Choate Hall & Stewart LLP - The Inside View

Associates at Choate found it hard not to gloat about its singular Boston base and years of expertise across corporate and litigation.

No description of Choate would be complete without first setting the scene in Boston. But let’s rewind a few years, back to the late 19th century when our story starts. As detailed by one insider: “Choate is a very unique, old law firm that has survived since the 1800s in its original form and, with roots that go back to the gilded age, we’re very well known in the area!” The “original form” here refers to the one-office model that has carried Choate through to the modern day, where it still thrives with a single base on the Boston waterfront. But don’t be mistaken by this cozier footprint; the firm sits comfortably in the BigLaw market, and its 200+ attorneys still participate in nationwide and international matters from the comfort of Choate’s Boston home. This balance was especially appealing to our interviewees, one of whom outlined, “what drew me here specifically was the size of the firm. It’s got a small to midsized feel, but with BigLaw-quality work.” 

“There’s no culture of sharp elbows…” 

Choate’s reputation is something our colleagues over at Chambers USA can certainly attest to, awarding the firm a bunch of rankings in Massachusetts. Most notably, the firm is ranked in insurance, healthcare, banking & finance, antitrust, IP, white-collar investigations and general commercial litigation. However, associates were also keen to recognize the firm’s strengths beyond its legal expertise, with many reflecting on positive experiences with the firm from as early as the interview stage. According to one of our sources, “during interviews, they said they allow you to dive in right away and contribute meaningfully,” and we heard that “this has come to fruition!” Meanwhile, another associate reflected on their earlier experiences networking with people at the firm: “It was the culture that stood out. People here are very intellectually curious and genuinely interested in the work and the law. There’s no culture of sharp elbows, but there is a low associate-to-partner ratio which means you get a lot more face time.” 

Career Development 

To kick off their time at the firm, fresh-faced juniors are paired with not one but three mentors: a junior, a senior, and a partner mentor. “You can go to them for different things! You can go to your junior mentor for little questions, or your partner mentor about big-picture things like what sort of matters you want to be involved in,” an associate explained. Moreover, associates get feedback from partners during formal review processes, and members of the professional development team follow up with advice and next steps. According to one insider who’d tried this system, “I’ve found it helpful to have them there to provide insight and help you navigate the feedback.” 

Associates can also seek instant feedback on Feedback Wednesday, a dedicated time to invite someone along to discuss feedback about a previous or current project over coffee, cookies or a smoothie bowl. Sources were positive about this as it means that “at all moments, people know where they stand.” Associates also have access to online teaching tools, webinars and frequent practice group lunches followed by either a training session or a case recap. According to one junior, “we had a mock oral argument with two partners in October, where one of them acted as the judge. We got to have positive and constructive feedback at the end.” Moreover, the recent introduction of a skills tracker has helped associates benchmark themselves and find out which skills they need to build upon. 

“A lot of folks have been here their entire career.” 

When it comes to long term plans, a junior pointed out that “a lot of folks have been here their entire career, so upward mobility does feel attainable.” A forum is held by the managing partners where the path to partnership is openly discussed, so our interviewees generally felt that partnership was “a legitimate opportunity.” 

The Work 

When starting at the firm, junior litigators take a generalist approach while their transactional counterparts typically join a subgroup. Work is typically assigned by assigning partners once associates fill out a weekly form estimating their availability, with additional work and skill development preferences. However, some associates find work through “relationships with partners, and get staffed onto matters directly. You can get work both ways.” 

The firm’s corporate offering is split between private equity, M&A, fund formation, finance restructuring and bankruptcy. Clients come from across the spectrum, such as in retail, healthcare, technology and software. When it comes to financing work, interviewees explained that “we’re mostly on the lender side, but we do some borrower-side financing. We do a diverse set of work representing lenders on the cradle-to-grave of commercial loans.” Meanwhile, on the private equity and M&A side, sources mentioned that there’s a focus on venture capital matters and buy-side transactions, though the work does also extend to the sell side. “It is mostly midmarket transactions,” a junior commented, while another added that the firm has significant scope with “a broad range of M&A deals, all the way from 100 million- to billion-dollar deals!” For juniors, this has meant that “there have been deals where I’ve been given more responsibility with stretch opportunities, and partners make sure to tell me when I’ve done a good job.” 

Over in finance restructuring and bankruptcy, interviewees summarized how “we do a wide array of work, often for insurance companies or big banks who gave out loans to companies that ended up bankrupt, representing them so they can get their loan paid back.” The group also works with smaller clients on matters involving bankruptcy. Corporate juniors across subgroups should be prepared to project manage, work on due diligence, research, draft memos and ancillary documents, communicate with specialists, attend client calls and make notes. Bankruptcy associates, meanwhile, also monitor the docket and draft pleadings for court. A highlight for one insider was “a smaller matter with just me and a partner, where I got a lot of drafting opportunities and feedback. I drafted well over 80 pages so that was definitely a real benefit to me in honing my drafting skills!” 

Corporate clients: BV Investment Partners, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America. Represented Citizens Bank in connection with Yellow Corp's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.  

“Early responsibility is something that Choate prides itself on, so I’ve developed a ton in my first three years here.” 

In litigation, sources outlined, “clients vary across subgroups; they can range from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, to smaller companies and individuals.” Work with individuals typically comes with government enforcement and white-collar matters, but the litigation department also spans IP litigation, trial & appellate, insurance, and labor & employment. Associates who had tried out some IP work relished the variety, explaining how “most juniors work on IP litigation matters, but I’ve also been able to work across the groups. I’ve done some trade secret work, commercial litigation, and government and enforcement investigations.” Understandably, tasks vary depending on the matter and its size, but sources explained that typical junior tasks include doc review, research, project management, and drafting briefs and motions. Newbies can also get involved in client meetings and might help prepare for witness interviews and depositions. A third-year was particularly happy with their hands-on litigation experience, and reflected, “early responsibility is something that Choate prides itself on, so I’ve developed a ton in my first three years here.” 

Litigation clients: Harvard University, Forrester, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Advising Takeda Pharmaceuticals in an ongoing criminal case concerning $2.3 million fraud against the company.  


“Choate takes a lot of pride in its culture. The one-office model is intentional,” an associate praised, adding, “there are glass offices and most people’s doors are open, so you don’t have to knock on a door with a super fast-beating heart to find out if someone is on the phone!” Interviewees explained that this (literal) transparency contributes to the firm’s welcoming and collaborative culture. One source detailed, “a lot of informal mentoring happens here. It’s very common to get a coffee or a drink with someone, and you can talk about life outside of Choate as people are just invested in each other.” 

“The latest cohort went to a Red Sox game and a Drake concert – I was very jealous to hear that!” 

We heard that, while there’s “a good number of social events, there isn’t any pressure to go to them all. There’s an understanding here that people have personal lives outside of the office.” But, if you are up to some socializing, Choate hosts monthly lunches, pizza nights, client events, and general outings around Boston for trips to the dart bar and mini golf. Additionally, as one insider recalled, “we do a lot of great events for the summer program, such as one on a boat on the Boston Harbor. The latest cohort went to a Red Sox game and a Drake concert – I was very jealous to hear that!” But, even on days without such musical entertainment, our sources generally enjoyed going into the office, and the firm expects its associates to go in three times a week. 

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 2,000 target 

The 2,000-hour target includes 150 hours of on-the-job training, pro bono, marketing, recruitment, diversity and wellness hours, the latter of which can include things like webinars or even participating in a 5k run! While some felt that the target is achievable, others mentioned that, with the market slowdown, some associates missed it this time around. However, sources assured us that “it’s definitely doable in other years, especially with the extra 150,” and those who do hit the target are rewarded with a market-level bonus. 

To stay on track, associates advised that “when you do the math, you need to do eight to nine hours a day,” but “those hours aren't set. The work comes in waves and, while it does average out, on a given day you could go over or under.” Another detailed, “on an average day I start around 8 or 9am and work until 6pm or so. Depending on the matter, I might be responding to emails late into the evening, but there are busier and slower weeks.” Though there are later nights and some weekend work, associates noted that it doesn’t happen too often. In fact, sources outlined, “if I’m going to need to work on the weekend, senior associates or partners will tell you in advance and are respectful about it. They also respect work-life balance when you say you have family obligations.”

Pro Bono 

At Choate, there’s no cap on pro bono – so “you can do as much as you want,” according to one junior – and attorneys can credit up to 150 hours spent on such matters. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in, and associates can use an online portal to access them. Regular email blasts make it easy to hop on a matter, and associates can “just shoot the pro bono coordinator an email telling them I want to pick something up.” 

We were told that the firm “has pretty good relationships with organizations in the Boston area,” such as Lawyers Clearinghouse, which works on record expungements and helping people get social security. Insiders also told us about “the Ed Law Project, which helps schoolchildren and families get access to technology and accommodation in school.” While pro bono can sometimes be litigation-heavy, corporate associates also get to flex their skills here thanks to the firm's connections with entrepreneurial clinics such as Center for Women & Enterprise and Social Venture Partners in Boston: “As part of the clinics, we often help create a certification to form a company and then do other basic corporate work for them.” 

Pro bono hours: 

  • For all US attorneys: 8,814
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Sources spoke highly of the firm’s DEI committee – made up of junior and senior members of the firm – and its introduction of a five-year strategic plan to address representation, recruitment, development and culture. Indeed, insiders praised the firm’s representation of women but recognized that, when it comes to representation across the board, “we can always do better.” So, associates praised the firm’s efforts, explaining how it is taking on feedback and offering “quarterly updates on the plan, with office hours for people to come and talk about it.” 

“… a lot of educational events on minimizing bias and increasing awareness.” 

Recently, the firm introduced a monthly program run by external consultants with “a lot of educational events on minimizing bias and increasing awareness.” At the time of research, one insider was looking forward to an upcoming Lunar New Year lunch, and more generally noted how “the firm is holding more DEI events about other cultures, and they’re quite enjoyable.” Associates also reiterated the significance of the recently introduced skills tracker, explaining how it “ensures that opportunities and assignments are being doled out in a fair and equitable way.” 

Strategy & Future 

In the most recent partnership class, the firm promoted attorneys across three of its core practice areas: tax, private equity/M&A and finance & restructuring. The firm also took on a three-partner team in its private equity group. Trade secrets litigation is also set to be a focus for the firm moving forward, as Choate has seen an increase in work in the space, particularly with life sciences and technology companies. More informally, associates felt that the firm will be sticking to its roots by “doubling down on its one-office model. We stand by our ‘under one roof’ slogan so we can offer the best client service possible.” So, our interviewees were optimistic about the future, gushing over the “ton of young and impressive talent at the firm who will continue to push on Choate’s success!” 

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 148 

Interviewees outside OCI: 41 

Choate participates in on-campus interview programs at select top law schools across the country, including Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Michigan, NYU, and the University of Virginia, as well as Boston-based schools including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern, and Suffolk. 

“We also collect resumes from many top schools like Cornell, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Chicago, and University of Connecticut,” Chief of Legal Recruiting and Talent Development Elaine Bortman explains, “and we’re happy to receive write-in applications from students who attend schools where we do not have a formal resume collect.” Choate also participates in the Boston Lawyers Group Diversity Job Fair and the New England Interview Program. 

Top tips for this stage: 

“My advice would be to get to know the firm before the interviews.”a third-year junior associate 


Applicants invited to second-stage interview: undisclosed 

Those who advance beyond the screen interviews are typically invited for a callback interview, during which candidates meet with attorneys ranging from partners to associates. Candidates who schedule their interviews during “Choate Interview Days” also participate in a reception following their interviews where they have the opportunity to network with additional Choate attorneys. In all interviews, Choate's goal is to identify prospective candidates who have qualities that will enable them to be successful at the firm. 

Top tips for this stage: 

“We are looking for people who have intellectual horsepower, drive, demonstrated leadership, and who will embrace a firm dedicated to community.”J.P. Jaillet, hiring partner 

“Let the conversation evolve organically rather than sticking to your resume.”a third-year junior associate 

Summer program 

Offers: undisclosed 

Acceptances: 14 2Ls 

Choate’s ten-week summer program is comprised of between 15 and 20 2L students each year. The summer class also includes a small number of 1Ls hired through two competitive fellowships: Choate’s 1L Diversity Fellowship and a 1L Corporate Experienced Hire Fellowship for students with at least two years of work experience and a commitment to transactional practice. Summer associates have the opportunity to work on a broad range of matters within their designated department. Hiring partner J.P. Jaillet gave us an example of what summers can expect to do: “I gave one summer an assignment on an upcoming trial where I asked them to find some background information about an expert witness that may be helpful for the cross-examination, which is the type of work I would give to a first-year associate. The summer found gold to impeach the witness. I used it at trial with good effect and we won the case. 

Top tips: 

“Take full advantage of everything the firm has to offer. Learn about the work but also spend time getting to know the firm’s culture and begin to develop relationships with the people. Our goal is that by the end of the summer, you go back to school feeling like you know the firm well and are a part of the team.” - Elaine Bortman, Chief of Legal Recruiting and Talent Development 

And finally… 

Associates hinted that the firm is also interested in a candidate’s commitment to building a career doing sophisticated legal work in Boston: “Choate looks for people who want to work at a top national firm that isn’t a mega-firm, and want to do so based in Boston.” 


Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Insurance (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 5)