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by Vault Law Editors | February 18, 2020


How important is a law firm's location? For some, very important. Family, personal taste, practice area accessibility: Lawyers commit to particular regions for myriad reasons. If you are focused on a specific geographic area, being able to understand the law-firm landscape in that region is important—law firm prestige is not one size fits all.

Three of the most coveted markets for launching—or continuing—a legal career are New York City, Northern California, and Southern California. These three regions are incredibly different from each other, but they share two common themes: All are home to some of the most prestigious law firms, and lawyers flock to each of the three.

But what stands out in one doesn't necessarily take the prize in the other. So how is a law student or lawyer to distinguish among the three? Vault is here to help with our new regional law guides:

Vault Guide to the Top New York Law Firms

Vault Guide to the Top Northern California Law Firms

Vault Guide to the Top Southern California Law Firms

These guides feature the 2020 rankings for the most prestigious law firms in the region each covers (i.e., New York, Northern California, and Southern California), along with in-depth profiles on each firm.

(Law students and law school alumni should check with their school's career services office to see if they have access to Vault. If so, you will have free access to these ebooks through your account.)

How does Vault compile these regional rankings?

Each year, Vault conducts its Annual Associate Survey through which thousands of associates rate law firms in various areas, including regional prestige. Associates are asked to rate firms in their self-identified region on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning "not at all prestigious locally" and 10 meaning "extremely prestigious locally." (Associates were not permitted to vote for their own firms and were instructed to rate only firms with which they were familiar.)

Why does regional prestige matter?

If you are committed to remaining in one market, working at a firm with a strong reputation in that region is valuable for your resume and for building connections. By working for a prestigious law firm, you may be exposed to a greater variety and volume of work, as well as more high-profile cases and deals. It can also mean working with some particularly gifted and accomplished lawyers from whom you can learn a great deal. A firm's reputations can vary significantly by region. And global reputation doesn't always translate into regional prestige. Indeed, a one-office firm may be the king (or queen) of a major city, despite global firms surrounding it. 

Is prestige everything?

Of course not! The savvy jobseeker will consider various factors in selecting their future law firm, and prestige should just be one of many considerations, like quality of life, diversity, pro bono commitment, practice area strength, etc.

How do I use this guide?

The profiles in this guide will help you gain a better understanding of each top-ranked firm. They include an overview of the firm, valuable firm data and statistical information, a recap of all of the firm’s 2020 Vault rankings, and real associate quotes* on what it is really like to work at the firm.

What about other regions? 

Keep an eye out for our other regional guides, which will be released over the coming months, including ones for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Mountain States, New York Midsize, the Pacific Northwest, the South Atlantic, Texas, and Washington, DC.