Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP - The Inside View

No need to hedge your bets if you're drawn to Wall Street: this midsizer outranks most in the district of greenbacks and gold.

IM is big at Schulte (pronounced shuultee). We're not talking about instant messaging. We're talking about investment management... that heady world of hedge funds and private equity in which Schulte Roth & Zabel excels. Within Wall Street's financial forest, Schulte is a relatively young buck, having been formed back in 1969 by an enterprising group of seven lawyers (all aged under 35) who broke away from Cleary, Fried Frank and Kaye Scholer to set up their own firm. Since then, Schulte has expanded its headcount to around 375 lawyers and earned itself a stellar reputation for hedge fund work, evidenced by a top Chambers USA ranking at national level, where it's also ranked for capital markets prowess. It also earns recognition in its hometown for tax, bankruptcy, corporate and real estate expertise.

"I knew that Schulte was best for investment management work," said one junior of why they came here. "I knew what industry I wanted to work in, and got a good feel about the people I met with. People who work here are collegial and positive, and I enjoy the work culture." 

The Work

Most juniors join the Big Apple base, although at the time of our calls there was a sprinkling of associates in the DC branch. The latter comprises around 20 attorneys in total, most of whom are litigators working on either securities matters or white-collar defense, we heard. Juniors in this line of work told us they'd “written outlines of cross-examinations for witnesses, arranged for subpoenas to be served and driven round with investigators talking to potential witnesses,” as well as handling research, doc review and drafting motions.

"We launched a fund with over 100 investors and I was in touch with them all."

However, it's the firm's premier rep in the hedge funds space that many sources cited as a major draw. Within the investment management group, “a big chunk of the work is launching new funds, but then we also do a lot of work for existing funds as well.” One proud rookie declared that “this year we launched a fund with over 100 investors and I was in touch with them all leading up to that, keeping them informed about documents and the timing of the launch.” Other common tasks for new recruits include “reviewing and drafting documents like operating agreements for entities, subscription agreements, partnership agreements and side letters.” Client contact is also on the menu. “Within a month of being here I was calling and emailing clients! It's nerve-racking but good that partners trust you. If you do good work, you get more work.”

In terms of work assignment in the group, there's “an assigning partner when you first start out.” Interviewees appreciated that “you're staffed on matters to begin with so you don't have to try and awkwardly walk into people's offices.” However, “once you have work you begin to gravitate naturally toward certain partners and request more work from them.”

Associates in the M&A group also make use of a formal assignment system. “We have a weekly status report and we rate how busy we are. If you're slow you can reach out and say you've got availability. Early on that's important, but after you've worked with a number of people a lot of it comes organically.” Day-to-day life in this team also revolves around “sophisticated money clients.” An eager interviewee explained that “we work for a lot of hedge funds and private equity funds. A lot of the general transactions are the acquisition and divestment of portfolio companies.” A junior's duties include “managing the checklist, making sure everything gets done, drafting the resolutions and the less complicated ancillary documents. Now I work on purchase agreements. I don't hold the pen on it but I do a lot of it!”

Another area to get to grips with is shareholder activist work which “involves certain funds holding interest in public companies and not liking how that company is performing, so they might nominate a specific person for the board of directors.” These matters require “going through a whole process with different questionnaires and agreements. I get to do the initial run of drafting on the notice that's sent to the company and file it at the SEC.” We also spoke to associates in smaller groups like bankruptcy and IP, both of which support the larger practices and have a hedge fund-only clientele.

Training & Development

"Partners always make time for questions."

Incoming juniors gather in New York for a week of initial training that covers “basic things like the compensation systems, firm structure and policies.” After that, first-years have regular practice-specific trainings. “There are a bunch of lunchtime seminars on things like diligence, different types of deal structures, how to compile checklists... They're very helpful and thorough.” Informal training is also plentiful. “There's lots of mentoring within my practice. Sources noted that they can “ask a ton of questions in the middle of real assignments” and that “partners always make time for questions, there's a real push on knowledge sharing. If you're working with someone they'll give you advice on how to draft something or how to negotiate a particular point if you're trying to get a provision into an agreement.”

Offices & Culture

The New York base has been undergoing a “massive renovation” since early 2016. Associates reckoned that the overhaul will introduce “glass walls and a lot more natural light” to the working environment, along with “spaces for people to congregate and discuss things, or hang out.” Over in DC, we heard that there's plenty of space and “we just had our office redone” (although “the only problem is that we're next to the Washington Post building which is currently being demolished – and the noise is ear-splitting!”). The DC office “has a very welcoming atmosphere – it's so small that everybody knows everybody and we do social activities regularly. They're not necessarily big things – like last Friday a partner invited us for drinks in his office because he has a nice whiskey collection.” There are also “a decent number of more formal events where we have drinks and dinner somewhere.”

"The firm takes pride in people getting along."

Across both offices, many associates praised the firm's dress-down policy (“It's awesome – I'm wearing sneakers right now!” crowed one particularly casual associate), emphasizing that “there's a lot of collegiality among juniors. We all get along and it's not a competitive atmosphere: nobody’s boasting about how much they're billing.” According to one New Yorker, “it's definitely not a stuffy place. It's hard for me to say it's relaxed – we're still a bunch of lawyers after all! Everyone here is really smart but you don't get the kind of 4.0 GPA psychopaths who are looking to bill 3,000 hours!” Another suggested that “there's a really good culture that's driven by the fact that two of the named partners are still here, and the firm takes pride in people getting along. Partners have their doors open and that promotes a better atmosphere. There are very rarely frictions between people, and nobody is screaming or yelling!”

Lots of interviewees pointed out that associates socialize together outside of the office (“I've met a lot of friends at the firm – we have lunch and I see them on weekends”). In addition, “Schulte is renowned for its wonderful summer program. Everyone loves it, not just the summers, because they invite associates and partners to the events. I've been to Yankees games and a Beyoncé concert.” Also on the social calendar are holiday parties, speaker events (complete with “light snacks and beverages”) and “preview movie nights.”

Although they had many positive things to say about the culture, most interviewees concurred that the possibility of staying on and making partner is rather remote. “It's notoriously hard here. Almost every partner comes in from somewhere else. For associates it seems like you do your time here and then move on to greener pastures, which is kinda sad. We've lost a lot of good senior associates who would've made great partners.” The reasons for this? "It's a smaller firm so they're hesitant to make any partners at all. Then there's an expectation gap in terms of timing. Here you need to stick around for 13 or 14 years if you really want an outside shot at making partner."

Hours & Compensation

In order to be eligible for a bonus, associates need to hit 2,000 hours. Up to 200 hours of pro bono, marketing or recruiting work can count toward the billing target. The bonus increases by $10,000 increments for those who clock up 2,300 and 2,500 hours. Overall, sources thought that “work is plentiful” and “the target is absolutely manageable.” However, some highlighted that “the work fluctuates a lot. One week I can bill over 60 hours and then 30 another week. That makes it a little stressful. As a junior you can't really control the deal flow.” As one put it, “we're always gonna be paranoid about making hours.” One interviewee admitted that “there was a time when I got too much on my plate and couldn't get the documents to people fast enough. I went to the assigning partner and I felt they actually cared. They listen to associates who feel they're drowning.”

"One week I can bill over 60 hours and then 30 another week."

Typically, juniors tend to put in a solid ten hours a day at the office. Some felt that “in the context of BigLaw, the work/life balance has been a lot better than expected. Of course, the bummer of BigLaw is that when you're not at work you're worried something might come up, checking your emails on a Saturday afternoon in case someone says you need to do something.” Another admitted: “Explaining that to non-lawyers is difficult. It's not so much the hours, which can be crazy, but the lack of control over your own life and plans.” Associates appreciated that “the firm is flexible about people working from home if necessary. It's really about getting your work done, rather than being glued to your desk.”


Schulte “definitely tries very hard” when it comes to diversity. However, as with the majority of BigLaw firms, “the partners are mostly white males” (90% of partners are white and 13% are females). There are affinity groups for LGBT, African American, Asian American and Hispanic lawyers that “try to plan a few events a year.” The women's initiative organizes occasional get-togethers like champagne tasting and a clothes drive for underprivileged women in business.

Pro Bono

The firm “really values pro bono,” associates testified, noting that Danny Greenberg, who spent nearly a decade as president and attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society in New York, was recently hired by Schulte to act as special counsel overseeing the firm's pro bono program. Although some juniors informed us that “I haven't done any pro bono because it's too hard to have outside commitments in this practice,” several had taken on “a ton” of pro bono (200 hours of which can be counted toward the billing target). Some had helped nonprofits to achieve tax-exempt (category 501c3) status, while others had contributed to a suit against the UN relating to the spread of disease.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 10,457
  • Average per US attorney: 33

Get Hired

"We want the complete package."

Hiring partner Bill Gussman informs us that Schulte looks for “bright law students who are good communicators. We want the complete package, so we're not hyper-focused on a particular GPA cut-off. We ask ourselves, 'is this a person who's bright and who we can see ourselves working with'?” He continues: “There's a real human element about our approach. We are very collegial, we work well together and we're less formal than a lot of other firms – we're younger and more entrepreneurial. So that means we want somebody who tends to keep the door open, has a sense of humor, and is very bright – that's the standard we look for in a candidate. Of course, they need to have done very well but what makes them stand out is personality-driven.”

Strategy & Future

When it comes to strategy, executive committee chair Alan Waldenberg tells us: “Frankly, we are comfortable in our own skin, with being a midsized, New York-centric, financial services-centric law firm. We've been very successful staying within those parameters and we've been able to grow by expanding within that box. We feel no need to go outside our box. The London office is closely related to practice in New York – we're very comfortable effectively being a one-office law firm."

Bill Gussman, hiring partner & chair of the recruiting committee

Chambers Associate: What’s the scope of your recruiting drive for summer associates? Which campuses do you visit and how many summers do you take on?

Bill Gussman: In the past few years we've taken 35 to 37. We tend to go to approximately 15 to 18 law schools for on campus interviews and we actively encourage law students from other top schools to send us their resumes. The schools we focus on tend to be top tier schools, largely in the Northeast although also in the South and Midwest, such as Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, Michigan, Penn and Duke.

CA: What are you looking for in a candidate? What qualities? And what type of person thrives at the firm?

BG: We're looking for bright law students who are good communicators. We want the complete package, so we're not hyper-focused on a particular GPA cut off. We ask ourselves 'is this a person who's bright and who we can see ourselves working with'? There's a real human element about our approach. We are very collegial, we work well together and we're less formal than a lot of other firms – we're younger and more entrepreneurial. So that means we want somebody who tends to keep their door open, has a sense of humour, is smart and is a team player – that's what we look for in a candidate. Of course, they need to have done very well but what makes them stand out is personality driven.

CA: Any common errors that people make at interview (OCIs)?

BG: The biggest turn-offs for me are comments that are very negative about past experiences, speaking poorly about prior work experience or law school. That raises a yellow or even red flag.

CA: What does the firm offer that is unique? 

BG: The firm culture is perhaps unique: for a big New York based law firm I think we're a lot friendlier and less formal, more entrepreneurial. Associates have access to partners and we have a policy of transparency – in fact during the summer program we run an 'ask us anything' session where we open the books to summer associates. The firm works well together as a whole, because we're almost all in New York, and two of three founding partners are still at Schulte, so we have been able to retain our culture. The atmosphere here is one of professional informality – a sense of humour is valued, working together is valued, and so it's this kind of entrepreneurial culture that makes us unique.

CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting? Any initiatives in place?

BG: Two of three partners on the recruiting committee are on the diversity committee and so these committees work together. We go on campus in partnership with a lot of student groups and organizations to promote diversity. We sponsor events like panels and mock interviews. This year's summer class is one of our most diverse classes ever. We're focusing on making sure we have good representation, and so we have a wonderful summer class who are, among other things, diverse.

CA: Anything else prospective associates should know about the firm?

BG: Our summer program is one of the best. I was a participant myself 21 years ago. The training during the summer and continuing on from there is amazing. We have two lengthy training programs. We conduct a mock LBO and a mock trial. Bothlast for several days and are terrific experiences. The firm invests a lot in training. We want summer associates to understand all angles of the firm, so we give them the opportunity to rotate through practices as well. It's a wonderful experience of professional exploration. Our summer program satisfaction levels are always top-notch. Another element is our commitment to pro bono. Danny Greenberg is our Special Counsel for pro Bono Initiatives . A lot of firms have pro bono co-ordinators but Danny is really special – he was the head of the Legal Aid Society and he gets us involved in some really interesting pro bono activities. He's a great resource and role model for associates.

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

919 Third Avenue,
New York,
NY 10022

  • Head Office: New York, NY 
  • Number of domestic offices: 2
  • Number of international offices: 1
  • Partners (US): 89
  • Other lawyers (US): 249
  • Summer Salary 2016 
  • 2Ls: $3,077 per week
  • 1Ls hired? No
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
  • Summers 2016: 37
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 35 offers, 33 acceptances

Main areas of work
Our specialties include business reorganization; distressed investing; employment and employee benefits; environmental; finance; individual client services; intellectual property, sourcing and technology; investment management; litigation; M&A; real estate; regulatory and compliance; securities and capital markets; structured finance and derivatives; and tax.

Firm profile
Schulte Roth & Zabel is a premier law firm serving the financial services industry from strategically located offices in New York, Washington, DC and London. We take a multidisciplinary approach in our work with a large and impressive array of global and forward-thinking institutional, entrepreneurial and individual clients, from advising clients on investment management, corporate and transactional matters, to providing counsel on regulatory, compliance, enforcement and investigative issues.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 34
• Number of 2nd year associates: 29
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, Penn, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wash U

Summer details
Summer associate profile:
SRZ hires attorneys who are bright, personable and enthusiastic about early substantive responsibility and client contact. We seek candidates with outstanding academic achievement; high motivation and strong interpersonal skills.

Summer program components:
Our summer associate program allows students to receive substantive assignments from practice groups of their choice during two assigning periods. Summer associates have interaction with our clients, attend meetings and depositions and work on complex projects. Training and feedback are emphasized through regular departmental training sessions, a writing seminar, a corporate negotiation workshop, a trial advocacy program, and a pro bono week. These experiences are all designed to allow students to explore various areas of interest, get immersed in the firm culture and gain first-hand knowledge of what they will see as a junior associate. In addition to our top-notch training programs and hands-on work experience, we offer fun and exciting social activities that allow summer associates to spend time with their associate and partner mentors, develop relationships with our attorneys and get to know everyone outside of the office.