Arnold & Porter LLP - The Inside View

This DC leader mixes “top-notch talent with a friendly vibe” and actively encourages pro bono.

"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.

The Work

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.”

Pro Bono

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 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 82,998 
  • Average per US attorney: 124

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.”

Get Hired

"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."


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.

Arnold & Porter LLP

601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,

  • 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.

Recruitment details
• 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 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