On the hunt for an elite private equity practice? Looking for the cream of the bankruptcy crop? Better settle in, and read a Weil…
“IF you pick up a Wall Street Journal, the firm is usually involved with something on the front page.” We don’t have a copy on hand to test this Weil junior’s theory, but the New York powerhouse certainly has a habit for hitting the headlines. Some of the largest bankruptcies of recent years – Lehman Brothers, General Motors, Sears – have poured work into Weil’s restructuring practice. The firm has been instrumental for companies during good times as well as bad: Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp involved Weil attorneys, as did the Dow Chemical Company’s eye watering $130 billion all-stock merger of equals with DuPont (Weil would advise again when DowDuPont separated 18 months later).
Chambers USA agrees with the juniors who told us that Weil is “an elite firm doing elite work,” awarding the $1.52billion outfit with a nationwide top ranking for bankruptcy and further plaudits in antitrust, M&A, tax, banking and more. The firm fares similarly well for New York-centric rankings; NYC remains its hub and largest office, but junior associates also ply their trade in Boston, Dallas, DC, Houston and Silicon Valley. You can find a list of Weil’s seven overseas offices online.
Juniors split between four main departments: litigation, corporate, tax, and business finance/restructuring. The corporate group swallows up most new juniors, spitting them out into sub-departments including private equity, M&A and finance. Litigators siphon off into securities, antitrust, employment and regulatory teams, though commercial litigation is the most common destination. The other two main departments are less siloed. Work assignment at Weil starts with juniors receiving tasks from coordinators; after establishing working relationships, they can rely on partners dishing out work directly. “They know we’re all adults, so you have autonomy to ask for work on matters you’re interested in,” interviewees said.
“…dynamic and varied exposure with assignments.”
Weil’s corporate department is considered part of ‘The Elite’ by our friends at Chambers USA, and in 2019 the firm advised on 80 transactions valued higher than $1 billion. Private equity takes the most junior associates – those we spoke to worked for “large funds working to flip companies like a person would houses,” including “some of the major heavy hitters in private equity.” Deal values range from the mid-market to billion-dollar gamechangers in industries like technology, entertainment, “good old boy oil and gas” and more. Tasks for juniors vary by seniority and deal size – mega money matters come with “less glamorous” work like due diligence, reviewing formation documents and running checklists. After a couple of years in the trenches, responsibility begins to build: “I’m now drafting actual documents,” a third-year confirmed. “Rather than consents and disclosure schedules, I’m now reviewing diligence memos and marking up escrow and purchase agreements.”
“We have such an array of clients in different industries, you never see the same deal twice,” a source in M&A suggested. Seeing deals from both buy and sell-side, juniors appreciated that “you can communicate your desire to get the balance of both that you want, and as much responsibility as you can chew.” One clarified: “Tasks aren’t necessarily handed out based on class year. It’s about demonstrating ability.”Corporate capital New York isn’t the be-all and end-all here; in Dallas, for example, sources confirmed “work does come through this office.” Avoiding being “buried under” the inevitable due diligence, Weil sources also drafted ancillary support agreements and resolutions while communicating with clients. “A substantial amount of our M&A links to the bankruptcy team, so we assist them regularly,” one told us.
Corporate clients: Campbell’s Soup, The Kroger Company, SoftBank. Advised science solutions provider Dow on its $40 billion spinoff as part of the separation of DowDuPont into three independent companies.
Every crown has a jewel and Weil’s is bankruptcy – the firm’s served as chief debtors’ counsel in six of the seven largest bankruptcy filings in American history. In the business finance and restructuring group, associates primarily worked on Chapter 11 cases from the debtor side, though Weil is “building up its creditor side practice and working for large secured creditors.” The enormity of these proceedings means “you’re not arguing the motions or going to court and asking for a billion dollars,” though juniors reported “lots of exposure to substantive work.” Experiences of note included early communication with clients and opposing counsel; helping to draft substantive motions; and in one case “speaking in court at three different hearings.” The overwhelming picture was very positive: “You’re involved with strategy early on: working out the path forwards, negotiating with lenders, putting together transactions and getting equity built from lenders. The balance of work is interesting and engaging; that motivates you to keep going.”
Restructuring clients: EP Energy, PG&E, Insys Therapeutics. Acted for cloud solutions firm Fusion in its Chapter 11 proceedings, aiming to extinguish $411 million in funded debt.
“Special requests tend to be our bread and butter.”
Most Weil litigators find their way into the complex commercial subgroup. Considered the broadest area of litigation, CCL works for a range of clients including insurers, media companies and financial institutions. Securities litigation “tends to be class actions brought against publicly traded companies”in big pharma, real estate and investment trusts; antitrust in New York and DC offers the double appeal of litigious and transactional flavors, acting as “a one-stop shop for anything antitrust. Special requests tend to be our bread and butter.” Across the board, tasks start slowly with document review and research. Juniors here too saw progress to higher-level responsibilities, whether that was making a presentation for the FTC; preparing advocacy letters; or reviewing privilege and writing substantial documents. “Some partners give junior associates autonomy on discrete matters,” a source said. “Although things can be more menial on big cases with large teams, it gets noticed if you show dedication to the grunt work.”
Litigation clients: CBS, Panasonic, Farmers Insurance. Won an appellate victory for AIG in a claim alleging the insurance giant had defrauded the government by failing to disclose ties to Mafia-controlled businesses.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours:no requirement
“If we did have a target, nobody would have trouble reaching it,” associates wryly noted. They were well acquainted with the demands that come with elite legal practice and couldn’t decide if having a billing target would be a good idea: “It’s great not having a target if the group is slow, but it means there’s nothing to aim for. It’s a race without a finish line.” Deal closings and trials can call for “all-consuming” 100-hour weeks and juniors were keen to stress the importance of balance. “I push really hard one month but in the next, I can resume my life,” one said. “It’s not a constant onslaught.” Brave souls looked forward to the hectic periods, when there’s a “bizarre focused buzz. People just rise to the challenge.” When we asked interviewees to nail down an average day, they settled on 9am to 7pm, but evening and weekend work is common. With flexible working on the rise, juniors subscribed to a reassuring credo: “When you have some downtime, take that downtime.”
“The pay can feel like more than I’m worth; then some days there’s not enough money in the world.”
No billing target means lockstep compensation, a popular approach among juniors. “Weil succeeds as a whole and is rewarded as a whole,” they declared. A Dallasinsider reasoned that “sharing the pie is so much healthier for morale.” One was more candid about their compensation: “The pay can feel like more than I’m worth; then some days there’s not enough money in the world.”
Sticking around in the early going, associates are most likely to say fare-Weil at mid-level. A source felt that a reason for attrition was “because the workload is constant here, we’re very busy.” Historically, this may ring true, but others saw attitudes moving in the right direction: “My stress didn’t go unnoticed from partners, they weren’t apathetic and we’ve made adjustments where possible.” Bringing in additional staff; a renewed emphasis on taking vacation; and improved flexible working policies have all helped rebalance the equation. A newly shortened partnership track – the average nine and a half years reduced to seven and a half – has also slowed departures. “The move was widely considered to be a positive,” we heard, “though it’s probably too early to tell” its full implications. “People now have to make their minds up faster about whether to aim for partnership or not, and it shortens the amount of time you have to prove yourself.”
“My stress didn’t go unnoticed by partners, they weren’t apathetic and we’ve made adjustments where possible.”
Beyond firmwide initial onboarding sessions, juniors commended the group-specific training on offer. In bankruptcy, there’s a tailored “bootcamp crash course of the industry.” A private equity institute was recently rolled out, as was the firm’s new partnership with Columbia Business School; a program is now in place for first and third-years, teaching new business and financial literacy skills. “It’s an environment I can grow in,” one junior said of the firm. "You get the level of prestige that comes with a firm like this while also being able to be in charge of your career.” As well as the opportunity to drive their own practice, juniors also commended Weil’s strong mentorship and support network. “The pastoral elements of working at a law firm are taken very seriously,” they confirmed.
Though happy to use descriptive clichés like “collegial,” Weil juniors were otherwise keen to debunk stereotypes. “This isn’t the classic white shoeNew York, suit every day, no eye contact in the hallways kind of place.” That means collaboration in place of competition: “The quickest way not to do well at Weil is being competitive with your colleagues.” Things are more chill away from the HQ; sources told us “DC is more casual and partners here dress in jeans.” As for senior attorneys getting worked up, we heard the opposite. “They’re willing to help and teach you. It’s really nice to be welcomed with open arms.”
“The quickest way not to do well at Weil is being competitive with your colleagues.”
“There’s a lot of socializing” in New York, “and it’s not just firm-sanctioned events.” Juniors regaled us with tales of group lunches, birthday cupcakes, pizza and beer Fridays and simply “hanging out at local bars.” There are also practice group-specific events like weekly Wednesday dinners in the restructuring group. Smaller offices run their own (slightly less packed) social calendars.
Pro Bono, Diversity & Inclusion
Associates are expected to do 50 hours of pro bono a year, but we heard “there’s never any pushback if you do more. It’s very important to Weil.” Litigious options include asylum and immigration cases, Innocence Project collaborations and a coordinated effort with Skadden in New York to run a pro bono clinic. “The firm has recently found more opportunities for us in corporate,” an insider there told us. They gave the examples of “a mom and pop needing LLC certification for their business, or a musician needing support in selling the rights to their songs.” Weil also does pro bono work in its trademark bankruptcy practice.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 51,109
- Average per US attorney: 65.8
As with pro bono, associates felt “there’s a genuine effort” to improve diversity at Weil, “which isn’t fake or phony. They put an emphasis on it.” Firmwide affinity groups include WeilPride, Woman@Weil, AsianAttorneys@Weil and the Black Attorney Affinity Group. A cautious junior pointed out that “associate levels are diverse but senior associates and partnership ranks aren’t, the numbers don’t lie. The firm takes diversity seriously and runs training but it’s an issue across the industry.” Things are moving in the right direction: in the latest round of partnership promotions, 11 out of 16 new appointments were classed as diverse individuals.
Strategy & Future
Looking forward, Weil’s managing partner, Barry Wolf, predicts a steady ship: “We’ll continue to build on the strength of the firm, which ultimately is its balance. We’re not looking to go into different practices or geographic regions. But instead, we’ll look to strengthen the practices core to the firm.” Wolf also notes that key to any firm’s success going forward will be how difference is approached: “It’s a people business and because generations are changing, firms will have to focus on the new associates coming up […] Firms adapting to those changes quickly will win the war for talent.”
“Firms adapting to those changes quickly will win the war for talent.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: Undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: Undisclosed
Weil interviews at 40 law schools and job fairs, and participates in resume collection programs at more than ten additional law schools. Interviews are conducted by members of the firm’s ‘hiring and steering committee’ or an alum of the particular school the OCI is taking place at. “We’re looking to ascertain whether the candidate 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,” our hiring source at the firm tells us.
Top tips for this stage:
“The best interviews tend to be those with a conversational tone. We want candidates to be prepared and ready to discuss their background, unique and informative experiences they’ve had, and motivation for the future, as well as ask questions that exhibit their interest in the industry and our firm in particular.” – Weil hiring source.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: Undisclosed
Callback candidates interview with two partners and two associates. This stage may include a lunch with two additional associates. “Overall, the goal is to get a sense of each candidate, their motivations and their professional interests,” our hiring source tells us. Questions are geared toward gauging candidates’ “readiness to commit to, and qualifications for, a career that is both demanding and rewarding.” There is no one “type” of Weil lawyer our hiring source explains: “We’ve found that both introverts and extroverts can excel at the firm (and in interviews). When people are sincerely interested in a legal career at a top-notch firm, both for the intellectual challenge and the rewards, those interviews generally end up being fantastic.”
Top tips for this stage:
“If you’re a well-rounded, nice person candidate you’ll do great. If you’re prepared and laid back but serious about wanting to be a good lawyer, you’ll do well here.” – a junior associate.
“The most outstanding interviews tend to be with candidates who come in and are comfortable with themselves and their resumes–those that come across as sincere, interested, and engaged.” – Weil hiring source.
Our hiring source tells us that Weil’s summer program “is a good balance of real life, in terms of having a dose of life as a lawyer here, and a great introduction to networking and developing relationships that can last throughout a legal career.” Summer associates do “real work for clients in real-time, 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 in order to shadow their routine on calls and in meetings: “The program gives our participants a good sense of what life will be like as a full-time associate at Weil.”
Most summer associates return as juniors; they are hired into specific practice groups based upon their preferences expressed at the end of the summer associate program.
Top tips for this stage:
“Summer associates succeed most when they do not have preconceived notions about their summer experience. Those who are ‘all-in’; those who proactively explore many areas of the firm by working and interacting with our attorneys; those who become part of a team that shares the common goal of client service and a sense of community.” – our hiring source.
Our hiring source tells us that in the end “talented individuals who want a seat at the table and an opportunity to tackle complex, challenging matters on behalf of world-class companies will find ample opportunities to shine.”
Banking and finance law revealed
Finance is the bedrock of all commerce. We caught up with the experts at Weil to learn about this giant, complex area of law.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
767 Fifth Avenue,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 7
- Worldwide revenue: $1.52 billion
- Partners (US): 194
- Counsel (US): 94
- Associates (US): 513
- Main recruitment contact: Wesley Powell (email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Joshua Amsel, Jackie Cohen
- Diversity officer: Meredith Moore
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 125
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 147 1Ls 11, 2Ls 136
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Boston 5, Dallas 11, Miami 2, New York 112*, Silicon Valley 12*, Washington, DC 6 (* includes candidates splitting offices)
- Summer salary 2020: 1Ls: $3,654
- 2Ls: $3,654
- 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, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Mason, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Lavender Law Job Fair, NEBALSA Job Fair, New York University, Northwestern, Notre Dame, 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, 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 over 10 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 one to three 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 his or her 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
USA Guide, 2020
- Corporate/M&A: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- IT & Outsourcing: Transactions (Band 2)
California: San Francisco, Silicon Valley & Surro
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
- 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 2)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Representation (Band 3)
- 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: High-end Capability (Band 3)
- Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 3)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)