Fierce in the courtroom but easy-going behind the scenes, this 99 year-old allows attorneys a degree of flexibility that bodes well for long-term development.
REVERED for its commercial litigation practice and strong in financial services, life sciences, real estate and technology, this Big Apple old-timer gives rookies plenty of high-stakes matters to sink their teeth into. And with centenary Champagne corks scheduled to pop in 2017, Kaye Scholer attorneys will have plenty to toast. This good news comes after a tricky period when Kaye Scholer has been in the news for unfortunate reasons. A gender discrimination case filed by a former associate was settled out of court in late 2015, and further controversy was stirred up when former partner Evan Greebel, who'd been with the firm for a relatively short time, was arrested for alleged dirty dealings with super-villain-of-the-moment Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund and pharmaceuticals entrepreneur.
Associates weren't bothered by this attention. "I knew it was a great firm," said one representatively. "It has definitely lived up to my expectations." Interviewees highlighted the “decent amount of control over our work and our schedule,” as well as the “laid back and respectful” internal atmosphere that the firm promotes. “It really inspires confidence in the long run.” As we went to press, rumors of a possible merger with Arnold & Porter started doing the rounds.
The bulk of Kaye Scholer's entry level-hiring takes place in New York. The real estate, IP, corporate, tax & private client, and finance teams all take on their fair share of rookies, but topping them all is complex commercial litigation, where around a third of the firm's freshmen end up. DC, LA, Chicago and Palo Alto also take on a tiny proportion of new entrants each year, though DC doesn't run a summer program.
Work is dished out by assigning partners, who “do a very good job of making sure workloads are democratically spread.” Contacting partners directly can also work in your favor, because “although assigning partners do their best to expose you to a range of work, they won't cherry-pick opportunities for you.” More organic workstreams eventually form as working relationships begin to blossom, and these often stretch across the firm's US network. A Californian told us: “We work very closely with New York and Chicago, so I get a lot of work from there too. So many firms try to talk up their national presence, but here it really feels interconnected. Every day I'll be on the phone to DC, Chicago or New York.”
“They'll throw you in there as soon as they see you can handle more responsibility.”
Complex commercial litigators don't specialize when they first arrive, so take on a mix of white-collar, antitrust, products liability and labor cases. “For the first year or so the focus is more on variety than depth of experience,” so expect to start off with a hearty portion of targeted research and coordinative admin tasks. Our second and third-year sources had moved on to draft briefs, pen scripts for witness examinations, and even interview clients themselves, so juniors' impression was that “they'll throw you in there as soon as they see you can handle more responsibility.”
Meanwhile, over in IP juniors cover patent litigation, trademark, copyright and trade secrets work for large pharmaceutical, technology and biotech clients, among others. “About a year ago I'd had less than a year's experience,” reflected one respondent, “but was asked to assist in co-writing a brief for a relatively high-profile case.” With the likes of Pfizer, Novartis, Google and Nintendo on the cards, it's no wonder that same source happily continued “it was amazing to have such a hands-on involvement at that early stage.”
The real estate team represent buyers and sellers from a client pool that boasts some of the world's largest financial institutions, institutional investors and real estate owners. “The responsibilities you receive here are way higher than you'd expect,” one rookie bragged. “I've had senior associates put me in charge of entire deals, leaving themselves with just the loan agreement to tie up. They helped me whenever I needed it, but being responsible for managing a deal and a team of paralegals was so important in developing my leadership skills.”
Training & Development
“The most useful training comes through working alongside more senior attorneys.”
In their first week associates kick-off with an orientation 101, covering areas such as billing and internal computer systems, as well as introductions to the firm's practices. Over the next few months, new starters receive more substantive weekly run-throughs. “Having that initial awareness of how to write a memo, file a brief or conduct discovery means you're really ready to hit the ground running,” said one junior. But of course, “the most useful training comes through working alongside more senior attorneys,” in part because “most are forthcoming with suggestions for improvement.” One relieved associate reported that “feedback is usually along the lines of: 'You did a great job; here's one thing you could change next time, but you did a great job!'” Such off-the-cuff feedback is “predominantly verbal,” though “supervisors do cc you on emails to explain any changes or ask for your opinion. It's nice to be considered in that way.”
Formal assessment comes through annual reviews, and six-month reviews for first-years and laterals. Those who wish to talk things over in the meantime can draw from their monthly mentoring stipend to head for lunch with either their partner or associate mentor.
"It's a relaxing place to be.”
“The office was completely renovated a couple of years ago,” reported a New Yorker, “so it's a well-oiled machine. All the tech is reliable and up-to-date, which is one less stress!” The mothership's outdoor terrace overlooks Eighth Avenue and “in the summer everyone has their lunch out there. There are even trees with fairy lights in so you feel separate from the street. It's a relaxing place to be.” During colder months, the cafeteria proved a cozier option for informal catch-ups. Well-subsidized, it caters to a range of different appetites. “The fried chicken and mac & cheese are particularly good,” laughed one gastronomist, “but there are plenty of healthy dishes on offer too.”
Juniors get the opportunity to mix with other offices through videocon training sessions, usually broadcast from the New York office. “It's actually really conscientiously managed,” nodded one Cali caller. “Everyone gets their chance to talk, so you don't feel you're watching people get trained. The vast majority of our associates are in New York, so it makes sense.”
“If you like parties then Kaye Scholer is a good place to be,” one New Yorker was happy to relate. Whether it's watching Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens, designing custom sneakers at Niketown or scoffing burgers at PJ Clarke's, “there's an after-party pretty much every day of the summer program.” Things calm down a little from then on, though “junior associates often meet for breakfast or lunch in the cafeteria.”
“If you like parties then Kaye Scholer is a good place to be.”
Weekly cocktail hours every Friday are an opportunity to nourish partner-associate relations. “It's always well-catered, and well-attended by a mix of partners, associates and support staff,” said one rookie. “People sometimes bring their partners, family members or friends along too, so often we won't talk about work at all.” Following a move to 55th street a few years ago, it's top buttons undone at the Big Apple hub. Most of the time, that is. “Reinstating Jeans Friday was a popular move,” grinned one New Yorker, “but if clients are coming in then we'll be in suits.” Elsewhere, it's similarly laid back, with one DC caller adding “we're expected to be presentable, but that doesn't have to mean suits and ties. Management realizes that if we're comfortable we're more likely to enjoy our work.”
Overall, “the provisions made for us, the flexibility we're afforded and the respect that we're shown makes it easier to handle the stresses of working in a high-hours profession,” reviewed one happy source. “Counsel are always saying 'it's a marathon, not a sprint,' which shows that they don't want us burning out, and care about our long term progress.”
Hours & Compensation
“No pressure on you to drown yourself in work.”
To make their bonus, juniors must rack up at least 1,800 billable hours, plus 200 hours of things like pro bono, firm citizenship, client development and writing articles. Most of our sources hadn't struggled to hit their targets, and one or two had even raked in an 'extraordinary bonus' for amazing work. That said, “there's no pressure on you to drown yourself in work,” and “if the work's not there then you'll still have your job.”
Though subject to fluctuations, rookies' days average out at about ten hours, and grafters were pleased to report that “we're well set-up to work remotely.” As one DC slicker added, “there's an awareness that facetime culture isn't always accepting of the realistic demands of 21st Century living. If you need to go to the doctors, or want to head home early to spend time with your family, that's fine as long as you keep people in the loop.” Many of our interviewees put in an extra hour or two from home in the evening, but “no one will bother you at the weekend unless it's really important.”
Pro bono take-up went one of two ways among our callers, who were either striking up some 200 hours each year or “unable to take on much thanks to an already full plate.” Opportunities are circulated by a dedicated pro bono counsel and manager based in New York, and even those out west had found that “they're always reaching out to let us know of local opportunities.” Whether wading their way through death penalty cases, asylum proceedings or transgender name-change applications, juniors in all offices have the support of a supervising attorney. Probably for the best, as our charitable interviewees had been lucky enough to cross-examine witnesses, write and coauthor motions before independent city commissions, and defend several depositions, all on pro bono matters.
Pro bono hours
“Our network of affinity groups is helping give a voice to minority attorneys at the firm.”
In October 2015 the firm settled a $20 million lawsuit filed by former senior associate Bari Zahn. Ms Zahn claimed to have been inadequately compensated in relation to her male peers due to her gender and sexual orientation, and unfairly dismissed after expressing her concerns to management. When questioned on the scandal, juniors conceded that “the higher levels are male and caucasian-dominated,” but felt that “under-representation of minorities is a problem industry-wide, and efforts have been made to bring that conversation to the floor.” A network of 'attorney resource groups' – African American, Asian, Latino, LGBT, women, and working parents are all represented – is “helping give a voice to minority attorneys at the firm,” and the introduction of a new director of diversity and inclusion, Satra Sampson-Arokium, has also helped. Negotiating the provision of activities, specific training and other resources for diverse attorneys, “Satra helps put the needs of those groups on the firm's agenda.”
Beyond stellar academics, “we're really looking for self-starters who can both lead and work collaboratively in a team environment,” says co-hiring partner Kate Schumacher. “A lot of our questioning centers on those qualities.” A varied resume can really court you some favour in this respect, but it's imperative that your experiences are relevant to your own career goals. As fellow hiring partner Jeff Fuisz hints, “judicial clerkships are a good way to prove that you're invested in practicing law. It gives students an excellent insight into how different lawyers work, as well as a clearer perspective as to how judges approach cases.” But as Schumacher follows: “Some of the best interviewees are the ones who'll have waited tables whilst at college, but can explain what they learned from that experience and how that'll translate to them becoming a good lawyer.”
“Juniors really need to be able to articulate their own story convincingly and comfortably.”
Not only do interviewers want to know why hopefuls will be an asset to the firm, they also want to see a degree of oratorical ability and composure that'll cut them out as future success stories. “So much of what we do is communicating with clients, courts and colleagues,” nods Schumacher, “so juniors really need to be able to articulate their own story convincingly and comfortably.”
Strategy & Future
Despite registering a 4% drop in revenue in 2015, co-HP Jeff Fuisz assures us that “Kaye Scholer will continue to invest cautiously in the coming years.” As one rookie elaborated, “litigation and transactional work in the life sciences, financial services, technology and real estate spheres will continue to reign supreme,” and “it's unlikely that there’ll be any drastic deviations from these core target areas.”
Recent cost-cutting moves – the firm's decision to shift all back-office admin functions from New York to Tallahassee being a good example – have landed Kaye Scholer a little extra pocket change, and all of this bodes well for future employment opportunities. One area that has particularly benefited is entry-level hiring. As Jeff Fuisz recalls, “in the past few years we've been recruiting between 18 and 20 summer associates, whereas now we're talking more than 20.”
Interview with hiring partners Jeff Fuisz and Kate Schumacher
Chambers Associate: What is the scope of the firm's recruiting drive?
Jeff Fuisz: We target a lot of the New York law schools, with Columbia, Fordham and NYU alumni regularly appearing on the books. We also conduct OCIs at Upenn and Harvard, and when vacancies open up in our other offices we look at similarly prestigious institutions, such as Northwestern or Georgetown.
Kate Schumacher: We see between 20 and 60 students at each on campus recruitment visit.
CA: How many of those can expect to be offered second interviews?
KS: Well it depends. At some schools you may speak with twenty students and call back three. At our target schools, where we have an established history of successful recruits, it may be as high as five or six in every 20.
CA: What makes an interviewee stand out from the crowd?
KS: Every law firm is looking for bright, hard-working, industrious law students. That's a given. On top of that, we're really looking for self-starters who can both lead and work collaboratively in a team environment. A lot of our questioning centers on those qualities. We run a smaller summer program than many of our competitors, so new recruits need to be ready to jump right in and gain a lot of experience early on.
CA: How can applicants best demonstrate those qualities?
JF: It's always encouraging to see candidates with varied resumes, particularly those who have overcome certain obstacles with creative solutions. It could be that an interviewee has founded a new organisation, which they felt was lacking on campus beforehand. That'd tell us that the interviewee has some initiative, as well as proving that they aren't shy of taking on leadership roles.
KS: Having a mature view of your own experiences is really helpful for us to determine whether or not you're ready to join the firm. It's great to see aspiring lawyers who have drawn lessons from their past experiences to get them to a point where they feel ready to join Kaye Scholer. Some of best interviewees are the ones who'll have waited tables whilst at college, but can explain what they learned from that experience and how that'll translate to them becoming a good lawyer. We want to know why you'll be an asset to the firm. So much of what we do is communicating with clients, courts and colleagues, so juniors really need to be able to articulate their own story convincingly and comfortably.
JF: Judicial clerkships are a good way to prove that you're invested in practising law. It gives students an excellent insight into how different lawyers work, as well as a clearer perspective as to how judges approach cases. That being said, we're not predisposed to any type of experience. We just look to hire the very best candidates that we speak with.
CA: And is there anything rookies should avoid?
JF: We wouldn't necessarily be impressed by an applicant who'd accumulated entries on their resume for no other reason but to fill it up. It's clear that they're just looking to add fodder, and if that's not relevant then we're wasting time. We appreciate that a lot of time 2Ls won't have a lot of relevant experience. Again, we want to talk with people who have a convincing explanation as to why their past experiences have led them to us.
CA: What can rookies expect from callback interviews?
JF: Once you get past the OCI there are four interviews to complete: two with partners and two with associates. If candidates have expressed an interest in a certain practice area then we try to place attorneys with relevant expertise on the interview panels. It helps to provide more accurate answers to any practice-specific questions that interviewees may have.
CA: Roughly how many summer associates does Kaye Scholer take on each year?
JF: Our summer classes usually comprise 15 to 20 entrants. The vast majority will be based in the New York office, though Chicago, DC and Silicon Valley may occasionally take on one or two.
KS: Irrespective of where they're based, all summers are invited to the New York HQ for orientation training. We want all of our offices to be coordinated and work to the same core values.
CA: How’s your summer program looking next year compared to previous years?
KS: The summer program is going very well. Credit has to go to our new legal recruiting coordinator Kiley Bostick, who has invigorated the program with a bunch of fresh ideas. Many of the summers we've spoken to were surprised at the level of valuable experience they were gaining. The fact that our program is fairly small means that we can customise and personalise it to ensure summers are gaining the kinds of experience they're looking for.
JF: In fact, we're even growing our program this summer: In the past few years we've been recruiting between 18 and 20 summer associates, whereas now we're talking more than 20.
CA: Roughly how many full-time offers do you award and what is the take-up rate?
JF: We always aim to hire 100% of our summer associates.
KS: Last summer there was a 100% take-up rate.
CA: Finally, to ensure that they are invited back after the summer program, how can someone really stand out as a summer associate?
JF: It's simple really: you just need to demonstrate that our assessment of you during the interview process was correct. If you can prove that you're able to collaborate, lead, communicate and form mature judgements then the chances are you'll be great lawyer here.
Kaye Scholer LLP
250 West 55th Street,
- Head Office: New York City, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 6
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $360,000,000
- Partners (US): 113
- Associates (US): 153
- Counsel (US): 90
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: $3,100/week
- 2Ls: $3,100/week
- Post 3Ls: N/A
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2016: 25 (21 2Ls, 4 1Ls)
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 15 offers, 15 acceptances
Main areas of work
Antitrust; bankruptcy and restructuring; corporate; crisis management; finance; government affairs; intellectual property, including global cybersecurity and privacy; litigation; national security, government contracts and regulatory compliance; private clients; real estate; and tax.
Founded in New York in 1917, Kaye Scholer combines the continuity and business acumen of a century-old law firm with a forward looking, results driven approach focused around lasting client relationships. With strengths in five core legal areas— corporate, finance, intellectual property, litigation and real estate—and focusing on two key sectors—life sciences and financial industries—we offer strategic guidance and legal services to public and private entities facing litigation, transactional or governance challenges. Our lawyers regularly advise on matters across multiple legal jurisdictions, including in the US, Canada, UK, EU and China.
• Number of 1st year associates: 22
• Number of 2nd year associates: 24
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
BC/BU Job Fair, Columbia, Cornell, DuPont Minority Job Fair, Fordham, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Harvard, Howard University, Lavender Law Career Fair, Loyola Patent Law Interview Program, Midwest/California Interview Consortium, Northeast Black Law Students Association Job Fair, Northwestern University, New York University, St John’s, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, UVA, On Tour, Berkeley, Stanford
Summer associate profile:
At Kaye Scholer, our summer associates receive work assignments that are equal in responsibility to the work assigned to first and second year associates. We look for summer associates with a “can do” attitude, who are professional, responsive, and have a genuine interest in our work.
Summer program components:
Kaye Scholer encourages summer associates to work on projects from all of our diverse practice groups to best help them achieve their individual goals. Summer associates participate in training sessions and are given front-line responsibilities on a variety of projects including legal research, drafting, negotiations, closings, client conferences and court proceedings. Summer associates are encouraged to work on pro bono cases across a wide range of areas. In addition, we offer a mentor program, informal feedback, and formal feedback including a midsummer review and an end of summer debriefing.