Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP - The Inside View

Litigation is the largest practice at this New Yorker, which combines international scope with a small-firm feel.

THE 'Hughes' part of Hughes Hubbard's name is pretty significant. You've hopefully heard of Charles Evans Hughes, the statesman, Republican politician and jurist who, in 1888, joined the firm that would later become Hughes Hubbard & Reed. While Hughes himself had ambitions beyond Wall Street (he narrowly lost the 1916 presidential election to Woodrow Wilson), his firm went from strength to strength. Nowadays, it has six US offices, two international bases, in Tokyo and Paris, and a clutch of national-level Chambers USA rankings for product liability, aviation finance, international trade and international arbitration. Indeed, interviewees cited the firm's “strong international practices” as a major draw, while also praising its accommodating size.

The Work

Most new juniors head to New York. DC also takes on newcomers and at the time of our calls there were a couple in Miami as well. Most are litigators, although there are some corporate juniors and a sprinkling in tax and IP. For those in New York and DC, the process of getting staffed on matters is fairly formalized. “We have traffic managers and partners in charge of making sure that people are assigned work in the beginning and that it's evenly distributed between associates.” However, “you do have the ability to shape your practice. After you’ve been here for a while, you get a sense of who you like to work with and build up relationships with them.” According to one litigator, “when I came in I was doing a bit of everything. Last year I worked exclusively on an insurance matter, but I knew I wanted to do white-collar work and reached out to a partner.”

Lots of our sources were involved in anticorruption and white-collar investigations. “We're generally working for pretty large multinational corporations, occasionally individuals, doing internal investigations and compliance work,” explained an interviewee. “Some clients have been sanctioned by The World Bank, the DOJ or some regulator. As part of settlement there’s a compliance program and we help them to strengthen their FCPA compliance and successfully meet the goals set by the enforcement agency.” Sources informed us that “in this practice area there’s not a lot of legal research, because most cases don’t get to trial. Typically I'm reading emails, contracts and files. A lot of doc review is inevitable, then I can draft a chronology, put together a report and drafting emails and memos.” Also, “there’s a lot of client time and traveling to interview witnesses.”

“When I came in I was doing a bit of everything."

Over in securities, juniors had delved into class actions and spent their time “preparing for depositions, developing questions to ask, reviewing documents, researching and drafting.” One declared proudly: “My input is sought constantly. I do a lot more than just mundane stuff.” Meanwhile, in the corporate department, interviewees reported “working on a variety of matters from M&A to bank finance to securities, mostly M&A. I've been on very large deals and midmarket deals, both public and private.” Daily fare includes “a lot of due diligence and coordinating diligence with more junior associates, as well as drafting some pretty substantive stuff like merger agreements, loan agreements and ancillary documents.” Client contact is also on the cards.

Training & Development

Incoming juniors attend an initial training week in the Big Apple, known as The Hughes Institute. “There are a lot of lectures and panel discussions on life as an associate, including tips on how to survive. The rest of the week is litigation-focused; we're given an overview of every stage of the process and our responsibilities.” Corporate folk attend their own sessions. Juniors highlighted that “it's a great program and an excellent way to get to know your colleagues.”

There's also “substantive trial advocacy training” for first-years in the form of an “intensive” three-day mock trial. “It's fun but a little scary because you're performing in front of your peers. High school students come in to be the jurors and a Harvard professor was the judge,” recalled an associate. In addition, the firm offers a range lunchtime trainings (“sometimes put on by partners, sometimes by outside folk. Often they give you CLE credit”). Sources appreciated that “on the firm's internal web page you can seek training on any number of topics and there’s an extensive list of video seminars.”

"We're given an overview of every stage of the process and our responsibilities.”

Of course, a lot of learning happens on the job. “We have a formal mentoring program which is a great resource but really subject to what sort of relationship you have – it can be hit or miss. I’ve got the best substantive support from people that I’ve sought out myself.” One added that “I always feel comfortable asking questions.” Formal reviews happen annually.

Hours & Compensation

In order to be eligible for a bonus, associates must clock up 1,950 hours, of which 1,750 must be billable (the rest can be pro bono etc.). Beyond that, “it's a tiered system and pretty transparent.” There's also a nonbillable discretionary component, which is “a little less transparent.” Associate reckoned that the 1,950 figure is “definitely a realistic target for BigLaw. People make their hours pretty easily, we’re super-busy.” Some sources mentioned that “as a first-year it may be a little hard to meet, but the firm understands that it takes a little while to ramp up and they don’t hold it against you.”

“I’m master of my own schedule."

When it comes to work/life balance, “I find that seniors and partners are very considerate of your life outside the firm. I’ve been grateful for that since I’ve gotten here. People are respectful if you’re on vacation. When you work late it’s because there’s actually work to be done – people don't give you stuff just to keep you here.” Of course, it ebbs and flows. A litigator revealed that “last summer was the busiest time. I worked 250 or 300 hours a month. I had no balance: I was either working or sleeping. That was a crazy time! But then things died down a bit and I was able to catch up with friends and family.”

A certain amount of flexibility is granted and it's possible to work from home: “I’m master of my own schedule, although obviously that changes if there’s a filing or a short turnaround. In general, I’m treated as a grown-up and not micro-managed. My bosses are more interested in me getting my work done than where I do it.” Associates spend an average of around ten to 12 hours in the office on a typical day.


Asked about the office, the first thing a New Yorker flagged up was that “there's a Starbucks on the site, which is helpful!” Whether they're caffeinated or not, associates enjoy “great views – we're quite near the Statue of Liberty.” The New York base is currently in the final phase of a renovation. “We now have standing desks in every office and they’ve put an emphasis on light, so there’s a lot of glass.” This transparency proved distasteful to some. “My wall is made of glass and I have no privacy,” one shared. “I spend so many hours in this office and I can’t change my clothes!” Though obviously “you can close your door.”

In DC, an office upgrade is in the pipeline. “It's good that we don’t share offices and we all have windows.” Although some described it as “a little dated," one mused that “it has more of a classic feel. The firm takes pride in its history and you’ll see a lot of tributes to our founder Charles Hughes, as he’s such a big figure in American political and judicial history.”


"It doesn’t feel super-uptight. Everyone is impressive but not condescending,” said associates. “There's a saying around here that perfection is a standard for our work. The partners are committed to that, but not inconsiderate of your life outside work.”

The size of the DC office means “you get to know everybody pretty well," though business travel schedules can mean "there are fewer people around.” Generally, “people have a sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously.” The social calendar doesn't contain a whole lot of firm-sponsored events, but there are monthly attorney lunches. “It takes a special kind of person to get a group together on top of a busy schedule but we do try to get together. Last year we had a big happy hour when the partners went away on retreat.” Sources also appreciated the business casual dress code.

“It takes a special kind of person to get a group together on top of a busy schedule." 

Over in New York, there are “pizza Thursdays and a breakfast every Tuesday morning where you can catch up with other attorneys and talk about your cases or life in general.” Plus “there are good mentoring events which you can get reimbursed. Usually we have lunches or dinner, but I've also been to a spa and got my nails done.”

Pro Bono

Associates told us that the firm has recently become “much more encouraging” of pro bono by changing its hours policy “in response to a lot of complaints.” Now, after 50 pro bono hours, hour-by-hour credit is given toward the bonus, up to 200 hours. Interviewees had worked on family and immigration cases, among others. The firm also works with nonprofit organization Human Rights First, which is currently campaigning to close Guantánamo. Lawyers also take on arts litigation, prisoner rights and HIV/AIDS issues. 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 50,922
  • Average per US attorney: 131


Historically, Hughes Hubbard has been known for its commitment to diversity – out of all the Wall Street firms, it hired the first female associate and made the first black female partner. Nowadays the firm is led by a female chair, Candace Beinecke.

"There are people here from all over the world.”

“History only goes so far,” conceded associates, “but I feel that the firm is very welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Hughes Hubbard is very international in its practice so there are people here from all over the world.” There are affinity groups for ethnic groups and LGBT lawyers as well as a women's group which organizes roundtable lunches with speakers and networking events. Despite the firm's “huge, deep commitment to diversity,” associates highlighted that there's still the “frustrating structural problem in society that's reflected in the make-up of most big law firms.” Just under half (48%) of associates are female, and at partner level the figure is 23%. Among partners, 92% are white, and 70% of associates are white.

Compare law firm diversity figures>>

Get Hired

“What impresses me the most is a candidate’s ability to take the conversation any way it goes."

Hiring partner George Tsougarakis tells us that “the ability to do well in a law school exam is the beginning and end point for a lot of law firms, but we're looking for people who can do that and in addition bring something else to the table, whether that's a skill or interest or something compelling about their background.” At interview, “what impresses me the most is a candidate’s ability to take the conversation any way it goes, whatever the tenor. People who can actually engage with you – that's the key indicator of success.”

Strategy & Future

DC managing partner Bill Stein tells us that “we are not a huge firm and that's by design. We decided many years ago to focus our practice in areas where we could bring the most value to our clients in terms of high-quality legal service. We are not trying to be all things to all people. Our strategy is to grow in our areas of strength, or in adjacent areas, through organic growth from within the firm and through the strategic acquisition of laterals."  Bill Stein identifies antitrust, IP litigation, securities enforcement, and international arbitration as some of the areas currently being bolstered by the firm. "We continue to look for this kind of careful, strategic growth in other areas of strength, such as in our anticorruption and investigations practice, arbitration, litigation and M&A," he adds. For the full interview, read our Bonus Features on Hughes Hubbard online. 

Interview with DC managing partner Bill Stein

Chambers Associate: What have been the major highlights for the firm over the past 12 months?

Bill Stein: We judge our success by the significance of the work our clients give us and the results we get. Let me give you just a few examples from the DC office. Our internal investigations practice has been growing by leaps and bounds. The group represents many major corporations around the world -- in the last few years, the group conducted investigations across 90 countries.

Our International Arbitration group is working on a number of investor treaty claims relating to the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia. As you can imagine, these cases generate many novel issues about the operation of investment treaties in these kinds of situations. Our International Trade group represents the Government of Canada in the world’s largest and longest running trade dispute – the dispute between America and Canada over softwood lumber. The group also has been in the forefront of advising multinational companies on the rapidly-changing and very difficult sanctions environment covering trade with Russia, Iran, and Cuba.

Our litigators have been in the front lines in the litigation flowing from the financial melt-down in 2008 and the resulting Great Recession. We have represented the trustee for the broker-dealers (i.e, the principal subsidiaries) in the liquidation of Lehman Brothers and MF Global. The Trustee (who is one of our partners) and our colleagues who represented him have garnered many praises from the financial community, the regulators and the bankruptcy court over the way we've handled the complex matters and over the amount we recovered for the customers and creditors, which were much higher than anticipated. We also represent the FDIC in financial litigation arising from the biggest bank failures of this era, including Washington Mutual and IndyMac.

Of course, there are many other interesting and important things going on in the firm, but I think that’s a good sample of what's going on. In addition to our paying client work, we are enormously proud of our pro bono work. As a firm we've been committed to pro bono since the beginning – our founder, Charles Evans Hughes made it an important part of the firm’s culture.

In DC, for example, over 60% of lawyers (including partners) perform 50 or more hours of pro bono, and the average per lawyer in 2015 was around 120 hours. We've been honored this year by awards from the courts, the Legal Aid Society, Her Justice (an organization that works on women's rights), DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and Immigration Equality (which has given us a 'safe haven' award for our work on asylum cases).

We are particularly gratified by the fact that after five years, we won asylum for a man who fled El Salvador after receiving death threats from gangs. To have used a creative and novel argument and achieved asylum for this young man is extremely rewarding.

CA: What's the firm's strategy for the future? Any practice areas that will expand or office openings in the pipeline?

BS: We are not a huge firm and that's by design. We decided many years ago to focus our practice in areas where we could bring the most value to our clients in terms of high quality legal service. We are not trying to be all things to all people. Our strategy is to grow in our areas of strength, or in adjacent areas, through organic growth from within the firm and through the strategic acquisition of laterals. Here in DC one of our strategic goals is to build up antitrust, and we have brought in several very impressive antitrust lawyers. I will mention a few other examples. In IP litigation, we’ve brought three top-notch IP partners into the New York office and an IP counsel , who's also a UVA professor, into the DC office. In International Arbitration, we were joined by a prominent investment treaty practitioner. Most recently, we brought into the DC office a former SEC Commissioner and a former senior SEC official to help take our securities enforcement practice to a new level. We are very excited about all of our new partners and counsel. These are all areas we were strong in already, and these strategic acquisitions have made us even stronger. We continue to look for this kind of careful, strategic growth in other areas of strength, such as in our anti-corruption and investigations practice, arbitration, litigation and M&A.

CA: What advice would you have for a law student thinking of joining the firm?

BS: We provide the same quality of work as the many other name brand firms we consider our peers. We compete with them for talent, but we do it in a different atmosphere – we're a smaller organization, with about 60 lawyers in DC, and 350 lawyers world-wide. Our culture is about team work. We like each other and we like working with each other. We know our colleagues have our backs. That's one of the reasons we never merged, although we've had opportunities to do so – we're not willing to give up our culture. We like to work hard, but we also recognize the importance of family and balancing work with a life outside the office. Also, as a smaller firm – and particularly in a smaller office like DC – our associates will be pushed to take on responsibility as early as possible. If a student is looking for that kind of atmosphere, along with the chance to get significant responsibility sooner rather than later, then HH&R is the right kind of place for her or him.

Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

One Battery Park Plaza,
New York,
NY 10004-1482

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 6
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $394,000,000
  • Partners (US): $2,145,000
  • Per Lawyer (US): $1,185,000
  • Summer Salary 2016  
  • 1Ls: $3,100
  • 2Ls: $3,100
  • Post 3Ls: $3,100
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
  • Summers 2016: 22
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 21 offers, 21 acceptances

Main areas of work
With offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Miami, Jersey City, Kansas City, Tokyo and Paris, Hughes Hubbard offers expertise in a wide-range of practice areas. Our team of more than 350 experienced practitioners works in over 30 specialized practices, from mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, corporate reorganization, real estate and cross-border transactions to general commercial litigation, securities litigation, international trade, anti-corruption and internal investigations, international arbitration and dispute resolution, product liability, antitrust, intellectual property, labor, employee benefits and tax, as well as niche practices such as art law and a credit card practice.

Firm profile
The firm has outstanding diversity scores and consistently receives high marks for its pro bono activities. The American Lawyer has consistently recognized Hughes Hubbard on its A-List of the nation’s most elite law firms.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 30
• Number of 2nd year associates: 26
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Brooklyn Law School, Columbia University Law School, Cornell Law School, Duke University School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, New York University School of Law, Stanford Law School, University of Chicago Law School, University of Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Yale Law School

Summer details
Summer associate profile:
Hughes Hubbard recognizes that a successful recruiting effort is essential to the long-term success of the firm. We are committed to rendering services of the highest professional quality and, to that end, seek lawyers of exceptional ability, integrity and industry. We actively recruit candidates whose academic performance, energy, personality and character suggest that they possess the ability and desire to meet the challenges presented by a demanding practice and are prepared to develop rapidly and assume responsibility early.

Summer program components:
Summer associates work on real problems, not “make-work,” and those problems often involve far more than library research. In recent years, for example, summer associates have assisted at depositions, court proceedings and closings. Summer associates participate in a wide variety of client meetings, witness interviews, negotiation sessions and fact-gathering projects and, on some occasions, they have traveled to other offices.