Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Vault's 2016 "Top 100" law firm rankings

The Vault has released its annual list of the top 100 law firms based on a survey of more than 17,000 associates who were asked to rank firms based on "prestige" (read about the Vault's methodology here). This year's survey results rated Wachtell, Lipton as Vault's "top" firm for the 13th year in a row.  According to the press release below, Cravath trailed by a small margin.

Vault’s Law 100 Rankings for 2016 are here, and it’s clear which firms have a good thing going. Cooley is now a Top 40 Vault firm after joining the Top 50 for the first time last year. Boies, Schiller & Flexner, another rising star, is now at No. 12 and could very well be in the Top 10 by next year. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz tops the list at No. 1 for the 13th year in a row, while Cravath, Swaine & Moore again trails by a small margin.


The Vault Law 100 list is based on scores from more than 17,000 law firm associates, who were asked to rate law firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige. Survey respondents were not allowed to rate their own firms and were asked to only rate firms with which they were familiar.


Wachtell—described by survey respondents as “unparalleled” and the “New York prestige standard-setter”—continues its reign as No. 1. The “extremely sophisticated” Cravath, known for “the best deals on Wall Street,” falls closely behind at No. 2. Although the familiar players compose the Top 10, there were some shifts: Kirkland & Ellis jumped up two spots, to No. 7, bumping Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Weil Gotshal & Manges down one spot each, to Nos. 8 and 9, respectively.  Latham & Watkins holds steady to its No. 10 rank. And yet again, Boies Schiller threatens to break into the upper echelons; after bursting into the Top 20 just three years ago, the “elite litigation shop” known for its “outrageous compensation” beat Covington & Burling for the No. 12 slot by just 0.054 points.


“We can really see which changes in the market made an impression on associates this year,” stated Nicole Weber, Vault’s Law Editor. “Tech is booming right now, and the Silicon Valley firms keep climbing the ranks of the Top 100. It’s no coincidence that Cooley and Fenwick & West both scored higher in Vault’s survey this year while also posting the biggest revenue gains in the AmLaw 100.”


Silicon Valley Firms Keep Rising


Cooley’s ascension continues this year with a seven-point jump to the No. 38 spot. Last year it climbed 10 spots, more than any other firm in the 2015 rankings, to land in the Top 50 for the first time. Attorneys at peer firms had no shortage of great things to say about this 850-lawyer firm, describing it as a “top firm for startups” that is “great at IP” and “gets all the deals.”  Fenwick & West, another Bay Area player, climbed six spots to snatch the No. 75 slot from McGuireWoods. Fenwick attorneys are known as “the cool kids in Silicon Valley,” who are “entrepreneurial” and worked on the “Facebook IPO” in 2012.  


Morgan Lewis Absorption of Bingham McCutchen Attorneys Pays Off


After spending the past two years at No. 50, Morgan Lewis is now seated comfortably inside the Top 50—it jumped up six places and is now ranked No. 44. The Philadelphia-based firm made headlines in late 2014 when it absorbed 750 lawyers and staff from Bingham McCutchen and increased its attorney headcount to nearly 2,000, up from 1,375. Vault’s survey respondents described Morgan Lewis as an “employment law powerhouse” with a “top tax group,” and the praise is sure to continue as the firm expands its reach across new regions and practice areas following the Bingham additions.


Mergers Shake Things Up in the Vault 100


In addition to Morgan Lewis, Cooley and Fenwick, five other firms in the Top 100 moved up at least five spots this year—Norton Rose Fulbright (No. 72), Dentons (No. 80), Pepper Hamilton (No. 90), Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (No. 91) and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler (No. 95). Norton Rose Fulbright saw the biggest gain of any firm this year, bouncing back 15 places after last year’s 39-place drop following the merger of Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski.


“Some big changes in our 2016 rankings reflect the flurry of law firm merger activity over the past several years,” noted Weber. “A big merger, especially one that involves a name change or major rebrand, may result in a lower prestige score at first, but we tend to see firms climb back steadily in the years following.” Dentons’ nine-spot hike this year represents a recovery following the 2010 merger of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Denton Wilde Sapte (the merged firm spent two years off the Top 100 list, came back in 2014 and has been inching up ever since). Squire Patton Boggs, a product of a major 2014 merger, landed at No. 82 this year: 11 places lower than legacy firm Patton Boggs, but 13 places higher than legacy firm Squire Sanders.


Other Notes from the Vault Law 100


Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton is back in the Top 100 after a three-year hiatus, yet another move that reflects a comeback from a past merger (Kilpatrick Stockton merged with Townsend and Townsend and Crew in 2011). Troutman Sanders made it back into the Top 100 as well, at the No. 99 spot, after a brief absence in the 2015 rankings. Two firms fell out of the Top 100 this year: Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.


View the entire Top 100 Law Firm Rankings.


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