With fresh leadership and fields of expertise, this British-born institution is fertile ground for new lawyers and laterals alike.
It's been a zinger of a year for lateral recruitment in the legal industry, with many attorneys recognizing that (for the time being anyway) they're living in a candidate's market. And in the last year, Freshfields was the destination of choice for senior lawyers from several top law firms, including Cravath, Wilson Sonisni and Latham & Watkins. These additions followed the 2020 opening of the firm's Silicon Valley office, which Freshfields established with a team of lateral hires from firms including Davis Polk and Sidley Austin.
These are clear indicators that the firm is committed to growth in the US, but as an elite member of the UK's magic circle, it's fair to say that Freshfields has global proportions and packs a bigger punch on the world stage. The firm achieves no fewer than 50 tip-top rankings from Chambers Global in 17 jurisdictions, and gets worldwide praise for its corporate/M&A, dispute resolution, tax, and antitrust expertise. It's also recognized as a global market leader in international arbitration and public international law.
“I liked the idea of a global firm at a local office.”
All together, the firm has 28 offices juniors are hired in all three of the US bases: New York, DCandSilicon Valley.This suited one particular source who “liked the idea of a global firm at a local office.”Chambers USArecognizes the Freshfields corporate crime & investigations and international arbitration groups as cream of the crop nationwide. The firm’s corporate/M&A and white-collar litigation expertise is a breath of fresh air in New York, while the antitrust group stands out in DC’s fields.
Strategy & Future
A year on from the opening of the Silicon Valley office, Freshfields is continuing to fortify its status as a player in the tech and life sciences sectors. There was also a buzz among our associate sources about the growing antitrust litigation practice. “It’s an exciting time to be a litigator at Freshfields,” shared a junior. US managing partner Sarah Solum explains that the firm is drawing on its long-standing expertise as a global contender to spearhead its growth: “Despite being large, we are nimble. Freshfields is over 275 years old; historically, we have a culture of always adapting to what our clients and people currently need.”
Solum elaborates that the firm is looking to the next generation of lawyers for input: “We aspire to be the best in the world and make Freshfields a firm where associates can develop their careers.”And part of being the best includes making conscientious efforts to go green: our survey stats found that, compared to the market, associates felt Freshfields’ efforts to address climate change were meaningful. The firm has goals in places such as phasing out single-use plastics in all offices by the end of 2022, and having all offices powered by 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Most juniors (around 35) joined the New York office, while just under a dozen join in DC. Around half of juniors found their homes in the firm’s wider litigation group, while corporate teams such as M&A, capital markets, finance, and restructuring & insolvency took the other half. The firm’s 2021 intake was roughly split between lateral hires and summers; those that summered at Freshfields explained that they were able to rotate through different practice areas to get a feel for what best suited them, although some came to the firm with a focus already in mind. Within the practice groups, work allocation was mainly done by practice resource attorneys who kept track of associates’ capacities and interests, but a few sources felt comfortable taking initiative by “reaching out to partners after a deal if the work was enjoyable.”
“... acting for investors against states, mainly based in Latin America.”
Freshfields’ international arbitration group enjoys a stellar reputation in the US, confirmed by this associate who had their eyes on the prize: “I knew I wanted to join this particular team. Freshfields was the only firm for me.” The team generally works on commercial arbitration cases, which covers a variety of industries ranging from minerals and energy to communications and entertainment. There is also a focus on investment arbitration cases, usually “acting for investors against states, mainly based in Latin America.” Our junior sources described getting stuck into various energy transmission, construction, and maritime matters. Day to day, juniors often worked on post-hearing work like “post-first decision questions from the arbitration tribunal – presenting proposals and responses.”
International arbitration clients:The Republic of Guatemala, South32, and Latin American Regional Aviation. Representing mining company Eco Oro Minerals on an $850 million arbitration claim regarding a gold-mining project against Colombia.
Juniors in the litigationgroup dabble in a wide variety of matters. “It does sometimes feel like I’m an all-purpose associate,” said a source. We heard the team work on various disputes involving white-collar investigations, data breaches, and security issues. There are also more traditional civil litigation matters which almost always have an international component. Juniors can help out with anything ranging from traditional legal research for brief drafting to research memorandums for clients. “The level of responsibility depends so much on the matter and the partner,” explained one junior. “On some matters, it’s the ideal apprenticeship model – I help out where I can and observe mid- to senior-level associates. There’s a clear division of labor that makes sense with my level of experience.”Occasionally, juniors felt they were “expected to take on responsibility above our level,” but the atmosphere on the team meant they also felt “comfortable reaching out to associates for support.”
Litigation clients: VTB Bank, Marriott International, and ATON Capital Group. Represents the Special Litigation Committee of Sinclair over allegations that Sinclair misled the FCC in connection with its failed $6 billion merger with Tribune Media.
“The diversity of the work attracted me to the firm.”
The antitrustteam regularly works on matters that come out of the firm’s European offices as well as US-related antitrust work, including transactional advisory work and antitrust litigation. Our sources also mentioned some criminal and cartel work: “The diversity of the work attracted me to the firm, and it’s exactly as I hoped it would be.”Juniors are involved in a bunch of legal research, motion briefings for court, and filings. There’s never a dull moment as “there are often two or three cases running at the same time.”This required antitrust juniors to roll their sleeves up and dive right in: “A lot of the work is above my level, which is nice as I’m not just stuck doing doc reviews. It’s all hands on deck all of the time!” Another added that they were “enjoying the exposure.”
Antitrust clients:Facebook, eBay, and Google. Advised London Stock Exchange on the antitrust aspects of its $27 billion acquisition of Refinitiv, a financial market data and infrastructure provider.
The firm’s M&A group works on matters ranging from tech to healthcare, as well as deals involving private equity clients. On occasion, juniors also get the opportunity to help with diligence work in one-off transactions in international offices. We heard that there wasn’t really a typical daily to-do list. “As an M&A associate, you’re the quarterback of the deal. You’re required to be in touch with the data room, update senior personnel, and align with the specialist teams,”said a well-connected source. “I like to think of us as the nucleus!”
Corporate/M&A clients:AstraZeneca, Cazoo, and Western Union. Advised AstraZeneca on its $39 billion acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals.
Our associate sources noticed that the firm is continuing its trend of lateral hiring: “Everyone is aware that not many partners at the firm are homegrown. It’s not ideal, but there is a desire to change this.”To aid in this, associates felt that more could be done to discuss career paths and promotions with juniors, but sources also admitted that the increasing implementation of mentorship programs was a step in the right direction. “It’s not that there isn’t any opportunity for career development, it’s more so that the layout is not clear,” concluded one source.
Whether or not juniors intended to stay at the firm, our survey stats still found that an overwhelming number of Freshfields’ juniors felt that partners were nurturing them to be future leaders. “I’ve spent hours going over specific feedback with partners. You get a lot of one-to-one interaction.”
“We’re conscientious attorneys doing rigorous work, but always with a helpful cushion of politeness.”
The firm may have its sights set on expanding its US presence, but at its core, the magic circle giant retains its British roots. “We’re British in the best way possible,” shared a New York associate. “We’re conscientious attorneys doing rigorous work, but always with a helpful cushion of politeness.”How charming. Not all associates have international backgrounds, but we heard commitment to and interest in international work was a must.
Although the pandemic may have hindered social interaction, this bunch still felt at ease among one another: “I don’t feel like it’s competitive or that there’s a need to show off by taking on more work than you can handle. Everyone’s transparent and looks out for one another.”As restrictions begin to lift, we heard that associates were keen to restart happy hours. At the time of our research, there was no requirement for associates to be back in the office. We heard that the firm aimed to have employees return to the office 60% of the time as of April.
“The firm incentivizes working on pro bono matters, and you’re given the time to do it.”We heard that the firm encouraged associates to do at least 100 hours annually, but there’s no limit – all pro bono hours count as billables, and better yet, we heard your efforts are rewarded with a personalized mug!
Juniors got stuck into pro bono opportunities in partnership with nonprofits, which commonly involved representing incarcerated persons: “It’s meaningful work and it’s an opportunity for you to sort of be in charge of a case.”Associates over in the antitrust group described getting involved with advising NGOs on environmental sustainability concerns, while New York sources mentioned doing pro bono work for artists and creatives.
Pro bono hours
- For all offices: 21,846
- Average per attorney: 73
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours:no requirement
Juniors appreciated the transparency of lockstep salaries and bonuses at Freshfields, and did not feel that the grass was greener on the other side: “I’ve heard about other firms giving out eye-popping bonuses, but looking at the overall picture, I can’t really complain.”Our survey stats found that, compared to the market average, Freshfields’ juniors were happy with their hours and workload, had a good work/life balance, and were able to take vacation on their own terms. Sources noticed a “positive shift” toward the prioritization of personal needs, which was greatly appreciated: “People are learning to respect when you have no capacity, even if the reason is having a life outside law!”Our sources shared that vacations were also well respected with “everyone pitching in to help cover the work.”
Of course, this is still BigLaw after all, and folks will be expected to get the work done. A few of our sources mentioned 70 to 80 hour weeks here and there but were quick to add that when those weeks come around “it’s not 15 hours of diligence a day, it’s actually interesting stuff!”
"It’s awesome that senior associates are able to have children and feel supported in their careers.”
Diversity & Inclusion
According to our interviewees, at the time of research the firm had recently promoted multiple female partners. This was echoed in our data analysis which found that Freshfields was a top contender in terms of the percentage of female partners at the firm. “It’s very exciting to see how many really great female partners and senior associates there are at Freshfields,” according to a source. “It’s awesome that senior associates are able to have children and feel supported in their careers.”
The percentage of both partners and associates who identified as ethnically diverse was also above the market. Our survey stats showed that an overwhelming majority of juniors felt positive about the firm’s efforts towards recruiting diverse associates. For instance, the firm partners with the National Black Law Student Association and the National LGBT Bar Association to help improve diverse recruitment.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 932
Freshfields annually visits all of the T14 law schools plus Albany, Fordham, Georgetown and McGill in Canada. A mix of partners and counsel speak to between 20 and 80 students at each.
Empathy with clients, commercial awareness, and being able to fit into a team are also essential attributes in a candidate, along with the academic criteria typical to BigLaw.
Top tips for this stage:
“A common thread amongst us is that we’re all uninterested in doing something standard or run of the mill. I wanted to do something different, something interesting. I thought that this was going to be an avenue to achieve that and get unique work opportunities that I wouldn’t have elsewhere.” – a second-year junior associate
“The firm likes the prestige of certain law schools – the top 14. There are differing views across partners, but those big schools are going give an advantage over other applicants.” – a second-year junior associate
Candidates meet a handful of partners, counsels and associates. Social events are also weaved into the process. No surprises and the people are really nice.
A ten-week summer at Freshfields includes various formal training sessions, mentoring, pro bono opportunities, and cultural and social events. Most important, of course, is the legal work itself – assigned through the firm’s work allocation team to ensure that summers get a range of experience.
The 2022 summer program will take on 48 2L summer associates across the New York, DC, and Silicon Valley offices.
Top tips for this stage:
“What got me into Freshfields over other British firms is the people. There’s a real effort to find the people who really want to be here, specifically. We’re not a firm or office that have 150 summers and take 30. The effect is you have a bunch of people working towards common goal, which I really enjoy.” – a second-year junior associate
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
601 Lexington Avenue,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 25
- Worldwide revenue: $1.59 billion
- Partners (US): 61
- Associates (US): 249 (Includes associates, counsel, staff attorneys, contract attorneys, referendar, trainees, and secondees)
- Main recruitment contact: Noreen Gallagher, Head of Recruitment - US
- Hiring partner: Andrea Basham
- Sr. Manager, Diversity and Inclusion - US: Kelly Fullwood
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 48
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 48, SEO: 1
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: 1Ls: (NY–6, DC–2, SV–6), 2Ls: (NY–35, DC–11, SV–2) and 1 SEO in NY
- Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $4,134.61/week 2Ls: $4,134.61/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
Freshfields’ US offices concentrate on corporate and finance transactions, restructuring and insolvency, antitrust, tax, litigation and international arbitration.
Freshfields has over 300 lawyers in the US, including 61 partners, with offices in New York, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. The US lawyers collaborate with their colleagues in 25 offices around the world. Our US lawyers are internationally recognized as leaders in their respective fields.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
BC/BU Job Fair, Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Mason (ACT), Georgetown, GW, Harvard, Howard, Lavender Law, McGill, Michigan, NEBLSA Fair, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Stanford, University of Texas, UC Hastings, UCLA, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt Job Fair, Yale
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Students who do not attend one of the law schools at which we conduct on campus interviews are welcome to submit their materials for consideration.
Summer associate profile:
Freshfields recruits lawyers with many different talents and values individuality. The firm’s ability to offer diverse skills locally and across international borders ensures clients have the very best advice possible. Freshfields operates a summer program for US law students in its New York, Washington, DC, Silicon Valley, Hong Kong, and London offices.
Summer program components:
Freshfields’ summer program provides summer associates with exposure to several practice areas. Summer associates get substantive work supported by both formal and informal mentors. All US summer associates have the opportunity to visit one of Freshfields overseas offices during the summer program.
Recruitment website: freshfields.com/en-us/careers/united-states/united-states-careers/
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight
- International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 1)
- International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 4)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)