What do associates at major law firms care about more than money? Prestige, of course. But, at the end of the day, sometimes being a leader when it comes to compensation is enough to boost a firm’s prestige. As luck would have it, the closely watched Vault 100 rankings are here to remind lawyers at the nation’s largest law firms about exactly which ones are considered the most prestigious.
In last year’s Vault 100 rankings, Cravath — the firm that matched Milbank’s $190K associate salary scale two summers ago with over-the-top monetary compensation for senior associates — managed to retain its number 1, with Wachtell Lipton clinging to its spot in second place, even though the firm had once dominated Vault’s top spot for more than a decade. Was Cravath able to keep its cachet as the most prestigious Biglaw firm in the country in the latest Vault rankings?
Obviously. Here’s what Mary Kate Sheridan, Vault’s senior law editor, had to say about Cravath’s placement in the latest rankings: “Cravath is the undeniable leader in the legal field, as the top firm in our ranking for five years running and the only firm to achieve a prestige score above ‘9’ this year. Associates at peer firms recognize Cravath not only for how elite it is, but also for its consistent leadership when it comes to industry practices and standards, such as associate compensation and training.” Cravath keeps crushing it in every way imaginable. Way to go!
Although Cravath kept pace, this year, there was some historic drama when it came to the tippy top of the Top 10 in the latest edition of the Vault rankings. Without any further ado, here are the Top 10 Most Prestigious Law Firms based on Vault’s Annual Associate Survey for 2021:
Cravath, Swaine & Moore (no change)
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (+1)
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (-1)
Sullivan & Cromwell (no change)
Latham & Watkins (no change)
Kirkland & Ellis (no change)
Davis Polk & Wardwell (no change)
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (no change)
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (no change)
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (no change)
For the first time in the history of the Vault rankings, Skadden has overtaken Wachtell for the No. 2 spot. (And it was just by a hair, as Skadden earned a score of 8.577, while Wachtell earned a score of 8.567, making Skadden 0.010 points more prestigious than Wachtell.) Associates at Skadden — a firm described by Vault respondents as “esteemed,” “excellent all around,” and “top of the field” — are sure to enjoy the schadenfreude of Wachtell’s fractional rankings tumble. Let’s see if Skadden is able to hold onto the silver medal next year.
Congratulations to all of the Biglaw firms that made the latest edition of the Vault 100 rankings. How did your firm do this time around? Email us, text us at (646) 820-8477, or tweet us @atlblog to let us know how you feel.
Vault’s Top 100 Law Firms For 2021 (Vault)
Introducing Vault’s 2021 Top 100 Law Firms! (Vault)
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.