This merger between a DC and a New York firm wasn't just about complementary practices; a common "humanity" binds the two together.
"WE'RE all very excited about the combination," revealed Richard Alexander, chairman of the newly merged Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. "I said to our colleagues that change is hard," continued Alexander, but "I think the change will represent really wonderful opportunities and will enhance our competitive position as a law firm." The theme of the merger has been consolidation rather than expansion, beefing up bases in DC and New York, and combining complementary practices in litigation, regulatory areas, public policy, corporate work and IP. Bucking recent merger trends, the growth will be largely on American soil: AP brings just Brussels to Kaye Scholer’s international network of Frankfurt and Shanghai, but their combined strength in London should now pack more punch.
But if this marriage is going to work, they need to click on a personal level. “When I interviewed here everyone I met seemed down to earth and enjoyable to be around, and I didn't get that impression from every firm I went to,” confided a source from the Kaye Scholer side, but this could equally have come from our AP interviewees who told us: “They spare a few moments to joke around with you and ask after your partner or dog. Folks have an interest in you beyond the work you're doing.” The humanity of both firms stands out, and both share a passion for pro bono too: “There's such an emphasis on pro bono here that it attracts people who care.” The firm formerly known as Kaye Scholer once had The Artist Formerly Known as Prince on its books, but both firms’ client lists read like a who’s who, particularly in the IP and government contracts spheres, such as AT&T, Samsung, Google, Disney, and Airbus.
When we interviewed litigators from both legacy firms, it became even clearer why these two firms merged. In New York, DC and elsewhere, litigation is by far the largest department for juniors, where they begin as generalists before specializing. “The workload is very diverse – you find yourself on securities cases, white collar investigations or product liability cases,” said one New Yorker. While “most people aren't big on a hierarchical structure,” juniors will do a fair amount of doc review and research. However, associates across the network “felt very involved and that's what's most exciting about working on these matters.” Those from A&P thought that “partners are interested in your view of the case, especially when you've been immersed in the documents. Most of my research assignments into specific legal questions haven't been one-off tasks with no context of the wider case. I don't feel like a horse with blinders on; I'm looking at the fuller picture.” And a KS junior in New York echoed this: “After a call a senior team member will ask me, 'does that person seem credible?' They value my opinion and that feels really good.”
“I don't feel like a horse with blinders on.”
Opportunities are there for the taking: “If you're proactive they let you do pretty much anything within reason. I've drafted motions, attended and defended depositions as a first and second-year, assisted at client site interviews, drafted disclosure reports, drafted letters to the other side, undertaken all facets of discovery – some great, some not so great – you name it, I've done it,” one interviewee listed. “We tend to staff matters leanly. It works to an associate's benefit, but it can also be a bit hair-raising in the process.”
Alongside litigation, other departments available to first years in the new firm include government contracts & national security; life sciences & healthcare regulatory; intellectual property; corporate & finance; real estate; tax; antitrust; telecommunications, internet & media; and environmental.
“I always feel very involved and that's what's most exciting.”
Over in real estate, most of the clients (often “institutional clients like big banks”) are on the lender side of transactions, and “maybe 25% of my work is representing borrowers. I've been fortunate in being able to do both – if you express an interest, you can get that sort of work.” Junior associates are expected to “keep tabs on the life of a deal – we're relied upon to maintain checklists, do the due diligence, run public searches on entities, draft loan documents and review opinions – it's everything coming in the door with the exception of drafting the main meat of the loan agreement.”
Rookies in the corporate department are called upon to “draft parts of merger agreements, limited partnership agreements, investor manager agreements and memos” as well as handling the diligence on deals. “Other folk in my year have spent more time doing securities work, but I've done a lot of work with pharma companies and the buying and selling of biotech companies. I've also worked on fund formations and helped institutional clients to invest in funds.”
“You really have the opportunity to carve out the areas you want to work in," we were told. At both A&P and KS, associates started out largely relying on a flow of work from assigning partners in each department, but “they really encourage you to be entrepreneurial" and build your own practice. Associates advised "talking to people you worked with on your summer placement or have spoken with once or twice,” one litigator told us. And it's not uncommon to "cold call and see if people are free to chat about the work they do,” with an eye to working with them in the future. Once they'd established connections in their department, many of our sources had ceased to rely on the assigning partners.
Culture & Development
In any merger there will always be some cultural differences, but, reassuringly we found a lot of common themes: “Everyone feels human. You're not expected to be a robot and just churn out work,” one interviewee told us. “We work hard and you need to pull out all the stops, but they respect important personal stuff,” clarified another. “People stop to talk with you in the hallways. It's not like everyone is always rushing around or too busy to develop relationships,” one source stressed.
“This is the most supportive atmosphere I could have found with BigLaw.”
“This is the most supportive atmosphere I could have found with BigLaw,” asserted a KS associate. Asked if they found the job fulfilling, one replied that “it's not like I'm helping orphans or working for charity, this is a for-profit company, but with that said I'm generally happy.” This culture hasn’t come about by accident: “It's weird if I don't see my mentor every week. It's nice to have that built in support network,” one source told us. “To encourage open dialogue the firm provides an allowance for weekly lunch or coffee. I frequently go out with my mentee to give them time to get comfortable with me and say anything they don't want overheard within the firm,” confided one mentor.
“People here are willing to get to know each other on a personal level, have fun and spend time with each other.” Again, this is encouraged by the firm, which hands out a lunch fund to new starters to encourage them to get to know one another. New York associates also appreciated that “the firm does a good job at transparency on financial side."
At both firms our associate sources welcomed the weekly “free booze, light snacks” and things like “corn hole games.” At both legacy firms the socializing gets competitive. In DC there are the summer and winter Olympics. “It's really fun, they divide us into teams and then we compete” in events such as desk chair volleyball, ping pong and “a gymnastic dance thing.” How gymnastic, exactly? “I didn't attend,” our source admitted. “I just saw the aftermath…” The winter Olympics were apparently inspired by the real thing in Sochi with a Russian-themed event with ice sculptures and medal ceremonies. In New York, KS first years were welcomed into the firm with a Halloween costume competition, and we heard of a costume competition in San Francisco too. A recent winner was a mid-level associate whose pirate costume included a treasure chest with a mermaid attached.
Legacy Kaye Scholer associates told how their firm doesn't mess around when it comes to summer events. “We had a 007-themed casino night for all associates, no partners invited,” chuckled an interviewee. What else? “We went to a Beyoncé concert, picked out a pair of sunglasses at Warby Parker, and had a rooftop party at the Hotel Hugo, overlooking the Hudson.” Not too shabby. There's also the annual holiday party and department-wide events. Whatever the social scene in the new firm morphs into, we expect it to be lively and definitely competitive.
“Oh it's gorgeous”
In 2017 the following offices are welcoming first year associates: DC, NY, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, LA, Denver and Houston. New York office will have the largest intake, closely followed by DC.
The DC HQ of Arnold & Porter relocated to the Mount Vernon Triangle in 2015. The “brand new building is squeaky clean and awesome. It feels a bit like a cruise ship with long walkways and glass sliding doors, and the building comes to a point. It's very streamlined” and littered with art work, keeping it “vibrant and colorful.” Outside of DC, we're told the artwork is just as impressive. “On every wall there's a photo or painting. It's very creative,” approved one Los Angeles source.
“Oh it's gorgeous,” purred a junior when asked what they thought of the Big Apple base, which the firm also moved into in 2015. After the merger, the KS office welcomed in their new A&P colleagues. “I love it! Everything is immaculate, we have a cafeteria with coffee bar and an outdoor terrace – it brightens everyone's day to sit out there in the few months when the New York weather is nice. We have happy hours out there and play corn hole.”
“Everything under the sun.”
"Once again we've had extraordinary results in 2016 in terms of our pro bono work," beamed chairman Richard Alexander. This was a huge pull factor for a lot of our sources: “The fact it was so supportive of pro bono really stood out.” The range of matters available apparently feels like “pretty much everything under the sun and then some other stuff I didn't know existed. Immigrant and asylum work are very prominent. We also handle death row cases and can work on a criminal defense program,” which sees associates rock up to court and pick up a case on the day. Others had worked on matters concerning disability or voting rights, gun control work, clemency petitions, domestic violence, prevention of gun violence and incorporation of non-profits.
Pre-merger, A&P was one of the top pro bono billers in the US, posting more than double the hours at KS. But it’s clear there’s no clash of attitudes towards pro bono and this culture will prevail. “We get emails all the time,” a Kaye Scholer associate assured us and pointed out that the firm works with a non-profit organization to facilitate transgender name changes. Interviewees had also taken on landlord/tenant issues, death penalty appeals, drugs cases (“I got to listen to wire-tap conversations between 23 gang members”) and an international project helping refugees from Syria and Iraq to come to the US. “It's been very rewarding.”
Pro Bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 92,873
- Average per US attorney: 93 (combined figures from the two legacy firms)
All new employees attend diversity training upon arrival. The workshop “walks you through different approaches, backgrounds and ways of handling situations and sensitivities as they pertain to diversity.” Both legacy firms bring with them a good range of affinity groups – African American, Asian, Latino, LGBT, women, veterans and working parents are all represented – and they “have their own retreats, meetings, mentoring and networking events so people can feel comfortable working here.”
“I think that there's a strong emphasis on diversity in recruitment,” both sets of associates agreed, it’s still “not diverse enough, which is a little disappointing as I know we try hard.” When you look at the numbers, A&P matches KS on gender, but shows a little more success in retaining ethnic minorities. But the figures are in keeping with the BigLaw norms.
Hours & Compensation
To be bonus eligible, associates must bill 2,000 hours, which can include up to 200 hours of pro bono or business development hours in things like firm service, shadowing and training. “Overall it's a realistic target,” asserted sources. “I don't feel swamped or destroyed but it is difficult at the beginning, because it takes a while to get ramped up on the billable work, so the 200 non-billable hours go by very quickly!”
Attorneys are granted an unlimited supply of holiday. “What you get is incredible but it is hard to fit in,” one source cautioned, though at least the firm's making the right noises: “In my first week here, a partner told us we should take vacations. He acknowledged there's never going to be a perfect time to go and you're always going to be busy so you just have to make time for it,” one New Yorker reported. Once sizzling on a beach or hurtling down black diamond ski trails, our interviewees appeared to have been left alone. “I've never been bothered when away, which was fantastic,” one source told us, while another admitted: “I responded to an email while on vacation and was told to stop looking at them. That's a good remark to hear.”
Most of those we spoke to “try to get in at around 9.30am – some days I'll leave at 6.30pm, some days 11pm. It really does vary. They don't expect you to be burning midnight oil all the time.” One appreciative source noted that “flexibility increases with seniority – now I'm entering my third year, people know they can trust me and I can work from home.” There's no strict policy on flexible working and generally it depends on the partner you're with and the proximity of a deadline. It's normal to do “a little something on the weekends. For the most part I'm left alone unless there's something pressing, but generally I do a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, to catch up on a few things or get a head-start for Monday.”
Strategy & Future
"We had a shared vision of what we wanted to accomplish," said chairman Richard Alexander in an interview with us. A&P was hankering after a "strong presence in New York," while Kaye Scholer's "clients were, with increasing frequency, really needing more regulatory expertise," and A&P's answer to that "was something very appealing," Alexander explained. This merger was much more about consolidation. "There are some new practices to each legacy firm but this merger was not about expansion," Alexander adds. Both legacy firms' strong practice and sector-based identities look to continue: "We see ourselves in a couple of key industry areas like science, financial services and bankruptcy. Both firms have heavily invested in those areas." Alexander's upbeat mood on the new venture was palpable – "We're going to work hard to make it very successful." And, echoing the story we heard from the associates, Alexander stressed that "we are very focused on talent and making sure we continue to be a place where our associates and staff want to work and make a career with us."
Training and development
Our interviews took place before the firms merged, but here's what we learned from the DC and NY associates at both legacy firms. The new firm's training structure is then set out below this.
What DC associates told us about it
The initial training answers questions a junior might face in their first year, covering anything from “how to put in time entries” to “organizing mailbox folders. It runs the gamut of what senior associates' think is valuable to know about in the first years. I like the minutiae – you don't cover that sort of thing as a student.” After their first year is up, everyone heads to DC for two days. Litigators undertake deposition training while corporate juniors get a grounding in transactional skills.
Most other training isn't mandatory but is strongly encouraged. A monthly writing session hosted out of DC and beamed to all offices is run by a partner in DC: “We go over before and after versions of document and how to amend it for an audience.” There are also practice group specific sessions to keep associates up to date with everything need-to-know in their discipline.
After some associates raised a desire for more formal training, the firm's introduced a couple of new sessions. Third-years are now required to participate in a TED talk series “to get them comfortable with public speaking. They present on a topic that has nothing to do with law.” While we heard some people weren't entirely thrilled by the idea – “it feels like more work on top of an already busy schedule rather than training” – others were on board. “I think the partnership thought it would be fun and it gives people an opportunity to practice public speaking. Hopefully it will also benefit relationships between partners and associates as it should expose shared interests,” said one source. So far the topics seem pretty varied. One session feature “someone talking about their experience as a homosexual in the workforce, how it effected their career trajectory and inspired them to fight back through pro bono. The second person spoke about what your favorite movie says about your personality and was followed by someone discussing their time in the military. The final person relayed how they got their pilot's license.”
Mid-year associate training has also received a bit of a boost, with the introduction of a week-long trial workshop for fifth-years. While our sources were still a few years off participating in the program (which is run in conjunction with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy), news had filtered down “it's been met with a great response.”
... and the New York associates:
There are practice area sessions which continue during the year. “They do a good job with things like how to write a memo, how to do research, and be more client focused,” sources declared, but inevitably “the best way to learn is on the fly. In the first few months there's a lot of trial and error while you're learning the practicalities of it all and naturally different partners want different things.” Fortunately, “there's no expectation that you'll know everything, like which partner likes to use the Oxford comma.” Another rookie appreciated that “everyone is super- open to answering questions. I've never once felt embarrassed and concerned to ask questions. You can go to anyone. Most of the partners I've worked with enjoy teaching their practice, and that sort of apprenticeship is the best part of the job for me...they wanna see us grow and stay here .” In addition, the official mentoring scheme “is taken seriously” at the firm. New associates are paired up with a mid level adviser (“you can approach them with any dumb questions”) and a mentor, who's either a partner or of counsel. There's a monthly $200 stipend for each pairing to be spent on lunch or coffee meet-ups. Formal assessment comes through annual reviews, and six-month reviews for first-years and laterals.
... and from the new firm's own literature on training and development:
Formal training and CLE
In-House Training – The Firm typically hosts 200+ in-house training programs annually. We host legal-specific programs and core skills training on communication, management and business.
External Training Options – You have unlimited access to over 400 live and online Practicing Law Institute (PLI) programs. Log on to www.pli.edu to search for and enroll in live, web and on-demand courses free of charge.
APKS Trial School – Modeled on the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) course, APKS Trial School is a new professional development offering for 2016. The three-day intensive trial skills workshop utilizes a small team format and the vast knowledge of our own trial stars to bring learning to life. The interactive training pairs teams of two associates with partner and counsel faculty to prepare for and conduct a (mock) trial. This program is for fifth year litigation associates.
AssociaTED Talks – Part TEDTalk, part Toastmasters, this new program for 2016 brings together junior associate speakers and partner/counsel coaches to refine public speaking skills in a collegial environment. Speaker and coach teams identify a topic and strategize on a presentation approach for a confident public speaking style. The experience concludes with the live talk presented at a monthly firm lunch. AssociaTED Talks increase associate exposure, polish presentation skills, and broaden work relationships.
Business Development & Client Relations Training – In collaboration with the Marketing Department, we now offer a business development and client relations training curriculum for all attorneys. Topics include thinking like our clients, turning prospects into clients and developing business plans.
On-The-Job Training (Experiential Learning)
Superior Court/Trial Training Programs – To assist attorneys in litigation-based practices in obtaining the trial experience needed to effectively serve client needs, we have a Superior Court Program in DC and other Trial Training Programs in our other US offices. These programs are designed to generate the type of pro bono projects that will result in oral arguments, hearings, and trial work.
Work Assignment Partners – All practice groups have designated work assignment partners who assist with the distribution of work for the benefit of our clients and the development of our associates.
Associate Shadowing Program – Each associate is offered up to 50 hours per calendar year to participate in our Associate Shadowing Program (ASP). ASP encourages associates to shadow or observe more experienced attorneys during activities such as hearings, trials or client meetings. The purpose of the program is to provide associates with opportunities for hands-on legal experiences, under circumstances when it is not appropriate to charge a client for the associate's time, particularly when the associate is an observer.
They successfully navigated the perils of OCIs and callback interviews, so what did the current crop of Arnold & Porter juniors have to share with aspiring associates? “We don't have huge summer classes so we look for the whole package, not just those who have high academic marks. We want people who work hard and have the right temperament” to boost the mood of colleagues still slogging through documents at 2am. “People who can hold a conversation, don't take themselves too seriously and don't put anyone down,” are in demand. The firm employs “a good mix of associates who have gone K-through-JD and a healthy number of who have significant experience prior to law school so they can hit the ground running.”
One source told us: “An important critique I've heard from colleagues is that they're surprised by people who aren't prepared with questions or who aren't able to help the conversation going. We have lunchtime interviews which should be a two way street. I suspect people typically think that as they're being interviewed the interviewer should ask the questions but it's good to be prepared to keep the conversation going. If that means having questions ready, that's a really useful thing to do. On the other hand, the more natural it can be, the better. The most satisfying interviews are the one's where I walk out and think, 'that was really pleasant. I learned a lot about that person and it didn't feel forced at all.'”
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
- Head Office:
- Number of domestic offices: 9
- Number of international offices: 4
- Worldwide revenue: $944,732,000 (combined 2016 revenue for legacy Arnold & Porter and legacy Kaye Scholer)
- Partners (US): 319
- Associates (US): 479 (includes 49 staff attorneys)
- Main Recruitment Contact: Jennifer Gewertz, Firmwide Director of Attorney Recruiting
- Hiring Partner: Ellen Fleishhacker, Catherine Schumacher and Darren Skinner
- Recruitment website: www.apks.com/en/careers
- Summer Salary 2017:
- 1Ls: $3,465 per week
- 2Ls: $3,465 per week
- Post 3Ls:1Ls Hired? N/A Varies by office
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2017: 64
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 56 offers, 50 acceptances (2 offers outstanding) - combined numbers for legacy Arnold & Porter and legacy Kaye Scholer
Main areas of work:
Our 1,000+ attorneys in 13 domestic and international offices practice across more than 30 areas, including corporate, finance, intellectual property, life sciences, litigation, real estate, and tax, provide clients a multi-disciplinary approach to their most complex legal issues. Our global reach, experience, and deep knowledge allow us to work across geographic, cultural, technological, and ideological borders. The Firms attorneys are consistently recognized by Chambers and American Lawyer as leading practitioners in their respective practice areas.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP combines 100 years of business acumen and a common devotion to first-class legal work. With renowned regulatory experience, sophisticated litigation and transactional practitioners, and leading multidisciplinary practices, it is the firm of choice for 133 Fortune 250 companies. Recent commercial work includes representing AMC Entertainment in its $1.1 billion acquisition of Carmike Cinemas, creating the largest movie theater chain in the US, as well as a remarkable string of 26 international arbitration victories on behalf of various Latin American countries.
Service is a core value of the Firm, as demonstrated by our leading pro bono program. Our attorneys performed more than 97,500 hours of pro bono work in 2016. Projects run the spectrum of legal work from representing voting rights organizations and individual voters in federal and state courts, immigration and asylum efforts assisting detainees and victims of domestic violence to partnering with commercial clients’ in-house counsel on naturalization and consumer law projects, and collaborating with a non-profit to advise their grant recipients on topics including contracts, corporate governance, and tax issues. Our attorneys are also committed to government service, with many of the Firm’s lawyers previously holding senior positions in the White House and in US government agencies.
We are committed to the training and professional development of our associates. The Firm offers comprehensive professional development programs, which include extended orientation and integration programs; introductory and advanced training in multiple areas of the law; skills training in the areas of communication, business, management, leadership, and technology; and a "real-time" training program that allows junior attorneys to shadow and observe more senior attorneys in daily practice. Our summer associate program includes events to introduce the Firm’s work and attorneys, and an open invitation to participate in Firm-wide training programs. The Firm also has two career development counselors who work one-on-one with attorneys to assist in the development and advancement of their careers.
Diversity and inclusion are core values, and the Firm is committed to cultivating a positive and supportive work environment where all talent is accorded dignity and respect. Our Firm values the contribution that each person makes as an individual, and all attorneys, regardless of experience level, are encouraged to participate fully in the work of the Firm. Voluntarily formed affinity/resource groups offer professional and social support to minorities, women, LGBT lawyers, parents, and military veterans practicing at the Firm. In order to encourage a diverse spectrum of people to consider Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer among their career options, we reach out to diverse segments of the population in our recruiting efforts. The Firm participates in career development programs and minority job fairs; provides scholarships to diverse law students; and proactively reaches out to LGBT, women, veteran, and minority law student associations.
In our effort to promote a comfortable and positive work environment for all, the Firm offers benefits that help our attorneys integrate professional and personal commitments. To help parents balance work and family, we have a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited Children's Center in our Washington, DC office for up to 62 children. We have emergency back-up care in all of our domestic offices. Employees are eligible for up to 15 days of care. Priority access is also available in all our domestic offices at select centers. All of our offices provide a private room or make privacy arrangement for nursing mothers. Our generous paid parental/adoption leave policy includes 18 weeks paid leave for the primary caretaker, and six weeks paid parental leave for the secondary caretaker. This leave applies equally to attorneys and staff members, regardless of tenure with our Firm. Associates may use unpaid leave to extend their time away from the Firm for up to one year. Part-time work schedules are utilized by about 10% of attorneys and staff, providing a critical tool to help our employees to balance work and home lives. For more about the Firm, visit our website at apks.com.
• Number of 1st year associates: 41
• Number of 2nd year associates: 38
• Associate salaries:
1st year: $180,000
• Clerking policy: yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
Brooklyn, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Mason, Georgetown, GW, Harvard, Howard, Loyola - Los Angeles, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, St. John’s, Stanford, Texas, Tulane, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, U of Colorado, U of Denver, U of Houston, U Penn, USC, UVA, Yale Summer details
Summer associate profile:
Our Firm is a collection of independent, diverse personalities who share a common devotion to first class legal work and client service. We seek candidates with outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements, as well as relevant work experience.
Summer program components:
Our summer associates experience first-hand the Firm’s strong commitment to excellence, diversity, pro bono work, and professional development, working side-by-side with our attorneys on actual client matters. We seek to match assignments to the interests each summer associate has identified, including pro bono work. Our summer associates participate in the Firm’s extensive training programs, including attending a retreat in the Washington, DC office. All summer associates have mentors and receive feedback on each assignment. Our summer program features a mix of events designed to appeal to a broad range of interests.