The Top 10 Firms for Going In-House

Landing the best in-house jobs often takes a strong network, great credentials, and record of success with clients. You further increase your chances of landing a great in-house role by choosing the right practice area, the right city, and of course, the right firm. The right firm provides associates with experiences and connections that help them land jobs at and succeed at companies.

So which are the best firms for going in-house (at least quantitatively speaking)? 

The best way to tell is to measure the rate at which associates who leave the firm go in-house as opposed to another firm, to government, or to a non-legal job. (One could also look at what percentage of all associates at the firm that go in-house over a period of time, but that method penalizes firms that retain their associates longer).

We looked back five years (from 2014 to present), to find the ten firms with highest percentage of departing U.S. associates going in-house:

Top-10 firms with the highest percentage of departing U.S. associates going in-house (min. 75 departures, 2014 to Nov. 2018)*

RankFirm% going in-houseIn-house associate departuresTotal associate departures
1Davis Wright Tremaine51%4894
2Fenwick & West44%70160
3Gunderson Dettmer43%3683
4Wilson Sonsini35%119341
7Mintz Levin32%44139
8Littler Mendelson31%72229
9Latham & Watkins30%222748
10Morgan Lewis29%159552

Prominent emerging company firms dominate the list, taking up spots two through six. It’s well known that such firms tend to send a lot of firms in-house, often to small but growing startups.

But, coming as a surprise to many, Davis Wright Tremaine tops the list. DWT flies under the radar because it isn’t near the top of law firm profitability rankings, but for many years it’s been exceedingly successful at getting IP, media, and labor & employment associates into jobs at tech and media clients, particularly in Seattle, New York, and across California.

Mintz Levin, nationally known for their life sciences practice, has seen many of its associates go to biotech and pharmaceutical companies, though also to finance and tech companies. The demand for in-house employment lawyers in in-house legal departments helps explain Littler Mendelson’s place on the list.

Latham’s strong showing is yet another (mild) surprise. Of course, it has a strong presence in California and in the startup and media space, but the firm has a broader national practice than most of the companies on the list. Morgan Lewis rounds out the top ten due to a strong record of getting associates in-house in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Comparing the Best to the Rest of Big Law 

How much more likely are you to go in-house from one of the top firms above than from an average firm?

In the basket of 145 top firms we track (excluding the top ten firms above), associates leaving for in-house jobs accounted for 20% of all moves. At our leading firms, they accounted for between 29% and 51% of moves. That’s 45%-105% higher.  

So what does this mean for my career?

Your environment is critical in determining where you’ll end up in your career. Many associates interested in going in-house leave prestigious firms to join more tech-focused firm with more opportunities. 

But aggregate statistics don’t tell the whole story. Whether such a move is right for you depends on a lot of factors. To understand how the market impacts your career options, you’ll want to see how peers in similar circumstances have fared, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively.

Luckily, much of the information you need can be found on Move Tracker. You can use Move Tracker to explore in-house moves in every major U.S. city, in every practice, and at every level of seniority. Make sure to drill down into firms, since there are often substantial differences among offices and practices within a firm. For example, a firm might send its New York litigation associates in-house at a low rate, but might send its finance or San Francisco associates in-house at much higher rates. 

To get started on Move Tracker, sign up here:

Every verified law firm associate gets access.

Laterally’s Move Tracker

Laterally’s Move Tracker

*Move Tracker includes moves from approximately 95% of associates. Of the associates we track, approximately 10% move to unknown destinations, some of which may be to in-house roles, and are not counted in our statistics.