Bankruptcy is the beating heart of this Bostonian.
LIKE a Boston terrier, Brown Rudnick is small, strong-willed and sociable. Despite the firm's relatively petite proportions, its bankruptcy expertise enables it to take on the legal big dogs in the restructuring sphere. Imagine an 'American Gentleman' (as the canine is so nicknamed) with a snazzy scarlet collar to set off its monochrome markings: image-conscious Brown Rudnick's offices are decorated according to the firm's black, white and red color scheme, with the Beantown base featuring a 'zebra wall.' And although this sort of hound might have dainty white paws, sources insisted that the firm is “not white shoe at all.” One explained that “this place revolves around restructuring – most work touches on bankruptcy in some way. Usually, the firm acts for unsecured creditors and in order to get what we want for these clients we have to be tenacious, creative, roll up our sleeves and claw our way through problems.”
Most new associates join the Boston or New York office, with smaller numbers heading to Hartford, DC or Orange County. At the time of our calls, around two-thirds of juniors were in litigation & restructuring. The corporate & capital markets department covers subgroups like tax, finance and IP.
When it comes to getting hold of work, there's a formal system in place. Both departments (litigation & restructuring and corporate & capital markets) have an associate development manager who assigns work to juniors based on their availability. “It's sort of protection – they can funnel work to you if you're not busy or stop you from getting slammed." However, “there is the flexibility to find your own assignments and partners will come directly to you.”
What do restructuring juniors get up to? “First-years do a lot of research assignments,” declared a second-year. “Obviously I still do some research, but I also write most of the pleadings and have a lot of client contact. Cases are run pretty leanly here so on smaller cases I'm often the most senior associate." It's also common to get stuck into a lot of marketing work, which entails “putting together pitch materials and overviews of how companies are doing.” Another restructuring associate highlighted that “historically the firm has represented creditors' committees and ad hoc bond holder groups who are usually unsecured. That's why we have a reputation for being very litigious: our clients need us to be hard-nosed fighters. Lately we've been getting more secured lender groups as clients, which gives us a little bit more control in bankruptcy proceedings and makes the deals more cooperative. But we still do a large share of unsecured creditor work.”
“There is the flexibility to find your own assignments."
Commercial litigators noted that they take on “a broad range of work, although it's inevitable that you'll be doing bankruptcy work at some point because the department is so strong here. In my commercial litigation practice I've handled contract disputes in New York federal and state court as well as taking on some white-collar matters.” According to sources, “there's a fair amount of doc review when you first start. Bankruptcy cases moves so quickly and they often need a lot of people to be on a doc review.” Drafting briefs and discovery requests were also cited as common tasks.
Over in corporate, juniors had “done a mix of general corporate counsel work and M&A. The majority of clients are public companies, although I've done a fair amount of private transactions for equity companies.” The daily grind often consists of “quite a lot of diligence and collecting signature pages, although I've also gotten some drafting experience.” Interviewees concurred that “lean staffing helps you to get experience. Sometimes on deals the other side has twice as many attorneys working on it. You're often put in a situation where you're not entirely comfortable – you're aware of your responsibility and the time limit.”
Training & Development
Incoming juniors head to Boston for a week of orientation, where “we get to know the firm's policies and the different departments.” After this, “we have formal trainings for both departments and as a first-year you're obligated to go to all of them. The bankruptcy training is helpful because at some point your work will touch on bankruptcy cases or come from a bankruptcy client.” In addition to this, “there are other in-depth programs like a two-day deposition training, and last year we had a financial adviser come in to discuss how to read financial statements.” Sources agreed that there's an extensive range for newcomers. “They kinda beat you over the head with training in your first year!” chortled one.
"The bankruptcy training is helpful."
Interviewees had mixed opinions about informal feedback. “I get it on a constant basis,” exclaimed a New Yorker. “Sometimes it's unsolicited! It's a function of our size here. It's easy to go back to a partner and ask about what you could've done better and partners will call me to say 'great job!'” Others agreed that, inevitably, time constraints and individual personalities affect the amount of informal feedback on offer. “I haven't gotten much at all. I don't feel like I have a particularly clear impression of how the firm thinks I'm doing. I get the occasional email saying 'well done,' but I haven't had much of an opportunity to sit down with anyone. I'd like to have more of that.” First-years have a formal review after six months, after which it's an annual occurrence.
“The firm tries to have people work across offices and likes it that way – a one-firm approach. However, different offices have very different cultures and it's difficult to work closely with people you don't see on a daily basis who work according to different practices and expectations,” noted a Bostonian carefully. A junior in the Big Apple shed more light on the matter. “In New York specifically you have to be a certain type of person to work here. There has been a turnover in litigation because the personalities of the partners here are aggressive and pretty blunt. I personally think it's good for development but it might not be the best fit for some people. The partners like it when you take the reins on cases and stay one step ahead of them by reaching out to clients for things and suggesting to them what needs to be done. When you do something wrong or something they don't love then you're probably gonna get yelled at. It never bothers me but causes stress for some. These are old-school New York trial lawyers. In Boston the partners are more relaxed and bubbly.”
“Different offices have very different cultures.”
Other New Yorkers noted that “it's close-knit here – there's no real division between the practice groups and that makes it easy to get experience and work with different people. There's also a real collegiality between associates, rather than a sense of competition. Everyone helps each other.” In Boston, an interviewee characterized the office as “a fairly laid back environment. People are busy and work hard but they take breaks and chat in the hallways.” Over in DC, “there's a strong sense of camaraderie.” According to attorneys, the official Brown Rudnick social calendar isn't full to bursting – but there are occasional happy hours and holiday parties. However, associates emphasized that “among ourselves we often go out for drinks.”
Hours & Compensation
Juniors had mixed feelings about the 1,900 billable hour target for the year. “It's a reasonable number, but if your workload is inconsistent then it can be difficult and stressful. I have had concerns about not meeting it,” admitted one. Most sources described “having slow months then super-heavy months” but a typical stretch in the office tends to be from 9.30am until 7.30pm. “There's no face time thing or expectation to be here late into the night just to be available. This past week I just finished a deal and was able to leave at 4pm to go home and sleep.”
“Working into the wee hours is rare."
Of course, if the matter at hand is critical then “you're expected to get the work done, including working weekends and late nights, but working into the wee hours is rare. It's no different than any other big law firm.” Those who hit the billable target automatically get a bonus, according to class year, with a discretionary amount on top.
“The firm encourages pro bono – we have a coordinator who farms out assignments and an associate who oversees availability.” All hours of pro bono work (with approval) can count toward the billable target. Restructuring juniors help out with “a bankruptcy assistance program which helps indigent individuals to file Chapter 7 personal bankruptcies.” Other sources mentioned helping with immigration cases and unemployment insurance matters.
Pro bono hours
“The firm tries hard.”
“There are very few racial minority attorneys here, but the firm is trying to address it – there's a diversity committee which reaches out to the entire firm,” commented a New Yorker, while a Bostonian concurred that “it's a really white office, although the firm tries hard to recruit diverse candidates.” The women's initiative “organizes events every once in a while. We recently had a dinner for the holidays and they've done lunch meetings where we discussed ways to improve networking skills. They also put together a group to try to come up with a system to encourage retention including alternative work schedules and setting up systems to work from home.” In addition, the firm puts on compulsory unconscious bias training, and recently appointed a diversity partner.
When it comes to selecting summers, co-hiring partner Jeff Jonas tells us that “the starting point, like at most firms, is academic excellence. Probably just as important is a person with initiative, a person with drive or entrepreneurial spirit.” But how can someone fresh out of law school demonstrate this? “It's not always self-evident but on a personal level when you get to meet somebody and hear about their background and what they’ve done then it's apparent. They don't have to have founded a company or something, but if they show drive and ambition then that leads to the conclusion that they have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Strategy & Future
Brown Rudnick holds a “unique position in the legal industry,” according to chairman and CEO Joe Ryan. “We were once described as a global boutique... we're not a thousand-lawyer firm, we’re much smaller, but we’re very international in our outreach and work. Almost 40% of our lawyers are located in Europe and we compete against firms five to ten times our size.” There’s always scope for growth. “If you look at our growth in recent years, we’ve focused on Paris and London. Last year we added a great restructuring team to complement international arbitration in Paris.” Looking to the future, Ryan cites IP litigation, life sciences and white-collar as areas of development for the firm.
Recent Work Highlights
- Represented the committee of unsecured creditors of New England Compounding Pharmacy, including personal injury tort victims who had received tainted steroid injections
- Acted for Target Stores on its $300 million development of a three-story 'City Target' shop in Boston
- Represented Christopher Wilson, the former head of legal at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, in SEC, DOJ, Federal Reserve and Hong Kong Monetary Authority investigations relating to the hiring of the sons and daughters of Chinese officials
Interview with co-hiring partner Jeff Jonas
Chambers Associate: What’s the scope of your recruiting drive for summer associates? Which campuses do you visit? How many summers do you take on?
Jeff Jonas: This coming summer I think we'll have eight or nine summer associates. We've tried to visit appropriate campuses in each of the cities where we practice, so here in Boston that's Boston College and BU. We've certainly recruited students from Harvard and Northeastern too. In New York we have candidates from NYU, Fordham, Columbia, Cardoza and Brooklyn. Smilarly in other cities we've recruited at local law schools and had a number of recruits from the University of Texas.
CA: What are you looking for in a candidate? What qualities? And what type of person thrives at the firm?
JJ: The starting point, like at most firms, is academic excellence. Probably just as important is a person with initiative, a person with drive or entrepreneurial spirit.
CA: What evidence of entrepreneurial spirit do you look for in someone who's just come out of law school?
JJ: It's not always self-evident but on a personal level when you get to meet somebody and hear about their background and what they’ve done then it's apparent. They don't have to have founded a company or something, but if they show drive and ambition then that leads to the conclusion that they have an entrepreneurial spirit.
CA: Are there any common errors that people make at interview?
JJ: It's not a common mistake but I still see people who haven't prepared in terms of knowledge about the firm, knowing what we are and why they're interested in us.
CA: What does the firm offer that is unique?
JJ: Our size and approach means that we staff matters leanly which is critical for more junior attorneys – it gives them an opportunity to get involved at a meaningful level sooner rather than later. We like to early on push people as far as they can go, not to the point where it's beyond what they can handle, but in a positive way. Getting trained to be a great lawyer doesn't happen in law school. The best way is to be right in the thick of it early on, so you're really tested and pushed. That's how you grow, and we do that very well.
CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting? Any initiatives in place?
JJ: We have a diversity committee, and I'm an executive committee member of the Boston Lawyers Group which aims to recruit, promote and retain lawyers of color. We participate in and a host a number events as part of that. It may sound trite, but we're committed to diversity in all of its aspects. It really is a very important focus for us, and there are always ways to improve.
More about Cambridge tech
Brown Rudnick juniors reported that the Cambridge area is a surging destination for new internet start-ups. In some ways this isn't too surprising, as the city benefits from hosting both MIT and Harvard universities, which bring a steady stream of entrepreneurial techies that don't want to stray too far from the shelter of their Boston alma maters.
Still, it's interesting that many MIT alumni choose to make for Silicon Valley to launch their creations on to the market – including Drew Houston, creator and CEO of Dropbox. The two destinations were once rivals, but unlike Silicon Valley, Cambridge failed to capitalize on its early wave of technological innovation, lacking the government incentives, cheap real estate and staying power to keep pace with its California rival.
In the 1980s, Cambridge was instrumental in bringing computers into the business mainstream by housing the developers of first Visicalc, then its successor Lotus 1-2-3 – these spreadsheet programs turned computers from a hobbyist's enthusiasm into a powerful tool for financial planning and accounting. It was also home to Thinking Machines – motto “We're building a machine that will be proud of us”– which produced supercomputer technology and worked on artificial intelligence in the 1980s and early 1990s. Thinking Machines went bust and computing giant IBM bought up Lotus and moved it to New York in 2001.
After a few years of stagnation, Cambridge is now once more a destination for technological giants. As well as international car-hire success story Zipcar, dozens of less well-known ventures based in Cambridge have attracted millions of dollars in funding. Brown Rudnick's CEO Joe Ryan explains that “having a little office space in Cambridge helps us to be where the folks are who are coming up with ideas for new technologies and new companies. We can assist them in their early stage thinking about how to organize themselves and get financing.”
Brown Rudnick LLP
One Financial Center,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 6
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $192,400,000
- Partners (US): 86
- Associates (US): 70
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: $3,077/week
- 2Ls: $3,077/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,077/week
- 1Ls hired? Case by case
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case
- Summers 2016: 9
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 13 offers, 12 acceptances (100% offers made)
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 and government investigations.
Brown Rudnick, an international law firm with offi ces in the United States and Europe, represents clients from around the world in high stakes litigation, international arbitration and complex business transactions. Clients include public and private corporations, multinational Fortune 100 businesses and start-up enterprises. The firm also represents investors, as well as official and ad hoc creditors’ committees in today’s largest corporate restructurings, both domestically and abroad. Founded more than 60 years ago, Brown Rudnick has over 230 lawyers providing advice and services across key areas of the law. Beyond the United States, the firm regularly serves clients in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. With its Brown Rudnick Center for the Public Interest, the firm has created an innovative model combining its pro bono, charitable giving and community volunteer efforts.
Number of 1st year associates: 12
Number of 2nd year associates: 16
Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
2nd year: $190,000
Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2015:
Boston College, Boston University, Columbia University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Georgetown University, New York University, University of California – Irvine, University of California - Los Angeles, University of Connecticut, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Texas, University of Virginia
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 but value oriented and pragmatic, entrepreneurial, always honest and ethical, and highly collaborative.
Summer program components:
Brown Rudnick allocates significant energy and resources to provide each summer associate with a first hand experience of life as a lawyer at our firm. We offer a wide range of assignments, provide a robust training curriculum, including core legal and writing skills, business development and networking skills, as well as a fun social calendar.