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Vault Releases 2010 Law Firm Rankings

Vault-tag The much-vaunted Vault law firm rankings were released today for 2010. The rankings are notable because they are based entirely on associate votes. They rank firms on five characteristics -- overall prestige, departmental prestige, regional prestige, diversity and quality of life.

Ranked number one for the seventh year in a row is the New York firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The remainder of the top 10 are:

  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  • Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  • Covington & Burling
  • Kirkland & Ellis

This year's rankings remain fairly stable from last year, writes Vault managing editor Brian Dalton. But there was significant movement among the top 10, he says, "with Latham & Watkins falling out, Weil Gotshal & Manges climbing from #9 to #6, and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom jumping over Sullivan & Cromwell to the #3 slot." Also significant, he says, is that the ascension of U.K. firms has stalled. The current perception, he notes, is that "the U.K. firms are hurting more than their U.S. counterparts."

Is "prestige" too nebulous a basis on which to rank a law firm? Dalton answers this question by noting that the consistency of the rankings over the years suggests that it is a concept associates understand.

Using the Vault survey’s simple prestige scale, the BigLaw hive mind consistently orders firms in precise ways. An arbitrary example: Schulte Roth, which came in at #77 this year, ranked 80, 77, 76 and 82 over the previous four years. Another example, #55 Alston & Bird, ranked 57, 61, 59 and 57 over the same period. Another: #89 Finnegan Henderson: 90, 88, 89, 85. While there may be little meaningful distinction between slots 77 and 80, or, say, slots 59 and 57, there are meaningful differences between tiers. The relative consistency of these rankings, year after year, indicates that there clearly is a method to the madness.

The rankings are already generating plenty of discussion at Above the Law. Let us know what you think.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 18, 2009 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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