Shearman & Sterling LLP - The Inside View

From day one, Shearman offers sterling opportunities to grow and prosper as part of its burgeoning global network.

FOUNDED in 1873, Shearman & Sterling has built up a reputation for high-end matters that stretches far beyond its Wall Street beginnings. Corporate, projects and capital markets work draw the firm's biggest headlines, but Shearman is also recognized nationwide in Chambers USA for areas including banking & finance, securities litigation, international arbitration and tax. Shearman's New York HQ remains its largest US office, but presences in DC, Menlo Park and San Francisco complete the picture stateside.

Further afield, Shearman notches up over 30 additional rankings in Chambers Global for its work across 16 international offices. Showing no signs of slowing down, the firm opened a new Dubai office in September 2015. Is it difficult to keep so many irons in the fire? Not according to our associate sources, many of whom felt “very lucky” to have had the opportunity to travel to or work in foreign offices. “Having a demonstrable interest in international work is essential,” advised one. “You'll routinely be working on globally-formed teams.”

The Work



The vast majority of new starters begin life in Shearman's NYC mothership, where most begin as generalists in either the corporate or litigation pools before specializing a few years in. The handful of associates that begin in the Bay Area and DC offices are channeled more toward particular practices. A sprinkling of New Yorkers also head to more focused groups such as IP transactional, financial restructuring & insolvency, and compensation, governance & ERISA.

Using rookies' weekly availability sheets, assigning coordinators dish out tasks as they see fit. “The form does provide space to put forth any requests,” one caller happily reassured. “I had a colleague who was on a long M&A transaction, but it really wasn't her thing. She had a word and was subsequently transferred to another matter. You have to be honest, proactive and communicative to get what you want here.”

"You have to be honest, proactive and communicative to get what you want here.”

Still, we did hear a few grumbles from litigators, who'd been routinely chugging through a glut of securities work. “Everyone wants to work on white-collar government investigations,” whined one, “but there isn't really enough to go around.” Sources' levels of responsibility varied wildly, so again “you need to be vocal if you're not happy, or you could end up stuck on doc review and research tasks.” Smaller arbitrations were touted as a good way to notch up some experience: “There's still some pulling of binders,” but rookies were pleased to have helped draft witness statements and pieces of memorial.

Corporate juniors are most likely to eventually end up in M&A or capital markets, though finance, financial institutions advisory, financial restructuring, investment funds, project development and real estate all take new associates. Corporate clients fall in a number of different sectors, and “it doesn't matter whether they're in the tech, aviation or financial spheres, the firm is just focused on its practice areas being the best they can.” Again, it's a case of 'ask and you shall receive,' as one financier pointed out. “Initially I worked on a lot of deal management: reviewing offer certificates, collecting signature pages, drawing up schedules and identifying possible issues for midlevel associates. When I felt ready to take the next step, I asked to try drafting a credit agreement, and the partner I was working with supervised me throughout.”

Offices 



Hosting almost half of Shearman's US attorneys, the NY mothership is full-service, boasting particular flair for M&A and capital markets work. "DC is less corporate and more disputes-based, so tax law, international arbitration and government relations are all strong." The Bay Area offers a mix of litigious and transactional work, with IP and licensing thrown in to satiate the Valley's enterprising client pool.

"The prospect of spending half my summer program in a foreign office was never a concern.”

Every year a few entry-level associates get the chance to work abroad permanently as US-track associates in one of Shearman's international offices. Even beforehand, freshmen can team up with their foreign counterparts by splitting their summer program between offices, which juniors felt “really puts weight to Shearman's claim as a go-to for global experience.” Does spending five weeks abroad bear any consequences for that all-important exit offer? “Not at all,” shot down one globe-trotter. “Over the past ten years Shearman has given out summer offers at a rate of 100%, so the prospect of spending half my summer program in a foreign office was never a concern.”

Training & Development



Reviews are held twice annually. The spring review compiles feedback from partners and seniors that the associate has worked with over the past year, and juniors found that “people are as forthcoming with compliments as they are with suggestions for improvement.” A more informal fall review focuses on career development, posing questions such as “'where do you want to be?'” and “'what resources can we give you to aid your development?'” Sources felt “well looked after” and viewed the process as “very associate-focused.”

“People are as forthcoming with compliments as they are with suggestions.”

After an initial orientation week in their home offices, new starters flock to New York for a first-year conference. Later there's one for mid-level associates, and later still a conference for high-achieving sixth and seventh-years. At this stage, Shearman stages a three-day off-site program focusing on leadership skills and providing partnership pointers. Juniors viewed this ongoing investment as “money well spent.” For hiring partner Daniel Laguardia, “it's a great way for associates to build a network, and helps introduce them to different types of work from an early stage.”

Cross-office videocon training sessions keep rookies routinely updated with both their colleagues and any developments in their practice. Also favored was the role played by partners and seniors in fueling juniors' progress. “They're highly adept at keeping you up to scratch with how you're getting on,” raved one.

Culture



“We're the white shoe of white shoe firms,” marveled one insider, “and the experience and track record among our partners speaks for itself. But our ruthlessness in securing client results is juxtaposed by the very personal approach that people here take toward their colleagues. We're not a firm of screamers, which really surprised me when I summered.”

"We're not a firm of screamers.”

In fact, New Yorkers found that “Shearman puts a lot of emphasis on being part of the group, so it's important to show that you're involved and want to be part of the team.” Fortunately it's pretty easy to spark up a conversation, thanks in part to a 'library lounge' on the third floor. “There are couches, TVs and even croissants provided,” drooled one source. “Management may regret the drop in productivity when March Madness kicks off!”

“A little less formally dressed” than their Big Apple counterparts, DC's associates “work on matters featured in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times” but lap up “the added benefit of not having to be in the big smoke.” A “collapsed” hierarchy means “partners are very hands-on, and keen to get you involved with clients.” As for the Californian contingent, we heard that practice area teams from across the Menlo Park and San Francisco offices “meet once a month over lunch or drinks,” which “helps us keep tabs on where we're all at.”

Diversity 



“We're not all just square white guys,” exclaimed one New Yorker. Propelled by a bustling network of snappy-titled affinity groups, Shearman “strives to create a working environment in which lawyers from all walks of life can succeed.” WISER (The Women’s Initiative for Success, Excellence and Retention), BLAQUE (Black Lawyers Aligned in the Quest for Excellence) and AVALANCHE (The Association of Various Asia-interested Lawyers Aligned for Non-discrimination, Community, Honor and Excellence...!) are just some of the groups on offer. One minority associate captured the vibe: “My identity is never a concern, which frees up more time for me to focus on my work.”

“We're not all just square white guys.”

Such provisions “may have something to do with the firm's global footprint,” associates speculated. “Shearman values its diverse associate base, as having a range of skills to hand can be very useful.” A Big Apple source confirmed: “A Hispanic colleague of mine has been drafted in on a number of matters with our Lat Am counterparts. Clients really appreciate being able to converse freely.”

Get Hired 



Shearman is “looking to hire applicants who can demonstrate intellectual ability, collegiality and creativity, as well as an engagement and interest in the practice of law,” says hiring partner Daniel Laguardia. “Whether they've helped out at a legal clinic, written briefs, or helped government agencies on investigations, the most important thing is that students fully engage with what they are doing during their 1L summer. That will give them much more to talk about when it comes to interviews. We want to hear what they got out of it, what they learned from it, what was challenging and how they overcame those problems. It's all evidence that points toward a young professional who is trying hard to build a promising career, which is exactly what we're looking for.”

"The most important thing is that students fully engage with what they are doing during their 1L summer."

“It's also important to keep up to date with the business world,” Laguardia adds. “Read the business section in newspapers, and follow the top periodicals. Develop an understanding of the world in which we operate. Interviewees with a robust idea of how our firm fits into the global economic landscape are particularly impressive.” Read the full interview in our Bonus Features.

Pro Bono



“One of the perks of being here is that pro bono work comes to you,” explained an insider. “It's not unheard of to get three or four emails in a day. There’s a 25-hour minimum requirement, and pretty much everyone sails past that mark.” 

"There’s a 25-hour minimum requirement, and pretty much everyone sails past that mark.”

With “plenty of opportunities available” for transactional associates, “there's no need to slog away on litigious matters for the sake of doing your bit.” Deal-doers had helped local artists to get their businesses incorporated, launched social impact bonds to fund humanitarian work, and assisted charities in reforming their organizational documents. On the litigation front, “everyone's done an asylum case or two,” but juniors were most interested in Shearman's involvement with international criminal tribunals. “We recently sent an attorney out to Rwanda to provide pro bono aid to the prosecutors at its international criminal tribunal,” one rookie highlighted. “We do a lot with the ICT in Cambodia too.”

Beyond its altruistic merit, pro bono work throws up some excellent fast-track development opportunities. “You're the partner and have to take the reins, which is valuable,” one respondent said. “It's a good way to refine your skills.”

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 28,833 
  • Average per US attorney: 67

Hours & Compensation 



Shearman doesn't enforce a particular billing target or requirement. However, some associates tipped us off about an unofficial target in their teams, with one stating: “The goal is to try and break 2,050 hours.” With 11-hour days fairly standard, “it isn't difficult to hit.” Bonuses are lockstep, and any variation is based on individual merit. “Your general performance is a big consideration,” said one insider.

“The goal is to try and break 2,050 hours.”

Offices start clearing out by 7pm, and most Shearmanites will put in an extra hour or two from home later in the evening. “We work a lot, but people are fine with that,” one conceded. “You wouldn't sign up to the army and then complain about going to war.” The flexibility to work remotely was appreciated: “I thought face time would be a big thing and I wouldn't have much latitude for free time over evenings and weekends,” recalled one junior. “That hasn't been the case. Sure, it's important to get all of your work done, and some weeks will be far busier than others, but partners trust us to manage our own workload without needing to enforce clock-in times upon us. When you're off, you're off.”

Nevertheless, “a late night at Shearman is a late night by anyone's standard.” Occasional all-nighters “are a reality,” but we were assured that “you get to learn quite a bit during those busy times,” and “a strong sense of camaraderie makes it all a little more digestible.” In April 2016, the firm announced that associates and counsel in good standing can now work away from the office up to two days a month – a nice perk.

Strategy & Future



Shearman's 50-year Middle East presence received a shot in the arm in September 2015, following the opening of a Dubai office. “We do a lot of work with the sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and being in Dubai brings us closer to our clients,” says global managing partner David Beveridge. “We have no immediate plans for further expansion in the region,” but when it comes to practices “Shearman & Sterling is one of the world's best for litigation and arbitration work. In the past year our white collar, securities and securities defense groups have all performed particularly well. We've also added an IP litigation team and will continue to strengthen and grow as necessary. Our corporate practices also continue to deliver strong results, and we expect to expand those teams too, particularly in the US.”


 

Interview with hiring partner Daniel Laguardia and director of legal recruiting Trisha Weiss



Chambers Associate: Have there been any recent changes to Shearman's entry-level recruitment process, which applicants would benefit from knowing about?

Daniel Laguardia: There haven't been any drastic changes, though we are continually tweaking the program to improve it year-on-year. In recent years, our class sizes have gradually grown, and we brought in 75 summers this year, ten more than the year before. This stems partly from the fact that we've broadened our net, and are now conducting interviews at a greater number of schools and job fairs than we once were. We want to find and hire the best possible lawyers that we can.

Trisha Weiss: The program is growing, but it’s still smaller than it was ten years ago. Summer associates can expect a lot of individual attention.

CA: So roughly, what is the firm's hiring scope?

DL: East, west, central: we hire nationwide. We're really focused on finding the best qualified students, and of course, attending a top law school is always a mark of achievement. We do value that. Still, there are excellent students at a lot of law schools, and by branching out, we have broadened our chances in identifying the best potential lawyers for our firm.

CA: How many (or what percent) get called in for a second interview?

DL: The percentages vary from school-to-school and year-to-year. There are no hard-and-fast guidelines. Some schools allow partial pre-selection, others don’t, so it varies. 

CA: Approximately speaking, how are new starters distributed between Shearman's offices?

DL: The majority of our entry-level hires are headed to New York, though DC, Menlo Park, San Francisco and Toronto take on a small handful too. We also hire for our London, Paris and Asian offices. Whether based on work assignment, business need or personal choice, opportunities do arise for associates to move between our offices. There are no organised or structured paths for that, but it's a route that many of our lawyers take. 

TW: Summer associates may have an opportunity to spend a portion of their summer in one of our overseas offices, depending on the level of interest and the firm's business needs. In recent years London, Hong Kong, Paris and São Paulo have all taken on summers for a rotation, so we ask future summers to express any preferences before their program begins. During the spring semester of 3L year, our ProfessionalDevelopment team also contacts the incoming associate class to assesstheir interest in any overseas assignments, whether at the start of their career, or in the future. This list is routinely updated, so when opportunities arise we have an idea of who may be interested. We prefer to accommodate our associates’ interests in these opportunities, rather than hiring externally, whenever possible. 

CA: So how important are foreign language skills in terms of recruitment?

DL: Those looking to apply for our foreign offices should be aware that foreign language abilities, though not always crucial, are an important consideration for us. However, different practice areas require different skills. We have international arbitration lawyers in Paris, for example, who don't speak French. 

CA: Associates we spoke were impressed with the flexibility they'd been afforded to influence their own career paths. Beyond office placement, how does the firm strive to promote this?

DL: We allow summer associates to rotate between practices so that they can make a well-informed choice regarding where they'd like to practice. Down the line, those who end up in our corporate group are welcome to take on assignments from all of our large transactional practices during their first two years. Young associates here meet far more lawyers than those in just their practice group. It's a great way for associates to build a network, and helps introduce them to different types of work from an early stage.

We also hold three annual conferences where first-year associates, mid-levels and senior associates have an opportunity to meet their classmates from all of our offices. Each conference offers a series of training programs designed specifically to address associate needs at that particular stage in their career.

CA: What sort of questions do you ask during OCIs and callback interviews?

DL: Well there isn't one prescribed set of questions that we use. It tends to be our partners conducting these interviews, and they're all focused on hiring the best colleagues they possibly can. Some will try to get to know applicants through conversational-style interviews. Others employ more behavioural questioning techniques, asking the interviewee to recount examples of where they've overcome difficult challenges, led a team, or followed through with an inspired idea. Either way, we're looking to hire applicants who can demonstrate intellectual ability, collegiality and creativity, as well as an engagement and interest in the practice of law.

CA: What can students do during their 1L summer to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications and at interview?

DL: There are so many options out there that it'd be difficult to pin down a set list. Whether they've helped out at a legal clinic, written briefs, or helped government agencies on investigations, the most important thing is that students fully engage with what they are doing during their 1L summer. That will give them much more to talk about when it comes to interviews. We want to hear what they got out of it, what they learned from it, what was challenging and how they overcame those problems. It's all evidence that points towards a young professional who is trying hard to build a promising career, which is exactly what we're looking for.

It's also important to keep up-to-date with the business world. Read the business section in newspapers, and follow the top periodicals. Develop an understanding of the world in which we operate. Interviewees with a robust idea of how our firm fits into the global economic landscape are particularly impressive.

Shearman & Sterling LLP

599 Lexington Avenue,
New York,
NY 10022-6069
Website www.shearman.com

  • Head Office: New York, NY 
  • Number of domestic offices: 4
  • Number of international offices: 16
  • Worldwide revenue: $860,300,000
  • Summer Salary 2016 
  • 1Ls: $3,077/week
  • 2Ls: $3,077/week
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • 1Ls hired? TBD
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
  • Summers 2016: 75
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 62 (100% OF 2Ls) offers, 60 acceptances

Main areas of work
Anti-corruption and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, antitrust, capital markets, corporate governance, derivatives and structured products, environmental, executive compensation and employee benefits, finance, financial institutions advisory and financial regulatory, financial restructuring and insolvency, intellectual property, international arbitration, international trade and government relations, investment funds, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, project development and finance, real estate, sports, tax.

Firm profile
Shearman & Sterling LLP is a leading global law firm with approximately 850 lawyers in 20 offices in 13 countries around the world. Founded in 1873, Shearman & Sterling distinguishes itself by the way in which it harnesses the intellectual strength and deep experience of its lawyers across its extensive global footprint. The firm represents many of the world’s leading corporations, financial institutions, emerging growth companies, governments and state-owned enterprises.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 52
• Number of 2nd year associates: 47
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $160,000
• 2nd year: $170,000
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Shearman & Sterling LLP will be recruiting at the following schools or regional job fairs: American, BC, BU, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NEBLSA job fair, Northwestern, NYU, Osgoode, Penn, Stanford, Texas, Toronto, Tulane, Washington University, Vanderbilt, UC- Berkeley, UC- Hastings, UCLA, USC, UVA, Yale. In addition, the firm has resume collections at a number of schools.

Summer details
Summer associate profile:
We seek candidates who are bright, confident and enthusiastic about the practice of law and bring with them life, work, and educational experiences that will be highly valued by clients and colleagues alike. We also remain strongly committed to diversity and inclusion and overall excellence in our hiring. Finally, we expect that our associates will view collegiality and teamwork as important personal and firm values.

Summer program components:
Summer associates are given the opportunity to rotate through two practice groups. Partner and associate advisors are assigned during each rotation and, depending on the group, summer associates may attend client meetings, court hearings, depositions, or business trips. The firm has a robust training program for summer associates and also hosts a variety of social events.