Men and women differ in the law firm they’d most like to work for

The law firm lawyers most want to work for differs by gender according to Acritas’ latest global survey of stand-out lawyers.

Latham & Watkins is the stand-out firm men would like to work for. Whereas, women favor a different set of firms, with Latham dropping down the ranks and Hogan Lovells just making the top spot among a closely ranked group of firms.

Acritas’ “stand-out lawyers” were independently nominated by senior in-house counsel globally during their Sharplegal, a broader research study of the legal market. In a new survey focused on helping law firms understand how they can better develop, engage, retain and attract stand-out talent, 1,735 lawyers shared the law firm they would most like to work for and the reasons why. 88% of respondents were Partners and came from 470 firms worldwide.

Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO at Acritas, said “As firms start to develop richer employer brand propositions, the market’s top talent will become more discerning and possibly open their eyes to a broader range of firms, much as their clients have.

Of course, articulating a firm’s employer brand must encompass what it’s like to work there as well as the reasons why a lawyer might be attracted to the firm.”

In general, a firm’s reputation (including its profile and quality) is the strongest driver of employer brand attraction. However, women rate the people in the firm as significantly more important as a reason for being attracted to a potential new firm.

Steve Immelt, CEO at Hogan Lovells, said “At Hogan Lovells we have worked hard to establish an inclusive culture and supportive working environment with great role models which enable talented women lawyers to excel at all levels. While nearly a quarter of our partners are women, we have clear goals to increase that number and more than a third of our leadership positions are held by women partners.”

It seems clear that firms would benefit from understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their current Employer Brand and working harder to evolve it. If lateral hiring is a strategy for growth, then the market needs to know what your firm offers that is different, above and beyond your market brand and practice capabilities – particularly if you have evolved your market position over the last few years.  The same is of course true for the brightest talent choosing firms at the start of their careers.

Deeper analysis revealed the reasons why these stand-out lawyers were attracted to the most desirable employer brands and it shows the importance of the firm’s reputation, particularly within practice areas. It seems that these lawyers think first and foremost about the ‘badge’ of the firm they want to work at apparently disregarding the fact that the firm’s reputation appears far down the list in relation to satisfaction and engagement. 

Generally, law firms have under-invested in their employer brands compared to other areas of marketing and HR but as this research shows, firms would benefit from understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their current employer brand and working harder to evolve it. Potential talent needs to know what your firm offers that is different, above and beyond your market brand and practice capabilities.

Will we see employers’ brands following the same path as firms’ client facing-brands? Looking back over the last ten years in our Sharplegal study (Acritas’ global in-house counsel survey) the dominance of the prestige brands has receded. In contrast, this latest research shows that employer brand attraction remains fairly traditional. That could be a big opportunity for challenger firms to shape their employer brands proactively. 

Hart Shepherd added, “For firms that don’t have those long-established prestige brands, their employer brands can be enhanced by better articulating why their firm is a great place to be when it comes to the most important drivers of high engagement, such as fairness, opportunity and reward and having a strategy and leadership that ensure the best possible platform in which to flourish.”

To access the Executive Summary of Acritas’ Developing, Engaging & Attracting stand-out lawyers report please visit To purchase the full research findings and learn more about how Acritas can help your firm maximize its talent potential and evaluate how your employer brand measures up email

Please note the survey was conducted in January 2018, prior to the Chairman of Latham & Watkins stepping down.

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