This midsizer is powered by international capabilities that take it far beyond its traditional stronghold in Manhattan.
“IT was just the right size, neither too big nor too small,” Hughes Hubbard's juniors reflected. And so just (a bit…) like Goldilocks on her quest, our associate sources found their perfect fit in the form of this modestly proportioned Big Apple institution, which turned 130 years young in 2018.HH's ties to New York are significant: itsfounder, Charles Evans Hughes, had an illustrious career as Governor of New York, but also became a figure of nationwide significance when he served as US Secretary of State, a Supreme Court Chief Justice and even a Republican presidential candidate.
HH also expanded its reputation beyond the borders of the Empire State. It now has six domestic bases, which give the firm coverage on both coasts, as well as further inland in Kansas City, Missouri. But for our interviewees it was HH's broader dimensions that appealed: “It's one of those firms with really active practices in international fields like arbitration and trade. I wanted to be involved in them.” Offices in Tokyo and Paris enhance HH's capabilities in this respect, and Chambers Global ranks the firm in both of the areas just mentioned. On its home turf, this litigation-heavy practice is recognized for its product liability and white-collar knowhow, while on the transactional side Chambers USA singles out the firm's aviation finance, Latin American investment and corporate/M&A expertise as particular highlights.
Litigation is the main destination for newly-minted attorneys, but a scattering of juniors can also be found in corporate, tax, IP, international trade, and anti-corruption and internal investigations. The last two practices are based in the DC office, which takes on a fair number of incoming juniors, but the New York HQ takes on the most (Miami, meanwhile, usually hires just one newcomer a year).
In both New York and DC “there are two work assignment systems that run in tandem.” Traffic managers collect availability reports from associates and distribute tasks to those who've selected a green light; at the same time “you start to get work directly from partners. It's a good way to balance variety and working repeatedly with partners you get on well with.” HH's attorneys don't officially specialize until they reach mid-level status. This policy works for those who “come into the firm without a concrete idea of what they want to do – it gives you a chance to try out different things.” While “it's possible to informally pre-specialize by going back to get work from the same partners,” it's worth noting that “you may be staffed on other things if you're needed.”
Hungry litigators took full advantage of the disputes buffet on offer, piling their plates high with fraud, product liability, bankruptcy and general commercial matters, as well as internal investigations and international arbitration work. “What I enjoy about the practice is that it doesn't have a limited industry focus,” a source explained. “I've dipped into energy, banking, aerospace and real estate matters.” As a result, “no two days are the same,” but common tasks include “conducting legal research and providing opinions, plus helping to draft first versions of motions and, in some cases, entire briefs.” Do any specialties offer a shortcut to the juicy work? “Product liability involves a lot of legal analysis upfront,” we heard, “while bankruptcy matters involve less complex legal work, but you're still in charge of drafting the motion. Overall there are moments when you can get in over your head, but those are the ones that provide great opportunities for growth.”
“Product liability involves a lot of legal analysis upfront.”
HH's corporate team is smaller, so “juniors tend to specialize more quickly.” Each office has its own flavor: New York has M&A, structured finance and funds teams; Miami deals “mostly with Latin American clients”;and DC's tighter focus is on aviation finance and compliance. A few newbies in the capital go into international trade and ply their own trade on “a combination of litigation and regulatory matters.” The team “advises clients on economic sanctions and customs laws, helps them to apply for licenses, and drafts government filings.” New arrivals “got a primary drafting role from the very beginning” alongside “less demanding tasks, like preparing PowerPoints or materials for meetings.”
Training & Development
All incoming associates attend a weeklong program in New York, which has a rather splendid name: 'The Hughes Institute.' “It's geared toward litigators and corporate juniors, and it's full of seminars that get you up to speed. I'm constantly revisiting the materials!” After this, first-year litigators attend a trial advocacy workshop which lasts for a few days : “A professor teaches us and there's a case simulation where we each do opening and closing statements and cross-examine an expert witness. It's a very good program.” Corporate juniors attend their own trainings, which are spread out over their first few months at HH. Beyond that, “we're encouraged to take CLEs, which are either hosted at the firm or made available via an external provider.”
Annual reviews are held in late January/early February and goals for the year ahead are set. “During the evaluation two to three partners will walk you through the feedback that's been collected on your performance, but if there's an issue people don't wait for the review to address it – they'll take you aside and explain how to fix it.”
Culture & Diversity
So what's the atmosphere like within HH's hallowed halls? “It's a quirky environment full of brilliant attorneys,” sources replied. “It's a lot more casual than expected, which enables you to really build up personal relationships – the firm's size also lends itself to that.” Interviewees were quick to provide anecdotes to demonstrate their point.One fondly recalled that “when I went into my callback interview someone down the hall sneezed, and my interviewer immediately called down to themand said 'bless you!'” Another said that “there's a partner who gets upset if you email him instead of just stopping by – he says that his door is open for a reason!” Juniors therefore agreed that “the people here genuinely seem to like each other, which you can't say about every law firm.”
“When the stars align and we all have the same night off we do go out.”
HH's size means that “everyone knows everyone and we celebrate each other's birthdays,” so be prepared to donate to whip-rounds for cake. When not breaking out the candles for a sing-song, attorneys “organize happy hours if they feel like it.” The firm also sponsors events including bowling nights and an annual trivia night, which “are there if you want to attend them – a lot of people have families so it's understandable that they want to spend their evenings and weekends with them.” Juniors felt that “people are often especially friendly with those from their summer class,” and though the hustle and bustle of law means “everybody has a busy schedule, when the stars align and we all have the same night off we do go out.”
Affinity groups – for female, black, Latino, Asian and LGBT attorneys – provide another route for getting chummy with colleagues. “We also have a diversity task force which sponsors a lot of events and gets speakers in,” sources revealed.HH's historical diversity achievements make for impressive reading: it was the first Wall Street firm to hire a female associate in 1942, the first to appoint an African-American female partner in 1969, and the first major New York firm to promote a woman (Candace Beinecke) as chair – Beinecke serves as senior partner today. That's a hefty reputation to live to up to, but associates had noticed that “diversity has got a lot better recently thanks to the make-up of incoming and lateral associates.” Several pointed to New York as the best performer in the network, while those in DC noticed that “we've got a lot more racially diverse lately – the women's committee here is also really active and hosts workshops and round table discussions.”
Almost every source we spoke to had done some pro bono work. One described it as “a significant part of associate life,” and indeed all attorneys must bill at least 20 pro bono hours each year. “There is an incentive to do a lot beyond the minimum: the policy is that if you reach 50 pro bono hours anything above that counts toward your billable bonus targets.” A maximum of 200 hours of pro bono can be counted as billable. Our sources told of working on International Human Rights Tribunals, Fourth Amendment housing disputes, uncontested divorces and collaborations with local institutions like the Beth Israel Medical Center.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 32,725
- Average per US attorney: 123.5
Hours & Compensation
HH has a tiered bonus system, so there are a few numbers to remember. Associates must hit 1,950 hours to be eligible for a bonus at half the market rate; 2,100 gets them market; 2,300 hours lands them market and a half. Finally, the mega billers who reach 2,500 get a tasty double market bonus. “What the system does very well is reward hard workers,” most sources agreed. “It's a good program for honoring Herculean efforts and nobody thinks that the people who get the high-tiered bonuses don't deserve them.”
“It's a good program for honoring Herculean efforts.”
Our interviewees across the board tended to start a little later (10am) and leave the office any time between 6pm and 11pm. “It's very flexible,” said one source when discussing HH's stance on office-based hours, “even if the work itself is inflexible!” Thankfully, “super late nights aren't too frequent; there are some all-nighters but they always involve working with the team on something exciting.”
The New York HQ was remodeled in 2017: “Now it's very modern and sleek, which makes you feel very professional! Plus it's based in a great location across from Battery Park – if you're on the best side you get a beautiful view of the water.” DC was going through renovations at the time of our calls. “They're much needed,” said relieved juniors here. Some nostalgic souls “will likely miss the old school law firm feel,” but most “welcomed all the glass, standing desks and the new streamlined colors – it was looking a bit old and stodgy!” The extent of cross-office collaboration varies by practice group; we heard that ties with the Paris base are generally strong, especially in HH's international trade group – “people are going to Paris all the time!”
Strategy & Future
DC managing partner Bill Stein tells us Hughes Hubbard's "strategy as a mid-size firm is to focus on the areas that we're very strong in and bring the most value to our clients." Alongside “cutting-edge work” in international arbitration, Stein highlights “an extremely successful year of lateral partner hiring” that has bolstered areas like anti-corruption and international trade. The Trump administration has prompted “a lot of new work” in the latter area, “as our clients have needed to understand what direction to take following policy changes.”
“It's all about whether or not your personality fits,” said our sources at Hughes Hubbard. “The office interviews are pretty hands-off, and we don't use a set list of questions – we're looking for someone who is willing to work hard and take responsibility.” So far, so law firm: what about more concrete skills? “Language skills on your resume are universally a good thing” at internationally-minded HH – “if there's a language on your resume you'll be asked about it, and probably in that language!” Summer internships and prior work experience are also good conversation starters, and it's crucial to “have something on your resume that you're passionate about so you don't seem robotic.”
Interviewers are inclined to test just how passionate candidates are about their hobbies: “One interviewee had written that they liked to play acoustic guitar, so the partner produced a guitar and asked them to play something!” Keeping the musical theme going, another anecdote involved “a question on what my favorite karaoke song was. We're all qualified for the job, so we're looking for somebody who we'll enjoy being in the trenches with.” Juniors added that “there's no particular cookie cutter we pay attention to; we just really appreciate people with something distinctive about them and something interesting to bring to the firm.”
When asked about a typical intake, some insiders felt that “Hughes Hubbard tends to recruit candidates who haven't come straight from undergrad; we value people with past work experience and the level of maturity that comes with that.” It's by no means a hard and fast rule, and the same source admitted that “a lot of people do just make a good impression, regardless of whether they've got much prior work experience or not.” Interviewers also appreciate it when candidates ask “good questions, and in particular very individualized ones. Ask about something you've read on our website, for example, as that makes you stand out as a candidate and will help your interviewer to remember you.”
DC managing partner Bill Stein suggests "the key to being successful as a new lawyer who's learning is not to view it as simply a job. To be successful you have to own the project and always think about what comes next and become indispensable by learning everything there is to know about the part of the project you're involved with. That's the key to getting more responsibility, and from there the work becomes more interesting and your development progresses faster." He points out that Hughes Hubbard is "a smaller environment than some and we staff cases leanly, so there are good opportunities for lawyers who want to take them," while explaining that the firm's international presence means language skills are "extraordinarily important" and beneficial if you've got them. "Ourlawyers can be found in any office in any continent on any day."
Interview with hiring partner George Tsougarakis
Chambers Associate: Has the scope of your recruitment drive changed at all in recent years?
George Tsougarakis: In terms of the number of schools we visit, we changed it a few years ago. Casting a wide net wasn't the best tactic so we restricted it a little and focused on soliciting resumes from outstanding people and getting recommendations from colleagues and clients. As well as looking at former paralegals, I think we broadened our reach in other ways, especially with the referral system. We've also started to focus more on recruiting clerks.
CA: What do you do to promote diversity in recruitment?
GT: The numbers are really what help us. I think we are able to speak frankly about diversity as our numbers are historically very excellent. We are not afraid to talk about diversity and about mentors. We know how important it is to attract members and keep them here. It's not just history – when I was an associate, it was largely a majority-dominated firm. Sure, we had the first African American female partner in New York, but that doesn't make you diverse, having one person who is no longer there. That is something, even though my older colleagues are very receptive, we have to keep working on it constantly. History's one thing, but putting it into practice gets results.
CA: Is there a specific type of person that you look for, who you think will succeed at HH?
GT: I don't think there's anything unique about our criteria – the kind of person who will do well at HH will do well at other places. What attracts people here is the sense of community – you are valued for what else you bring to the table. You are valued for other attributes. I think everybody in all firms looks for the same things. What we like to see is something extra – there's no one thing that that extra could be. People realize that they're not one of 100 – they are one of 20. If you treat people like individuals, they should act like them; they should have credentials. It goes beyond just ability. I think a lot of firms, because of the numbers, stop at the ability to do well in a law school exam. You spoke to our people, and I'm sure all that comes through.
CA: Are there any plans to expand the summer program, e.g. to take summer associates in smaller offices?
GT: Every office manages its own program. But I think our numbers have been pretty consistent between 13 and 18 people, and I think that's our sweet spot for now. We are active in the clerk market so we are able to track people as third-year students or in clerkships, if we have specific needs. So we don't really have plans to get bigger.
CA: What does the firm offer young lawyers that is unique?
GT: I think the important thing is twofold. One is the ability to explore various different practices under the corporate or litigation umbrella. We don't pigeonhole associates, we allow them to do different things in corporate or litigation. It's the ability to sort of figure out what you like about being a lawyer. Law school gives you specific training but you can also find out you don't want to do something. But within those subjects it's hard to get a firm idea where you actually want to end up. At Hughes Hubbard you have the ability to experience all these different practice areas. As a young associate you can do many different things. You know you're one of, at most, 20 people in your class – everyone knows who you are and you rise and fall on your merits. You get one-on-one face time, the teams are fairly lean, and you can work with senior people directly.
CA: Do you have any advice for our readers?
GT: I think what I tell people is cast a wide net. Talk to people, talk to other lawyers at other firms, to friends, friends of friends and your professors. There's a whole host of resources available to law students to help them make a decision. If diversity is your issue, ask to speak to diverse attorneys. If you're hoping to start a family, talk to lawyers with kids.
Take your time. Identify what's important to you. Firms should be more than happy to do it; we're certainly more than happy to do it. I never begrudge a person taking time – it's a big decision, take your time, put in a plan.
Interview with DC managing partner Bill Stein
Chambers Associate: What's been the most exciting thing that the firm has done over the past year?
Bill Stein: We've had a number of important victories and it's been a great year for growth; we've focused our energies and resources both in terms of the work we do for paying clients and pro bono. It's also been a great year for our diversity initiatives.
To take just one example, our international arbitration group has been doing cutting edge work: it has won several jurisdictional decisions in ground-breaking cases relating to a 1998 bilateral investment treaty between Ukraine and Russia, and the latter's annexation of Crimea. In each case the arbitral panels held that BIT applied to Ukraine territory under internationally unrecognized occupation by Russia. Another example is the expansion of our premier international trade practice: we brought in Dean Pinkert, the former International Trade Commission Vice Chairman, and Sean Kane, a former senior policy official at the Office of Foreign Assets Control. We've had an extremely successful year of lateral partner recruiting in our anti-corruption and investigations group, where we brought Laura Perkins, who served as the Assistant Chief for FCPA enforcement at the Justice Department.
CA: What’s the long-term vision for Hughes Hubbard?
BS: Our strategy as a midsize firm is to focus on the areas in which we're very strong and bring the most value to our clients. Those are the areas we're going to put our energies and investment into – we can't be everything to everyone. This strategy has been successful for us for many years, so we're sticking to it.
CA: How do you see the market evolving in the near future? How will the changes introduced by the Trump administration change things?
BS: Changes introduced by administrations always mean different things to each of our different practices. A lot of new work has been created in international trade, for instance, as our clients have needed to understand what direction to take following significant policy changes. There's been a lot of activity advising on trade sanctions as well as import-related trade policy. It's hard to say how things will change when it comes to the SEC – that's still up in the air. The important thing is that we're as busy this year as we were last year and the year before that.
CA: What makes Hughes Hubbard unique?
BS: I've stayed at this firm for 39 years because I've found the culture here extraordinary – that's also why our firm has stayed independent despite merger offers. In DC in particular (because it's a smaller office) we foster a warm and friendly atmosphere. Our office is a truly collaborative place, in that I feel I can count on my colleagues and they can count on me no matter how busy we are. We work hard and like the work we do while recognizing the firm has a commitment to things bigger than our own pocketbooks – we're very committed to pro bono and diversity, and both of these have enriched Hughes Hubbard. The firm also understands work/life balance.
The mantra at Hughes Hubbard is that we want to compete with opposing counsel, not with each other. Our competitive energies go into the work we do! One very telling thing about our culture is that a number of former paralegals continue to work here as lawyers – two of whom are now partners. When people like it here enough to want to return and to stay here, it exemplifies the successful culture that we have we try hard to achieve.
CA: Do you have any advice for law students?
BS: When I interview law students I tell them that the key to being successful is not viewing the law as simply a job – it's not enough to take an assignment and hand it back complete. To be really successful you have to own the project and always think about what comes next; you should master the case or deal and become indispensable by learning about every aspect of it. That's the route to gaining more responsibility, and from there the work becomes more interesting and you develop professionally far more quickly. Hughes Hubbard is a small environment and we tend to staff cases leanly, which provides our lawyers with a good opportunity to take on more responsibility quickly.
I'd also point out that our practice across all areas has become so global that language skills are extraordinarily useful, as our lawyers can find themselves in any country on any continent.
CA: Is there anything else you think our readers should know about the firm?
BS: Hughes Hubbard is among the top firms for pro bono hours. The DC office shares this serious commitment to pro bono.
The firm recognizes the ability to attract and retain a diverse group of excellent lawyers is fundamental to our future success. To achieve meaningful progress in that regard we've created a plan to put our attorneys with diverse backgrounds into positions of influence. Our belief is that teams work best when they are diverse, as varied perspectives are crucial in today's world. Encouraging diversity is essential as our practice becomes more global.
Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
One Battery Park Plaza,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $322 million
- Partners (US): 82
- Associates (US): 167
- Main recruitment contact: Adrian Cockerill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Marc Weinstein
- Diversity officer: Diane Lifton
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 18
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 2Ls: 19
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: New York: 11 Washington DC: 8
- Summer salary 2018 1Ls: $3,461 per week 2Ls: $3,461 per week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
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
Recruitment outside OCIs: Hughes Hubbard accepts application from students at all law schools.
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 factgathering projects and, on some occasions, they have traveled to other offices.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Latin American Investment (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 3)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- International Arbitration (Band 2)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 4)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 4)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)