Frankly, you'd be a fool to overlook this firm if big-ticket funds and real estate work are your thing.
“IF you’re interested in real estate, there’s not a better place in the city to work,” one of our interviewees beamed. Fried Frank is top-ranked in New York by Chambers USA for real estate dirt work and is recognized for corporate real estate work too, as well as being listed as one of the top ten firms nationwide for real estate work.
While the firm's real estate reputation precedes it, it also works in many other practices and real estate isn't even the biggest practice – more juniors join both the corporate and litigation practices each year. In fact, Fried Frank is ranked in Chambers USA's 'elite' category for its corporate work both in New York and nationwide and also recognized for private equity, investment funds, and banking & finance work nationally, plus commercial and white-collar litigation in New York (among other areas). Firm chair David Greenwald asserts: "Fried Frank's real estate department is the top in its field. That being said, the ability to work on high-profile matters is not exclusive to our real estate department. This year, we expanded our litigation capabilities in a number of sectors, including securities litigation, securities enforcement and regulation, white-collar defense, regulatory enforcement & investigations, and cybersecurity."
The vast majority of juniors are in New York, with a handful in DC. Judging by the spread of second and third-years, just over half join the corporate practice, while litigation and real estate scoop up a large chunk of the remainder. (Others join tax, restructuring & insolvency, and executive compensation.) All departments have an assignment coordinator to hand out the work. While most associates had a consistent workflow, interviewees in some corporate subgroups found that “it’s really uneven. Some people are slammed with a bunch of deals and others are totally dead.”
“Due diligence, maintaining checklists, compiling documents and putting in comments.”
Advising on the activities of hedge and private equity funds certainly keeps lawyers on their toes. For Fried Frank's asset management whizzes, it's the variety and ever-evolving nature of the practice that leads them to recommend becoming a lawyer in the area. Read more >>
Corporate is split into seven subgroups: asset management; capital markets & corporate governance; corporate real estate; finance; M&A & private equity; environmental; and IP transactions. Previously associates used to rotate before settling into a subgroup, but they are now placed in a specific group when they start. There is still the opportunity to rotate six months in, but we heard “it’s much more complicated and stressful than it sounds.” Capital markets associates see “an even split between both borrower and lender-side work,” with juniors getting to “draft the main offering documents for work in areas like shipping and insurance.” M&A associates generally work on deals for private equity firms. Most of their work is “due diligence, maintaining checklists, compiling documents and putting in comments.” This level of responsibility came in for some criticism. “I got a law degree to edit PDFs?” one junior said, describing the work as “something a legal assistant could do.” Asset management juniors work on private equity and hedge fund matters, mostly focusing on fund formation. “The clients are some of the world’s biggest financial institutions!” one interviewee exclaimed. Juniors spend their time emailing investors, reviewing applications, completing term sheets, and drafting offer materials.
Corporate clients: Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries, and CVC Capital Partners. Counseled health insurer Humana on its acquisition of Kindred Healthcare for $4.1 billion.
Junior litigators have a generalist practice for their first few years, covering white-collar, securities, general corporate, insurance, family, and arbitration matters, as well as litigation generated by the “booming” real estate practice. Besides doing doc review juniors draft briefs and memos, communicate with clients about strategy, help develop cross-examinations, and take evidence from witnesses.
Litigation clients: Tishman Speyer, Deutsche Bank, and Daniel Mudd (former CEO of Fannie Mae). Defended Under Armour in a securities class action claiming that the company had lied about its performance in connection with a $600 million bond offering in June 2016.
The prolific real estate department has “a diverse client set and diverse work base: corporate real estate transactions, finance transactions on the lender and borrower side, leases, purchases, and sales.” A big area of work relates to “large construction loans in New York and out of state.” Associates handle “a lot of the documents below the main documents that push along the deal,” and “keeping the deal organized through emails and checklists.”
Real estate clients: JPMorgan Chase, Ernst & Young, and Brookfield Asset Management. Represented Google in its $2.4 billion acquisition of Manhattan's Chelsea Market building, the second highest price ever paid for a single building in the US.
Associates can count 300 hours of pro bono as billable. Juniors work on reproductive rights, criminal, uncontested divorce, and immigration and naturalization cases. However, many interviewees found that their schedules aren’t always compatible with pro bono. “If I finish work at 1am, I’m going to go home, not pick something up for pro bono,” one source said. “So I haven’t done as much as I would have wanted.” Those whose schedules have lulls told us: “If I’m slow, I’ll spend 20 or 30 hours on pro bono a month.”
“If I’m slow, I’ll spend 20 or 30 hours on pro bono a month.”
One big plus on the pro bono side is the Fried Frank Civil Rights Fellowship, which allows one junior litigator to work at the firm for two years, then at a nonprofit for two years, and “then decide where to stay on.” A different program seconds juniors to a nonprofit for six months only. “It makes you remember why you got into law in the first place,” said one source.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 43,692
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
Before joining their own practice group, new associates complete a week-long orientation in New York called Fried Frank University that covers attorney life basics. Following this, associates are given “a pretty rigid training schedule,” giving them “all the tools I need to become a master of my craft.” However, those tools aren’t always pulled out of the box at the right time. “They gave us a training on diligence six or seven months after we started doing diligence!” one source reported.
The official mentorship program wasn’t for everyone – “I’ve had no communication with them at all so far,” said one interviewee. But unofficial partner mentors are “happy to answer questions and give background details.” Like every large BigLaw firm Fried Frank has plenty of attrition as you move up the ranks: its 2019 partner class was about one-tenth the size of the same year's summer class.
Most interviewees described Fried Frank's culture as “warm and open.” One said: “The people are all lovely to work with. I have friends here that aren’t just work friends.” We even heard of one partner who invited their whole group to their home – “that shows how much of an intimate environment we have.”
Though most attorneys reside in New York, the small DC office had the advantage of feeling more close-knit, we heard. “I’ve had short conversations with just about everyone in the office,” one source here reported. DC attorneys feel “totally integrated as a team with New York – you get big New York deals, but in a more laid-back office environment. It’s the best of both worlds!”
“If people like you, they’ll give you more work.”
So far, a positive appraisal all around then. Perhaps a function of the fact that “David Greenwald has made it clear he wants to sponsor a positive environment – and in a lot of ways, he's succeeding.” However, we found that there are varying subcultures at Fried Frank housed within departments and even subdepartments. In certain corporate subdepartments we heard reports of “cliquishness – it’s hard to break into certain circles and those circles seem to get better treatment. They tell us that if people like you, they’ll give you more work. But we don’t know what we’re being judged on!” Though in these groups “there are definitely nice people,” we heard that their culture can be “a little cold – there’s silence in the elevator and you can walk down the hall and no one’s saying ‘hi’.”
Still this was just the experience in certain subgroups and we think the following quote probably best sums up associates' overall view of the firm: “Fried Frank's culture is enjoying each others’ company – you’re not only staying late to work hard, but also to lend a hand to your friends.”
Hours & Compensation
Juniors said they typically manage seven to nine billable hours a day, usually leaving the office by 6:30pm or 7pm. Corporate associates have the most erratic hours. “When it’s busy I’m working 12 to 15 hours a day,” one said. “I don’t balance my life. You just get to a point where you don’t do anything you need to do as a human. You work, sleep for five hours, and go back to work again.” Another junior shared their experience of a more regular period: “I'm done at 6:30pm, and then I keep my phone on to stay plugged in. Once a week I’ll work until about 8pm. Even if partners are busy, they’ll still leave at 6:30pm, then start sending emails again around 8:30pm.”
Flexible working is on the rise to help juniors manage their lives a bit more efficiently. “Times have changed at Fried Frank,” one source said. “Most partners are supportive of flexible working and they’re doing their best to balance being busy at work with having a life.” Though many associates will work from home once a week, “it varies by group – some corporate subgroups are very big on face time.”
If juniors bill 2,000 hours they become eligible for a full bonus. Our sources generally found this target manageable, especially as up to 300 hours of pro bono and 125 hours of qualified nonbillable work (like marketing, recruitment and business development) can count toward it. However, some told us that there’s “pressure to hit the billable requirement even when there isn’t enough work to go around – we can’t make work out of thin air!”
Diversity & Inclusion
Though some associates told us there’s a “healthy mix” of backgrounds at the firm, others weren’t so quick to give praise. We heard reports of one corporate subgroup feeling like “a boys’ club,” with one incident in which “a partner said something blatantly sexist.” There are affinity groups for women, LGBTQ attorneys, attorneys of color, and working parents. Unfortunately we heard the women’s group “only put on one event in over a year.” However, “they just hired a new diversity and inclusion manager, so hopefully things will change.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
Fried Frank recruits from the top 20 law schools, as well as schools with a large alumni representation at the firm. In 2018, the schools Fried attended were: American; Boston College; Boston University; Brooklyn; SUNY Buffalo; Cardozo; University of Chicago; Columbia; Cornell; Duke; Fordham; George Mason; Georgetown; George Washington; Harvard; Hofstra; Howard; Michigan; New York Law; Northwestern; NYU; Penn; Rutgers; St. John’s; Toronto; and UVA – as well as Southeast Minority Job Fair and Lavender Law Career Fair. Our hiring source at the firm explains: “We plan to recruit from the same schools in 2019. Candidates can also apply through direct outreach and our website. Our goal is to get the most talented people wherever they are.”
Fried Frank typically has partners conducting interviews at OCIs, who try to interview “as many students that are interested in us as we can during this timeframe.” Our hiring source tells us that the OCI process creates a time for firm and candidate to “get to know one another. We want to try to learn as much about potential recruits as we can in a short amount of time.” Interviewers typically ask questions like “why did you go to law school? What is your favorite class; what makes it your favorite? What are you enjoying most about law school? We’ll ask students about summer work experiences and have them describe challenging moments. We want to find out their story and why they are interviewing with Fried Frank.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Have confidence and keep calm. Spend some time learning about the firm and what we do -- we don’t expect you to be an expert but spending a lot of time talking about one’s interest in a practice area where we don’t have a significant presence isn’t a great use of either party’s time.” – Fried Frank hiring source.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
Callback interviews consist of a series of one-on-one interviews with two or three partners and two or three associates. “We create your tailored schedule based on information you provide to us,” our hiring source says. “Candidates can make specific requests about the types of attorneys they would like to meet based on practice area and other factors, such as gender, diversity, sexual orientation, law school and other specific interests.”
At callback level, questions will be asked to gauge whether “we relate to you on a professional and intellectual level. At the callback, we want to know why you are specifically interested in Fried Frank. The questions at this stage may not look very different from the OCI stage, but they will be substantive.” Candidates should be prepared to go into detail about prior work experiences: “We may ask about classes, professors, research or writing assignments. We want to get to the heart of your ability to be a team player and we may ask about challenging team experiences and environments. Our goal is to make sure that Fried Frank is the right place for you.”
Top tips for this stage:
“They try to make sure each candidate meets with a junior and a senior associate – it gives you a little bit of a different perspective.” – a junior associate.
“Demonstrate confidence, enthusiasm, and professionalism. The callback interview will be tiring, but candidates who remain engaged and upbeat stand out. Candidates who come to us well-prepared with thoughtful questions about our practice areas and our firm community make an impression. A good sense of humor never hurts either!” – Fried Frank hiring source.
Each summer associate is paired with a partner mentor, two associate advisors and a first-year associate buddy. There is no formal rotation between the practice groups and summer associates are encouraged to take on work in a variety of areas: “Prior to their arrival, we ask our summer associates to rank the practice areas that are of most interest to them and assignments are given out based on those preferences, ”our hiring source reveals. If a summer associate’s interests change, we hear that the system is flexible and that assignments can change. Our hiring source tells us that the firm’s goal is to “ensure that everyone has a broad and satisfying work experience.” On the social side, “previous summer events have included a U2 concert, Shakespeare in the Park, Yankees and Nationals baseball games, cooking classes and a night at The Whitney Museum. We also have a day dedicated to community service.”
There is also a training program that falls under the banner of the ‘Fried Frank Academy.’ It covers everything from legal research and writing, to communication and leadership skills, to practice-specific trainings. Our hiring source ensures us that “most of our associates have come from our summer associate program. Associates are placed into a specific group when they start, but they do have an option to rotate out after six months if they desire.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Summer associates should be present and engaged; don’t be afraid to ask questions. Become someone that everyone can rely on. Everyone remembers summer associates who maintained their enthusiasm and had a pleasant attitude. Summer associates should meet and talk to as many attorneys as they can. This is a summer to explore!” – Fried Frank hiring source.
Interview with managing partner David Greenwald
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
One New York Plaza,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $684.8 million
- Partners (US): 129
- Associates (US): 311
- Main recruitment contact:
- Nancy Parker (email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Randi Lally and Mark Hayek (NY); Jonathan DeFosse and Adam Kaminsky (DC)
- Diversity officer: Asker Saeed
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 65
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 60
- 1Ls: 3, 2Ls: 57, SEO: 2
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- NY: 50; DC: 10
- Summer salary 2019:
- 2Ls: $7,916.67/semi-monthly
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Antitrust and competition; corporate (asset management, capital markets, corporate governance, derivatives, environmental, finance, mergers and acquisitions, private acquisitions and private equity); energy and energy enforcement; executive compensation and ERISA; financial services; intellectual property and technology; international arbitration; international trade and investment; litigation (antitrust litigation, commercial litigation, government contracts, healthcare fraud and compliance, securities and shareholder litigation, securities enforcement and regulation, white collar criminal defense and securities enforcement); pro bono; real estate (corporate; acquisitions, dispositions and related financings; restructuring and financing; leasing; land use, construction and development); restructuring and insolvency; tax; trusts and estates; white collar criminal defense.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP is a leading international law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, Frankfurt and London. Our lawyers regularly advise the world’s leading corporations and financial institutions on their most critical legal needs and business opportunities.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
American; Boston College; Boston University; Brooklyn; SUNY Buffalo; Cardozo; University of Chicago; Columbia; Cornell; Duke; Fordham; George Mason; Georgetown; George Washington; Harvard; Hofstr a; Howard; Michigan; New York Law; Northwestern; NYU; Penn; Rutgers; St. John’s; UVA
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Summer associate profile:
Our summer associate program is a critical part of our recruiting process. In hiring summer associates, we look for energetic, motivated candidates who demonstrate a high level of intellectual ability, curiosity, and creativity, as well as a strong interest in working in a collegial setting.
Summer program components:
During the program, summer associates receive meaningful work assignments in a variety of practice areas, as well as attend court, client meetings, drafting and negotiation sessions and closings. They are also given significant opportunities to work on a range of pro bono matters. Each summer associate is matched with one partner mentor and two associate mentors who review and provide feedback on assignments and guide them through the program. Working closely and socializing with partners, counsel and associates, our summer associates leave the program with a clear understanding of what Fried Frank can offer them as a place to begin their legal careers.
Recruitment website: www.friedfrank.com/careers
Linkedin: Fried Frank
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Litigation: Securities Recognised Practitioner
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Representation (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- REITs Recognised Practitioner
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)