Wachtell wins again. For the twelfth consecutive year, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz has taken the top spot in the latest edition of the Vault Law 100 Rankings for 2015, but not without a little competition from the former front-runner. Earlier this year, we surveyed nearly 17,000 law firm associates and asked them to rate law firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige. Associates were not allowed to rate their own firms and were asked to only rate firms with which they were familiar. Based on these scores, the New York-based powerhouse Wachtell saw its lead over second-place Cravath, Swaine & Moore shrink from .087 to .021 points. Cravath spent years in the No. 1 spot before passing its crown to Wachtell in 2004, but the distance between the two firms has been closing in the last few years.
While Cravath’s performance proved impressive this year, Wachtell still reigns supreme. Our survey respondents called Wachtell “absolutely, positively, the best” and “the best law firm in the world.” One associate summed up what separates Wachtell from the competition, stating that the “legendary” firm is well-known for “great prestige, great money, and great work.”
Here are the Top 15 firms for 2015:
- Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
- Cravath, Swaine & Moore
- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
- Sullivan & Cromwell
- Davis Polk & Wardwell
- Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
- Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
- Weil, Gotshal & Manges
- Kirkland & Ellis
- Latham & Watkins
- Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
- Covington & Burling
- Boies, Schiller & Flexner
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
- Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
View the full list here.
The narrowing gap between the Wachtell and Cravath could set the stage for a showdown next year. Our survey respondents described Cravath as “the gold standard,” the “best of the best” and a “corporate icon along with Wachtell.” While Davis Polk & Wardwell remains at No. 5, the rest of the Top 10 saw some musical chairs. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Sullivan & Cromwell traded places, as they had last year, putting Skadden back in the No. 3 spot it enjoyed in 2013 and placing Sullivan & Cromwell at No. 4. Weil, Gotshal & Manges slid two spots to No. 8, making room for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (No. 6) and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (No. 7) to move up one spot each. Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins continue to round out the Top 10 at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.
So what to make of the new rankings? The Top 100 list remains generally consistent from year-to-year, but no firm is infallible. Innovators are climbing steadily toward the top. Firms like Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan continue to attract the most sophisticated work and clients due to their demonstrated expertise in unique practice areas, and they are well-known for breaking the mold with respect to internal issues such as company culture and compensation. It is also likely that firms with a significant presence in Silicon Valley, like Cooley, will climb higher in the coming years.
Cooley Makes Largest Jump in Law 100 and Enters Top 50
It is no surprise that Cooley, which has handled many significant, multi-billion dollar IPOs in recent years, climbed more than any other firm—ten spots—to debut in the Top 50. But capital markets is not the firm’s only forte; its reputation in the technology industry has also helped to boost other practice areas such as litigation and intellectual property. Cooley was described in our survey results as “entrepreneurial,” a “leader in its area” and “tech-savvy.”
Cooley’s increasing prestige can be attributed to its steady expansion, but also to the booming tech industry. It has deep ties to Silicon Valley and represents Facebook, Google, Yelp and LinkedIn, among other successful tech companies. It is also a go-to firm for venture capital funds and startups, so its portfolio is ideal in the current market and is set to keep growing.
Cooley’s 10-point hurdle was nearly matched by Duane Morris, which moved eight spots to No. 91, marking its second straight year in the Top 100. Cahill is now at No. 47, after a brief absence from the Top 50 in the 2013 and 2014 rankings. The firm is still known for the “top bonuses” that helped it move up 17 spots in 2012 toward the territory it now occupies.
In addition to Cooley, Cahill and Duane Morris, six other firms in the Top 100 moved up at least five spots this year—Proskauer Rose (No. 32), Hogan Lovells (No. 35), Goodwin Proctor (No. 38), Perkins Coie (No. 59), Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo (No. 88) and Locke Lord (No. 86).
Litigation Powerhouses Continue Rise to the Top
Quinn Emanuel and Boies Schiller continued their ascent in the Vault Law 100 this year. Quinn Emanuel first made the Top 40 in 2009 and the Top 25 in 2010. It has been hiking up ever since, including a two-spot jump to No. 15 this year. Survey respondents described the firm, which is renowned for its trial skills and ranked No. 1 for General Commercial Litigation in Vault’s 2014 rankings, as “innovative,” “intense,” “feared” and the “best litigation firm in the U.S.” Quinn Emanuel has over 2,000 trials under its belt, and a remarkable victory rate. Its track record extends to both defense- and plaintiff-side victories. The firm boasts expertise in all areas of litigation: products liability, appellate litigation, all types of class actions, you name it.
Boies Schiller also climbed two rungs this year, taking the No. 13 spot. The move comes after a big jump last year, which landed the firm in the Top 15 for the first time. A strong litigation practice along with a growing corporate practice could mean that Boies Schiller is poised for a Top 10 finish in 2015, which would mark the first significant change in the Top 10 in several years. If so, it might not come as a surprise to our survey respondents who recognized that Boies Schiller is “on the rise,” describing it as “superstar central” and a “top litigation firm” that offers the “best compensation.”
Other Notes from the Vault Law 100
Two firms fell out of the Top 100 this year: Dickstein Shapiro and Troutman Sanders. Meanwhile, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman made it back into the Law 100 at its former No. 98 spot, after a brief absence in the 2014 rankings.
View the entire Top 100 Law Firm Rankings.
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