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by Travis Whitsitt | March 05, 2024

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Finance attorneys represent borrowers or lenders in transactions involving lines of credit, loans, or restructurings. Law firm practices tend to lean toward either the lender or borrower side, though some practices work on both sides. Financing can come from traditional banks as lenders or from private credit funds. In the U.S., the practice is heavily concentrated in New York where the majority of the banks and private lenders are located, but the practice can be international, and finance attorneys are in demand in international capital markets as well (London and Hong Kong, for example). The practice often involves acquisition finance supporting a larger M&A transaction, which means deadlines can fluctuate, and the hours can be erratic, especially on the borrower side, where the transaction timeline can be at the mercy of the lender’s side. Financing deals tend to be relatively short, so lawyers are frequently moving from one transaction to the next.

The five top-ranked Banking & Financial Services firms based on Vault’s 2024 Banking & Financial Services prestige rankings are Davis Polk; Kirkland; Latham; Cravath; and Skadden. Below are a few relevant highlights about each of these firms.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Davis Polk operates three U.S. and seven international offices, and employs over 1,000 attorneys. In addition to being the top Banking & Financial Services firm, Davis Polk is #6 in the overall Vault Law 100, #1 in our Securities & Capital Markets prestige rankings, and is #46 overall in our Best Law Firms to Work For rankings. Associates here describe the culture as professional and collegial, with no billable hour requirement (although hours are reportedly long just the the same) and flexibility as to when and where work is done. Partnership here is reportedly difficult to achieve with a fairly opaque process; however, counsel roles are both realistic and viable, and exit opportunities are top-notch.

Kirkland & Ellis

Kirkland sits at #2 in our Banking & Financial Services prestige rankings, and is also #7 in the overall Vault Law 100. They are also the country's top firm in Bankruptcy & Restructuring, Private Equity, and Products Liability, as well as the most prestigious firm in both Chicago and the Midwest according to our Regional prestige rankings. The firm employs over 3,500 attorneys out of 11 U.S. and seven international offices. Associates describe the culture as upbeat and energizing. The firm has very high billable hours despite the absence of a requirement, but balances this with good flexibility as to when and where work is done. Partnership is realistic and transparent, but quite difficult. Non-partner roles are scarce, but exit opportunities are very strong.

Latham & Watkins

Landing at #3 in Vault’s 2024 Banking & Financial Services prestige rankings, #4 in the overall Vault Law 100, the #23 Best Law Firm to Work For overall, and the #1 firm in Southern California, Latham & Watkins is flush with accolades. The firm employs over 3,000 attorneys out of 12 U.S. and 18 international offices. Associates describe the culture as ambitious and respectful, and the billable hour requirement is an achievable 1,900. Partnership is realistic and transparent for high performers, and exit opportunities are plentiful and strong.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Ranked at #4 in Vault’s 2024 Banking & Financial Service prestige rankings, Cravath is, rather famously, the most prestigious firm in the country at #1 in the overall Vault Law 100. It is also the most prestigious firm for General Corporate Practice and the most prestigious firm in New York, and the firm with the #45 best overall Summer Associate Program. They employ over 250 attorneys out of just two U.S. and a single international office. Associates describe the culture as extremely professional and collegial, and the firm balances extremely high work hours with a lot of flexibility as to when and where work is done. Partnership odds are statistically very slim here, but exit opportunities from the country's most prestigious firm are unsurprisingly unparalleled.

Skadden

Skadden sits at #5 in our Banking & Financial Services prestige rankings, and is also #3 in the overall Vault Law 100. Apart from their finance practice, they are the country's top firm for Securities Litigation & Tax. The firm employs over 1,500 attorneys out of eight U.S. and 13 international offices. Associates describe the culture as professional and polite. The firm has an achievable billable hour requirement of 1,800, and there is an expectation of three in-office days per week (Tuesday-Thursday). Partnership is not generally realistic, but viable long-term counsel roles are, and exit opportunities are very strong.

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Obviously, there is a huge amount of overlap between the country's best Banking & Financial Services firms and the most prestigious firms overall. If you have both the pedigree to get offers from these firms and an interest in this respected practice area, any one of these five firms should be of significant interest to you.

Best of luck from all of us at Vault Law on your legal job search!

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