Today Law360 Pulse is releasing a new Prestige Leaders Law Firm ranking which purports to “rank firms on four key indicators of: reputation and prestige that demonstrate how firms are viewed by the legal community including clients, legal media and young lawyers.” Since its launch in January 2021, Law360 Pulse has offered their subscribers some uniquely insightful surveys. In my opinion – the Prestige Leaders Survey has some significant deficiencies in its methodology which undermines the reported rankings.
This new report is described as assessing large US law firms in four categories: financial health (profits per partner); desirability (how frequently firms were named by law students as their top choice firms for summer associate work); editorial awards (the number of Law360 awards a firm has captured over the past year); and news representation (the number of positive stories about the firm that appear in more than 20 respected legal publications.)
Here’s the Rub – I have some serious concerns about two of the four components of the methodology: the financials and the awards.
The financials – if firms did not provide financials to Law360 they basically score a zero in one of the 4 categories. Think of dropping from an A to a C because you handed in your term paper late. Is this acceptable in a survey that wants to be taken seriously? Seventeen of the 100 firms listed did not provide financials. This has resulted in some absurd ranking results… both Skadden and Cravath don’t even make the top 25.
Editorial Awards – the methodology indicates that only Law360 rankings and awards are considered. This of course means that lots of prestigious rankings are omitted. Chambers, American Lawyer, US News, The Economist, The Financial Times, Vault … are only some of the organizations that produce rankings which are overlooked in the survey. The solipsistic focus on Law360 produced rankings undermines the credibility of Awards category. In his 1962 book “The Image” Scholar Daniel Boorstein coined the term “pseudo-event” to describe an event which was staged in order to be reported on. I now wonder if we have tipped into the territory of pseudo-surveys and pseudo-rankings which exist to reported in later surveys and become tweet fodder.
News coverage – Since Law360 looks outside their own editorial coverage and includes publications from the wider legal marketplace (Bloomberg, ALM, LexBlog and dozens of other sources) the news coverage category offers a credible comparison of firms “share of voice” in the legal news market. The Editorial team gets extra credit for using a third-party service called Lexalytics to do the calculations which attach a negative or positive sentiment score to every article it has available.
Desirability – Which firms do most law students want to work at? Law360 Pulse surveyed potential Summer Associates (published in May). The question was “if you could choose to do your summer associateship program at any law firm, which would be your top three firms?” Survey participants could select up to three of these “wish list” firms. We tallied up all the mentions and allotted each firm a number of points equal to the number of times they were mentioned in response to this question.
The Results Top 10 Firms:
- Davis Polk
- Gibson Dunn
- Paul Weiss
- Simpson Thacher
- Sidley Austin
- Quinn Emanuel
The full list of rankings is available to Law360 Pulse subscribers.
The Law360 Pulse Prestige Leaders is the second in a three-part ranking series. The first, Social Impact Leaders, launched in November. The final law firm Leaderboard report will be released in January.
Was This Survey Ready for Prime Time? The legal market is awash is surveys and rankings. Do we really need a new survey based on incomplete data? Any survey purporting to rank firms based on “prestige” really should be based on impeccable data. IMHO this Law360 Survey wasn’t “ready for prime time” and its methodology needs to be reworked.