What a difference a year makes, at least for a personal lawyer to the president.
That would be Marc Kasowitz, whose firm Kasowitz Benson Torres was knocked out of the latest edition of the Vault 100 most prestigious law firm rankings after making it last time.
Kasowitz’s firm, which came in under the wire at No. 99 a year ago, was replaced in the 2019 rankings by Wiley Rein, which grabbed the penultimate spot after being absent since 2013.
Cravath, Swaine & Moore corralled the No. 1 position for the third straight year, solidifying its standing over Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
Prestige Factor: Associates Weigh In
Points are awarded by nearly 20,000 associates surveyed annually to rate firms other than their own on prestige. Making headlines, good or bad, landing big deals, winning settlements, or scoring court victories all add up.
Cravath won survey hearts last year because it broke a nearly decade-long stranglehold on associate salaries. It was the first to raise starting salaries to $180,000 from $160,000 where they had been stuck for nine years.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Sullivan & Cromwell rounded out the top four. Latham & Watkins was No. 5, up two spots, which is a continuing story of rankings resurrection for the firm. It fell from 7 to 17 in 2010 while coping with fallout from the financial crisis, but had reached the coveted top 10 by 2013.
Associates noted Latham was “well-rounded,” “innovative, “and “adaptive.” They took note of its “spectacular growth.”
“Latham has proven that the doors don’t close on prestige,” said Matt Moody, Vault’s senior law editor.
Davis Polk & Wardwell was No. 6, followed by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Kirkland & Ellis.
Trump Connection Hurts
The Kasowitz firm fell from the list largely because associates viewed its connection with President Donald Trump a liability.
One noted, for example, that the firm’s “reputation has been severely undermined because of association with Trump.”
Last year’s vote was taken before Kasowitz was named the president’s personal lawyer.
In contrast, associates gushed over Cravath. It was called the “gold standard” and “the crème de la creme.”
“Cravath has established itself as the nation’s top law firm,” Moody noted. “Cravath is the market leader in compensation, with associates across the industry measuring their pay against ‘the Cravath scale.’”
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher checked in at No. 9 and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison was No. 10, which was up a notch from 2018 rankings.
The Vault also asked associates to select the strongest firms in specific areas of practice.
Cleary Gottlieb was No. 1 for antitrust, followed by Gibson Dunn, Arnold & Porter and Skadden.
Firms chosen at the top of banking and financial services included Davis Polk & Wardwell, Cravath, and Skadden.
In securities, Skadden was on top, followed by Cravath, and Sullivan & Cromwell.
Prestige by locale was also considered, but an associate had to actually work in the region. Moody said that meant an associate in the San Francisco office of a national firm was only allowed to vote in the Northern California category.
Regional winners included Wachtell in New York; Covington & Burling in Washington; Kirkland in Chicago; and Gibson Dunn in Southern California. King & Spalding took the honor in Atlanta and Ropes & Gray in Boston while Vinson & Elkins was No. 1 in Texas.
To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Casey Sullivan at cSullivan@bloomberglaw.com