Vault’s Associate Quality of Life Rankings

The recent release of Vault’s Top 25 Firms for Associates has named Paul Hastings as the new overall #1. The survey jumps Paul Hastings ahead of DC-based Williams & Connolly, which held the top spot last year. The remainder of the top 10, along with individual category winners and other notables are listed in the chart below:

RANK   FIRM                            CATEGORY WINS
1          Paul Hastings                 Overall Ranking; Hours
2          Ropes & Gray                 —
3          Williams & Connolly        Satisfaction; Culture; Work; Outlook; Relations; Hiring
4          Irell & Manella                 —
5          Gibson Dunn                  —
6          Foley Hoag                     —
7          Patton Boggs                  Pro Bono
8          Patterson Belknap           —
9          Fish & Richardson           —
10         Baker Donelson             Transparency
—          Quarles & Brady             Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship
—          Wachtell                         Compensation

As you can see, even though Williams & Connolly fell from the top spot, the firm is still clearly doing right by its associates. It finished as the category winner in a whopping seven categories: satisfaction, culture, work, career outlook, business outlook associate/partner relations, hiring.

In a recent blog article for The Careerist by Vivian Chen, Chen spoke with Vault’s director of research, Vera Djordjevich, about the findings. Says Djordjevich, “I think there can be a perception that the firms that have the biggest and best-known names are great for an attorney’s resume but not the most pleasant workplaces, and our quality of life rankings demonstrate that isn’t necessarily the case…a lot of firms have it all—great reputation, quality work, congenial atmosphere, and partners who take associate development seriously.”

Chen goes on to note that Wachtell’s #1 ranking in pay is no surprise given profits per partner of $4,975,000. Interestingly, Quinn Emanuel is nowhere to be found in the top 25, which is somewhat shocking given similar sky high profits per partner of $4,435,000. Chen also gave special recognition to New York-based Patterson Belknap’s for their appearance in the top 10 at #8. Not bad in the city that never sleeps—their associates seem to be sleeping just fine.

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Law Firm Mergers on Record Pace in 2013

According to a July 8 AmLaw Daily article, law firm mergers are on course to setting all-time highs halfway through the year. In the first six months of 2013, there have been 39 total tie-ups.

According to Ward Bower of Altman Weil, mergers seem to be the way of the future as a means of achieving growth. Not only is it efficient, it introduces the possibility for synergies and growth on scale that lateral hires that are made here and there do not. In Bower’s own words: “Many firms today are pursuing geographic growth strategies that have them expanding into new regions, which he notes is cheaper in the short term than making lateral hires.” Some notable firms which have struck merger deals recently include:

  • Baker & McKenzie adds 45 from United Arab Emirates firm Habib Al Mulla
  • Missouri-based Husch Blackwell acquires Brown McCarroll, a 67-lawyer Texas firm
  • Philly-based Fox Rothschild merges with 16-lawyer Denver firm Lottner Rubin
  • Philly-based Ballard Spahr adds New York litigation botique Stillman & Friedman
  • Detroit-based Clark Hill joins with Pittsburgh-based Thorp Reed & Armstrong
  • New Orleans-based Adams and Reese adds 23-lawyer SC firm Ellis Lawhorne

The most law firm mergers on record is 70, which occurred in 2008—the same year as the worldwide recession. That year saw an unusually high number of tie ups. As noted AmLaw Daily’s Brian Baxter, 2008 saw “Troutman Sanders ink a tie-up with Washington, D.C.’s Ross, Dixon & Bell, while Charlotte’s Helms Mullis and Kennedy Covington were absorbed into McGuireWoods and K&L Gates, respectively. That same year, the Missouri legal market consolidated following the mergers between Polsinelli Shalton and Shugart Thomson & Kilroy and Blackwell Sanders and Husch & Eppenberger.” Since that time, we have also experienced a number of what Baxter appropriately calls “megamergers” of formerly SNR Denton (now Dentons) and Norton Rose Fulbright. Yet what is happening in 2013 is unprecedented.

This year’s 39 mergers through June have set a blistering pace. If it holds up by continuing at the same rate, the total number of tie-ups will topple 2008’s record-setting year by nearly 10 mergers. The effect that this will have on lateral hiring remains to be seen, but it appears (on the surface at least) to indicate that firms are buying into what Bower and others are saying.