Hunton & Williams LLP - The Inside View

Home overlooks the James River, downstream from the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains; one of this eminent Virginian's fortes is all things environmental.

MONSTER blue catfish, frisky otters and the nation's symbol – bald eagles – are just some of the curious creatures who make their home in and around Virginia's majestic James River. Of the human variety, you'll find the banks populated by those eager to partake in activities like fishing, white-water rafting and kayaking. There are also plenty of lawyers to be spotted – especially those displaying Hunton & Williams's colors. The firm's largest base, rising from Richmond's Riverfront Plaza, houses nearly 250 attorneys in all, who beaver away across the firm's full range of practices. Founded back in 1901, Hunton has since expanded beyond its native River City and nowadays comprises 19 offices across the US, Europe and Asia.

Recently the firm fine-tuned its strategic plan and decided to play to traditional strengths in four industries: financial services, consumer products, real estate and energy. When it comes to climate change work, Hunton holds the legal barometer, as it's recognized by Chambers USA nationally as a first-rate adviser in weather-related regulation. It is also among the nation's elite for providing environmental advice (e.g. Clean Air Act) to utilities, energy, chemical and manufacturing clients.

The Work



Rookie Huntonians join one of eight teams: administrative law; capital finance & real estate; competition; corporate; energy & infrastructure; labor & employment; litigation; or tax & ERISA. New associates are assigned to a particular practice within their designated team. For instance, a litigator could join the retail and consumer products litigation practice, while a corporate junior could get stuck into corporate finance and M&A. As you'd expect, the Richmond base takes on the largest number of juniors, followed by the DC and New York branches. Atlanta, Dallas and LA also welcome newcomers, with a sprinkling in Miami and Charlotte. Generally, the corporate and litigation teams take the majority of newbies.

Sources were pleased to report that assignment is a “relationship-driven” process. “After you've been here a while, you start to have specific partners you work with repeatedly. It's very organic.” Although “people usually settle into a subject area,” some interviewees noted that “I occasionally work with partners on other teams as well. It's not a strict structure.”

“The doc review provides some respite!”

Corporate juniors commented that “our clients are from a range of industries; it's not so much banks and financial institutions. A fair amount of them are energy companies.” Clients also come from the pharma, technology, manufacturing and project management consultancy sectors. “In the beginning, a big part of your role is due diligence,” confirmed a source. “But now I've been here a year I get to take the first draft of main documents like the purchase agreement, although obviously there are changes made before it's ultimately signed. I also take responsibility for smaller ancillary documents and side agreements that come up depending on the complexity of the transaction.”

Over in public finance, juniors get to grips with a variety of transactions, whether it's a “simple financing like a school's water system or a sewer project” or a “more complicated public-private partnership to finance transportation and infrastructure.” Juniors draft purchase agreements, finance agreements, leases and supplemental certificates required to authorize the transaction. “One of the things that makes me happiest about the firm is that associates are trusted at a really junior level to handle a lot of substantive work and interface with the client,” declared one, sentiment echoed by those on other teams.

Meanwhile, a young litigator reflected that “there's certainly doc review to get done, but if anything it's kind of refreshing. Sometimes you've been working so much on brief writing and putting together case theories that the doc review provides some respite! People think it's drudgery, but it's part of the practice.” Another source added that “I've not taken a deposition as a second-year, but I've helped partners to prepare and have been second chair at a hearing in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Training & Development



“It's great that there's tons of training.”

All new associates congregate in DC for a couple of days of orientation to cover “the firm's systems and practices.” Throughout the first year, juniors can attend 'foundations for success' sessions that focus on “skills a young associate should have, like interacting with partners, time management and working with support staff.” As well as this, partners hold practice-specific trainings. For litigators, “there's everything from drafting a brief, conducting a deposition to cross-examining an expert and case management.” Overall, interviewees reckoned that “it's great that there's tons of training – you could have one every single week if you wanted,” but repeated the refrain that “the best training comes informally from people you work with on a regular basis.”

One emphasized that “the feedback loop is really good and ongoing. Partners have always been happy to give it to me. Although everyone's busy, it's never a bother.” The annual formal review involves associates “putting together an 'I Love Me' memo that relates to what you've done over the year and how you made a contribution. You go into the review session with written feedback from partners and seniors you've worked with; there's a name attached to every comment so it's all transparent.”

Offices



“We're not Google."

Although the hometown office contains the most lawyers,  the chairman is in DC and the managing partner is in New York, so it's hard to say which is the HQ. Domestically, Hunton has another 11 offices in its collection, as well as outposts in London, Brussels, Beijing, Bangkok and Tokyo. “In terms of being a modern office space, we're not Google, but it's very light and bright,” commented a Richmond source, while another proclaimed that “it's lovely to overlook the James River and from the top floor you see so much nature, rather than a barren cityscape.” Over in Washington, lawyers reveled in “gorgeous views of the cathedral” and the White House. “I still have to pinch myself when I come here!” trilled one.

Culture



“The 'good ol' boy' Southern law firm thing is disappearing.”

Given the firm's Virginian roots, we wondered if a Southern culture is discernible in day-to-day life at the firm. “There is some of that for sure,” associates told us. “Some old-timers prefer to be called 'Mr.' and insist that staff call them that.” A female associate pointed out that “obviously the 'good ol' boy' Southern law firm thing is disappearing, and I haven't experienced anything that would constrain me because of my gender, but there is a definitely a kind of pride in the fact that it's not a like New York firm, it's a little more collegial. It's a congenial place.”

Another interviewee explained that “engagement in the community is something that a lot of the older partners cherish and the opportunity to make an impact in the community attracts a lot of associates. It's not full of Southern stereotypes like seersucker suits and bow ties but historically this has been a traditional place. The firm has been slow to embrace a more casual workplace setting. That plays out in terms of policies – nonprimary caregivers are entitled to two weeks of leave and most men here do not take that, or even a full week. There's no pressure not to use the time, but it's reflective of different roles and expectations that are a holdover from a different era.” Those in the capital thought that “the Richmond office is much more 'Southern' – here we're moving toward a large DC firm dynamic.” However, “it's not a verbally brutal place. The lean staffing means you don't have to fight for attention or work.”

The Richmond social calendar includes a Friday happy hour, which is “lightly attended – people tend go home to their families.” That said, “there are a lot of opportunities to socialize. People get together for special occasions. Recently the firm rented out a restaurant for the day to celebrate the World Bike Championships. You can only imagine how much that cost!” Over in DC, a source listed team coffee mornings, a chilli cook-off and practice group pizza extravaganzas as social highlights.

Hours & Compensation



“This is a large firm with sophisticated practices, so it's a good thing to be busy and billing a lot,” intoned an interviewee. Sources tended to have mixed opinions about Hunton's 2,000 hour billing target. “It's realistic but it depends on how busy your group is. In some ways it's beyond your control because you're not the one bringing in work.” According to a junior, “I have concerns about not meeting the target but as long as it's a team issue and not just you then you're not penalized. You're ineligible for a bonus, but it's not like there's a black mark on your record." Speaking of the bonus system, “it invites attention because it's so opaque,” agreed sources. On the bright side, the salary has recently been raised by $10,000 in Richmond.

“I can make plans for Saturday afternoon and feel pretty confident that I won't have to cancel.”

On average, associates spend about ten hours a day at the office and “more often than not I hop back online in the evening after dinner because that's the only way to make your hours.” Those in Richmond praised the firm's attitude to work/life balance. “There's a different attitude than in New York. People here are a little more focused on family and not being in the office seven days a week. That's not to say I don't work on weekends, but generally I can make plans for Saturday afternoon and feel pretty confident that I won't have to cancel.”

Pro Bono



“It's never been a problem for me to leave for a client meeting.”

All of our sources had taken on some pro bono work, confirming that “the firm is very supportive of pro bono. It's never been a problem for me to leave for a client meeting, even though it's not billable.” Associates can count 50 hours toward the billable target (“it's not very much, frankly, but I've done 200 hours because the cases really interest me”) and emails frequently go out detailing opportunities. Interviewees had sought protective orders for victims of domestic abuse, worked with veterans on disability claims, and handled immigration cases and First Amendment issues, as well as corporate matters for nonprofit organizations. After vacationing on the Greek island of Lesbos recently, DC lawyer Adam Rosser witnessed the Syrian refugee crisis and decided to set up with colleagues a nonprofit organization, Sea of Solidarity, to help.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 40,891  
  • Average per US attorney: 64

Diversity



A female source commented that “like any BigLaw firm, there's a lot of work to be done in terms of diversity. It's full of white men. I'd say it is a good place for women to work, and there are some women in leadership positions, but I did notice that in my review I was being evaluated by eight white men!” Most sources thought that “diversity is a big priority for the firm” and noted that there are affinity groups for ethnic minority and gay attorneys as well as a women's initiative. The Richmond and Dallas offices run 1L diversity schemes.

Compare law firm diversity stats>>

Get Hired



"Being too specific and dead-set on a practice area can sometimes be damaging.” 

"We look for motivated self-starters who welcome a challenging learning curve and who have the drive to become fully engaged lawyers. Things move fast here. We encourage client interaction from the first day," co-hiring partner Tom Hiner tells us. Fellow hiring partner Kim MacLeod advises candidates to “avoid focusing too narrowly when they interview. We have many national and global practices, and our hope is that candidates will have the interest and desire to explore as many of these as possible. I think it is also critical that people do their homework – while our teams and practices are nationally organized, we don’t necessarily have all practices operating out of all offices. The important point is not to shut the door on opportunities and to demonstrate a desire to participate, a desire to learn and a desire to grow."

Strategy & Future



It's all about industry focus at Hunton. "We're committed to our four leading industry sectors – financial services, real estate, energy and consumer products. In addition to those big four, we have a wonderful emerging life sciences practice that includes healthcare," says managing partner Wally Martinez. "Our real estate practice continues to grow and we continue to have success with energy and infrastructure work in Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America; we're happy about those areas. Our public-private partnerships (PPP) practice is also doing well. Given the crumbling state of US infrastructure, and the fact that state and local governments are under tremendous pressure financially, we're increasingly seeing PPPs used to meet these needs and do it in a way that minimizes the burden on government treasuries. We're well positioned to play a role in that space."

Recent Work Highlights

  • Acting for pulp and paper company Georgia-Pacific in a case involving more than $100 million of cleanup costs for contamination in the Kalamazoo River
  • Representing Chevron in an environmental cleanup case relating to alleged toxic contamination from underground storage tanks
  • Acted for utility company Cleco Corporation on its $4.7 billion sale to an investors' consortium




 

Interview with Kim MacLeod and Tom Hiner, hiring partners



Chambers Associate: What’s the scope of your recruiting drive for summer associates? Which campuses do you visit? How many summers do you take on?

Kim MacLeod: Last year’s recruiting effort included visits to 23 campuses and four job fairs. Our summer program numbers vary based on projected need — when we make offers at Hunton & Williams, they are almost always for a specific team. As a general rule, we have between 35 and 40 summers each year.

CA: What are you looking for in a candidate? What qualities? And what type of person thrives at the firm?

Tom Hiner: The person who thrives best at our firm is someone who wants to be the master of his or her own practice. We look for motivated self-starters who welcome a challenging learning curve and who have the drive to become fully engaged lawyers. Things move fast here. We encourage client interaction from the first day, and associates get involved in meetings, conference calls and research. We provide lots of substantive growth opportunities, and we look for people who will seize them.

CA: Are there any common errors that people make at interview (OCIs)?

KM: While we hire for specific teams, candidates should avoid focusing too narrowly when they interview. We have many national and global practices, and our hope is that candidates will have the interest and desire to explore as many of these as possible. I think it is also critical that people do their homework – while our teams and practices are nationally organized, we don’t necessarily have all practices operating out of all offices. The important point is not to shut the door on opportunities and to demonstrate a desire to participate, a desire to learn and a desire to grow. We are known for our sense of community and camaraderie here, and we are looking for individuals who have a sense of spirit, a willingness to innovate and a lack of rigidity in their approach.

CA: What does the firm offer that is unique? 

TH: I think there are several areas in which we are markedly different from other firms. The first is that we have outstanding practices across three areas of the law — transactional, advocacy and regulatory — and that across these practices we have significant and deep experience in a group of industry sectors including energy, financial services, real estate investment and finance, and retail and consumer products. The second is that we are known and recognized as a firm for some of the most leading edge, and often some of the most complex, work being done for companies and institutions today. We have one of the most highly regarded privacy and cybersecurity practices. We have one of the deepest benches in the real estate capital markets space, including the broad range of tax, securities, ERISA and corporate practices that serving our clients well entails. We have long been recognized for our environmental practice. And our energy and infrastructure team was forging new developments in places like Africa long before many other law firms even thought about those opportunities.

Third, we are in interesting and dynamic markets, both large and less large. We have grown our New York and Washington DC offices, among others, while continuing to offer opportunities in Richmond as well as great cities like Atlanta and Dallas and Charlotte.

In addition, although a lot of firms say this, we really are collegial. Our offices aren't set up to compete with each other. Kim is in Richmond and I’m in New York, but we work together all the time. You can pick your desired geographic location and you're still going to get exposed to all kinds of opportunities across the firm.

KM: The summer program is run a little differently in each of our offices, but what's unique about Richmond is that we have a rotation system. Summer associates generally spend three weeks with three different groups. We make offers by team, so this means that folks have a better insight into what working in that team would be like.

TH: That's generally consistent in our other offices too. In New York, our office is small enough for summer associates to have a say in what assignments they'd like, and they're encouraged to sample different areas. A lot of times, students think they know what they want to do, but discover that what they learn in school is different than actually doing it, and that there are all sorts of practice areas and specialities about which they never learned in law school.

CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting? Are there any initiatives in place?

KM: We host 1L diversity programs in Dallas and Richmond because these are markets that historically have struggled to attract diverse candidates. For the past several years now our Richmond and Dallas offices have hosted a 1L Diversity Clerkship Program. The program is designed for the 1Ls to spend part of their summer at Hunton and part with a firm client. Among the other initiatives in place at the firm are affinity groups, mentoring and networking opportunities, and a biennial minority lawyers retreat.

CA: Is there anything else prospective associates should know about the firm?

TH: I'd reiterate that we're a firm on the rise, particularly in transactional work. There's a good sense of camaraderie and fun — we’re accomplishing something here.

KM: I'd underscore the significant growth we've had in DC and New York, markets that are white-hot in terms of where students want to be.

TH: I’d also like to mention the many opportunities we provide for pro bono service. Associates across all of our offices are encouraged to give back to the legal profession and to their communities, and they can charge up to 50 hours of pro bono service and 25 hours of disaster relief volunteer service each year toward their billable hours. In fact, during each of the past seven years, 100 percent of our US full-time lawyers have done pro bono work to help those in need.

Interview with Wally Martinez, managing partner



Chambers Associate: What have been the major highlights for the firm over the past 12 months? Are there any key transactions, cases or hires that stand out?

Wally Martinez: We've had a number of successes on the transactional side. Our real estate practice continues to grow and we've handled some very sophisticated matters, running the gamut from real estate capital markets to representing developers and financial institutions, so that's been a tremendous success story. On the energy side, we continue to play a leading role in energy capital markets, and our renewable energy finance practice is also a leader in the area.

We continue to have success with energy and infrastructure work in Africa, eastern Europe and Latin America; we're happy about those areas. Our public private partnerships (PPP) practice revolves around assisting private developers and oftentimes government in developing infrastructure and that's doing well. Given the crumbling state of US infrastructure, and the fact that state and local governments are under tremendous pressure financially, we're increasingly seeing PPPs used to meet these needs and do it in a way that minimises the burden on government treasuries. We're well-positioned to play a role in that space. We're committed to our four leading industry sectors – financial services, real estate, energy and consumer products. In addition to those big four, we have a wonderful emerging life sciences practice that includes healthcare.

CA: What can we expect from Hunton in 2016? 

WM: You'll see a continued focus on going to market around our industry strengths. We define ourself by our presence in those industries, and the matter of how to expand and where is judged by an increased focus on industry. We exist for our clients, and they see the world through an industry focus rather than a practice focus. To them, a case is not just a piece of litigation, but a matter that has implications regarding the industry, that could be a harbinger of things to come. Clients can best leverage our knowledge and expertise if we don't see it just as a particular legal matter at hand. Lawyers add value by truly focussing on the greater context.

CA: How has the drones practice developed over the last year?

WM: We represent a larger number of clients, because there's been increased regulation of and focus on that technology, although the regulators haven't figured out how they'll deal with it. We developed that practice not to stand alone, but because these issues matter to our energy clients and to our consumer products clients, so the drone practice fits into the broader strategy and that's why we invest in expertise in that space.

CA: In terms of geographical growth, are there any new areas that are of interest to the firm? Either in the US or overseas?

WM: We follow clients and industry. What we've seen across legal profession is that planting a flag and hoping the clients show up is a recipe for disaster. So we need to do more in terms of enhancing our international footprint but it has to be strategic and produce a strong return on investment.

CA: Domestically, does Hunton try to promote a one-firm culture across offices? How do you go about that?

WM: Absolutely. I'll give you an example. When our computers fall asleep what you see on the screen is a phrase that defines how we work: 'One firm, shared values, one goal.' In terms of how we promote that culture, we don't govern ourselves on geographical basis but on a practice area and industry basis. On a litigation, you work with lawyers across offices, irrespective of geography. I'm working right now on significant piece of litigation with a team comprised of lawyers in New York, DC and Miami. We're working seamlessly, which is common through the firm. If I were to define our culture in one word it would be respect. At Hunton we put a premium on respecting our colleagues and if you tie the culture to respect all the other things you want to see will follow. Strong collegiality, collaboration across geographies and practice areas all flow from that if you put a premium on how we treat one another.

CA: What advice would you have for a law student thinking of joining the firm? What does the firm offer that's unique?

WM: What we offer young associates is the ability to gain experience on substantive matters earlier in their career than in similarly sized firms. From day one we expect them to develop into owner-leaders. We look at every associate as the next leader of the firm, and we provide the tools for this. Training isn't just focused on legal issues but also around the business of law and on the industries that we serve. We expect our associates to start becoming thought leaders, we encourage and support that, and when an associate joins the firm we're looking to develop the whole person. It's in our own interest, because they'll be leading us in 10 to 15 years.

Hunton & Williams LLP

2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,
20037
Website www.hunton.com

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 14
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Partners (US): 299
  • Counsel (US): 81
  • Associates (US): 314
  • Summer Salary 2016  
  • 2Ls: $2,800-$3,080/week
  • 1Ls hired? No (Some offices may participate in a 1L diversity program.)
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
  • Summers 2016: 29
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 33 offers, 32 acceptances

Firm profile
Hunton & Williams is the legal advisor of choice for industry leaders on six continents. With more than 800 attorneys practicing from 19 offices across the United States, Europe and Asia, the firm helps clients realize new opportunities and solve complex problems with confidence. Founded in 1901, Hunton & Williams blends more than a century of experience in virtually every key legal discipline with a broad view of current business realities and a forward-looking perspective on emerging issues to provide legal and regulatory advice that will carry its clients well into the 21st century. The firm is regularly named by legal and business publications as among the top law firms for client service and as a place to work.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 28
• Number of 2nd year associates: 34
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $145,000-$160,000 (depending on location)
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Columbia University; Cornell University; Duke University; Emory University; Fordham University; Georgetown University; George Washington University; Harvard University; Howard University; New York University; Southern Methodist University; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Richmond; University of Southern California; University of Texas; University of Virginia; Vanderbilt University; Washington and Lee University; Washington University in St Louis; College of William and Mary

Summer details  

Summer associate profile:
When recruiting summer associates, Hunton & Williams seeks high performing, team oriented and problem-solving law students. In addition to strong academic credentials and excellent written and verbal communication skills, applicants should have a solid record of success and leadership. Prior work experience, professional experience or advanced degrees also are valued.

Summer program components:
Hunton & Williams Summer Program is a focused, ten-week immersion in the realworld practice of law. Rather than simply shadowing experienced associates and partners, participants are actively engaged in practical work and training activities that support the goals of the firm and its clients while fostering professional development. While the program is customized, based on the career goals and interests of each summer associate, it generally includes leadership skills training, career mentoring, business development and client service training, practical experience, client interaction, pro bono opportunities, writing coaching, judicial clerkship counseling, and work projects and experience in the practice areas of interest.