Top Litigation Firms by Law School Pedigree
Lawyers as a group dislike uncertainty, and “prestige”—whether of schools or firms—serves as an organizing principle and social validator, letting everyone know where they stand. The lawyer hive mind consistently orders itself in precise ways: consider how the U.S. News “T14” is basically set in stone and how the Vault rankings remain remarkably stable year after year. As late as 2015, Biglaw remains as clubby as Bertie Wooster.
There are two broad ways to think about this phenomenon:
- The practitioners of law at the highest level exist in a sort of closed loop and that is how it should be. The filter of “prestige” is a necessary thing. While the most talented and capable people will presumably succeed regardless, we need some way to differentiate among the rest. But when a person’s talent level is fundamentally unknowable, prestige might not be a perfect tool, but it is what we have. The assumption that one must be doing something right in order to become associated with prestigious institutions is rational.
- This obsession with credentialism is harmful to the profession. This nebulous concept of “prestige” is too dubious a metric upon which to base the choice of a school or employer.
Whichever camp you fall in, there is no gainsaying the outsized role prestige plays in both the educational and professional wings of the legal industry.
A glance at these rankings shows that boutiques dominate the top of the list, “outperforming” their larger competitors in terms of credentials. Of course, some might say it’s inapt to compare boutiques and Biglaw as they have such distinct recruitment models. (For example, large firms don’t have to fill up summer associate classes.) Yet if Biglaw serves as the talent funnel for the high-end boutiques, then either the prestige of law school really does correlate with eventual attorney quality OR the boutiques are as beholden to the entrenched credentialism as the rest of the profession, only maybe more so.
Mean School IQR
|7||Keker & Van Nest||82||6||5.9|
|8||Williams & Connolly||117||7||6.4|
|9||Covington & Burling||401||8||7.5|
|11||Boies, Schiller & Flexner||227||8||12.2|
|12||Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher||490||9||9.2|
|16||Jenner & Block||257||10||11.6|
|17||Morrison & Foerster||380||10||11.6|
|18||Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan||201||10||13.5|
|20||Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr||633||12||12.9|
|21||Kobre & Kim||45||13||14.0|
|23||Hughes Hubbard & Reed||218||13||16.1|
|24||Gibbs & Bruns||32||15||15.0|
|25||Arnold & Porter||399||15||16.4|
|28||Horvitz & Levy||36||16||17.4|
|30||Crowell & Moring||277||20||20.8|
|31||Fish & Richardson||266||20||23.6|
|32||Alston & Bird||398||20||24.3|
|33||Steptoe & Johnson||308||20||24.6|
|34||Winston & Strawn||514||20||26.2|
|35||Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner||283||20||27.4|
|36||Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell||289||27||31.3|
|37||Bickel & Brewer||44||28||34.8|
|38||Kilpatrick Townsend & Stocktown||288||29||25.2|
|39||Faeger Baker Daniels||356||29||31.7|
|40||Barnes & Thornburg||292||29||41.9|
|41||McKenna Long & Aldridge||268||36||38.0|
|43||Baker & Hostetler||456||36||41.3|
|44||Lee Tran & Liang||30||38||34.1|
|46||Jackson Lewis LLP||252||56||57.0|
|48||Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart||401||61||60.1|