Welcome to our annual A-List ranking, which aims to highlight the most well-rounded firms—the best of the best. On this list, profits don’t reign supreme, nor does size. Since its inception, the A-List has recognized firms based on a combination of factors, both financial and cultural: revenue per lawyer, pro bono commitment, associate satisfaction and racial diversity, with RPL and pro bono given double weight. And now, for the second year in a row, we also include a score for gender diversity—more specifically, the percentage of women equity partners.
We added that fifth scoring metric last year, as we felt it was important to honor the firms that have made the most progress in advancing women in the partnership ranks. Although women now make up almost half of all associates at large firms—46 percent, according to our sibling publication The National Law Journal—their numbers still drop off drastically at more senior levels. The NLJ reports that only 19 percent of all Big Law partners are female.
So we added the fifth component to the A-List formula: a female equity partner score. Like the other A-List metrics, it measures firms’ relative performance: We rank Am Law 200 firms by their percentage of female equity partners, and base their score in that category on that ranking.
Frequent readers of the A-List will remember that firms have traditionally been scored on a 200-point scale for each of the four historical categories, with RPL and pro bono scores counted twice. Last year, we decided to simplify the process to give every category, and the overall score, a 100-point scale. The RPL and pro bono scores continue to be double weighted as we moved from a 1,200-point scoring system to a 100-point scale.
We were careful to account for any compression in the numbers and any possible impact on the rankings and ties: The firms were scored on the old system first, and those numbers were converted to the 100-point scale. There was no difference in the rankings between the two lists.
Congratulations to this year’s A-Listers!
1. Ropes & Gray, National
Ropes & Gray, ranked second on the A-List last year, pushed ahead to claim the No. 1 spot. Although the firm’s total score dropped by 1.8 points, partly due to its 23.5-point drop in diversity, it was able to pull ahead thanks to its three-point increases in both revenue per lawyer and pro bono—gains that are weighted double in A-List score calculations. Ropes & Gray’s female equity partners score is also the highest on this year’s A-List.
2. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, National
Coming in a close second is Wilmer, which climbed two spots up the rankings from last year. The firm’s scores increased in almost every category, with a 13-point rise in associate satisfaction and a 9.5-point bump in diversity. The only category that dropped was female equity partners, which declined five points. Diversity is the firm’s weakest area, but, with high scores in other categories, Wilmer was able to place second.
3. Munger, Tolles & Olson, Los Angeles
Munger Tolles dropped two spots on the A-List, down from first in 2017. The firm saw a decline in all categories, the largest being female equity partners, and an overall decline of 4.1 points. Despite the declines, Munger Tolles maintains high scores, especially in the pro bono and RPL categories, keeping the firm right near the top of the A-List.
4. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, National
Orrick jumped six places to claim fourth on the A-List, largely because of a 21-point increase in its female equity partners score, as well as high scores in the pro bono and associate satisfaction categories. The firm improved in every category except its 2.5-point drop in diversity. Despite the big jump in its female equity partners score, it still remains Orrick’s weakest category.
5. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York
Paul Weiss dropped two spots from its third-place finish in 2017. The firm saw a new weakness develop, as its associate satisfaction dropped 17 points, in addition to a four-point drop in female equity partners. However, the firm improved its pro bono score by 8.5 points and maintained high scores in RPL and diversity, allowing it to stay near the top of the A-List.
6. Debevoise & Plimpton, New York
With an overall score increase of 1.2 points, Debevoise remains in sixth place for another year. The firm saw an increase in almost all categories, including an eight-point spike in female equity partners and a four-point climb in RPL to 93. However, Debevoise’s pro bono score dropped by five points. Its lowest score is associate satisfaction, giving the firm some room to improve.
7. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, National
Skadden moved up five spots on the A-List to seventh, helped by a 10.5-point increase in the pro bono category and by maintaining an impressive score of 96.5 in RPL. However, the firm saw a 14-point decrease in associate satisfaction, giving it a score of 60. Despite that decrease, Skadden improved its overall score by 2.1 points from last year.
8. Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C.
Covington managed to raise its pro bono score by 7.5 points to 99.5 and has one of the highest female equity scores on this year’s list. But the firm saw a weakness in its associate satisfaction score, which dropped by eight points, and a slight decrease in RPL. Nonetheless, the pro bono work and high female equity partners score helped Covington move up one place on the A-List.
9. O’Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles
Moving up three spots to ninth, O’Melveny improved in multiple categories this year. A near-perfect associate satisfaction score and 2.5-point increase in pro bono helped the firm remain well within the A-List. But even with a four-point increase in female equity partners, the firm still remains at 58.5.
10. Paul Hastings, National
Paul Hastings dropped three spots, down from seventh in 2017. The firm did see an increase in both RPL and diversity, helping it to maintain high scores in most categories. However, Paul Hastings saw an 8.5-point drop in female equity partners, putting it at a less impressive 26.5. With this category dragging it down, the firm still has room for improvement.
11. Morrison & Foerster, National
Climbing up 11 spots on the A-List this year, Morrison & Foerster jumped up to 11th. The firm saw an improvement in multiple categories, including an impressive 33.5-point jump in female equity partners, a high diversity score, and a 5.5-point increase in RPL. However, the firm did see a drop by 6.5 points in its pro bono score, along with a 5.5-point drop in associate satisfaction.
12. Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, New York
Dropping by one place to 12th, Milbank experienced a decline in multiple categories, including a 7.5-point decrease in diversity. Its associate satisfaction score dropped by six points. But the firm did see an improvement in female equity partners, rising by six points. Nonetheless, Milbank still maintains the lowest score in that category on this year’s A-List.
13. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, National
Akin Gump climbed seven spots to land at 13th. The firm saw large increases in multiple categories, including a 15.5-point jump in female equity partners and an eight-point increase in associate satisfaction, bringing it to an impressive 97.5 in that category. The firm did see its diversity score decrease 8.5 points, though.
14. Latham & Watkins, National
Pro bono work and maintaining a high associate satisfaction score helped Latham move up by four places on the A-List this year. The firm increased its pro bono score by four points and kept a high associate satisfaction score of 92.5. Even so, with Latham’s low score of 35.5 in female equity partners, there is still room to improve.
15. Kirkland & Ellis, National
Kirkland moved up two spots this year, up from 17th in 2017. The firm saw small declines in multiple categories, including pro bono and associate satisfaction. However, Kirkland still managed to maintain an impressive RPL score of 97.5, also seeing an eight-point increase in diversity.
16. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, New York
Simpson Thacher dropped by two places to 16th. The firm saw a slight decline in multiple categories, including RPL, which still stands at 95.5, and an 8.5-point drop in female equity partners. However, it did see a slight increase in pro bono, which is double-weighted in our A-List formula.
17. Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, New York
Patterson Belknap climbed 30 spots to make an appearance on the A-List this year, due largely to an associate satisfaction score of 86.5 (the firm scored 0 last year after not completing the survey). A pro bono score of 98.5 points remains a key strength. The only category that Patterson Belknap lost ground in was female equity partners, which decreased by 9.5 points.
18. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, National
Leaping 13 spots to 18th, Morgan Lewis makes an appearance on the A-List this year. The firm saw a small decrease in RPL but improved in every other category. Morgan Lewis had a nine-point increase in its pro bono score and a five-point increase in diversity.
19. Jenner & Block, Chicago
Jenner & Block jumped four places to tie for 19th, boosted by a perfect pro bono score and improvement in nearly every other category. The firm saw an 11.5-point increase in associate satisfaction and a five-point increase in diversity. Its RPL dipped by 6.5 points.
19. Shearman & Sterling, International
A strong pro bono score kept Shearman & Sterling in the A-List this year. The firm saw a decrease in every area, including a 24-point drop in associate satisfaction, and a decline in the female equity partners category by 10.5 points. Overall, Shearman & Sterling fell 11 places, all the way down from eighth in 2017.
See our list of the 20 runners up to the A-List here.