Bite-sized Hangley attracts expert litigators from far and wide.
SOMETIMES good things come in small packages. This lesson applies as much to law firms as it does that neatly wrapped Tiffany's box sitting under the Christmas tree. While some firms have summer classes consisting of well over 50 eager juniors, for young Hangley, this figure is closer to their total number of attorneys. But don't let its size fool you: this petite firm still packs a punch – especially when it comes to litigation and insurance. All-encompassing BigLaw clout isn't everything – it's more a case of selective nous for this crew. Named shareholders Hangley, Aronchick and Schiller are among the best litigators in Pennsylvania, and the firm scoops rankings from Chambers USA for insurance (recently representing Zurich), real estate, bankruptcy, and more general litigation in Pennsylvania.
If there were a ranking for a firm's sense of fun – a rare trait in the world of law – Hangley would surely secure one. Their website shows its “quirky sense of humor” placed front and center: you'll find a whole page dedicated to comical anecdotes about Hangley's lawyers, with one favorite featuring football tickets, potential acrobatics, and creative cheers. The survival of that oddball streak can be best explained by the firm's size: a defining feature all round. “It's the kind of place where you could rapidly become a better lawyer, become more involved and engaged in client issues, and get more responsibility than at larger firms, while still getting the same quality of work.” But take note – a small intake, plus the fame of its litigation excellence, means tough competition for a job. Read on for more detail.
Levity aside, associates chose the firm for its “combination of interesting and challenging work,” though they couldn't help but favor having a “more hospitable environment in which to do that work.” Usually, the firm hires one or two associates a year, who typically join the populous ranks of litigators.
Juniors start as generalists, branching off later to one of the more specific groups if they desire. On top of the work coming from a general litigation group, associates dip their toe in “a number of different areas which aren't technically general litigation, like insurance coverage, antitrust and environmental.” There's a staffing shareholder who “periodically checks in with you and sees how busy you are. Generally if matters come in, they'll go to the assigning shareholder who will dole it out accordingly.” Sources found them to be “very considerate of the experiences that people are looking for.”
General litigation covers “a broad array of commercial disputes,” whether that be “inter-company or public affairs matters.” There's also a “fair share of appellate work and patent litigation,” andthe group has represented “large institutional clients and companies” as well as municipalities and states (including the City of Philadelphia). It's an extremely broad remit, and associates noticed a healthy amount of cross-staffing within the small firm, where “sometimes we will bring in other people – when we need a bulldog litigator we'll get that person in, or if we need a nuanced transactional lawyer for some part. It's a small firm but there are a lot of good lawyers here with diverse experiences and bases of knowledge.”
"When we need a bulldog litigator we'll get that person in."
With more shareholders than associates, “by necessity we have to staff leanly.” The default on a case is usually one shareholder and one associate – a far cry from the mythologized BigLaw sweatshop. As such, juniors felt they'd had “a very valuable set of experiences,” including attending trial, taking part in conference calls, writing all levels of briefs, drafting motions, legal research, and “a fair amount of involvement with case management and logistics.” A couple of interviewees mentioned “being second chair” at various hearings and trials, and one junior talked about “being encouraged to go out and develop contacts. It takes a long time to build a book of business, so why not start now?” Interviewees agreed that “it's been nice to have full ownership over certain things.”
Training & Development
Hangley does not currently have a summer program (see our 'Get Hired' section for more details). With associates entering the firm at a higher level of experience than the average newbie, sources admitted “there's not really much formal training when you join; but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing – the firm philosophy is about learning by doing.” We did hear mention of some “formal trainings on different topics once in a while, whether that's practice tips or more substantive legal sessions.” But it's a fairly slimline offering overall – not that juniors were displeased about that set-up: “A lot of the stuff is good to pick up on the go because you get context.” As for reviews, these occur annually and “it's up to associates to identify the shareholders from whom they'd like feedback. There's not much formal structure to the meeting itself, we just discuss any issues that come up. People are willing to go pretty in-depth into the evaluations.”
Due to its size, “everyone knows everyone here. People feel more comfortable being themselves.” In line with the website antics, associates had experienced a firm with “a jovial side” where people have a “sense of humor. That makes it a much easier place to work.” The ratio of shareholders to associates also meant that “compared to other firms, it's much flatter in terms of hierarchy. It's a place where associates are valued and respected. There is a sense of camaraderie and trust, plus generally people just enjoy being around each other.”
"People feel more comfortable being themselves."
As we've mentioned, associates at Hangley are generally “a little bit older and more experienced.” It makes sense then that the social side isn't as full-on: “Most people have families at this point. It's not like a whole bunch of 26-year-olds with lots of money to throw around. We're social, but there's not something every week.” The firm still hosts “periodic happy hours” and “other celebrations from time to time.” There's also Friday lunches “for attorneys, paralegals, and staff” which the firm pays for.Informally, people “get together on an impromptu basis too.”
Hours & Compensation
There's no official billing requirement at Hangley, although billables are connected to the budget: associates are budgeted for 1,800 hours a year. “Sometimes people bill below, sometimes people bill above, but it generally doesn't affect eligibility for bonuses. There's not a huge incentive to bill higher.” Associates weren't entirely sure on the bonus structure, but asserted that “if things go well for the firm, everyone takes some share in that.” Salary itself increases by a fixed amount each year.
"We don't have that intense focus on billing around the clock."
A typical day for most “would be 9am to 6pm,” but working on the level of litigation that they do, with the small teams they have, associates told us about “times where you're incredibly overwhelmed, especially when you're working on multiple matters. Sometimes you have to be in two places at once, but that's not how it usually is. There are extremes at both ends of the spectrum occasionally, but usually the hours are fairly regular.” So there might be occasional midnight finishes, but weekend work was also seen as rare: “My boss is very good about not working on weekends when it's not absolutely necessary.” Sources vouched for “one thing that sets us apart: we don't have that intense focus on billing around the clock. Unless there's a trial it's a reasonable hours expectation.”
It's always sunny in Philadelphia (we can't verify this!), where Hangley's HQ can be found, but there are other offices. Neighboring Norristown hosts the family law practice, while Harrisburg has a number of antitrust attorneys. “I'd say the vast majority of our lawyers are in Philadelphia,” sources estimated. Some noticed that “in the past we've made a push to expand our work into New Jersey, so the Cherry Hill office is our toehold there.” That office mainly consists of litigators and real estate attorneys. “Often people who are based here but have cases in New Jersey can go and work there.” The Philly HQ is up on the 27th and 28th floors of its building, so boasts “amazing views” while also being conveniently located “close to the train station.” Most important of all, however, because this is Hangley, it plays host to a life-sized fiberglass model of a cow.
“If pro bono is something you want to pursue, the firm will support that. They do value it.” Sources had been involved in prisoners' civil rights matters, fair housing issues, veterans cases, and child trafficking cases. Hangley also has strong connections with the Innocence Project and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). “The firm has a reputation for having a social consciousness, and to that end, encourages pro bono work.” That said, juniors “certainly got the message not to overload yourself with pro bono.”
“The firm has a reputation for having a social consciousness."
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per attorney: undisclosed
Interviewees reckoned that “in terms of recent hiring decisions, you can see that the firm is making an effort to do better on diversity.” Gender diversity was felt to be the firm's strongest suite, with sources saying: “There's good female representation in partnership, as well as at associate level.” As of 2018, Hangley had 31% female partners and 50% female associates. However, sources couldn't name any active diversity initiatives, though they maintained that “although we're not as diverse as we would want to be, it's not for a lack of trying. As a whole, the profession could do better, but that's been acknowledged and is in the process of being addressed.”
Strategy & Future
Hangley associates felt relatively well informed about firm goings-on: “We have an associate who is liaison to the board, who attends meetings and reports back on what's going on.” As CEO David Pudlin tells us, that benefits the firm in the long term. “We have always tried to include our younger attorneys in firm management. They can then develop a proprietary feel for the place early on. By being inclusive and open, we have a far lower turnover rate.” As for the firm itself, Pudlin announces: “2017 was financially our best year ever,” although bankruptcy is “not a growth area as of now. The economy is doing great – that practice usually grows when the economy isn't doing so well.” It's a steady ship at Hangley, targeting steady growth; those seeking a policy of aggressive expansionism should probably look elsewhere.
Hangley is pretty selective about who it hires. One associate was quite firm on this: “Pretty much everybody has come off a clerkship – the firm actively seeks clerks.” There's no requirement, but essentially, experience counts for a lot. As well as clerkships, it's common for people to arrive from other firms. The firm has no summer program, nor does it conduct OCIs, but CEO David Pudlin tells us: “We find we have no problem getting applicants. Every year we get a couple of hundred. Top applicants still manage to find us.”
Point taken, the firm's popular, but it generally only hires one or two litigation associates a year, so it's not got endless places to fill. Current associates remembered “sending in my resume, then hearing from the firm when there was a hiring need.” Another source concurred: “the hiring team is very good, because even if they're not hiring at the time, they will flag and hold onto exceptional resumes and candidates.” If selected, candidates come in for a lunch interview, usually with two shareholders. “It was probably one of the most enjoyable interviews I've ever had,” one interviewee reflected. “As a smaller firm, they want to get to know you beforehand. Once you pass the screening interview, you're brought in for a more robust set of interviews.”
David Pudlin emphasizes that “the highest level of quality is what we strive for – and it's what we're known for.” As a result, he highlights that a “strong academic background” is key. On top of academic excellence, he also notes that “a person has to fit in culturally as well as professionally.” Juniors reckoned the hiring team were looking for “insight and thoughtfulness, alongside the ability to play well with others and take initiative.” Otherwise, sources emphasized: “They hire the kind of people who really enjoy the practice of law and want a significant amount of responsibility. You can't really hide here because we staff cases leanly.”
Interview with CEO David Pudlin
Chambers Associate: What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in your firm?
David Pudlin: 2017 was financially our best year ever, which was wonderful. We continued to attract talented young attorneys. The two who started this past year were both Harvard graduates. We had many applicants but typically we only hire a couple a year.
CA: What's the general strategy going forwards? Where do you think the firm will be in the next couple of years?
DP: I would expect to continue to grow at a similar pace, hiring a couple of people a year. We've always believed in natural growth – we've not gone out and sought new practice areas. From time to time we've been approached by laterals, and on a selective basis we've had some join us. We're always open to lateral attorneys who are similar in their background and skills to what we have here. Our culture is an important element of the firm, so a person has to fit in culturally as well as professionally. As of now, I don't see any new practice areas being developed, but that doesn't mean if an opportunity came up, say if someone came in laterally with different expertise, that we wouldn't be open to it. We hope to continue to have great economic success.
CA: What would you say are Hangley's core practices?
DP: Litigation continues to be the largest practice area we have. That breaks into general commercial litigation – which continues to be strong – and high-end insurance coverage work. That's not insurance defense though – it's if a large insurance carrier is covering a major company that has a large claim against them and the carrier believes it should not be providing that coverage – that's what we'd be involved in.
We also have antitrust and environment work, both of which are primarily litigation, as well as our family law practice. Beyond that, we have several lawyers who are in real estate, representing developers or large chains of companies that are expanding and acquiring new real estate. With the corporate and transactional work, we usually deal with companies that are buying and selling. Usually in those, there will be big firms representing the other side.
With tax and estate planning, it'll be interesting to see how that is impacted by the government – the jury is still out on that one. They've now expanded estate tax to $22.4 million for married couples. Only a smaller percentage of the population will be subject to state tax, so how that impacts on our practice, we'll see. We still have expertise in bankruptcy, though that isn't as expansive as it once was. We still do it, but it's not a growth area as of now. The economy is doing great – that practice usually grows when the economy isn't doing so well.
CA: What areas are growing or are particularly hot right now?
DP: Our family law practice has grown pretty substantially in the last couple of years. I think that's grown the most percentage-wise, at the most rapid pace. The core is still between commercial litigation and insurance coverage work.
CA: How would you define the culture of the firm?
DP: First of all, on the professional side, we do the highest level of work. We hire very strong people; if you look at our firm's resume, people are coming out of very good schools or have very good work backgrounds. The highest level of quality is what we strive for – and it's what we're known for. Work is one of the most significant aspects, doing the best job we possibly can with the highest standards and the highest ethics. We also encourage activity in professional organizations. Finally, within the firm there is mutual respect. You're never going to see anyone yelling at anyone. Not to mention, we have fun. We continue to bring in lunch for everyone on Fridays, and have holiday parties, or celebrate major birthdays – any excuse! People enjoy the environment and want to come to work – we just enjoy each other's company. One of the benefits as a founder, you get to create and set whatever culture you want. That was one of the driving forces – we wanted to create the kind of firm we wanted to be at.
CA: What qualities does the firm look for in recruiting? What makes a good Hangley associate?
DP: When hiring at or close to entry level, we look for a strong academic background. All of the people we've hired at that level in the last ten years have also had very strong federal clerkships. Many actually had both district court and appellate court clerkships. Those are the most attractive candidates, who are most likely to be hired.
We have no summer program, and haven't had one for at least ten years. That said, we find we have no problem getting applicants. Every year we get a couple of hundred. Top applicants still manage to find us. There are not many firms like ours, especially in Philadelphia. Many people doing clerkships right now are already applying to us. You get these people coming from great schools, with great clerkships finding us, so we have no need for a summer program for recruiting purposes.
CA: Do you have anything else to add about life at Hangley?
DP: The way we run our firm, we have always tried to include our younger attorneys in firm management. They can then develop a proprietary feel for the place early on. By being inclusive and open, we have a far lower turnover rate. It's unusual for us to lose people to another firm. We've lost people to becoming US attorneys, but we really think about developing younger lawyers and retention issues. We consider what will make the firm attractive to them, and make them feel like they have a stake in it.
We have associates on every committee in the firm, we have an associate representative to our board of directors and we distribute financial information much more extensively than other firms.
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller
One Logan Square,
18th & Cherry Streets, 27th Floor,
- Head Office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Partners (US): 32
- Associates (US): 14
- Of Counsel (US): 2
- Main recruitment contact: Daniel Segal (email@example.com)
- Hiring Partner: Daniel Segal, Michele Sacks Fenkel
- Diversity officer: Sharon McKee
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 1
- Clerking policy: Yes
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.
For further information on the firm’s practice areas and outstanding lawyers, readers are invited to visit the firm’s website www.hangley.com
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)