Compensation, benefits and lifestyle: the leading firms 2017
How well do firms treat their junior lawyers? In the high pressured world of BigLaw, can lawyers find some balance in their lives?
'MONEY or work/life balance? That's the conundrum law firm applicants usually face. But the trade-off isn't clear cut. You can expect to work long hours wherever you end up. Surprisingly, as this table shows, there are plenty of big name firms where associates smile about their lifestyle as much as their bonus. Top of the list is Clifford Chance, where the daily grind is (one junior told us frankly) “like that Rihanna song: work, work, work, work, work!” Nevertheless, and winningly, “there's a strong sense of community. We share the work and we get along.” Clifforders also loved not being chained to their desks when work is less manic: “We're not trying to be a typical New York firm.”
Flexibility around daily work hours and vacation time was the deal-clincher for associates at high-performing firms in this survey – treating juniors like adults, in other words. Among our top five, Kramer Levin scored least well for the bonus (although better than many firms), but outperformed others in the family-friendliness and vacation stakes. “I would say coming into the firm it was a concern, because I have kids,” reported one Kramer parent, but happily “nobody has any problems if I leave at 6pm. I've found people to be very respectful of holidays and vacations.” Another chimed: “It's very pleasant and humane – not a harsh, cut-throat place at all.” Winston & Strawn (10th place) performed particularly well on both the bonus and its willingness to accommodate lawyers with families: the firm “would be a great option for having kids and making this job work,” according to someone here.
At Gibson Dunn (2nd), “things really ebb and flow – sometimes I can come in at 10am and leave at 5pm with an hour for lunch, but if a case is going crazy then I'll be up late.” Crucially, “everyone is very supportive. The mindset is that we're in this together.” Cahill associates were thrilled about their famously above-market bonuses. Although they also praised generous caregiver policies, taking time off can sometimes be tricky: “That's the negative side of the free market – getting work on your plate is easy but when you need to get it off it can be really hard.” But like other highly ranked firms in this table, Cahill's work culture shines through: “One of the biggest reasons that I love my job is the people who work here.”
Our conclusion? A healthy work lifestyle and healthier pay check are not mutually exclusive. True associate happiness, it would seem, flows from a supportive – if demanding – firm culture.
We asked associates to rate the bonus they receive against market, the whole benefits package, and their firms' attitudes to flexible working, taking vacation, and raising a family. The firms listed are those demonstrating excellent performance.