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by Vault Law Editors | July 11, 2012


Each year, in addition to its overall prestige, regional, practice area and diversity rankings, Vault also compiles “Quality of Life” rankings. Associates are asked to rate their own law firms on a 1 to 10 scale in several categories: satisfaction, culture, hours, compensation, associate/partner relations, transparency, formal training, informal training and mentoring, pro bono, business outlook, selectivity, green initiatives and office space.

In addition to individual rankings for these categories, we also use a formula to determine the overall best law firms to work for, which takes into account satisfaction (40%), hours (10%), pay (10%), associate/partner relations (10%), business outlook (10%), formal training (5%), informal training/mentoring (5%), pro bono (5%) and overall diversity (5%).

For the second year in a row, Williams & Connolly has been ranked by its associates as the best law firm to work for. So what makes W&C’s associates so happy?

First of all, they love the work they are doing. Associates from the firm said their job was “endlessly interesting” and that there was “hands down, no better place to be a litigation associate.” Many associates commented on the substantive work and client interaction they were able to have from day one. Attorneys at the firm also say that the culture there can’t be beat (indeed, Williams & Connolly ranked No. 1 for culture this year). Respondents said that “partners and associates go out of their way to meet new members of the firm,” and that the firm is “astonishingly non-hierarchical” and “built around respect for one another as colleagues and people.” The firm also received No. 1 rankings in both business outlook and selectivity—so although you’ll be happy once you get there, expect some fierce competition on the way in.

Ropes & Gray, Vault’s No. 2 best firm to work for, was another quality of life standout this year. The firm received No. 1 rankings in Formal Training, Informal Training and Mentoring and Hours. Like associates at Williams & Connolly, Ropes attorneys also raved about the amount of substantive work they received, but they seemed uniquely happy with their BigLaw hours. One respondent explained that “some days are long, but if you need to get off for something, you generally can.” Another said, “[I] often work too much, but I’ve never once worked hard without it being noticed.” The general consensus from associates was that the firm’s hours requirement was “humane” and “reasonable.” And the training—which includes a trial preparation program, structured and unstructured mentorship, and regularly scheduled lunchtime programs—was described as “excellent,” “top-rate” and “extensive.”

Here’s a look at the No. 1 firms in each of our quality of life rankings:

Best to Work For: Williams & Connolly ("Can't imagine being happier at another law firm--or frankly, in any other job as a lawyer.")

Satisfaction: Williams & Connolly ("The work is interesting and challenging; the pay is above market; the resources are essentially unlimited; the benefits are excellent; the coworkers are intelligent and generally great to be around; and the partners care about associate development.")

Culture: Williams & Connolly ("A good mix of social and professional")

Associate/Partner Relations: Munger Tolles ("Our firm keeps a very low partner to associate ratio, so associates are valued and given lots of responsibility.")

Transparency: Munger Tolles ("The firm's finances are completely transparent--we all get a monthly financial report showing how many hours everyone has worked, what revenues have been brought in, etc.")

Compensation: Boies Schiller ("Probably the best-paying job in Big Law.")

Hours: Ropes & Gray ("My hours seem very reasonable compared to friends at other BigLaw firms.")

Formal Training: Ropes & Gray ("It is unbelievable the amount of time and effort put into these programs.") 

Informal Training and Mentoring: Ropes & Gray ("I've been lucky to work with partners who are very interested in my career advancement and provide opportunities and feedback.")

Pro Bono: Patton Boggs ("I am required and HIGHLY encouraged to pursue fulfilling pro bono work, and the firm's commitment to such work is part of what makes me so satisfied with my job.")

Business Outlook: Williams & Connolly ("Great morale, fantastic client base, interesting new business, consistent cycle of work.")

Green Initiatives: Fenwick & West ("The firm is exceptionally conscious of its environmental impact.")

Office Space: Thompson & Knight ("The best office space among law firms in Dallas.")

Selectivity: Williams & Connolly ("The firm is only interested in hiring the best of the best.")

For a look at the rest of this year’s Quality of Life rankings, click here.

--Rachel Marx, Law Editor



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