Jones Day - The Inside View

Tip-top work reaching far and wide, an unusual compensation structure and a truly collaborative culture combine to make this Midwestern megastar an appealing prospect from coast to coast.

FOUNDED in Cleveland in 1893, Jones Day has 41 offices across the globe today, playing host to more than 2,400 lawyers. The firm picks up plaudits all around the world in the Chambers USA and Chambers Global guides, proving its full-service capabilities. Worth mentioning here are its high rankings nationwide in antitrust, appellate, bankruptcy, IP, labor and employment, product liability and retail, but we suggest you pay a visit to and check out all those rankings state by state.

In 2013, Jones Day continued its campaign of world domination by opening offices in Miami and Amsterdam, while 2014 saw the unveiling of plans for an office in Perth, Jones Day's second Australian outpost. Not only has the firm recently worked on the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in US history – we're talking about Detroit, of course – it also oversaw the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, creating the world's biggest airline. Insiders cited Jones Day's prestige and program of long-term associate care as appealing prospects when they'd been looking at firms to apply to. So who gets in here? “It's probably fair to say we were all close to the top of our class in law school, but we're personable people too. We definitely weren't the guys hiding books in the library,” said one source.



The Work

Cleveland, DC and New York were all major points on the map for juniors at Jones Day when we made our calls. A smaller number were spread between Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Pittsburgh while the remainder were scattered across Boston, Columbus, Houston, Irvine, LA, San Diego, San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Associates aren't locked into a practice straight away. Their first eight to 12 months are spent in the eclectic 'New Lawyers Group': “Essentially the NLG is a practice group for people who don't have practice groups! It's a great way of trying out different kinds of work and figuring out what you like,” associates agreed. Once they've graduated from the New Lawyers Group juniors usually join either the business and tort litigation group, affectionately known as BATL, or they slot into one of the corporate groups like M&A, capital markets and private equity. That said, there are plenty of opportunities away from these key practices, including – but by no means limited to – real estate, labor and employment, and antitrust.

In the New Lawyers Group work is gathered for associates and doled out by assigning coordinators, but beyond that they must go out and win work for themselves in the big bad world: “In the New Lawyers Group you start to make connections and build a rapport really quickly so by the time you join a group the work comes through organically.” That said, we did hear from sources who'd been asked to fill out work reports so as to keep anyone from dropping off the radar.

In the heat of BATL, associates can find themselves working on anything from antitrust to FCPA cases and product liability to securities. “There's such a wide variety of work that you'd never just get stuck in one area,” insiders agreed. “Legal research is part and parcel of the job when you first arrive but the work gets better as you climb the totem pole,” we heard. On a day-to-day basis you'll find yourself drafting motions, memos and witness statements, overseeing doc review and even attending client meetings. “Seniors really trust you to roll up your sleeves and get involved once you've proved yourself,” one source surmised.

In transactional teams the work varies in content but not in quality. From an associate in M&A we heard: “We work with a lot of Midwestern manufacturing companies, but we also work with New York's big financial institutions. It runs the gamut,” while insiders on the private equity side told us: “We work closely with the guys in M&A on transactional deals, but there's quite a bit of fund formation work too.” Regardless of the team they're in juniors are typically tasked with drafting a range of documents, overseeing doc review and doing due diligence. “They give you as much as you can handle,” an associate said when we asked how much responsibility they'd had. “The first time they give you a purchase agreement to draft, for example, they'll see how you do and if you're up to it, they'll keep them coming.”

Training & Development

Associates have a week of orientation in their home office when they first arrive at Jones Day, before they all get together in DC for the New Lawyer Academy, which also lasts a week. After that, as juniors settle into the New Lawyers Group, the training comes thick and fast: “The different groups come in and talk to us about what they do and there are skills-based sessions and classes on things like motions, trials and depositions.” Some groups like M&A have bootcamps and, on the whole, training becomes less frequent but more advanced as associates progress: “There's informal training on the fly too, so all in all there's a lot of help to hand!”

Reviews take place once a year after two in the first year, with juniors getting feedback from the seniors they've worked most closely with. The feedback is synthesized and then presented during a meeting in the summer. “I've found that partners are really good at giving feedback informally too. I know if I'm messing up,” one source said, while another added: “Of course, people always want more feedback, but these processes take time and everyone's aware of that. I get the sense we're all pretty happy with it.”


Cleveland is where it all started for Jones Day and for that reason the office there is truly full-service: “Every single one of the firm's groups is represented here and we work all over the world. Whatever you want to do, you can do it here.” Elsewhere sources were keen to stress the full-service nature of their offices, though we did hear special mention of M&A and criminal investigations work in Dallas, corporate work in New York, and antitrust and litigation work in DC.

“Inter-office communication is really simple,” sources agreed. “With the phones, for instance, you can reach any of our lawyers around the world simply by dialing a five-digit number. That's impressive.” More than that though, “one thing that makes us stand out is how willing people are to help and collaborate, no matter where in the world they are. The number of information requests going around is amazing and they get answered almost immediately, whether you're reaching out to Asia, Europe or South America.” On home soil, associates get their own office from the get-go, no matter where they're stationed.


The fact that you can give someone a call wherever they are and ask for help dovetails with what associates had to say about life at the firm more generally: “It's all about collaboration. There's certainly a sense that clients are linked to the firm as a whole, that they don't belong to particular partners or whatever. It's not eat-what-you-kill. That means no elitism, no in-fighting and no bitchiness.” Office vibes were variously described as genial and welcoming but focused nonetheless. Associates agreed that this feeds through from the firm's Midwestern roots.

Naturally, this has fostered an atmosphere of openness and inclusion. “It's a place where some seriously complex, difficult work goes down. People could be getting really stressed out but I've never felt like I might get my head bitten off. Lawyers here are approachable and always willing to help,” one source said. “They've really made the effort to make sure it isn't competitive,” another agreed.

Elsewhere we were told: “Another thing I like is the management structure. Sure, it's a partnership, but the partners have pretty much waived their rights to the managing partner – he's a kind of benevolent dictator. There are checks against his absolute power, of course, but the point is that this allows us to move quickly even though we're a huge firm. It's not political or bureaucratic.”

When it comes to socializing, “there's no pressure to get involved, but if you're keen people often hang out with each other away from work.” Summer is the busiest time of year on the social calendar, but we also heard about happy hours, impromptu parties and lunchtime get-togethers year round, as well as a partner who regularly treats young associates to trips away to his cabin.

Hours & Compensation

When it comes to billables, associates are asked to shoot for 2,000 hours. Group to group, insiders agreed that this is attainable: “The work generally flows through well, but when it does feel a bit thin I've learned to trust that it will all even out.” Daily hours vary, but as a rule of thumb 9am to 7pm is pretty normal. Four weeks of vacation per year is standard and we heard no complaints here. “People feel comfortable using it all. As long as you've got your work done, you're good to go!” said one.

Jones Day is unusual in that it operates a black box compensation system and juniors are encouraged not to gossip about compensation. But has this made it the elephant in the room? “Absolutely not. People are just fine with it. I'm not looking over my shoulder I'm just getting on with my work like everyone else here.” Another source added: “I'm happy with it – I don't need to know if my buddy's making $5k more than me.”

Pro Bono

There's no limit to the number of pro bono hours associates can count toward their billable target, and for that reason “there's a strong sense that they want us to get involved.” Interviewees said they'd been encouraged to participate in a number of ways: “E-mails go round every week and each time I hit a happy hour there's someone encouraging me to get involved in a pro bono matter they're coordinating. Each of the offices has a pro bono partner too.” For associates there are many different types of matter to hand: veteran, asylum and immigration were just some of the areas our sources had been involved in.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 111,531 
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed


“It's definitely encouraged and we're starting to see more diverse candidates come through in the summer classes,” insiders agreed. “There's a big push to recognize the successes of women in the workplace and the firm organizes a lot of events. It certainly feels like there are female partners and role models here,” we heard. Another added: “I've seen them facilitating a reduced schedule for women with young children which helps keep them here.” The firm is also a career sponsor for Sponsors of Educational Opportunity, a group which provides diverse students with internships. “They come in as interns but we often see them again on the summer program,” one source reported.

Get Hired

“Academic credentials are the baseline. We're looking for people who fit with the culture of the firm,” says firmwide hiring partner Sharyl Reisman. But what does that mean? “We seek lawyers who are driven by excellent client service, not individual or personal gain. And it's important for us to know we can put our junior lawyers out front because we take the long view and we want them in front of judges and clients. Initiative is also vital – if you wait for things to come your way, Jones Day isn't the place for you.”

Juniors had similar things to say when we asked what sort of person fits with the firm: “Collaboration is key so if you've got an ego or if you're the kind of person who wants the glory, you won't do well here.” Another source agreed, adding: “The worst thing you could do would be being so self-centered you undercut your colleagues in order to advance. There are no sharks here.”

Strategy & Future

“The firm's stability stems from preservation of the Jones Day culture and not being dependent on one office, one industry, one region or one client,” Sharyl Reisman says. “Our lawyers work as seamless teams on litigation, transactional, regulatory, and tax matters around the globe. We are focusing on growth of our healthcare, IP, energy, and financial services practices, and are expanding our presence in Australia with a new office in Perth. Our clients get the benefits of our client-focused approach, global reach, and management structure. Happily, that approach also makes us a great place to work." 

Recent Work Highlights 

  • Acted for American Airlines in the antitrust investigation and federal court challenge to its $11 billion merger with US Airways
  • Served as lead counsel to the City of Detroit in connection with its Chapter 9 bankruptcy case totaling $18.5 billion
  • Advised Hertz on its $2.3 billion acquisition of Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group
  • Secured a Supreme Court victory for Myriad Genetics on the patent eligibility of synthetic DNA molecules

The Detroit Bankruptcy

Over the past few decades Detroit has experienced a remarkable slump. Back in 1950 the city was a booming industrial powerhouse with nearly two million inhabitants, but its population dwindled with its fortunes and today that figure stands at just 700,000. Industrial decline, high crime rates and urban decay have exacerbated the mass exodus.

All this culminated in Detroit filing for chapter nine bankruptcy in July 2013, the largest municipal bankruptcy case in US history. Here we take a look at the causes of Detroit's decline and Jones Day's herculean efforts to bring it back from the brink.

A city breaks down 

Many theories surround Detroit's decline. Undoubtedly, there's a clear correlation between the growth of the automotive industry and the city's prosperity over the years. In the first half of the 20th century, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors all pitched up in Detroit, giving rise to the moniker 'Motor City'. They each opened huge factories and created thousands of jobs. Soon, though, much of the industry migrated to other cities, states and countries. Despite a series of attempts to jump start the auto industry in the 1980s and 90s, Detroit went the way of Chrysler and General Motors and filed for bankruptcy.

While the decline of the auto industry is a key contributor to the downfall of Detroit, there have been other factors too. In 1967, Detroit witnessed five days of riots which killed 43 people and injured another 467. Although this wasn't enough to tarnish the city's fortunes permanently, the riots forced many small business to close or desert the city in search of safer areas.

Detroit's reputation as a hotspot for crime and violence was cemented in the 1970s and 80s when street gangs thriving on the local drug trade started to tighten their grip on the city itself. Soon after, Detroit was branded the most dangerous city in America. By the early 90s crime rates had reached nearly 3,000 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Crime has slowly started to drop since then but in 2013 Detroit still reported as many murders as New York, a city with more than 11 times as many people.

Driving out of the ditch 

Even before news of the bankruptcy broke in 2013, it was clear that something had gone very wrong in Motor City. With debts weighing in at $18.5 billion, Detroit needed the best bankruptcy brains out there – so they gave Jones Day a call. Attorneys at the firm were parachuted in as lead counsel to the administrators in connection with Detroit's Chapter 9 case and its restructuring efforts. The firm's course of action is largely divisible into three main strands. First, it has helped with the development and implementation of restructuring proposals, Second, it has participated in negotiations with key stakeholder constituencies in the hope of reaching an agreed restructuring. Third, the firm has handled all aspects of the chapter nine case including trials.

Moving through this labyrinth of legal wrangles, Jones Day has performed a wealth and breadth of legal services including litigation in multiple courts, corporate transactions, capital raising transactions, labor negotiations, and pension and healthcare benefits restructuring. Reports at the start of 2014 – mere months into proceedings – said that the firm had earned $17 million from the matter so far, with more to come.

Detroit's long-term future still looks uncertain. Plans have been rolled out to partially pay creditors and pensions and slowly get the city going again but many commentators remain sceptical. The city's motto, 'We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From The Ashes', coined in 1805, adds a cruel irony to proceedings. Still, with the help of Jones Day, maybe one day Detroit will spread its wings and sore above the plains of the Midwest once again.

Jones Day

51 Louisiana Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, DC,

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 16
  • Number of international offices: 25
  • Partners (US): 660
  • Associates (US): 884
  • Summer Salary 2014  
  • 1Ls / 2Ls / Post 3Ls: Miami: $11,250/ month; Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh: $12,083/month; Atlanta: $12,500/month; Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Irvine, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Washington: $13,333/month
  • 1Ls hired? Varies by office
  • Split summers offered? Varies by office
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case
  • Summers 2014:  160 
  • Offers/acceptances 2013: 156 offers, 127 acceptances

Main areas of work

Jones Day’s practices cover the spectrum of transactional, litigation, regulatory, and tax matters. Core practice areas: corporate/M&A, litigation/trial practice, government regulation, real estate, energy, health care, banking/finance, bankruptcy/restructuring, labor and employment, antitrust, tax, and intellectual property.

Firm profile

The firm is based on a set of core principles - the most critical of which is a relentless focus on client service that transcends individual interests. They are a global legal institution based on a set of principles to which a large number of men and women can commit – principles that have a social purpose and permanence, that transcend individual interests. This is one important aspect of what makes Jones Day the client service organization that it is. They are truly One Firm Worldwide.

Recruitment details

Number of 1st year associates: 101

Number of 2nd year associates: 130

Associate salaries: 1st year: $135,000-160,000 ($160k in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Irvine, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Washington; $145k in Atlanta, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh; $135k in Miami)

2nd year: Increase is merit based, not lock step

Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2014:
American, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Boston College, Boston University, Case Western, Chicago, Cleveland-Marshall, Columbia, Cornell, Dickinson, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Michigan, New York University, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, San Diego, SMU, Stanford, Texas, UC-Berkeley, UCHastings, UC-Irvine, UCLA, U Miami, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, Yale.

Summer details

Summer associate profile:
Jones Day lawyers share certain fundamental principles: exemplary integrity, a selfless dedication to the firm and its clients, and a sense of responsibility and initiative that leads one to take ownership of assignments and to complete them at the highest level of quality legal service. Summer associates candidates are evaluated on their fit with this culture.

Summer program components:
Summer associates do real client work in their choice of practice areas. Mentors are assigned to provide one-on-one guidance. Each summer associate will have a formal, midsummer review. Jones Day’s dynamic culture and its global, multidisciplinary practice areas, provide the perfect training ground for summer associates and new lawyers.