Best Life Sciences Law Firm Ranking 2016

Life Sciences Law Firm Index | Q2 Update

The complex life cycle of a biotechnology product, pharmaceutical or medical device demands a broad range of legal expertise across many practice specialties. From intellectual property protection, to corporate and regulatory advice, the leading law firms in the life sciences space combine sophisticated legal counsel with deep scientific knowledge.

Lake Whillans has created the Life Sciences Law Firm Index to help identify which law firms are the most active and relevant for life science companies. The index was created in collaboration with our research partners at Breaking Media, the publishers of leading industry sites MedCity News and Above the Law.

We at Lake Whillans understand the vital role legal practitioners play in guiding a product through this enormously complex legal and regulatory environment. The goal of the ranking is to inform innovators about which firms are the leaders in the multi-faceted interplay between the legal market and the industry. Life sciences innovators rely on strong legal counsel to protect their interest at every stage of the product life cycle. However, in the case of an unforeseen and unavoidable setback, Lake Whillans is there to step in and help.

Our index was compiled using the criteria that matter most to healthcare innovators. In addition to collecting data in three practice categories — corporate, intellectual property and regulatory —we also incorporated information on the firms’ work with startup companies, as well as their thought leadership efforts in order to generate the index scores (a perfect score is 100).

Best Life Sciences Law Firm Ranking 2016

Firm Score
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati 89.1
WilmerHale 86.1
Cooley 83.3
Jones Day 82.2
McDermott Will & Emery 80.5
Goodwin Procter 79.0
K&L Gates 75.9
Morgan Lewis 74.0
Latham & Watkins 73.2
Covington & Burling 73.0
Arnold & Porter 70.9
Skadden 70.0
Mintz Levin 69.9
Reed Smith 69.5
Morrison & Foerster 66.2
Sidley Austin 65.5
Ropes & Gray 62.0
Proskauer 61.6
Foley Lardner 60.0
Greenberg Traurig 59.9

Top Firms by Category


Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Wilson Sonsini advises an impressive array of life sciences companies on both public and private equity and debt financings, M&A, securities and corporate governance matters. In July 2015, the firm represented NantKwest in the largest biotech IPO ever, based on market capitalization.



In 2015 alone, WilmerHale obtained more than 300 U.S. patents for life sciences companies and the laboratories of some of the most prestigious research universities. On the patent litigation side, the firm secured successful outcomes for clients ranging from from the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research to Syntrix Biosystems.


Covington & Burling

Covington’s preeminent regulatory and government affairs practice has reach extending beyond the United States, as evidenced by their work counseling trade associations in negotiating new legislation to govern emerging technologies, including pharmacogenetics and gene therapy, in the European Union.

Startup work

McDermott Will & Emery

McDermott created the innovative Life Sciences Entrepreneurs Acceleration Program (LEAP) in 2013 to help emerging and early-stage life sciences companies grow by offering affordable access to strategic legal advice on the full range of transactional, intellectual property, and employment matters.. LEAP clients include Candesant Biomedical, Cellaria Biosciences, Jace BioMedical and Vasoptic Medical.

Notable Smaller Firm (100 or fewer attorneys)

Porzio Bromberg & Newman

Although the Morristown, N.J.-based firm is significantly smaller than the top 20 firms in the index, Porzio’s diverse life sciences practice demonstrates that sophisticated transactional, regulatory and compliance services throughout a company life cycle are not exclusive to the legal industry’s Goliaths.

A Note on Methodology

Our rankings methodology is designed to reflect a holistic view of the role of a law firm throughout the life cycle of a life sciences company: from inception through clinical trials.

In each category of practice, we identified the relevant, quantifiable factors. For example, under the Corporate category, our review included — but was not confined to — public and private financings, IPOs and M&A activity. For the Patent category, we included factors such as number of patents issued, “allowance rate,” and successful patent defenses. Among the items in the Regulatory category are clinical trials, commercialization and approvals. The Thought Leadership ratings incorporated, among other things, the publication of white papers, contributions to third-party media, blogging and social media, as well as speaking or teaching engagements.

Within each category, firms were organized into tiers based on the complexity, value, variety and reach of their practice and scores were apportioned accordingly. Our rankings formula is as follows:

  • Corporate: 40%
  • Patent: 20%
  • Regulatory: 20%
  • Start-up work: 10%
  • Thought leadership: 10%

To complement our comprehensive review of all publicly available information, we invited firms to complete a questionnaire detailing their life science practices.

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