The last few years have not been kind to the legal profession. Many lawyers have found themselves the victims of layoffs, while freshly minted law school graduates have struggled to find work or have had to settle for far less in salary than they expected when they enrolled. One of the world’s most prestigious law firms, Dewey & LeBoeuf, even filed for bankruptcy in 2012, just five years after its involvement in the largest law firm merger in history.
But while the headlines may have been full of tales of woe, for the majority of the 700,000-plus lawyers in America, it has been another year of normalcy. Wills have been prepared, contracts drafted, partnerships formed, and cases taken to trial or settled amicably outside of the public eye. Celebrating the efforts of the best of the breed, U.S.News & World Report and Best Lawyers have joined for the third year in a row to rank the best law firms in the country based on evaluations from clients and lawyers, as well as a review of additional information provided by the firms. Of more than 11,000 law firms eligible to be ranked, more than 10,300 firms—including a large number of one-person firms—received rankings.
Firms are ranked nationally in 80 practice areas, while as many as 118 practice areas are represented in rankings that are arranged by metropolitan area. In most of the 80 national practice areas, one firm received the designation “Law Firm of the Year.”
Among the topics of evaluation were a firm’s expertise, responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, and civility, and whether it deserved to be recommended for work.
The struggling economy may have brought hard times for many, but firms adapt and new practice areas rise to prominence, among them financial industry regulation, energy, and healthcare. These three practice areas are booming as a result of new government initiatives, including the landmark healthcare reform law upheld by the Supreme Court.
The 2013 “Best Law Firms” rankings show that even in tough times there will still be firms that manage to excel.