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by Nancy Vesta | June 11, 2024


The five top-ranked law firms for mergers and acquisitions based on Vault’s 2024 M&A prestige rankings were Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Kirkland & Ellis; Skadden; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; and Latham & Watkins.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Sitting at the No. 2 position in the Vault Law 100 prestige rankings, Wachtell Lipton tops the chart at No. 1 in both Vault’s Best Law Firms for M&A and Best Law Firms for Compensation rankings. Moreover, in the No. 2 spot of Vault’s 2024 Most Selective Law Firm rankings, Wachtell Lipton is the legal home to over 500 self-motivated, ambitious, and collaborative attorneys. Working closely in small groups, associates appreciate the inclusive, professional, and friendly interactions with each other, staff members, and partners. Although no billable hour requirement is imposed, associates work approximately 3,000 hours per year, spending four days each week in the firm's sole New York City office. Although promotion to partnership is possible, the opportunities after exiting this highly regarded firm are exceptional and include positions in-house, at other firms, and with hedge funds.

Kirkland & Ellis

With more than 4,000 attorneys, the megafirm Kirkland & Ellis ranks among elite firms in multiple categories. In addition to its No. 2 position in the Best Law Firms for M&A rankings, Kirkland & Ellis is No. 1 in Vault’s Best Law Firms for Bankruptcy/Restructuring, Best Law Firms for Private Equity, and Best Law Firms for Products Liability rankings. Moreover, at No. 7 on the Vault Law 100 list, Kirkland & Ellis operates 11 U.S. and 8 international offices that associates describe as upbeat and energizing. Without a billable requirement, Kirkland & Ellis attorneys admit to working long hours, often at night and on weekends, but appreciate the flexible hybrid policy. The pathways for advancement and exit are in place, and a counselor is available to help attorneys understand their options and industry expectations. Making partner at Kirkland & Ellis depends on factors such as practice group and personal interest, and firm attorneys looking for other positions can be confident that they will be welcomed at other prestigious firms and in-house at topflight companies.


With headquarters in New York City and offices in 7 other U.S. cities and 13 international locations, Skadden is a large and notoriously prosperous firm. Sitting at the No. 3 spot in the Best Law Firms for M&A rankings in 2024, Skadden’s position exceeds that of all other firms in Vault’s Best Law Firms for Securities Litigation, Best Law Firms for Tax Law, and Best Law Firms in the Mid-Atlantic rankings. In addition to these No. 1 rankings, Skadden places No. 3 among Vault Law 100 firms. Skadden was the first company to handle M&A deals exceeding $1 trillion. In contrast to their aggressive tactics in M&A matters, however, the 3,000 attorneys at Skadden show kindness to each other and to staff members. Moreover, they dedicate many hours to pro bono projects, and the 1,800-hour billable requirement can be fulfilled with unlimited pro bono hours. Skadden attorneys enjoy work-from-home options on Monday and Friday. Although partnership opportunities appear to be limited, long-term senior attorney and counsel positions are available, and exit opportunities are numerous.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Cravath has been considered the most prestigious law firm in the United States for years. In addition to its first-place position in the Vault Law 100 rankings in 2024, it is the No. 1 firm in Vault’s Best Law Firms in New York and Best Law Firms for General Corporate Practice rankings. It takes the No. 2 spot in Vault’s Best Law Firms for Securities Litigation, and it ranks No. 4 not only in Vault’s M&A rankings but also in Vault’s Banking & Financial Services, General Commercial Litigation, Securities/Capital Markets, and Tax practice area rankings. Known for setting the salary standard for BigLaw, Cravath demands long hours from its associates. In leanly staffed teams, attorneys pull together, showing genuine collegiality and professionalism, to produce high-quality results as efficiently as possible. Although making partner at the firm is an unlikely outcome for most associates, the Cravath name carries substantial weight, and therefore, attorneys have fantastic options at other firms. In fact, former Cravath attorneys have made partner relatively quickly at other firms. Moreover, Cravath is establishing an increasing number of senior non-partner roles.

Latham & Watkins

Rounding out the top five firms in Vault’s M&A practice area rankings, Latham & Watkins is among the top five firms in 12 other Vault practice rankings and is No. 4 on the 2024 Vault Law 100 list. It ranks No. 2 in Vault’s Best Law Firms for Antitrust, Environmental Law, Project Finance, and Securities/Capital Markets practice area rankings. In addition to the Private Equity and Banking & Financial Services practice areas, Latham ranks No. 3 in Vault’s Clean Tech/Renewable Energy and Energy, Oil & Gas practice areas. It is No. 4 in Vault’s Media, Entertainment & Sports practice area and No. 5 in Vault’s Real Estate, General Corporate Practice, M&A, and Tax practice area rankings. To provide this variety of top-notch legal services, Latham needs a large cadre of lawyers. With approximately 3,500 attorneys, Latham operates 12 U.S. and 17 international offices. In addition to worldwide respect, Latham earns the No. 1 spot in Vault’s Best Law Firms in Southern California rankings. Consistent with a West Coast vibe, the ambitious and hardworking attorneys at Latham maintain a friendly and relaxed office atmosphere. The 1,900-hour billable requirement is manageable, especially because the schedule is relatively predictable, and the work arrangements are flexible. Large firms such as Latham produce many alumni, and these connections prove valuable for securing opportunities at other firms, in-house, and with the government. The partnership track is clear, and medium-term counsel positions are available. The Latham Career Office helps associates plan their next steps.


Each of the top five firms in Vault’s M&A practice area rankings is a top 10 Vault Law 100 standout and makes a fabulous landing spot for high performers. The opportunities to handle high-stakes and high-profile M&A deals are profound, and with stellar reputations, these firms offer gravitas to the career of any attorney who can meet the hiring criteria. Differences among these outstanding firms emerge, however, as one looks at the attorney headcount, location, and billable expectations for associates. We invite you to dig deeper into the profiles of these firms to look for other patterns of similarity and difference. We also encourage you to expand your search to other firms that rank highly in Vault’s M&A practice area and Vault Law 100 rankings. You can discover information in these profiles that answers questions about firm history, points of pride, and future directions. Notably, results from the Vault Annual Associate Survey reveal the perceptions of attorneys working at these firms, giving unparalleled insight into the quality of life at the firms that may interest you.

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