By Amanda Gonzalez • July 07, 2011•Firms and the Private Sector
Last month Vault released the Vault Law 100 Prestige Rankings for 2012. The rankings are created using responses from nearly 16,000 law associates who rated law firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige. And no, just in case you are wondering, associates were not allowed to rate their own firms.
For some law students and attorneys considering lateral moves, the Vault Law 100 is a sort of bible. In the same way that many potential law students reference US News and World Report rankings, associates and partners alike often factor in Vault’s rankings before choosing what career move to make next.
This year, the top 25 firms showed some shifting, but not a substantial amount. Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz topped the list again this year with survey respondents describing it with words like “the pinnacle,” “the benchmark,” “peerless,” “the cream of the crop,” and “in their own league.” “Wachtell continues to hold a tight grip on the top spot, proving that you don’t need to be the biggest to be considered the best. No firm has been able to oust Wachtell since it beat out Cravath for the number one ranking in 2003,” said Mary Kate Sheridan, law editor for Vault.com. “If you’re looking for significant changes, just keep moving down the list.”
So what does the ranking mean for women? Well, it depends on what each individual woman is looking for. Prestige, the primary measure in this particular study, is only one factor for many law students and attorneys. One summer associate at mid-ranked firm said, “For me it’s about the paycheck so the Vault rankings matter. I may not be the happiest in my job but I want to take a position that pays well and is well respected. Over the next five to ten years, that’s what’s going to set me up to be the most successful.” A rising 3L at Harvard Law School said she definitely “considered the rankings” but prestige wasn’t the only factor to consider. “The rankings weren’t dispositive. There were a few offers from firms ranked much higher than the firm I ultimately chose.” For the Harvard student other key factors included finding a program that would allow her to shop amongst practice areas during the summer and the reputation the firm held amongst other Harvard law students and Alumni who had worked there.
Finally, other law students and attorneys chose to rely on other measures to ensure their new position would be a good fit. Vaults other rankings, The 20 Best Law Firms to Work for and The 20 Best Law Firms for Diversity, were top resources for many working parents and women of color.