Mammoth bankruptcy cases spring to mind whenever Weil's mentioned – but they're only one chapter in the firm's story.
THINK Weil, think bankruptcy? Sure, the octogenarian New York native has worked on some of the most colossal and high profile Chapter 11 bankruptcies around – Lehman Brothers, Enron, General Motors – but restructuring work is only a small part of Weil's offering. “We have had our busiest and most profitable year ever in 2016 due to the true balance of our corporate, litigation and restructuring practices,” executive partner Barry Wolf tells us. “We've had three consecutive years of steady and significant growth in profitability leading up to this record year for us.”
"We've had three consecutive years of steady and significant growth."
The firm's corporate and litigation teams house most of its attorneys. Private equity and M&A have been major growth areas over the past 15 years, securing their status as key drivers for the firm. Both practices earn a nod from Chambers USA, along with other areas including bankruptcy (of course), litigation, IP, tax, banking, and media & entertainment. Weil also features as the 22nd most globally impressive firm on the Chambers Global Top 30.
Weil newbies are divided between four practice groups: most join sub-teams within the corporate or litigation department, while tax and business finance/restructuring each take a handful. It's worth noting that Boston only hires into private equity, that most first-years in Washington, DC slot into the regulatory, antitrust/competition, and white collar litigation groups, and that at the time of our calls all juniors in the Miami office were dedicated to complex, commercial litigation work, although real estate is on offer too.
Generally, associates in larger groups indicate their availability for work in weekly reports, while those in smaller teams often work with one or two partners who dole out work. Many associates get work through a mix of the formal and informal methods.
Corporate is divided into subgroups such private equity, M&A, banking & finance, capital markets, technology & IP transactions, structured finance, and real estate. Private equity and M&A absorb the largest number of associates; interviewees in these groups had typically started out tackling both private equity and M&A matters before gravitating toward one or the other with sources working on public mergers, private equity acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, oil and gas acquisitions, and bankruptcy asset sales.
“Negotiations fall to you.”
Due diligence largely falls into the lap of first-years: “Although it's not the most intellectually stimulating work, at least it's important to the deal.” In Dallas and Boston, first-years take on sole responsibility for non-disclosure agreements. “You can ask questions of people but all the interaction with the client and negotiations fall to you. I liked having that responsibility early on as you can't always get involved in a deal right away,” one junior told us. Firmwide, second-year sources had drafted operating or escrow agreements and commercial contracts, “subject to someone more senior commenting on them” they noted, with some even jumping at the chance to comment on provisions within purchase agreements.
Complex commercial litigation (CCL), securities litigation, antitrust/competition, and employment are just a few of Weil's litigation subgroups. The largest concentration of contentious-inclined juniors can be found in CCL; the catch-all group staffs associates on matters across the different subgroups so juniors can get stuck into the likes of bankruptcy, media, antitrust, and IP-related matters alongside traditional breach of contract claims. “Starting out, I worked on a lot of doc review,” one third-year told us. “I've since been able to draft some motions, done some brief writing and helped create deposition and cross-examination outlines. If you've proved yourself and are willing to raise your hand to take on more substantive work, they're open to giving you something which would be reserved for someone more senior, as the firm is so busy.”
Training & Development
Just as it pays to raise your hand for more substantive work opportunities, so it goes for checking in on your progress. Outside of twice yearly formal reviews, associates told us “it's up to you” to request more than a returned red-line document. “When you're in the middle of a deal and there's tons of work going on, feedback can be overlooked.” One proactive interviewee told us: “I've never been turned away or feel shorted with an answer. Both partners and associates are more than willing to sit down and teach me.”
First-year litigators attend regular classes on topics like “how to do doc review, make privilege calls and draft summary judgment motions,” which all gear up to a third-year trial skills workshop. Meanwhile, deal-doers get a crash-course in M&A and private equity over the first few days. After that they can attend “periodic training” on specific deals or topics, including practice group lunches. Training sessions are often beamed out across the firm's offices from New York.
"We're not at all like the ugly step-sister who doesn't get any attention.”
While sources outside the Big Apple acknowledged that New York was the head honcho of offices, they didn't feel their own outfits were insignificant: those in Silicon Valley, Dallas and Boston emphasized the “home grown” nature of much of the work they handle, while a DC source added: “We get the relaxed atmosphere of a satellite office with the clout of a wider group; we're not at all like the ugly step-sister who doesn't get any attention.” Visit chambers-associate.com to read about the firm's recent office overhauls.
Weil's lack of a billable hours requirement (more on that later) means “we have a focus on collaboration,” one junior thought. “When people have an opportunity to work together, they ask questions. Practically I think people are quite laid back; that's not to say we're aren't formal or serious, but there's not so much of an emphasis on that. They want an environment where people feel comfortable collaborating and formality isn't always helpful in doing that.” Another illustrated: “I feel comfortable offering up suggestions when drafting and people incorporate or comment on them – I'm never just dismissed outright.”
“You can definitely take the initiative for different deals and responsibility and can make your career what you want,” one interviewee told us. “You're not stuck in one place and people are open to offering you new experiences.” Another added: “It's very entrepreneurial. You're motivated to go out, be proactive and shape you're experience. Multiple people have told me to make my Weil experience what I want it to be. Some people are here only for a short time or maybe they transition in-house; Weil has a program where you're able to meet alumni and ask about their career paths.”
“There's not a lot of façade at Weil.”
Of life in the Big Apple office, one New Yorker said: “It's a business and there are a lot of transactions but I think the partners try to put an effort into making it a nicer environment for associates. Each group has a liaison who mediates between the associates and partners. You can go to them with any issues; they're really willing to go to bat for you.” A Dallas-based source found that “our small office promotes face-to-face interaction, so you find less passive aggressive emails and more genuine interaction with people. It's much easier to get a sense of who people are and what they need, which creates a good work environment. There's not a lot of façade at Weil.” In Boston, “everyone is very available at every level, from staff to associates to partners; people care about those around them.” DC has “a young vibe” and “sense of camaraderie” among its associates. Over on the West Coast, Silicon Valley juniors believed their office was “a bit different from the rest of Weil. We have a very relaxed culture- the vast majority of people are always wearing jeans and the environment doesn't require you to dedicate your life outside of work to be a reflection of your time in the office.”
Hours & Compensation
Weil doesn't require its associates to hit a billable target, but everyone we spoke to had their own personal hours goal in mind. Some mentioned 1,800 hours, others 2,000, but we should point out that any unofficial goal can vary between practice groups, and the firm emphasizes to us that there isn't a target at all. For litigators, the “work balance is either fairly busy or extremely busy,” with many pulling between ten and 12 hour days. Corporate attorneys also pointed out the feast or famine nature of their practice: “No hard and fast routine: when we're slow I only work for six hours a day or I might consistently leave between 10pm and midnight for a month. When it's busy I can go weeks working every single day but at least I don't have to be in the office on weekends. I can get it done at home instead.” Another reasoned: “We get paid a lot of money and they require a lot sacrifice from you. It's a constant struggle. I wish I had more free time but I understand the constraints.”
Juniors felt encouraged to use all their annual leave. Longer stints away are your best bet for a clean break from work “as it's easier to haul you off something. If you're gone for two days you're probably still going to be on call and checking your emails.”
Weil associates are required to complete 50 hours of pro bono a year “but most people surpass that and go beyond 100.” Over the past couple of years the firm's had a hand in everything from protecting an elderly cancer victim from abuse and ending indeterminate solitary confinement in California to aiding asylum seekers secure residency in the US and assisting small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs as part of Weil's partnership with a program called 'Start Small. Think Big.'
Sources had tackled a similarly diverse array of matters, from reviewing inmate files as part of the Innocence Project to drafting tax advice and corporate charters for nonprofits. It may not be glamorous work, but interviewees liked the opportunities small pro bono cases bring. One junior found they'd taken the wrong track: “The matter I'm on is more like a large, typical billable case. The substance looked so cool I didn't think about how the opportunities would be limited.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 36,800
- Average per US attorney: 52
“It's an area we could improve,” admitted most of our interviewees, though they did note that gender balance among the lower levels was pretty good. The firm “has placed a big emphasis on targeting diverse students at law schools and hosting functions for law school diversity groups.”
“It made me think a little bit.”
The firm's women's initiatives appeared the most visible to our sources: a Women@Weil task-force monitors issues such as “flextime and the percentage of women pitching to clients. They're very transparent about what's going on in those areas.” Attorneys also attend diversity training sessions. “They had actors come in to mimic situations and ask what we'd do. It's a good way to go about it; most people aren't going to be overtly disrespectful at a large firm but for minor things, like a man constantly talking over a woman – despite holding the same opinion – and then getting credit for her idea, that made me think a little bit,” admitted one male interviewee.
Strategy & Future
A few years ago Weil instituted a major round of layoffs and lowered some partner compensation. Revenues rose slightly in 2014 and 2015. Executive partner Barry Wolf credits “an uptick in restructuring activity” and increased activity in the litigation and corporate practices for a further revenue rise in 2016 – up 8.6% to $1.264 billion.
Looking to the future Wolf expects “continued growth in our public M&A practice – as we have become a destination firm for the C-suite and corporate boards – and more modest growth in private equity, which is already substantial in size. White collar investigations will also become a significant practice for the firm.”
Recruitment tips and advice
What impresses interviewers? Well, it's pretty standard stuff but it is important to nail the basics. First there's the ability to talk about something other than your resume. “Are you more interesting than a piece of paper and can you carry on a conversation so it's not always me asking the questions?” one source told us. “Weil's a personable place,” another added. “We're not going to bring in someone who is socially awkward. That's not to say we don't have people who aren't introverted and bookish, but generally people are sociable.”
Others put stock in the importance of researching the firm and your interviewers. “If you didn't know we went to the same law school, that would be a problem” especially as “it's really easy to find something about me online,” one interviewer stressed. “But don't creepy stalk me,” they quickly added. So keep your thoughts on your interviewer's dodgy 2004 senior prom outfit to yourself (no matter how shocking it was) and perhaps ask about that recent pro bono case they worked on instead.
Several Weil associates were also keen to encourage candidates to make the most of the more informal lunch sessions with first-years. “It's a chance for them to have a candid conversation with an associate but I don't know if they realize how candid it is,” one source informed us. “It's really their opportunity to ask us any questions without fear of being graded but people are still a bit buttoned up. Understandably so,” they conceded. We say go for it: provided you're polite and professional, there's no harm in asking about things like how first-years really spend their time at the firm or what your lunch buddies think of the way Weil runs its junior associate training programs.
Weil's refreshed offices
Weil's New York HQ in the GM Building has recently undergone a “complete overhaul: it's more modern and decorated in slate gray and frosted glass” with “a lot of white marble. It's like an Apple store or semi conductor factory.” The (apparently blinding) new look went over well with our sources but we heard the new layout has left something to be desired; juniors are now expected to share an internal office for a while, until they'll graduate to their own room with a view of the city or Central Park. While several interviewees were eager to inherit their own space early on, office sharing advocates emphasized: “It's valuable for first-years as an easy way to bounce questions off people without having to go to someone higher up.”
Silicon Valley, where everyone gets their own office from day one, also underwent “a bunch of renovations” to create a “very elegant looking space with frosted glass and a lot of natural light.” Elsewhere there have been few changes, though DC associates would certainly like some: “We're in an excellent location but the office isn't at all conducive to interacting with each other; we're a very social bunch but the office is set up like a maze – sometimes I don't see half my department for days.”
Interview with executive partner Barry Wolf
Chambers Associate: Have there been any highlights from the firm's past year you'd like to share with us?
Barry Wolf: We have had our busiest and most profitable year ever in 2016 due to the true balance of our corporate, litigation and restructuring practices. We've had three consecutive years of steady and significant growth in profitably leading up to this record year for us. We've seen an uptick in restructuring activity within our bankruptcy and restructuring practice in 2016 but it really is the strength of all three practices above which has led to the firm's success.
CA: We understand M&A is going to be an area of continued growth for the firm, are there any other practices area that in line for development?
BW: You will see continued growth in our public M&A practice – as we have become a destination firm for the C-suite and corporate boards – and more modest growth in private equity, which is already substantial in size. White collar investigations will also become a significant practice for the firm. Most of this growth in the white collar space will be in the US, particularly in Washington, DC and New York, but we expect to see it all over the globe.
CA: What's the firm's general strategy going forward? Will there be anything new on the horizon?
BW: We'll continue to strengthen the practice areas and the geographies we already have, both organically from our associates becoming partners and from investing in certain areas through lateral hires. This has been our strategic plan for some time and will continue to be so.
CA: What's the relationship between your offices like? New York is your headquarters, is that where all the decisions are made?
BW: No. If you look at our management committee, which makes most of the decisions within the firm, it's made up of people from all over the globe. Of the sixteen people on that committee in 2016, one is from Asia, two from London, one from Germany, one from Paris, one from Silicon Valley and one from Boston – almost half the management committee come from outside New York.
Our firm is balanced by both practice area and geography; about twenty-five percent of our lawyers are in Europe, which has been a steady, profitable part of the business for a number of years.
CA: We read your interview with David J. Parnell in Forbes where you spoke about preparing associates for the future. You mentioned the importance of getting the message across to partners that they need to show their juniors that they care about associate development and training. Let's look at it from the associate side, how would you advise associates to make the best of what you offer?
BW: It's interesting, I'll go to a quote in that article in response to a question he asked me about what advice I would give to myself thirty years ago: just do a great job, always impress people and good things will happen.
I would also say, and I say this to the incoming class each year, in addition to the formal mentoring the firm provides, associates – and I did this too – should actively seek out informal mentors. If you have more mentors you can learn different things from different people. Weil's partners and senior associates are ready, able and willing to be mentors and you should have many mentors in your career.
The other piece of advice I would give people is to be passionate about what they're doing, to give back to the communities in which we work and to lead a balanced life. We encourage people to be outstanding corporate citizens and promote that at the firm level through our commitment to pro bono and a host of other community service and philanthropic endeavors. And associates also need to have and pursue interests outside of the practice of law; that's something which makes for well-rounded, healthy, motivated and passionate associates.
CA: Is there anything else you think students should know about the firm?
BW: Since the day I arrived here Weil has been an entrepreneurial firm based upon meritocracy. What that means for associates is that there's no rigid timetable for when they can advance in the type of work they handle. They're given responsibility as soon as they show they can do it; if I was a young associate or law student that would be important to me. You can advance at your own pace, not along some predetermined and rigid time-line.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
767 Fifth Avenue,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 11
- Worldwide revenue: $1.264 billion
- Partners (US): 198
- Associates (US): 517
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: $3,462 /week
- 2Ls: $3,462/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,077/week
- 1Ls hired? Case by case
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case
- Summer 2017: 136 (including 1Ls)
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 82 offers, 69 acceptances (excluding 1Ls & Judicial Clerks)
Main areas of work
The firm offers legal counsel in more than two dozen practices areas categorized by the following groups: business finance and restructuring, corporate, litigation and tax.
Founded in 1931, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP has been a preeminent provider of legal services for more than 80 years. With approximately 1,100 lawyers in offices on three continents, Weil has been a pioneer in establishing a geographic footprint that has allowed the Firm to partner with clients wherever they do business. The Firm’s four departments, Corporate, Litigation, Business Finance & Restructuring, and Tax, Executive Compensation & Benefits, and more than two dozen practice groups are consistently recognized as leaders in their respective fields. Weil has become a highly visible leader among major law firms for its innovative diversity and pro bono initiatives, the product of a comprehensive and long-term commitment which has ingrained these values into our culture. Our proven, demonstrated experience allows the Firm to provide clients with unmatched legal services. Please see www.weil.com for more information, including awards and rankings.
• Number of 1st year associates: 84
• Number of 2nd year associates: 70
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
Weil has a diversified approach to its recruiting process. Firm-wide, Weil interviews at over 45 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.