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Cooley Godward gets to claim bragging rights again. For the second year in a row, Vault Inc. has ranked it as the best law firm in the country to work for. Based on a survey of 9,000 associates at 120 firms, Vault determined the best 20 law firms to work for as well as the top 100 most prestigious firms. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Cooley snagged top billing in several quality of life categories: It was No. 1 in satisfaction, No. 2 in hours, training and social life, and No. 3 in associate/partner relations. “The secret of Cooley’s success seems to be the firm’s commitment to the happiness and well-being of its lawyers,” Vault said in its report. ” ‘From the managing partner on down, people at Cooley treat each other well,’ raves one associate. ‘The policy at Cooley is clearly about inclusion and concern for everyone — not just the partners and not just the lawyers — everyone.’ “ Five other San Francisco Bay Area firms made the best firms to work for list: Venture Law Group came in at No. 3; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati ranked No. 7; Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison ranked No. 12; Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich came in at No. 16; and Fenwick & West followed at No. 17. Vault’s survey questioned associates about the number of hours they bill per week, their satisfaction with the number of hours they spend in the office, the work environment, opportunities to do pro bono work, mentoring and training, firm image, amount of diversity, the chance to make partner, and the ranking of firm culture from “stodgy and uptight” to “very laid back.” The Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms was posted on Vault’s Web site on Monday and will be available in bookstores in September. The 2001 ranking is Vault’s fourth guide. Previous editions listed the top 50 law firms, and the “best places to work at” listing has been included in the last three editions. The guide includes profiles of 170 firms. In the “most prestigious” category, Latham & Watkins was the leading California firm, coming in at No. 9. Wilson led among Bay Area firms, ranking No. 13 — a few spots down from its top 10 rank last year. Further down the list, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers ranked Nos. 20 and 21, respectively. Morrison & Foerster ranked 24th; Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison 26th; Cooley 33rd; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe 39th; Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian 43rd; Venture Law Group 54th; Pillsbury Winthrop 64th; Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe 65th; Fenwick & West 70th; McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen 71st, and Gray Cary 73rd. Several firms were previously unranked, including Heller, Fenwick, McCutchen and Gray Cary. Eight New York firms topped the “prestigious” list, with Cravath, Swaine & Moore at No. 1. The number of firms and associates participating in the Vault survey has grown dramatically since the first report was released in 1998. While a little more than 4,000 associates responded to the survey last year, 9,000 associates did so this year. “When we first started the book there was a little resistance from firms,” said Kate Kaibni, Vault’s public relations manager. “Now they are eager. They know law students and young associates read it to see where they would like to work.” American Lawyer Media Inc., the parent company of The Recorder and an affiliate of law.com, owns a minority interest in Vault. Cooley said its ranking shows the firm has been successful in retaining its culture despite a 68 percent growth over the past two years. “Cooley really does pride itself on a sense of team work and other things we consider a unique culture,” said John Dwyer, chair of Cooley’s hiring committee. With growth there is always concern about maintaining culture and “the results [of the Vault survey] show we have done that effectively.”

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