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by Nancy Vesta | July 08, 2024


The top-ranked law firms for private equity based on Vault’s 2025 Private Equity prestige rankings were Kirkland & Ellis, Simpson Thacher, Latham & Watkins, Skadden, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Kirkland & Ellis

The No. 1 firm in Vault’s Private Equity practice rankings, Kirkland & Ellis, is also the No. 1 firm for Bankruptcy/Restructuring, Banking & Financial Services, General Corporate Practice, and Products Liability in Vault’s practice rankings. As if these rankings are not impressive enough, Kirkland is a top 10 firm in 13 other Vault-ranked practice areas and among the top 5 firms for Energy, Oil & Gas, General Commercial Litigation, M&A, Tax (No. 2): Intellectual Property (No. 3); Antitrust, Real Estate (No. 4); Appellate Litigation, Environmental Law, and Securities & Capital Markets (No. 5). In Vault’s regional rankings, Kirkland is among the top 5 firms in Chicago (No. 1); the Midwest (No. 1); Texas (No. 2), Southern California (No. 3); Boston (No. 5); and Northern California (No. 5). Clearly, this powerhouse consisting of 3,500 attorneys attracts top talent, and it hires accomplished associates who fit into its professional and friendly culture. The BigLaw hours can be intense at Kirkland, but top-of-market salary and bonuses, flexibility in work location, and no worries about meeting a billable hour requirement compensate associates for their elite-level legal services. Promotion to non-equity partner after six years at the firm is attainable, and the connections made by associates at this No. 6 Vault Law 100 firm can lead to amazing opportunities at other firms, with clients, or in the government.

Simpson Thacher

With headquarters in New York, Simpson Thacher is a long-standing Wall Street firm with a stellar reputation. Landing in the No. 2 spot in Vault’s Best Law Firms for Private Equity again in 2025, Simpson Thacher is home to more than 1,000 attorneys who advise clients on multiple corporate matters. In Vault-ranked practice areas, for example, it takes the No. 6 spot for Project Finance and Real Estate; the No. 7 spot for Banking & Financial Services, General Corporate Practice, M&A, and Securities & Capital Markets; the No. 10 spot for Tax; and the No. 12 and 13 spots for Securities Litigation and Emerging Companies & Venture Capital, respectively. Simpson Thacher associates seek to help, not hinder, each other and enjoy their time together in and out of the office. Like all BigLaw firms, the hours can be long, but no billable hour requirement is imposed, and the work is equitably assigned through a centralized system. Perks include four weeks of vacation during which associate time away is respected. Lawyers can choose to stay at the firm long term in a counsel or other senior position and, with patience, possibly make partner. The prestige of this No. 9 Vault Law 100 firm enables associates to find in-house positions or promotions at other firms.

Latham & Watkins

Another megafirm, Latham & Watkins, sits at No. 3 in Vault’s Best Law Firms for Private Equity rankings. It also takes the No. 3 spot in the following Vault practice rankings: Banking & Financial Services; Energy, Oil & Gas; Environmental Law; and Media, Entertainment & Sports. It is also a Vault top 5 firm for Antitrust, Clean Tech/Renewable Energy, Project Finance, Securities & Capital Markets (No. 2) and Bankruptcy/Restructuring, General Corporate Practice, International, M&A, Real Estate, and Tax (No. 5). Moreover, it is the No. 1 firm in Vault’s Southern California regional rankings and holds a top 5 position in 5 other Vault regional rankings. In 12 U.S. and 17 international offices, the 3,000 collegial attorneys of Latham & Watkins work toward a 1,900 hour requirement to earn a market or above-market bonus. At such a large firm, hiring is competitive; the firm is ranked No. 6 in Vault’s Best Law Firms to Work For—Selectivity rankings. Associates that earn a spot can find the level of socialization that they want, and those with a team-oriented outlook fit in well. Because of the quality of the work, excellent training opportunities(the firm is No. 10 in Vault’s Best Law Firms to Work For—Formal Training rankings), and supported mentorship, Latham & Watkins associates become excellent lawyers who are well-positioned to go in-house or to the government. Considering its No. 18 placement in Vault’s Best Law Firms to Work For—Overall rankings, many attorneys opt to stay and enjoy the opportunity for becoming counsel or making non-equity partner. Equity partnership is, of course, more difficult to attain, but the process is transparent.


With 1,700 well-respected lawyers operating in 8 U.S. and 13 international offices, Skadden is the No. 3 Vault 100 Law Firm for 2025, and similar to the other top-ranked private equity firms, Skadden holds many high positions in the Vault top 5: It is the No. 1 firm for Tax law; No. 2 firm for the Securities Litigation; No 3 firm for M&A, Products Liability, Project Finance, and Securities & Capital Markets; No. 4 firm for Private Equity and General Corporate Practice; and No. 5 firm for Antitrust and Banking & Financial Services. Moreover, it is ranked in the Vault’s top 10 for every region in which it has an office: the Mid-Atlantic region (No. 1); the Midwest (No. 3), Chicago (No. 4); New York, where it has its headquarters (No. 4); Southern California (No. 5); Washington, DC (No. 5); Boston (No. 6); Northern California (No. 6); and Texas (No. 9). The quality of life at Skadden is high, even for laterals, as indicated by its No. 5 ranking in Vault’s Best Law Firms to Work For—Integration of Laterals & Clerks category. Associates feel like part of a team as they work to meet the firm’s 1,800 billable hour requirement, which can be fulfilled with unlimited pro bono hours. They also enjoy the flexibility of working from home on Mondays and Fridays. Attorneys can stay engaged at this world-class firm for the long term, but partnership positions open infrequently. Those who seek other opportunities will find them because of the experience they gain at Skadden.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

In addition to the No. 5 position in the Vault’s Private Equity rankings, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz holds 7 other top-10 Vault prestige positions: No. 1 for M&A, No. 2 for General Corporate Practice, No. 3 for Securities Litigation, No. 6 for Securities & Capital Markets, No. 8 for Banking & Financial Services, and No. 10 for General Commercial Litigation. Moreover, Wachtell Lipton stands out for its quality-of-life rankings. This year, Wachtell Lipton is in the No. 1 place in Vault’s Best Law Firms for the Integration of Laterals & Clerks rankings and the No. 2 place for Compensation. It ranks No. 3 in both Vault’s Business Outlook and Selectivity rankings. These high rankings mean that only students from top schools are considered. Successful candidates join fewer than 500 others who work in Wachtell Lipton’s one office, which is No. 2 in Vault’s New York regional rankings. With high positions on all these Vault lists, Wachtell Lipton is the No. 2 firm in the Vault Law 100. With leanly staffed teams, Wachtell Lipton attorneys spend long hours together, and therefore, maintaining a respectful and friendly atmosphere is key to their success. With the Wachtell Lipton name on their respective resumes, associates can go anywhere to pursue their goals. Advancement to partner is possible for those who stay the course.


The top five firms in Vault’s Private Equity prestige rankings are also highly ranked in the Vault Law 100 and in many of the same Vault practice areas. With the exception of Wachtell Lipton, the firms on this list are very large with offices throughout the world. However, each firm is looking for something a little different in its hires. Therefore, attorneys seeking to practice in private equity or similar legal fields need to research the companies that they are considering. Vault profiles can help attorneys find opportunities by offering up-to-date insights from lawyers at top firms. Vault prestige rankings are based on the perception of peers in the field, and Vault quality-of-life rankings reflect the opinions of those working at the profile firm. Thus, Vault profiles can be used to identify similarities and differences among firms, learn about the hiring practices and interview questions from insiders, and evaluate whether the culture, compensation, hours, and work quality match one’s preferences. These profiles and the other information offered by Vault Law are useful for starting—or continuing—your search for career opportunities and growth.

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