It may be famous for its stellar bankruptcy work, but a balanced set of prestigious practices will guarantee that this New York native sticks around for a long Weil yet.
WHEN the economy is in dire straits and companies are going bust left, right and center, it helps to have a globally recognized bankruptcy and restructuring practice to handle the mess. But the optimist in us knows things won't always be so bleak; when the economy picks itself up again, a slew of budding deals will emerge. Being able to thrive in both economic scenarios is partly where Weil's success lies: “Weil isn't lopsided,” associates eagerly pointed out. “It has breadth with strong corporate, litigation, bankruptcy and tax departments.” Executive partner Barry Wolf also emphasizes that “part of our business plan has always been to have a lot of balance in the firm. By this, I mean a balance of practice areas as well as a balance in geographies. ”
And it's not just talk – Chambers USA hands the firm high-class rankings in each of the four areas mentioned above, while Chambers Global positions it within its Top 30 of planet-busting hotshots – particularly due to its prowess in areas like private equity, restructuring/insolvency and corporate/M&A. Alongside being attracted to the firm's “prestige,” multiple sources were keen “to get exposure to Weil's variety of practices over the summer.” Their recruitment interviews with the firm's lawyers gave them the final nudge: “The OCI and callback process can be exhausting, but the people at Weil seemed like regular people that didn't take themselves too seriously – that was important, as the work is already serious enough!”
Strategy & Future
“Weil hasn't gotten to where it is by gobbling up lots of other firms,” interviewees told us proudly.The firm's strategy has instead been focused on opening up new offices, especially overseas. These are integral to the firm's success, as Barry Wolf explains: “We have a strong set of offices in Europe, so if the US economy is struggling, the EU economy might be strong and vice versa."
At the same time, Wolf doesn't see any new bases or practices springing up soon. Instead, “we're going to strengthen the areas that we have in terms of continuing to obtain more market share.” On the topic of financial performance, Wolf reveals that the past two years have been record breakers for Weil: “Our 2017 performance exceeded 2016 by a meaningful amount in terms of profitability of the firm, which is really exciting!” Revenue rose just over 10% to a hefty $1.39 billion. But Wolf wants Weil to be known for more than financial success: “Our vision is to remain within the top tier of firms from both a financial perspective and from the perspective of the cutting-edge work that we do.”
Juniors are split between four main practice groups: litigation, corporate, tax, and business finance/restructuring. Corporate takes the largest chunk of associates (just over half of the juniors on our list), who join various subgroups including capital markets, banking & finance, private equity/M&A, structured finance, real estate, and technology & IP transactions. Litigation follows with around a third of associates; its subgroups include complex commercial litigation (CCL), securities, antitrust, employment, regulatory, and patent litigation. Tax and business finance/restructuring take on the remaining associates.
Most groups have a formal work assignment system in place: “It's online and you put in what you're working on, as well as an estimate of how much time you expect to bill during the following week. The assigning partner then looks at who has capacity and assigns from there.” Others described more of a “hybrid system” in which the formal online system plays a part, but is “more of a fallback – the informal side of going out and securing your own work takes precedent. You start to form relationships with partners and get to see what kind of work you really like, so you can start to make your own way a bit.” The formal system was appreciated though, especially in the beginning: “Early on, not having to seek out your own work helps you to obtain a broader base level of experience.”
“There are many different ways of going about mergers and acquisitions.”
Out of the corporate subgroups, private equity/M&A absorbs the most associates. On the public company side, there's “large-scale post-IPO work for mature companies,” which can include “the buying and selling of other companies or divestitures of certain subsidiaries.” The private equity side involves similar things, but “for PE funds. The main difference is that there's a lot less regulation as they're not publicly traded, so there are many different ways of going about mergers and acquisitions.” Tasks include “a heavy amount of diligence,” but also “drafting confidential treatment memorandums, and assisting in developing public filings for companies.”
Banking & finance involves a lot of leveraged finance work, with a dollop of investment-grade matters on top. Depending on the deal, the group “represents either the lenders or the borrowers.” Clients span a bunch of major banks, as well as various debt funds, corporate borrowers and well-known names from the private equity sphere. Juniors get “a lot of drafting experience very early on” in this group, which starts with ancillaries and progresses to more complex “security documents, guarantees and credit agreements.” The capital markets subgroup works on IPOs and bond offerings among other matters. Juniors frequently work alongside their counterparts in M&A and restructuring, as “there are always new warrants and new bonds on the table.” Sources were able to “review and draft indentures and warrant agreements, filings, contracts, and other arrangements with third parties that are sometimes necessary.”
“Weil gives you work based on what you show you're capable of.”
Over in litigation, most juniors join the complex commercial subgroup (CCL), which was fondly described as “a grab bag of litigation.” The catch-all group does “standard breach of contract disputes” as well as “business-related torts, class actions, trade secrets matters and internal investigations.” For anything more specific, there are tidy subgroups for the likes of securities, employment and antitrust disputes, among others. Across the board, litigators got involved with the “inevitable” discovery and doc review, but also researched and drafted client memos and motions to dismiss. “Weil gives you work based on what you show you're capable of. If you prove yourself to be responsible, smart, engaged and invested in what you're doing, then the partner will be willing to let you take the first crack at something – something usually reserved for a more senior person.”
Training & Development
Training kicks off with a weeklong orientation in New York. After that, most groups put on “monthly, if not bi-monthly, lunchtime training sessions – depending on the topic, it'll either be just for the relevant level of associate or for the whole group.” Those in the bankruptcy group were especially grateful for these sessions, “as it's such a complicated area that you don't learn much about in law school – they take you through the whole bankruptcy cycle.” Corporate juniors were also pleased: “If there's a new precedent or change in SEC regulations then they structure a lunch around the topic. Nothing beats actually doing it, but they help you understand in advance and give you something to refer back to.”
Formal reviews happen twice a year. “You submit a list of recommended reviewers – more senior people you've worked with – and they in turn submit their feedback. You then meet with two partners to discuss the comments you've received and your professional development goals.”
Hours & Compensation
Weil doesn't require its associates to hit a billable target, which sources felt was “one of the best things about being here.” Bonuses are therefore “not tied to billable numbers, which takes the pressure off.” Instead, they are lockstep and class-based, as is the base salary, which follows the Cravath scale. People's personal billing goals ranged from 160 hours a month in smaller offices like Silicon Valley to 200 hours in New York: “That's a pretty good benchmark, as you're definitely putting in the hours but not killing yourself.” As a general rule, interviewees explained that “you should be making sure you are keeping up with whatever your group is doing – if your group is busy and you're not, that might be an issue.”
Day to day, most aimed to be in the office for around 9:30am, and usually left anywhere between 6:30pm and 8pm. The nature of deal work means those hours can fluctuate significantly: “There are weeks where I leave at 1am and weeks where I'll leave at 6pm,” one corporate junior told us.Late finishes for litigators can stretch to midnight, but fortunately they don't work weekends “super often – if I do then it would be for a couple of hours on a Saturday or a Sunday. Not the entire weekend.”
Despite lockstep compensation and the absence of billing targets, sources in New York still suggested that “there's competition among associates – I don't know where it comes from, but it is competitive.” We think that this fellow New Yorker gave a good explanation when they explained that “we're motivated people that want to work hard and do well; there's no undue external pressure to get things done because we just have that internal drive to get them done anyway.”
“The firm expects excellence but it doesn't require you to be a robot to achieve it.”
This doesn't mean that everyone at Weil is a 'Type A' nightmare – quite the opposite: “The firm expects excellence but it doesn't require you to be a robot to achieve it.” Many associates agreed: “People do actually like each other and spend time together. There have been times during crazy deals where I've been on an internal call at 1am to discuss our work, and I've ended up chatting to people for an extra 20 minutes because they were so nice – I think that's indicative of the culture here.” There are also cultural differences between the offices, as this Silicon Valley interviewee revealed: “Our office is a 'jeans every day' sort of place – New York and Dallas are viewed as being more intense, while SV is more levelheaded.”
There's “absolutely a big push” on the pro bono front. There's a dedicated pro bono department based in New York, which is headed up by the firm's pro bono counsel; there are also regional representatives in each office to help distribute local opportunities. As a result, sources felt there was “a smorgasbord of pro bono” on offer – matters they mentioned included asylum work, veterans appeals, housing applications, prisoners' rights cases and corporate assignments for nonprofits. One highlighted that “every time there's some big crisis – like the fires in California or a big earthquake or the current situation with refugees – the firm reaches out to us and says 'here's what you can do to help.'” Weil has partnerships with organizations including Planned Parenthood, NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority), the Bronx Defenders and the Innocence Project. The aim is for everyone to complete 50 hours of pro bono a year.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 50,913
- Average per US attorney: 42
Many agreed that “it does feel quite diverse at junior level, but it gets less diverse as you look up at the more senior ranks. In terms of diverse role models, it is lacking.” However, associates recognized the firm's efforts: “Weil wants it to be a diverse place and devotes resources to improving the situation.” On top of the usual collection of affinity groups, Weil also hosts a 'diversity month' in November, which comes complete with “lots of events, workshops and talks about what we can do to boost and support diversity.” Juniors felt these events “weren't just token calendar entries – they really spend a lot of time pushing them. We also have mandatory diversity training, which even the most senior partners have to go to, and I think that's really valuable.”
Some practice groups fared better than others; the business finance & restructuring practice, for example, was praised for having “a strong representation of women – around a third of the partners in my office are female. We have a women's breakfast every month so we can meet up.” Juniors had hopes that summer classes would continue to be more diverse: “In my summer class seven out of ten were white males. I raised it with one of the partners, who said they weren't thrilled either, and the next summer the class was more diverse and representative – it's something people are aware of, talk about and work on.”
So what is it that current associates look for in Weil associates-to-be? “We're not so focused on quantitative achievements – getting into law school itself indicates a certain level of achievement. Now, we want to know who you are.” Others added: “Weil puts a premium on maintaining its culture. Everyone interviewing here is smart – we're looking for whether you can hold a conversation, and if you can make a joke and not take everything so seriously. At the same time, we are still looking to see if you're smart and diligent.”
Interview with hiring committee members Jackie Cohen and Joshua Amsel
Chambers Associate: Firstly, how do you pre-screen those who have bid on your firm?
Jackie Cohen: We don't often get the opportunity, but when we do, we try to look at the whole package. We take into account where they went to law school, their grades, where they went and how they performed as an undergraduate, as well as looking for unique and informative experiences they've had.
CA: What questions do you ask during OCIs and callback interviews?
JC: I think we all interview differently. I'm a bit of a softball interviewer in some ways. I don't think a 20 to 30 minute interview is a great way to do an in-depth assessment of someone's abilities to practice law. I'm really looking for whether this person knows what they're getting into and has an interest in what we do. A key trait of a successful associate is having a level of intellectual curiosity about what we do.
Joshua Amsel: People have different ways of going about interviews. I like to hear what the motivating factor was to go to law school in the first place, and why they chose certain classes. I also like to ask people about what they like to do in their free time. Overall, the goal is to get a sense of who they are. We want to make sure they're a good fit for us and we're a good fit for them. It goes both ways. My questions are therefore geared toward getting an understanding of who the person is – not just numbers on a page.
CA: What makes someone stand out at interview?
The most outstanding interviewees tend to be people who come in and are comfortable with themselves and their resumes – those who come across as sincere, interested and engaged. That means professionally adept in terms of being able to have a discussion. When people are sincerely interested in doing this for good reason, those interviews generally end up being fantastic.
CA: Any big no-nos at interview?
Overconfidence never plays well. The biggest negative would be interviewing someone and seeing that the personality they're trying to portray is not really their own. That doesn't work here. People here are genuine and down to earth – we get to know each other on a personal level.
CA: What can students do now (or in their 1L summer) to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications and at interview?
Do something that interests you. People ask us all the time 'I did public interest work, do you think it will pigeonhole me?' All of us understand – 1Ls are just trying to get jobs that are relevant. Whether that's public interest, working for the government, or a think-tank or something else, they're all good experiences. The fatal flaw is when people come in and talk down about the experience they had as a 1L summer.
CA: Roughly how many summers do you take on each year?
In the US, about 130.
CA: Can you briefly outline your summer program – is there anything distinctive about it, or different from other firms that students should know about?
We've worked really hard over the years to develop a program that is a great marriage of real life, in terms of having a dose of life as a lawyer here, but also enjoying the social aspect of the summer associate experience. Our summer associates get to know people within the firm as well as their fellow summers. We make sure summers get real work for clients, working closely with associates and partners throughout the firm. They get a sense of being on a team and being in the trenches on a matter. There are shadowing engagements as well, where the summer is assigned to a partner for a day and they shadow their routine, on calls and meetings. The program gives our participants a good sense of what life will be like as a full-time associate at Weil.
CA: What does the firm offer that is unique?
Each participant in our summer program is matched with a junior associate, known as a 'Summer Sibling', who they can turn to for peer-level mentoring. For each department that they do work in, they have a midlevel associate who is their assignment coordinator, who touches base on a weekly basis, and understands the work they're interested in. They also have a social coordinator, who is a person they talk to about having lunch with partners or associates. In addition to that, there are two or three partners assigned to a group of 15 summer associates, and there are specific events for that group. They will be able to get to know at least two or three partners well over their summer. There are many layers of opportunities, in particular when it comes to sponsoring relationships.
Interview with executive partner Barry Wolf
Chambers Associate: What highlights from the past year would you like to flag to student readers interested in your firm?
Barry Wolf: We had another record year in terms of financial performance. The previous year was also a record, but our 2017 performance exceeded 2016 by a meaningful amount in terms of profitability of the firm, which is really exciting! We're most proud of the fact that, while we have achieved such strong financial results, we have been able to maintain and enhance the culture of our firm at the same time. The reason I came here 33 years ago was the culture.
We have been enhancing our culture in a number of different ways. Examples of things that are important to us include giving back to the communities in which we work. In terms of giving back to these communities, we gave goods, services and financial support – in fact a total of $750,000 – to relief efforts across a number of charities in response to the series of natural disasters and acts of violence that took place in late 2017. We also instituted a volunteer time-off program where all US employees can take a day off to volunteer for a charitable cause of their choice.
On the diversity front, we have continued with our Upstanders campaign. We're making sure people around the firm take individual and collective action to promote diversity and act as allies to others. For pro bono, we continue to win victories in important cases that have received national media attention and have, as a result, won several awards and distinctions.
The last element that's important to us is, while providing excellent client service, also providing our associates with tools to support them in maintaining a work-life balance. Work-life means different things for everyone, so we offer a suite of options reflecting the diverse needs of our attorneys and their shifting life circumstances. Such programs include flexible work arrangements, inclusive parental leave and benefits, services to help new business-traveling mothers, backup childcare, and more.
CA: Given that our readers wouldn't be joining your firm for another couple of years, what's the general strategy going forward?
BW: Part of our business plan has always been to have a lot of balance in the firm. By this, I mean a balance of practice areas as well as a balance in geographies. The firm has a strong corporate practice, a strong litigation practice, and we're known for our strong restructuring practice. We have a strong set of offices in Europe, so if the US economy is struggling, the EU economy might be strong and vice versa. We're going to strengthen the areas that we have in terms of continuing to obtain more market share. I don't anticipate opening any new offices or forming any dramatically new practice areas. We, of course, will continue promoting associates and counsel to partner positions, and intend to grow both organically as well as laterally.
CA: What's your long-term vision for Weil? What do you want it to look like in ten years' time?
BW: Our vision is to remain within the top tier of firms both from a financial perspective and from the perspective of the cutting-edge work that we do. At the same time, we will continue to enhance the firm’s culture of being a first mover and giving back to the communities in which we work. I see growth, but not dramatic growth. Over that period, a number of partners will be retiring, and new partners will be made from the associate ranks. We'll continue to be a strong global platform.
CA: What would you say is the split between Weil's core practices?
BW: In terms of the size of the different practices in the US, I'd say the corporate and transactional practice is the largest by number of people in the department. Litigation is second, then restructuring and tax are third and fourth. But at any particular time during the year, one or more of those departments are busier than others. Depending on the economy, if the economy is down restructuring and litigation will be leading the way. If the economy is going strong, financial practices and transactional will be leading. It changes, quarter to quarter. On top of that, we also have about 25-30% of lawyers outside the US. Geographic balance is an important part of our platform.
CA: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?
BW: My advice is to always have the 'wow' factor in mind. By that, I mean to always do a really good job of absolutely everything that you're doing. Always be looking to impress people with your work so people will say 'wow, what a good lawyer and firm!' Good things will happen and doors will open up, whether at a firm like ours, or with a particular client.
My other piece of advice is to be proactive with your career. If you want to do a particular type of work, you should ask for it in a professional and polite way. And be passionate about what you're doing! You will excel at what you're doing if you are passionate about it.
Lastly, absolutely maintain a work-life balance. That's very, very important, both to you and to the firm. The better you maintain that, the more passionate you'll be.
The vast majority of juniors (just over 80%) on our list called the New York HQ home. The rest were spread between Weil's DC, Dallas, Boston, Miami and Silicon Valley offices. New Yorkers gushed over the “iconic Fifth Avenue location” of their building, which provides “amazing views of Central Park.” They also praised recent renovations, which have shifted the decor from “80s-style wood-paneled law firm” to “00s glass law firm – it's definitely a nice change, and there's a lot more natural light.” Sources were also excited by the new cafeteria where “there are four different types of avocado toast – what more could you ask for?!”
Those in NY usually share an office until the third year, while Silicon Valley juniors get their “own external office regardless of year.” What's it like being in a smaller office? “We only have four groups here, whereas NY obviously has a bunch.” While there may be less of a selection practice area-wise, SV associates reported a bounty of “free beverages – soda water, coffee, sparkling water. NY doesn't have free beverages!”
On the social scene, most offices have some sort of drinks event on a weekly or monthly basis: “One Friday every month we have food and beers in the cafeteria, and everybody in the office is invited,” said one New York junior. On a more informal basis, “if work is slowing down, we meet in a conference room and have a chat and something to drink.” It's not all booze-based though – there are family-friendly events organized, including a Halloween bash where “they turned the conference rooms into haunted houses, with face painting and candy on offer.” During the summer, planned events include Broadway shows, basketball games, concerts and “a formal dance at the end of the summer.”
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
767 Fifth Avenue,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 9
- Worldwide revenue: $1.39 billion
- Partners (US): 181
- Associates (US): 538
- Main recruitment contact: Wesley Powell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partners: Joshua Amsel, Jackie Cohen
- Diversity officer: Meredith Moore
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 102
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
- 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 119, 3Ls: 1, SEOs: 2
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- Boston: 10, Dallas: 11, Miami: 2, New York: 98*, Silicon Valley: 9*, Washington, DC: 7* (*includes candidates splitting offices)
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: $3,462
- 2Ls: $3,462
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case
Main areas of work
Benjamin N. Cardozo, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Mason, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Lavender Law Job Fair, New York University, Northwestern, New York Law School, Northeast Interview Program (Washington and Lee /William & Mary Law Job Fair), On Tour Regional Program, Santa Clara, SMU, Stanford, St. John’s, Suffolk, Sunbelt Job Fair, Tulane /University of Washington New York Interview Program, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, University of Miami, University of Michigan, University of San Francisco, University of Texas, University of Virginia, USC Gould, Vanderbilt, Yale.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Weil has a diversified approach to its recruiting process. Firm-wide, Weil interviews at 40 law schools and job fairs and participates in resume collection programs at more than ten other law schools. For a complete list, please visit careers.weil.com.
Summer associate profile:
Weil’s summer associate program provides an exceptional opportunity for outstanding law students from across the nation to explore a career in the practice of law. Weil seeks candidates with exceptional credentials, both in terms of qualifications and character.
Summer program components:
Summer associates may work in a total of 1-3 departments of their choice. They are assigned to active transactional and litigation matters and attend client meetings, negotiations, depositions and court hearings. This enables them to gain a much clearer idea of their choice of future practice area and obtain a realistic view of what it is like to practice law at the firm. Weil organizes special seminars during the summer to discuss particular fields of specialization and topics of interest to law students and to provide training in such areas as negotiation, litigation and writing skills. The firm assigns both associate and partner mentors whose role is to guide the summer associate throughout their summer experience, both personally and professionally. Feedback is a critical element of the summer experience. Assigning attorneys regularly evaluate the summer associate’s performance and written product, in much the same way that a senior attorney reviews a junior attorney’s work. The summer associate’s performance is formally evaluated twice during the summer.
Linkedin: Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Corporate/M&A: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- IT & Outsourcing: Transactions (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 2)
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 3)
- Securities: Regulation Recognised Practitioner
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)