Grab your atlas, because megafirm White & Case is on the hunt for intrepid, worldly associates.
WITH almost 40 “well-integrated” offices worldwide, White & Case offers junior associates the opportunity to get involved in some seriously far-reaching matters. The firm's latest office addition (at the time of writing) is in Seoul, which opened in August 2015 to bolster its 20-year-old Korea practice.
Around two-thirds of White & Case's 2,000 lawyers are based outside of the firm's five US offices. Unsurprisingly, it tends to attract candidates whose appetite for the practice of law is matched only by their interest in market developments around the globe. No one typifies W&C lawyers' worldly wisdom better than chairman Hugh Verrier. Executive committee member David Koschik tells us: “Hugh Verrier has worked for White & Case in three different continents, and it's a career path that many others have shared. There are a lot of opportunities to travel and work abroad for those who are interested.”
"Done a great job.”
Stateside there's also plenty of encouraging news, as White & Case has spent the past year making efforts to improve the associate experience. “There was sense that associates weren't as happy as they could have been, and mid-level retention wasn't looking so good,” regaled one interviewee. “The firm responded by establishing a 'great workplace taskforce', which, though it sounds corny, has done a great job.”
Powerful across the board, White & Case secures top rankings nationally in Chambers USA for corporate/M&A, international arbitration, and projects, but is also strong in areas such as banking, capital markets, litigation, antitrust, and energy. Search for White & Case on chambersandpartners.com and peruse the various global rankings directories (including Chambers USA) at your leisure.
Upon arrival, newbies in New York, DC and LA choose whether they'd like to go into litigation or corporate. They then head to their respective assignment pools, which are headed by an administrator. It's their job to collect assignments from various subgroups, to ensure that starters get a good mix. Administrators were rated as “really proactive, and keen to find out what you're interested in.” Crucially, “saying 'thanks but no thanks' is much less intimidating when you can do it through your coordinator.”
Though a popular system, “those who know where they want to practice will have to be patient. You are expected to try out at least one assignment with every subgroup before specializing.” Generally speaking, after their first or second year in the corporate pool, associates in NY and LA join one of the corporate sections. Depending on the office, the sections include banking, capital markets, energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance (EIPAF), and M&A/corporate. Litigation pool members join either the competition (where IP, trade and antitrust reside) or disputes sections, eg commercial litigation, arbitration and white-collar, after one or two years depending on their home office. In DC, all new associates are placed in the litigation pool, but there is an option to join one of the corporate groups after their first year. In Miami, corporate associates are assigned to a practice group upon their arrival and litigators remain in the pool for one year. Palo Alto is a smaller setup, so juniors there are assigned to a practice group from the get-go.
“On many deals it's just you and a partner, so it's easy to ask questions.”
To begin with, litigators “stick to the simple stuff,” occupying their time with a mix of memo writing, legal research, brief writing and “some occasional doc review.” Once rookies have proven their worth, they're afforded “a big jump in responsibility.” This not only results in advocacy opportunities –“I argued two appeals in the state appellate court” – but also paves the way for a step-up in managerial responsibility, “supervising first-level reviewers, managing databases of people and working with the partner to handle production decisions.”
Corporate associates are exposed to clients from an early stage, which “forces you to ensure you know the particularities of the deal inside out so that you can think on your feet, talk clients through your thought process and explain various aspects of the deal.” This may sound daunting, but insiders were “impressed with the amount of strategic discussions we're privy to,” as well as the fact that “on many deals it's just you and a partner, so it's easy to ask questions.” Most deals have some international aspect to contend with, though the provenance can depend on which office you're in. As one Angeleno put it, “In LA, our international scope is more Asia-facing, so we don't cover as many European deals as New York or DC.”
Training & Development
After office-specific IT training, newbies assemble in New York for an orientation week. “It explained our business plan, the strengths of our individual offices and the resources that we have at our disposal, which really helped to reinforce exactly what we're about.” A big emphasis is placed on the firm's global credentials, so “even the Mexico City starters come along.” Mixing with different offices so early on is “undoubtedly beneficial, as we all work together regularly.”
“Even the Mexico City starters come along."
From then on, regular CLE sessions were popular amongst juniors, because as one New Yorker pointed out: “They try to make sure they're applicable. It's more 'here's how to write a good brief,' as opposed to 'let's talk over a random esoteric point of law.'” White & Case doesn't have a formal mentorship program, but “if you seek out feedback, people definitely oblige.” In fact, “this works well, as the training you receive is relevant to the work at hand.”
Offices & Culture
The firm's Big Apple HQ houses most new starters, followed by Washington, LA, Miami, and a smaller tech-focused outfit in Palo Alto. White & Case's offices are classed into three border-spanning designations: the Americas (which also ties in Mexico City and São Paulo), Asia, and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa). Practice groups across the Americas offices regularly work hand in hand, though plenty of juniors had worked with European and Asian teams too.
The motive behind these groupings is simple: “We're not just looking to operate in individual markets on a local basis,” explains executive committee member David Koschik. “Serving clients with multijurisdictional requirements is a big part of what we do, so we place a real premium on connecting and integrating our offices.” Sources corroborated this view, with one recounting: “During interviews I spoke with juniors who had actually visited foreign offices. Having that wealth of opportunity really distinguishes us from other global firms.”
"We place a real premium on connecting and integrating our offices."
Interviewees were highly complementary of the so-called great workplace taskforce’s recent improvements. “They instantly brought in new coffee machines and better snacks,” said a satisfied New Yorker. “They're looking into revamping parental leave policies, and have also introduced upward feedback reviews. If particular partners aren't keeping up with their mentorship responsibilities then it'll be flagged, which is really encouraging.”
NYC callers also felt “heavily involved in the design of our new office,” set to open in the first quarter of 2017. “They took surveys to see what interested us, and having seen the blueprints we're all very excited,” one beamed. “The gym will be on the 50th floor, looking out over the city skyline,” and conveniently “it'll only be five or six blocks from our current location.”
By and large, juniors found the firm “a friendly place to be,” where “you can say what you feel without risk of judgment.” When it comes to social offerings, “it's as busy as you want it to be. A lot of people are married or have families, but you can usually find someone to grab a beer with.” New lawyers are also encouraged to take part in firmwide networking events, with the annual White & Case World Cup particularly popular. Check our Bonus Feature online for more information.
Strategy & Future
2015 brought the closure of W&C's Munich office, inherited from a 2000 merger with Germany's Fedderson. According to David Koschik, “we have offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg which are well equipped to serve our Munich-based clients. We wanted to consolidate and strengthen our presence in those locations.”
"London and New York are crucial."
Last year we reported a New York and London-led push for transatlantic domination. Have other offices been left in the cold? “Not at all,” David Koschik replies. “In fact, we've just recently opened offices in Seoul and Dubai. We're active in so many markets and long may that continue.” That said, “London and New York are crucial, as so many of our clients in other target markets have dealings there. It makes sense to continue strengthening in those two hubs.”
How exactly does the firm aim to do this? “Capital markets, disputes and M&A (including private equity) are the three practices we'd most like to push. We're strong in banking, international arbitration, project finance and many other practices too, but over the coming years we'll be putting the most effort into developing those three areas.”
Of the 2,000 billable hours target, 200 can be earned doing pro bono work, as well as a mix of necessary non-billables such as recruiting, article writing and client development. “Having that many hours to play with proves that for White & Case, pro bono isn't just lip service,” one interviewee commended. “It's difficult to do something meaningful in 20 to 30 hours.”
"For White & Case, pro bono isn't just lip service."
W&C is “pretty open to associates' suggestions,” though a NY-based pro bono coordinator is “always shooting out emails” for those left looking. Whether it's legal research for a same-sex marriage initiative, or arguing in court on criminal appeals, “you can take on as much or as little as you want.” Thankfully there's “always a partner or two on hand to guide you. I've worked on pro bono matters with partners, senior associates and counsel and we function as equals. Bouncing ideas off of one another so freely is a real confidence booster.”
Pro bono hours
"The last two summer classes have been increasingly balanced.”
How have associates rated the firm's efforts to promote diversity over the past 12 months? “Recruitment is really trying,” reflected one associate. “We're an international firm that values languages, so obviously we already attract a mixed bunch, but the last two summer classes have been increasingly balanced.” However, when it comes to retaining diverse mid-levels “there's still plenty to be done.” The upper echelons are “predominately male,” a trend that could be better countered through “more concrete policies when it comes to flex time scheduling.” With any luck the establishment of the 'great workplace taskforce' will help to buck this trend. Encouragingly, in 2015 three female associates were among the eight promoted to partner in the USA. A recent improvement in affinity group activity bodes well, and associates were pleased to have noticed “a lot more diversity events that include everyone, such as talks with high-standing female executives.”
Hours & Compensation
Associates hoped that the firm's morale-boosting turnaround would bring improvements to the vacation booking process. As with flex time, “it'd be helpful to have a more formal set-up in place, as it all feels a little disorganized.” There are no limits to the amount of vacation people can take, which several felt “can actually be limiting. I doubt many people take four weeks off each year.” Once vacation has been approved, “people are respectful and try not to email you.”
"People usually cut you some slack if you've worked crazy hours."
If you don't hit your hours in your first year then “as long as you haven't been hiding there's a good chance you'll make your bonus. Pro bono is a useful stopgap during quiet periods.” With such an international focus, hours vary wildly, so “whereas some days you'll go home at 3pm, some days you don't go home at all.” Fortunately, “the firm is reasonably understanding about working from home,” and “people usually cut you some slack if you've worked crazy hours. I've been allowed a few early finishes to compensate.”
In keeping with White & Case's global outlook, “previous experience in multinational organizations is looked upon favorably, as is fluency in a foreign language,” advises hiring partner Heather McDevitt. In fact, in the firm's 2016 recruitment season, 43% of all US summers spoke at least one foreign language. Clearly practices such as real estate are inherently more domestically focused, so “we would never turn away candidates because they couldn't speak a second language.” However, “if you're looking to go into international arbitration, for example, the ability to speak French or Spanish is more of an imperative.” Mandarin, Russian, Arabic and Portuguese were also flagged as particularly useful, but “we operate globally so any language skills are a bonus.”
"Speaking a foreign language can lead you to new work."
Associates affirmed the importance of language skills, stating “it's definitely something that they ask at interview.” Further down the line “speaking a foreign language can lead you to new work, as partners regularly send emails searching for an associate who can speak Spanish or Hebrew or Russian, etc.”
White & Case's soccer and volleyball galacticos
Boasting five US offices and 34 others across South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, few would dispute White & Case's status as one of the BigLaw league's global powerhouses. With some 2,000 lawyers on the firm's books, two thirds of whom are based outside of the US, maintaining a united sense of identity requires investment, planning and a whole lot of balls. So pull up your socks and dust off those cleats, because as one goal-driven interviewee enthused, “soccer is way more than just a game at White & Case.”
The White & Case World Cup takes place once a year, pitting the firm's finest soccer and volleyball players against one another for the chance to win some serious bragging rights. From Silicon Valley to São Paulo, Stockholm to Seoul, “everyone makes a massive effort to turn up” to the three-day event, which is held in a different location year-on-year. “It's a big deal among the European offices,” explained one interviewee, a preoccupation that has seen constituent offices keen to don the host's armband in recent years. In 2015 it was held in Prague, 2014 was in Budapest and in 2013 Berlin chalked the touchlines. Still, “the US always manages to field a strong team,” and nods also were given to the efforts of White & Case's African and Asian offices.
Such is the growing appeal of the tournament that in 2015, 420 participants from 21 offices partook, with all funds raised donated to SOS Children's Villages. The global charity is one of the firm's pro bono clients, and helps abandoned, destitute and orphaned children to find family-based child care. Berlin (football) and Bratislava (volleyball) may have been the eventual victors, but whether heading home with a winner's medal or sloping off with the wooden spoon, there was plenty to be gained for all involved. Participants are required to cover their own flights, but “once you're there the firm will front the bill for your accommodation and dining.” Stretching over a long weekend, the tournament takes place on the Saturday, and is followed by a joint dinner that evening. “It really helped me to develop an international network within the firm,” beamed one rookie. “You leave having met colleagues of various seniorities from around the world, and it's so much easier to build long-lasting relationships when you've met face-to-face. Try it once and you'll always have easy access to foreign counsel!”
As executive committee member Dave Koschik elaborates: “White & Case has offices in a lot of different locations across the globe, but we're not just looking to operate in individual markets on a local basis. Serving clients with mulijurisdictional requirements is a big part of what we do, so we place a real premium on connecting and integrating our offices. The World Cup is one of many efforts the firm has made to facilitate this.”
White & Case LLP
1155 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 5
- Number of international offices: 34
- Worldwide revenue: $1,523,300,000
- Partners (US): 179
- Associates (US): 387
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: 1Ls: $3,077/week in LA, NY, SV, DC, $2,981/week in MI
- 2Ls: $2,981-$3,077/week
- Post 3Ls: $2,981-$3,077/week
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
- Summers 2016: 100 (including 1Ls)
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 65 offers, 63 acceptances
Main areas of work
Antitrust, asset finance, banking, capital markets, commercial litigation, financial restructuring and insolvency, intellectual property, international arbitration, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, pro bono, project finance, tax, trade and white collar.
White & Case is a global law firm with longstanding offices in the markets that matter today. Our on-the-ground experience, our cross-border integration and our depth of local, US and English-qualified lawyers help our clients work with confidence in any one market or across many. We guide our clients through difficult issues, bringing our insight and judgment to each situation. Our innovative approaches create original solutions to our clients’ most complex domestic and multijurisdictional deals and disputes. By thinking on behalf of our clients every day, we anticipate what they want, provide what they need and build lasting relationships. We do what it takes to help our clients achieve their ambitions.
• Associate salaries: 1st year: up to $180,000 (depending on office)
• 2nd year: up to $190,000 (depending on office)
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
American, Bay Area Diversity, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Florida, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Irvine, Loyola, Loyola Patent Fair, McGill, Miami, Michigan, Mid-Atlantic BLSA, Northeast BLSA, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Penn, Pepperdine, San Francisco IP Job Fair, Stanford, Toronto, Tulane, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington University, Yale
Summer associate profile:
We look for highly motivated individuals with excellent academic credentials, significant personal achievements and a strong commitment to the practice of law in a global and diverse law firm. Fluency in any second language is a plus.
Summer program components:
We pride ourselves on giving summer associates real work for real clients with real deadlines. You will have a full curriculum of training programs in addition to getting hands-on experience working side by side with our lawyers. Our assignment coordinators ensure that you receive exposure to a variety of work that is of interest to you, including pro bono matters. In addition to informal discussions, two formal reviews provide timely and meaningful feedback. Mentors are available to you throughout the summer. One of the highlights is the Summer Associate Conference that takes place in the NY office and provides an opportunity for our US summers to meet each other and learn more about the Firm, our people and our culture.