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by Kaitlin McManus | January 08, 2019


Glass Marble Reflection

A law firm's level of transparency can have a tremendous impact on its associates' job satisfaction. Be it concerning the firm’s financials, the path to promotion and partnership, or bonus and pay structure—when leadership is up front about the state of the firm, it can make associates feel more invested in their workplace. Transparency can boost firm morale and encourage an open, honest firm culture. In Vault's recent Associate Survey, insiders shared their thoughts on their firms' transparency. Below are associate quotes from the top 10 firms in Vault's 2019 Best Law Firms for Transparency.

#1 O’Melveny: "Transparency is amazing—any questions associates have are answered fully and honestly and openly. We all feel comfortable asking any questions. Reviews take place once a year."

#2 Fried Frank: "The firm has been working hard at being transparent. The chairman of the firm hosts a town hall twice a year in which he gives a presentation on how the firm is doing financially and what areas they are looking to improve. The chairman of the firm will also meet with the associates committee to discuss the review process and partnership track. All of the firm's policies are clear and easily available for viewing."

#3 Orrick: ".... The firm is very transparent as it relates to firm performance and finances. They do a great job of hosting town halls where the chairman speaks to the associates directly. They provide written materials detailing the state of the firm."

#4 Latham: "Partner/associate relations are very strong at the firm; associates are included in meetings, BD [business development], and social gatherings, and the firm does not feel overly hierarchical. I would also be surprised if any peer firm is as transparent as LW. We have yearly meetings about the firm's finances, and a great deal of information about the firm is shared with associates. Associates are also involved in the firm's Associates Committee, which make decisions regarding associate promotions to partner/counsel, associate reviews, and bonus allocation."

#5 White & Case: "Increasing transparency has been a firm priority in recent years, and the firm has been making strides in better communicating with associates on a wide range of issues including partner promotion prospects, real-time, ongoing performance reviews, financial results, etc."

#6 Clifford Chance: "The firm is completely transparent about your progress as an individual associate as well as about the partner track and internal promotion."

#7 Thompson & Knight: "Partners treat associates with respect and as valued team members. The firm is extremely transparent about firm performance and finances, and associates receive the same financial and performance information as partners.  The requirements for promotion are very transparent, and associates are given very specific feedback about how to make partner. Performance reviews are conducted twice a year. The mid-year evaluation is a pretty short evaluation just to touch base with your mentor and address any major concerns. The annual evaluation is much more in depth and will focus on personal business development goals as well as feedback from partners in the firm."

#8 Munger Tolles: "When MTO says that it has a completely 'flat' and egalitarian structure, it means it. Every attorney is treated like an owner of the business from day one and expected to participate actively in managing and promoting the growth of the firm."

#9 Paul Hastings: "I feel the firm is very transparent. There are regular presentations on the firm's performance, and my individual practice group's performance. As a mid-level associate, I attended a symposium hosted by the firm, at which the topics covered included, among other things, how partnership decisions are made/the path to partnership. For reviews, associates complete a self-assessment, evaluating their performance as to certain metrics and identifying specific examples of work performed. They also nominate mid-level or senior associates and partners to perform a co-review. The co-reviewers provide input, and then the primary reviewing partner reviews all of that and provides a written assessment. The written results are provided and then the associate will meet in person with the primary reviewer to discuss."

#10 Cahill: "We receive annual reviews, and partners are generally pretty forthcoming with information if you ask. We also have an annual 'State of the Firm' address where the chairman discusses the firm's finances and takes questions from associates. Partners are often willing to interact with associates, whether it be professionally in the office [or] at firm-sponsored social events."

To see the entire top 25 Best Law Firms for Transparency, click here.

To view more Vault Law rankings, click here.


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