Firm founder Alan Lowenstein was something of an innovator in New Jersey legal circles, and his firm encourages “attorneys to think differently about problems.”
TAKING charge of your career early on is perhaps the quickest route to happiness in this profession – this is what associates tell us every year – and this is what sets Lowenstein apart. It all began with the late Alan Lowenstein, who (among many achievements) shook up Newark's municipal charter, grew the New Jersey philharmonic into a cultural treasure, and came up with a new form of corporate structure that would allow employees to buy up distressed companies. So it's no surprise that the firm he founded places a premium on entrepreneurial hustle. This can manifest itself in a range of ways, according to chairman and managing partner Gary Wingens, from “encouraging attorneys to think differently about problems” to “connecting clients to opportunities in the marketplace” all the way to “turning the traditional pro bono model on its head.”
Here's another universal truth of the legal profession: the type of client shapes a firm's culture. Thus the "entrepreneurial spirit" we heard of is hardwired into the firm by the many startups and emerging companies it serves – for this area Chambers USA recognizes Lowenstein on a national level. Lowenstein has a growing national presence, with offices spanning both coasts and a latest one opening in Utah. But we shouldn't go any further without mentioning the firm's clout in its home state: "If you want to practice law in New Jersey" an associate told us, "and you want the BigLaw experience, there are only one or two firms that you should look at.” In the Garden State, Chambers USA rankings highlight the firm as a market heavyweight, thanks to top practices across the main commercial areas.
“It's kind of a double-edged sword,” mused one associate, “but one of the benefits and burdens of working here is how leanly staffed we are.” On the one hand, newbies get a great deal of responsibility very early on. That said, “there's never a sense that we're drowning in work.” The firm is good at “ensuring that there are enough people on a deal to get it done if everyone pulls their weight.” In general “it's a knock-on-doors-to-get-work kind of place.” While some sources thought they could benefit from a more formalized system, they suspected that it might be “too much of a departure from the entrepreneurial culture that they're trying to create.” Head hiring honcho Ray Thek agrees: “I tell every incoming class, 'if you're getting your work from an assignment system, you're doing it wrong!'”
"It's a knock-on-doors-to-get-work kinda place."
On arrival, most associates are split between corporate and litigation, with the former taking slightly more. One or two go into bankruptcy or tax. Both deal-doers and courtroom pugilists spend their first two years as generalists, hustling up work from different partners. “In your first year you're kind of bombarded with work from all sides,” said one transactional attorney. “At times you can feel uncomfortable saying no.” Even the freest of markets needs some intervention to protect against market failures. According to Ray Thek, Lowenstein has created the JADE program to avoid things like an associate “getting trapped in a big room stamping documents for three years.” More than just a snappy acronym, the Junior Associate Development program exists to “make sure there's an even spread of hours and opportunities” among new associates.
New corporate attorneys bounce between M&A, finance, securities and corporate governance work. We heard of attorneys working on “nuts and bolts deals where smaller businesses are selling or leasing something” and “large-scale transactions, often involving the pharma industry,” which is booming. Unsurprisingly, in Palo Alto much of the work has a startup or tech focus, “although once in a while, we'll work with an outlier like the food industry.” Clients here are either newly-formed private companies or venture capitalists looking for investment. “In my time here, my tasks have run the gamut,” said one transactional attorney, “everything from diligence and other junior associate tasks” to “drafting the primary acquisition and sale documents.”
"Opportunity to gain management skills.”
In litigation, “the primary assignments for junior associates tend to be research and writing tasks,” a third-year reported. “You'll get a research question, spend hours looking into it, and then draft a memo or an email with legal analysis.” There's also the discovery process, which offers Lowensteinians more than mere doc review – “discovery opens opportunities to draft pleadings, interrogatories and document production requests,” said another litigator. As people get more senior they take on more of a managerial role, “managing junior attorneys, working with documents and prepping deposition binders.” This “can be tedious,” our source admitted, “but it's a good opportunity to gain management skills.”
“We literally do tons of pro bono,” enthused one associate, figuratively. There's no doubting the firm's commitment to pro bono work. Both contentious and transactional work is on offer, with associates representing the victims of domestic violence, helping set up nonprofits and 'educational equity litigation', among other things. Associates can treat up to 200 pro bono hours as billable, so “there's no reason not to do pro bono.” All told, sources were impressed by the firm's commitment, but there was one slight gripe: “Pro bono work counts toward your annual billable targets, but not your monthly ones.”
"We literally do tons of pro bono."
Firm founder Alan Lowenstein was a big advocate of pro bono. The firm's efforts are organized through the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. According to MP Gary Wingens, lawyers here aren't interested in “waiting until the phone rings” and “taking pro bono cases if we have lawyers free.” Instead the Center is staffed with people who “strategically think about the kind of work our lawyers are best suited to.”
Pro bono hours
“It doesn't feel like a bunch of white men at the associate level,” said a source, adding: “At the partnership level, more so.” Sources in Washington and Palo Alto claimed that their offices were more diverse than the larger New Jersey HQ. “New Jersey doesn't feel very diverse and as it's the HQ, this can trickle down,” lamented an associate. There are diversity initiatives in New Jersey and elsewhere, and recruiting-wise the firm has dispatched delegations to various minority law fairs and law schools to market the firm to diverse candidates.
“We're one of the few firms that has 1L summer associates,” HP Ray Thek tells us, “and each summer we reserve two slots for the Lowenstein scholars.” These receive a $10,000 stipend to help them with law school tuition, plus a further $15,000 if they return for a second summer, in addition to two summer associate salaries.
“A visitor would struggle to pick the first-years from the partners.”
Lowenstein “prefers people who knock on doors and drum up work to those who stay in the office and let it come to them,” explained an informant. While the firm expects a certain proactivity from its attorneys – it has "that sort of culture for people to develop and push themselves in the direction they want to go in" – it's by no means a Darwinian, dog-eat-dog place. Indeed, “laterals always say how nice the place is.” No law firm is without hierarchy, but at Lowenstein “a visitor would struggle to pick the first-years from the partners.” While this might be a slight exaggeration, “people are comfortable picking up phones and talking to partners without senior associates or counsels interceding.”
Hours & Compensation
There's a target of 1,850 hours, including 250 hours of non-billable work such as pro bono. “I hit it every year,” relayed an associate in the corporate department, “but I think people in some of the smaller groups like trusts and estates can have a tougher time.”
"I've never pulled an all-nighter."
“I don't know if anyone in corporate can say this, but I've never pulled an all-nighter,” boasted a litigator. While all-nighters may be rare, late nights do come with the territory. “My day is normally 9am to 6.30pm,” a transactional attorney told us, "but I might have a spurt of late nights once or twice each quarter.” A source in litigation agreed: “I've definitely had my share of nights that ended at midnight, 1am or even 2am.” Lowenstein “treats you like an adult,” and “if you need to leave in the middle of the day for some emergency, you can leave in the middle of the day.” For those with families, leaving at 5pm and working remotely is also an option.
Training & Development
Newbies “spend a few days” learning how to use the firm's resources and technology. The whole thing is “pretty comprehensive, and sets you up to use what's around you to the best of your abilities.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, continued training is “free-flowing” and “what you make of it.” Much of what our sources learned wasn't gleaned from CLEs or courses – although there are CLEs and other courses aplenty – but from seeking out individuals they've worked with and getting feedback. This can be a bit hit or miss, one explained: “If you seek out the right people you can get terrific training, but if not you might find yourself working for people who don't provide much depth.”
Home is famously where the heart is, and Lowenstein's heart remains in Roseland, New Jersey, where it moved from Newark in the 1980s. It's a half-hour commute from the firm's office in Manhattan, but couldn't be more different. While New York occupies the 17th through 19th floors of a high-rise “smack in the middle of Midtown,” associates described Rosewood as “suburban, bordering on rural,” and associates burning the midnight oil can occasionally see “deer or other wildlife walking around.” The New Jersey office is currently spread over two low-rise buildings, although plans are afoot to consolidate the office into a new, shiny building by 2017. Different as they are, collaboration between New Jersey and New York is the rule, rather than the exception. “I work with New York every day,” said someone in the Jersey mothership, “and many people are admitted to both the New York and New Jersey Bars.”
"I work with New York every day."
Further West, the California office is located in the heart of downtown Palo Alto, which in the words of MP Gary Wingens “puts it close to the most amazing coffee of any office.” Californian associates agree that the downtown location is “awesome” and considerably preferable to that of rival Silicon Valley firms, which tend to be based in uninspiring office parks. With five lawyers, the firm's newest office, in Utah, is by far the smallest, and supplies the Palo Altans with IP know-how.
According to hiring partner Ray Thek, Lowenstein is eager to “meet law students in a different way” from rival firms. That said, sources told us Lowenstein has a “pretty standard OCI process,” with questions on things like “my work experience, the classes I was taking at law school, and why I was interested in Lowenstein.” Interviewers were interested in candidates' career plans, our sources told us. “I was asked 'why this department,'” recollected a Californian, while a Jerseyean said: “They definitely wanted to know if I was interested in corporate or litigation.” Be prepared for the occasional tough existential question: “The question 'why are you here' kind of surprises some people.” Applicants can expect to see four or five interviewers during callbacks, and are likely to field questions on “intelligence, communication and leadership.”
Strategy & Future
“Open to additional locations."
Twice a year the managing partner holds a town hall meeting which “everyone is expected to attend,” according to juniors. This gathering lasts about an hour and “goes into a very detailed assessment” of "what the firm has been doing and how we can improve.” Reports from the most recent roundup tell us that the managing partner “was very excited about opening the Utah office.” And what of the future? We'll let the managing partner himself, Gary Wingens, tell you. He describes Lowenstein's strategy as “continuing moderate growth while deepening relationships with core industries.” He singles out New York and Washington, DC as particular sites for this growth, but he tells us that Lowenstein's “open to additional locations in Northern and Southern California, beyond Silicon Valley.”
More on the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest
Innovation. It's the buzzword of the hour. From telephones to taxis, it seems that no industry, no facet of our lives, can be allowed to stand still. Even the legal profession, that most hidebound of institutions, faces the specter of the dreaded 'disruption.' In this spirit, back in 2009, Lowenstein Sandler decided to create the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. The center was spun out of Lowenstein's already quite active pro bono efforts, and partners firm associates with a range of non-profits to do pro bono legal work.
While other firms passively sit and wait for potential pro bono clients to approach them, before assigning their case to attorneys with spare capacity. Rather, Wingens tells us that the Lowenstein Center employs a full time staff to “strategically think about the kind of work our lawyers are best suited to.”
Some of the Center's clients have been fairly innovative too. One such client was the Sikh Coalition, which launched an app called FlyRights that helps victims of ethnic profiling by airport security send complaints to the TSA and Homeland Security. The Lowenstein Center helped the Coalition with IP issues arising out of the Act. Another was DataKind, which the Center advised on various corporate governance and tax matters. DataKind partners data experts with non-profits, helping the latter take advantage of the age of Big Data.
Interestingly, the Center doesn't just work with the non-profit sector, it also teams up with profit-making businesses to deliver some of its pro bono activities. For example, it partners with Merck's in house legal team on a bankruptcy clinic for low income debtors, a veterans' justice initiative which helps ex-service people transition to independent living. The Center's also involved with Kids In Need of Defense, a non-profit that represents unaccompanied minors in immigration hearings, alongside Wyndham Worldwide, Merck and Prudential.
The Center operates on a referral basis, and its cases often have an impact beyond just the individuals involved. For example, in a recent case the Centre persuaded the New Jersey Supreme Court to uphold a state law that required municipalities to provide realistic opportunities for low and moderate income families to buy or rent affordable housing. In another, the firm obtained a judgment by the New Jersey Supreme Court that law firms which represented banks could appear, pro bono, for debtors in unrelated cases without being in breach of state ethics rules.
Lowenstein Sandler LLP
1251 Avenue of the Americas,
- Number of domestic offices: 6
- Partners (US): 114
- Associates (US): 187
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: N/A in NY; $2,700/week in NJ
- 2Ls: $2,900/week in NY; $2,700/week in NJ
- 1Ls hired? Yes (NJ/CA only)
- Split summers offered? No
- Summers 2016: 25
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 20 offers, 17 acceptances
Main areas of work
Corporate, venture capital, technology, intellectual property, investment management, fund formations, capital markets and securities, mergers and acquisitions, litigation, complex commercial litigation, white collar criminal defense, employment, insurance, pro bono, bankruptcy, real estate, tax.
Lowenstein Sandler is a leading national law firm intensely devoted to our client’s success and deeply committed to our core values. We have built a reputation for pursuing every matter with creativity and passion. Our industry knowledge, entrepreneurial drive and proven commitment to our communities deliver a different and better law firm experience to our clients. We focus on building long-standing relationships and anticipating our clients’ needs, rather than responding to them. Working side-by-side with our clients, we approach each case and each other with integrity and respect. And, our award winning pro-bono work enables us to connect individuals and communities with unimaginable success. We pride ourselves on being a different kind of law firm – one deeply rooted in the interest of our clients, our communities and our colleagues.
• Number of 1st year associates: 18
• Number of 2nd year associates: 17
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $160,000 ($180,000 in New York, Palo Alto and DC)
• 2nd year: case-by-case
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Columbia, NYU, Harvard, Duke, UPenn, Yale, Notre Dame, Emory, Vanderbilt, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Santa Clara, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Hastings
Summer program components:
Our summer program includes eleven weeks of real-world experience, working directly with lawyers in a variety of practice areas. The summer program offers educational seminars, mentoring, social events and, most significantly, participation in complex matters in the legal areas in which students have expressed interest, including pro bono work in the Lowenstein Center for Public Interest. Our summer program is the perfect balance between structure and flexibility, in-depth legal work and good fun.
Summer associate profile:
At Lowenstein Sandler we believe that what makes you different makes you successful. We are passionate about the things that make our firm unique and are committed to developing the next generation of attorneys with the same creative, entrepreneurial spirit. Enthusiasm, passion and commitment are core qualities of our ideal candidate. We seek individuals who possess genuine leadership qualities with a strong work ethic. We are a firm that thinks outside the box, so if you find yourself daring to be different, you owe it to yourself to have a look at Lowenstein Sandler.