Cleveland, DC and New York were all major points on the map for juniors at Jones Day when we made our calls. A smaller number were spread between Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Pittsburgh while the remainder were scattered across Boston, Columbus, Houston, Irvine, LA, San Diego, San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Associates aren't locked into a practice straight away. Their first eight to 12 months are spent in the eclectic 'New Lawyers Group': “Essentially the NLG is a practice group for people who don't have practice groups! It's a great way of trying out different kinds of work and figuring out what you like,” associates agreed. Once they've graduated from the New Lawyers Group juniors usually join either the business and tort litigation group, affectionately known as BATL, or they slot into one of the corporate groups like M&A, capital markets and private equity. That said, there are plenty of opportunities away from these key practices, including – but by no means limited to – real estate, labor and employment, and antitrust.
In the New Lawyers Group work is gathered for associates and doled out by assigning coordinators, but beyond that they must go out and win work for themselves in the big bad world: “In the New Lawyers Group you start to make connections and build a rapport really quickly so by the time you join a group the work comes through organically.” That said, we did hear from sources who'd been asked to fill out work reports so as to keep anyone from dropping off the radar.
In the heat of BATL, associates can find themselves working on anything from antitrust to FCPA cases and product liability to securities. “There's such a wide variety of work that you'd never just get stuck in one area,” insiders agreed. “Legal research is part and parcel of the job when you first arrive but the work gets better as you climb the totem pole,” we heard. On a day-to-day basis you'll find yourself drafting motions, memos and witness statements, overseeing doc review and even attending client meetings. “Seniors really trust you to roll up your sleeves and get involved once you've proved yourself,” one source surmised.
In transactional teams the work varies in content but not in quality. From an associate in M&A we heard: “We work with a lot of Midwestern manufacturing companies, but we also work with New York's big financial institutions. It runs the gamut,” while insiders on the private equity side told us: “We work closely with the guys in M&A on transactional deals, but there's quite a bit of fund formation work too.” Regardless of the team they're in juniors are typically tasked with drafting a range of documents, overseeing doc review and doing due diligence. “They give you as much as you can handle,” an associate said when we asked how much responsibility they'd had. “The first time they give you a purchase agreement to draft, for example, they'll see how you do and if you're up to it, they'll keep them coming.”
Training & Development
Associates have a week of orientation in their home office when they first arrive at Jones Day, before they all get together in DC for the New Lawyer Academy, which also lasts a week. After that, as juniors settle into the New Lawyers Group, the training comes thick and fast: “The different groups come in and talk to us about what they do and there are skills-based sessions and classes on things like motions, trials and depositions.” Some groups like M&A have bootcamps and, on the whole, training becomes less frequent but more advanced as associates progress: “There's informal training on the fly too, so all in all there's a lot of help to hand!”
Reviews take place once a year after two in the first year, with juniors getting feedback from the seniors they've worked most closely with. The feedback is synthesized and then presented during a meeting in the summer. “I've found that partners are really good at giving feedback informally too. I know if I'm messing up,” one source said, while another added: “Of course, people always want more feedback, but these processes take time and everyone's aware of that. I get the sense we're all pretty happy with it.”
Cleveland is where it all started for Jones Day and for that reason the office there is truly full-service: “Every single one of the firm's groups is represented here and we work all over the world. Whatever you want to do, you can do it here.” Elsewhere sources were keen to stress the full-service nature of their offices, though we did hear special mention of M&A and criminal investigations work in Dallas, corporate work in New York, and antitrust and litigation work in DC.
“Inter-office communication is really simple,” sources agreed. “With the phones, for instance, you can reach any of our lawyers around the world simply by dialing a five-digit number. That's impressive.” More than that though, “one thing that makes us stand out is how willing people are to help and collaborate, no matter where in the world they are. The number of information requests going around is amazing and they get answered almost immediately, whether you're reaching out to Asia, Europe or South America.” On home soil, associates get their own office from the get-go, no matter where they're stationed.
The fact that you can give someone a call wherever they are and ask for help dovetails with what associates had to say about life at the firm more generally: “It's all about collaboration. There's certainly a sense that clients are linked to the firm as a whole, that they don't belong to particular partners or whatever. It's not eat-what-you-kill. That means no elitism, no in-fighting and no bitchiness.” Office vibes were variously described as genial and welcoming but focused nonetheless. Associates agreed that this feeds through from the firm's Midwestern roots.
Naturally, this has fostered an atmosphere of openness and inclusion. “It's a place where some seriously complex, difficult work goes down. People could be getting really stressed out but I've never felt like I might get my head bitten off. Lawyers here are approachable and always willing to help,” one source said. “They've really made the effort to make sure it isn't competitive,” another agreed.
Elsewhere we were told: “Another thing I like is the management structure. Sure, it's a partnership, but the partners have pretty much waived their rights to the managing partner – he's a kind of benevolent dictator. There are checks against his absolute power, of course, but the point is that this allows us to move quickly even though we're a huge firm. It's not political or bureaucratic.”
When it comes to socializing, “there's no pressure to get involved, but if you're keen people often hang out with each other away from work.” Summer is the busiest time of year on the social calendar, but we also heard about happy hours, impromptu parties and lunchtime get-togethers year round, as well as a partner who regularly treats young associates to trips away to his cabin.
Hours & Compensation
When it comes to billables, associates are asked to shoot for 2,000 hours. Group to group, insiders agreed that this is attainable: “The work generally flows through well, but when it does feel a bit thin I've learned to trust that it will all even out.” Daily hours vary, but as a rule of thumb 9am to 7pm is pretty normal. Four weeks of vacation per year is standard and we heard no complaints here. “People feel comfortable using it all. As long as you've got your work done, you're good to go!” said one.
Jones Day is unusual in that it operates a black box compensation system and juniors are encouraged not to gossip about compensation. But has this made it the elephant in the room? “Absolutely not. People are just fine with it. I'm not looking over my shoulder I'm just getting on with my work like everyone else here.” Another source added: “I'm happy with it – I don't need to know if my buddy's making $5k more than me.”
There's no limit to the number of pro bono hours associates can count toward their billable target, and for that reason “there's a strong sense that they want us to get involved.” Interviewees said they'd been encouraged to participate in a number of ways: “E-mails go round every week and each time I hit a happy hour there's someone encouraging me to get involved in a pro bono matter they're coordinating. Each of the offices has a pro bono partner too.” For associates there are many different types of matter to hand: veteran, asylum and immigration were just some of the areas our sources had been involved in.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys across all US offices: 111,531
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
“It's definitely encouraged and we're starting to see more diverse candidates come through in the summer classes,” insiders agreed. “There's a big push to recognize the successes of women in the workplace and the firm organizes a lot of events. It certainly feels like there are female partners and role models here,” we heard. Another added: “I've seen them facilitating a reduced schedule for women with young children which helps keep them here.” The firm is also a career sponsor for Sponsors of Educational Opportunity, a group which provides diverse students with internships. “They come in as interns but we often see them again on the summer program,” one source reported.
“Academic credentials are the baseline. We're looking for people who fit with the culture of the firm,” says firmwide hiring partner Sharyl Reisman. But what does that mean? “We seek lawyers who are driven by excellent client service, not individual or personal gain. And it's important for us to know we can put our junior lawyers out front because we take the long view and we want them in front of judges and clients. Initiative is also vital – if you wait for things to come your way, Jones Day isn't the place for you.”
Juniors had similar things to say when we asked what sort of person fits with the firm: “Collaboration is key so if you've got an ego or if you're the kind of person who wants the glory, you won't do well here.” Another source agreed, adding: “The worst thing you could do would be being so self-centered you undercut your colleagues in order to advance. There are no sharks here.”
Strategy & Future
“The firm's stability stems from preservation of the Jones Day culture and not being dependent on one office, one industry, one region or one client,” Sharyl Reisman says. “Our lawyers work as seamless teams on litigation, transactional, regulatory, and tax matters around the globe. We are focusing on growth of our healthcare, IP, energy, and financial services practices, and are expanding our presence in Australia with a new office in Perth. Our clients get the benefits of our client-focused approach, global reach, and management structure. Happily, that approach also makes us a great place to work."