Selecting a law firm is a giant step in one's legal career, and making sure a firm is the best fit is crucial. Among the areas that a law student or lateral should consider are the strength of a firm's practice areas and how those strengths align with his or her practice goals.
Vault's Best Law Firms by Practice Area ranks the top law firms across 26 practice areas. As part of Vault's Annual Associate survey, associates can vote for the strongest firms in their self-identified practice area(s). (Associates may select up to three firms, but they cannot vote for their own firm.) From this data, Vault produces its practice-area rankings.
Click through to see which firms ranked No. 1 in such practice areas as General Commercial Litigation, Mergers & Acquisitions, Intellectual Property, Project Finance, Real Estate, Tax, and more.
#1 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Holding on to its No. 1 spot for yet another year, Cleary reigns supreme when it comes to Antitrust. Outsiders describe the firm as "antitrust gurus" and an "antitrust leader." Joining Cleary among the top 5 firms in Antitrust are: Gibson Dunn (2), Arnold & Porter (3), Skadden (4), and Jones Day (5).
See the full Antitrust ranking here.
#1 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Holding steady at No. 1, Gibson Dunn is known for its appellate work, and with Ted Olsen at the helm, it's no wonder. Among comments from outsider associates are "amazing appellate practice" and "litigation powerhouse." Joining Gibson Dunn at the top of the ranking are Williams & Connolly LLP (2), Jones Day (3), Kirkland & Ellis (4), and Quinn Emanuel (5).
See full Appellate Litigation ranking here.
#1 Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
With one of the nation's most comprehensive corporate departments, Davis Polk remained perched in its No. 1 spot in Banking & Financial Services. The firm is among good company at the top with Cravath (2), Skadden (3), Sullivan & Cromwell (4), and Simpson Thacher (5) rounding out the top five.
See the full Banking & Financial Services ranking here.
#1 Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Orrick leaped to the No. 1 spot from its prior spot at No. 4, and its attorneys were deemed "top quality" by one respondent. Other firms in the top 5 are Latham (2), Norton Rose Fulbright (3), Milbank (4), Akin Gump (5), and Stoel Rives (5).
See the full Clean Tech & Renewable Energy ranking here.
#1 Cooley LLP
Cooley has nestled into the No. 1 spot, moving up from its previous position at No. 2. Numerous associates from peer firms describe the firm with one word: "startiups." Wilson Sonsini (2), Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian (3), Fenwick & West (4), and Morrison & Foerster (5) followed the leader.
See the full Emerging Companies and Venture Capital ranking here.
#1 Vinson & Elkins LLP
Keeping its streak alive, Vinson & Elkins clinched the No. 1 spot again. The firm is described repeatedly as a "Texas powerhouse" and also with the simple words "oil," "gas," and "energy." Joining the firm at the top of the ranking are Baker Botts (2), Latham (3), Norton Rose Fulbright (4), and Bracewell (5).
See the full Energy, Oil, and Gas Law ranking here.
#1 Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.
Born from the minds of environmental law experts, Beveridge & Diamond is a go-to firm for environmental law and has claimed the No. 1 spot for the second year in a row. Sharing its spotlight at the top are Hunton Andrews Kurth (2), Latham (2), Arnold & Porter (4), and Stoel Rives (5).
See the full Environmental Law ranking here.
#1 Quinn Emanuel
No surprises at the top here—Quinn Emanuel has led the General Commercial Litigation ranking since 2013 and has secured the No. 1 spot yet again. As one respondent states, Quinn Emanuel is "as good as lit gets." Other litigation dynamos include Skadden (2), Cravath (3), Paul, Weiss (4), and Gibson Dunn (5).
See the full General Commercial Litigation ranking here.
#1 Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
After capturing the No. 1 spot in General Corporate Practice last year, Cravath has done it again. It's not surprising that one outsider describes the firm as "corporate giants." Also among the top five are Wachtell (2), Skadden (3), Sullivan & Cromwell (4), and Kirkland (5).
See the full General Corporate Practice ranking here.
#1 McDermott Will & Emery LLP
Landing the No. 1 spot for the second year, McDermott Will & Emery has been racking up the accolades regarding its work in Health Care. The firm is joined at the top by Hogan Lovells (2), Ropes & Gray (3), Epstein Becker & Green (4), King & Spalding (5), and Polsinelli (5).
See the full Health Care ranking here.
#1 Fish & Richardon P.C.
King of Intellectual Property, Fish & Richardson has secured the No. 1 spot once again. Associates at other firms note that the firm is "great for IP" and "#1 for IP," among other things. The IP leader is in good company at the top with Finnegan (2), Quinn Emanuel (3), Kirkland & Ellis (4), and Morrison & Foerster (5).
See the full Intellectual Property ranking here.
#1 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Freshfields has held the No. 1 spot in International Practice since 2012, and this year is no exception. As one respondent notes, Freshfields has a "great international presence." Rounding out the top five are White & Case (2), Cleary (3), Skadden (4), and Shearman & Sterling (5).
See the full International Practice ranking here.
#1 Knobbe, Martens, Olsen & Bear, LLP
Knobbe, Martens, Olsen & Bear became the No.1 Intellectual Property Boutique in 2013 and hasn't looked back since. It's fellow top-5 firms are Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto (2); McKool Smith (3); Keker & Van Nest (4); and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox (5).
See the full Intellectual Property Boutique ranking here.
#1 Littler Mendelson P.C.
For the fifth year in a row, Littler Mendelson has clinched the No. 1 spot in Labor and Employment. It makes sense that outsider associates describe the firm as "employment matters powerhouse" and "go-to for employment law." Also at the top of the ranking are Jackson Lewis (2), Ogletree (3), Seyfarth Shaw (4), and Morgan Lewis (5).
See the full Labor & Employment ranking here.
#1 Susman Godfrey LLP
Susman Godfrey is the No. 1 Litigation Boutique yet again, receiving more than 45 percent of votes. One respondent indicated that Susman is "perhaps the best litigation shop in the U.S." while another described its attorneys as "great trial lawyers." Other top litigation boutiques are Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick (2); Keker & Van Nest (3); Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott (4); and Kobre & Kim (5).
See the full Litigation Boutique ranking here.
#1 Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Claiming its crown as king of M&A once again is Wachtell. The firm is described as "best of the best" with "brilliant attorneys" and as the "top M&A firm in the U.S." Also at the top of the rankings are Skadden (2), Cravath (3), Sullivan & Cromwell (4), and Kirkland & Ellis (5).
See the full M&A ranking here.
#1 Hogan Lovells
The No. 1 spot for Privacy and Data Security goes to megafirm Hogan Lovells. Also nestled at the top are Hunton Andrews Kurth (2), Morrison & Foerster (3), Cooley (4), and Wilson Sonsini (5).
See the full Privacy & Data Security ranking here.
#1 Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Known for its work in private equity, Kirkland claimed the top spot in 2015 and hasn't let go since. The firm was described by one respondent as a "private equity powerhouse." The other firms in the top five are Simpson Thacher (2), Skadden (3), Latham (4), and Wachtell (5).
See the full Private Equity ranking here.
#1 Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP
Quinn Emanuel has settled into the No. 1 spot in Products Liability, a rankiing it has held since 2016. Skadden (2); Jones Day (3); Kirkland & Ellis (4); and Shook, Hardy & Bacon (5) join Quinn at the top.
See the full Products Liability ranking here.
#1 Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
After capturing the No. 1 spot last year, Milbank has made it to the top again. Also at the top are Skadden (2), Latham (3), Sullivan & Cromwell (4), and Davis Polk (5).
See the full Project Finance ranking here.
#1 Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
It's no surprise to see Fried Frank atop the Real Estate ranking—a position its held since 2011. In fact, one survey respondent described the firm as "real estate kings." The firms in the top five stayed the same as last year, but there were some shakeups in terms of rank: Greenberg Traurig (2), Gibson Dunn (3), DLA Piper (4), and Skadden (5).
See the full Real Estate ranking here.
#1 Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland moved to the No. 1 spot in Restructuring/Bankruptcy in 2016 and has stayed there ever since. One respondent designated Kirkland "a top firm for bankruptcy." Other firms in the top five are Weil (2); Jones Day (3); Paul, Weiss (4); and Skadden (5).
See the full Restructuring/Bankruptcy ranking here.
#1 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates
Skadden is the top firm in Securities Litigation for another year—a position it has held since 2011. In describing the firm, one respondent stated, "who I would want to represent me" while another indicated the firm is "good at everything." The remainder of the top five are Cravath (2); Sullivan & Cromwell (3); Wachtell (4); and Paul, Weiss (5).
See the full Securities Litigation ranking here.
#1 Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
For the fifth year, Davis Polk has claimed the No. 1 ranking in Securities/Capital Markets. This year's top five also includes Skadden (2), Cravath (3), Simpson Thacher (4), and Latham (5).
See the full Securities/Capital Markets ranking here.
#1 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates
The top firm in tax law is no surprise—it's Skadden by a mile. The other firms at the top inlcude Davis Polk (2), Baker McKenzie (3), McDermott Will & Emery (4), and Cravath (5).
See the full Tax Law ranking here.
#1 Williams & Connolly LLP
Settling in for another year as No. 1 is Williams & Connolly, which was described by one respondent as "great for white collar/investigations." Paul, Weiss (2); Skadden (3); Gibson Dunn (4); and Covington & Burling (5) round out the top five.
See the full White Collar Defense & Internal Investigations ranking here.
We asked associates to vote for the strongest firms in their specific practice area (aside from their own). These responses yielded Vault's Top Law Firms by Practice Area, which ranks the top firms across 26 practice areas.
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