"Jones Day is somewhere somebody could land and spend their career – it feels like a family.”

The "tremendous amount" of cross-office work “makes it hard for the personality of the firm to hide in one office only.”

Jones Day


A Midwestern spirit means the associate experience at this global giant remains "a bit different."

AND the giant got bigger: in 2012, Jones Day added an outpost in Düsseldorf and announced one in Amsterdam, with Miami due in 2013, bringing its global offering to 37. The firm's massive footprint and lack of HQ means a major focus is on cross-office communication. “We don't have the standard metrics that build impediments to true collegiality,” former partner and diversity chair Kevyn Orr explains (Orr recently left to help rescue Detroit’s finances, appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder). He's talking about the merit-based compensation system, intended to "allow people to seek to assist," juniors concurred. "You call associates anywhere from Madrid to Mexico and they never once ask if they can bill it first."

We recommend checking out individual state rankings in Chambers USA, but it's worth mentioning Jones Day's high nationwide rankings in antitrust, bankruptcy, labor & employment, appellate and product liability. The firm is frequently awarded for the number of M&A deals completed and is one of the biggest litigation houses in the US. “Our litigation practices continued to have a very strong year," says Orr. "We're very enthusiastic in terms of dispute resolution in Asia, and about certain longstanding financial and business capitals – London, Paris and New York – and very strong emerging capitals (Dubai, Riyadh, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai) which we've looked at very closely. We've done some hiring in Singapore in dispute resolution as well as a fair amount of M&A and finance hiring.”

The Work  

Jones Day's summer program focuses on orientation and training. “You get a general sense of what the practices are like, and it's a place where they want you to be yourself – to do good work, but to show personality and to interact,” thought sources.

Rather than return to a specific practice, junior associates enter the firm's New Lawyers' Group. There they're encouraged to take on contrasting work and try out working with different partners. It's best-suited to new starters who are open about what they take on, as it means “no-one has to make a decision about their entire career in their summer.” Initially, “people get work from the central database, but soon a lot of people start steering their own year and taking up their own type of projects.” Some juniors reported work allocation “becoming totally free-market after about two and a half months, which can be anxiety-inducing when you're not certain where your work is coming from.” Overall, it's better for those “totally comfortable with using their initiative.” The NLG is also useful, sources concurred, just for “leaving yourself open to work to learn that you're truly not interested in it.”

After around eight months to a year, associates join their preferred group. The process varies between offices, but generally “the NLG gives such case and project experience that the transition is smooth.” Groups such as issues and appeals may be trickier to get into without a clerkship – see our website feature for more on this.

Jones Day's corporate practice takes in groups such as M&A, capital markets, energy, healthcare and real estate. Those in M&A see Jones Day's credentials as a benefit. “Other firms may have consistently higher dollar values but here we get a lot of experience on different kinds of transactions, from smaller deals with more responsibility to asset structures where there are multiple agreements in place.” Likewise in real estate –“value doesn't indicate how interesting the deal is.” There's a lot of work from other practices, “fixing problems on traditional deals,” as well as traditional commercial real estate. Juniors don't think “there's a marked natural progression in responsibilities – I've had my fair share of basic tasks, but also worked on language for complex things. It's more akin to drinking from a fire-hose – we're encouraged to dive in, and ask questions on the way.”

Trial encompasses issues and appeals, antitrust, white-collar, IP and general commercial litigation. Associates believed good work comes from “a combination of seniority and from gaining the trust of people you work with. We're encouraged to get better work if it's out there, and it's always there if you look for it.” For IP associates, there are always transactional opportunities in addition to patent disputes –“like drafting cease and desist letters and reviewing websites and social media for trademark infringement.” There is a “satisfying” amount of drafting, and plenty of doc review – though in the words of one first-year: “The seventh-year associate on the case does the same amount as me.”

Training & Development  

New starters from across the globe congregate for the four-day New Lawyers' Academy in DC. There they receive orientation, introductions to Jones Day's groups and in-depth seminars. “It's a great way to introduce people to what everyone else does at the firm, and it's a way for the firm to set standards for everyone at once.” There's also a major focus on socializing. “We call it summer camp. It's a lot of fun meeting people from the other offices, and there's a ridiculous party bus.”

There's ongoing training throughout the NLG, “which becomes more experience-based as you go on,” and “substantive topic-based training” once the year is over.

Many sources thought “it would be great to have more formal feedback,” though most said “you shouldn't be waiting for it, as it only comes once a year.” Generally, juniors “get a sense of how they're doing by the kind of assignments they're given.” The firm says it tries to give some kind of official feedback every six months.

Offices  

Jones Day's offices cover the US: Boston, DC, Cleveland, Chicago, NY, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Irvine, Silicon Valley, LA, San Francisco, San Diego and, from 2013, Miami.

The “very pretty” Chicago office “is completely dark wood and marble, and looks a lot like a museum.” DC is comparably exciting for design enthusiasts: housed in the 1936 Acacia Building, a Richard Rogers-designed wing was added in 2009, “with glass walkways and a glass elevator tower.” Cleveland associates enjoy being housed “right on Lake Erie,” and their office has just undergone a décor revamp –“from traditional law firm to a more modern vibe.” NY associates enjoy “views of the Empire State Building,” but feel their modernist interiors may be a step too far. “It can come across as a bit sterile. Plus, there's some pretty weird artwork up – like a painting of a dead bird in a cage.”

Culture  

Jones Day's approach fosters collegiality. Associate billables aren't assigned to partners, and partners “aren't rewarded for hoarding clients – there are no big rainmaking stars.” Associate sources agree this non-selfish culture creates “an environment that's about sharing rather than competition.” Plus, the "tremendous amount" of cross-office work “makes it hard for the personality of the firm to hide in one office only.”

Sources also think that the firm's financial outlook speaks volumes. “Jones Day wasn't untouched by the economy tanking, but partners decided it was better to take a hit in profits than lay off associates. It's stable and still doesn't have debt. It means we may not make the same huge bonuses as other firms, but the plus is the firm won't be closing any offices soon.”

The effect of these strategies is that many juniors think Jones Day “is somewhere somebody could land and spend their career – because it feels like a family.”

Hours & Compensation  

Associates have a goal of 2,000 hours, but for the NLG year, “it's more about developing your skills as a lawyer.” First-years are paid between $145,000 and $160,000 depending on their location. After this, salary and bonus are black box. “The focus isn't entirely on hours, so it's not a math-based thing,” one junior explained. “It's not divide by three and carry the two – it's about doing the best you can and feel able to do. If you're at 2,000 you don't have to manufacture hours that aren't there. They think you do the best work when you give it your all, then go home and enjoy yourself.”

A “minority of people find the system problematic,” and though legal blog “comments are negative toward the system, most people feel adequately remunerated.” It can be tough “if you work extremely hard late in the year, as there's no sense of what you're working toward.” Despite associates “not talking about compensation,” most feel the system is “a major positive, as there's no frantic connection between stress and money.” Generally, “people come in with their eyes open, and if you think you're getting screwed, you can leave.”

The compensation system is more a reflection of Jones Day's Midwestern roots than a conscious effort to break from the norm. “The firm comes from a part of the country that isn't Hollywood or NYC. It's not that comfortable talking about money, and the result is a place that's full of camaraderie.”

Pro Bono  

Associates “count pro bono hours identically to non-pro bono. The firm sees it as an opportunity to try your hand at skills you may not otherwise get, and also give back to the community.” Some sources thought “the fact that pro bono hours count means it's not about meeting a target, but it allows the freedom to take lots on.” The freedom the firm offers means “plenty of associates do little to none,” though all we spoke to had been involved: some billing over 400 hours. Pro bono is viewed by most as “an opportunity to work on more esoteric stuff.”

There's a pro bono coordinator in each US office and a firmwide pro bono partner, Laura Tuell Parcher. Chicago associates do a lot of work on the incorporation of nonprofits, and criminal trials. “We defend first-time felons in the county court – you gotta figure it out along the way, which can be stressful. But you're supportive of their circumstances and you've got to help them as best as possible.”

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 92,497
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed

Diversity  

Associates think the firm “makes a very conscious effort to recruit a diverse group of people,” and that diversity director Kevyn Orr is “great at recruiting and defining diversity. The representation is strong and natural rather than token.” However, some point to retention as the firm's biggest area of improvement. “In some offices, it's less diverse than it was five years ago. There's still a committee, but there's work to be done.” Orr explains JD's diversity drive. “We have pipeline initiatives where we provide high school students with the opportunity to understand what a law firm does. We're also keen on visibility and outreach. We're attending the Black Law Association 1L job fairs at Harvard and the University of Virginia.”

Offices in Dallas, Columbus, San Diego, Atlanta, DC, Houston and Pittsburgh are headed by female partners. Some offices hold quarterly business development meetings for women; others hold lunches and happy hours to encourage networking. “It's nice to have people who can explain the changes they had to make to get where they are now,” thought one member. There's no cross-office women's initiative, but Kevyn Orr maintains: “Each person in management understands the role they have to take on as mentor, and we've clearly had some demonstrable success in this respect.”

Get Hired  

Jones Day visits 45 law schools and 15 job fairs. Head of recruiting Jolie Blanchard explains why the firm casts such a wide net. “When you only hire people from five law schools, you limit the ability to diversify your ranks. We're interested in candidates from state schools as well as the Ivy League. We are primarily looking at people who want to work under our values, so we see a lot of candidates in order to tell them the story of the firm. It's not a given that just because you went to Harvard you'd be interested in us. We're trying to build our ranks of people who are intelligent, but we're talking about the nuanced differences between our firm and other law firms.”

Associates agreed the firm looks only at well-rounded candidates: “They're less obsessed with having the top 10%, and the gunners from law school definitely aren't here. The firm will pass on the highest ranking student if they're not a good fit for us. The person who asks everyone in the class what grade they got in exams isn't going to fit in well.”

Strategy & Future  

“We've been very fortunate in the sense that we've not seen retrenchment in any of our practices," says Kevyn Orr. “We're very well hedged – when this side of the hemisphere is doing well we're fine, when the other is, we're also fine."

Looking to the future, Orr says the firm “continues to be optimistic and opportunistic in terms of our expansion plans. Our point of origin (the US) continues to be a focus, but we're also looking at other opportunities in Europe, Asia, and South America. We also continue to look at the Pacific Rim area because it's common sense to look at a region where a combined quarter of the world's population lives."


 

Key Facts

Largest US office: New York

US offices: 16

International offices: 21

First-year salary: $145,000–$160,000

Billable hours: undisclosed

Summers 2013: 181 (161 2Ls, 13 1Ls, 2 3Ls, 5 others)

Revenue 2012: $1.72 billion (+3.9%)

Partners made in 2013: 45 globally

Chambers USA Rankings

    Band 1
  • Antitrust
    ( District of Columbia, Nationwide )
  • Banking & Finance
    ( Ohio )
  • Bankruptcy/Restructuring
    ( California, Nationwide, Ohio )
  • Corporate/M&A
    ( Georgia, Ohio )
  • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation
    ( Ohio )
  • Healthcare
    ( Ohio )
  • Intellectual Property
    ( Ohio )
  • Labor & Employment
    ( District of Columbia, Nationwide )
  • Litigation
    ( Ohio )
  • Real Estate
    ( Ohio )
  • Retail
    ( Nationwide )
  • Band 2
  • Appellate Law
    ( Nationwide )
  • Construction
    ( California, District of Columbia )
  • Environment
    ( Georgia )
  • Natural Resources
    ( Ohio )
  • Products Liability
    ( Nationwide )
  • Band 3
  • Capital Markets
    ( Texas )
  • Energy & Natural Resources
    ( Illinois )
  • ERISA Litigation
    ( Nationwide )
  • Insurance
    ( California, New York )
  • Tax
    ( Georgia )
  • Technology
    ( Texas )

For each practice area, only the firm’s best ranking (with location) is shown. Any lower rankings (in other locations) are not shown. To see full rankings

Diversity

Partners (%)Associates (%)
Women2144.8
White92.282.6
Black/African American1.93.9
Hispanic/Latin American2.33.3
Asian3.17.9
Mixed/Other0.52.3
LGBTunknownunknown

Recent Work Highlights 

  • Represented Abercrombie & Fitch in a nationwide class action relating to the company's promotional gift cards
  • Represented Estée Lauder in a long-running employment discrimination dispute
  • Advised Eastman Chemical Company on its public offering underwritten by Barclays, Citigroup and JPMorgan for $2.4 billion
  • Advised aerospace manufacturer Goodrich on its $18.4 billion merger with United Technologies
  • Represented Icicle Seafoods in an appeal at the Supreme Court regarding injury to a seaman
  • Defending Bain Capital against a class action alleging numerous investment banks and private equity firms conspired to fix the market for leveraged buyouts between 2003 and 2006