Legal services are a key part of the global economy, and top firms are recognized for their expertise in areas such as M&A, IP, tax law, corporate finance, dispute resolution, and restructuring.
Firms are typically ranked by annual revenue. This list of Best Legal Firms Around the World includes major global powerhouses such as Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, and DLA Piper.
1. Morgan Lewis
Founded in 1873 in Philadelphia, Morgan Lewis has 2,200 lawyers and specialists working together to offer elite legal services across multiple industries and regions. They provide litigation, transactional and regulatory services to clients from global Fortune 100 companies to enterprising startups.
The firm specializes in a number of areas, including antitrust; business and finance; employee benefits and executive compensation; intellectual property; energy; climate change; investment management; labor and employment; real estate; and structured transactions. They also offer extensive bankruptcy, debt restructuring, and international tax expertise.
Morgan Lewis is a top choice for lawyers who want to be part of a collaborative, high-performing team with a strong focus on pro bono work. Last year the firm contributed almost 125,000 pro bono hours. Each lawyer in the firm spends at least 20 hours per year on pro bono matters. The firm also holds a Community Impact Week, where each office hosts various events for its clients and the local community.
One of the most well-known areas of expertise at Morgan Lewis is its labor and employment practice. The firm’s lawyers counsel multinational companies with operations in the US on everything from workforce expansions to terminations. They also handle disputes with unions and governmental agencies such as the International Trade Commission. They are also familiar with a variety of complex laws, including those related to discrimination, wage and hour issues, and whistleblowing.
2. Norton Rose Fulbright
The firm’s global footprint is unrivaled and offers a deep bench of lawyers with an impressive depth of knowledge across numerous practice areas. Clients appreciate the firm’s ability to ‘put the client in the best position to achieve its commercial goals’. Its extensive energy practice spans the full life cycle of oil and gas, power and utilities, renewables and natural resources, with an emphasis on cross-border matters. Houston-based Mark Baker heads the practice globally and has an outstanding record in complex commercial arbitration, particularly investment treaty disputes.
The nationwide disputes team includes prominent litigators like Robin Adelstein, who splits her time between Houston and Washington DC, and Richard Krumholz, a go-to for litigation and appeals in Texas. The firm also has a strong life sciences and healthcare group that advises global innovative pharmaceutical, bioscience and technology companies at every stage of the product life cycle, including patent protection, regulatory compliance and M&A. The team has a national reputation in complex class actions and mass torts, and it is capable of bringing together additional expertise from the firm’s broader overarching products liability and commercial litigation groups as necessary.
The firm’s infrastructure practice is well-resourced and has significant experience in all aspects of the natural resources sector, from exploration and extraction to project development, energy production, transportation and commercialisation. The group is a go-to for major multinational corporations, commercial banks and government bodies, and has particular strength in Latin America. Its finance and capital markets team is a top choice for debt financing, bond issues and private equity investments in a range of sectors.
3. DLA Piper
DLA Piper is the result of a 2005 tripartite merger between the UK firm DLA, Chicago/Baltimore-based Piper Rudnick and California’s Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. It now boasts over 4,000 lawyers in offices around the world and is one of the largest firms in the world. Its global reach, competitive salaries and working with decent clients are praised by many former and current employees. However, some reviews note that management can be stifling and long hours can be expected.
The ‘deeply knowledgeable’ team at DLA Piper LLP (US) leverages the firm’s global network to handle complex multi-jurisdictional insurance and reinsurance litigation, with a particular focus on coverage disputes arising out of transactions and regulatory matters. New York-based practice head Aidan McCormack is a key figure in this area, and Joseph Finnerty III focuses on representation and warranty matters in the context of M&A and private equity transactions.
The firm is also regarded for its expertise in the life sciences sector, where Katie Insogna and Lucas Przymusinski are notable names. The team advises pharmaceutical companies, healthcare service providers and medical device manufacturers on everything from investigations and regulatory proceedings to mass tort and class action matters.
4. Baker McKenzie
Founded in 1949, Baker McKenzie operates across every major field of law and has an extensive international network. The Firm is known for offering top-tier legal advice to companies and individuals worldwide, helping them navigate a complex web of global rules. The Firm also has an impressive reputation in corporate finance, real estate and mergers and acquisitions.
In 2022, Baker McKenzie was named the world’s leading law firm brand in the Thomson Reuters Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index. The Firm was ranked based on an in-depth survey of more than 1,700 general counsel and other senior legal buyers from the world’s largest multinational corporations.
The Firm’s clients span many industries and geographies, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, technology, life sciences, oil and gas, automotive and private equity. Their lawyers work to help their clients overcome the challenges of operating in a global business environment, including regulatory, tax, legal and commercial considerations.
The Firm’s culture focuses on fostering a community of friendship and trust. Associates say that the Firm’s partners provide respect, transparency and regular feedback. Moreover, the Firm offers a variety of training opportunities, including team or area-specific sessions at lunch that associates can freely join. The Firm also has a number of mentorship programs and a strong commitment to pro bono work.
5. Sidley Austin
A full-service firm, Sidley Austin represents domestic and international corporations, financial institutions, and other business enterprises in complex and high-profile matters. The firm has a reputation for its bankruptcy and restructuring, capital markets, commercial litigation, insurance defense, intellectual property, health care, and private equity services.
The firm is also known for its appellate practice, having argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Sidley also has a leading environmental law practice and has offices worldwide.
Sidley’s commitment to training and professional development sets it apart from many other firms. In a survey, junior associates ranked the firm highly for its work-life balance and pro bono opportunities, with one commenting that the firm “doesn’t have a revolving door—they want you to stay.”
The firm has an inclusive culture, seeking to attract and retain lawyers of diverse backgrounds, experience, and viewpoints to form a more wellspring of talent. As such, the firm promotes women to partnership and leadership positions. This commitment to diversity has fueled Sidley’s reputation for being a leader in the legal profession. The firm is a member of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund.
6. Clifford Chance
Clifford Chance is a legal behemoth that ranks in the top 10 firms worldwide. They have 2,500 lawyers in more than 30 offices. Their clients include global corporations, financial institutions and public undertakings. They have expertise in banking and finance, capital markets, M&A, real estate, litigation and dispute resolution, tax, pensions and employment.
The firm was established in 1987 when the giant U.K. firms Coward Chance and Clifford Turner merged to create what The Times of London called “the world’s first mega-firm.” Since then, the firm has expanded its international footprint, adopting a cross-border approach well before the trend became popular.
In New York, the firm is known for its strong presence in financial regulation. They recently hired banking regulatory attorney Young Kim to bolster the firm’s US practice and advise clients on fintech, digital assets, and payment services regulations.
Employees at the firm say that they are happy with their job and are excited to go to work each day. They are also satisfied with their managers, placing them in the middle of the pack in that category. However, they think that the firm could improve its culture in several areas. In particular, employees would like to see the firm prioritize more team building events. Employees rate the firm’s preparedness for their first day of work above average, and they find that their managers are helpful with their acclimation.