Like their contemporaries at other top Washington firms, the attorneys and staff at Dickstein Shapiro handle challenging matters across a range of practices, including intellectual property, white-collar investigations, and regulatory work. But Dickstein employees say the friendly environment--lawyers and non-lawyers mingling, practice groups lunching together, respect for family commitments--separates them from the pack.
Humane perks: Since the 1990s, Dickstein has offered an alternative work arrangement that allows lawyers to make partner on a part-time schedule. Employees also enjoy free language, yoga, winetasting, and other classes as part of the Dickstein Shapiro University program.
Number of employees*: 533
Eagle Hill Consulting
This woman-owned, boutique consulting firm is so small that everyone is involved in shaping the direction and business of the firm, and they all feel empowered to make decisions. Everyone knows one another well: When an employee works long hours on a project, he or she might be rewarded with a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or store.
Generous benefits: Despite the small size, the firm offers outsize benefits such as fully paid health-care premiums, twice-yearly bonuses, 21 days off to start, biweekly meetings with homemade breakfast, and very flexible schedules. In fact, employees gave Eagle Hill a perfect score for flexibility.
Number of employees: 25
The Education Trust
The Education Trust's mission is to close the achievement gap separating low-income students and students of color from other youth. "Every day I get to argue on behalf of students that lots of people have written off," says Kate Tromble, director of legislative affairs. "There's not much more satisfaction I could expect from a job." Employees praise the supportive managers, and they love their smart, passionate coworkers.
Why they stay: With paid health-care premiums, a fitness room, and social events such as bowling nights and family barbecues, the nonprofit treats employees well. It practices what it preaches: Seventy-one percent of senior management positions are filled by racial or ethnic minorities.
Number of employees*: 48
The Educe Group
HR Technology consulting
The Educe Group helps companies use technology to improve employee performance, so it's only natural it would pay attention to its own employees' development and happiness. Coworkers not only cheer each other on but feel very supported by the owners--including with generous salaries.
Rewards and recognition: There are lots of employee honors--including the Dolly Parton Prize for the consultant with the highest billables and the Beanstalk Award for the staffer who has grown the most. Employees enjoy personal birthday gifts (say, a spa day or a membership to a beer-of-the-month club), and team-building trips to places such as New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Number of employees*: 9
Employees at Elevation enjoy their work--the small advertising agency has served big clients such as NBC/Universal, Canon, Toyota, Bloomberg, and the Virginia Lottery. To keep the creative juices flowing, staffers are treated to a loft-style office with Potomac River views, hot meals prepared weekly and served family style, and staff outings that have included seeing comedian Lewis Black at the Warner Theatre and watching Caps games from the company suite.
Diverse environment: Elevation's staff hails not just from the United States but also from Cuba, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic.
Number of employees*: 15
While the work at FGM is solemn--technical solutions for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies--the culture is anything but. Dress can be very casual (flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts are fine) and the vibe laid-back (offices customized with coffee carts and couches, door-decorating contests). Employees like the fact that this latitude extends to the work: They say they're trusted to do their jobs and to be innovative and creative.
Nice benefits: Employees enjoy private offices and a contribution of 6.5 percent of their salary into their 401(k). Social events include happy hour every Friday, an annual chili cook-off, and a volleyball team.
Number of employees*: 120
5AM Solutions develops software for scientists, hospitals, and others to improve the pace of medical research. "I feel like the work that we do is really making a difference by helping researchers find cures for diseases that affect so many of us," says IT director Michael March. The company pays attention to its own employees' health, with a supportive culture and terrific work/life balance.
Sharing the wealth: Employee benefits include fully paid health-care premiums, bonuses, eight weeks of vacation after ten years there, the ability to telecommute at least once a week, and three paid days a year to volunteer. The firm donates 5 percent of its profits to charities chosen by employees.
Number of employees: 40
Food & Friends
At Food & Friends, employees are motivated by the organization's mission. "Every day we deliver a free, healthy meal and a friendly hello to people facing serious illnesses," says corporate-gifts manager Ellen Root. "I feel grateful to help ease a burden and provide friendship." Employees feel valued and challenged, and they love being surrounded by smart, dedicated coworkers. That's why they stay--more than 70 percent have been with the nonprofit at least five years.
Nice perks: "Kudos" are read at weekly staff meetings--the best one of the month means $250 for both the person who wrote it and the employee it was about. Every Friday, the office closes three hours early.
Number of employees: 51
Government Accountability Office
America's "congressional watchdog," the Government Accountability Office investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. Employees say that they like their role in improving the government's performance and in ensuring its accountability by providing Congress with objective and nonpartisan information.
Nice benefits: GAO employees have access to on-site daycare and fitness centers, and they enjoy telework options as well as a student-loan payment plan that repays up to $10,000 a year, to a maximum of $60,000, for higher education.
Number of employees: 2,000
At Gryphon Technologies, the employees, some of whom are retired veterans, love their mission: engineering and technical support for the military, particularly the US Navy. They also like working for a successful firm--it has landed on Inc. magazine's list of the fastest-growing private companies eight years in a row. And they appreciate the leadership, which they say treats them with respect.
Nice benefits: Employees receive a 401(k) match of up to 6 percent of salary, $500 new-baby and marriage bonuses, employee-of-the-quarter awards, and regular raffles for tickets to the Redskins, Capitals, Nationals, Orioles, DC United, and other sporting events.
Number of employees*: 220