The Top 20 Most Prestigious Law Firms In America
Winners in the latest Vault 100 include tech-focused firms, Magic Circle firms, and firms that led the way on associate compensation.
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Summer 2022 is not yet over, but recruiting for 2023 summer associate classes is already underway—which means that across the country, rising 2Ls are poring over the latest Vault 100, the ranking of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. In my opinion, law students (and lawyers) pay too much attention to rankings; the most prestigious or profitable law firm isn’t necessarily the best firm to work for or to hire. But law students (and lawyers) still follow rankings closely, for better or worse—so let’s talk about them.
Here are the top ten firms in the 2023 Vault 100—like the U.S. News law school rankings, Vault is always one year ahead of the calendar year—with their change from last year indicated parenthetically (“—” means no change):
1. Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP (—)
2. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (—)
3. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (—)
4. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (+3)
5. Latham & Watkins LLP (—)
6. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP (-2)
7. Kirkland & Ellis LLP (-1)
8. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (—)
9. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (—)
10. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP (—)
As I discussed when reviewing last year’s Vault 100, prestige is “sticky,” or slow to change, and often self-reinforcing. So it’s no surprise that this is the fifth straight year that the Vault 10 have been the Vault 10, just slightly rearranged. It’s reminiscent of the top-14 or “T14” law schools in U.S. News, which have that nickname because, for almost every year since the inception of the rankings, these 14 top schools have been the same, just changing places amongst themselves from year to year.
Davis Polk climbed three spots, perhaps aided by its prominent role in the 2022 Biglaw pay raise, in which it bested the Milbank scale. That happened in February 2022; the 20,000 associates who responded to Vault’s annual associate survey did so from March through May 2022, with DPW’s largesse still fresh in their minds. The way to associates’ hearts is through their paychecks.
Now let’s look at the rest of the top 20, as well as all the firms in the Vault 100 that made significant moves.
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