Brown Rudnick may be smaller than its competitors, but this sporty Boston outfit wins big in bankruptcy and restructuring.
“DEMAND for legal services really isn't growing as it has previously – competition is more intense,” says Brown Rudnick CEO Joe Ryan. But that hasn't got this Bostonian down. “Clients now pick and choose more, rather than using one firm for everything. We've benefited from that.” That's because – in the hectic heat of a Chapter 11 scenario – the firm's bankruptcy and restructuring expertise makes it a wise choice.
And Chambers USA recognizes this: Brown Rudnick gets top marks for bankruptcy in its native Massachusetts, plus further kudos in New York and nationwide, beating a number of legal heavyweights to the punch. Associates were sure of their choice too: “Even though it’s a smaller firm they still handle some of the biggest cases in the country. As an associate you get a balance between lean staffing and having a lot of experience at a junior level.”
Associates are split pretty evenly between the New York and Boston offices, although a few are scattered between the DC, Orange County and Hartford bases. At the time of our calls, two-thirds of juniors were in litigation & restructuring. The remainder slotted into the corporate & capital markets practice, which covers subgroups like finance, real estate and intellectual property. Work is initially assigned through a manager, “but after a few months partners start asking to work with you – it develops organically.” In general, associates felt “this is definitely a place where they throw you in at the deep end. In other places you can hang out in the background but here you have to step up very early on.”
"This is definitely a place where they throw you in at the deep end."
Restructuring associates courteously explained that “bankruptcyis split between litigation and transactional work. On the transactional side you’re doing deals, bond exchanges and workouts, while on the litigation side you’re involved in an array of pleadings, motions and objections – pretty much the type of thing you would expect in traditional litigious work.” The litigation aspect is more common, and Brown Rudnick specializes in helping distressed investors, working frequently with unsecured creditors and equity committees. Associates found that “there’s a lot of research involved, so you're drafting research memos or briefs. But even as a first year you will be drafting motions that are filed in court.” Associates had also drafted pleadings, and on “small creditor committee cases it can be just you and a partner. I was essentially running the case.” However, less thrilling admin tasks cropped up on larger cases, where juniors “felt like a much smaller part.”
"Even as a first year I was drafting motions that were filed in court."
Those in commercial litigation told us: “Bankruptcy accounts for 50-60% of the work, and the rest is on various things including IP, real estate and breaches of contract. Because we’re a smaller firm, any litigation matter will come through our group – it changes things up.” One associate weighed this up: “It keeps things interesting and fresh, but sometimes it feels like you don’t get enough focus on one thing.” Again, juniors had “drafted motions that were filed in court. People say you’ll be doing 12 hours of document review a day but it’s actually only come up a few times.” Instead, associates happily reported “getting a ton of writing experience. It's been my favorite thing. I’ve been involved in discovery on civil litigation cases: writing letters, listening in on meetings, writing amicus briefs and drafting initial disclosures and answers.”
Training & Development
Trainees usually head to Boston for a week of training when they start their time at Brown Rudnick, where partners and senior associates present on a variety of topics. However, we heard that there are plans in the works to reduce that to three days and provide more office-specific training. Once they reach spring, associates will begin a program of lunch hour training sessions. In addition, associates told us that “last year people asked for more training on the finance side of things, and they’re beginning to do that now. There will be an accounting course for midlevel associates and juniors starting soon.”
Associates receive an annual feedback review where “the firm generates a list of attorneys you’ve worked with for 20 hours or more – they then fill out a form to feed back. After that there’s a meeting with the professional development staff and you get assessed in seven categories.” This went down well with interviewees, who found it to be “really detailed – you get a lot of information about what to improve or continue doing.” Nevertheless, while “the majority of feedback is given through the annual review, if something arises the appropriate people will sit you down and talk it through with you.” The importance of this hadn't escaped the firm, with associates reporting “a push for more real-time feedback recently.” One area juniors did flag up for improvement, however, was upward feedback. “There used to be a process where juniors would provide anonymous feedback to partners and management, which I think is really important.” Fortunately we heard from the firm that this process will be reinstated.
As in previous years, associates emphasized the differences in culture between the New York office and the rest of the firm. “The New York office is definitely a more challenging environment, with more stereotypical New York lawyers.” Another added: “I prefer the culture in Boston but if you’re going to be a global law firm you need a New York office and you need that kind of personality. Nobody goes into it with their eyes closed.” True as that may be, we did hear that “the firm has been very open about making a major effort to improve morale.” That's ongoing (we reported this last year too), and it's having material effects. A recent initiative changed the firm’s policy on marketing hours, so that marketing is now included in attorneys’ billable hours targets. “It’s definitely made reaching billable targets more achievable and less stressful,” associates said.
While it's important to be aware of these points, associates' responses still described an environment where “you can joke and have fun with everyone.” On the social side of things, the New York office had get-togethers every other week, while Boston met up once a week. We also heard about reinvigorated quarterly socials: “The firm gives associates a budget to go and hang out and de-stress a little bit.” Another added: “The firm’s just started giving out a $50 gift card to associates every month to go have fun.” Associates’ social calendars get a little busier when summer associates are at the firm, but on the whole the Brown Rudnick social scene was reported as being fairly relaxed.
Hours & Compensation
The change in policy regarding marketing seemed to have alleviated associates' concerns about meeting their targets. Juniors' workloads “ebbed and flowed” – at busier times, 12-hour days could be a regular occurrence. “The inconsistency can be challenging, but overall I feel pretty good about my workload,” said one, while another commented: “I’ve had a fair amount of Sunday work, but the fluctuating hours actually help with work-life balance.” The minimum number of hours to achieve bonus is 1,950, drawing the opinion from one relieved interviewee that “if marketing and pro bono hours weren’t included it would be life-breaking!”
“You’re always in contact with other offices,” said associates. That's especially true “in bankruptcy as the practices in the New York and Boston offices are very close.” Beyond frequent emails and phone calls, we're told that “if you're working closely with other offices people will go for a few days to get some face time,” though it's a more common occurrence for seniors. Juniors had also been in contact with the firm’s international bases: “If I need to call London it’s still a four-digit number.” When it comes to the office interiors, we were slightly alarmed to hear about “a uniquely designed black, red and white theme in Boston,” but a quick image search reassured us of its aesthetic merits. One associate less in favor of futuristic interiors remarked that “the New York offices are very beautiful, but it’s all glass so there’s nowhere to hide. I prefer my solid door in Boston!” However, we did hear that associates can request a 'privacy wall' if the transparency gets too much.
"You’re always in contact with other offices."
“If there’s one thing I can’t fault the firm on it’s their commitment to pro bono. There’s no cap on billable hours, and the fact that they give that freedom goes a long way toward encouraging people. You never feel like you have to conserve your hours.” Juniors had been involved with “a lot of Chapter 7 individual bankruptcies, including a couple of student loan cases – it's normally impossible to discharge a student loan!” The firm “works closely with local projects in Boston, so a lot of pro bono comes through them.” The firm is partnered with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, and interviewees had also worked with Kids in Need of Defense on immigration cases. “It’s a great way to get experience because 99% of the work is down to the associate. It’s on a smaller scale but you get experience going in front of a judge and going through probate proceedings.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 9,517
- Average per US attorney: 36
“We’ve redoubled our efforts when it comes to our equality, inclusion and diversity initiative,” says CEO Joe Ryan, and last year Brown Rudnick introduced a director of equity, inclusion and diversity in New York, Ari Joseph, and a diversity partner, Sunni Beville. “Diversity is something the firm’s very cognizant of,” associates said. “At associate level it’s pretty even between men and women, but at partner level men far and away outnumber women,” they explained. We were also told that the firm has adopted a new interview method which tackles implicit bias in an effort to improve diversity in recruiting. “It's pretty homogeneous right now, so we'll see how things change.”
Strategy & Future
CEO Joe Ryan tells us: “The firm continues to have much more of an international focus. Our team in New York is doing a lot of work for Latin American clients, for example.” Exporting the firm's model of stateside collaboration, “more global initiatives have led to a lot of crossover between practice groups and offices, from Paris to California.” Also worth noting is the firm's attempts to diversify its work. Ryan tell us that “IP, as a practice, is certainly a growth area.”
Interview with Brown Rudnick CEO Joe Ryan
Chambers Associate: Have there been any key developments or work highlights at Brown Rudnick over the last 12 months that our readers should know about?
Joe Ryan: The firm continues to have much more of an international focus. Our team in New York is doing a lot of work for Latin American clients, for example. That started several years ago but has really grown this past year. Sub-Saharan Africa is another area providing more work recently, especially where international organizations are trying to help sovereign nations with debt. We are also growing our offices in London and Paris, where we’re adding more people to our white-collar and restructuring practices.
Because it's a major part of our global brands initiative, IP, as a practice, is certainly a growth area. Branding work for clients is tremendously important for their identity in the marketplace and for their expansion. One of our hallmarks is collaboration, and more global initiatives have led to a lot of crossover between practice groups and offices, from Paris to California. I think that’s something that a lot of young lawyers find attractive.
We’ve redoubled our efforts when it comes to our equality, inclusion and diversity initiative. We’ve brought on an experienced director for our EID initiative, Ari Joseph, and Sunni Beville, who’s our diversity partner. We believe that diversity is tremendously important in terms of giving us a diverse range of thought, creativity and point of view. In some ways hiring diverse candidates is the easiest part of the equation; the more difficult project now is the inclusion element. People need to feel that they are part of our enterprise and what we’re doing. We are hyper focused on making sure they get equal opportunities to become the best lawyers they can be. Progress in this area is slow but we are very committed and I think people feel that.
Last year our associate liaison committee conducted a survey, and solicited a lot of ideas about how the experience of working here could be improved. One suggestion was an opportunity for midlevels to get together and discuss what it takes for them to reach the next level. So we had our first ever midlevel retreat, which lasted two days and was done with the help of a consultant from Harvard. That was something that people found very valuable. I attended part of it and thought the Q&A was great. It’s the kind of thing that builds camaraderie and lets folks know they’re not alone in this. I think we’re going to replicate some of the things we did there for our partners retreat.
CA: What are some key issues affecting the legal market?
JR: Demand for legal services really isn't growing as it has previously – competition is more intense. Clients now pick and choose more, rather than using one firm for everything. We've benefited from that because clients have become more discerning. They're more inclined to target outreach to law firms, whereas years ago they would use one firm for all of their legal work. That’s certainly something that is a trend and is likely to continue.
CA: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
JR: Structurally we operate as one firm. There are no separate profit centers, we don’t track numbers by offices, and practice groups aren’t office-centric. We actually earmark money at the beginning of the year for integration travel so that attorneys can go between offices. In terms of hiring, we want people who are like-minded, who want to work as part of a team and be part of an organization that allows the freedom to work across locations.
When it comes to compensation, we reward teamwork. That's especially important with partners. They set that example and create the opportunities for collaboration. We don’t have a true lockstep system for associate bonuses; we use that as a starting point and vary from that based on factors like hours. We also have a transparent and comprehensive associate evaluation process conducted through the associate evaluation committee, which tries to reward associates with distinctive ratings.
CA: We heard that there have been efforts recently to improve morale – several interviewees spoke about the firm’s decision to include marketing hours in billable targets – can you tell us any more about this?
JR: In our practice we are often competing for business with other firms. Competition requires a lot of work done in advance: presenting credentials to clients and so on. Associates are often called on to help with trying to show that we not only have the relevant experience and expertise, but also ideas about how to reach client objectives. There’s also general information gathering and legal analysis, and it seems only fair that associates should be recognized for their work. We’ve also streamlined our pro bono system. We’ve simplified the process so that all pro bono hours are included as billable-equivalent hours.
CA: How would you describe the ideal Brown Rudnick lawyer?
JR: Because we’re smaller than our competitors, there are opportunities early on to interact with clients and be more visible than is sometimes the case at larger firms. That appeals to someone who wants those kinds of opportunities and has the confidence to seize them.
CA: What can Brown Rudnick offer associates that is unique to the firm?
JR: Clients come to us because we’re known for being able to solve difficult problems. Obviously it’s important to the client but the nature of the work is also interesting and exciting for the lawyers involved. I think someone coming to Brown Rudnick could expect to work on a variety of interesting matters – from antitrust to litigation, to corporate transactions and restructurings. If you’re interested in those kinds of experience it can be very exhilarating.
“I think the firm’s looking for go-getters,” our junior sources told us. “They want someone who’s not going to sit at their desk and wait for work; they want someone who’s going to be proactive and take responsibility because cases are staffed leanly here.” When asked about tips for applying, associates said: “When you’re interviewing it’s important to know the firm very well. If you can talk to someone who works here to get a deeper understanding, that’s definitely worth doing.” Others added: “There are a lot of very qualified individuals around – and firms want people that want them. They’ll often ask: ‘Why Brown Rudnick?’ You should have an answer that goes to the firm’s core principles to show that you have that understanding.”
As with most of BigLaw, the firm looks for academic high-fliers, but a one-way ticket to a place at Brown Rudnick might also rely on the ‘airport test.’ According to associates, “the firm’s looking for capable people, of course, but equally they might ask themselves: if you were stuck in an airport with that person, would you be able to spend two hours with them?”
As mentioned in the Inside View, in an effort to improve diversity the firm has introduced a new interviewing method aimed at reducing implicit bias. But what does this mean for hopeful applicants preparing for interview? “Speaking frankly, our new procedure may make it more difficult to prepare,” says co-hiring partner Jeff Jonas. “Interviewees should be prepared to address their past work and life experience.” The new, competency-based approach “targets people's specific strengths and weakness. It's more interactive, deep and interesting. I think just knowing that’s coming will be helpful in terms of thinking about answering those questions.”
When assessing candidates, Jonas tells us "one of the most important qualities we're looking for is a willingness to go outside your comfort zone. You also need to be willing to speak up and make yourself heard. Because cases are staffed more leanly here, there’s more substantive work for associates. Does that mean there’s a little more pressure? Of course, but that’s what every associate should aspire to, because you end up as a third year with five years' experience. It's a more entrepreneurial experience because we have to pursue work more aggressively.” And, in a refreshing change of tack, he believes “it’s trite to simply say that we have a collegial environment that’s supportive. If I were a young associate I’d want the best work and the best training to be a great lawyer in a firm that’s growing strategically.”
OCI applicants interviewed: 245
Interviewees outside OCI: 48
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 98
Notable summer events (eg dinners, sports/cultural trips): 2017 - summer events included a Thompson Island volunteer day, firm wide and office welcome receptions, Disneyland, Broadway show, Yankees, Red Sox, teambuilding activities, and informal events hosted by associates and partners in each office.
Brown Rudnick LLP
One Financial Center,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 6
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $192,200,000
- Partners (US): 85
- Associates (US): 75
- Main recruitment contacts: Heather L. Cannady (firstname.lastname@example.org), Molly I. Childs (email@example.com)
- Hiring Partner: Jeffrey L. Jonas
- Diversity officers: Sunni Beville, Ari Joesph
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 8
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 10
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Boston: 5, Washington DC: 1.5, New York: 3.5, Orange County CA: 1 (We have one summer splitting between NY and DC)
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,461/week 2Ls: $3,461/week Post 3Ls: $3,461/week
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case
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 offices 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 70 years ago, Brown Rudnick has over 250 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.
• Boston College • Boston University
• Columbia University
• Fordham University School of Law
• Harvard University
• Howard University School of Law
• New York University
• University of California – Irvine
• University of Connecticut
• University of Pennsylvania
• University of Texas
• University of Virginia
Recruitment outside OCIs:
• Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair
• Hispanic National Bar Association
• Lavender Law Career Fair
• Loyola Patent 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 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Environment (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)