Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP - The Inside View

Wall Street supremo Cadwalader is New York's oldest law firm.

ONCE upon a time, Cadwalader had a reputation for being a scary place to work. All that's changed, and associates here told us that “if you're working 16-hour days, you know you're around people who are friendly, willing to invest in you and help you grow.” Cadwalader's website has a useful timeline charting its incredibly long history from its founding in 1792 – when George Washington was President – to today. Given its longevity, associates weren't fazed by reports of partner departures or the closure of two offices in China in 2016 (Beijing and Hong Kong) plus a tiny office in Houston: most “aren't worried at all. Some of us started our careers in 2008 when things were shaky, and this feels nothing like that.” In DC, “four antitrust partners left and took a few associates with them”resulting in the cancellation of the DC office's summer program in 2017. The firm said it would instead hire 3Ls to start in DC in fall 2018. In New York and Charlotte, things are normal.

Managing partner Pat Quinn tells us that “we have a very clear strategy for growth that is underpinned by understanding what Cadwalader is as a firm and where we are going in the future. We're the oldest firm in New York – 225 years in 2017! –  and so we naturally have thrived in the finance, funds and securities space, serving financial institutions, big corporations and private funds. We like to say that we are a quintessential Wall Street firm. We want to continue to be leaders in all areas of need for our clients.” Top and highly ranked practices in Chambers USA (especially capital markets, corporate/M&A, and litigation)were big draws for associates we spoke to in New York, while DC sources were attracted by Cadwalader's strong energy, capital markets, and white collar groups, among others here.

The Work

Each team has its own assignment system: some use a professional development manager who dishes out work, while others have a more “informal approach. As you become known, you get more work through relationships.” New York is the firm's largest office, with a rep for capital markets, corporate and M&A expertise. At the time of our calls, 44 of 64 juniors were based in Manhattan. While most occupied the aforementioned bigger groups, there were also associates in global litigation, private client, financial services, restructuring, and tax. DC claimed ten associates, spread between the office's main areas of practice: antitrust, energy, white collar defense & investigations, and capital markets. Charlotte had ten, mostly in capital markets.

It came as no surprise that New Yorkers in capital markets were comfortably busy: “It's Cadwalader's bread and butter work.” Sources were mainly doing commercial backed securities. “Basically we deal with three parties: underwriters, the issuer and the loan sellers. It's a lot of review and amendments of all the separate documents for each deal.” Others were quick to stress that “our group deals with other asset classes too. You can securitize most things: credit cards, student loans and tax. They can all be turned into investment vehicles.”

“You get more work through relationships.”

DC sources were keen to mention that “the antitrust group is still chugging along, but it's a lot more focused toward litigation.” White-collar is now the largest team there. “There are a lot of investigations going on that cover both international components and governmental aspects.” Recent work has included assisting “several individuals from a European bank are being investigated by the US authorities.” Responsibility might take the form of “doing client interviews, taking notes and traveling to Europe to inspect documents that can't leave that jurisdiction. You travel a lot in this group.”

The old commercial, corporate and securities group was re-branded as 'corporate' recently. Corporate works closely with global ligation, “because most of our work comes from corporate clients.” Securities work comes more under the capital markets umbrella.The team still does “securities litigation, M&A shareholder actions and derivative law suits.” While those in DC found that  “it's 50%  doc review,” New Yorkers reported that “I've second-chaired a deposition after only 30 minutes' sleep. It's a lot of research and drafting parts of briefs. I've even attended a hearing.” Other transactional work found newbies in the finance group. “It used to be under corporate but now we've split away and are divided between real estate finance and banking finance.” Charlotte insiders spoke of their time in “syndicated leveraged finance transactions representing international banks and hedge funds.” Typical tasks included the first drafts of credit and securities agreements. “It's the most edifying experience so far.”

Training & Development

First Year Fundamentals “used to be a week long training where everyone goes to New York. But now it's three days of programs, stretching out more training over the coming months.” Instruction covers everything from “how to conduct research, to the firm's databases.” After this, there are monthly departmental updates and CLEs. Each group does things a little differently. Capital markets, for example, covers the basics on mortgage-backed securities. “This is all about how deals are structured and the documents we should be familiar with.” This is also aided by a mentorship program, which sees starters paired with both a partner and junior mentor. Each coupling is given “a quarterly budget of around $225 to get coffees and ask literally the dumbest questions ever.” Others pooled their resources and organized “to go see Beyoncé.” Lucky for some.

First-years have bi-annual reviews, and everyone else gets an annual review. “You list all the attorneys you've worked with and they evaluate you. You go through what they've said with the partner you've worked most with.” Interviewees were happy with this set up and enjoyed the opportunity “to upward review, so we get to comment on the partners.”


Most interviewees could reel off the firm's various diversity initiatives, and acknowledged an effort is being made to improve. One capital markets New Yorker commented that “we're fairly diverse, at least in my department.” Those in DC and Charlotte had a slightly different experience: “While the firm definitely tries to promote diversity, my office is small so I don't think it's that diverse.” MP Pat Quinn explains that “we are committed to creating a firm with diversity from top to bottom, which is why we focus on developing diverse associates into future leaders.” Charlotte newbies told us that “when I first started there were about five women in my group. Now, it's closer to 19, so they're hiring in the right way.”

“You have to give the firm credit for trying.”

Cadwalader's many affinity groups put on different events throughout the year. The accolade for most original event goes to collaborative trial re-enactments. “The last one was hosted by three separate groups and we reenacted famous cases that have specifically impacted our group's history.” Another impressive get-together was a luncheon hosted by the Cadwalader Black and Latino Association, with special guest Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. “It brought the issues surrounding racial tensions in our country right to the table. You have to give the firm credit for trying. The issue is now about retaining diverse associates.”

Pro Bono

A dedicated pro bono manager helps associates engage in different projects, as do affinity groups. “I've worked with the women's group and The Legal Aid Society on New York housing projects, helping a woman get her house back. It was lot of back and forth getting to a settlement offer and then coordinating the signing.” Sources felt that the firm was good at incentivizing participation. “We can bill up to 200 hours which goes toward our bonus.” There's also an internal awards ceremony that recognizes pro bono pioneers.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 8,186
  • Average per US attorney: 24

Hours & Compensation

Some prefer to get into the office early (around 8am) during the week to try to keep weekends (mostly) free. Some had even “worked two back to backs until 4am, but it's rare.” After 8pm “they send you home in a car and they pay for dinner.” Cadwalader's hours requirement was scrapped in January 2014, but it's back. “It's a bit of a bummer, but it's pretty easy to reach.” If associates bill 1,800 hours plus 200 'quality non-billables' they will get the full bonus, and 2,200 hours will bag them 120% of the base amount. “It's to stop people working 2,600 hours and getting paid the same as someone who isn't working as much.”


What of Cadwalader's 'shark tank' reputation in days of yore? “They've made a lot of effort to fix that,” a representative junior told us. “I mean some partners can be intimidating still, but that's because they've had copious years of experience.” Regardless of location, “I genuinely enjoy the people I work with and we all socialize with each other outside of work – which I think is unique compared to other firms.” Washingtonians felt that “it's probably a bit more relaxed here than in New York, because partners don't care what hours you're in or what you're wearing.” However, New York and Charlotte sources said the same, with many citing this as one of the key reasons they chose Cadwalader in the first place. “Out of all the interviews I did, the people were more interested in me as a person.”

“We all socialize with each other outside of work.”


The Big Apple “is where all the big decisions are made.” However, Charlotte and DC “don't feel removed: there's a lot going on here. We're just a little further away – that's all!” All associates in all locations get their own offices, with summers and first-years getting in on the action in DC and Charlotte right from the off. New Yorkers have to wait until their second-year.

In DC, the office is based in Chinatown, “with really great restaurants just a short walk away and a free gym in our building.” In Manhattan, associates joked that “we call the décor 50 shades of beige,”  but it's the views that made sources gaga. “They're fantastic, I can see the Statue of Liberty and we have a huge high powered telescope in the reception so that people can look out.” Taking a closer look inside, you'll discover a quirky gem. Rumor has it that there's a partner who also owns a toy company and has decked a corner of the office in “Disney statues and Game of Thrones figurines. The weird thing is, I've seen the nik-naks, but never the partner!”


Interview with managing partner Pat Quinn

Chambers Associate: What have been the highlights at Cadwalader over the last 12 months?

Pat Quinn: We've had a lot of organic, internal growth and have continued to develop great lawyers. In our most recent round of promotions, we made 10 partners from our ranks – our largest partner class since 1993 –  and elevated 7 more lawyers to special counsel and counsel.

So we are really excited about what we've achieved in this last year. We have continued to find innovative ways to help associate development, and I hope we can continue to do this better and better.

Mentorship is an extremely important element of career development. We know that young professionals who feel that they have good mentors tend to perform better and succeed further. A lot of this mentorship is organic, but we are constantly trying to come up with new ideas. The firm organizes mentor meet-ups for all participants of the mentoring program to get more people together, rather than just relying on mentors and mentees to organize their own one-on-one sessions. We do this because it introduces our young lawyers to more people who could be additional informal mentors since we know it can be hard for some juniors to walk up to people and say, 'Please be my mentor.' We also run what we call ‘career counseling cohorts’ in monthly meetings that are mainly focused on new incoming associates. It's practical and tackles the nuts and bolts of getting your career off to the right start. Programs have included: Understanding Firm Economics, Building Your Bio and Participating in Bar Associations.

There's a robust training program that we've now spread out throughout the first year, rather than expecting associates to digest everything during their first week here. It works better as it's more granular –  for example, we run mini-mock assignments for first-years with more senior lawyers. It's things like how to create a closing check-list for a transaction. We do this before associates are expected to do it for real, and we provide feedback in a safe environment. We are spending a great deal of time investing in our junior attorneys. This year we invited junior and midlevel women to participate in our first Business Development Bootcamp. The Bootcamp was a five-part module series taught by senior women attorneys and partners and focused on general business development, networking and how to pitch effectively with a team. The series ended with the formation of teams that were responsible for preparing a mock pitch to a client. The program was a wonderful success and we plan to do it again in the near future.

In terms of firm and practice highlights, there are many. For example, we've had real success in servicing clients in the FinTech marketplace, which is a leading new trend in the finance industry. We helped with the first loan securitization in the online market, which was incredibly important. We think that this space will have a tremendous future ahead of it, and so we are keen to invest our expertise in it too. In another practice area, Litigation, one of our most visible assignments has been representing the 32 National Football League clubs in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s investigation of the clubs’ compliance with the Controlled Substances Act. In the past two years we have also established a market-leading practice in the activism space, advising leading activists in their investments and corporations being targeted by activists – we play offense and defense in this space.

CA: What is your long term vision for the firm?

PQ: We have a very clear strategy for growth that is underpinned by understanding what Cadwalader is as a firm and where we are going in the future. We're the oldest firm in New York – 225 years in 2017! – and so we naturally have thrived in the finance, funds and securities space, serving financial institutions, big corporations and private funds. We like to say that we are a quintessential Wall Street firm. We want to continue to be leaders in all areas of need for our clients which include M&A, securities litigation and funds. Funds, in particular, have been a growth area, because there's so many different streams of work. For example, we deal with activist funds, debt funds and distressed investment funds. We also provide a lot of regulatory advice for funds. Funds are an incredibly important growth area that we hope to continue to lead in. We've focused on those kinds of practices to better serve those categories of clients.

Outside of New York, we have offices in Charlotte, which strongly supports the banking industry there, and in Washington, DC, which is the center for much of our regulatory and litigation work as well as the home of a substantial segment of our capital markets team.

We don't have any plans to expand further internationally in the immediate future. We are client driven, so if they need us to go there then we will. Having said that, our global capital offering in London has grown dramatically –  we now have close to 60 lawyers there. So we will continue to grow where we are strong.

CA: Finally, what advice would you give to our readers who are looking to join the firm?

PQ: We look for are people who are high performers. We focus on recruiting what we call professionally mature candidates – people with work or other unique experiences. Leadership characteristics are a big priority for us because we feel that with that perspective you are more likely to be able to hit the ground running to be more successful. My tip for readers would be that, regardless of what firm you go to, come in with a great attitude, wanting to learn as much as you can in any way you can, you cannot be intimidated to ask to get involved with work. You need to have the confidence to say to yourself, 'I can do this.' As partners and other senior lawyers in the firm, our doors are always open, but you have to roll up your sleeves, ask questions and approach new assignments with positivity.

We are committed to creating a firm with diversity from top to bottom, which is why we focus on developing diverse associates into future leaders. We have two programs in place that we are really proud of. First, we have a sponsorship program that matches high-performing diverse senior associates with senior leaders at the firm, who become more than mentors but instead actively sponsor the career progression of the associate. They help find career opportunities for their proteges and promote their accomplishments within the firm. This has really helped us to retain and promote more diverse attorneys. Second, we are also really proud of our affinity groups that support our diverse junior associates. Along with social and support functions, as well as important pro bono initiatives, the groups are all tasked with promoting business development to connect with clients and potential future candidates. The idea is to continue to develop diverse leaders for the firm's future. We don't know if these efforts will ever be complete, but we know we won't feel like we've been a success until we can look up at the firm and see real diversity in all levels of our organization.

Cadwalader's pro bono work: Malala Yousafzai

On October 9th 2012, a member of the Taliban boarded Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai's school bus and shot her in the head, in retaliation for her public campaigning for girls' rights to schooling. She was transferred to a specialist hospital in Birmingham, England, where Cadwalader began doing pro bono work for her. Recently, Malala became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, for her global advocacy of girls' education. She has since been the subject of the Oscar short-listed documentary He Named Me Malala and has received a conditional offer to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University in the UK.

In the early days of Malala's recovery, Cadwalader helped set up The Malala Fund as donations began pouring in from across the world. Initially, this fell under the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's not-for-profit Vital Voices, but in 2013 it detached into the New Venture Fund. Now, it distributes grants to groups supporting girls' education across the world, in places like Pakistan, Kenya and Nigeria. “We established this organization, putting in place things like tax exemptions and organizational structures,” relates managing partner Pat Quinn. “We congratulate Malala and feel honored that our pro bono efforts, in any way, could have helped the fund get started.” The firm also did some limited IP work for her, though details on this are confidential.

More on getting hired

What does Cadwalader want from candidates? We asked both our junior sources and managing partner Pat Quinn to give us some more information on how to navigate the hiring process. “Pick a firm where you can see yourself staying and fitting in, because that is so important,” advised associates. This was echoed by all we spoke to. “Law school resumes look the same. We're looking for a personality fit more than anything else. Be honest about who you are in the interview, because you might not fit in here and be miserable.” Others simplified it further, “my concern is that at 2am when we're still working, will I want to hang out with you. There's a really great culture here which we want you to be part of.” Pat Quinn tells us that “leadership characteristics are a big priority for us because we feel that with that perspective you are more likely to be able to hit the ground running to be more successful.”

Beyond that our sources said that “you should reach out to someone who goes here and who used to go to your school and ask them what interviewers look for.” More still, extolled of the benefits of “doing your research. Look at our website for sure so that you can have an answer when we ask you what interests you about the firm. The best candidates bring this up naturally and it makes them look more professional.” Finally, interviewees warned candidates against having a one-track mind. “Even if you have your heart set on one specific practice group, make sure you explore all options because you never know what the future might bring.”

More on Culture

Capital markets newbies told us that “we have quarterly cocktail parties with fancy hors d'oeuvre and monthly wine tastings.” As for holidays, “we have a sort of Thanksgiving feast, which everyone comes to.” Summer programs usually end with a big shindig, like a “casino night.” The lawyer departures in DC “affected the environment because some teams are smaller now.” But associates here thought the firm had done “a pretty good job keeping us in the loop. Pat Quinn came down to get us all up to date.” Associates everywhere were also keen to stress that “the people make it worthwhile. We've become great friends, which gets you through uncertain times.”


Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

200 Liberty Street,
New York,
NY 10281

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 3
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $452,000,000
  • Partners (US): 71
  • Associates (US): 172
  • Other attorneys: 79
  • Summer Salary 2017  
  • 1Ls: $3,462/week
  • 2Ls: $3,462/week
  • Post 3Ls: $3,462/week
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case
  • Summers 2017: 24 (23 2Ls, 1 1Ls)
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 43 offers, 32 acceptances

Main areas of work
The firm offers legal representation in antitrust, banking, business fraud, capital markets, corporate finance, corporate governance, energy, executive compensation, financial restructuring, healthcare, intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, private wealth, real estate, regulation, securitization, structured finance and tax.

Firm profile
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, established in 1792, is a leading legal advisor to many of the world’s top financial institutions and corporations, with offices in New York, London, Charlotte, Washington and Brussels. Our lawyers provide counsel on sophisticated and complex transactional, litigation, and regulatory matters to help our clients break new ground, achieve their business goals, and overcome challenges.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 44
• Number of 2nd year associates: 27
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Case by case

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
American, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, Cardozo, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell NYC Job Fair, Duke, Emory NYC Job Fair, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, University of Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, University of Virginia, Wash U and Yale

Summer details
Summer associate profile:

Cadwalader is a community of talented and driven individuals committed to innovation and premier client service. We seek candidates with a record of academic and personal achievement, who exhibit excellent communication skills and professionalism, and who are analytical and creative thinkers.

Summer program components:
Summer program components: Under the supervision of experienced attorneys, summer associates have an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to ongoing projects. You will work on diverse and challenging assignments in several of our areas, depending on your interests, participate in substantive and skills building sessions and take on pro bono work. Our goal is to expose you to the various aspects of the practice of law: meeting with clients; participating in strategy and negotiation sessions; conducting research; drafting memos, documents and pleadings; and attending closings, depositions and court appearances. Associate and partner mentors will work closely with you throughout the summer. In addition to getting feedback on individual projects by supervising lawyers, you will also participate in mid-summer and end-of-summer formal evaluations.