Jovial young firm Hangley isn't joking around when it comes to litigation...
HOLY cow, it's Hangley – the Philly firm with a funny bone and a fondness for serious business. While a lot of places pay lip service to office-based lightheartedness, it's built into the constitution at Hangley. This firm, the website boasts, prizes its “wicked sense of humor.” Need proof? There's an entire page devoted to amusing attorney vignettes, including a mention of the giant decorative fiberglass cow (bought at auction) that resides in the office conference area. That said, there's more to Hangley than heifers and pure whimsy. Despite its petite size, this 22-year-old has accumulated an impressive clutch of Chambers USA rankings for its litigation, insurance, real estate and bankruptcy work in Pennsylvania.
Sources were keen to point out that they were drawn to “the size of the firm, given the quality of the work that's done here. It's a firm of about 50 lawyers which does the same sorts of work that much larger firms do. Cases are very leanly staffed so you get good experience right away. On most cases I’m the only associate, which is phenomenal.” Interviewees praised the firm's lack of hierarchy: “You have close contact with the partners – or shareholders as we call them – and they respect your views. It's not the kind of firm where juniors are given orders and expected to carry them out without thinking or questioning issues. Partners expect you'll have own ideas, not just defer.”
Hangley's particular culture and reputation for “extensive” pro bono work also attracted associates, who cited the firm's efforts to legalize same sex marriage in Philadelphia as a major draw. One revealed that “I was very wary of going to a firm at all – I was trying to avoid it in fact – but Hangley has a better approach and philosophy than most. It doesn't emphasize the same things, like compensation; it's able to attract people who care about achievement and working hard but are not necessarily interested in the rat race.”
Hangley doesn't have OCIs or a summer program (for more on hiring see below) and so “there are no real first-years who are right out of law school. A lot of people have been clerks, so it's typical get a lot more experience like editing, drafting, taking first stabs at documents and speaking directly to representatives of the client.” The overwhelming majority of new associates begin Hangley life as litigators, and there's a very broad range of work on offer, including antitrust, bankruptcy, business/corporate, environmental law, insurance coverage and real estate. “In terms of cases, it really runs the gamut. There's a lot of work on behalf of governments. For example we've represented the city of Philly in trying to uphold the legality of a recently passed tax on sugary drinks. I'm working on an international contract dispute between an Israeli and an American company, a tort case and a domestic breach of contract. There's insurance work on behalf of insurers, labor and employment stuff, a bit of white collar... really just about every kind of litigation!”
“It's able to attract people who care about achievement and working hard but are not necessarily interested in the rat race.”
As such, the daily grind “varies tremendously. There's a lot of writing, like drafting memos, briefs or motions.” What about the dread doc review? “There's a fair amount of discovery work but not like reviewing tons and tons of docs all the time. A lot gets outsourced. We tend not to have as many huge doc heavy cases, and generally speaking I get to handle the more interesting aspects of discovery.” In addition, there's “certainly legal research. I've not got to take a deposition yet but I've been involved in prepping witnesses and partners for depositions. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to take or defend a deposition soon.” Sources also highlighted that juniors cover “a lot of case management work because of the firm's size. I keep the schedules, make sure everything's on track, reach out to co-counsel and coordinate with them, and ensure partners are on track and reviewing what they need to. It's a lot of responsibility over the cases.”
Training & Development
Aside from a few days of computer training, “there's no real formal training program” at Hangley. Insiders explained that “it's part of the environment. Because it's a smaller firm that tends to hire people who have clerked or have some experience, you're expected to hit the ground running. There's a lot of learning on the job, and fortunately the size of the place means there are lots of opportunities to see partners in action, participate in strategy calls with the client, and talk things through. Partners and associates are always willing and able to help when you're unfamiliar with things. There's a lot of support if you seek it out and if you need it.” Juniors are assigned a shareholder (partner) and an associate mentor.
“You're expected to hit the ground running.”
Only a few junior-level associates are hired each year, so Hangley can afford to be scrupulous in its selection process. High academic achievement is a must, of course. Many juniors have clerked for at least a year, although it's not a formal requirement. “Pretty much everybody has come off a clerkship – the firm actively seeks clerks,” emphasized juniors. However, “a lot of it is about fit and having the right personality for the firm – they want smart people who can get along with others and make it a pleasant place to work.”
“Pretty much everybody has come off a clerkship.”
Managing partner David Pudlin tells us that “we hire laterally for specialty areas like corporate, real estate or family – we prefer that people get their training in these specialties elsewhere. With litigation, we like to train them internally. We look for a strong academic background, a strong federal clerkship or even two, and for self-starters, because our firm is very hands on. One cannot hide in the library! Early on they will be going before judges. We want them to progress rapidly, whereas at bigger firms associates are given such opportunities much more slowly.”
All the newish associates on our 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 Philly office was recently renovated. “They did a good job – it's not luxurious by any stretch, but you get a stipend to decorate your office. I have some art work and finally had my diploma framed and my bar certificates. Some people get a rug. It's very homey.” Juniors mentioned eagerly that “our offices are huge and they're not hierarchical about it, so I have a bigger office than some of the partners. They just give you a space!”
“It's very homey.”
Hangley's website says it provides “down-to-earth legal counsel” with “a healthy sense of humor.” But what's the reality like? Juniors told us that Hangley “tries to live up to its humorous image, but it's still a law firm where serious work happens and people are serious about stuff.” That said, it's as “informal as a law firm can be! We have a lunch every Friday. People are approachable. You can talk to partners whose names are on the door about anything, be it career issues or your experience at the firm. They're open and willing. The size of the firm and the fact that people have been here a long time helps. There's camaraderie. Everybody knows everyone. There isn't space here for people who are going to be disrespectful or yelling at others. That's not something that's accepted here. There's an ethos that people are treated with respect and that includes associates, staff and paralegals. A real effort is made to make this a nice place to work. It's not like people are cracking jokes all day, but we'll get a funny email circulating every once in a while and we all get along, and so far it's been fantastic.”
“It's not like everybody is getting together and doing shots at the bar.”
Juniors added that “it's not a place where you're chained to your desk 24/7. A lot of us have families, and partners understand when, for example, you have to take a morning to go to something at your child's school; so long as it's not interfering with work it's no problem. The partners are the kind of people who went to events at their kids' schools.”
On the social calendar, there's a holiday party and occasional happy hours planned by the associate development committee (“people attend but it's not like everybody is getting together and doing shots at the bar – a lot have families”). Plus there are “periodic family events and informal get-togethers. We have a rule of four where the firm will cover a lunch bill if four people organize a lunch together.”
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. “Nobody has any complaints about billables – it's not all about the hours like at many firms. If you're not turning things down, nobody's going to say how come you didn't find enough work to meet your target? We need to work hard and be responsive to clients, and some times are busier than other times, the idea here is that we don't want people being here every night until midnight and weekends and not getting to see family and friends.”
A source emphasized that Hangley is “pretty much a nine to six kind of place – the office is pretty quiet after 6pm. If there's more to be done I'll have dinner and put my kids to bed and then do another hour or two of work.” A very busy time might mean “getting in at 8am and leaving more like 7pm or 7.30pm and working one day of the weekend.” A junior summarized: “It's as good as it can be in this line of work.”
“It's as good as it can be in this line of work.”
Associates reckoned that pro bono at Hangley is “definitely encouraged” but pointed out that “unlike bigger firms, they don't give you credit to count toward the 1,800 target.” That said, “the billable target means less, because the bonus isn't based on it.” According to sources, who'd worked on family and immigration cases, “Hangley also differs from a big firm in that there's no structured pipeline for pro bono, so you have to be more proactive about getting it and finding your own projects. The firm takes a broad view, so community involvement is also encouraged even if it's not a legal project per se. Attorneys here sit on various boards of community and social welfare organizations.”
“You have to be more proactive about getting it.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per attorney: undisclosed
On the subject of diversity, associates pointed out that firm's small size skews the figures somewhat. “They only generally hire one or two people every year, so it's tougher to get the diversity we want to have. There's an effort made to reach out to diverse candidates and encourage them to apply. The diversity here is more aspirational than anything. We don't have as much diversity as a lot of us would like.” One thought that “diversity should be something people address more than they do.”
However, in terms of gender diversity, “we have a large number of female partners compared to a lot of other firms.” In fact, there are 29% female partners, and 40% female associates. Sources partly credited the firm's approach to work/life balance: “A lot of people here are able to raise kids and have a successful career.” Interviewees commented that “there are not very many people of color here at all.”
“We don't have as much diversity as a lot of us would like.”
Unlike bigger outfits, Hangley doesn't have a range of diversity groups or committees. “There are so few of us, the relationships are personal, not mediated through an affinity group.”
Strategy & Future
Looking back at the previous 12 months, CEO David Pudlin tells us that the firm's “had another terrific year – our fifth really terrific year in a row. We have continued to hire wonderful young attorneys including Harvard and Yale Law graduates. The strategy for the future involves a 'more of the same' approach. Our commercial litigation department, which is the majority of the firm, continues to do very well, and real estate work has picked up quite a bit so we have had growth there. Our family law group continues to grow and do well, and environmental work also is increasing.”
Hangley's pulling power is demonstrable. “We have been approached by several partners at large firms who are interested in joining us. The fact that we are attractive to partners in other firms who have portable business is flattering also.”
The lighter side of Hangley
As a dedicated section on the Hangley's website, Not For Attribution publishes numerous amusing stories, emails and conversations from Hangley employees. 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.