Associates in Curtis's small intake are likely to meet “a barrage of international experience.”
EVERY relationship has its blips, everyone has the occasional spat, sovereign nations and international corporations included. And when the fists do start flying, this 187-year-old New Yorker is often called on to wipe away the costly tears. Curtis specializes in international arbitration – a slightly more discreet approach to dispute resolution – but what makes it so qualified internationally? Despite being on the smaller side in the US, Curtis has a disproportionately international footprint. Fourteen offices are situated abroad, from perches in commercial centers like Dubai, to far-flung outposts in locations like Kazakhstan.
The firm's cross-border focus is further emphasized by its international workforce, and the breadth of rankings Chambers USA lavishes upon it. Curtis snags recognition for its dispute resolution work in Oman and Africa, corporate and commercial work in the UAE, M&A in Italy, plus, of course, international arbitration in the USA.
However, those desiring a prized spot in international arbitration should note: "It's rare that they have summer associates and it's not something just anyone can get into right off the bat." Most associates head into either the corporate/international or litigation groups, while restructuring takes a few, leaving only a few rare spots within the international arbitration team. That's not to diminish the international opportunities in other practices, however. There's a small international trade team, and one corporate insider found "an international aspecttouching every deal in some way; for example, helping American clientssell investments in their company to foreigninvestors."
Both corporate and litigation have an assigning partner "who keeps track of everythingso that nobody is getting hit with work from all sides. Personally I think its good; without this system I can foresee peoplegettingoverworked. Lawyers don't like to say no." Corporate associates however, found they could still "go door-to-door and ask for specific work, so really there is a bit of a free-market system."
While the litigation group takes on some international work, a large amount of its caseload is domestic. On offer is “a bit of everything,” including antitrust, bankruptcy and commercial litigation, with some arbitration added in for good measure. Our sources highlighted an increase in “cybersecurity-related cases, given the greater prevalence of data breaches." Their days were filled with "a fair bit of document review, research, writing of memos, plus work on sections of briefs. That got me fired up: getting to see your work appear in a final draft of something is one of the highlights."
Those who join corporate can be involved in M&A, private equity, securities offerings, corporate governance and regulatory issues. And therefore, a typical day starts "witha bunch of emails to answer, followed bylegal research, drafting– maybe a section of a share purchase agreement –andsometimes due diligence. I also get to be on high-level conference calls, with the FCC for example, althoughI'm only taking notes.” Others could be less passive: “I'm not leading the client meetings, but I'll speak to provide perspective on certain issues.” As with many corporate departments, “you can be very, very busy for an extended period of time. At a bigger firm there might be more support available across the transaction, but I've gained great experience each time it has been that busy. I guess that's the double-edged sword of being at a smaller firm.”
Training & Development
Formal feedback on associates' performance is provided once a year by a single reviewer who gathers information from senior lawyers the junior has worked with. A year is a long time to wait for feedback, and some judged these formal reviews “not particularly informative,” so we were pleased to hear that “day-to-day feedback comes from the more senior associates you are working with.” However, this informal feedback varied from partner to partner. "A lot of the time you have to divine criticism from their revisions,” said one associate, but others reported: “I'vebeen sat down and gone through memosline by line, having where I could improve highlighted.” Associates were also sat with older colleagues – “without thatI would have been a deer in the headlights." Ultimately, “the culture is one where you feel able to ask whether you did a good job or not."
An introductory training program covers "the computer system, legal research and writing, and basic deal functions.” From there litigators receive “monthly breakfast presentations on areas of law we should be more familiar with." One-off CLEs are also provided for all teams, "on accountancy, or LexisNexis might cover research methods." Corporate also had a lunch seminar touching on “the art of the deal,” though we're (almost) certain it had nothing to do with Trump's book.
“Curtis redeveloped their pro bono committee in the last year. It's been strengthened and streamlined so we now have nonprofits come in every week to talk about their cases." As a sign of the times, many sources had been involved in representing those in immigration detention, but work is also available through a partnership with Her Justice (who offer services to underprivileged women in NY). Associates could alsocome up with their own ideas – “some people have done trademark and copyright disputes” – or reach out to partners involved in less common cases. So, the opportunities are there, and all pro bono hours count toward the billable total, but are people participating? One source judged that "most, if not all, associates havedone a case at some point.” Others were more cautious: “There's a mix of attitudes, but we lean toward being engaged in it. The reasons for that range from being able to really help people in need, to getting time with clients and in front of a judge.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 5,750
- Average per US attorney: 38
Although most sources feltthat "Curtis has a strong inclination toward diversity," associates were not convinced the firm was doing a successful job of promoting it. Sources spoke of recent training on implicit bias, which the whole firm had to attend – a fairly impressive move – but beyond this, insiders were "not aware of any specific efforts to improve diversity." Not so impressive. One associate reported: "There isn't a huge amount of diversity in litigation, white people are the majority. There aren't any African American associates." On the flipside, sources noted that the corporate group had a relatively high number of Latino and Asian American attorneys. "We have so much work from Latin America and Central Asia you get people from all over the world. Most lawyers here speak at least two languages and the number of Spanish speakers is huge."
Culture & Offices
Curtis has offices in New York, DC and Texas, though New York housed all but two associates. “It's a little antiquated. It's in a famous old building at 101 Park Avenue, very close to Grand Central, which makes it easy to commute to – plus there are a lot of good lunch spots." Curtis claims three and a half floors in total, so associates typically share offices until their third or fourth year.Not that sources minded much: "I like that you get somebody who you can share all the idiosyncrasies of the workplace with."
Owing to its relatively small size, sources appreciated the possibility of knowing large portions of the firm. “You aren't just another face in the crowd.” Associates are however, just another suit among… lots of suits. “Curtis is a very traditional environment. Our casual Fridays only involve not wearing a tie." Beyond being “cordial,” descriptions of the culture came back to two adjectives: international and traditional, and a more traditional interpretation of junior-senior hierarchy by a few cropped up. “The majority ofpartners are great towork with, butI'd describe others as shouty. You have to remind yourself that they do it because they care about the cases and are excited. It's not necessarilythatyou did something terribly wrong." Conversely, teams were typically described as “close-knit,” and tension was released in more positive ways: “We had pizza parties when we were staying up late to file something and we'd have a bottle of champagne when we sent away the documents.”
Curtis likes its social occasions jolly and 60 minutes long. "There are happy hourswhen a crop of associates join the firm, when a partner leaves, when we have charitableevents and when associates informallyget togetheroutsidethe office." Some are associate-only: "It's nice to have a break from the partners, get together, share what everyone's working on and not worry." And uniquely "litigation has a tradition of surprise birthday parties, though it's not that much of a surprise anymore!"
Hours & Compensation
Associates typically started around 9:30am, departing between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. Busy times delivered weekend work, and "3am finishes, but it's extremely rare. A late night is typically 10-11pm and those happen a few times a month." Expectations seemed clear for associates, who noticed that “everyone comes in five days a week – there'snot a lot of working from home." Nevertheless, we heard that “as long asyou get your work done, I've never had a problem telling a partner I'm going skiing this weekend and need to leave at noon on Friday."
When it comes to bonuses "everyone tries to hit the 2,000 billable hour requirement. In litigation it's generally not a problem but in corporate it's a bit harder." One corporate source felt that "hitting it really depends on how well the firm is doing," though both pro bono and business development hours can count toward it. Sources also spoke about how compensation "starts at the market rate for thefirst four years and then drops off. It'ssomething that you have to accept – Curtis isn't one of the largestfirms in the top 200.”
Strategy & Future
Managing partner Joe Pizzurro is bullish: “We punch above our weight in many of our practices and are well known. Most of the firms on the other side of the table are multiple times our size.” A sweeping provision of services isn't the be-all and end-all. “The firm will continue to play to its strengths. Those strengths I would classify as being in the contentious area domestically, as well as international arbitration.”
According to hiring partners Carl Ruggiero and Valarie Hing, Curtis' recruiting efforts focus on law schools at the top end. "I think we went last year to 16 schools including Stanford, Yale, Harvard of course, Boston College, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Georgetown, NYU, UVA, and Vanderbilt. We also recruit at a couple of nonnational local New York law schools like St. Johns and Fordham. We cast a very wide net and we are really only looking for 10–15 summers.”
Once in the interview room, Hing notes "we are trying to get a sense of who the well-rounded students are. We assume they are academically talented but we look at what they have done and whether that shows that they like to rise to challenges, embrace different cultures and work with different kinds of people." Importantly, this means that, as Ruggiero says, “there aren't cut-offs such as having X number of A-grades, and people don't have to be on the law review.” Hing adds that "we are looking for people to demonstrate that they can think outside the box, hold their own and think on their feet."
Those who are able to snag a place on the summer associate program will be assigned to a particular department, and Hing advises that "the key thing is really demonstrating enthusiasm, so comment and let us know when things don't make sense – don't assume that the senior person has picked up an inconsistency or discrepancy you may have noticed. Even at your level you can add value."
OCI applicants interviewed: 314
Interviewees outside OCI: 1
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 121
Notable summer events: Mets game, Broadway show, Mini Olympics, JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, Shuffleboard
Curtis' international arbitration work
As much as lawyers can get a kick out of representing famous (or infamous) individuals, as much as it thrills to represent the interests of a multi-billion dollar corporation, it can't be argued that representing entire sovereign states comes with a certain je ne sais quoi. Curtis is a hotbed of this sort of work, being extremely well regarded for its nouse in representing sovereign states and state entities in investor-state arbitrations.
The team operates out of 18 offices worldwide and the practice handles disputes under the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (part of the World Bank), the International Chamber of Commerce, the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the American Arbitration Association. Its long list of recent clients include India, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Albania, Uganda, Cyprus as well as both the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Petroleos de Venezuela.
The relationship with Venezuela is a strong one. The firm has been credited with aiding the country, under Hugo Chavez, to reap the benefits of its natural resources, pushing the country forward pre-2008. Much of the work concerned taking back control of Venezuela's oil production through re-nationalization. The firm has a history of this sort of work, (much of which is owed to George Kahale III, the firm's chairman), wresting control from large multinational companies, with work for Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libya being another notable example.
The firm's also done a lot of work in central Asia, another resource rich area. In Kazakhstan the work originated around contracts regarding the Kashagan oil field. After planned production of the oil, controlled by a number of multi-nationals, was delayed, the Kazakh government brought Curtis in to represent its interests. As a result of this work in the region, the firm, rather uniquely, has offices in both Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan and Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.
Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP
101 Park Avenue,
- Head office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 14
- Worldwide revenue: $155,000,000
- Partners (US): 52
- Associates (US): 74
- Main recruitment contact: Krystal Reese (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Carl Ruggiero
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 6
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 2Ls: 10
- Summer salary 2018: 2Ls: $180,000
- Split summers offered: No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
UChicago, Columbia, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, NYU, St. John’s, and UPenn
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Targeted search, resume collects, write-ins, and hiring from judicial clerkships
Summer associate profile:
The Curtis Summer Program is small and highly selective. Curtis chooses approximately 5-10 second-year law students to participate in our program. The summer program, which lasts 10 weeks, starts in late May and ends in July. Grades and scores are not the only criteria for selection. Curtis looks for students who are confident, independent thinkers.
Summer program components:
The summer program is designed to give students a realistic view of the practice of law while also teaching them real-world lawyering skills in a hands-on environment. Our summer associates quickly become assimilated as each summer associate is matched to a partner mentor and an associate advisor. Summer associates receive assignments through our dedicated team of assigning associates. Throughout the summer, summer associates join our lawyers in meetings, closings, depositions and court proceedings. Formal trainings includes lectures, workshops, panel discussions and lunchtime programs on relevant topics.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded Recognised Practitioner
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- International Arbitration (Band 3)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)