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The American Lawyer published results from its annual Midlevel Associates Survey, finding that “third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates are as happy than ever at their law firms.” The survey, conducted at 96 participating law firms, asked third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates to rate their firms on several aspects of job satisfaction, including: compensation and benefits; training and guidance; interaction with partners and other associates; interest and satisfaction level with the work; the firm’s policy on billable hours; and management’s openness about firm strategies and partnership chances. Midlevels graded their workplaces in these categories on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

According to the report, associates in their third, fourth and fifth years gave an average composite score of 4.29 out of 5, an increase from last year’s average of 4.27. “Associate satisfaction grew in nearly every category lawyers were asked to rate. The results bode well for retention, in particular. The greatest improvement in average score was in the “expect to stay two years” category, rising to 4.18, compared with 4.12 last year. Midlevel associates are also happier on average with regard to the type of work they’re doing and the training they are getting. The average score for “interesting work” was 4.51, up from 4.47 last year, and the average for “satisfying work” was 4.39, up from 4.37. Scores for “training and guidance” and “partner relations” increased by similar margins, to 4.24 and 4.45, respectively,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

“Young lawyers appreciate law firms’ efforts to improve work-life balance, the report revealed. Training and mentorship also appear to be working well for firms that have made efforts to improve in those areas. But associates also cautioned their firms in some cases throughout the survey, warning that burnout is a risk and calling on leaders to continue to modernize their business models by moving away from longstanding billable hour policies,” the article reports. Of the 96 firms surveyed, the top five firms in terms of midlevel associate satisfaction in numerical order were Schulte Roth & Zabel, Paul Hastings, Drinker Biddle & Reath, O’Melveny & Myers, and Blank Rome.

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law360 released results from its fifth annual Diversity Snapshot, which surveyed 300 law firms on their minority representation at the non-partner and partner level. According to Law360’s report, minorities make up 16.4% of all attorneys and 9.5% of partners in law firms across the country. Firms with the highest levels of minority attorneys offered benefits including formal mentorship programs, business marketing workshops, and integration into the firm’s community at large, the report revealed.

In the biggest category of ‘Big Law’ firms (600+ attorneys), Wilson Sonsini tops the list as the largest firm with the most minority lawyers this year, with 20.4% minority equity partners. Additional ‘Big Law’ firms with the highest percentage of minority attorneys included Morrison & Foerster (17.3%), Paul Hastings (13.8%), and Cleary Gottlieb (13.1%). For medium to large sized firms (300-599 attorneys), the top firms for minorities included Fragomen, Del Rey (23.5%), Fenwick & West (13.8%), and Shearman & Sterling (13.2%). For the smallest sized firms (150-299 attorneys), the best firms for minorities were Atkinson Andelson (32.1%), Best Best & Krieger (23.2%), and Munger Tolles (19.0%).

“The top firms in each size category have demonstrable diversity levels of at least 20% of all attorneys at the firm, creating examples of what a more diverse and more inclusive workforce can look like” Law360 notes. “It’s no secret that the legal industry is one of the least diverse professions in the country. But some law firms have made notable progress, and the firms listed are making some headway and turning longstanding diversity goals into workplace realities,” (as quoted in Law360).

See the full article and rankings on Law360.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer published results from its annual Midlevel Associates Survey, finding that “associates generally continued to report high levels of satisfaction with their jobs,” and report being happier with their compensation than they were a year ago.

Each year, the publication surveys third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates on several aspects of job satisfaction, including compensation and benefits, training and guidance, interaction with partners and other associates, the interest and satisfaction level of the work, the firm’s policy on billable hours, and management’s openness about firm strategies and partnership chances. The participating firms were ranked on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score possible.

According to the report, “the greatest increase in associate satisfaction came in the area of benefits and compensation,” with respondents giving firms an average score of 4.29, up from an average of 4.17 last year. Of the 102 firms surveyed, the top five firms in terms of midlevel associate satisfaction in numerical order were Cozen O’Connor, O’Melveny & Myers, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Paul Hastings and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

See highlights of the full report and article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer released this year’s national and regional midlevel firm rankings, based on a satisfaction survey of associate responses. The survey analyzes key workplace elements such as: compensation and benefits package, training and support, relations with partners and associates, satisfaction level of the work, billable hours’ policy, and management’s openness about strategies and partnership opportunities. The participating firms were ranked on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score possible.

On the national scale, Paul Hastings earned first place again. From a survey of 51 respondents, the firm received the highest satisfaction score, a 4.763 out of 5. In numerical order, the succeeding firms in the top 5 are: Los Angeles’-based O’Melveny & Myer, Cozen O’Connor based in Philadelphia, internationally-operated Clifford Chance, and nationally-based Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher.

From a local perspective, the American Lawyer provides an overview of the top firms organized by major city. Of the top 18 markets, the scores are reflective of respondents only in that firm’s office in the designed city, not the firm as a whole. It comes as no surprise that national leader, Paul Hastings, is ranked No. 1 in multiple major cities, such as: Chicago, New York, Orange County, and Washington D.C. The same is true for nationally ranked No. 2 firm, O’Melveny, which is No. 1 in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In the Texas market, Dallas’ top firm is Gibson Dunn, and in Houston, the leading firm is Orrick. In California, Chicago-based Winston & Strawn landed No. 1 in the Los Angeles market, and San Diego’s leading firm is Sheppard Mullin. No. 3 nationally ranked, Cozen O’Connor, leads the Philadelphia market.

See more of the highlights from the AmLaw National and Regional Midlevel Firm Rankings on the American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Finding a foothold in the Chicago market isn’t as easy for the elite ‘big law’ firms as they might like to believe, reports Claire Bushey of Crain’s Chicago.

The article looks at three national firms that had big aspirations for growth upon their respective moves to Chicago: Paul Hastings, Ropes & Gray, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius.  New York-based Paul Hastings, for example, opened its Chicago doors in 2006, initially recruiting top partner talent and reporting goals of a 100+ lawyer office.  Ten years later, the office boasts of only 42 attorneys.  Former managing partner of the office, Rick Chesley, says that its the tough Chicago competition that forces firms to really consider their client base: “If you haven’t thought about who your clients are, who you’re going to compete with…you’re going to fail,” he said (as quoted in Crain’s).

Similarly, Boston-based Ropes & Gray opened eight years ago with predictions of a 100-lawyer headcount within two years.  The Chicago office has only 64 attorneys to date–a stark contrast to their London office, which went from 2 attorneys at their 2010 opening to 129 today.

Anthony Nasharr, Managing Partner of the Chicago office of Polsinelli, believes that firms looking to expand into Chicago need to be “chasing work characteristic to the city, like agribusiness or financial services” (as quoted in Crain’s).  Polsinelli, a firm headquartered in Kansas City, has proven that they have the right approach for Chicago growth, successfully growing their six-attorney starter office to almost 100 in just eight years.  Nasharr also notes that a new Chicago office requires strong support from their headquarters to help the office thrive–like supplying the funds to bring on quality lateral partners.  Much Shelist Managing Partner Mitchell Roth agrees that the need for good talent is critical to success in any major market, but argues that acquiring that talent can prove difficult: “To open a five-person office and expand to 100 in one or two years, when everyone’s trying to buy the exact same talent?  It’s next to impossible,” he says (as quoted in Crain’s).

Despite the difficulties, six out-of-town firms merged with Chicago firms last year–more than in any other city, Crain’s reports.  However, former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven Harper warns the newcomers not to be fooled into thinking their high-profile reputations will be their be-all, end-all for attracting clients: “These firms believe that…clients will flock to the brand.  Well, maybe not.  Probably not,” he cautions (as quoted in Crain’s).