Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP - The Inside View

This New York firm brings elite corporate law to the table without the side of sharp elbows.

Prestige, reputation and people were the three recurring reasons why applicants applied to this leading New York firm. Let’s start with prestige and reputation: not only has the firm advised on six of the top ten largest private equityfunds raised since the global financial crisis, Simpson Thacher also receives more than 40 rankings from Chambers USA. Various top-tier accolades are given to the firm’s banking and finance, corporate/M&A, employee benefits, insurance disputes, securities litigation, private equity buyouts, corporateand finance real estate, and tax work in New York. The firm is also considered part of “The Elite” for its bankruptcy/restructuring, corporate/M&A, general commercial litigation, and white-collar investigations in the Big Apple, as well as for its nationwide corporate crime and investigations and corporate/M&A work.

"A top New York firm."

So beyond the “high-quality work” and “superior reputation” what was it that sealed the deal for folks joining STB? “During my interview process, I placed a strong emphasis on two things,” one source told us. “A place where the people were not only smart and hard-working, but also kind and respectful. Also, a firm that I felt was truly loyal to its associates. Simpson exceeded my expectations in both of those categories.” Time and time again, ideas of “collegiality, friendliness, and respect” cropped up in our research. “The people at STB are great,” one source commented. “People are kind to each other.” And this goes a long way in an industry not exactly known for having a gentle touch… “Despite being a top New York firm, the culture is not stuffy or competitive. People genuinely want to help.”

The Work



There are ten offices in the STB network: five in the US and five elsewhere across the globe. As its HQ, New York welcomes the lion’s share of associates, but Palo Alto, DC, LA, and Houstonalso take a handful of juniors each year. Corporate is overwhelmingly the most common practice group destination for incomers across the offices, though juniors were also be found in litigation, real estate, and tax. Corporate juniors enter a “formalized rotation process” whereby associates spend two nine-month rotations between subgroups like M&A, private funds, or capital markets before specializing. One source also informed us that “if you want real estate, you have to make it known because there are fewer spots than other corporate groups and it’s popular.”

Across all groups, associates receive work through a centralized staffing system. “It’s not a free-market system, which is helpful,” one source noted. “People are on a level playing field and it also provides an impartial person to go to when you want a different experience.” Another commended on the oversight the assigning partner provides: “It works perfectly in my case as they are aware of how long things will take and have a good sense of the complexity of transactions,” sources shared. “They also give you breaks after a big deal or rough closing. I feel our staffing team think about the long-term with an incentive to keep us around.”

The firm’s corporate department handles a wide range of transactional work across M&A, private funds, capital markets, and private equity. Our colleagues at Chambers Global consider the firm to be world-leading in the private equity space, with it consistently receiving the topmost ranking from 2008 onwards. “Simpson is by far the premier firm in the private equity space,” one junior claimed, with another adding that the “registered funds group here is at the cutting edge of the industry.” Sources we spoke with had worked on leveraged buyouts, public company M&A work, restructurings, minority investments, fund formation, and more. “I did many different transactions, like plain vanilla private equity reverse triangular acquisitions,” one said. “You do it all as a junior!”

"The firm prides itself on training us as generalists."

Work on “mega-fundraising” for “large private funds like client Blackstone and Carlyle,” saw associates draft and negotiate side letters, prepare comment memos, and oversee subscription document review. “The work is very substantive,” one source shared with us. “I was asked to take the first stab at a limited partnership agreement, which was interesting and challenging.” Another shared that “a lot of subscription document review” and “comms with investors” was common to begin with, yet it quickly led to “more substantive involvement in fund deal work, working with various structural considerations of a deal.” This alsoaligns with our survey data that shows associates in the corporate groups overwhelmingly found the work to be interesting, to have good levels of responsibility as well as client contact. “There is definitely value to being in a practice where the firm is considered number one globally,” one source said.

Corporate clients: Microsoft, Vistra Energy, Best Buy, and Mars. Represented Dell Technologies in the spin-off of its 81% equity ownership interest VMware.

The firm’s litigationdepartment straddles areas such as commercial litigation, insurance disputes, antitrust and white-collar investigations, securities litigation and more. “The firm prides itself on training us as generalists,” one source told us, “so you wear many different hats across different cases.” This might mean “working closely with regulatory compliance on FCPA matters” or “flowing freely” between areas like antitrust and government investigations. “I worked on a whole universe of antitrust work,” another associate added. “From pre-deal counseling and advising companies considering mergers, to agency-facing advocacy and dealing with requests from agencies in investigations.” Naturally, the size and scope of the cases affect the level of associate involvement. For instance, on one “huge class-action with 30 opt-out cases,” one associate navigated a year-long pretrial discovery process. “I was mainly helping deposition prep and working with the consultant team doing expert reports,” they reflected. Whereas in other smaller matters, one found “I could do most things as it was just me and a partner,” – including drafting complaints, responses to motions to dismiss, appellate briefs, and letters to opposing counsel.

Litigation clients: AT&T, Bumble, Twitter, Board of Portland General Electric, Deutsche Bank. The firm successfully represented Vitol, the largest independent oil trader, in resolving DOJ and CFTC investigations regarding allegations of FCPA violations in Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico.

Career Development



Going forward, we asked juniors whether the firm continues to support its associates’ development: “I would say yes. The firm has been very supportive and intentional about my training.” Due to the fierce and ever-growing competition for talent, another source found that “the firm has great interest in keeping us and really values its homegrown associates. They care about our development here.” Sources praised the firm’s associate review system, “lots of internal trainings and CLEs,” as well as on-the-job support. “Senior associates break things down well, which is really helpful,” one source noted. “They’re always happy to answer questions too.”

And while partnership may not be on the mind of every junior – our data shows that only a small chunk of those surveyed intended to make partner, with only 40% feeling it was achievable at the firm – sources praised the firm’s candor in discussing other options. “I have had conversations with our staffing partner and she said if you ever want to leave, tell us so we can work with you to get better opportunities,” one source revealed.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: no requirement or target

While sources did note “challenges coming from the unpredictability of work” and being “extremely busy with it being a banner year for the firm,” generally the lack of billing target was welcomed. “Getting the same compensation reinforces the idea that we’re all on the same team. We’re treated equally and it’s one less thing to worry about.” Sources felt similarly unfazed by the firm’s “slightly more conservative” approach to bonus announcements. “We’re never going to be the first mover, but we will always match the market when it changes.”

“Getting the same compensation reinforces the idea that we’re all on the same team. We’re treated equally and it’s one less thing to worry about.”

Our survey data shows that the average number of hours worked by associates in the previous week had been 54.5 hours – just slightly over the market average. Our survey also showed that associates agreed the hours and workload are reasonable, and that they can take vacation on their own terms. Understandably the pandemic has shifted working patterns, with many sources feeling the pinch. “My work-life balance seems to just be work at the moment,” one source admitted. “I started during the pandemic and people keep telling me it’s not always like this, it’s just Covid.” Here’s to steadier patterns ahead!

Pro Bono



All pro bono hours are counted the same as client billable at Simpson. “They expect us to be involved with pro bono projects,” one source said, “but it’s 100% voluntary.” Another echoed: “Obviously deal work takes priority if you’re slammed, but sometimes I’ve done pro bono work all day and never got any flack for it. I’ve probably done well over 200 hours this year.” As such, our sources overwhelmingly considered the firm’s pro bono work to be meaningful and engaging, and felt they had autonomy over the amount of work they can take on.

“There’s an excellent pro bono program here with attorneys who help you find a manageable way to get involved in high impact work.”

Sources praised the range of work on offer, which so far had included: green card adjustments for refugees fleeing sex trafficking; legal research and writing for New York City Civil Liberties Union on racial police misconduct; helping a one-off case concerning a reporter’s freedom of information request on police brutality; as well as more corporate-oriented work, such as helping a nonprofit form their board of directors, bylaws, and tax implications. “There’s an excellent pro bono program here with attorneys who help you find a manageable way to get involved in high impact work,” sources concluded.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 37,356
  • Average per US attorney: 31.15

Culture



BigLaw without the big competition? Not only does our survey data show associate camaraderie to be strong, but sources also repeatedly returned to positive cultural notes. “There is no sense of competition against other associates,” one source found. “Everyone genuinely wants to see others succeed.” Another appreciated the “down-to-earth conversations. It’s not just that everyone is friendly, but that everyone is easy to talk to and genuinely interested in you. It makes collaboration that much easier.” Another summarized that the firm is full of “people that have personality, not just awkward robots.”

“I definitely consider my colleagues as friends."

This proves important when forming social connections, with sources quick to highlight friendships forged at the firm. “I definitely consider my colleagues as friends,” one source said. A ‘connectivity budget’ for associates “to have dinners and attend concerts or other social events” has reportedly helped smooth the post-pandemic socializing.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



Our survey data indicated that associates felt positively regarding some aspects of diversity and inclusion at the firm, such as efforts in diverse recruiting, inclusivity training, and diverse staffing on teams. Other areas – such as retention, affinity groups, diverse mentorship, and partnership potential for attorneys with children – were rated lower. But in our interviews, sources were quick to raise positives. One mentioned a firm committee established after the George Floyd killing. “The committee has a budget to distribute to organizations serving communities of color,” one said.

Others mentioned scholarships available for those from diverse backgrounds, as well as a DEI team “dedicated to improving diversity and quality of life for associates in the firm.” Ultimately, like much of BigLaw, “the firm is focused on it, but there are still challenges. The whole industry is trying to do more but it takes a long time to bear fruit.”

Strategy & Future



Looking ahead, one source reckoned “the firm is trying to deepen its relationship with its huge clients, making sure we are the go-to firm and to be the most complex player in the market advising on difficult situations.” Instead of spreading itself too thin, “the firm’s decision to grow organically and integrate international elements, as well as invest in associates of potential, is great.” Our survey data showed associates to be overwhelmingly confident about the firm’s trajectory. “The future is bright. I don’t see any reason to leave the firm.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed 

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed 

Simpson interviews at the top 25 schools, as well as regional schools local to its five US offices. Additionally, the firm attends job fairs and holds resume drops at several schools. Rising 2L students may also apply to the firm directly through the firm’s website at: https://www.stblaw.com/your-career/summer-program/how-to-apply.

Most OCIs are conducted by partners who are often alumni of the schools. "We ask students to tell us about projects they worked on the previous summer or their experiences analyzing questions of law while clerking with a judge or in law school,” a hiring partner at the firm tells us. Other questions will focus on experience working in teams and involvement in extracurricular activities. “We are determining how they may approach their job, if they are effective communicators, are enthusiastic, and if they would fit into our collegial environment.” In addition, our source explains that it's a good idea to "be honest about what and where you want to practice but also if you aren’t yet sure of either. We understand that many students, especially those who went straight from undergrad to law school, haven’t been exposed to enough real-world work to know in what area they want to practice." 

2L Diversity Fellowship

Diverse students are encouraged to apply directly through the firm’s website for the Conrad Harper 2L Diversity Fellowship. Named in honor of the Simpson Thacher retired partner and distinguished civil rights leader, the Conrad Harper Diversity Fellowship seeks to promote the advancement and retention of lawyers from groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession. The Fellowship offers $50,000, paid in periodic financial stipends, to help defray the cost of tuition, loans and other law school-related expenses.

Top tips for this stage: 

“Through the course of OCIs you will most likely be asked about every single thing on your resume, so be prepared to discuss each one in depth.” – hiring partner. 

Callbacks 

Applicants invited to second-stage interview: undisclosed 

During a virtual callback, candidates typically meet with five attorneys, including two partners, two mid to senior-level associates and one junior associate.  During Winter OCI in 2021, these meetings consisted of five consecutive 20-minute interviews run through the Flo Recruit platform. 

For an in-person callback at Simpson, a candidate typically will meet five or six attorneys, including two partners, two mid to senior-level associates and one or two junior associates. Morning interviews consist of four 30-minute interviews in the office followed by a lunch with two junior associates. Afternoon interviews are made up of five 30-minute interviews, one of which will be over coffee with a junior associate. Evening interviews are similar to the afternoon format. 

Aligning with the firm’s hybrid model, Simpson has a “remote first” approach during certain periods in 2022, including the month of August, the week of Thanksgiving and the last two weeks of the year.  In August, all callback interviews will be held virtually.  A combination of in-person and virtual interviews will be offered in June and July 2022.

“Our attorneys all have their own style of interviewing and we don’t have scripted questions,” the hiring partner revealed. Typically though, interviewers will follow on from questions asked in the OCI, “and also discuss the importance of understanding the client business. Candidates who show they understand this have a distinct advantage.” 

“Researching the firm is even more critical at this stage,” our source says. “Understand what our practice areas are and be ready to ask questions related to them.” Candidates should also be ready with questions about their interviewers. “Partners are always impressed when candidates ask about specific deals or cases on which they worked.” A corporate junior echoed this: “You don’t need to memorize what deals I’ve worked on, but being aware of what interviewers do shows us you’re thinking about how you fit into the firm.” However, the hiring partner says: “Don’t panic if there is a last-minute change to your schedule. The replacement attorney with whom you are meeting knows you haven’t had a chance to research them.” The most important thing, no matter who’s interviewing you, is to show enthusiasm. 

Top tips for this stage: 

“I value the questions people ask me more than the questions I ask them.”  a junior associate. 

“We expect questions about what people do within each group and what a day in the life might be like in a specific group.”  hiring partner. 

Summer program 

Offers: undisclosed 

Each summer associate has assigning associates who will find assignments matching their interests and help navigate workloads and timelines. “Over summer you can try everything in every group, including all the small groups,” a junior associate divulged. Summers are also invited to attend firm-wide and departmental trainings in addition to summer-specific trainings. “The vast majority of summers return as junior associates, which includes a portion who join after judicial clerkships or fellowship opportunities,” the hiring partner says. “Summer associates will almost always know the practice area they want to join by the end of the summer.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Many times a good impression can come from simply asking questions and offering to pitch in with the smallest of tasks.”  a junior associate. 

“We encourage summer associates to work in as many practice areas as possible so they can make an educated decision on what group they would most like to join.” – hiring partner.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

425 Lexington Avenue,
New York,
NY 10017-3954
Website www.simpsonthacher.com

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 5
  • Number of international offices: 6
  • Worldwide revenue: $2,224,190,789
  • Partners (US): 160
  • Associates (US): 738
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contacts: Ann Bjornstad, Legal Recruiting Director
  • Hiring partners: Pete Gilman, Juan Naveira, Jessica Tuchinsky
  • Diversity officer: Carlos Dávila-Caballero, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 95
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 8, 2Ls: 111
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: NY: 119, Houston: 20, Los Angeles: 10, Palo Alto: 19, Tokyo: 1, Washington, DC: 11, London: 1
  • Summer salary 2022:
  • 1Ls: $ 4,134
  • 2Ls: $ 4,134
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes, subject to need and relevant language skills

Main areas of work



 Clients in a wide array of industries and jurisdictions around the world turn to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to help them address their evolving business needs. The firm is consistently ranked as one of the world’s leading advisors for M&A, capital markets and banking activity, as well as private equity fund formation and investment management. The firm’s litigation practice encompasses every type of complex litigation and is recognized as one of the most comprehensive, trial-ready litigation practices in the country.

Simpson Thacher also has leading innovative practices in the areas of antitrust, IP, tax, bankruptcy, real estate, executive compensation and employee benefits, exempt organizations and personal planning. Further, pro bono work is critical to the firm’s identity and its record in this area is unparalleled.

Firm profile



 Established in 1884, Simpson Thacher is one of the world’s leading international law firms, with more than 900 lawyers worldwide providing coordinated legal advice and transactional capability to clients around the globe. The firm is headquartered in New York City, and has offices in Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, São Paulo, Tokyo and Washington, DC. Our focus on client needs is the hallmark of our practice and we value excellence in client service in all respects.

Recruitment



Law schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
Berkeley, Boston University School of Law, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, UC Davis, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Stanford, Texas, Toronto, Tulane, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington University, Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
1L Summer Diversity Program, resume collects at various schools, Regional job fairs including, but not limited to: Bay Area Diversity, Northeast BLSA, Lavender Law, Midwest- California-Georgia Consortium, NYC Interview Program, On Tour, Patent Law Interview Program, Penn West Coast.

Summer associate profile:
The firm looks for candidates with distinguished records of achievement, demonstrated leadership potential, a commitment to excellence and the ability to work cooperatively with clients and colleagues.

Summer program components:
The Simpson Thacher Summer Program is both challenging and rewarding. Throughout the program, summer associates work alongside partners and associates on complex client projects. They have the opportunity to work on assignments from all practice areas to gain first-hand experience. The staffing team communicates regularly with summer associates to determine assignment preferences and to ensure that summer associates get exposure to meaningful work. Each summer associate is paired with partner and associate mentors charged with providing feedback and career guidance. Summer associates participate in frequent formal training programs and a variety of extracurricular events that help to foster strong connections at the firm. At the end of a summer with Simpson Thacher, an associate will have gained a thorough understanding of the firm’s work and broader culture.

In 2021, we launched our Conrad Harper 2L Diversity Fellowship. Named in honor of the firm’s first African-American Partner, the Fellowship seeks to 1) increase Simpson Thacher’s pipeline of diverse summer associates, and 2) promote the advancement and retention of Simpson associates from groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession. The Fellowship offers $50,000, paid in periodic financial stipends, to help defray the cost of tuition, loans and other law school-related expenses.

Social media



Recruitment website: www.simpsonthacher.com
Linkedin: simpson-thacher-&-bartlett-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Technology (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Convertible Debt (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Counsel (Band 1)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
    • FCPA (Band 4)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 1)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Registered Funds (Band 3)
    • REITs (Band 4)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 3)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 1)