Halloween Preview: Scariest Law Firms

Published: Sep 18, 2013

 Job Search       Law       

Autumn is upon us.  With the chilly weather slowly creeping in on the East Coast and Halloween season not too far away, it seems appropriate that BTI Consulting Group released its “Fearsome Foursome” list just last week.  This year, according to BTI’s annual survey of in-house attorneys, the “Most Feared Firms in Litigation” are… (cue haunted house sound effects please)… Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Quinn Emanuel, and Skadden Arps.  BTI collects its data through one-on-one interviews of 300 in-house lawyers at “top-spending organizations” to find out which firms send shivers running down their spines.

What do other BigLaw attorneys have to say about these firms?  Are they equally feared by lawyers at peer firms as they are by in-house counsel?  To find out, we looked at some of the Vault “Buzz” gathered in this year’s Vault Law Firm Associate Survey.  To collect the “Buzz,” we asked attorneys to rate firms on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “not at all prestigious” and 10 being “extremely prestigious.”  Associates were not permitted to rate their own firms.  They were then asked to share their impressions of the firms they rated using a few adjectives or phrases. 

Here’s how BTI’s “Fearsome Foursome” stacked up in Vault’s latest survey:

Jones Day:  Attorneys described their impressions of Jones Day, which ranked #19 in the Vault Law 100, with phrases like: “big guns,” “gold standard,” “young attorneys are impressive,” “powerhouse,” and “cutthroat and aggressive.”  One attorney reluctantly remarked, “I hate to say it, but they’re great.”  Consistent with BTI’s findings, Jones Day earned top marks in Vault’s survey for its litigation practice areas, ranking high for Antitrust, Appellate Litigation, Bankruptcy, General Commercial Litigation, Intellectual Property, International, Labor & Employment, Products Liability, Securities Litigation, and White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations.

Kirkland & Ellis:  Coming in at #9 in the Vault Law 100, Kirkland & Ellis certainly sparked some opinionated Buzz from associates at other firms.  Some of the most common remarks were “best in Chicago,” “arrogant,” and “cutthroat.”  Other descriptions were “dominators,” “no-nonsense, brutal negotiators,” and “sharks.”  Given these comments, it certainly makes sense that Kirkland instills fear among corporate counsel.  Kirkland was highly rated by Vault survey respondents in numerous practice areas, including Antitrust, Appellate Litigation, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, Intellectual Property, Products Liability, Securities Litigation, Tax, Technology, and White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations.

Quinn Emanuel:  One of the adjectives most commonly used to describe this firm, which ranked #17 in the Vault Law 100, was “aggressive.” Others said that Quinn Emanuel lawyers were “best in litigation,” “excellent litigators,” “excellent but cutthroat trial lawyers,” and “arrogant.”  A little self confidence never hurt anyone – several attorneys described Quinn Emanuel as a “litigation powerhouse,” and another respondent noted that “gunners only need apply.”  It is no surprise, then, that in-house lawyers get chills upon learning that they will be litigating against this firm.  Quinn Emanuel was ranked #1 for General Commercial Litigation in Vault’s survey and received high prestige ratings in several other practice areas: Appellate Litigation, Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property, Securities Litigation, Technology, and White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations.

Skadden:  It’s no wonder that Skadden, which is #4 on the Vault Law 100, made it onto the list of firms to fear.  The Vault Buzz is that it is “intense,” “cutthroat,” and “the best of the really really big firms.”  Apparently it pays to be “intimidating,” because survey respondents also describe Skadden as “top dog,” “elite litigators,” and “BMOC.”  Skadden’s Vault scores for practice area prestige confirm its reputation as a fierce opponent.  It claimed the #1 spot in Securities Litigation and Products Liability, and received high marks in several other litigation-related practice groups: Antitrust, Appellate Litigation, Bankruptcy, General Commercial Litigation, International, Labor & Employment, and White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations.

Read More:

BTI Consulting’s Litigation Outlook 2014

The Vault Law 100

Announcing Vault’s 2014 Law Firm Practice Area Rankings