the 8th annual Legal Diversity Career Fair on Friday, August 2, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. For more information, click here.