Hunton & Williams LLP - The Inside View

With its forward-looking practices, we have a feeling the world is going to need Hunton’s lawyers…

A PIONEER attitude has embodied Hunton & Williams since it set up in Virginia 1901. From its eagle’s perch on the banks of the James River, this Richmond firm has defined itself by its avant garde practices – environment law and tech, notably – which have always ensured demand for the firm’s expertise and that looks set to continue. Managing partner Wally Martinez reassures us: the firm aims “to be known as a leader in adopting, using, and deploying technology for the benefit of our clients,” and like a few other tech-savvy firms in this guide, Hunton is looking to its newer recruits to help shape the firm.

In the 1960s Hunton took its brand out to DC and then established a larger network across the US, principally along the East Coast, and then onto Texas and California. Overseas the firm has set up five strategic bases that play to its strengths in areas like energy, infrastructure, tech and environmental law.

“The real experience has been very different from the expectation.”

“We haven’t experienced any of the horror stories of BigLaw here,” associates told us when we interviewed them. “The real experience has been very different from the expectation.” Some were attracted by its “excellent energy and infrastructure practices” – in Chambers USA Hunton gets top marks nationwide for its climate change, environment, and privacy & data security practices. Regionally, it also ranks top for bankruptcy/restructuring, general litigation, and labor & employment in Virginia, and corporate/M&A, real estate, and IP in Southern Virginia, and the firm picks up various rankings across seven other US states. MP Wally Martinez highlights “financial services, retail & consumer products, energy, and real estate investment & finance” as the firm's leading industries.

The Work & Offices



We found large numbers of juniors to interview in the corporate and capital finance & real estate groups, closely followed by litigation. Others were split between administration law, tax & ERISA, labor & employment, energy & infrastructure, and competition. Each practice group is then divided into more specific sub-groups. The Richmond HQ has the largest intake of juniors across a range of practices. The Big Apple's office on Park Avenue follows in junior numbers, and emphasizes energy and transactional practices, and DC's labor, energy, environment and antitrust-heavy office is a close third. “Someone here has a great eye for art,” a DC junior noted about the particular office's style. Among the smaller branches, the firm's fairly long-standing McLean office is soon to close its doors, with current attorneys there moving to the DC office down the road.

The capital finance & real estate group represents both the banks and the developers. Deals are “all kinds of sizes, from people buying one building, to those buying a portfolio of properties. Values can be anywhere between $30 million to $300 million.” The group also represents landowners, and meets with local officials and citizen groups as “they're the ones to make decisions on what's allowed.” Tasks include the usual due diligence and research, as according to one source, “it's a junior's job to handle the underlying, non-loan type things.” But juniors have also reported regular writing tasks in the form of lease summaries and drafting deeds. One source summed it up in saying “it can sometimes feel like some things are above you, but sometimes you're thinking that a paralegal could do this...” The group sees a range of sizes of clients, so client contact is a regular thing for juniors. “They call me instead of my boss sometimes, and it's nice to be able to answer their questions” one enthused. Even with bigger clients, a New Yorker explained that “there are all levels of staff with big clients, so I interact with people equivalent to my level all the time.” Juniors also highlighted that “the firm does a good job of having a lot of client events. People will introduce you to principals at banks – it's pretty cool to meet those people.”

“The expectation to pick up new things and learn on your own.”

Meanwhile, corporate juniors experienced a range of work, from “M&A to finance, to corporate governance.” This included public and private securities offerings, and M&A for private equity clients, among other work. Clients include businesses in the auto industry, industrial manufacturing clients, and financial institutions. Corporate juniors reflected that “as a junior there's always going to be some level of diligence, but I think I'm fortunate that I get to handle a lot of high level documents.” Beyond due diligence and ancillary documents, juniors reported revising drafts of purchase and contribution agreements as well as being “on calls with clients on a daily basis.”

The energy branch of the corporate practice deals with energy M&A, oil & gas work, project finance, renewable energy, and tax. On top of the previously mentioned tasks, juniors reported advising stakeholders in aspects of financing, and reviewing and interpreting contracts to determine the risks. One corporate junior reckoned that “there's a high degree of independence, and the expectation to pick up new things and learn on your own. You can chat with partners for high level issues, but generally there's not much hand holding.” Another explained that “if you develop a reputation for good work, you get sought out more and more.” A Dallas junior advised that “with that responsibility comes a steep learning curve, and you have to be able to handle that.” The deals were described as “middle market,” often dealing with foreign companies coming in to the US market, or vice versa. The energy side reported a couple of major projects, upward of $4 billion. 

Litigators had “the chance to dive into a lot of different things” as a result of the firm's range of litigation sub-groups. A DC junior noted doing “some privacy cases, some retail cases, and financial credit report cases.” One laughed saying “I enjoy working for clients whose stuff I personally own.” Other juniors veered toward energy and environmental lawsuits. One source explained “we'll usually represent clients when they get approval from the federal agency to do something, and environmental groups then challenge that decision in court.” Tasks across the group include writing motions to dismiss, drafting legal holds, drafting mediation statements, and the inevitable research assignments. “When I started I expected to be a drone doing doc review all day. I've done a little of that, but I've also had the opportunity to do more substantive work.” When it came to work assignment, one junior noted “of course you need to do work that needs to be done, but everyone seems to be a kind person, so if you're working for someone that has your best interests at heart, they're going to look to give you work that you enjoy.”

Culture



“My thoughts when I had my callback were that these people are people I'd want to go for a drink with, and wouldn't mind spending time with. And that has held true,” a DC source recounted. A New Yorker described a positive “Southern-type vibe” spreading firmwide, in the form of barbecue cook-offs in the summer and “nice, friendly people.” A Richmond junior confirmed this: “Richmond is technically the main office, but I think they try to make sure the culture runs through the entire firm.” Although some sources “wouldn't say the social life is the strongest aspect,” there are still Friday happy hours and many events for summer associates. One source explained “it's kind of a mix. If you're looking to socialize after work there are opportunities there, but also, people are trying to raise families. It's supportive of whichever way you want to go.

At no point do you feel like a minion slogging away…”

Juniors described their fellow associates as “motivated and driven, ready to take on responsibility.” All agreed on the respectful and service-oriented culture, and highlighted that the firm's attorneys are “great communicators.” Juniors also felt “the firm is invested in the success of its associates.” A Richmond junior expressed that “when there's work to be done, people are very serious about the final product being very good and getting it right, but at no point do you feel like a minion slogging away in your office.”

Hours & Compensation



Most juniors felt the firm's 2,000 hour billing target to be achievable, but “it depends a lot on what sort of year it's been and what work is coming in.” Either way, sources told us they're not penalized if they don't make it and they're “told not to stress too much about it.” On average, associates spend about ten hours a day in the office, “subject to ebbs and flows in the work.” Almost all of our sources agreed that it was very rare for them to work on weekends, but again, it “depends on the clients’ needs and what stage any transaction is at.”

“We get paid extremely well for Richmond.”

“I'm happy with the salary, but unhappy with the uncertainty,” sources reported. By this, juniors referred to the rise in junior salaries to match the Cravath scale, which is good news but left “concern about not necessarily moving to lockstep” thereafter. One source described the new system as “black-boxed” and was resigned to “waiting to see how it pans out.” However, Richmond juniors had fewer concerns, saying “we get paid extremely well for Richmond – it doesn't cost much to live here, and we're highly paid.”

Pro Bono



Associates can bill up to 50 hours of pro bono work. Beyond that, there is an award, named after co-founder E. Randolph Williams, for those who provide over 100 hours of pro bono service. Juniors also mentioned that “if you're not participating, you're going to be asked why.” Cases include asylum, domestic violence, and landlord/low income tenants disputes. Some juniors had worked at a clinic for “people who wouldn't normally be able to afford a lawyer to write out their will.” Sources loved the degree of responsibility they got on pro bono cases: “I got to litigate a case on my own in front of a judge!” Global MP Wally Martinez reinforces the firm’s duty to society: “For the eighth year running 100% of our US lawyers have participated in pro bono projects.” A recent highlight was winning clemency from then-President Obama for William Ortiz, commuting Ortiz's 50-year prison sentence for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses. He had already served 26 years.

“I got to litigate a case on my own in front of a judge!”

Pro bono hours

For all US attorneys: 37,285

Average per US attorney: 55

Diversity



Sources felt the firm “does well for women” compared to the rest of BigLaw. “They could definitely improve racial diversity and LGBT diversity, but they are working on it and moving forward.” Many juniors agreed the firm's efforts in recruiting women were very good, noting that women partners were well represented across the offices. The firm holds a diversity retreat – “I wasn't expecting to see over 100 attorneys there, but that's what happened!” There's also a diversity program for 1L summers where the firm “brings in diverse students and hopes to jump start their efforts to retain them.” Overall, juniors feel there are “plans in place,” but with “definite work to do there.”

Strategy & Future



On the strategic front, managing partner Wally Martinez tells us that “last year on the strategic front, we strengthened our focus on our four leading industries: financial services, retail & consumer products, energy, and real estate development & finance.” Going forward, Martinez explains: “Our plan is to build internationally and develop greater depth in two US markets where we're already invested – Texas and California.” When asked about particular plans for new offices, Martinez says there's nothing in particular at present, but says “we continue to explore opportunities where they align with best serving our clients.”

“…looking to the next generation to move the rest of the firm.”

Another area of focus is “utilizing technology to its fullest extent in all aspects of our practice.” On this front, Martinez is “looking to the next generation to move the rest of the firm forward, helping us to adapt and create new ways of working so that we can better deliver the excellent quality of work that clients have come to expect.”

 

Get Hired



Firmwide hiring partners Kim MacLeod and Tom Hiner highlight that they "like to hear about collaboration and collegiality. These are key components of our culture at Hunton & Williams, and we are looking for people who buy into the team ethos.” MacLeod notes that "we like to ask our candidates to talk about challenging situations they have experienced situations where they have had to step up and provide leadership." Overconfidence, however, can often be a pitfall, especially “when someone comes in and comes across as arrogant.” Juniors reiterated this, describing how “sometimes people come to interview with an ego. That's not a good route to take – we can spot it a mile away. We want to maintain our jovial culture.” When it comes to standing out, “we notice candidates who show exceptional maturity and poise, because they will be better prepared to interact with our clients immediately upon arriving at the firm," MacLeod explains.

“One of those questions we ask is 'Why here at Hunton?' and that becomes easier when you understand, for the office or the firm, the type of work they actually do” one junior explained. Another advised to “just be natural and honest – those are two big things here.” Lastly, one source explained that the firm is essentially looking for “someone who is going to go above and beyond expectations.”

Interview with managing partner Wally Martinez



What highlights from the past year would you want to flag for student readers interested in your firm?

Last year on the strategic front, we strengthened our focus on our four leading industries: financial services, retail & consumer products, energy, and real estate investment and finance. Our firm made significant steps forward, both internally and externally. Because we engaged our associates as early as possible in this process, they are now invested and playing key roles in fulfilling our industry-based strategic objectives.  We also made a concerted effort to better prepare our associates by not only providing practice training, but also providing training on the business of law. As a result, I think this group will be ready to lead earlier than their predecessors.

From a practice standpoint, 2016 was a very strong year for the privacy and data security practice. We played and continue to play important roles in a number of significant cyber incidents, globally. Corporate/M&A picked up in 2016 as well. Competition is also going strong, as is our environmental practice. Running counter to the industry in a positive sense, our litigation practice is expanding. We're up in litigation revenue, which is terrific.

All in all, 2016 has been an interesting year because of the uncertainty – Brexit, the US election. However, where there is uncertainty, there is also the need for good legal services to help clients work through both their opportunities and challenges.

What's your long-term vision for Hunton & Williams? What do you want it to look like in 5, 10, 20 years’ time?

In terms of geography, our plan is to build internationally and develop greater depth in two key US markets where we're already invested – Texas and California. Five years out, we hope to have accomplished these objectives and also strengthened our flagship offices in New York and Washington, DC.

In terms of talent, we have to continue to be open to change, which is now largely driven by technology. We will be looking to the next generation to move the rest of the firm forward, helping us to adapt and create new ways of working so that we can better deliver the excellent quality of work our clients have come to expect. The next generation will be prepared to assume leadership roles in the firm earlier in their careers and also to lead us in utilizing technology to its fullest extent in all aspects of our practice. In five years, we want Hunton & Williams to be known as a leader in adopting, using and deploying technology for the benefit of our clients. We are not just looking at software to help with discovery and due diligence, but also at technology used by other industries that could benefit our firm. To help drive this important effort, we’ve recently appointed a number of associates to the firm’s technology committee.

In terms of industries, I'd like to see further penetration in our four focus areas, as well as heightened focus on another key industry sector, perhaps healthcare, life sciences or technology – all firm practices that are currently very strong. Our goal is to reach the point where one or all  of these become additional key industry drivers for the firm.

From a practice standpoint, collaboration across offices and practices is something we do well and something that we will continue to do long-term. Our practice teams are spread across offices, but work seamlessly as one. We know that working across offices makes it easier to build effective client teams by allowing us to choose the best lawyers for the job, regardless of where they are located.

How will Trump's election impact the legal market? Are there any particular areas that you think we'll see a lot of activity in?

It's too early to tell, because Trump is not a traditional politician. Generally, people who assume office have had a career in public service, so you have an idea where they stand on a policy level that goes beyond the headlines and catchphrases. With Trump, we don't have this knowledge yet. But, no matter who leads the United States, the country is going to have no choice but to focus on infrastructure. We've invested in that area greatly, and it is one area that I feel comfortable will expand under a Trump administration.

Where will the firm be investing? Any plans to open new offices?

As far as specific plans, I'd say “no,” but we continue to explore opportunities where they align with best serving our clients.

What are the hot practice areas right now? Which are growing? Which are shrinking?

The infrastructure space was already heating up prior to the election and will continue to do so. Our infrastructure is crumbling, and state and local governments can't afford to do things on their own. They'll have to reach out for help. Renewables has been busy and will continue to be busy for the next couple of years. I also think cyber security will remain an area of huge concern for clients as well.

Define the firm's character or culture. How do you promote the culture?

I would define it with one word: respect. If you were to walk the halls of any of our offices, you'd be taken by the amount of respect we hold for one another, whether it be peer to peer, associate to partner, or lawyer to staff. We treat each other with a great deal of respect, which manifests itself in many ways. We're a collaborative organization, and I believe you can't have true collaboration unless there's a level of mutual respect throughout the organization.

I'm also happy to see that we’re taking more opportunities to celebrate with each other. Perhaps this is something that has been influenced by our associates. In any case, it’s positive. We're further removed from the financial crisis and the uncertainty it brought, so people are learning to have fun again. Each office celebrates in different ways. Here in New York we recently brewed our own beer and participated in a Habitat for Humanity project together. We also invited our children to trick or treat at our office during Halloween – great fun for everyone.

What was Hunton & Williams like when you joined and how has it changed since?

Some things have changed, and some things have remained the same for the right reasons.

In the past, I think our law firm was a bit reserved in terms of going to market. We thought it wasn't good form to promote ourselves. Now, we're much more comfortable letting the world know when we're doing something impactful. Also, there's a real acceptance of the need for us to be thought-leaders. What used to be a relatively small component of the firm — publishing, speaking on important issues and sharing ideas within the profession — has now grown much larger in scope.

One thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to serving our communities. For the eighth year running, 100 percent of our US lawyers have participated in pro bono projects. The level of respect we share among our lawyers and professional staff  hasn't changed either.

I do think we have a more modern feel at the firm these days – a good change that we're continuing to nurture. Another good change is that we are expecting more of our younger lawyers. Like other law firms, we don't hire as many as we did in the past, so the ones we do hire have greater opportunities than my generation enjoyed.

Any advice or word of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?

I think the law is a profession, not a job. To be a successful lawyer, you have to accept this fact. The way I describe it is that a doctor never stops being a doctor. A member of the clergy never stops being a member of the clergy.  Law is a learned profession, and you will be a lawyer at all times. You should treat it as the only job you will ever have and not think of it as a temporary gig. If you don’t, you won't devote yourself fully. But, if you do, you will be more likely to have a happy and successful career.

Training & Development



All new associates congregate in DC for a couple of days of orientation to cover “the firm's systems and practices.” After that, there are firm-wide sessions via video conference on “topics ranging from litigation skills to how to draft documents, or considerations when closing a transaction.” Generally, juniors reported that “more day-to-day training is through interaction with partners, like giving them drafts and getting their feedback. This is something I've found very helpful.”

Juniors are also assigned a mentor who is someone they can go to with questions. The annual review process starts with a self-evaluation on matters juniors have worked on, followed by evaluations from partners juniors have worked with. A “formal meeting” is then held, where overall  feedback is given. One source mentioned that “you get a lot of feedback throughout the year informally, but it's good to get a pulse check every year.”

 

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): 284
  • Counsel (US): 92
  • Associates (US): 303
  • Summer Salary 2017  
  • 2Ls: $3,100-$3,500/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 2017: 26
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 28 offers, 24 acceptances

Firm profile
Hunton & Williams is the legal advisor of choice for industry leaders on six continents. With more than 750 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: 29
• Number of 2nd year associates: 28
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $160,000-$180,000 (depending on location)
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
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, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Michigan; University of North Carolina; 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 real-world 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.