It used to be the case that if you left Biglaw for a small, boutique, or midsize firm, you had to expect a pay cut. It might not have been a huge pay cut, maybe $10K or $20K below the standard Biglaw scale — but given the opportunities offered by smaller firms, including more responsibility, greater client contact, and (maybe) better work-life balance, many lawyers viewed the trade-off as worth it.
But as people who have followed our salary and bonus coverage have surely noticed, going to a smaller firm no longer requires taking a smaller paycheck. In fact, a number of small, boutique, and midsize firms pay the same as — or even more than — their Biglaw competitors. Not surprisingly, a growing number of talented law students and young lawyers are choosing to start their careers at smaller firms, bypassing the few years in Biglaw that traditionally represented the dues that had to be paid before moving on to work at an elite boutique.
But how can you find the small, boutique, and midsize firms where you’d actually want to work — and where you’d be paid handsomely? Luckily, there’s a Vault ranking for that. The Top 150 Under 150 ranking “recognize[s] outstanding small and midsize law firms that deliver big results.” Here’s the methodology Vault used:
To determine the Top 150 Under 150, Vault first developed a list of the best-known and most sought-after U.S. firms with 150 attorneys or fewer. Our editorial and research teams pored through Vault survey data, news stories, trade journals, and other legal publications; spoke with lawyers in the field; and reviewed other published rankings. Vault editors also assessed each firm for prestige, quality of life, and professional growth opportunities and then narrowed down the results to come up with a list of 150 law firms known for providing top-notch service and delivering big results.
Vault’s Top 150 Under 150 list is not numerically ranked, but alphabetized, so we’ve picked out a few recognizable firms that made the cut:
- Ahmad Zavitsanos & Mensing (AZA)
- Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors
- Goldstein & Russell
- Holwell Shuster & Goldberg
- Hueston Hennigan
- Kaplan Hecker & Fink
- Selendy Gay Elsberg
- Tensengrity Law Group
- Wilkinson Stekloff
- Wolf Greenfield & Sacks
Although they’re not Biglaw firms, these names should all be familiar — some for their Supreme Court litigation and SCOTUSblog coverage, some for their beautiful holiday cards, and others for offering salaries and bonuses that compete with or blow their Biglaw brethren out of the water. For the full list, click here.
Congratulations to Vault’s Top 150 Under 150. When it comes to law firms, bigger isn’t always better.
Top 150 Under 150 (2024) [Vault]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.