While big law firms across the country are boosting associate salaries and bonuses, it might be time to consider which ones are making the most money. Profit margins are typically higher at leading firms than at others, so it makes sense to invest in your firm’s financial future.
Some of the biggest law firms in the world, including those on Vault’s list of most profitable personal injury claims firms, have their equity partners purchase a stake in the company. While this may seem like a risky strategy, it’s one that can lead to greater profits in the long run.
Cravath, Swaine & Moore is among the oldest and most prestigious law firms in the country. The firm’s storied history dates to 1819 and has included enforcing Thomas Edison’s patents, helping establish the right of press freedom, and creating foundational structures for private equity investments.
Aside from its antitrust work, the firm also advises on banking and finance, capital markets, corporate governance, executive compensation, M&A, securities litigation, tax, trusts and estates, and white collar criminal defense. Its client list includes such companies as AmEx, Credit Suisse, Disney, Epic Games, Goldman Sachs, Hasbro, JPMorgan Chase, and Meta.
Despite its high-profile clients, Cravath has managed to stay relatively small with just two offices in New York and London. It has a reputation for hiring the best and brightest, paying them lockstep, and promoting partners from within.
Latham & Watkins
Latham & Watkins is the second-largest law firm in the world and one of the most profitable. Founded in 1934, it has offices in 14 countries and serves clients across the globe.
It is a global leader in dozens of practice areas, including corporate, energy and natural resources, banking, environmental law, and project finance. The firm’s global management allows it to provide its clients with the best team for their matter, no matter where they are located.
Latham has a culture that is rooted in client focus, consistent excellence, partnership, and teamwork. It is an award-winning company that has been recognized for its work environment by Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equity, Working Mother magazine, and Dave Thomas Foundation’s Best Law Firm for Women.
Weil Gotshal, founded in 1931, is a preeminent provider of legal services. With offices on three continents, the Firm provides integrated and innovative solutions to clients worldwide in corporate, litigation, restructuring and finance practices.
The Firm’s Litigation Department offers sophisticated, integrated, and trial-ready advice on all major substantive areas of the law. Weil litigators have experience in complex, international disputes in a variety of disciplines, including commercial, regulatory, intellectual property, shareholder, and transactional matters.
As Central and Eastern Europe grew increasingly open to foreign business, Weil opened offices in Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague. Its European work also benefited from the collapse of communism and the expansion of local companies and governments in those countries.
One of the most prestigious firms in America, Skadden has grown from an upstart into a global powerhouse. Its name evokes the rarefied levels of corporate law where clients throw platoons of lawyers at problems and barely blink at the resulting $50,000-an-hour bills.
The firm’s success stems from its broad and diverse practice areas, including capital markets, tax, white collar defense, appellate and international arbitration, commercial litigation, securities litigation, products liability litigation, restructuring, antitrust, national security and intellectual property. It also boasts the largest public interest program in the U.S.
Skadden also has an extensive pro bono program. Attorneys and staff members average 122 hours of pro bono work a year, and all pro bono hours count towards the 1,800 billable hour target associates are required to meet each year.
Sullivan & Cromwell
Sullivan & Cromwell is one of the most profitable law firms in the world. Founded in 1836, the firm is headquartered in New York and has 13 offices across four continents.
The firm advises a diverse range of clients in major domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance transactions, high-stakes litigation and complex regulatory, tax and estate planning matters. It also serves clients in banking, broker-dealer, commodities, futures and derivatives, insurance, investment management and other sectors.
Sullivan & Cromwell has a reputation for being the leading global law firm on transactional, regulatory and enforcement issues affecting financial institutions. It has extensive experience in antitrust and competition work, including criminal investigations by the US Department of Justice, EU Commission and EU member states.