In the BigLaw league, Proskauer's hard to beat.
LOS Angeles' bid for the 2024 Olympic Games – LA 2024 – got an energy boost recently when it joined forces with elite legal athlete Proskauer. The sports law superstar (Band 1 in Chambers USA) serves as LA's legal counsel and strategic adviser in the race, and will do much of the running for the bid in the coming years. Before all the college jocks and jockettes among you rush to apply, we should point out that Proskauer's sporting prowess is a fairly niche activity among the far greater number of corporate and litigation teams which account for the largest proportion of the firm's 700-plus attorneys. That said, the Olympic bid will over time utilize the firm's expertise across multiple offices and departments.
But it's Proskauer's longstanding position atop the podium for its labor & employment work where the firm originally earned its esteemed reputation for greatness. “If you're going to work in labor and employment in New York, there is no other place,” one junior proclaimed. “It's the gold standard.” The Big Apple houses the firm's HQ but it also operates a further seven bases at home – most of which are on the East Coast – and rounds these off with overseas offices in London, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing and São Paulo.
Juniors can jump straight into the corporate, labor & employment, litigation, healthcare, real estate, tax, or private client services departments. Most newbies slot into the corporate group. Labor and litigation take in the next largest batches and a small handful are sprinkled among the remaining groups. Everyone begins life as a generalist and in each department a legal director coordinates work allocation. “It's particularly helpful when you want to try a different area but don't know anyone within that team.” After two years juniors join a more focused practice area where work assignment tends to be allocated on an informal basis, though you're still able to reach out to the director if things run quiet.
“It's particularly helpful when you want to try a different area.”
Corporate rookies could find themselves working on the usual milieu of M&A, private equity, capital markets and bankruptcy matters for clients like banks, private equity funds and companies in the healthcare, real estate, retail and leisure industries. Sources spent most of their days on diligence or preparing signature and closing documents. Most also had a smattering of opportunities to tackle first drafts of ancillary documents or simple agreements. “I've had more responsibility than I expected,” one interviewee discovered. “There's sufficient guidance to feel supported but enough rope to grow.”
At the time of our calls, several litigators were specifically assigned to the patent team but most were part of the commercial litigation group. Here they undertake anything from insurance and securities disputes to false advertising or antitrust. Sources appreciated being able to pursue their own course: “I'm developing a niche and no-one's stopped me if I've expressed an interest in doing something.” Topping up “your standard big doc review projects” is plenty of research and drafting sections of briefs and motions. “There's never any hesitation about handing tasks to juniors,” sources reckoned.
Labor & employment is split between those doing “more traditional labor work” and those handling employment matters. The former involves managing the relationship between labor unions and companies, and dealing with issues and litigation which may arise. Employment tends to cover things like writing employee handbooks, dealing with employee benefits and handling discrimination cases. “Doc review doesn't subside until third year,” sources conceded. But we're told the firm places “a strong sense of trust in you once you've established your credibility,” so working directly with clients or drafting sections of briefs all come around eventually.
Most juniors – around 40 – are in the New York office, and roughly 20 are in Boston. LA takes on the next largest group and at the time of our calls there were also a few rookies spread across New Orleans, Chicago and Newark. LA, New York, Washington, DC and Chicago offer a broad range of the firm's practices, while other offices have more specialized focuses. New Orleans and Newark, for instance, do all things labor & employment. An array of litigation, labor and corporate matters are offered in Boston but its banking and private equity teams are the real standout. Boca Raton, Florida, began life dedicated to private client services but has since branched out into other areas.
“It's quite common to be working with colleagues in Boston or LA.”
Deal-doers and litigators had seen some cross-office interaction but it was in the labor group where geography most seemed to melt away. “We have a national staffing model so it's quite common to be working with colleagues in Boston or LA,” one New York source explained. All newbies meet at orientation in the Big Apple and use bonds gained there to “help each other out. We email around to ask who's worked on certain matters before.” To make cross-office staffing easier, video-phones were recently rolled out across the firm. Juniors approached these rather warily at first: “It's weird,” several shared. “One time talking to senior counsel I rolled my eyes,” another source admitted. But they now seem to be coming round to them. As for other mod cons, New York takes the biscuit for plush offices.
Strategy & Future
“It feels like every month there's a new partner in our London office,” one interviewee found. Not quite, but London's certainly been bolstering its corporate and finance offerings with a number of recent partner hires into the firm's M&A, private equity and finance groups. Transactional growth forms the most imminent focus here, though eventually the firm hopes to continue building on its UK regulatory, tax and employment practices.
“We're trying to increase our international presence.”
Juniors also anticipated the Hong Kong office could be next in line for expansion. “Our associates are very perceptive people,” chairman Joe Leccese hints. “We've spent a lot of time on our London office and will continue to do that but we also need to become stronger in Asia.”
“People here have a sense of achievement, a drive for excellence and take the job seriously,” but – another interjected – “they don't take themselves too seriously. Even as the hours get late no-one's stressed and losing their mind.” Happily, senior associates understand burdens placed on juniors, newer associates told us, and help to alleviate them. The atmosphere is generally “relaxed: you don't get a tense feeling. This is a respectful place – we don't have any yellers.” Another added: “I've never felt that someone on my team was shortchanging me or that I was being used only for low-level work.”
In fact several sources were pleasantly surprised at how receptive partners were to juniors' opinions on whatever they're working on. “If an associate drafts a brief and the clients push back the partner asks for that associate's opinion.”
“I've never felt that someone on my team was shortchanging me.”
Others felt that Proskuaer was a place where “instead of those at the top pushing work down to clear their plate, everyone's trying to clear everyone's plate.” This means that as far as is possible, “everybody's trying to make sure you have your weekend. It's not always possible and there are emergencies but I feel people are pretty conscious of others' schedules.” One junior meditated: “Proskauer understands you're a whole person, and not just an attorney.”
Perhaps the best example of this comes in the form of the firm's Friday Focus newsletter which lists events like weddings or births. Each week features a different associate outlining their interests and answering must-know questions like 'if you could have any superpower what would it be?' “It's a great way to learn about other people. If I saw someone had a shared experience or traveled somewhere I was going to, I could shoot them an email.” There are also snippets on what the firm's alumni are getting up to.
Training & Development
Proskauer operates a pretty active alum network with an alumni bash in the fall and various talks led by former attorneys throughout the year. “During the summer program our first lunch was about life after Proskauer and three alums” – a restauranteur, a tech startup founder and a general counsel –“came to chat to us about making connections and what they'd learned since moving on. Proskauer doesn't shun leavers. They're our future clients and we want to keep them close.”
“Proskauer doesn't shun leavers.”
While the firm embraces its alumni, it's also striving to ensure more juniors remain with the firm long-term through increasing transparency and professional development training. “It's a double edged sword,” several interviewees deduced. “We have such fascinating clients it's tough not to want to go in-house.” Another put attrition down to the fact that Proskauer “trains us so well, it makes us more hire-able.”
At the time of our calls, labor juniors had just started training to first chair New York City grievance arbitrations. Here they’ll oversee things like claims of employment discrimination. “It'll be scary but a good learning experience. They're always coming up with new ways to develop us.” Proskauer also works with the City to take depositions for “a whole bunch of civil litigation for slip and falls or wrongful suing.”
“A whole bunch of civil litigation.”
Juniors can tackle the usual run of advising on asylum, immigration, veteran and children-related matters or assisting nonprofits with tax exemption, corporate governance or employee handbooks. One interviewee stressed: “You can pretty much work on anything you want.” So you'll also find attorneys doing anything from assisting Iraqi military translators as they settle in the US to helping Holocaust survivors apply for compensation. For several years Proskauer's also worked closely with the American Civil Liberties Union. Most recently the firm and ACLU represented the Wikimedia Foundation in a lawsuit against the NSA over claims of mass internet surveillance. In October 2015, Proskauer hired a partner, William Silverman, to lead pro bono efforts full time.
Pro Bono hours
Hours & Compensation
Proskauer has no billable requirement but most sources tended to aim for between 1,800 and 2,000 hours, which can include unlimited pro bono work. While interviewees considered this a reasonable target, several admitted they would struggle to reach it due to slow practice areas or undertaking “a few hundred hours of non-billable work” as first and second-years. “It's reiterated to us that we don't have much control over our schedule early on.”
“The actual hours I work aren't crazy at all but it's unpredictable.”
Proskauer's website proudly proclaims: “Around the clock or around the world, we're there when you need us, because legal problems don't follow a schedule.” Plenty of associates could attest to that. Some had spent a month or so working “every waking moment,” before getting out early most days the next. Another mused: “The actual hours I work aren't crazy at all but it's unpredictable.” Despite schedules sometimes being “sporadic or brutal, or both,” most juniors were pretty pleased with the respect afforded to life outside the firm. “I'm not just satisfying the whims of another's timetable. When someone asks for work at an inconvenient time I feel it's because it needs to be done for reasons other than it's convenient for a partner to have it now.” When it comes to securing that well-earned vacation, “people understand if you want to take one. You just have to be good at setting boundaries.”
“We're looking for high achievers but more importantly, we're looking for high achievers who work well in teams,” hiring partner Michael Mervis reveals. The firm recently introduced new guidelines to help interviewers gauge information on candidates' strengths in areas like initiative, leadership and collaboration. But Mervis clarifies: “We don't sit around with a scorecard ticking off who's a good leader. It's part of an effort to elicit more granular information during interviews.”
“We don't sit around with a scorecard ticking off who's a good leader.”
Prior work experience, Mervis goes on to say, is “a plus. For those interested in transactional work, for example, a background in finance can be attractive.” The firm's pretty open about what you've done, though. Among current junior associates we found former engineers, HR professionals, consultants, and financial and policy analysts. Mervis is keen to point out that although the firm values real world experience, it is by no means a prerequisite for candidates.
“It could be more diverse,” one representative source accepted. “But there are efforts to make that happen and they recognize it's important.” Proskauer's Silver Scholar Program offers summer associate places to diverse 1L or 2L students. Associates are also matched up with someone from the Diverse Lawyer Mentoring Circle Program to “increase the probability they will stay longer.”
“Increase the probability they will stay longer.”
People can also reach out to affinity groups for ethnic minority attorneys, religious observers, women, LGBT and flex-time lawyers. The Women's Alliance meets monthly and “everyone loves those events.” Get-togethers center “around different topics like creating and making the best of a firm profile or networking. They also organize for different people to come and speak to us.”
Proskauer's training program
Proskauer newbies kick life off at the 'Proskauer Institute' going over “the basics and logistics.” Once they're settled into associate life, transactional first-years must attend a monthly 'corporate basics' session (second-year attendance is optional). These lunchtime sessions “review different topics such as stock purchase agreements or due diligence.” Or they may “give overviews of other practices in the corporate department. They might explain how finance works into your deal or cover antitrust or IP.”
Litigators and labor associates attend similar sessions targeted at core competencies within their respective practice areas. But if it's hands-on training in a no-risk environment you want, then the firm's deposition and trial advocacy workshops in New York are the place to look. Both labor and litigation juniors can sign up and the firm's happy to fly its rookies in from across the states. “They're really pushing for everyone to try and attend. The partners are very supportive so if you need to go they allow you to take time off," one source explained.
The “super helpful” deposition workshops involves practicing depositions and then being critiqued by attorneys but it was the longer trial advocacy workshops which really got associates' hearts pumping. “It was one of the scariest things I've ever done,” admitted one interviewee. “They brought in a ton of partners from across the country,” to help juniors prepare opening and closing statements, and direct examinations. After presenting these, associates are given on-the-spot feedback. But juniors can't start relaxing once that part's over. The whole presentation is taped so participants sit down with a partner and watch it back. “It's not the most fun to watch yourself speaking for ten to 15 minutes on camera but they tell you what was good and what you should think about working on.”
“We're spending a lot of time on talent and professional development for our associates,” chairman Joe Leccese tells us. “We've poured an enormous amount of resources and commitment into training and support programs, ranging from the 'Proskauer Institute' to outside financial training.” The firm also sees training and support as a means to coax more of its attorneys into staying and developing long-term with the firm. Leccese says: “Our program for fourth-year and above female associates has been a tremendous success. We've doubled the size of the program after just one year. We're providing diverse associates with a similar scheme in their first three years. Each program has its own curriculum with business development and public speaking training.”
“It's phenomenal,” gushed one. “It's beautiful,” sang others. You'd think they were talking about a divine vision of some sort but they actually had in mind Proskauer's New York office.
First stop, the cafeteria. “I eat better here than I do at home. We have so many options from salads to pizza. People complain about sitting at their desks all day and getting fat but there's a ton of vegetable options to choose from.” The prices are also pretty handy too. “We're right by Times Square so outside the office your only choices go from street food to very fancy.”
Being in Times Square was associates' only bugbear. They may be sat “right by the port authority so it's an easy commute if you live in New Jersey” but “no New Yorker likes Times Square; it's obnoxious,” one source complained. “The tourists are annoying,” scowled another.
But why leave the safety of the firm when you have your own subsidized coffee bar complete with fresh smoothies, frozen yoghurt and a Starbucks barista? One junior told us: “We'll host the Women's Alliance meetings there and the barista makes us all lattes.”
Juniors in New York can gleefully share their admiration of the HQ with their office-mate. Everyone starts off sharing and typically gets their own place come the third year. Newbies are put up with someone from the same year and, usually, the same practice group. “Sharing makes the day go faster. You're with someone who can answer all your silly questions and it makes the day more social.” Of course, you never have to leave the office for social events either as the firm also boasts its own glamorous wine bar, which hosts cocktail hours and receptions.
Chairman Joe Leccese is keen to point out that the firm “understands that the office space is important to how people feel about their work experience.” So London and DC have both recently moved to new premises while Paris and Boston have been refreshed. While Boston may now be “nice and modern. We sadly don't have a wine bar,” one Massachusetts-based associate sighed.
Juniors in Boston have historically been able to have their own office but one source noted “we've expanded pretty rapidly- more so than expected” and wondered whether new associates would soon have to bunk up. Over in LA they get their own digs straight away and can also make use of the firm's courtyard space to grab lunch and soak up the sun.
Proskauer Rose LLP
Eleven Times Square,
(Eighth Avenue & 41st Street),
- HeadOffice: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 5
- Worldwide revenue: $822,300,000
- Partners (US): 219
- Associates (US): 438
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: $3,077/week (except Boca Raton, New Orleans and Newark)
- 2Ls: $3,077/week (except Boca Raton, New Orleans and Newark)
- Post 3Ls: $3,077/week
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2016: 76
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 70 offers, 63 acceptances
Main areas of work
Private equity; corporate finance and securities; mergers and acquisitions; capital markets; litigation and dispute resolution; corporate defense and investigations; intellectual property; healthcare; labor and employment; employee benefits and executive compensation; real estate; environmental law; technology; media and communications; privacy and data protection; bankruptcy and restructuring; insurance coverage and recovery; and personal planning. The firm also has significant industry-focused experience across many fields, including financial services, life sciences, sports, media and entertainment, lodging and gaming and technology.
Proskauer is a global firm with more than 700 lawyers who are players in the world’s major business and financial hubs. The firm’s lawyers provide a full range of corporate, litigation, labor and employment, intellectual property, healthcare, private client services, real estate and tax services to businesses, not-for-profit institutions and individuals.
• Number of 1st year associates: 61
• Number of 2nd year associates: 46
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000 (except Boca Raton, New Orleans and Newark)
• 2nd year: $190,000 (except Boca Raton, New Orleans and Newark)
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Boston College, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington University, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, New York University, Rutgers, Stanford, Suffolk, Tulane, University of California (Berkeley, Los Angeles), University of Chicago, University of Connecticut, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Texas, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St Louis, Yale
Summer associate profile:
We look for well-rounded students who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, community service, intellectual curiosity, maturity and strong motivation to succeed.
Summer program components:
Summer associates are assigned projects, receive guidance and are promptly evaluated with a focus on skill enhancement and exposure to sophisticated legal practice. They are exposed to different departments via substantive assignments and shadowing opportunities with senior lawyers. Our program features a systematic procedure for review and feedback on all assignments. We offer seminars and activities to develop practice skills, provide insights into substantive legal issues and the basics of various practice areas. Cultural, recreational and social events include the Tony Awards and the NBA Draft, highlighting the firm’s unique clients.