This BigLaw powerhouse is Delaware’s darling for corporate work, where associates are “experts in a close-knit city.”
For one associate at RLF, the choice was simple: “Richards is probably the best around for corporate law in Delaware and Delaware is corporate law.” Indeed, Delaware has quite the reputation of being a corporate legal hub, holding the greatest number of public company incorporations across the US. Many businesses choose to incorporate in the State due to the quality of its laws and court system, and ever since its inception some 100 years ago, Richards has carved its name in this practice area. This reputation has endured to the present day, picking up top marks in Chambers USA for its corporate/M&A work. But the firm has expanded its practice since the early days, and is also highly regarded for its real estate, bankruptcy/restructuring, Chancery and IP work.
“You can have a house and a very different lifestyle than a larger city!”
With just the one outpost in Wilmington, associates noted that they had the benefit of “working on cases that you would find in a much larger city but doing it in an environment much more familiar to me.” In fact, another insider indicated that working at the firm meant “you can have a house and a very different lifestyle than a larger city!” Though the real deal breaker for our sources was the people; one insider mused that “the practice is the practice, but the people here and the times are what make me want to stay for the long haul.”
Strategy & Future
Associates were very confident of the firm’s market position. One stated that “I don’t worry if the firm is going to exist in 6 months or even in 10 years, it’s a well-oiled machine.” This steadfastness was attributed to its focus on the Delaware legal market, another source added that “I like the stability in knowing that my job is going to be there in the future.” In fact, for some it looks promising for partnership too. In the past year, the firm made two new partner promotions.
Summers spend half the program in one department and half in another. The firm’s corporate department comprises of both corporate litigation and corporate advisory. Around half the associates on our list were found in the former, with a few placed in the latter. Then in the business group, we found a handful of associates in the business-corporate trust & agency services. Lastly, a few associates could be found in the bankruptcy department.
“I’ve dealt with everything from individual investors to Fortune 500 companies and really everywhere between.”
As the biggest department, the corporate litigation team handles a lot of transaction-based litigation work such as M&A, shareholder disputes, and disputes between company owners. One associate told us that “I’ve dealt with everything from individual investors to Fortune 500 companies and really everywhere between.” Not only is the client base broad, but we learned that tasks are too, though “it depends on who you are working for in the department.” For example, when the firm is sole counsel on a case, “associates pretty much handle all of the drafting.” Whereas if they are co-counsel, “your role is a bit more like a researcher.” Associates enjoyed working on medium to small sized cases in this group as it’s said, “you can have a really large role on those sorts of cases,” but even in instances where the cases are larger, “the directors do a very good job of getting you involved substantively.” For associates in corporate advisory, the work involves “reading documents, writing documents and editing documents!” These documents form the work for merger agreements and all their filings, “either you’re reviewing or giving opinions on matters; we have to keep up with developments of the law.” This group typically works with larger corporations, as well as some LLCs, so some sources mentioned “there is a steep learning curve, because the subject matter takes time to master.”
Corporate litigation clients: Mercedes Benz, Blackstone Real Estate Partners & LHC Group. Richards represented Renewable Energy Group in its sale to Chevron.
“I’ve spoken in court a few times and presented small motions, as well as taking control of smaller matters. I really didn’t think I’d get those opportunities so early on.”
Keeping with the theme of commercial work, the firm’s bankruptcy practice has “a little bit of everything” for associates. But most of the work encompasses Chapter 11 corporate restructuring, which included plenty of transactional elements, as well as motion practices in court and filings to be done. One associated noted that “there’s lots of opportunities for younger associates to draft notices and motions, and that forms a lot of the day to day in this group.” Though the firm does represent individual companies, we learned that a lot of the work here is done as co-counsel to other firms. As such, associates work alongside a lot of big New York firms: “working with law firms on high profile cases has been great; there’s a good co-counsel relationship.” One associate reflected that their favorite matter in this department was debtor cases, “I like being on the side where we help the company restructure!” In terms of responsibility, sources in this group’s expectations were exceeded, “I’ve spoken in court a few times and presented small motions, as well as taking control of smaller matters. I really didn’t think I’d get those opportunities so early on.”
Bankruptcy clients: Boy Scouts of America, Citibank & Bank of America. Richards acts as co-counsel to the Hertz Corporation and related debtors in their chapter 11 cases.
“I feel like it’s a very much a team environment. No matter how busy people are they’ll find time to help each other out,” one cheerful associate noted. This is reflected throughout the senior members of the firm and one junior shared that “what stands out is I feel very comfortable walking straight into a partner’s office and calling them on the phone. It feels like not very rigid in that regard.” But work isn’t the only thing on the agenda, “most people I work with have a genuine interest in what we do out of work rather than grinding as many hours as they can.”
“It’s a pretty healthy mix of people being outgoing and people getting on with their own thing.”
Though our sources did note that the firm doesn’t have too much in the way of social activities, “I would say it’s a pretty healthy mix of people being outgoing and people getting on with their own thing.” In fact, one insider revealed that “most of the socializing in the firm takes place in summer program,” though our sources did note that there are some less formal events like the Christmas party and those arranged by the Women’s initiative.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Not only is the Women’s initiative busy at the firm, but the “the D&I network is also growing. Amongst the associates they have tried to create a community that way and we have grown closer.” We learned of a heritage month where the firm organizes free lunch for associates based on different cuisines. These efforts are put into recruitment too, one interviewee told us “last year the summer cohort was 15 women and 3 men. That stood out to me a lot,” adding that “even in my summer class women outnumbered the men.” However, this is not reflected with minorities at the firm, another insider revealed that “in my associate class there are three minorities. Partnership is not as diverse either.” Nevertheless, our sources did note this was a problem which goes beyond the firm. One associate mentioned that “it can be hard to retain talent, but they’re trying.”
A standout for many of our interviewees was that pro bono counts towards billable hours in unlimited amounts. Not only that, but you can also receive credit for community service rather than legal work, such as volunteering at community centers or elementary schools. One insider noted that “they’re focused on a lot of things to help the Delaware community” including work in child guardianship and protection from abuses cases. Moreover, we learned that the firm “sponsors events and organizations throughout the year. They’re committed on the whole to supporting Wilmington; it’s a city of socioeconomic disparity.” Examples of such initiatives include the Emmanuel Dining room, a soup kitchen where staff and attorneys volunteer to serve food. In their first year, all associates work on a pro bono project together, “it was so fun and rewarding. We worked with a dog biscuit-making company who employed workers with disabilities.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 5312.4
- Average per (US) attorney: 24.29
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: no requirement
There was no universal answer to what average hours are like at the firm. One associate told us that “when you’re fairly junior it swings back and forth.” What was a common thread was the fact that “the more senior you get, the more consistent and the busier you get.” One helpful source estimated that “for juniors its common to be around 1800-1900 hours, for mid-levels it’s around 2000 and for seniors it’s even higher.” Not to worry though, as another newbie reassured us that “overall my hours have been reasonable.” The hybrid working policy at the firm means associates have to be in 4 days a week. However, “no one expects people to stay working through dinner in the office.” It appeared to be common for associates to be in the office from 9-6, sometimes logging back onto the computer when they return home.
There is no billable hour requirement at the firm, however from their second year onwards associates may eligible for a bonus, if they reach 1,800 hours. However, we did learn that “you can get bonuses under that. It’s to the director’s discretion.” Moreover, the likelihood of reaching the target varied depending on the practice area. Those in corporate litigation felt it was “very attainable,” whereas those in bankruptcy felt this was not the case.
“There is no overall training program for everyone,” one source revealed, with the firm favouring more practice area specific sessions. But another interviewee added that “more recently there have been a decent number of set training programmes for junior associates that have been pretty helpful,” specifically in the corporate department. This is thanks to the many directors at the firm who “put together trainings on specialist cases.” Associates also reported accessing the majority of training through mentorship. Juniors pick a director in their second year, a process which was appreciated as “they can be someone who’s geared to what you want.” Another insider added that “I get work from one senior associate I went to the same law school as. He’s invested in my development and those relationships happen organically.”
In terms of the path to partnership, associates reported an 8-year minimum track. Sources resoundingly felt that partnership was an achievable goal at the firm.
Richards, Layton & Finger PA
Main areas of work:
- Bankruptcy & Corporate Restructuring
- Commercial Litigation
- Commercial Transactions
- Corporate & Chancery Litigation
- Corporate Governance, Corporate Transactions, Mergers & Acquisitions
- Corporate Trust & Agency Services, Structured Finance
- Intellectual Property
- Limited Liability Company & Partnership Advisory
Richards Layton offers attorneys the unique opportunity to work on globally significant matters at a firm that feels more like a small town. With a partner to associate ratio of about 1:1, our junior attorneys receive personal attention, intellectual challenge, and early responsibility. The firm has participated in many of the groundbreaking cases defining Delaware corporate law, and its lawyers have long played crucial roles in drafting and amending the state’s influential business statutes. The firm understands the importance of pro bono work, and our pro bono program gives attorneys the opportunity to use their time and talents to enrich others as well as themselves. Our associates are encouraged to join the firm’s pro bono teams in their first year. Diversity and inclusion are core institutional commitments at Richards Layton. The firm participates in and supports a variety of local organizations that share our dedication to advancing underrepresented groups in the legal profession.
Law schools attended for OCI in 2022: BYU, Columbia, Cornell, Dickinson, Drexel, Duke, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Penn, Penn State, Temple, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Villanova, UVA, Wake Forest, Washington & Lee, Wash. U (St. Louis), Widener, William & Mary
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We encourage write-in applications from students at all ABA-accredited law schools. Please visit rlf.com/careers
Summer associate profile:
Richards, Layton & Finger seeks candidates with strong academics, Law Review/Journal experience and/or moot court who are motivated and responsible. We look for those with initiative and passion for the law, who are optimistic, energetic and efficient, and willing and eager to take ownership of assigned matters. We like to see those in leadership roles.
Summer program components:
Summer associates rank their practice area preferences prior to their arrival in May. Midway through the summer, everyone changes departments. Two designated assigning attorneys – one director and one associate – coordinate and assign work. Summer associates are routinely given the same level of work and responsibility as full-time associates. Informal seminars, luncheons, and weekly social events introduce summer associates to the firm as well as to all that Wilmington and the surrounding areas have to offer.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Chancery (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)