Jones Day - The Inside View

Like this globe-straddler's grand old age, associates' reasons for joining Jones Day were as easy as 1, 2, 3...

TURNING a respectable 123 in 2016, Cleveland-born Jones Day has had ample time to hone its great many practice areas. The firm is the cream of the crop nationwide in Chambers USA for its antitrust, bankruptcy & restructuring, retail, and labor & employment practices, to name but a few. Understandably then, “prestige” was among the top reasons why associates had chosen to join this global Goliath. The second frequently mentioned aspect was the flexibility of the first-year program: perfect for newcomers who appreciated “the opportunity to try different areas.”

As for reason number three, the clue's in the slogan. Indeed, despite JD's impressive age, the firm is refreshingly outward-looking in its perspective – as its 'One firm worldwide' branding indicates. Associates told us that they were “attracted to the collaborative opportunities that exist at the firm.” Sharyl Reisman, Jones Day's chair of recruiting, points out: “For a firm of our size with our global presence – with 43 offices in 19 countries and five continents – that is trying to run an institution that does top-quality work, you need to have a unity of purpose. We have that at Jones Day, which I think makes us unique.”

In March 2016, Jones Day hit the headlines when it was reported that Donald Trump had hired its DC-based partner Don McGahn as his presidential campaign counsel. 

The Work

First-years join the New Lawyers Group (NLG) when they start out, meaning they can try work from any of JD's wide range of practice areas over the course of around seven to nine months. Business & tort litigation, M&A, IP, banking & finance, real estate and labor & employment are the groups with the largest number of newbies. Juniors sang the praises of the NLG: “I wasn't even sure after the summer if I wanted to do transactional or litigation work,” one told us, “so it's good to explore and try different areas before settling on one.” Others did point out that handling several different matters at once can get tricky, although “once you're in your chosen practice group it's a lot easier to manage your caseload.”

"It's good to explore and try different areas before settling on one.”

In business & tort litigation – the group with the largest number of newcomers – we were told of a wide-ranging practice, as well as “a lot of overlap” with other groups. “If there was a big labor class action that needed more litigation associates, for instance, it would be no issue for them to reach across. I've also worked on antitrust and bankruptcy litigation matters.” Other juniors mentioned securities litigation and product liability cases. Responsibility levels are generally dependent on case size, but overall our interviewees were happy with the tasks on offer. “On the bigger matters there is some doc review, but with smaller cases you get to do things like drafting subpoenas and various motions.” Another added that “at trial I've had the opportunity to argue motions.” Read more about various other Jones Day practice areas online.

When it comes to actually getting work, sources described a system that is a mix of formal and informal elements: “When you come in as a new lawyer, they have coordinators to help you find work that you're interested in,” one junior explained. “But you're encouraged to go and let people know that you're available and that you have an interest too.” There is a similar system in place once associates join a specific group; each practice has at least one coordinator that newbies can discuss their availability with, particularly “if you have a slow month and need something to do.”

Training & Development

First-years are offered an array of training opportunities at Jones Day. After an initial week in their separate offices, newbies are taken to the New Lawyer Academy, “when all associates from across the world come to DC for group presentations and activities.” After this, there are weekly training sessions which are “initially very broad, based on general topics like professionalism, but as you get more senior they become more specialized.” Transactional juniors had sessions on topics such as the basics of contract drafting, while litigators have training specific to depositions and discovery. “We had a deposition school which was good – it was not what I wanted to be doing on the weekend but it was a fun and helpful,” one associate remarked.

"...patient teachers who will go over your work with you.”

Almost everyone we spoke to noted however that “the best form of training is on the job. A lot of the partners are very patient teachers who will go over your work with you.” A similar sentiment was expressed when it comes to mentoring. Although there is a formal system offering juniors an associate and a partner mentor, most felt that “informal mentoring plays a big role. People give a lot of feedback and I feel comfortable asking questions and bouncing ideas off people.”


The New York and DC offices took the largest number of newbies on our list (around 15% each), with slightly smaller numbers going into the Cleveland, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago offices. JD's other domestic offices are in LA, Miami, Irvine, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Houston, Columbus, Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. Big Applers were looking forward to a move from Midtown NYC to Brookfield Place in downtown in summer 2016. “I saw a model office and it's pretty nice – there are going to be ergonomic desks,” one junior informed us, while another remarked that the glassy layout will mean “a lot of light and better views.”

Change is also afoot in the Cleveland HQ, which is currently undergoing renovations: “They do a floor at a time, so everyone has to temporarily move. I think it's going to take a couple of years.” Sources reported that the newly updated spaces have a “much more modern look,” with new, convertible desks in associate offices. We heard great things too about the views overlooking the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also Lake Erie. Over in DC, the office (within spitting distance of the Capitol) is formed of two buildings connected by an atrium, “and the older building is pretty full while the newer one isn't.” One associate pointed out: “I'm in the newer one, which is frustrating at times because sometimes I see almost nobody all day!” That said, juniors in DC were glad of the two on-site gyms, cafeteria, “floor-to-ceiling windows,” and rooftop bocce court.


In past years, the interconnected nature of JD's offices has been frequently highlighted by associates, and this year was no exception. “I've found the 'One firm worldwide' slogan to be very true,” one junior told us, pointing to the New Lawyer Academy, where “you meet associates from all the US and international offices.” Others cited the ease with which they can work with attorneys in different offices: “We have a five-digit dial system, so you can call anyone worldwide – it's pretty seamless.” One junior noted that “I never feel uncomfortable picking up the phone and talking to anyone across the firm, even if I've never met them before.”

"Whenever you call someone, they're willing to help.”

The words 'respectful' and 'professional' were regularly used to describe the atmosphere within the firm. One DC junior mentioned that “it's suits every day, which is pretty uncommon in DC,” and while associate-partner communications were described by many as “very comfortable,” others reported a more deferential attitude. As one associate pointed out, “the firm is not particularly kooky or idiosyncratic, it's pretty much by the numbers.” Nonetheless, juniors agreed that it is an “open, friendly place to work,” with “very intelligent, helpful and resourceful people. Whenever you call someone, they're willing to help.”

Interviewees had differing opinions when it comes to socializing. Some felt that the number of events is “less than other firms – it's not a crazy party culture. We have some nice office parties, but they respect that people have personal lives.” Others meanwhile had a more active social calendar. “The firm organizes a lot of extracurricular activities for associates; I'm on the basketball team, and there's also a volleyball and baseball team,” one sporty source mentioned. “Associates take advantage of them and it's a good way to meet people.” A few also noted that regular office happy hours, as well as officewide holiday and summer events, were a good way to mingle. “They often put events on for the NLG group,” another junior added, “and they have an associates' committee where people can go and bitch about things. If people complain enough about the same thing it gets changed...”

Hours & Compensation

Most of our sources had had no difficulty in reaching Jones Day's 2,000 hour target, although there is less pressure to hit this in your first year, and for those that don't, “you don't get in trouble. I know of people who were a few hundred hours below the 2,000 hour mark, and I haven't heard them receiving any backlash for it.”

"It removes any competitive aspect.” 

When it comes to compensation, a fairly unique aspect at JD is the “black box model,” whereby a “confidential and holistic” approach is taken to calculating salaries after the first year. It means that “there isn't the bonus incentive that there is at other firms,” so although “you'll make plenty of money, it's not the most you could make anywhere else.” While there is no actual annual 'bonus,' additional sums are factored into each individual salary for second-years and above. In spite of this, associates were fully aware of the system before they joined the firm, so we heard few complaints about it. “Overall I feel it's beneficial because it removes any competitive aspect,” one source mused. “I don't feel undervalued because I don't know if others are making more than me. I don't know so I don't worry!”

Pro Bono

“A lot of associates like doing pro bono because you can lead case strategy and teams, so it's a good way to get that kind of experience,” we were told. An added incentive is that juniors can count an unlimited number of pro bono toward their billables. The result was that everyone we spoke to had participated; the pro bono figure for first-years in particular was around 100–200 hours (although there were definite outliers: “I was in the area of, like, 500 hours my first year!”).

"You can lead case strategy and teams.”

Among the broad range of examples given, those that were most frequently mentioned were police brutality cases, veterans' affairs and landlord-tenant disputes. Immigration work was also common: “We work for an organization here in New York that sends us lists of available cases. I do a lot of immigration work for women who have been victims of domestic violence.” Another big program is the 'unaccompanied minors project' which helps refugees from Central America.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 104,566 
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed


"You see people from all different walks of life."

Interviewees told us that “they're very into promoting diversity” at the firm. The stats show us that 23% of partners are female and 10% are nonwhite, which is fairly average in BigLaw. Associates were nonetheless positive about the firm's initiatives: “Every year they host a diversity panel here at the firm, and they’ll bring in diverse partners from other law firms and the heads of our clients' diversity panels,” one associate informed us. We spoke to juniors who had joined the firm through diversity fellowships: “My program goes to schools that aren't usually targeted by law firms. The 1Ls come as summers and then the firm can decide to invite you back.”

Nonetheless, the age-old mantra of “we have a way to go,” was repeated by several sources. One junior noted that JD's “reputation for being more conservative perhaps hinders how we're viewed by diverse candidates.” In April, the firm held its first ever diversity conference for 1Ls in the Northeast. Jones Day also has a partner in charge of 'diversity, inclusion & advancement,' Yvette McGee Brown.

Compare law firm diversity stats>>

Get Hired

“Loyalty here is a big thing."

Interviewees felt that intelligence mixed with an affable nature is the winning mix at Jones Day: “I think we're trying to hire the smartest person in the room who can go out and have a beer with the client." One newbie pointed out that, “at the end of the day, this job is about working with people, be it the clients, judge, jury, counsel, co-counsel, or your colleagues. So demonstrating that you're likable and can relate your ideas well is very important.” Others also highlighted that “loyalty here is a big thing – they're looking for people who are in it for the long run and have looked into what this firm is all about.” Do your homework, in other words.

Strategy & Future

Recruiting chair Sharyl Reisman tells us that 2015 “was a great year in terms of growth of the firm and client representation,” pointing to the firm's involvement in several high-profile matters such as American Apparel's bankruptcy and the Volkswagen fuel emissions scandal. Reisman adds that while the firm's traditional strengths in areas such as M&A and private equity “will always be a focus,” there are more niche practices that Jones Day is looking to grow, including energy, cybersecurity & privacy, and global disputes.

As far as geographical expansion goes, JD opened up shop in Detroit in the summer of 2015, “on the heels of representing the city through bankruptcy,” and early in 2016 opened an office in Brisbane – the firm's third Australian office. According to Reisman, “the work in the Brisbane office, in addition to focusing on energy, which is big in that area, will also be focusing on litigation, projects and infrastructure, and transactional work in IP and restructuring, as well as M&A, insolvency and energy industry projects.”

Chambers interview with Sharyl Reisman, chair of recruiting

Chambers Associate: How has 2015 been for Jones Day? Are there any highlights that you want to flag up?

Sharyl Reisman: It was a great year in terms of growth of the firm and client representation. One of the things that we pride ourselves on – something that has made us so successful and given us stability over time – is the fact that our firm is not dependent on one region, practice, or client. We are doing incredibly high-quality, notable work in all areas across the world.

One very recent matter that we've been involved in and which made big news here in the US, was for the clothing retailer American Apparel: we took them through bankruptcy and got their plan confirmed. This was notable because American Apparel was being challenged all the way through by the former CEO, who is a very colorful character, so we were very happy to get that finished. We are currently involved with the Volkswagen internal investigation, which is obviously an extensive, intensive global effort for us. We were also lead antitrust counsel for DIRECTV in their merger with AT&T, and with antitrust being scrutinized the way it is currently, having that approved was a huge milestone for us.

On the transactional side, for each quarter since 2000, Jones Day has done more deals than anyone else, and we have continued that streak. We do the largest as well as the mid-level deals; again, it's the breadth of our practice that has made us so successful. We represented P&G in it's sale to Cody, which was a $12.5 billion deal. Another litigation matter that is particularly noteworthy was a case in northern California that has implications for the entire legal industry. The case was regarding a law firm, Howrey, that went bankrupt. The firm's trustees asserted that the work that the bankrupt firm could no longer handle still belonged to the firm, and so the dissolved firm was therefore entitled to all fees earned by Jones Day (or other firms) on those matters. We decided early on to fight this case as a matter of principle, even as most defendant firms settled. We took it all the way to decision, and prevailed: the ruling was that unfinished business is not the property of a dissolved law firm, it's the property of those doing the work. That is important to the integrity of the legal profession.

CA: The firm opened offices in Detroit in 2015 and Brisbane in 2016, what was the reasoning behind that?

SR: We opened in Detroit on the heels of representing the city through bankruptcy; we now have a Jones Day office there. We are also very excited to open our third Australian office, to join Sydney and Perth. The work in the Brisbane office, in addition to focusing on energy which is big in that area, will also be focusing on litigation, projects and infrastructure, and transactional work in IP and restructuring, as well as M&A, insolvency and energy industry projects. The firm's strategy is to have very deliberate and focused growth, so we're constantly keeping an eye on different practices, markets and regions.

CA: Which practice areas are looking really good for Jones Day at the moment?

SR: The important thing is that people look at us as a potential place to come and spend their entire careers. In terms of where we're heading, we're devoted to and maintaining that same culture of unity and purpose. Specifically, in terms of traditional practices on the litigation and transactional side, M&A and private equity are areas that we constantly look to grow. Those will always be a focus, and provide an ever-increasing client base.

There are more niche practices that we are focusing on growing (I’ll name three although there are others), which are energy, cybersecurity & privacy, and global disputes. They're all interesting and growing areas, but global disputes in particular is a great example of what we do and how we do it. Our global disputes practice is unique; it's not just doing international litigation. Of course our client base is global, but the way we structure ourselves and the services we provide means we are also litigating all over the world. We represent US-based companies in jurisdictions across the world, with Jones Day lawyers who are licensed in those jurisdictions. In Paris, for instance, the lawyers are French – they aren't American lawyers in France. We also represent non-US clients with legal work within the US. To have a Rolodex to the 2,400 best lawyers in the world is a unique service that we provide to our clients, but more so for those who are practicing here. The people at Jones Day are getting the opportunity to work with lawyers seamlessly across the world.

CA: Why is the 'One firm worldwide' motto so important for Jones Day?

SR: It's important for a number of reasons. For a firm of our size with our global presence – with 43 offices in 19 countries and 5 continents – that is trying to run an institution that does top quality work, you need to have a unity of purpose. We have that at Jones Day, which I think makes us unique. Every single person in this firm, be it the partners, associates, staff, personnel; everyone has the same relentless devotion to client service and advancing the rule of law. It is the single focus of every lawyer that incentivizes you to practice seamlessly with one another. It is not a 'me' firm. We are a ‘we’ firm. We are not dependent on one client or individual, one region, one office or one individual lawyer, we have a diversity of clients across practices, regions and industries. We are all singularly devoted to client service, which is what time and again gets us the rankings we have in various surveys for being a top provider of client service.

But this system also gives us stability, which is another Jones Day hallmark. We are not dependent on one lawyer, client, office, or market, we are focused on all of them. That unity of purpose fosters a feeling of community within our firm and across our firm, which is a unique way to practice with lawyers across the world, and has been a very successful model for us. I have to say, our lawyers practice with a level of integrity, passion and humanity that is also unique. We can do it because we are all driven by that singular goal and purpose.

CA: Is there anything else that you think distinguishes the firm?

SR: I would say another thing is our issues and appeals practice. At our firm, one of the hallmarks of that practice has been our recruitment of US Supreme Court clerks. Right now there are nine justices and four judicial clerks for each justice, so 36 Supreme Court clerks in total. In 2015, Jones Day hired ten of those coming off the court, which is a record-breaking number. That is on the heels of having brought in seven in 2014 and six each year prior to that. That number of Supreme Court clerks is unmatched by any other firm. They are thought to be the best and brightest upcoming lawyers, with incredibly intellectual and analytical minds, and they are choosing to work at Jones Day; I think that makes a statement about what we offer young lawyers. We offer a challenging, ever-evolving practice for a lawyer who's looking to become the best they can be. These judicial clerks are really sought after, and can go anywhere they choose, and they are choosing Jones Day.

CA: What do you look for in a Jones Day candidate? How can someone stand out?

SR: It is a combination of factors. Academic credentials and achievement are really just a starting point to get you in the door. You undoubtedly have had to prove yourself, but that's really only the first thing we look to. We are also looking for students and entry level lawyers who, first, are future leaders – people who want to find opportunities and develop them; they're not waiting around for somebody to hand something to them.

Secondly, we are looking for people who want to practice with the utmost integrity, who have a vision beyond just themselves. They need to have a vision for the profession and developing clients, and be looking to seize those opportunities and build their future careers. We also want people who appreciate the culture that we have here at Jones Day. They have to understand it, and want to be a part of it and grow it.

Candidates need to demonstrate that they are all in, that they are committed, and that they want to be leaders. This attitude should continue once they've joined us at the firm: be the first one to raise your hand, offer to help, and offer thoughts. This is a place where people want to hear your views – you don't just come and put your head down and do work, we want you thinking and participating. Those are the qualities that will make both interviewees and junior lawyers stand out.

CA: What is the firm doing to encourage diversity?

SR: We are looking and looking and looking is the answer! Part of what we're looking for and trying to offer people in terms of attracting diverse students and lawyers, is to show them what they can have when they join the firm. Everyone recognizes that diversity of culture, religion, race, sexual-orientation, background contributes to what we are looking to provide, in terms of client service and advancement of the legal profession. It's only when you get best, most diverse minds that you get to that position; diversity of thought is what brings out the best results.

We are hoping people recognize that this is a place you can come and there are no boundaries – the opportunities are open to all. One of the best testaments to that is if you look at women in leadership at our firm. Each of our offices has a partner in charge, and 15 of our 43 partners in charge of either offices or regions – both inside and outside the US – are women. One day we'll get to 50-50, which is also a reflection of who stays in the profession, but we boast an incredible level of women in leadership. We also have a large percentage – 35% – of women on the advisory committee. The same goes for the women that are made partner: we have approximately 30% of women taking partnership along with men. And this is not a phase; year in and year out we demonstrate the opportunities that are available to women. This firm promotes women and wants them in leadership positions.

More on the work

Jones Day's banking & finance group represents both borrowers and lenders for both secured and unsecured deals. “We do everything from small private equity financing to large acquisition financings, such as large M&A deals for Fortune 500 companies,” one junior informed us. Another add that while there are specialists within banking & finance, when you first start with the group “it's a really broad range, which I like a lot. I'm learning something every day.”

Over in real estate meanwhile, we heard of associates who were working on various matters, including community development and affordable housing, equity investment, leasing and asset management, real estate private equity funds, and cross-border investment. “There are also collaborative opportunities that exist at the firm,” noted one junior. “Even though I'm more specialized I've been able to do cross-practice work; most recently I closed an energy project transaction.” As far as responsibility levels go, “from the minute I got here there was a lot of responsibility put on my shoulders, and the partners have been very instrumental in teaching me all of the fundamentals of the practice.” Another source added that “I've only been here about three years, but I'm running my own deals, and partners only intervene if I ask them to or if there's an issue. It's got to the point where I'm the first point of call for the clients.”

For those in labor and employment, matters included “employee termination arbitrations, wage and hour class action litigation, advising clients on labor and employment matters, and offering general client counseling.” How does this break down day-to-day? “I've done research, been drafting briefs and producing supporting documents, preparing witnesses for depositions, and I’ve second-chaired a deposition,” one junior reported. “I feel like I've been given an elevated level of responsibility and I've definitely felt challenged.”

Finally, the IP group – which is generally divided into hard and soft IP – works with clients that “really run the gamut.” They range from small start-ups “that would be interested in only one or two patent prosecution matters, to technology companies interested in a fairly significant IP portfolio to protect their position in the marketplace.” Those on the patent side of the IP group had been involved in both patent prosecution and litigation: “It's probably a 50/50 split.” One newbie added that “an advantage of Jones Day is having the opportunity to be involved in other matters outside your practice area. I've been able to get involved in some antitrust and a couple of small matters in government regulations.”

Jones Day

51 Louisiana Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, DC,

  • Number of domestic offices: 176
  • Number of international offices: 26
  • Partners (US): 655 
  • Associates (US): 875
  • Summer Salary 2016  
  • 1Ls / 2Ls / Post 3Ls:  Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh: $12,083/month; Atlanta: $12,500/ month; Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Irvine, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Washington: $13,333/month
  • 1Ls hired? Varies by office
  • Split summers offered? Varies by office
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case
  • Summers 2016: 136 
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 127 offers, 110 acceptances

Main areas of work Jones Day’s practices cover the spectrum of transactional, litigation, regulatory and tax matters. Core practice areas: corporate/M&A, litigation/trial practice, government regulation, real estate, energy, healthcare, banking/finance, bankruptcy/restructuring, labor and employment, securities litigation, financial institutions, litigation/regulation, antitrust, tax and intellectual property.

Firm profile The firm is a global legal institution based on a set of core principles and values – the most critical of which are integrity, dedication to the profession and a unity of purpose of and relentless focus on client service that transcends individual interests. Each lawyer is committed to the firm’s foundation principles and values, which have a social purpose and permanence and ensure the distinctive quality and value of the legal services they provide their clients. This is one important aspect of what makes Jones Day the client service organization that it is. They function seamlessly across the globe and are truly One Firm Worldwide.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 119
• Number of 2nd year associates: 134
• Associate salaries: 1st year: up to $180,000 depending on location

• 2nd year: Increase is merit based, not lock step
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
American, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Boston College, Boston University, Case Western, Chicago, Cleveland - Marshall, Columbia, Cornell, Dickinson, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Michigan, New York University, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, San Diego, SMU, Stanford, Texas, UC‐ Berkeley, UC‐Hastings, UCIrvine, UCLA, U Miami, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, Yale

Summer details
Summer associate profile:

Jones Day lawyers share certain fundamental principles: exemplary integrity, a selfless dedication to the firm and its clients and a sense of responsibility and initiative that leads one to take ownership of assignments and to complete them at the highest level of quality legal service. Summer associates candidates are evaluated on their fit with this culture.

Summer program components:
Summer associates do real client work in their choice of practice areas. Mentors are assigned to provide one-on-one guidance. Each summer associate will have a formal, midsummer review. Jones Day’s dynamic culture and its global, multidisciplinary practice areas, provide the perfect training ground for summer associates and new lawyers.