This DC leader mixes “top-notch talent with a friendly vibe” and actively encourages pro bono.
[NOTE: On January 1st Arnold & Porter merged with Kaye Scholer. The feature just below relates to the associates we interviewed from the Arnold & Porter legacy firm. To learn about the practices and offices of the Kaye Scholer arm, scroll down to the second half.]
"JUST because DC is our largest office it doesn't mean that everything happens here," highlights Richard Alexander, chairman since January 2016. "45% of our lawyers work outside DC and we have 140 attorneys in California alone." A&P is famed for its work around public policy and business, plus a commitment to pro bono that sees it urge each of its lawyers to volunteer 15% of their time to worthy causes. This ethos has been around since the firm's birth in 1946 as Arnold & Fortas. Paul Porter joined the following year. It dropped the 'Fortas' in 1965 (which referred to cofounder Abe Fortas, later a Supreme Court Justice).
“When I was interviewing," an insider told us, "I talked to loads of juniors at different firms and asked them which I should apply to if I wasn't going to apply to theirs. They all said A&P.” But why? A glance at Chambers USA reveals top rankings in litigation, government contracts, bankruptcy & restructuring, environment, real estate, and IP, plus a swath of commendations in other areas. But it's not the work alone that attracts recruits here. “The people won me over, and several of them are true friends," another associate was keen to stress. "Also, the serious commitment to pro bono, which goes back as long as the firm has been around.” Richard Alexander confirms: "We want to be the number-one pro bono firm in the world." For the full interview with Richard Alexander, read our Bonus Features on A&P online.
Traditionally, around half of the incoming first-year class starts in litigation. Associates explained: “Within that there are sub-categories that include product liability, white-collar crime and IP litigation. The second biggest regulatory group is antitrust and then environmental, followed by government contracts.” Others continued that “more of our IP work comes out of California. New York has a strong corporate and real estate practice, but otherwise I don’t think there's a segregation of practice specialisms by location.” Normally litigators enter as generalists, “but there is opportunity to steer your own ship if you want specific work.” Rookies revealed that “from day one there is very little doc review. I've created the first draft of motions to dismiss, motions of reply to oppositions, I've spoken to opposing counsel in discovery dispute calls and even taken the lead in some. I've conducted work on implementing settlement agreements, drafted appeals and at one point had to write four short briefs each week.”
"I don’t feel like I'm just spinning in a gerbil wheel.”
Antitrust is a hybrid between litigation and corporate work. “As a first-year, I’ve worked on deposition prep with expert witnesses calculating damages and impact.” Second-years recounted that larger deals are “phenomenal experiences where I had to assess risk evaluations, engage early with regulators and conduct depositions. I don’t feel like I'm just spinning in a gerbil wheel.” IP interviewees “get awesome assignments right out of the gate. I've drafted Federal Circuit appellate briefs.” Some “traveled abroad to take declarations from 45 people.” Tax newbies similarly praised responsibility levels, saying: “You start out marking up purchase agreements, then you move onto negotiating tax provisions with opposing counsel. You're certainly not going to grow without advocating for yourself. State your interest and then the trust will either build or it won't.”
Life science & healthcare regulatory sources advised that “usually everyone has a background in this area and it dictates how the work is assigned.” Third-years get a hefty amount of client contact, but first-years also do a “substantive amount of statute interpretation, explaining the life cycle of new products on the market and going through regulatory compliance risk and liability with clients.” Novices in larger groups described the assignment process as a blend between formal and informal means. “We have an assignment partner for each group, but as people get more senior they tend to organically work with certain partners.”
Back in the 1950s, Arnold & Porter represented the first victims of McCarthyism. It later won the landmark Gideon v Wainwright case, which gave anyone accused of serious crimes the right to be represented by counsel, regardless of their financial means. “We are proud of Gideon and now our work on the 'supermax' prison in Colorado. It's front and center, they even mention it at orientation.” Others added: “The cases don't really differ from commercial cases in responsibility, it's more about getting different work experiences.” As well as the “15% of our time to pro bono," practice group leaders "encourage us to obtain at least 200 hours which can count toward billables, as can business development work.”
"It looks just like a commercial case, but my responsibility is more substantive.”
Pro bono cases have included “applying for tax exemption status on behalf of three organizations. It's good practice because we would do the same for commercial clients.” Others had worked “on a straight litigation case, where we're representing the plaintiff. I’m in charge of drafting the complaint, interrogatories and requests for production.” A DC insider mused: “I've had a little bit of trouble finding the right pro bono work for me. There's just so much to choose from!”
Pro Bono hours
Training & Development
“I'm never given an assignment and just sent away.” Several we spoke to praised the “extensive set of programs for all new lawyers. The A&P Academy covers everything you need as a new associate, like how to manage and report your time.” There are practice group specific schemes too. Antitrust sources remembered that “it's bifurcated with demonstrations on e-discovery, how to read financial statements and write briefs and motions. There's even pro bono training.”
“I'm never given an assignment and just sent away.”
Subsequent training isn't mandatory but is strongly encouraged. Transactional interviewees detailed that “we have a license with PLI [Practising Law Institute] that provides online CLE training in any area. We can go to conferences which our group will sponsor as we usually have partners speaking there. Our clients are normally there so we get great training and the chance to network.” Interviewees mentioned a training forum/retreat that occurs once for first-years and then again when they're midlevels. After the first year, “everyone goes to DC for two days. Litigators get specialist training on depositions and corporate attorneys focus on the transactional side, but we all get the same program.”
Associates receive “a formal evaluation once a year where you ask partners to evaluate you on matters where you've billed more than five hours.” Feedback is then relayed by a senior partner. Insiders appreciated the firm's effort as “it takes them a very long time to put it together.”
Like most firms, “we're fairly good with gender diversity. However, it skews toward males a little at the top.” DC insiders explained that “the firm has developed a new mentoring program for women (Mentoring Circles) and we meet in groups twice a month. It's phenomenally valuable, as we all have different experiences to share.”
"It's about focusing on experiences outside of your own.”
There are various affinity groups at A&P promoting racial and other diversity, and several juniors were impressed by the mandatory diversity training for all new employees. “It's four hours long and we do role-playing exercises where we put ourselves in another employee's shoes. It's about focusing on experiences outside of your own.” Cochairs of the hiring committee Darren Skinner and Ellen Fleishhacker point out the firm also awards yearly Diversity Scholarships worth $10,000 each. Applicants must be first-years from any ABA accredited school and “must explain how they've contributed to diversity in their community, either at law school or writ large.” The affinity groups are: Minorities at Arnold & Porter (MAP), Women Lawyers at Arnold & Porter (WLAP), LGBT Lawyers, and Arnold & Porter Veterans & Affiliates (APVA).
Offices and culture
“The new space is phenomenal.” In October 2015, the DC HQ relocated to the Penn Quarter neighborhood. “The old building had an outdated law firm setup. Now everyone has their own exterior windowed offices.” With seven domestic bases plus hubs in London and Brussels, lawyers often work with colleagues elsewhere. “DC works a lot with San Francisco and New York," for example.
However, some New Yorkers felt that “there is a mothership mentality in DC and they sometimes forget to consider the implications for those off-site. Team meetings in Washington mean that Californians can't always attend.” San Franciscans felt that “it's interesting, our office is the product of a merger with Howard Rice so we do things more independently.”
“It's a good balance for BigLaw. People are just nice and caring.”
However, all associates stressed that A&P is “inviting to first-years. It's a good balance for BigLaw. People are just nice and caring.” This environment is further encouraged by “regular happy hours and snacks in each office's Garden Room.” DC inhabitants revealed they'd even “seen conference rooms set up for people to work together on a big puzzle. It's very odd, but great.” Historically, summers have been treated to “an office Olympics with miniature golf and basketball in the stairwells.”
Hours & Compensation
Attorneys must bill 2,000 hours to be bonus-eligible. To reach this goal, most insiders work ten-hour days and insisted that “it's necessary to log back on to the system from home sometimes.” New Yorkers similarly revealed that “there have been times when people have been here till 2am. It really fluctuates.” San Franciscans are slightly more “laid back, with everyone leaving around 6pm.” Even so, “partners aren't afraid to email you at 5am.”
“There have been times when people have been here till 2am. It really fluctuates.”
Once bonus-eligible, many felt that the system was “unclear as the firm is keeping its cards pretty close to its chest. It's a moving target. My understanding is that if you reach 2,000 hours you get a bonus in line with the market rate. But last year DC's rate was less than New York, so the bonuses reflected that.” However, others countered that “we are changing our bonus structure to soon take more of a merit component into account.”
"There's a thin line between stalking and preparing.”
One of the hiring attorneys, Darren Skinner, tells us that “we find that the candidates who will be terrific associates are the ones who demonstrate that they have done research on the firm and intelligently discuss how they fit in here.” Associates felt that “once you've passed the grade threshold, it's whether you’re personable and have interesting experiences that lend well to the practice of law." They advised that “you should prepare by looking at a firm's website, but keep in mind that it's from a marketing perspective. Do the diligence, read the cases we're working on so you can talk about them in an interview. But remember, there's a thin line between stalking and preparing.”
Strategy & Future
Darren Skinner explains that “we were essentially founded as a pro bono law firm, so this has become an essential part of our history.” Pro bono is also an essential part of A&P's future, as Richard Alexander confirms that “we will continue to stick to our knitting and do the things we are known for.” Additionally, Alexander continues that “all firms need to become more business-oriented as our clients hold us accountable.” With this in mind, A&P's HQ move has attempted to shrink the firm's “footprint by 25%” by reducing real estate expenditure. “We now have a 20-year lease that will give us the facilities to deal with market changes.”
“There is a lot going on though, it's buzzing.”
Workwise, associates informed us “there is a lot going on. It's buzzing. Most practice groups are really busy." Among many, "I think governmental contracts and life science & healthcare regulatory as well as appellate litigation are building."
NOTE: The editorial below is based on interviews with associates from the Kaye Scholer legacy firm. The two firms merged on January 1st.
Fierce in the courtroom but easy-going behind the scenes, this 99 year-old allows attorneys a degree of flexibility that bodes well for long-term development.
REVERED for its commercial litigation practice and strong in financial services, life sciences, real estate and technology, this Big Apple old-timer gives rookies plenty of high-stakes matters to sink their teeth into. And with centenary Champagne corks scheduled to pop in 2017, Kaye Scholer attorneys will have plenty to toast. This good news comes after a tricky period when Kaye Scholer has been in the news for unfortunate reasons. A gender discrimination case filed by a former associate was settled out of court in late 2015, and further controversy was stirred up when former partner Evan Greebel, who'd been with the firm for a relatively short time, was arrested for alleged dirty dealings with super-villain-of-the-moment Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund and pharmaceuticals entrepreneur.
Associates weren't bothered by this attention. "I knew it was a great firm," said one representatively. "It has definitely lived up to my expectations." Interviewees highlighted the “decent amount of control over our work and our schedule,” as well as the “laid back and respectful” internal atmosphere that the firm promotes. “It really inspires confidence in the long run.” As we went to press, rumors of a possible merger with Arnold & Porter started doing the rounds.
The bulk of Kaye Scholer's entry level-hiring takes place in New York. The real estate, IP, corporate, tax & private client, and finance teams all take on their fair share of rookies, but topping them all is complex commercial litigation, where around a third of the firm's freshmen end up. DC, LA, Chicago and Palo Alto also take on a tiny proportion of new entrants each year, though DC doesn't run a summer program.
Work is dished out by assigning partners, who “do a very good job of making sure workloads are democratically spread.” Contacting partners directly can also work in your favor, because “although assigning partners do their best to expose you to a range of work, they won't cherry-pick opportunities for you.” More organic workstreams eventually form as working relationships begin to blossom, and these often stretch across the firm's US network. A Californian told us: “We work very closely with New York and Chicago, so I get a lot of work from there too. So many firms try to talk up their national presence, but here it really feels interconnected. Every day I'll be on the phone to DC, Chicago or New York.”
“They'll throw you in there as soon as they see you can handle more responsibility.”
Complex commercial litigators don't specialize when they first arrive, so take on a mix of white-collar, antitrust, products liability and labor cases. “For the first year or so the focus is more on variety than depth of experience,” so expect to start off with a hearty portion of targeted research and coordinative admin tasks. Our second and third-year sources had moved on to draft briefs, pen scripts for witness examinations, and even interview clients themselves, so juniors' impression was that “they'll throw you in there as soon as they see you can handle more responsibility.”
Meanwhile, over in IP juniors cover patent litigation, trademark, copyright and trade secrets work for large pharmaceutical, technology and biotech clients, among others. “About a year ago I'd had less than a year's experience,” reflected one respondent, “but was asked to assist in co-writing a brief for a relatively high-profile case.” With the likes of Pfizer, Novartis, Google and Nintendo on the cards, it's no wonder that same source happily continued “it was amazing to have such a hands-on involvement at that early stage.” The real estate team represent buyers and sellers from a client pool that boasts some of the world's largest financial institutions, institutional investors and real estate owners. “The responsibilities you receive here are way higher than you'd expect,” one rookie bragged. “I've had senior associates put me in charge of entire deals, leaving themselves with just the loan agreement to tie up. They helped me whenever I needed it, but being responsible for managing a deal and a team of paralegals was so important in developing my leadership skills.”
Training & Development
“The most useful training comes through working alongside more senior attorneys.”
In their first week associates kick-off with an orientation 101, covering areas such as billing and internal computer systems, as well as introductions to the firm's practices. Over the next few months, new starters receive more substantive weekly run-throughs. “Having that initial awareness of how to write a memo, file a brief or conduct discovery means you're really ready to hit the ground running,” said one junior. But of course, “the most useful training comes through working alongside more senior attorneys,” in part because “most are forthcoming with suggestions for improvement.” One relieved associate reported that “feedback is usually along the lines of: 'You did a great job; here's one thing you could change next time, but you did a great job!'” Such off-the-cuff feedback is “predominantly verbal,” though “supervisors do cc you on emails to explain any changes or ask for your opinion. It's nice to be considered in that way.”
Formal assessment comes through annual reviews, and six-month reviews for first-years and laterals. Those who wish to talk things over in the meantime can draw from their monthly mentoring stipend to head for lunch with either their partner or associate mentor.
"It's a relaxing place to be.”
“The office was completely renovated a couple of years ago,” reported a New Yorker, “so it's a well-oiled machine. All the tech is reliable and up-to-date, which is one less stress!” The mothership's outdoor terrace overlooks Eighth Avenue and “in the summer everyone has their lunch out there. There are even trees with fairy lights in so you feel separate from the street. It's a relaxing place to be.” During colder months, the cafeteria proved a cozier option for informal catch-ups. Well-subsidized, it caters to a range of different appetites. “The fried chicken and mac & cheese are particularly good,” laughed one gastronomist, “but there are plenty of healthy dishes on offer too.”
Juniors get the opportunity to mix with other offices through videocon training sessions, usually broadcast from the New York office. “It's actually really conscientiously managed,” nodded one Cali caller. “Everyone gets their chance to talk, so you don't feel you're watching people get trained. The vast majority of our associates are in New York, so it makes sense.”
“If you like parties then Kaye Scholer is a good place to be,” one New Yorker was happy to relate. Whether it's watching Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens, designing custom sneakers at Niketown or scoffing burgers at PJ Clarke's, “there's an after-party pretty much every day of the summer program.” Things calm down a little from then on, though “junior associates often meet for breakfast or lunch in the cafeteria.”
“If you like parties then Kaye Scholer is a good place to be.”
Weekly cocktail hours every Friday are an opportunity to nourish partner-associate relations. “It's always well-catered, and well-attended by a mix of partners, associates and support staff,” said one rookie. “People sometimes bring their partners, family members or friends along too, so often we won't talk about work at all.” Following a move to 55th street a few years ago, it's top buttons undone at the Big Apple hub. Most of the time, that is. “Reinstating Jeans Friday was a popular move,” grinned one New Yorker, “but if clients are coming in then we'll be in suits.” Elsewhere, it's similarly laid back, with one DC caller adding “we're expected to be presentable, but that doesn't have to mean suits and ties. Management realizes that if we're comfortable we're more likely to enjoy our work.”
Overall, “the provisions made for us, the flexibility we're afforded and the respect that we're shown makes it easier to handle the stresses of working in a high-hours profession,” reviewed one happy source. “Counsel are always saying 'it's a marathon, not a sprint,' which shows that they don't want us burning out, and care about our long term progress.”
Hours & Compensation
“No pressure on you to drown yourself in work.”
To make their bonus, juniors must rack up at least 1,800 billable hours, plus 200 hours of things like pro bono, firm citizenship, client development and writing articles. Most of our sources hadn't struggled to hit their targets, and one or two had even raked in an 'extraordinary bonus' for amazing work. That said, “there's no pressure on you to drown yourself in work,” and “if the work's not there then you'll still have your job.”
Though subject to fluctuations, rookies' days average out at about ten hours, and grafters were pleased to report that “we're well set-up to work remotely.” As one DC slicker added, “there's an awareness that facetime culture isn't always accepting of the realistic demands of 21st Century living. If you need to go to the doctors, or want to head home early to spend time with your family, that's fine as long as you keep people in the loop.” Many of our interviewees put in an extra hour or two from home in the evening, but “no one will bother you at the weekend unless it's really important.”
Pro bono take-up went one of two ways among our callers, who were either striking up some 200 hours each year or “unable to take on much thanks to an already full plate.” Opportunities are circulated by a dedicated pro bono counsel and manager based in New York, and even those out west had found that “they're always reaching out to let us know of local opportunities.” Whether wading their way through death penalty cases, asylum proceedings or transgender name-change applications, juniors in all offices have the support of a supervising attorney. Probably for the best, as our charitable interviewees had been lucky enough to cross-examine witnesses, write and coauthor motions before independent city commissions, and defend several depositions, all on pro bono matters.
Pro bono hours
“Our network of affinity groups is helping give a voice to minority attorneys at the firm.”
In October 2015 the firm settled a $20 million lawsuit filed by former senior associate Bari Zahn. Ms Zahn claimed to have been inadequately compensated in relation to her male peers due to her gender and sexual orientation, and unfairly dismissed after expressing her concerns to management. When questioned on the scandal, juniors conceded that “the higher levels are male and caucasian-dominated,” but felt that “under-representation of minorities is a problem industry-wide, and efforts have been made to bring that conversation to the floor.” A network of 'attorney resource groups' – African American, Asian, Latino, LGBT, women, and working parents are all represented – is “helping give a voice to minority attorneys at the firm,” and the introduction of a new director of diversity and inclusion, Satra Sampson-Arokium, has also helped. Negotiating the provision of activities, specific training and other resources for diverse attorneys, “Satra helps put the needs of those groups on the firm's agenda.”
Beyond stellar academics, “we're really looking for self-starters who can both lead and work collaboratively in a team environment,” says co-hiring partner Kate Schumacher. “A lot of our questioning centers on those qualities.” A varied resume can really court you some favour in this respect, but it's imperative that your experiences are relevant to your own career goals. As fellow hiring partner Jeff Fuisz hints, “judicial clerkships are a good way to prove that you're invested in practicing law. It gives students an excellent insight into how different lawyers work, as well as a clearer perspective as to how judges approach cases.” But as Schumacher follows: “Some of the best interviewees are the ones who'll have waited tables whilst at college, but can explain what they learned from that experience and how that'll translate to them becoming a good lawyer.”
“Juniors really need to be able to articulate their own story convincingly and comfortably.”
Not only do interviewers want to know why hopefuls will be an asset to the firm, they also want to see a degree of oratorical ability and composure that'll cut them out as future success stories. “So much of what we do is communicating with clients, courts and colleagues,” nods Schumacher, “so juniors really need to be able to articulate their own story convincingly and comfortably.”
Strategy & Future
Despite registering a 4% drop in revenue in 2015, co-HP Jeff Fuisz assures us that “Kaye Scholer will continue to invest cautiously in the coming years.” As one rookie elaborated, “litigation and transactional work in the life sciences, financial services, technology and real estate spheres will continue to reign supreme,” and “it's unlikely that there’ll be any drastic deviations from these core target areas.” Recent cost-cutting moves – the firm's decision to shift all back-office admin functions from New York to Tallahassee being a good example – have landed Kaye Scholer a little extra pocket change, and all of this bodes well for future employment opportunities. One area that has particularly benefited is entry-level hiring. As Jeff Fuisz recalls, “in the past few years we've been recruiting between 18 and 20 summer associates, whereas now we're talking more than 20.”
Interview with chairman Richard Alexander
Richard Alexander: I've been fortunate to have worked with Tom Milch for the past 10 years. Our governance places an age restriction on the Chair and so this was a long planned transition. We now have in place two new co-managing partners as well.
We will continue to stick to our knitting and do the things we are known for. There are many great law firms in the US, so we want to continue to compete and differentiate ourselves. We are not going to try to be something we're not. We have strong practices throughout our platform with excellent practitioners. But we will continue to be adaptable to the changes in the legal profession. Because there are significant changes going on, it's important to think about the new reality of the profession. Looking forward, we have to think about the business side of things while balancing that with our core values which are a big part of our firm and ethos. These are the values we want people to continue to bring to the table. We want to be the number one pro bono firm in the world, with strengthened client ties and a collegial environment.
CA: How has A&P adapted to face the challenging economy?
RA: I think now it's more about adapting to the fact that we need to run the business of the law firm with great rigor and with an eye towards changes in the marketplace. All firms need to become more business oriented as our clients hold us accountable. For example, we moved to a new building in DC to shrink our footprint by 25%. One of the biggest expenses we face in the industry is real estate. That's why we moved to the new space to equip us to compete in the long term. We now have a 20 year lease that will give us the facilities to deal with market changes.
At the end of the day, law firms compete for talent and clients and I want us to be in the best position to be successful at both. Our co-managing partners have lots of experience in dealing with talent at the associate level. We are a single tiered partnership and this may make us unique. The people we promote are first and foremost excellent lawyers. We must create a robust demand for their specific talent so that they get the types of professional opportunities that will allow them to grow. Thirdly, they have to display some connection to firm life, whether they are involved in diversity initiatives or business development. Plus we like a strong commitment to pro bono as an added dimension to billable work.
CA: Which would you say are the premier practices at the firm at the moment?
RA: Well there are a few areas of note. Antitrust has always been a leading practice for our firm and continues to be a market leader in that regard. For example, we advised GE in its $13 billion acquisition of Alstom. This included many multinational dimensions to the deal and so we are really proud of the work on that. Another example is the provision of regulatory advice to AT&T in its acquisition of DirecTV. Arnold & Porter also coordinated competition approvals for the deal in several Latin American countries.
In the litigation space, we won a $655.5 million judgment after a seven week jury trial on the behalf of Americans killed or injured during six terrorist attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004.
We have continued to see a rise in both prosecution and litigation work across the platform of IP. This is the result of a substantial investment that we have made in the area and it's going very well. We also have a preeminent practice in representing sovereign and commercial disputes through international arbitration which is run out of several offices.
On the pro bono front, we have devoted a substantial amount of time and resources to pro bono matters relating to the treatment of mentally ill prisoners in a 'supermax' prison in Colorado. We have also been involved in successfully helping sexual assault victims navigate the military justice system. Our pro bono work is recognized throughout all of our offices and we are proud to be a recognized industry leader in this field.
CA: Would you say that Arnold & Porter operates under a 'one-firm culture'?
RA: We are one firm and we don't manage our offices based on different strategies for different geographical locations. We have national and international practices that all benefit from the same programs and approach to work firm-wide. We don't think of our offices as individual profit centers but as part of an integrated firm.
The size and strength of our San Francisco office is the product of our combination with Howard Rice a few years ago. The shared vision of their quality and culture attracted us in the first place, which again feeds into the unified approach we have to all of our offices. It because of this that there are many opportunities for people to work in different offices and for those different offices to work together. Just because DC is our largest office doesn't mean that everything happens here. 45% of our lawyers work outside DC and we have 140 attorneys in California alone.
CA: Finally, what is your advice to those who are looking to break into the legal industry?
RA: I am on my law school board and have been managing partner for ten years. So I think I have a unique perspective about what is going on in the profession and also at the places where people are learning about the law. My advice would be this: I am keenly aware that people who come to great law firms want to get certain things out of their firm. For example, great work, professional development and to be compensated well. This is admirable and as leaders of law firms we have a responsibility to foster that environment. However, the people who are most successful are the people who not only do great work but are those who understand the added dimension of being in an entrepreneurial environment. More than ever, language skills are incredibly important as our practice is increasingly global. Additionally, candidates also need to understand that client business is what drives law firms and so they should develop specific expertise early on. Clients are now continuing to see a move toward intense specialization in the field. So law students need to think about this as they are finishing law school.
My last piece of advice is that law firms are as much about the people who work there, as the work itself. There are terrific law firms in the US and across the world. But my best advice is to go to a firm where you feel comfortable with the people you meet. It's a people driven business so you need to get a feel for the ethos and the culture. We think we do really well on these points, but I suggest work hard and feel invested in a shared mission.
Interview with co- chairs of the hiring committee, Darren Skinner and Ellen Fleishhacker
Chambers Associate: Roughly how many associates do you take on each year?
Darren Skinner: Recently, we've been hiring predominately from our summer associate classes for our entry level associates. Our entry level needs have generally matched the number of summer associates we have had. Our junior associate classes may also include former summer associates rejoining us from judicial clerkships, but roughly the numbers are between 30 and 40.
CA: From where do you recruit your summer classes?
Ellen Fleishhacker: One of our hiring goals is to achieve a geographical coverage that matches our own. So we traditionally recruit from the top schools by means of OCIs and diversity fairs. However, we do accept applications and resumes from candidates whose schools we don't visit.
CA: How does A&P ensure diversity in its recruiting process?
DS: We try to take a multi-pronged approach and like to think that this is a year-round initiative. At the OCIs, we make sure that diverse attorneys conduct the interviews. We also attend diversity job fairs across the country before we enter recruiting season. We have a lot of collaborative partnerships with campus groups for diverse law students, including women, racial minorities and veterans. We take the opportunity to meet with them during the year through resume workshops, mock interviews and discussions about maximizing performance in law school. We also have various office receptions for diverse law students in winter or spring of each year. At these receptions, the students have the opportunity to mingle with lawyers and there are panel discussions on how to make the most of the OCI process as well as demystifying the summer program.
EF: We also offer diversity scholarships. It's a wonderful process. The application process is very competitive. We gave six awards in 2015 to a wide variety of schools for $10,000 per person. All of the recipients have been truly amazing people. We do target various schools, but the process is open to any first-year law student in any ABA accredited school. The criteria for success is obviously good academic achievement. But then the candidate must explain how they've contributed to diversity in their community, either at law school or writ large. Also they have to detail how they intend to promote diversity in the future. The can also attest to their financial need for the award, but this isn't a requirement. We then invite the recipients to visit our offices, so we can get to know each other.
CA: What are the do's and don'ts of an A&P interview?
DS: We don't have a template on what will do the trick here, although there are certain commonalities that we all look for in candidates. We find that the candidates who will be terrific associates are the ones who demonstrate that they have done research on the firm and intelligently discuss how they fit in here. Those who are good listeners, who are energetic, poised and critical thinkers. People who are willing to confront challenging questions. We are trying to identify those who will be personable and good future colleagues. They obviously have to show an interest in the type of work that we do, coupled with a realistic expectation of what it is like to work in a major law firm. Finally, they should demonstrate a commitment to our core values of furthering our pro bono practice, a dedication to excellent client service and emotional intelligence.
On the other-side of the coin, those who are unprepared, passive or disinterested in the firm won't do well. People who simply answer the question with monosyllabic 'yes' or 'no' answers won't be received well.
CA: Can you briefly outline what's on offer in your summer program?
EF: Before summers begin, we poll their interests. We make every effort to match summers with what they have chosen. Assignment coordinators work alongside the summer associate committee to give associates work that both is in line with what they are interested in, but also pushes them a little into areas that they haven’t expressly stated. A lot of the time, associates find that they actually love the work they haven’t previously considered. The centerpiece of the program is the substantive work itself as well as associate life training.
However, there is a social side too. We are thoughtful about the type of events that we partake in as it's an important part of the experience getting to know one another. We all go to DC for a training forum which is a good way for everyone get to know each other and to see the DC office.
DS: In the DC office, we also have an iron chef competition where we divide the summers into teams. We all go to a first-rate restaurant and use their kitchen. The teams are given a secret ingredient to mix in with anything else and create masterpieces. Then it's judged by a panel of taste-testers: I've been lucky enough to be one. We then all have dinner together. It's a little competitive but that forges good bonds among everyone.
CA: How does the firm approach lateral hiring?
DS: We opportunistically hire laterals at more senior levels. Our entry level associates are predominantly hired almost exclusively from our summer program, unless they are coming off of a judicial clerkship.
In this way, our lateral hiring comes in two buckets. We tend to either hire those who have come off of a multi-year clerkship, or those who have a unique set of skills that will fit with a gap that we may have because of unexpected growth or attrition. We don't have a plan to hire a set number each year. I believe we are more targeted in our approach.
CA: Some people in recent associate classes started in January when others started in the previous October. Why was that?
EF: Well we've tried it for a few years, but we won't be doing it again this year. Everyone is expected to start in the Fall.
CA: How does the A&P bonus system work?
DS: We try to be as responsive to the market as we possibly can, consistent with our firm culture. As we learn the market information, our views will evolve. On a basic level, last year's bonus system was different from the prior year’s, and that prior year was different from its preceding year. However, the core similarity in all of the systems has been trying to find a balance between reflecting the market and fitting in with our culture.
CA: What is most unique about Arnold & Porter?
DS: If a student wanted to know what is the differentiating hallmark of the people that work here, it’s that there isn't a prototypical A&P lawyer. We are all unique individuals, but we share a common approach to our core values. For example, we all strive for excellence in the practice of law and we have an unstinting devotion to ethical standards. Finally, pro bono is near and dear to our hearts. We were essentially founded as a pro bono law firm, so this has become an essential part of our history.
EF: To add to that, we have a strong culture of respect, both toward each other and the community. It is a wonderful place to work as we are all extremely collegial, positive and productive. It's a great experience.
Interview with Kaye Scholer hiring partners Jeff Fuisz and Kate Schumacher, conducted in 2016 pre-merger.
Chambers Associate: What is the scope of the firm's recruiting drive?
Jeff Fuisz: We target a lot of the New York law schools, with Columbia, Fordham and NYU alumni regularly appearing on the books. We also conduct OCIs at Upenn and Harvard, and when vacancies open up in our other offices we look at similarly prestigious institutions, such as Northwestern or Georgetown.
Kate Schumacher: We see between 20 and 60 students at each on campus recruitment visit.
CA: How many of those can expect to be offered second interviews?
KS: Well it depends. At some schools you may speak with twenty students and call back three. At our target schools, where we have an established history of successful recruits, it may be as high as five or six in every 20.
CA: What makes an interviewee stand out from the crowd?
KS: Every law firm is looking for bright, hard-working, industrious law students. That's a given. On top of that, we're really looking for self-starters who can both lead and work collaboratively in a team environment. A lot of our questioning centers on those qualities. We run a smaller summer program than many of our competitors, so new recruits need to be ready to jump right in and gain a lot of experience early on.
CA: How can applicants best demonstrate those qualities?
JF: It's always encouraging to see candidates with varied resumes, particularly those who have overcome certain obstacles with creative solutions. It could be that an interviewee has founded a new organisation, which they felt was lacking on campus beforehand. That'd tell us that the interviewee has some initiative, as well as proving that they aren't shy of taking on leadership roles.
KS: Having a mature view of your own experiences is really helpful for us to determine whether or not you're ready to join the firm. It's great to see aspiring lawyers who have drawn lessons from their past experiences to get them to a point where they feel ready to join Kaye Scholer. Some of best interviewees are the ones who'll have waited tables whilst at college, but can explain what they learned from that experience and how that'll translate to them becoming a good lawyer. We want to know why you'll be an asset to the firm. So much of what we do is communicating with clients, courts and colleagues, so juniors really need to be able to articulate their own story convincingly and comfortably.
JF: Judicial clerkships are a good way to prove that you're invested in practising law. It gives students an excellent insight into how different lawyers work, as well as a clearer perspective as to how judges approach cases. That being said, we're not predisposed to any type of experience. We just look to hire the very best candidates that we speak with.
CA: And is there anything rookies should avoid?
JF: We wouldn't necessarily be impressed by an applicant who'd accumulated entries on their resume for no other reason but to fill it up. It's clear that they're just looking to add fodder, and if that's not relevant then we're wasting time. We appreciate that a lot of time 2Ls won't have a lot of relevant experience. Again, we want to talk with people who have a convincing explanation as to why their past experiences have led them to us.
CA: What can rookies expect from callback interviews?
JF: Once you get past the OCI there are four interviews to complete: two with partners and two with associates. If candidates have expressed an interest in a certain practice area then we try to place attorneys with relevant expertise on the interview panels. It helps to provide more accurate answers to any practice-specific questions that interviewees may have.
CA: Roughly how many summer associates does Kaye Scholer take on each year?
JF: Our summer classes usually comprise 15 to 20 entrants. The vast majority will be based in the New York office, though Chicago, DC and Silicon Valley may occasionally take on one or two.
KS: Irrespective of where they're based, all summers are invited to the New York HQ for orientation training. We want all of our offices to be coordinated and work to the same core values.
CA: How’s your summer program looking next year compared to previous years?
KS: The summer program is going very well. Credit has to go to our new legal recruiting coordinator Kiley Bostick, who has invigorated the program with a bunch of fresh ideas. Many of the summers we've spoken to were surprised at the level of valuable experience they were gaining. The fact that our program is fairly small means that we can customise and personalise it to ensure summers are gaining the kinds of experience they're looking for.
JF: In fact, we're even growing our program this summer: In the past few years we've been recruiting between 18 and 20 summer associates, whereas now we're talking more than 20.
CA: Roughly how many full-time offers do you award and what is the take-up rate?
JF: We always aim to hire 100% of our summer associates.
KS: Last summer there was a 100% take-up rate.
CA: Finally, to ensure that they are invited back after the summer program, how can someone really stand out as a summer associate?
JF: It's simple really: you just need to demonstrate that our assessment of you during the interview process was correct. If you can prove that you're able to collaborate, lead, communicate and form mature judgements then the chances are you'll be great lawyer here.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $650,000,000
- Partners (US): 224
- Associates (US): 360 (includes 43 staff attorneys)
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: N/A
- 2Ls: $3,465 per week
- Post 3Ls: N/A
- 1Ls hired? No
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2016: 38
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 33 offers, 30 acceptances (2 pendin
Main areas of work With Arnold & Porter LLP’s more than 25 practice areas spanning a broad spectrum of legal practice, you can interact with experts across multiple fields and gain a wide range of hands-on experience. Our practices include appellate, antitrust, corporate, litigation, environmental, life sciences and healthcare regulatory, and intellectual property.
Firm profile With nine offices in the US and Europe, Arnold & Porter is a preeminent international law firm with a longstanding tradition of complex and cutting-edge work at the intersection of law, public policy, and business. Highlights of our recent work include acting as primary environmental counsel for BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case and historic settlement; in the past two years advising sovereign clients around the world on 27 sovereign deals with an aggregate value of more than $38 billion; and acting for the Republic of Colombia in its victory before the DC Federal Court of Appeals involving a $17 billion claim over rights to recover sunken treasure off the Colombian coast.
Our founders’ spirit of service still shapes the Firm today, as demonstrated by our pro bono program and our attorneys’ commitment to government service. The Firm and its lawyers have won dozens of pro bono awards in recent years, including the American Bar Association’s prestigious “Pro Bono Publico” award. Many of the Firm’s lawyers have held senior positions in the White House and in US government agencies.
• Number of 1st year associates: 27
• Number of 2nd year associates: 27
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• Clerking policy: yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Brooklyn, Chicago, Colorado, Columbia, Denver, Duke, Fordham, George Mason, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Loyola - Los Angeles, Michigan, NYU, Stanford, Texas, Tulane, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UCLA, UPenn, USC, UVA, Yale
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