Grueling hours, tight deadlines and demanding work are the standards of BigLaw life, but how associates fare under these intense conditions may depend greatly on quality of life within the firm. When it comes to associate satisfaction, one firm stands out from all of the others in the newly-released Vault 2012 "Best Law Firms to Work For": Williams & Connolly (find the complete rankings here).
Pushing Ropes & Gray-which held the No. 1 spot for the past two years-into the No. 2 position, Williams and Connolly clinched the top spot for quality of life (the competition for the No. 1 spot was fierce, with Williams & Connolly triumphing by less than one-tenth of a point). "There is hands-down no other big law firm I would want to start working at," says one W&C associate. "The work that I get here is great -- far, far more interesting and more substantive than my friends at other large firms. Younger associates are given a considerable amount of responsibility and relied upon heavily by partners in many cases," raves another.
Overall, Williams & Connolly associates seem to feel appreciated and respected for their work, are pleased with their relationships with firm partners and are enthusiastic about the level of responsibility that they receive, even at junior levels. "I wake up every day excited to go to work. I have been given real responsibility, even in my first few months, so I have been able to take ownership not just of my specific tasks but of my cases overall," says a W&C associate. "I can't imagine a better firm experience. If you're driven to seek out more responsibility and challenges (and most who come here are), you'll be given the opportunities to do so. I don't think I would have received the same opportunities to take depositions and examine witnesses as a young associate anywhere else," echoes another.
Joining Williams & Connolly as the top Vault 2012 Best Firms to Work For are the following firms:
1. Williams & Connolly LLP2. Ropes & Gray LLP3. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP4. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C. 5. Foley Hoag LLP6. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP7. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC8. Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP9. Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP10. Fish & Richardson P.C.
Vault's quality of life rankings go behind the law firm doors through insider perspectives on law firm life. Associates provide their opinions of their law firms on a variety of topics, including Overall Satisfaction, Associate/Partner Relations, Compensation, Firm Culture, Formal Training, Informal Training, Green Initiatives, Hours, Office Space, Pro Bono and Selectivity. Vault analyzes these responses and determines the Best Law Firms to Work For based on the following formula:
40 percent satisfaction 10 percent hours 10 percent pay10 percent associate/partner relations 5 percent diversity (overall) 5 percent formal training 5 percent informal training 5 percent pro bono 10 percent business outlook.
This year, Williams & Connolly swooped in to capture more individual categories than any other law firm, including Overall Satisfaction, Associate/Partner Relations, Firm Culture, Business Outlook and Selectivity in Hiring. Ropes & Gray also came up big, securing the No. 1 spot in three of the quality of life categories: Hours, Formal Training and Informal Training. Below are the firms that ranked No. 1 in each category, along with perspectives from firm insiders.
Associate/Partner Relations: Williams & Connolly
"Partners treat associates as full-fledged team members who are trusted to handle all types of projects and whose opinions are sought out and respected. This is the aspect of being a Williams & Connolly associate that is most satisfying (and, based upon what I hear from friends at other firms, most unique)."
Business Outlook: Williams & Connolly
"All signs pointed to the firm being just as busy during the recession as it had ever been. The firm (as a litigation-only firm) is well-positioned to withstand market shifts."
Compensation: Boies, Schiller & Flexner
"If you work the hours, you reap the rewards."
Firm Culture: Williams & Connolly
"This is the number one positive aspect of the firm: there is no artificial 'hierarchy' and everyone all the way up to the most experienced partners is collegial and wants to hear your opinion."
Formal Training & Informal Training: Ropes & Gray
"Ropes invests a lot of time and resources in both formal training and informal mentorship and it is a fantastic place to grow as an attorney as a result."
Green: Fenwick & West
"Constantly reminding us to be environmentally friendly. The firm has numerous initiative[s] in place to push it even farther."
Hours: Ropes & Gray
"At times, the hours can be long. But I have rarely felt that I had to work late without a good reason, and people are very respectful of personal commitments and vacation time."
Office Space: Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto
"The firm recently moved into a new building on 6th Ave. The office space is quite nice with everything updated. The kitchen/dining area includes a roof deck, which is quite nice when the weather is good."
Overall Satisfaction: Williams & Connolly
"The firm is absolutely wonderful - real, substantive work; direct access to even senior partners; interesting cases. The best may be that the firm is committed to giving you all of the support and resources needed to do the best job you can possibly do. It's incredibly intellectually satisfying."
Pro Bono: Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi
"The firm's commitment to pro bono work has been nationally recognized and is an ingrained part of the firm culture."
Selectivity in Hiring: Williams & Connolly
"The firm is probably among the most competitive in terms of hiring. Hiring tends to focus on students who were in the top of their class at the top schools. Journal membership and a federal clerkship (or multiple clerkships) is almost a standard requirement. Candidates should have exceptional writing skills and a demonstrable commitment to litigation."
Vault's 2012 Best Law Firms to Work For
Vault.com is the source of employer and education ratings, rankings and insight for highly credentialed, in-demand candidates. Vault's editorial mission is to empower candidates with unbiased research needed to evaluate the professions, industries and companies they aspire to join.
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