They may be young and fun, but don't mistake Hangley for a fool when it comes to litigation...
LIKE the renowned Philly cheese steak in its home city, Hangley's full name (see above) is something of a mouthful. And Hangley's connection to the classic Philadelphia dish doesn't end there, as there's a great big model cow somewhere in its headquarters. It used to stand pride of place in the lobby for all to see, but associates this year told us it's wandered off to a quieter corner in a conference area. A brief look at the firm's website highlights that making (and taking) a joke is a huge part of this firm's culture. As CEO David Pudlin tells us, "we're just a fun group of people with a great sense of humor, and we enjoy each other's company – when you come to work we want you to enjoy it."
But while Hangley attorneys may not take themselves too seriously, the same cannot be said for their work. For its relatively small size, this 21-year-old has racked up an impressive number of Chambers USA rankings within Pennsylvania, particularly for its insurance and general commercial litigation work. David Pudlin enthusiastically reports a "fourth consecutive fabulous performance financially." A busy year unsurprisingly requires more attorneys, and Hangley took on a total of five associates in 2015, marking a boom period for a firm which usually only takes on one or two newbies per year.
The overwhelming majority of new associates begin Hangley life as litigators, and there's a very broad range of litigation work on offer, including antitrust, bankruptcy, business/corporate, environmental law, insurance coverage and real estate. “I couldn't define the work as any kind, other than to say it's litigation,” one associate told us. “We do everything under the sun.” The generalist nature of the work is emphasized by the small size of the firm, as when a case gets particularly busy, “they sometimes send out an email asking for help, so you can push for something more interesting.”
“There's a real effort to make sure associates get a diversity of experience.”
Although “there's a real effort to make sure associates get a diversity of experience,” focusing in on one area isn't out of the question. Insurance coverage, for instance, is “the largest subgroup,” and has its own dedicated litigators (which also means newbies can expect a fair amount of work in this area). Similarly, “we have some folks who are very focused on antitrust and environmental work, and they do that exclusively.” As one junior explained, “I don't think they're against people specializing, but nobody is forced to; it depends on how your career unfolds and what issues you get into.” If associates do have a particular interest, they can express this via the assigning shareholder: “There's definitely room for input on the type of work you want to be doing.”
A wide array of practice areas unsurprisingly means a wide array of clients, from banks to “really big commercial insurers,” to “a number of municipalities on the environmental side. It really runs the spectrum.” As does the size of the cases: “I've had cases in county courts in Pennsylvania, I've done international arbitrations, and had matters in federal and state courts all over the country.” Hangley's more petite proportions mean that these cases are leanly staffed, “often just one shareholder and an associate.” As a result, responsibility levels are “high. Disconcertingly high at times. You're trusted with a lot, and if you demonstrate good judgment you're trusted with more.” Our interviewees described tasks such as drafting motions for summary judgment and motions to compel, as well as discovery matters. That said, legal research is fairly common at the junior level, as is doc review, although “if you do the doc review you'll also ultimately help write the brief.”
Training & Development
Another aspect of having fewer associates is that, aside from a few days of computer training, “there's not really a formal training program” at Hangley, although there are occasional training bootcamps. This means juniors are mostly expected – with help from others – to figure things out by themselves: “When you get assigned to a matter, you need to have a good head on your shoulders and ask the right follow-up questions.” With allocated shareholder and associate mentors, however, there's no shortage of people to ask for advice. The associate mentors in particular are described as “wonderful for asking stupid questions to like 'Hey what's going on?' or 'I have no idea what this means...'”
“There's not really a formal training program.”
Although formal training within the firm is minimal, “we have lunches, and we'll have lunchtime talks on topics like changes in federal rules or how to use LinkedIn to network.” More substantive legal training is generally done outside the firm. It's the job of the associate development committee to “keep an eye on training opportunities in the area, and it's down to the associate to organize doing that.” The firm pays for any outside CLEs that juniors need to do, with one example given being a two-day deposition training.
There are no OCIs or summer program and the number of junior-level associates hired each year is is usually only one or two. As such, Hangley can afford to be scrupulous in its selection process. High academic achievement is of course a must, and almost all of the juniors we interviewed had clerked for at least a year. Although clerking “isn't a formal prerequisite,” the firm “places considerable value on having that prior experience.” Potential applicants need to apply directly to Hangley: “I contacted them and was pretty persistent! Then I did a screening interview with the hiring committee, then at my callback I spoke to about ten attorneys and got the good news a couple of weeks later!” Quite often, judges will refer potential candidates to Hangley. Very occasionally the firm may take on one exceptional person as a summer associate.
"They hire people with an eye to keeping them on.”
Fewer attorneys means the firm “looks for people who are interested in getting a more hands-on experience. It's a place where people are genuinely interested in – and talk about – what they're doing.” It also means that “each person they take on is an investment, so they hire people with an eye to keeping them on.” There's a fair amount of transparency: “They're pretty good at telling people what they need to work on in general. Then at around your seventh or eighth year you'll get indications about what to work on in order to make shareholder.”
Most on our associate list were in the Philadelphia HQ, which houses 42 of the firm's attorneys. The other offices are in Harrisburg, Norristown and Cherry Hill. The recently renovated Philly hub, found in the town's business district, is “beautiful” and “light-filled” thanks to large windows in all the attorney offices. Associates are given a $500 budget to furnish their offices and “to make it feel homey. I got some plants and a couple of prints framed.”
While orange ampersands (Hangley's logo) are still abundant around the office, the huge model cow – once the legen-dairy focal point of the lobby – has been moo-ved to a more discreet location: “Before the renovation it was pretty front and center, now it's more tucked back. I'm sure the clients still see it though!” Although the office “doesn't have the same bells and whistles that a big firm would have” (it lacks a gym, for example), it's nonetheless “perfectly comfortable and serviceable.”
“People here nerd out on the law!”
Does Hangley's fun-filled website (go to 'The Lighter Side' section to see what we mean) match up to the reality? “When I was doing my research, Hangley's friendliness seemed too good to be true. But there's not a big difference between how they present themselves and how they are.” That's a yes, then. But it's certainly not all fun and games, as “there's a lot of very, very hardworking people here, and I don't want to diminish that at all. We work very hard and are very thorough.” Indeed, the word “nerdy” was frequently adopted by our interviewees: “People here nerd out on the law!” One interviewee laughed, adding that “because there's no official training and things are staffed so leanly, you really need to get into it.”
The fact that Hangley doesn't have all the events usually associated with a summer program certainly doesn't deter its attorneys from socializing. There is a firmwide lunch every Friday, as well as the 'Rule of Four' scheme: “Four or more people can get together and go out on the firm. It's a way of encouraging people to get together and discuss their cases.” Other events include the odd happy hour or more family friendly trips to the zoo, and there was even a mural tour: “The Mural Arts Program is a big organization in Pennsylvania, and one of the firm's board members [chair David Pudlin] is a board member for them. He helped us arrange a walking tour of Philly to look at the murals here.”
"There's nobody I wouldn't have a drink with.”
One associate enthused: “During my first two weeks here, there wasn't a day when someone didn't come to my office and say 'Hey let's go get lunch!' It really is a positive place where people try to enjoy each others' company.” The social atmosphere is no doubt encouraged by the fact that “the firm does a good job of hiring people that have a range of interests, be it pro bono or community work or general life experience. There's nobody I wouldn't have a drink with.”
Hours & Compensation
There's no official billing requirement at Hangley, although billables are connected to the budget: associates are budgeted for 1,800 billable hours a year. The general feeling was that “most people reach their hours,” and “people don't stress too much,” about hitting this number. Rather, “everybody just does their work and does it well.” Because of Hangley's lockstep compensation system, “there's no bonus incentive to do more than 1,800 hours, which does away with any competitive mentality.”
“Everybody just does their work and does it well.”
Our sources reported that at Hangley “people are pretty transparent about hours; they get shared every month.” A few admitted that this “quite freaky” system caused some anxiety, although others felt it was a good way to “demystify what everyone's doing. It also makes it very clear if there are imbalances, and it lets partners know who has the capacity to take on more.” Although the Hangley salary is below market rates, juniors seemed happy with the trade-off for a better work-life balance: “The shareholders here could be making more money if they changed the culture of this place and made it more demanding, but that's not the model they've set out to follow.” Recently, junior associates salaries went up – $135,000 for first-years, up from $125,000.
"The cases are so compelling!”
“Everyone always wishes we could do more pro bono because the cases are so compelling!” Examples include working for the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] as well as for The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization working to acquit people who were wrongly jailed: “It's been a really meaningful.” Others had been involved in prisoner civil rights litigation, and volunteered legal advice at a homeless shelter.
Although there is a pro bono coordinator, it's up to the associates to take the initiative and arrange pro bono around their schedules. “It's pretty self-directed. We have relationships with a number of organizations, but it's up to you to reach out and figure out what you want to do.” Take note, though: pro bono hours here don't count as billable.
Pro bono hours
"Part of the problem is that we don't hire that often.”
As far as the male to female ratio goes, “it feels pretty equal in the associate pool. In the shareholder pool it's more lopsided, but there are a fair number of female shareholders.” In fact, there are 41% female associates and 29% female partners at Hangley. But interviewees noted that Hangley “does not feel diverse” when it comes to ethnic minorities. “If I was going to fault the firm for one thing, it would be that. I think the interest is there, but part of the problem is that we don't hire that often.” As such, the lack of ethnic diversity at the firm is unlikely to change drastically in the near future.
Strategy & Future
"I think in the short term I see more of the same," CEO David Pudlin tells us. "I don't see us developing any new practice areas, but we'll probably grow a little bit more, especially as we're attracting new business and new clients." The firm's busy year in 2015 means "we'll bring in more young new lawyers, and if we're approached by a lateral, we're always open to consider them."
"Things are going well and we control our own destiny."
This doesn't mean that expansion is on the cards, however: "We have no interest in any kind of merger." The CEO continues: "We're happy, things are going well and we control our own destiny."
Chambers Interview with David Pudlin, president and CEO
Chambers Associate: What highlights would you like to flag up from the past year?
David Pudlin: Well we've had our fourth consecutive fabulous performance financially! We've certainly had a number of successes representing our clients in litigation and some major corporate transactions. We've continued to hire wonderful young lawyers and we keep attracting very strong candidates which keep us going. I can't identify any singular spectacular event or result – it's just been a great year!
CA: We see five associates have joined the firm this year – both laterally and at junior level – which is quite a large number for a firm of Hangley's size. Is the firm experiencing a growth period?
DP: We typically think about hiring in the fall which is when the young lawyers come in. We usually target one, maybe two new associates, but we've just been really busy this year. We've had a lot of work which is why we've taken on more lawyers than usual.
CA: Where is the firm headed in the next year or so?
DP: I think in the short term I see more of the same. I don't see us developing any new practice areas, but we'll probably grow a little bit more, especially as we're attracting new business and new clients. If I were predicting two years ahead, maybe we'll have around 56 lawyers, with a net growth of around two per year – and I'm not aware of anybody who wants to leave! Even Bill Hangley – who's our most senior lawyer – worked almost 2000 hours and brought in $2 million worth of business this past year. He's at the top of his game and has no intention of slowing down; I don't see anyone at senior level retiring.
We'll bring in more young new lawyers, and if we're approached by a lateral we're always open to consider them. Over the years we've hired some very good attorneys that way, although we're certainly not seeking them out. We have no interest in any kind of merger; at least two or three times a year a larger firm has come to us with the idea of merging, and we have no interest in that. We're happy, things are going well and we control our own destiny. We're looking for high-quality, ethical lawyers, but also people who will fit in and get on with us, and who will appreciate our culture. If a person is not going to be in harmony with us I don't think we'd be interested.
CA: Are there any external events that have occurred over the past year that have had an impact on Hangley's work?
DP: Other than the fact that we grew more than we normally do – because we're doing well and attracting business – there hasn't been anything in particular in the last 12 months. I can't think of anything that has radically changed or has impacted us, I think this past year has been very representative of previous years. In 2014 we had the Whitewood decision [Hangley's lawyers helped put an end to the same-sex marriage ban in Pennsylvania] and that got us a lot of good publicity. It's just been a very good, solid year; there haven't been any changes in the mix of what we do or the practices.
CA: Associates talked a lot about the more fun side of Hangley's culture. Why would you say it's important to promote this “Lighter Side” to the firm?
DP: I was one of the founders in 1994, and the nicest thing about starting your own firm is that you get to determine what the culture will be, and what we're trying to achieve. I will add that we do take it seriously; I don't want it to sound like we don't! We take our client responsibility and professional ethics very seriously. But we're just a fun group of people with a great sense of humour and we enjoy each other's company – when you come to work we want you to enjoy it as well as do good things for the clients.
We do various things to promote this culture: we have a fun website, which we're actually right now re-tooling. The new website in the next couple of months will be very similar, still fun and interesting, but with a fresher look to it, and with technological features that the current one doesn't have. Every Friday we bring in lunch for the entire staff, and every year our holiday card has everyone's photo on it.
But there's more to the culture than the fun side. Many of us are also involved in the community – I'm the chairman of the board of The Mural Arts Program, while others are involved in leadership positions out in the community. We're out there doing things and we encourage our attorneys to follow suit. We're also very family friendly. Late last year we had a weekend event at the Philadelphia zoo where everyone came with their families; we're very supportive of those with children. I think to have a culture like ours, it really has to come from the top down – unless the founders are supportive of it, it's not going to happen.
CA: Hangley likes to retain its attorneys once they're on board with the firm. Is there a strategy that helps you do this?
DP: I wouldn't say there's a strategy in place as such, it's just the fact that we're all on the same page from the leadership down – I'm a big believer in retaining associates. I think people who don't desire this kind of environment are not going to be attracted to our firm, so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who apply to us are those who have similar goals to us and think like we do. Our philosophy with the younger lawyers and associates is that we want them to develop a proprietary feel for the firm – it's their firm as much as it is ours (the shareholders').
We do that firstly by distributing very extensive financial information to our associates; they know everything about the firm except what partners are making. Secondly, on all of our committees we have associates participating. For instance, our firm is run by a board of directors, and there is an associate representative who sits at board meetings. After the meeting I also distribute the minutes of what we discussed to all our attorneys.
Because associates are kept in the loop and able to participate, they have this proprietary feel. I think this is reflective in our turnover, which it is very very low – particularly compared to that of larger firms. When we take someone, our goal is to have them become shareholder, compared to bigger firms who take on, say, 100 associates with a view to making only two of them partners in the long run. If you look at Hangley, our ratio is 30 shareholders out of 52 lawyers! We've never hesitated to make young people shareholders, assuming they've come up through the ranks and have done good work. Putting that all together, it makes us pretty unique.
CA: What is the firm doing to encourage and promote diversity?
DP: In our hiring, we're always looking to build our diversity. I think, like most firms, we'd like to be more diverse; firstly because we think it's the right thing, and also because many of our clients are asking about it – they want their law firm to be diverse. So we're keeping our eyes very open and looking to build on that.
CA: Finally, do you have any words of advice for those who are hoping to enter the legal profession?
DP: I think young people in law school really need to think hard about what they want to achieve. A law firm is a particular path, and it's a wonderful path – obviously it's the one I've been following – but it's not the only path. For example, my daughter went to law school and spent four years at a great firm, but she has since left and gone into federal government. She may well choose to go back to her law firm because she enjoyed it, but this has really opened her eyes, and I think if she goes back into private practice she will have a different view of the world.
So be very open-minded about what your options are, and understand that there are multiple paths, not just law firms. There's the government, you can be in-house for a private corporation, there's prosecutors, defenders – just so many options. So really think hard about what your interests and goals are, and also tie it in to your personal goals and your personal life.
Chambers interview with Dan Segal, hiring partner
Chambers Associate: Hangley doesn't have a summer program or conduct OCIs, so where and how do you find candidates? What is the scope of your recruiting drive?
Dan Segal: We generally don't hire more than one or two people a year, generally from clerkships; we have extraordinarily good relationships with judges here in Philadelphia. From time to time we also get junior associates from large firms, ones who started there and have found it's not for them, and have been attracted to Hangley by our reputation.
In any given year we're usually looking for one to a maximum of three junior associates, we don't do OCIs and we don't have a summer program. That's because the BigLaw style dictates that, typically, getting onto the program is a big deal, and if you do reasonably well over the summer, you can expect a full-time offer. We were uncomfortable with that process, because we hire so few people that we didn't want to lead anyone on. We have been able to get extraordinarily good people without a summer program.
What we typically do in terms of recruiting junior associate level candidates is post at the local and top law schools. Additionally, we send a letter to all the law clerks in the district courts and federal courts of appeal around here, explaining who we are and that we're happy to receive their resumes via the online application. That's generally how we get the word out. Occasionally we get a call from a faculty member at Penn or a federal judge, referring someone who would make a great fit, and we will then reach out to that person. Even during the time when we are not hiring, if we get an expression of interest from someone who we would ordinarily be interested in, we offer to take them for lunch. We do that with the understanding that we have no job, but we feel it's important to maintain those relationships with promising people who are going to be joining the bar. It's proved helpful in the past to have that informal network.
CA: What do you look for on a resume?
DS: We look for great academic credentials – those in the top ten percent of their class – as well as written experience such as working on a law review. We also look for resumes that show that somebody is interesting and would be fun to work with. Also, we look for resumes that might reflect soundness of judgment; for instance, if an applicant had work experience in a particular area between college and law school, that might be attractive.
CA: What about off the resume? What do you look for in a person?
DS: This is much less tangible: it's more about whether the person will fit in here. The candidate needs a sense of humor, humility, the ability to think through a problem, and high self-demands. We also think about how the person would present themselves to a client, because unlike a lot of large firms, we hire lawyers for the long term, potentially to make them shareholder.
It's a trade-off: we invest a great deal in the person, and in turn we expect them to have an investment in – and a commitment to – us. At a large firm, they might hire 20 people, and everyone knows that within five years that 20 will be perhaps 10 or less, because many have decided to move onto something else. In large firms the individuals are surely committed to the clients, but their commitment to the firm itself may be somewhat less. At our firm, we hope to develop in our attorneys a long-term commitment to the firm.
CA: How would you define Hangley's culture?
DS: Hangley is not characteristic of larger firms. There's an associate representative on every committee, including the board of the firm. The default here has always been transparency. The financials and the monthly hours report goes to everybody, a rarity at law firms.
I would also mention some of the more trivial things, too: we have a Friday lunch, where everybody in the firm – partners, associates and staff, have lunch together. There's no schedule or program for the lunch; it's just a chance for people come together and chat.
In terms of enjoying your colleagues and being happy to come to work every day, I don't think there's a better place to be. Our associates are our biggest asset; there's no weak link in the chain – I would happily work with anyone!
CA: What is the firm doing to promote diversity?
DS: When it comes to male-female ratio, I have many female colleagues, and we have a number of female shareholders in the firm. On that front I think we're doing well.
In terms of gender preference, we have a number of gay colleagues and shareholders. I would add that we handled the same sex marriage suit for Pennsylvania [the Whitewood v Wolf case in 2014, which put an end to Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage], and we do a lot of pro bono for LGBT matters.
In terms of minorities, we could be doing better, but it's not for want of trying. We recently lost one African-American partner to the US attorney's office, and we have minority of counsel and associates. We are of course open to ethnically diverse candidates, and are trying to be proactive when it comes to diversity recruitment.
The Lighter Side of Hangley
“Dworetzky went to Hangley Pere,
And said 'I don't know how,
But one way or the other, Bill,
We gotta have a cow!'”
So begins the so-called 'Ballad of Kaamedehenu', the children's fairytale-like account of how a fiberglass “life-size androgynous bull” came to grace the stairway lobby of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller's Philadelphia office. And if you think that's weird, you clearly haven't encountered Hangley's 'Lighter Side'.
As a dedicated section on the Hangley's website, the Lighter Side publishes numerous amusing stories, emails and conversations from Hangley employees, and is, according to their 'Guide for Guides', “another plug for the website, really.” For starters, you'll see a circular email from Michele Hangley requesting a “business-related” large inflatable palm tree.
In 'Producing Documents in a Rush', readers are regaled with the tale of how Hangley lawyers received a document production from “one of our adversaries” that included hundreds of pages of irrelevant documents, including a printout of all of the lyrics by the progressive rock band Rush: “The kicker? All of the lyrics were stamped 'Confidential'.”
Referencing the deliberate grammatical omissions in the firm's title, 'Even in Death, Grammar is Important' addresses a note that a florist once attached to a flower arrangement from the firm. It stated: “Thinking of you and your family. Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin. There are no commas between Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin.” They add: “We're sure the family was touched by our sentiments.”
Next: 'Ultimate Friday Lunch'. Following complaints that their communal Friday lunches had become “predictable” and “boring,” this ten-week competition was launched to make use of the Hangley employees' competitive instincts. The participants formed teams, which would be responsible for producing an interesting meal for approximately 100 people on a budget – quality, creativity and presentation would all be judged. This led to a very high standard of presentation: a Chinese gong was tolled throughout the office one week, and on another a Neapolitan accordion player strolled throughout the halls “providing atmosphere.”
Befitting a law firm, the rules were officially recorded in a large, detailed document – albeit with two decorative, party hat-wearing penguins adorning the top. The winners were selected at the firm's holiday party, and were awarded the firm's symbol of honor: an orange ampersand (&) mounted on a marble base. All of this stems from the firm's emphasis on having a sense of humor. It is, in its own words, “unique”– not a “boutique,” “multique,” “octotique,” “decadique” or “dodecadique” (see 'Marketing Meeting').
The firm's culture is definitely refreshing – especially in a world where Hangley's Wendy Beetlestone considers playing with lions to be adequate training for her work as an attorney. And Hangley certainly has its fair share of interesting characters: from the Good Humor ice cream man turned trial lawyer (“we will testify he ain't no Mister Softee”) to the two shareholders who “aggressively and insistently” perform the song 'Goodbye My Coney Island Baby' at almost every firm function. Perhaps “unique” is the right word, after all.
As a final note, associates this year informed us that Hangley's website is currently being updated, so we look forward to seeing what other unusual tales and ballads the firm comes up with next.
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller
One Logan Square,
18th & Cherry Streets, 27th Floor,
- Head Office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: N/A
Main areas of work
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller is a multi-faceted law firm that offers specialized legal solutions to a broad range of local, regional, and national clients. The firm is highly regarded nationally for its quality work, innovative strategies, and excellent results. With offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Hangley Aronchick offers a suite of diverse legal services, including litigation, business and corporate, insurance coverage, real estate, bankruptcy, education, environmental, family law, and tax and estate planning services.
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller is consistently recognized for excellence in legal practice, as well as for its ability to recruit talented attorneys. Founded in 1994, the firm is known for the sophistication of its matters, the roster of its clients and the quality of its work. In the Delaware Valley, the firm is unparalleled in its ability to attract the most highly qualified attorneys, both at the entry level and laterally. The firm includes former Philadelphia City Solicitors; Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Bankruptcy, and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers; members of judicial advisory committees; members of the American Law Institute; and adjunct faculty members at area law schools. For further information on the firm’s practice areas and outstanding lawyers, readers are invited to visit the firm’s website www.hangley.com
Number of 1st year associates: 1
Number of 2nd year associates: 1
Associate salaries: 1st year: $135,000
Clerking policy: Yes
Summer program components
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller does not have a formal summer associate program, though the firm will consider extraordinary candidates for summer employment on occasion.