Sullivan & Cromwell LLP - The Inside View

With its generalist model leaving you “uninhibited by a label,” these elite New Yorkers “look for the person beyond the lawyer!”

It’s safe to say that the name Sullivan & Cromwell will prick up a few ears in most law schools. A well recognized name both in the US and globally, the associates we spoke to were quick to highlight the benefits that come with working at such a famous name. “The sense of prestige, the opportunity to be at such a well-known firm, and the chance to engage in groundbreaking work” was highlighted by one as too good an opportunity to turn down. Born out of New York City’s famous Financial District, the firm’s reputation has historically revolved around all things corporate, but the firm’s ‘generalist’ practice was another major attraction among the current crop of associates: “Some people know exactly what they want to do before they even go to law school, but that was not me!” By steering away from specializing in a specific type of work, the generalist model gives associates the opportunity to “do everything under the sun in order to make a more informed decision about your career and practice.” The general consensus too was that the model offered a fast-track to a well-rounded legal education.

“Some people know exactly what they want to do before they even go to law school, but that was not me!”

The firm’s New York office is its largest, housing the bulk of the firm’s junior associates. There are also offices in DC, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto, which do take on a handful of juniors, although not on the scale of the New York branch. The firm bags a host of Chambers USA nationwide rankings in areas like corporate M&A and corporate crime & investigations, but there is an undoubted emphasis on financial services – one of the firm’s principal strengths. As one associate put it: “I was very interested in financial services matters and it’s clear that S&C is one of the best for this.” And with good reason too – Sullivan & Cromwell boasts elite nationwide rankings in financial services regulation, international trade, derivatives, product liability, projects, securities litigation, and tax. There’s plenty of litigious muscle packed into the New York HQ too, with top state rankings in general commercial litigation, securities litigation, and white-collar crime & government investigations.

Strategy & Future

With the firm described by one associate as “always on the cutting edge,” S&C has always looked to expand practice areas where it made strategic sense. We heard that areas like tech, crypto, patent litigation and IP have benefitted from this kind of focus in recent years. Balancing innovation with stability is something the firm has always had a knack for, according to associates. After all, it’s easier to build on a steady foundation. One source noted that S&C is “well structured to adapt and has the ability to be flexible,” especially with such a “steady client base and assured foundation.”

Read our interview with co-chairs Bob Giuffra and Scott Miller under the 'Get Hired' tab.

The Work

With nine offices outside of the US, there is a heavy international flavor to the work at Sullivan & Cromwell. Associates at the firm are generally placed either in a broad litigation or general practice group, with the general practice group geared more towards the transactional/corporate side of the firm’s work. The work assignment system was described as a hybrid model,whereby central staffers are on hand to “dole out projects” in order to guarantee work, though associates “are also free to find their own.”“The staffing coordinators are particularly useful in your first year as you don’t know anyone” added one of our sources, but once relationships are established, “people will reach out individually and ask: ‘hey, are you free and do you want to work on this matter?’”

“We are like a law firm within a law firm…”

Associates hoping to steer into S&C’s ‘general’ practice will come across work in areas like M&A, capital markets, securities, finance & restructuring, and financial services. “We are like a law firm within a law firm,” one told us. In fact, “compared with most corporate lawyers, we get a lot of exposure to investigations, interfacing with regulators over things like banking licenses. It’s a very broad practice.” As the name suggests, the name of the game in the department is variety. But you’ll sit across the table from plenty of “banks and other classic financial institutions.” A lot of the work for financial institutions revolves around the M&A space, with associates describing the work as “exciting, dynamic, and intense!” “Like any New York firm, the work fluctuates in terms of business and it’s hard to be predictable,” but if there are things you come across that appeal to you, expressing an interest can go a long way: “I was given M&A work and that kicked off my interest in it, so I kept asking around for it!” Juniors typically work on tasks like drafting, due diligence, research and document review.

Corporate clients: OpenAI, California Resources Corporation, FTX. Advised OpenAI in its continuing multiyear, multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft. 

Associates interested in the litigious side of S&C’s offering will begin to develop expertise in areas such as securities, criminal defense & investigations, product liability, and general commercial disputes. Just like the firm’s general practice, litigation “has a lot of financial clients,” with work covering everything from antitrust and bankruptcy & investigations, to administrative law and IP. “We do a range of things” noted one associate, “for instance, I’ve done work on product liability, third party suppliers, and analyzing and enforcing patent licensing agreements. One of the most interesting things I ended up doing in litigation were client memos and risk assessments.” Typical junior associate work also included the likes of drafting motions and complaints, targeted document reviews, and lots of research. Chances are, you’ll be involved in cases from some of the firm’s other offices at some stage. So, if you’re based in Palo Alto, don’t be at all surprised to find yourself working closely with the New Yorkers.

Litigation clients: Major League Baseball, Bayer AG, Columbia University. Represented Major League Baseball (MLB) in litigation filed in the Southern District of New York alleging that MLB’s reorganization of the minor league player development system constituted an unlawful output restriction.


One interviewee noted the “family friendly” feelat S&C, which they described as “very unique among the top law firms.” As another put it, “people are really nice here and I really feel I lucked out in that sense!I think it’s probably practice group dependent but I’ve loved working with everyone here. Everyone is incredibly intelligent and passionate about different areas of law.” It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then that ‘collaborative’ is the theme that emerged from our interviews: “From the very first moment people cared about what I thought and wanted me to have opinions and provide legal analysis.”

“There’s a great balance at the firm between work and play…”

While the fine folks at S&C steer into the skid when it comes to a “nerdy” reputation - “the firm is very selective – they certainly do look for high grades from good schools” Butlife isn’t always spent at a desk: “There’s a great balance at the firm between work and play,” noted one associate, adding that “people are very much dedicated to their work, but people know how important it is to enjoy themselves too.” Whilst some associates felt more could be done to ignite a more active social scene, another source mentioned that “we regularly go for lunches and coffees together, we even have a weekly party in the library with drinks, which is a chance for people to hang out and see people they wouldn’t usually!” Location-wise, while the New York office is “not exactly Hudson Yards,” associates appreciated the city space. The firm’s DC base was described as “excellent, particularly unique, tight-knit and with a boutique feel!”

Sullivan & Cromwell is recognized as an Excellent Performer in quality of life in our 2024 survey.

Career Development

Associates agreed that career development at the firm was “a bit of a mixed bag,” with the path to partnership not always clear - “the numbers are stacked against us in litigation, but if you’re able to stick around long enough, then you really do have a decent shot.” That said, sources were unanimous that they felt invested in as juniors: “The firm is very much focused on ensuring junior associates get the type of experience they’re looking for.” To add to this, associates were quick to add that partners really “take the time to be hands on.” We heard that teams at S&C tend to be on the smaller side too, as the firm “really wants people to see the whole picture rather than just be siloed.” This brings with it a tendency for juniors to be thrown in at the deep end (in the best possible way!): “You’re given a lot of responsibility, not just the menial tasks.”

S&C has its own mentorship program, where associates will work with a partner mentor “who is really interested in seeing me do well!” and a formal review process. “The first year is prioritized for skill-building,” one associate told us, “people will reach out to you, but it happens organically, you won’t get assigned someone in particular.” One associate noted their initial frustration at being kept in-house as “we don’t go out to conferences and ministry events,” but did clarify this with the fact that the firm “wants to make sure you’re learning things the right way.”

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: no requirement

The absence of a precise billable hours requirement was a relief for some associates: “Just because you’re free from the burden of having to meet the magic number!” Though for some, it brought with it the feeling that “you could always be doing more.” The general consensus was that most associates hit around 2,100 hours, but that does of course vary: “I’m doing around 40 hours per week” stated one source, “but that’s a steadier week. During busy weeks it’ll be more like 70/80 hours and that’s dependent on practice group!” That being said: “The hours don’t seem too important. It’s the quality of work that matters."

The firm doesn’t stick to a strict policy when it comes to in-office time and working from home. “There is a flexibility over this,” one associate told us, “if you have kids or just have an errand to run they totally respect it.” Both base salary and bonus amounts at S&C follow the Cravath scale and firmly align with market rates.

Pro Bono

Without a firm billable hours requirement, pro bono hours vary between associates. While some hadn’t done much at all, others had weaved plenty of meaningful matters into their daily work. The associates we spoke to had worked on cases that involved representing asylum seekers and refugees across the world migrate to the US, violence in Central America, the Mid-Atlantic innocence project, the American Civil Liberties Union, and transgender rights. One associate did note however that pro bono work at the firm (as is often the case) “tends to be skewed towards litigation, as it doesn’t always match a corporate skillset.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 41,371
  • Average per US attorney: 64

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“The firm definitely makes an effort when it comes to DEI,” one junior was quick to point out, “at the junior associate level especially, I think they do a very good job of recruiting women.” A championing of female lawyers runs throughout the firm too: “We also have a Women’s Initiative Committee which hosts events tailored to female law students – it’s very exciting seeing professional women who are able to have this type of career whilst maintaining other things in their life!” There are also additional affinity groups for the LGBTQ+ community, the Asian Associate Network, and many more. Associates noted that while representation at a more senior level was an issue for the legal industry more generally, things at S&C “were certainly moving in the right direction.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

Sullivan & Cromwell interviews at roughly 25 to 30 law schools and several job fairs.

At this stage, interviewers want to learn about candidates’ interests and what experiences they are after; how they analyze issues; and how they would work in a collaborative environment. Generally, interviewers will ask for more info on an interesting work experience, or even a hobby that is listed on a candidate's resume. Hiring partner Sergio Galvis says that “sometimes more informal conversation is a great way to learn about someone and what matters most to them.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Your best bet is to be yourself throughout the interview process and engage in authentic discussions about your interests – professional and otherwise. Chances are there is someone at S&C who is interested in those very same things.”hiring partner Sergio Galvis.


S&C conducts fewer callbacks than many firms. This is, in part, to “provide a highly personalized, in-office interview experience that focuses on the interests and professional goals of each candidate.” The firm tries to pair interviewees with interviewers who practice in areas of interest to the candidate. Galvis explains that “our conversations with candidates are wide-ranging and could touch upon any number of topics. We don’t like to be too formulaic because that’s not how we operate.” The ideal scenario, Galvis reflects, occurs when “the callback process feels less like an interview and more like a meaningful conversation between people who have similar professional interests.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Do your best to familiarize yourself with S&C, our practice, and the work we do. It’s important to give some thought to the generalist, multi-disciplinary approach and whether this appeals to you as it is central to the way we develop lawyers at the firm.”hiring partner, Sergio Galvis.

Summer program

We’re very focused on getting our summers engaged in the work of the firm," says Galvis. "We see no reason to wait until they become regular associates.” We heard that some summers use the time to experiment and explore different practices, while others come in knowing what they want to do and can seek out that type of work. A large majority of summers return to the firm after graduation (or after a clerkship), and at that point, students can select a practice area to join. But it’s not all work and no play – the firm puts on a “robust” list of social events as well.

Top tips for this stage:

“I wouldn’t worry about trying to impress people and instead would focus on taking advantage of the opportunities a summer at S&C will present to you. Attend trainings, participate in practice group lunches, dive into the work, get to know your summer cohort and enjoy your time at the firm.” – hiring partner, Sergio Galvis.


Interview with Bob Giuffra and Scott Miller, co-chairs of Sullivan & Cromwell

Commercial strategy, market position and trends 

Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market? What differentiates your firm from your peer firms in the market?

Bob Giuffra: Sullivan & Cromwell has been an elite law firm for much of its history—we’re now in year 145, and we continue to do what we consider to be the most important transactions and litigation for our clients around the globe. We’re not trying to be a one-stop shop law firm, and our approach is fairly time-tested, which is to recruit the best law students, mentor them, and pass our practice and culture from one generation to the next. We want to continue to remain a true equity partnership. This is ultimately a people business, and we believe that having the best people is essential to providing the best possible service to our clients. 

Scott Miller: Adding to what Bob said, our approach to mentoring is one factor that sets us apart. We’re very focused on making sure that all of our lawyers have the opportunity to pursue practices that evolve over time and do the work that most interests them. That becomes more challenging when you’re much larger and more centrally managed, but when you operate as a true partnership and know all of your partners, you’re able to mentor and train in a way that allows everyone to pursue and excel at work they really enjoy. 

Giuffra: Another differentiating factor at Sullivan & Cromwell is the nature of our work. Much of the work we want to do is novel. During the financial crisis, for example, we represented most of the major banking institutions, and there was no playbook to follow. Now, we’re doing all the bankruptcy work for FTX and Silicon Valley Bank. Those are matters where you really need lawyers who are multidimensional chess players, who can think outside the box and can work with lawyers across multiple areas. Our work for FTX, for example, involved lawyers around the globe in our litigation, tax, and general practice groups. S&C is also unique in that we have a very collaborative culture, and many of our lawyers work with each other for decades. These longstanding relationships cultivate a certain degree of familiarity and trust, which is in contrast to firms where coming and going is more commonplace. 

CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you’d like law students to know about?  

Miller: In terms of areas of growth, we’ve focused a lot on technology, including IP litigation and technology transactions, and last year we hired the former head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office—Andrei Iancu—as a partner. We’ve also had one of the biggest market shares among our peer firms in life sciences M&A and have done a significant number of pharma and biotech M&A transactions.  

Giuffra: One of the things that has made our firm successful over the last few decades is our ability to grow practices organically, including our restructuring practice.  As Scott mentioned, we took a similar approach with our IP practice because we think that IP litigation will be an increasingly significant part of the market. Another area is appellate law: seven or eight years ago, we didn’t have a standalone appellate practice, but then we brought in Jeff Wall, who at the time was an Assistant to the Solicitor General and then became the Acting Solicitor General. (He later returned to the Firm in 2021 as a partner.) We also recruited Morgan Ratner, now a partner, as a Special Counsel. We also foresee a lot of restructuring work in Asia and are expanding our private equity transactional work in Europe as well as in the United States. We are constantly evolving, largely through internal growth and also with some strategic, opportunistic additions.  

CA: Are there any domestic or international events/trends that are affecting any of the firm’s practices at the moment? Are there any trends that you think are affecting the business of law firms more generally, and how is that playing out with your firm? 

Miller: Certainly, from a market perspective, large public and private M&A were off last year, in part due to uncertainty over interest rates and market conditions, although that didn’t really affect us too much. Our M&A practice was fairly solid in spite of the downturn in general activity. A lot of the M&A we did was either equity financed, or by investment-grade credits, if not as much on the high-yield or leveraged finance side.  

Giuffra: We’re always trying to respond to market demands. For example, many of our competitors have reduced their litigation practices substantially, whereas our litigation practice is now close to 40% of the firm’s lawyers (whereas it was probably closer to 25-30% several years ago). What that means is that we’re less affected if the M&A markets go down, because other parts of our practice will go up. We’re very focused on having a balanced law firm that responds to and provides services no matter what the market demands are, and we don’t want to be over-weighted in one area.  

We talk about taking a generalist—or multi-specialist—approach to practice, meaning that if you look at many of our practices—whether it be restructuring, M&A or litigation—they’re not as big as some of the mega firms. But we consistently punch above our weight because we have lawyers who can shift from area to area depending on what the client needs. So, someone like Scott does capital markets, M&A, or any kind of transactional work. He does any kind of corporate or governance law. In my case, I do any kind of litigation, from criminal work to securities, appeals, investigations, or whatever comes through the door. We want to train our lawyers to become generalist lawyers, and we actually discourage hyper-specialization among our junior associates. From the standpoint of a lawyer who is just starting their career, this is a huge benefit, because they will have the necessary skills to succeed regardless of market trends. If you’re trained only in a narrow area of the law, what happens if that area dries up? There was a time 100 years ago where admiralty law was the biggest area of law in New York! 

CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers? 

Miller: Our philosophy has always been that our lawyers are adults who know how to do their jobs, and one of the ways we support our lawyers is by treating them as professionals. We have organized mentoring programs in place for our associates, but a lot of the best mentorship happens organically. And while we believe that most of the time, our lawyers should be working together in person, we don’t have formal rules in place, which goes hand in hand with our overall approach. 

Giuffra: In terms of some of the benefits we offer, our New York office has a state-of-the-art fitness center, with virtually any equipment you could want, as well as fitness classes. We also recently renovated the cafeteria in our New York office, with a focus on providing healthy dining options (and a barista bar, which has been very well-received), and we have world-class administrative staff who provide tremendous support and allow our lawyers to work as efficiently as possible. In addition to the mentoring programs that Scott mentioned, we have internal affinity networks with robust programming, and we host cocktail receptions at our office so that our lawyers can get to know one another. One of the other things that’s special about the firm is that we have a four-digit global telephone system. With just four numbers, you can reach any S&C employee in any of our 13 offices around the world.  

CA: What’s the firm’s approach to bolstering diversity, equity, and inclusion?  

Giuffra: The numbers speak for themselves. Nearly 60% of our most recently promoted partner class was diverse, and more than half of our current first year class is comprised of women. Our DC and Palo Alto offices and our global litigation and M&A groups are all led by women, and we have substantial representation of diverse partners on our management committee.  

The Legal Profession 

CA: How do you predict the legal profession will change in the next five years? Are there any particular challenges the industry is facing? 

Miller: Certainly, AI is going to be a big factor. But if you think of every evolution we’ve had—from the development of word processing programs and PCs, to the availability of massive amounts of information and search tools—each has made the practice of law easier and more sophisticated. These developments have also placed a premium on analysis, intellect, and judgment, and that’s something we want to promote, as those are the things that set great lawyers apart from average lawyers. If done properly, AI can be enormously helpful with more mundane tasks like doc review and due diligence, but there will always be a need for strategic thinking and analysis.  

Giuffra: We’ve been very involved with OpenAI, one of the leading firms in that space, and we’re looking to develop our legal capabilities with respect to AI. In terms of the legal profession, I think you’ll see more divergence over time, as the traditional law firm model in most firms is changing. Law firms are becoming bigger and looking more like businesses. Longer term, we may see that the firms at the very top look more like traditional law firm partnerships, with more homegrown lawyers and a more collaborative approach to practice that focuses on the relationship aspect of what we do. The much larger firms that operate more like businesses and have more turnover will likely look and feel much different from a cultural standpoint. As long as we can differentiate and maintain our market position, I think it will remain very attractive to work at a place that’s a bit smaller and more collegial.  

The Fun Bit 

CA: The hours in BigLaw can be punishing. How do you unwind at the end of a long day/week? 

Miller: This is a firm where the hours our lawyers put into their professional practice don’t vary much from year to year. Even our partners are working on client matters roughly the same amount as they did when they were associates. When you reach a certain level, you have a choice as to how much time you want to devote to the practice. I think the fact that more senior people want to do that is a testament to our unique culture and ability to keep people engaged. That said, we also think it’s important for our people to relax and rest. I unwind by taking a 45-minute walk home every night after work. Other people unwind by doing things that may be more exciting than that! 

Giuffra: When you talk to our lawyers, it’s always interesting to hear about the diverse interests that people here have. We have one partner who collects and races classic cars and others who are obsessed with golf, like me! We have people who are interested in ballet, opera, and all types of sports, people who bike to work, and those who love to travel. We’re also a place where a lot of the lawyers are friends with one another, which makes it enjoyable to come into the office each day. 

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

125 Broad Street,
New York,
NY 10004-2498

Main areas of work

 Sullivan & Cromwell brings a multidisciplinary approach to providing the fullest and most comprehensive legal advice to our clients. Our global practice includes four main groups: general practice (corporate), litigation, tax and estates and personal. Our lawyers are trained to be generalists through broad exposure to a wide range of challenging legal matters, many of which have a significant cross-border component. A substantial number of S&C’s clients are non-US commercial enterprises and government entities and many of our US clients retain us for international matters. Our lawyers serve our clients through a network of 13 offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Melbourne and Sydney.

Firm profile

 S&C has the most broadly and deeply trained collection of lawyers in the world. They thrive in our working environment, which is characterized by commitment to clients, leadership, professional development, broad experience, teamwork and commitment to community. Associates at S&C typically acquire leadership skills as lawyers more quickly than they would at other law firms, as they are given early responsibility for managing transactions, counseling clients and representing their interests in dealings with other parties. To supplement this on-the-job experience, we provide comprehensive training programs for associates as well as formal mentoring programs. 


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
S&C interviews at top law schools around the country. Our lawyers are alumni of more than 135 law schools.

Hiring for Sullivan & Cromwell’s US offices is handled by each individual office. Hiring for S&C’s Asia and Australia offices, and of US-trained applicants to our European offices, is coordinated out of the New York office. 

To apply, please submit your cover letter, resume, and transcript via FloRecruit and indicate the office in which you are interested.

Summer associate profile:
We are actively seeking people whose intellect, character, motivation and other attributes promise to make them outstanding lawyers.

Summer program components:
All summer associates participate in a formal orientation program, as well as a wide variety of training programs and skills workshops.
Summer associates are assigned a partner advisor and an associate advisor, from whom they receive assignments. They are also matched with a junior associate, who is there to help with day-to-day matters at the firm. In addition, each summer associate is assigned to an associate development partner, who oversees the distribution of summer associate assignments.
Events: Every summer, S&C organizes a variety of events, including professional opportunities, social activities and charitable events.

Social media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @sullcrom

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 4)
    • Technology: Transactions (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Takeover Defense (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Appellate Law (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Counsel (Band 2)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Derivatives (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 3)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
    • FCPA (Band 5)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Mining & Metals (Band 1)
    • Product Liability: Automobile (Band 1)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 1)
    • Projects: Mining & Metals (Band 1)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Registered Funds (Band 4)
    • REITs (Band 4)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 2)
    • Sports Law (Band 4)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 1)

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