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The Top Big Law Firms in 2024

published January 28, 2024

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The Top Big Law Firms in 2024

Many lawyers and aspiring practitioners are struck by the allure of “Big Law.” Generally comprised of the largest firms in the US, Big Law can provide attorneys with an opportunity for high compensation and prestige.
 

But what exactly do we mean by the term Big Law? Which law firms earn this distinction?

 

Here, we delve into the meaning of the term “Big Law” and the criteria for inclusion in this category. After a review of some of the top Big Law firms, we explore the pros and cons of a career in Big Law.
 

What is Big Law?

 
Big Law, sometimes styled as BigLaw or biglaw, is a term for the largest and most prestigious law firms in the US. These firms have multiple offices, generally with presences in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago. Many Big Law firms even have international offices outside the US.
 
The definition of Big Law is a bit amorphous and varies depending on whom you ask. The term can refer to the total number of attorneys, total revenue, prestige, or some combination of these and other factors. Regardless of the exact criteria considered, some big names consistently appear in Big Law listings.
 
Firm Name Yearly Revenue  Number of Lawyers  About 
Kirkland Ellis  $6.04 billion 2,300

This Chicago-based firm, established in 1909 and boasting nine major offices across the United States, places its main emphasis on commercial litigation and various corporate interests.

Latham Watkins  $5.49 billion 2,500 With offices in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, this firm based in New York caters to a high-paying clientele and specializes in a diverse array of practice areas.
Norton Rose Fulbright  $2.1 billion 3,300 Created through a merger in 2013 between the UK-based Norton Rose and US-based Fulbright Jaworski, this global firm specializes in representing major corporations, financial institutions, and innovative startups.
Baker McKenzie $3.13 billion 4,700 With its headquarters in Chicago, this versatile general practice firm operates across 77 offices spanning 46 countries.
White & Case  $2.87 billion 2,100 Based in New York and encompassing 44 offices across 30 countries, this global firm specializes in general practice, with a particular focus on "white-collar" law, including areas such as antitrust and intellectual property.
Hogan Lovells $2.61 billion 2,600 Resulting from a merger in 2020 between the US-based Hogan Hartson and UK-based Lovells, this general practice firm has dual headquarters in New York City and London.
DLA Piper $3.47 billion 3,700 This firm spans a broad spectrum of practice areas and sustains a presence with offices in 40 countries.
Jones Day  $2.45 billion 2,500 Established in 1893, this firm serves over half of the Fortune 500 companies across various practice areas, with a primary focus on corporate management, regulation, finance, and other aspects of corporate law.
 

The benefits of working at a Big Law firm

 
Now that we have a working definition of the term, let’s examine the actual benefits of working in Big Law.
 

Name recognition

 
Many attorneys and attorneys-to-be are drawn to Big Law by the prestige and name recognition, since many of these firms are household names. This prestige partly derives from the exclusivity of the firms, since they focus on recruiting new attorneys from among the best academic performers at the top law schools.
 

If you aspire to have a career in Big Law, think about:

 
  • Attending the highest-ranked law school you can
  • Performing well academically
  • Specializing in the practice areas that Big Law firms focus on.
  • Higher salaries
 
Another obvious draw of Big Law is the higher salaries commanded by associate attorneys, which can start over $200,000 annually.
 
If you rise to the level of partner at a Big Law firm, your income potential is even greater, which means you should understand the partnership structure of the firm where you work.
 

High-profile cases

 
Big Law firms often represent high-profile clients and work on exciting cases that garner headlines. Depending on your goals, this type of high-stakes work may align with what you seek from a legal career.
 

Networking opportunities and mentorship

 
Working in Big Law also allows you to rub shoulders with some of the top attorneys in the country, who often possess highly specialized expertise and a great deal of influence. This situation presents opportunities for networking and mentorship that are not easily replicated at smaller firms.
 

The downsides of working at a Big Law firm

 
It is important to look at the full picture and consider the downsides of working in Big Law. Even if you have excellent grades from a top law school, Big Law may not necessarily be for you.
 
Among the drawbacks of Big Law are high billable hour quotas and competitive work environments. Big Law is notorious for its “always on” culture, where attorneys are expected to work long hours, nights, and weekends on a regular basis.
 
Even the allure of partnership is not a sure thing — it could take many years to make it to partnership level, with numerous pitfalls along the way.
 
If Big Law is not for you, take heart that working at a smaller firm, or even starting your own firm, could lead to a very fulfilling career.
 
See more
 What Do You Really Think About Biglaw?
BigLaw Dreams: Still as Shining to Fresh Grads?
 

Final thoughts on the top Big Law firms

 
With a sense of what firms fall under the Big Law umbrella, you can judge for yourself whether a Big Law career is your best option. Keep these advantages and disadvantages in mind while choosing your career path. To that end, take note of our resource for becoming an attorney, which contains information on specializing in the most common practice areas.

published January 28, 2024

By Author
( 18 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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