We cannot accomplish all that we need to do without working together. – Bill Richardson
A number of attributes define a great business. Being a great place to work is high on just about any list you’ll find.
Every year Fortune magazine publishes a report on the 100 greatest places to work in America. In 2014 six law firms made that list!
This is not a pay-to-play or I’ll-vote-for-you-if-you’ll-vote-for-me puff list. Fortune process for identifying its list of 100 is exhaustive. Last year, in conjunction with the Great Place to Work Institute, more than 250,000 employees were surveyed, representing more than 250 companies that applied for the recognition. The survey includes a combination of specific questions; a series of open-ended and essay type questions and an audit of each applicant’s culture.
The mere application for the honor reflects a unique orientation. To actually make the final 100 demonstrates a commitment to doing the things that make a company a healthy and desirable place to work.
The list includes some very familiar names like Google, Goldman Sacs and Edward Jones and —-
Six Prestigious Law Firms
Almost every firm I know says it wants to be a collegial, enjoyable place to work. To this end, it is instructive to briefly review the six law firms honored with a position on the 2014 list.
1. Memphis based, Baker Donelson is chaired by Ben Adams, a guy that is often described as direct, unassuming and willing to go against conventional wisdom to advance the interests of his firm. 2014 was the 5th year his firm made Fortune’s list, placing 31st — the highest of any law firm.
Reflective of Baker Donelson’s commitment to its people is their Women’s Initiative. The firm notes that more than 50% of law school graduates are female; yet, fewer than 25% of law firm Equity Partners (Shareholders) are female and barely 11% of firm governing bodies are women. According to Christy Crider, head of Baker Donelson’s women’s initiative, the firm’s efforts to support women in the profession will continue until the percentages of women in leadership positions is consistent with the percentage of law school graduates.
2. Atlanta based Alston & Bird, ranked 40th, making its 15th consecutive appearance on the list. Cathy Benton, Alston’s HR Director says that “the firm strives to create an environment where people can do their best and most productive work; a place people want to come every day…” This aspiration is supported by Fortune’s findings that more than 95% of the surveyed employees at Alston & Bird describe it as a “friendly” place to work. Not the adjective used to describe the majority of law firms.
Also of note, 90% of the respondents reported that the firm’s benefit package was special — even unique — and 83% said that the firm truly values a work-life balance. A unique law firm indeed.
3. Perkins Coie, a Seattle based law firm received the top 100 award for the 12th consecutive year, finishing number 41 on the list in 2014. According to Managing Partner Robert Giles, “ We promote and are committed to an environment that emphasizes teamwork and valuing the contributions of every member of the firm.”
The firm’s people-focus has yielded several awards reflective of their commitment, including:
-Gold Standard Certification from the Women in Law Empowerment Forum each of the last two years;
-Top Ten Family Friendly Firms, from the Yale Law Women’s group each of the last five years.
4. Bingham McCuthchen was ranked number 60 on the list, being honored for the 10th consecutive year. The firm’s 2014 ranking is especially impressive, given the market challenges the firm has encountered over the last couple years. Even when facing market pressures, the commitment to be a great place to work has not faltered.
5. Arnold & Porter has also made the list 10 times, being ranked number 80 this year. Consistent with several of the winners, Arnold & Porter has made significant progress in addressing the needs and realities of their female work force. The firm has been named one of the 100 best companies to work for by Working Mother magazine.
6. And ranked number 100 — making the list for the fifth time is Cooley. According to Joe Conroy, the firm’s CEO, the firm’s culture fosters inclusiveness and creates an environment in which all of their people can grow personally and professionally.
Certainly these six firms are not the only great law firms to work for. Fortune’s list is limited to companies with 1,000 or more U. S. employees, so instantly many outstanding firms that strive to provide a great environment are eliminated from the discussion.
One thing that screams at me when reviewing these six firms is a real and serious commitment to the female work force. Women represent a large percentage of the law firm population, and these firms have made great strides in recognizing their unique needs.
Each of these is an outstanding, high-performing law firm. Each recruits extraordinary talent, wrestles with the same issues of a market in transition that every firm faces, and each represents an enviable list of clients.
And each one clearly believes there is measureable value in paying more than lip service to the ideal of being a great place to work. They are to be congratulated.
How would your personnel rate your law firm as a place to work?