News & Politics

Great Places to Work: Legal Eagles

Law Firms That Raise the Bar.

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Law firms, particularly the big ones, haven’t exactly earned a reputation as cushy places to work. But in Washington they can make up for the grueling hours and high stress by offering fascinating clients and smart, well-connected colleagues. Generous pay and benefits don’t hurt.

This year, job security emerged as perhaps the most significant factor when we were choosing the best workplaces. Legal recruiters and outplacement experts repeatedly named these three firms as the best not only for their cultures and high quality of work but also for their relative stability.

Arnold & Porter

DC and McLean;

Full-time area employees: 897.

Interesting perks: First law firm in the country to open an on-site daycare center; lawyers get rare hands-on experience through a program that assigns them to DC Superior Court cases.

Arnold & Porter is repeatedly recognized as one of the best law firms for parents. New moms—or dads, if they’re the primary caregivers—can take up to 18 weeks of paid leave. As a leader in regulatory work, the firm has a reliable source of business as clients navigate a ramped-up regulatory environment.

Covington & Burling


Full-time area employees: 973.

Interesting perks: Firm-run daycare a block from the office; annual health fair includes free screenings and massage.

Covington’s employees got serious bragging rights this year: President Barack Obama recruited US attorney general Eric Holder from the firm, and during the campaign Obama reportedly stopped by Covington’s Pennsylvania Avenue offices.

The firm is big on giving back. It allows lawyers to count pro bono work toward their billable-hours targets if they spend more than 50 hours a year on the volunteering.

Zuckerman Spaeder


Full-time area employees: 128.

Interesting perks: Lawyers say their compensation is competitive with that of larger firms, but otherwise this isn’t a “perk place.” It’s the interesting work that keeps them motivated.

Don’t let the firm’s small size fool you. Zuckerman boasts a roster of high-profile partners and high-stakes clients. Legal-industry experts characterize this litigation boutique as the place big-firm partners hope to land when they’re bored with the large-firm grind. Zuckerman has defended executives at embattled corporations such as Enron, and it has developed a niche practice representing other law firms.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.