Best Law Firms for Your Career

Vault Publishes Ranking of Top Firms for Law Careers

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Vault recently published its 2018 lists of the best law firms for your career: "Best Firms to Work For" and "Best Midsize Firms to Work For." Associates at these firms rated their employers on job satisfaction, work culture, hours, substantive work, and other criteria. Whether you are a soon-to-be or recent law school graduate, or an established attorney who wishes to change jobs, you can use these rankings to discover which firms can offer you the best career opportunities.

How to Use Vault's Rankings

Following are Vault's lists. Use the links provided with each entry to learn more about each law firm. For example, click on "Overview" to get contact information and basic stats. See how it ranked on other Vault lists and what associates said were "uppers" and "downers." You can also read about the firm's history and see what news it is making today.

Q&A takes you to an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, and Why Work Here gives a description provided by the firm. Survey Says is a premium content area that has further information about quality of life, career advancement, and salary and benefits. It is for subscribers only, but some institutions provide it at no charge to their students. Non-subscribers can also download the firm's Diversity and Pro Bono reports.

Vault's Best Firms to Work For

Each of the law firms included on "Vault's Best Firms to Work For" have upwards of 250 lawyers on their staffs, but many have at least 500. Some even employ over 1,000 attorneys. All have international offices.

  1. Paul Hastings LLP
  2. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
  3. O'Melveny & Myers LLP
  4. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
  5. Ropes & Gray LLP
  6. Proskauer Rose LLP
  7. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
  8. Thompson & Knight LLP
  9. Foley Hoag LLP
  10. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Vault's Best Midsize Firms to Work For

None of the firms included in "Vault's Best Midsize Firms to Work For" has more than 200 attorneys working for it, and most have fewer than 100. Offices are located only in the United States.

  1. Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC
  2. McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP
  3. Bookoff McAndrews PLLC
  4. Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
  5. Desmarais LLP
  6. Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz
  7. Wolf, Greenfield and Sacks, P.C.
  8. Farella Braun + Martel LLP*
  9. Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP*
  10. Susman Godfrey LLP

*Number 8 and 9 have the same score

Do You Want to Work for a Large or Small/Midsize Firm?

You will have to decide at some point—either before you begin your job search or when you are assessing job offers—whether you want to work for a large law firm or a smaller one. While Vault classifies firms with over 200 lawyers as large and those with that number or fewer as small to midsize, Georgetown University Law School has a different definition.

It says a large firm has more than 100 lawyers and more than one office location. The terms small and medium/midsize, according to the school, are relative, depending on the market or region within the U.S. For example, the size of a small or medium firm in New York City or Washington, D.C. is different than that in Denver or Cleveland. 

Georgetown Law goes on to explain that a smaller firm typically employs 20 or fewer lawyers. Some have diverse practice areas, but others, called boutique firms, specialize in one area. Large firms usually serve corporations as opposed to individual clients and have a range of practice areas. While they pay their associates more, they also require longer hours.

Your decision goes beyond choosing between a large or midsize firm. Firms can be broken down into smaller categories, according to BCG Attorney Search, a legal recruiter. In an article titled "Which Type of Law Firm Is Best for Your Career," author Harrison Barnes advises attorneys who are searching for jobs to decide if they want to work in main offices of large firms, branch offices of large firms, mid-sized firms, boutique firms, or newer fast-growing firms. 

Other Things to Consider: Geography and Practice Area

There is also the question of geography. Where do you want to work? Job seekers who are willing to relocate have more options than those who want to limit themselves to a particular region. Many lawyers also choose to specialize in a specific practice area such as antitrust law, elderlaw, copyright law, and biotechnology law, to name just a few. If you have a preference for location or practice area, you can search by these criteria on U.S. News and World Report's "Best Law Firms."