Brown Rudnick is a major league player in bankruptcy and high-profile litigation, without the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
If you keep up with celebrity headlines, there’s a chance you’re already familiar with Brown Rudnick, the firm that represented Johnny Depp in his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard. One of the big names from his trial team, partner Camille Vasquez, recently landed a role onscreen as legal analyst for NBC News. That gives you an idea of what CEO Vince Guglielmotti calls the firm’s “star power.” But it’s not just defamation and brand management that defines Brown Rudnick; this firm’s magic lies in its stellar bankruptcy and restructuring practice, which is nationally ranked and comes out top in Massachusetts according to Chambers USA. The firm is also highly ranked for environment work in Connecticut.
“I can make an impact, even as a junior!”
Despite as high-profile work as the Depp/Heard trial, Brown Rudnick otherwise keeps a relatively low profile on the inside, attracting lawyers looking for a place where they’re “more than just another name on the list.” With less than 300 lawyers in total, Brown Rudnick’s largest offices can be found in Boston and New York, but the firm has four more US offices and another base overseas in London. So small size certainly does not translate to small reach. “It doesn’t have that Biglaw firm feel where you might get lost,” one felt. “I can make an impact, even as a junior!” Associates relished the chance to “work for the underdog,” with one commenting: “The partners I work for pick cases very carefully, and they also find good causes to work on.” This meant that associates got to see several “more human” billable matters. One such example is the firm’s representation of victims of sex trafficking and child pornography in a lawsuit against Mindgeek, the parent company of Pornhub.
Strategy & Future
Guglielmotti tells us: “We are very strategically focused on our pillars: life sciences, technology, global litigation, brand and reputation management, and crisis (which includes bankruptcy and white-collar investigations).” He goes on to say that the firm is closely following the economies of the US and Europe. “We’re focused on the recession, but our recognized strengths in bankruptcy and litigation all increase when the business world headwinds and that serves us well. We're excited to meet those challenges.”
With a global revenue of $253.6 million in 2022, Guglielmotti reveals the firm’s goal “to increase our top-line revenue to $300-330 million, with about a 300-lawyer headcount, but we’re going to do that in our core areas of strength (the pillars listed above).” He continues: “Clients see our size as a strength, as we're able to have partners that know each other well and who work well together.” This means that investing in attorney development is at the forefront for Brown Rudnick. “We want to be recognized as a great place to work by our peers,” Guglielmotti explains, “It’s in everyone’s interests to have associates that are getting great experience, great training, and want to stay.”
Most juniors join in Boston and New York, and a handful more wind up in the DC and Orange County offices. Litigation and corporate were the biggest groups, with the remaining associates spread sparsely across a variety of sub-groups under the corporate & capital markets and dispute resolution & restructuring umbrellas.
Work is allocated formally through Brown Rudnick’s associate development team, who assign matters based on associates’ availability and expertise. However, it’s also common for associates to get work directly from partners as they build relationships with them. The system worked well for many of our interviewees, with one telling us that “one thing that really stands out to me is that the partners really notice when you do a good job for them.”
For a firm of its size, Brown Rudnick takes on a lot of high-profile litigation matters, and associates noted that it’s “a firm that punches above its weight in many regards, and we get substantive cases.” There’s been an influx of defamation litigation matters coming in following Johnny Depp’s trial last year and the firm is enhancing its brand and reputation practice. However, bankruptcy is still the firm’s bread and butter, with creditor and bondholder committees on the books. New litigators join the firm as generalists and can try their hand at the variety of matters on offer, from real estate and breach of contract to civil and commercial litigation.
“I can present novel ideas based on my research, and partners are very receptive to that.”
“It’s very collaborative, and we work across practice groups,” a junior explained, “The teams are good-sized – sometimes 15 people strong – but there’s lots of responsibility.” Even on large matters, juniors felt they got a good level of responsibility, with some second-years leading depositions. Other than that, there’s a lot of drafting and compiling reports, as well as more typical junior tasks like discovery and some doc review. Some litigators particularly enjoyed research, as it was “an opportunity to be creative. I can present novel ideas based on my research, and partners are very receptive to that.” We heard that it’s common for juniors to even participate in a case's strategy, especially when prepping for trial, while mid-levels can expect to start running cases, contacting clients, and taking charge of drafting and depositions.
Litigation clients: PUMA, AT&T, Primark. Represented Johnny Depp in his defamation trial against Amber Heard, which was watched live by over 3.5 million people.
“The high-profile litigations can bring in clients on the corporate side, too, and we’ll use that success to look at other areas in which they need support,” a transactional junior explained. “We aim to be their one-stop shop.” The firm’s corporate practice involves a lot of M&A and startup work, but juniors also got experience in general corporate governance for clients. The firm also supports financiers, including private equity houses and hedge funds, and handles some more specialized IP, real estate, energy and environment matters. “When you’re on a larger merger with a team of 20 people or so, a junior will have a lot less responsibility. But you get more ownership over emerging companies projects,” an interviewee summarized. This means direct client interaction is common with startups, as it's the junior’s role to be the first point of contact – Boston’s status as a hub for life sciences ensures plenty of work with emerging companies. Signature pages and closing checklists are also typically managed by juniors, although some partners give newbies a chance to take the first stab at drafting.
Corporate clients: Data Cubed, Differential Venture Partners, EV Edison. Represented Dutch startup Leyden Labs in its second round of funding of $140 million.
“We get banners on our doors when we do more than 25 hours of pro bono a year,” one source explained, “It’s a source of pride for the firm!” Brown Rudnick offers unlimited billable pro bono, and we did hear of associates billing into the hundreds (though this is very much an exception). “There’s never the mentality of ‘OK, you’ve done enough’ or ‘you need to do some billable work,’” one associate explained, “It’s really rewarding to feel like you’re giving back.”
Associates had worked on matters involving children, prisoners, immigration, housing, racial justice, and even the Supreme Court. Although corporate pro bono was a little lighter, associates were satisfied with their lot and added that they also got satisfaction from participating in volunteering events.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 9,615
- Average per (US) attorney: 41
Hours & Compensation
Billable target: 1,950
1,950 is a standard billing target in Biglaw, and matched by Brown Rudnick’s market-rate salary. Although it might lag a little behind when it comes to matching the Cravath scale for mid-levels and seniors, juniors felt optimistic about their bonuses to come.
We also heard from associates that there are no harsh consequences for those who don’t quite meet the target. “They look at hours holistically,” juniors agreed, “It takes a while to figure out who you like to work with, and who likes to work with you.” Litigators reportedly “don’t hear complaints about there not being enough work,” but it was a little trickier over in corporate due to a market-wide slump at the time of our interviews. However, transactional attorneys found comfort in the fact that “management has informed us that they’re fully aware it’s been slow in corporate, so that will be reflected in our reviews. They’re acknowledging that it’s out of our control.” The firm has also been growing its corporate practice in areas like tech and life sciences to ensure that there's a steady flow of work coming through.
Work can nonetheless fluctuate, even for the litigators who mentioned that there were days where they billed three hours, and others where they were billing 15. However, interviewees felt the firm was doing enough to support them, especially since associate development managers keep an eye on their hours. “They’re really good at supplementing work,” according to a transactional associate, “I’ll get put on doc review for litigation and other teams. There’s always something, even if it’s not my practice group.” The firm does also run formal wellbeing schemes – one interviewee attended a goat yoga session. We’re not kidding!
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“The firm has at every turn supported attorneys of color and really given them resources and opportunities,” one associate praised. Although associates rated the firm for female representation, they felt there was still work to be done on other facets of diversity (a common viewpoint in Biglaw). However, insiders valued the firm’s affinity group program, DAWN (Diverse Attorneys Working Network). DAWN connects diverse lawyers across the firm, and the groups “also act as mouthpieces for our concerns. Firm management comes to meetings with affinity groups and has a frank conversation with us about the industry and what to expect.” There are also recruiting pipelines for diverse law students (including a 1L diversity fellowship), and internships for high school students. One junior was keen to highlight the firm’s recently established Pride group, which aims to “build up a specific inclusive space for those who identify as LGBTQ+.” There's also a dedicated women's network and a parents' forum.
“Telling partners or staff about what’s going on in your life is never an issue.”
“Collegial” and “friendly” are adjectives that often pop up in our research, but to give you a better understanding of Brown Rudnick’s culture, “everybody understands that you have to be in your best place personally to do your best work. Telling partners or staff about what’s going on in your life is never an issue.” Multiple interviewees had stories of needing to take time off for personal reasons and had not faced any pressure from the firm to get face time in. Rather, “they encouraged me to spend time with my family and were excited to see me when I got back.”
We heard thatteam collaboration is a priority, so juniors always felt welcome to pop into the offices of partners or senior associates for help. They described a caring environment where “there’s always a little bit of small talk – I know the names of the kids of the people I work with, and we ask each other about what we did over the weekend.” We heard it’s common for associates to go out for dinner together, and many partners purposefully try to “tear down walls of formality” with juniors. The culture was generally uniform across offices, although one interviewee suggested that, though equally hard-working, Boston might have a slightly more relaxed mindset than New York.
“From the beginning it was clear that my peers and mentors were invested in my success and wanted to see me grow as an attorney,” said one junior. “They made it clear they plan to have me here for a long time.” Associates become eligible for partnership after their seventh year and can start seriously focusing on this goal with the help of a dedicated midlevel retreat that covers the steps that need to be taken. One source felt that “it’s clear to me that their goal is for me to become partner, and they tell that to every associate that comes through the door.” The welcoming culture combined with the focus on retention meant that associates felt positive about their futures with the firm. Or, as one put it: “I’ll be here until they kick me out!”
Even when people do move on, it’s usually due to “pull factors, not push factors” – an irresistible offer, in other words. One associate said it’s “usually in-house counsel positions as opposed to going to other firms. Even some juniors have gone in-house.”
“That’s coaching I might not get elsewhere.”
Aside from assigned partner and associate mentors, the firm has a new training program for litigators: “We’ve had one session on the business of litigation, and they’ve spent time explaining how to be a successful associate and find meaning in what you’re doing.” One junior stressed to us that even with these formal programs, “honestly, it’s the kind of firm where everybody is eager to help and mentor people. I get just as good mentorship from the mid-levels I work with.” Another associate was keen to discuss their experience with a partner who “has been actively working with me to get us on the same page, as they want to build a cohesive deal team with me in it. That’s coaching I might not get elsewhere.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
Brown Rudnick hires 2L summer associates directly through the firm’s website when applications open in June each year. The firm also recruits from The Boston Lawyers Group Annual Diversity Job Fair.
In 2018, Brown Rudnick established the 1L Social Mobility Diversity fellowship, aimed at first year law students who are the first in their family to graduate from baccalaureate college and/or the first in their family to join a professional school.
Top tips: “Brown Rudnick summer associates are those who think outside of the box and bring new ideas to the firm. We are looking for game-changers who demonstrate a true commitment to community service. Applicants who can speak to their personal experience in driving change will be successful.” - Chair of Strategic Growth, Jeffrey Jonas
At this stage, applicants meet with one member of recruitment or DE&I, two partners or counsel and two associates. The interview is based on behavioral questions targeting certain competencies; partners may ask questions related to motivation and resilience, whilst associates may ask about the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Offers: 11 (2Ls), 2 (1Ls)
During the ten-week summer program, the professional development team overseas work allocation to ensure summers are exposed to as many practice groups as possible. The pro bono team also assigns pro bono matters and organizes community events.
Along with skills training, associates in each practice group host “Hour in the Life” sessions where summers can learn more about the day-to-day lives of associates and the work they do. The class is brought together for orientation in Boston, and a midsummer retreat in New York to help build their cross-office and cross-practice networks within the firm.
Several summer associates return as junior associates. The firm describes successful summers as those who are self-motivated, proactive, communicative and client-service oriented. Summers are encouraged to meet as many people as possible, whether through an assignment, coffee break or a social event: “Not only is this a great way to build their network, but they will be able to make a more informed decision on their practice preferences and career trajectory.”
Top tips: "It’s almost impossible to be overly communicative as a summer associate. Take notes, ask questions, keep your assigning attorney up to date on progress, and follow-up as necessary. While some assignments may seem small, they could very well be an important piece in the larger picture.” - Chair of Strategic Growth, Jeffrey Jonas
Interview with CEO Vince Guglielmotti
Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market?
Vince Guglielmotti: We have market-dominant practices in litigation, investigations and bankruptcy, and we also have been incredibly successful in trial. Our competitors know we’re not afraid to try cases. We're also known for our ability to work cross-border. We worked over 220 matters in transatlantic teams in 2022. We made $3.25 billion in deal value last year, which is significant for a firm of our size. Clients see our size as a strength, as we're able to have partners that know each other well and who work well together. We win on both the litigation and corporate deal sides. For associates, we offer the early ability to work on high-profile matters, and that is critical to helping them succeed.
CA: What are your core practice areas and sector priorities?
VG: We are very strategically focused on our pillars: life sciences, technology, global litigation, brand and reputation management, and crisis (which includes bankruptcy and white-collar investigations).
CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
VG: In 2022 I was named CEO. I’m the youngest CEO in the firm’s history, and one of the youngest leaders of an AmLaw ranked firm. We’ve had major litigation wins in the last year, including dismissal of Johnson and Johnson subsidiary LTL Management’s “Texas two-step” bankruptcy case, a jury verdict for Johnny Depp in his defamation trial, a landmark ruling against Visa in litigation against Pornhub parent company MindGeek, and a procedural victory for a Venezuelan businessman in his $250 million defamation case against Fox news. We had a lot of star power in 2022. We also won two Law360 Practice Group of the Year awards for bankruptcy and trials. On the corporate side, we’ve been listed among the top 25 most active law firms in venture capital for four consecutive quarters and for all of 2022 in PitchBook’s Global League Tables. Beyond the work we’ve done this year and the changes in leadership, we’ve committed ourselves under my new leadership to focus on our core social values, and what we think will make Brown Rudnick an even better place to work. We’ve engaged a U.K.-based sustainability consultant to achieve net zero for all of our office locations. We created the Brown Rudnick Civil Rights Summer Fellowship at Lawyers for Civil Rights following the successful representation of disenfranchised voters in Worcester, Massachusetts, in a federal voting rights lawsuit that changed the city’s districting system. We are also working with the Leadership Counsel on Legal Diversity (LCLD). That interaction will allow our lawyers and summer associates to have access to our network and professional development.
CA: Are there any domestic or international events/trends (legal, economic, political, social) affecting the work conducted by the firm or the way in which it is structured and run?
VG: We’re focused on what’s going to happen in the economy in the US and Europe. We’re focused on the recession, but our recognized strengths in bankruptcy and litigation all increase when the business world headwinds and that serves us well. We're excited to meet those challenges.
CA: What is your firm's strategy and how do you expect the next year to unfold?
VG: We have a clear business strategy and objective. One of the things I made extremely clear when I took over was the Catapult plan. We plan to increase our top-line revenue to $300-330 million, with about a 300-lawyer headcount, but we’re going to do that in our core areas of strength (the pillars listed above). It’s going to be responsible growth in those key areas, and we want to be recognized as a great place to work by our peers. We think that we’re well aligned with where the economy is going with our bankruptcy and restructuring practices, but also where we play in the M&A space. We know 2023 could be challenging from an overall global economy standpoint, but we feel confident in our overall strategy and core pillars. To sum up, we're really focused on our core pillars, and that’s going to be our strategic focus going forward. We offer an opportunity for associates to get involved early on with exceptional clients. It's in everyone’s interests to have associates that are getting great experience, great training and want to stay.
CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers?
VG: We’re focusing on continuing our reputation as being a best place to work for young, talented, ambitious lawyers. We work with fascinating clients on complex matters. That’s attractive to young lawyers as they don’t have to play the waiting game they might have to play at another firm. If you’re willing and able to do the work, you’re going to be given the opportunity to succeed. We’re opening leadership to younger and more diverse partners. Having a 42-year-old as CEO shows the firm is willing to have younger people at the helm. We’re also focused on incorporating technology to improve our service delivery, allowing talent to prosper by giving them the right tools.
CA: How has the role of the lawyer changed over the last two decades and what new skills are required for the next generation of lawyers to succeed?
VG: The most successful lawyers are good advisors. They're able to assess a problem from a 360-degree approach and give clients the solutions they’re looking for. I think law students and junior associates have to be active participants in their career if they want to be successful. They can’t be afraid to ask questions to understand how the little piece they’re being asked to do fits into the entire process. As they progress, the client is going to want to get legal advice that lets them make actionable business decisions. Learning early on how the pieces fit together is how they’re going to accelerate their career.
CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally?
VG: I think keeping up with advancements in technology is it. The firms that are going to succeed are the firms looking hard at when and how to use technology.
CA: How has the rise in legal technology affected the firm? Are you implementing any specific programs/initiatives with regards to technology?
VG: Right now, we’re working on updating our technology across the board. We’re working with all our partners to understand what they need to service the client, and fully investing in technology to make sure we’re not just meeting but exceeding the market.
CA: What is the firm’s approach to bolstering diversity, equity, and inclusion? Are there any initiatives that are new or that have been working particularly well that you would like to flag?
VG: We don’t hold ourselves to any specific DEI metric, but we do design our programs so people can do their best work. We’ve achieved Mansfield certification for the third consecutive year. I also signed the Leaders at the Front pledge to recruit more diverse partners, associates, and leadership positions. We’ve met the Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmark survey on corporate practice regarding LGBTQ+ workplace equality. Our last partner class was one of the most diverse classes in our history. We also have a social mobility fellowship which provides an opportunity for law students who would be the first in their family’s history to go to a professional school. Not having those connections can hinder someone’s chances to be successful, so we’re proud we have that fellowship as it brings great people into the firm. To see someone be the first in their family to accomplish that is rewarding.
CA: What advice do you have for students and junior associates who are just about to embark/have just embarked on their legal career?
VG: Ask questions and be an active participant in your growth as a lawyer. If you’re not getting that interaction with a partner and they don’t have the time to fill you in, find someone who can. That might be a senior associate or a partner, but just be proactive. You should understand how everything fits together or you might get pigeonholed early on in your career. We take pride in working with new associates so they can see how transactions are unfolding, how to win a case or how to bring an investigation to a conclusion. That's essential for a new attorney who wants to be successful.
Brown Rudnick LLP
One Financial Center,
Main Areas of Work
Bankruptcy and corporate restructuring; complex litigation and arbitration; corporate, securities and M&A; distressed debt and claims trading; emerging companies; energy, utilities and environmental; finance; funds; government contracts; government law and strategies; healthcare; intellectual property; intellectual property litigation; international dispute resolution; life sciences; real estate; tax; white collar defense, investigations and compliance.
At Brown Rudnick, we combine ingenuity with experience to achieve great outcomes for our clients. We deliver partner-driven service; we incentivize our lawyers to collaborate in the client’s best interest; and we put excellence before scale, focusing on industry-driven, client-facing practices where we are recognized leaders. Our lawyers and government relations professionals work across the United States and Europe, with offices in key financial centers. Beyond the United States and Europe, we serve clients in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
Brown Rudnick recruits our 1L Social Mobility Diversity and 2L Summer Associate Program through direct write-in applications on our website: www.brownrudnick.com/careers.
Additionally, the firm participates in the Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair.
Summer associate profile:
Brown Rudnick recruits summer associates who are highly intelligent and creative, and also possess those personal qualities that define our firm: hard-driving, value-oriented, pragmatic, entrepreneurial, honest, ethical, highly collaborative.
Summer program components:
The summer program is your first introduction to life as a Brown Rudnick attorney. During our 10-week program you will have the opportunity to sample a variety of practice areas, working across offices and disciplines. Our summer associates are an integral part of our client teams, and we expect them to be valuable contributors to Firm outcomes and successes. You will travel to client offices, hearings, or even across the country or the globe. You will be assigned a partner and associate advisor, each of whom will provide meaningful advice and feedback throughout the summer program. Our professional development team, composed of former practicing attorneys, will also provide training and formal feedback opportunities throughout the program.
We offer our summer associates a broad mix of interesting work and exciting social events to help cultivate a lasting relationship. The Firm believes that building strong workplace friendships is a critical factor in our success. During the summer program, you will have the opportunity to socialize with your colleagues at cultural performances, casual receptions, outdoor activities, sporting events, and even Disneyland! Summer associates will get to know their home-office city and the Firm better alongside their mentors and colleagues.
We recruit summer associates into our Boston, New York, Orange County, and Washington, DC offices.
Recruitment website: www.brownrudnick.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- Environment (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 3)