Kaye Scholer LLP - The Inside View

Freshly ensconced in a brand new office, Kaye Scholer associates appreciate quality work and a supportive atmosphere.

A NEW Yorker born and bred, Kaye Scholer has developed into a litigious force to be reckoned with since its founding in 1917. We heard a lot about the firm's “prestige and strong reputation” straight from several horses'/sources' mouths, but if you want further evidence of its clout then look no further than Chambers USA, which awards a first-rate ranking to the New York commercial litigation practice. On a national level, Chambers recognizes Kaye Scholer's product liability and life sciences work, as well as its capital markets and real estate endeavors.

With its 100th birthday just a couple of years away, Kaye Scholer might be something of an industry old-timer, but in 2014 it well and truly embraced the future by moving to a sparkly new office. The firm had spent a considerable 55 years on Park Avenue (the longest commercial tenancy in the city... ever), but decided it was high time for a change. So, attorneys packed their briefcases, shredded lots of papers and hopped to West 55th Street. For more on the firm's new abode and not-quite-nostalgic descriptions of the previous residence, read on...

The Work

The complex commercial litigation practice takes on the most juniors, while others are welcomed into the real estate, IP, corporate, tax & private client or finance groups. The vast majority are in the New York HQ, with a tiny sprinkling of juniors in Palo Alto and DC. When it comes to getting work “there is a formal system with an assigning partner that's really important for your first few months.” Associates fill out an online form each week detailing their availability, so they shouldn't be left twiddling their thumbs or completely swamped: “It's kind of a defense mechanism so you don't get overwhelmed.” However, associates told us that “as you start working with people and forming relationships, they'll come to you with assignments.”

Junior litigators sample a whole range of matters. “I've been working on a large antitrust litigation, internal investigations and a product liability suit.” Typically, associates are kept busy “overseeing discovery requests and responses to requests, plus research and drafting summary judgment motions and motions to dismiss.” Other tasks might include “meeting and preparing witnesses for depositions” or “drafting cross-examination scripts.” Our sources seemed satisfied with the work they'd undertaken: “I've had some pretty challenging work. There is some bemoaned doc review to help out on, but I haven't had anything close to a long-term doc review project.” Another interviewee declared that “an entrepreneurial spirit is appreciated and rewarded here. I've asked to be able to try things, like taking a leading role in drafting motions and complaints, and been given those opportunities. It makes the job so much better! In law school you expect working in BigLaw to be nothing but doc review, but in just over two years here I've spent maybe two weeks doing that, which is excellent.”

“An entrepreneurial spirit is appreciated and rewarded.”

Over in the IP department, juniors immerse themselves in patent work for large pharmaceutical and biotech companies, among other clients. In the former category, customers include mammoth multinationals like Pfizer, Novartis and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Common fare for IP attorneys is Hatch-Waxman litigation “defending the patents of branded drug manufacturers against generics.” Juniors find that they can be “four or five steps removed from the partner” on these hefty cases, and as such their work includes “research and initial drafting.” However, on smaller patent cases there's the chance to do “a lot more drafting – preparing complaints, briefs and working with expert witnesses.” Aside from the patent work, there's also some “soft IP, like trademark and false advertising work – there's a fair amount of client contact and I wrote several cease-and-desist letters.”

Meanwhile, on the corporate side of things, juniors reported working on “mostly M&A, with some investment fund work and some securities work.” On a transaction, associates might “help with the diligence process, mark up parts of a merger agreement or work on ancillary documents like the disclosure schedule.” We heard on the grapevine that real estate is very busy right now. Which isn't surprising – the group handles stuff like the $520 million mortgage and mezzanine financing of Google and Amazon office complexes in Sunnyvale, California.

Training & Development

Initially, incoming associates receive “more or less full-time training” for about a week, “relating to the internal computer systems, matters of the law, and technical things like how to submit a filing.” After that, there are sessions “about once a week for the first few months,” followed by “regular legal updates and trainings. Associates or partners will prepare briefings of major cases.” Naturally, the training can only go so far: “You really need to learn by doing,” came the old adage. That said, sources were generally happy at the level of training on offer.

“A generous stipend.”

Associates are assigned a partner mentor and an associate mentor. “The firm encourages you to really form a relationship with them.” Kaye Scholer promotes mentor-mentee bonding by “providing a generous stipend for lunches or tickets to ball games.” As you'd expect, the success of mentoring relationships are really person-dependent. “It's hard to always necessarily meet up with people and make it work,” explained one associate, adding that “I've found mid-level and senior associates to be really great resources – they're approachable and willing to sit down to address what's going on.” The annual review system is “sufficient,” asserted sources. First-years are evaluated after six months.


“It's a whole new world,” gasped one interviewee when asked about Kaye Scholer's latest HQ, situated on 55th Street. “I just figured out how to use the elevators.” The firm's previous home on Park Avenue “was run-down and looked like something out of the 1950s,” declared associates. “It was awful.” Now, however, “everyone is very happy to be in a beautiful, state-of-the-art building.” But that's not to saying there aren't any teething problems: “A doorknob just came off,” admitted an associate gravely. “There's still some tweaking to be done.” Apparently, the free machine-dispensed coffee is “terrible” – although coffee from the subsidized cafeteria is “delicious, and only a buck 25.

“A beautiful, state-of-the-art building.”

These minor issues aside, sources praised their new surroundings to the skies: “We have floor-to-ceiling windows, so it's very light and bright. It's an environmentally-friendly building. There's just a totally different feel – work is a little nicer.” During the process of moving, the firm shed more than a staid 1950s aesthetic – it also left behind most of its library books. What with this being the digital age, it was understandably felt that all those leather-bound tomes were now unnecessary (something The New York Times wrote a feature about).


“There's a genuine mutual respect between senior and junior attorneys,” stated one junior. “I've never been made to feel that I'm any lesser than anyone else. My opinion is valued by older attorneys. Whenever I've approached a senior to ask if I can take on some kind of responsibility that might classically be above my pay grade, they're very receptive to that.” Another concurred that “people genuinely like each other and want the best for their colleagues. I don't think of it as a particularly competitive place.”

“I don't think of it as a particularly competitive place.”

In some of the smaller groups “we eat lunch together almost every day – partners and juniors – and if we stay late we eat together too. We'll talk about sports or the weekend – not about law!” Overall, sources agreed that there's a somewhat “laidback” atmosphere. “There's no strict sense of hierarchy within the department. People care about what you do and the effort you put into things far more than they care about what your resume says.” The business-casual dress code is part of this industrious but unstuffy approach: “I don't remember the last time I wore a tie!” Nonetheless, associates' expectations are tempered by BigLaw's parameters. One summarized: “I'm not a dog walker. Certainly there are jobs that are less stressful and more fun, but you can't do much to change it, other than changing the entire industry.”

Socially, there's a “well-attended” cocktail hour every Friday, involving “very good liquor.” Then there are seasonal celebrations, such as a Hallowe'en party (an attorney dressed as Frieda Kahlo triumphed in this year's costume contest) and a holiday party “in a fancy hotel with a lot of good food, drink and dancing.” Plenty of events are put on for the summer associates too. Recently, attorneys “let their creative side out” at Nike Town, customizing sneakers.

Hours & Compensation

Although there's no official billing requirement, associates must hit 2,000 to be eligible for a bonus, while a second bonus is available for those who clock up 2,400 hours. Up to 200 hours of pro bono or firm citizenship work can be counted towards these targets. “The 2,000 target is generally do-able,” thought sources. “Although I wouldn't say everyone hits it – it depends on your workflow.” Interviewees generally worked a ten-hour day on average, although naturally there are slow times and “periods when things get intense and you work late nights.” Most of the associates we spoke to tend to put in some time on weekends but appreciated that “people are happy to hear that you're taking your vacation.”

“I'm pretty comfortable.”

Pro Bono

Associates concluded that “pro bono is definitely taken seriously because it counts toward the bonus requirement." Juniors reported working on a variety of matters, including Uvisa applications for domestic abuse victims, disability benefit cases, and personal injury lawsuits as well as “reviewing contracts and getting tax-exempt status for nonprofits” or “advising nonprofits on issues relating to patents and copyright.” It's not hard to come by pro bono matters – Kaye Scholer has a dedicated pro bono partner and counsel “who always offer these great opportunities and you can also come up with your own cases.”

"Taken seriously."  

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 20,745
  • Average per US attorney: 56


“Since I've been here there's been a lot of emphasis on diversity,” associates told us. Recently the firm appointed a new director of diversity and inclusion, Satra Sampson-Arokium, who joined from Deloitte. The focus on improving diversity seems to be bearing some fruits: “There's far more diversity among juniors than at partnership level,” noted interviewees. Although they pointed out that, like many BigLaw establishments, “most of the partners are white men.” However, our sources described Kaye Scholer as “pretty progressive” and noted that there are 'resource groups' for African-American, Asian, Latino and LGBT lawyers, plus groups for women and parents.

"More diversity among juniors."

Get Hired

Saul Morgenstern, chair of the professional development and communications committee, tells it straight: “We look for people who are secure enough to speak up but who know they don't have the answer to everything!”

Juniors advised: “The firm really puts an emphasis on people who dig in, become part of a project and achieve something. If you're looking to get hired here, good grades alone won't cut it. They're definitely necessary, but you're not going to get a job here just because you went to Harvard or Yale or Columbia. It's your potential to work within a team that matters.” Another associate added: “A positive, well-rounded person fits in with the culture here. They look for hard-working team players.” Juniors also mentioned that “prior work experience is important” to recruiters and commented that the firm's shiny new office will make it “easier for the firm to attract new talent, just because of the first impression the place makes when you walk in the front door.”

Strategy & Future

What's next for Kaye Scholer? Saul Morgenstern tells us: “We have a measured growth strategy that builds on our core strengths, both substantively and geographically.” He continues: "We're a strong litigation firm with first-rate litigation practices in multiple locations on the patent side, in antitrust, in securities and corporate governance and product liability, and complex commercial litigation. We also have a first-tier high-end private equity practice and a growing M&A practice on the non-private equity side; what you might call strategic, portfolio M&A."

Interview with Saul Morgenstern – chair of the professional development and communications committee


Chambers Associate: What highlights have there been for Kaye Scholer over the past 12 months?

Saul Morgenstern: I've been at Kaye Scholer for 11 years and for ten years I've been telling potential new associates that no one comes here for the New York office! The old building was built in 1956 or 1957, and although the firm was in that space until few months ago, it wasn't designed for a law firm. Now we've fixed all that!

The new offices are airy, spacious and functional, but not opulent. We wanted to create a collaborative space, so there's a coffee bar downstairs where people can get a decent cup of cappuccino and do some brainstorming. We have outdoor space as well, adjacent to cafeteria, so on nice days people can eat lunch outside. Our technology is state-of-the-art, with bulletproof WiFi and top of the line audio/video, including videoconferencing. 

There are a couple of other accomplishments: I started reorganizing our professional development function for associates and counsel, through the professional development and communications committee that I chair, and we've seen the fruit of that this past year. We vaulted from 100 on the Am Law survey to 30-something, reflecting real progress towards greater transparency for associates and partners.

We give associates and counsel so much more information about the firm, because we believe that they're part of this business family. The firm's strategy and vision, and the way we're doing, are issues that are as important to junior lawyers as they are to partners. It has a real long-term impact on everyone's career path.

Part of growing up as a lawyer is about learning not just how to draft a brief but wondering 'do I want to be in small law firm or a big law firm?' Part of the benefit of a place like this is all this high quality work available, plus being able to observe the personal styles of partners who work in different ways and so understand how this business works. The esprit de corps between the partnership and associates creates better relationships, because the more you know about the business and how you fit in, the easier it is to relate to your peers.

CA: Have the library books really been left behind? What's replaced them?

SM: I have a whole collection of bound volumes of records of cases, but the library has indeed gone. It used to take armies of lawyers and scholars to index cases, but now associates are adept at electronic search tools, so devoting enormous space to a library is costly and inefficient. As a service to our clients, we've digitized our entire library. In fact, Kaye Scholer was the first law firm to complete this transformation. We're the leaders in this space.

CA: What's the strategy for the future? Are any practice areas growing in particular? Any office openings in the pipeline?

SM: Kaye Scholer follows a measured growth strategy that builds on our core strengths, both substantively and geographically. We're a strong litigation firm with first rate litigation practices in multiple locations on the patent side, in antitrust, in securities and corporate governance and product liability, and complex commercial litigation. We also have a first tier high end private equity practice and a growing M&A practice on the non-private equity side, what you might call strategic, portfolio M&A.

We also have a strong transactional practice, with key strengths in finance, private equity, real estate and tax. On the West coast, many of our corporate lawyers represent companies in the technology industry. And across the country, we draw on our strengths in life sciences to represent companies in transactions in that sector.

CA: How would you describe the ideal summer associate?  

SM: First and foremost, the baseline skill set is to be smart, articulate and able to demonstrate strong writing skills. You see a lot of people who can do those things, who are getting good grades in respectable law schools, and who are more than likely capable...but what else? We're looking for people who are going to fit in with our culture – people who are going to be collegial, people who are going to be collaborative and engaging. Plus a sense of humor doesn't hurt.

That's what makes a collective body of associates, professional staff and partners a whole. Lawyers work with admin staff, secretaries and word processors: we want people who welcome working with everybody and treat other people with the measure of respect necessary to do that. This is a strong, diverse, collaborative environment with people from different walks of life, different corners of the universe, different socio-economic backgrounds.

We want associates to come to the table with a healthy respect for our differences and what we have in common. As a whole, we make up for each other's weaknesses – we all have weaknesses, so everyone needs to plug themselves in together, to cover every base.

We look for people who are secure enough to speak up but who know they don't have the answer to everything! I still have to learn from other people who aren't as jaded as me! We all need to be respectful and open to people's views.

Kaye Scholer LLP

250 West 55th Street,
New York,
NY 10019-9710
Website www.kayescholer.com

  • Head Office: New York City, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 6
  • Number of international office: 3
  • Worldwide revenue: $375,000,000
  • Partners (US): 118
  • Associates (US): 170
  • Summer Salary 2015  
  • 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 2015: 19 (15 2Ls, 4 1Ls) 
  • Offers/acceptances 2014: 13 offers, 10 acceptances, 1 pending 

Main areas of work

Antitrust; bankruptcy and restructuring; corporate; crisis management; fi nance; government affairs; intellectual property, including global cybersecurity and privacy; litigation; national security, government contracts and regulatory compliance; private clients; real estate; and tax.

Firm profile

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.

Recruitment details

Number of 1st year associates: 24 

Number of 2nd year associates: 17 

Associate salaries: 1st year: $160,000 

2nd year: $170,000 

Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2015:
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

Summer details

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.