White & Case LLP - The Inside View

Associates here should have “a global mindset because pretty much everything we do is international.”

WHITE & Case never sits still, it seems. Office openings recently brought White & Case's global tally up to 40, a figure which has steadily risen over the past few years. “We don't grow for growth's sake or just because of geography,” exec committee member David Koschik stresses. November 2016 saw the launch of a base in Melbourne, Australia, which was quickly followed by one in Sydney in early 2017. “Again, this was a focused move,” Koschik reiterates. “We were looking to expand throughout Asia and decided to move into Australia with a top notch group, particularly in project finance.” Around two-thirds of the firm's 2,000-plus lawyers are based outside the US.

That still leaves well over 700 attorneys in W&C's six home offices, the bulk of whom are in New York. “We've opened the first new US office in 16 years in Boston [in 2016] because the US markets have been really busy across the board,” says David Koschik. The Big Apple HQ houses most new associates, followed by DC, LA, Miami, and the tech-focused Palo Alto. As you'd expect for a firm with such a glittering global brand, White & Case is a star of the various Chambers directories – search for White & Case on chambersandpartners.com to see all the rankings. In the US, particular strengths include corporate/M&A, litigation, banking, international arbitration and trade, antitrust, and projects. Beyond its reputation and the usual BigLaw benefits, W&C's relatively good-humored culture was a reason associates chose to come here, many told us. A glance at the Chambers Global Top 30 shows White & Case ranked in 5th position among the firms with the most international clout: wherever the firm goes it rubs shoulders with the prestigious 'magic circle'.

The Work



Upon arrival, newbies in New York, DC and LA choose whether they'd like to go into litigation or corporate. Assignment is traditionally overseen by a coordinator. Associates submit time reports that detail their availability, “but it’s mostly relationship-based and anyone can poach me.” Normally people start out as generalists and are placed into work “pools,” before specializing later. “In corporate it's normally for a year and in litigation it's normally about two years as a generalist. It makes you a better lawyer in the long run. If you don't understand what other groups do on a basic level then it will hold you back.” When it's time to choose, corporate associates can join sub-groups including  banking, capital markets, energy, infrastructure, projects & asset finance (EIPAF), and M&A/corporate. Litigators join either the competition (where IP, trade and antitrust reside) or disputes sections, e.g. commercial litigation, arbitration and white-collar.

Litigators explained that “most commercial lit is headed out of New York or LA. DC's a lot of international arbitration award enforcement, white collar crime and antitrust.” New York also does a lot of antitrust in collaboration with DC, and Boston does some too. Typical tasks include “drafting briefs, motions, doing witness interviews, reviewing documents for production and drafting documents at federal, district and appeal levels too.” When it came to doc review, “yeah it's grunt work but it was on a billion dollar trial.” LA residents can also get involved with the dedicated group serving Facebook, run out of that office. “The group is its own thing. It's a really big client so there are a few people here who only work on litigation matters for them.”

“Some people like to micromanage and others let you run with something.”

“There's a decent amount of responsibility,” on the transactional side. While most newbies get involved with drafting, research and doc review, different locations see different work. In Miami, the projects team in the EIPAF group set sources to work on “a lot of bank finance deals from Latin America. The firm generally has a focus in Latin America and typical junior work will be doing the initial draft of credit documents and closing checklists.” In LA, those in M&A explained that “it's segmented into either public or private M&A, with a focus on private equity deals too.” Angelenos were happy to have “drafted purchase agreements, tender documents, proxy statements and other public filings.” However, they gave more measured responses when asked if this was the norm. “Responsibility depends on people's work styles. Some people like to micromanage and others let you run with something.” New Yorkers were the most vocal about their client exposure. “I'm really satisfied with the responsibility because you have a lot of client contact early on. You do the ongoing advisory stuff, because you're expected to know about the whole deal.”

Click here to read White & Case antitrust experts discussing cartels, pharmaceuticals and class actions

Training & Development



After office-specific IT training, newbies assemble in New York for “the new associates' conference. Everyone in the US and Mexico offices goes there for two or three days” of fundamentals tuition. “After you start working, you then have group-specific training around three times a month on things like how to draft a motions or conduct discovery.” Transactional associates have a “biannual M&A bootcamp. We get overviews of credit and purchase agreements that have been marked up and commented on.” Regardless of the practice area, all interviewees felt that “most of the training is informal and on-the-job, which is the most valuable. The formal training could use improvement. The conference is fun and we learn some useful stuff, but it's a weird mix of the basics and then there's a lot on a much higher level which is not important to first-years.”

Annual formal reviews take associates through the conglomerated feedback from all the partners they've worked with. Some felt that “it's fine, it was pretty bland and watered-down because the comments are all merged together so you don't know who says what, which can a be a negative.” Others insisted that “the best feedback is informal, but it depends who you work with. Sometimes people can forget.”

Offices



White & Case's offices are classed into three border-spanning designations: the Americas (which also ties in Mexico City and São Paulo), Asia-Pacific (which now includes Melbourne and Sydney), 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. 

“It's an exciting time because we haven't moved in New York for over 32 years.”

Insiders explained that “New York and London are our co-motherships, but it's still pretty NY-centric.” However, they then qualified that “all of our other offices are established in their own right. We're not comparable to other firms where they operate more like satellites.” Miami sources explained that “NY is obviously the biggest place, but we hold our own here particularly in EIPAF.” Location dictates whether first-years get their own offices straight away. New Yorkers grumbled about their building: “Thank God we're moving in 2017 because this is gross! It's just so old and cramped.” Juniors thought the new location is “super swank.” David Koschik tells us more: “It's an exciting time because we haven't moved in New York for over 32 years. We recently renovated DC and Miami and we moved offices in LA. In New York the new building has common spaces on each floor and client amenity floors.”

Culture



“It's hard to explain the culture,” insiders pondered. “For the most part hierarchy isn't important here. If you disagree with what the partners are saying they want to hear it.” Others went further: “Everyone has a really good sense of humor, there are not a lot of egos and you can even make fun of the partners. Well... it depends who!”

“We're lawyers so we like our happy hours.”

On the social side, “there are lots of married people so we don't go out partying that much.” However, “the firm is trying to get attorneys to socialize a bit more.” Across all locations, the holidays saw the most action, with “summer sailing” in DC “where we hired this boat and ate crab.”  Corporate sources told us about “pizza and beer every other Thursday – we're lawyers so we like our happy hours.” A standout event is the White & Case World Cup. “It's in some European city each year and everyone in the firm is invited to go and either watch or play in this soccer and volleyball tournament between different teams in the firm. The firm even pays for you to fly over to the host city and stay.”

Diversity



A big factor of W&C's culture is the “inherent diversity that comes being a global law firm. Because we pride ourselves in being international, the weight of our offices is outside the US so there are many different walks of life here, which naturally fosters diversity.” Insiders weren't saying that the firm is perfect: “It could be 100 times better and we're definitely not representative of the broader population, but because we have so many foreign lawyers I would say we're more diverse than other firms.”

That's definitely true in terms of ethnic diversity, but “beyond that I'm less confident in other forms. We hire a lot of women, but then it drops off dramatically like other firms.” To remedy this, “the firm has brought in an external leadership coach to help women with business skills like 'being more assertive'.” Other topics include gravitas, political savvy, and networking. “They're making an effort" when it comes to diversity generally. "It's just not that effective yet. But that isn't unique to this firm – it's everywhere.”

Pro Bono



“They're very committed: you have to do at least 20 hours and then you get a plaque. At least 50 people in my office got it this year.” An NY based pro bono coordinator sends firmwide emails to get people involved with various matters. Associates had “done a lot of Her Justice divorce and child custody cases and fact discovery for a big civil rights case.Other tasks included “researching the logistics of setting up a not-for-profit in different countries. Death row appeals in Florida and working out how to protect children who have been trafficked.” Insiders told us “that you pretty much run these cases. You do everything from talking to clients to going to court.” Litigators found it easier to get involved and the skills they honed in pro bono were transferable to their billable work. In corporate, however, “it doesn't translate as easily. Our work is very ebb and flow, so when we are really busy pro bono will get pushed aside.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys:  46,054
  • Average per US attorney:  70

Hours & Compensation



2,000 hours makes you bonus eligible, 200 of which can be pro bono or firm mandated activities. “It's stuff like recruitment or if you write an article,” explained an associate. Operating in lockstep has meant that “the firm has raised the bonus rates, following the market.” While this was generally a cause for celebration, the only bugbear that associates were left with was “what the words 'bonus eligible' actually mean, because in some offices you can be eligible but not get the full bonus. So we've complained to the lawyers' committee to get more clarity and we're waiting to hear back.”

Most worked ten hour days in the office, with a few “leaving at 5am and then coming as usual the next day.” While this is rare, some sources observed that the international nature of their practice could make their diary unpredictable: “It's the flipside to having international clients. There are so many different time zones to deal with. But people do recognize that if you have less sleep you’re less productive. They're really good at letting you go early if you've been constantly working crazy hours.”

Get Hired & Strategy



“Global outlook is a big deal in everything we do because we work in so many different countries.” While the obvious advice was to “get good grades and law review experience,” most interviewees extolled the benefits of “having lived abroad or speaking a language. Don't come in here and just say 'oh yeah I really want to work with international clients' – show you have that perspective by doing something about it.”

David Koschik tells us that “we want larger critical mass in practice areas rather than simply more geographic locations. To do that, much of our focus is on expanding our existing offices. We are very focused on becoming a much larger firm in the US by growing in targeted industries like tech, oil and gas, private equity and financial institutions.”

Interview with executive committee member, David Koschik



Chambers Associate: What have been some of the highlights for the firm over the last 12 months?

David Koschik: We've just completed the first year of our new five year growth strategy. We're in the process of getting organized to grow even more in the US market in particular. We've opened the first new US office in 16 years in Boston because the US markets have been really busy across the board. That opened in April 2016 with an offering in commercial litigation and white collar crime led by Mike Kendall. We've also brought on three IP partners there and are considering more laterals. Whenever we bring on new people, we always look for people who will fit in here and advance our industry and client goals. We don't grow for growth's sake or just because of geography. We went to Boston to further access the legal talent pool that exists there.

The US markets have been busy this year across the board in all practice areas. We're pushing on in corporate/ M&A and have been exceptionally busy in disputes, antitrust and international arbitration. This year in particular, we've been very active in the antitrust space because of our work on the Anthem-Cigna antitrust trial.

CA: Where do you see the firm in 10 years?

DK: We're very focused on being much larger as a firm in the US and we intend to do that in a targeted way. We've promoted a lot of internal candidates to partner this year and have taken on a few more laterals to specifically grow in this way. We want larger critical mass in practice areas rather than simply more geographic locations. To do that, much of our focus is on expanding our existing offices. We are very focused on becoming a much larger firm in the US by growing in targeted industries like tech, oil and gas, private equity and financial institutions.

In the present, we've just moved to a new building in New York. It's an exciting time because we haven't moved in New York for over 32 years. We recently renovated DC and Miami and we moved offices in LA. In New York the new building will have common spaces on each floor and client amenity floors. We take up nine floors of the new building which gives us the same amount of space as the 30+ floor offering that we had in the old space. There's a lot more glass and it's a lot more open so that we can collaborate more. We have even more of a focus on technology that allows folks to work flexibly within the office and remotely, because that's really important to us.

CA: You've just launched new offices in Australia, are there any more plans to look overseas?

DK: Again, this was a focused move.We were looking to expand throughout Asia and decided to move into Australia with a top notch group, particularly in project finance. We have a global reputation in project finance already, we think it's one of the jewels at White and Case. So we were looking to expand that practice and we knew that there were top notch lawyers in this field in Australia. Culturally we fit really well together too.

We don't just think of geography. It's true we are a large firm with many offices around the world. But because of that I don't think that there are any obvious gaps that we need to fill. Having said that, we intend to be at the top in the practice areas that we operate in so that we can provide top services throughout the world to our global clients. We could open in new markets both domestically and internationally. We've just opened in Cairo, for example. But from a strategic standpoint we don't look at our offices and say 'ok we're at 40 now, we should be at 50.' Much of our focus now is expanding out in key practices and industries from existing offices. London and New York are our largest offices and they've grown tremendously. I think that growth will continue too, so that we can reach clients better and continue to make our mark.

CA: Speaking of offices, how do you promote inter-connectivity between the various offerings in different jurisdictions?

DK: It's in our DNA. It's the way we've always worked and have strived to work. We ensure we work that way because our clients need us to practice like that. As we grew over time, we placed a premium on getting to know each other across offices.  So we cross-over with our practices in different locations a lot of the time. It's very common to be working with people from ten to 20 different offices on a single matter. A lot of people do secondments in different offices and you get to work with more people that way. Take our chairman, Hugh Verrier, for example. He's from Canada originally, he went to New York and has practiced in Jakarta, Moscow, Turkey and is now back in New York. And this story isn't unique to him, it happens all over our firm. So we hold ourselves out to clients as truly integrated and because of that we operate seamlessly.

CA: Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for our readers on what they could be doing now to build up their resumes?

DK: On a tangible level, experience abroad or language skills would be good. But it's more than that. We look for people who are going to fit into our culture and have a curiosity about the way things work outside of a particular market or the office they’re working in. Take someone like myself who hasn't worked outside of my home office, but in many respects much of the work I’ve done over the years from New York has been global in nature, Even those who don't work in different jurisdictions, you have to be interested in being part of of a firm where the clients you are dealing with are likely to be from different cultures. Clients come to us  not only for our legal skills but also for an understanding of who they are and how they operate. We understand that we always have to anticipate how the advice we give clients might be interpreted if they are from China, Russia, Uzbekistan or elsewhere. In New York we have a lot of lawyers with language skills, who come from different backgrounds, some may have grown up abroad or have a keen global interest and we want more people like this who can understand what our global clients want and contribute to what we as a firm are trying to achieve.

But, while language skills can be very important and no doubt are a real plus, many of us here don’t have a second language, myself included. We can still represent our clients however, because it's more about your attitude and willingness to understand international needs and issues. So we look for people who have that mindset.

Interview with global recruiting partner, Brenda Dieck



 



Chambers Associate: What is the scope of your recruiting drive?

Brenda Dieck: We have over 100 summer associates joining us across the US in 2017 with the majority in the New York office.  We have summer associate programs in New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.  We've just appointed a hiring partner for our new Boston office, and hope to be running a summer program there in the near future.

This year we've really aligned our approach to recruiting with how we run our business.  We've always taken the view that we are bringing the global resources of the Firm to our clients, and this year I think we have aligned our talent acquisition and development strategy with our “One-Firm” approach. 

The plan is to be more strategic about how we identify the best talent and more coordinated between our offices both domestically and abroad.  We think this will help to diversify our hiring pool and get us in front of exceptional candidates who are interested in working in offices that are not just in close proximity to their law schools.  In fact, we expect that approximately one-third of this year’s summer class will have opportunities during their US summer program to work on deals and cases in one of our non-US offices.

CA: Speaking of diversity, what other methods do you use to encourage diversity in recruiting?

BD: In many ways we are a naturally diverse firm and naturally attract diverse talent because of our global platform.  We operate 40 offices in 28 countries on six continents.  In fact, our lawyers represent 90 nationalities and speak 80 languages.  This depth and breadth of experience and diversity of perspective is vital to our ability to effectively find creative solutions for our global clientele.  This is one of the reasons White & Case receives the top ranking for diversity year after year.

Because diversity is so fundamental to who we are as a firm, we try to look for diversity in all its forms but we can always do better.  We have a 1L diversity program that we expanded this year from just litigation to all practice groups.  We also participate in the SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity) program. This is a summer program for students who have been accepted at law school, but haven't started yet. We host them during the summer before they start law school and integrate them into our US Summer Program. The goal is to develop and support diverse talent and for them to get to know us. The hope is we are then a top choice when they are considering where to start their legal careers. They haven't had the benefit of spending one year at law school yet, so we are careful with the work they are assigned, but the experience is generally the same as our traditional summer program. 

CA: What does the traditional form of the White & Case summer program look like?

BD: We think it's really important that summer associates are exposed to the substantive work that we do and experience what it means to be on a White & Case team.  When you’re on a deal during the summer, you're an integral part of the team doing real work.  Summers will get exposure to all types of practices, but if it's clear from the beginning that you have an interest in a particular practice area, we'll do our best to steer those projects your way. We are global so you may find yourself on a capital markets deal with Sao Palo, a cyber security case in Paris or spending two weeks on a Foreign Corrupt Practice Act investigation in Singapore.  Even our pro bono matters are often uniquely global in scope.  You may find yourself working on a matter that aids the peace process in Sudan or works to prevent the international trafficking of women and children.  There's also always lots of fun in every summer program because we know that inter-personal connections lead to our great culture.

CA: What qualities are you looking for in candidates and is speaking another language a focus for the firm?

BD: Fluency in another language is always a plus, but it’s really the global mindset and interesting life experiences that we are looking for. Sometimes language skills can be evidence of that.  If you think about who we are as a firm, our global clientele trust us with their most complex, cross-border matters.  We are looking for exceptional lawyers who think about the world as integrated and appreciate subtleties of culture, experience and business norms. We need people who are excited to solve cross border legal puzzles. It’s true—we have a lot of people here who speak a lot of languages.  Some of our lawyers regularly use their language skills such as our Latin America capital markets practice in Miami or our international arbitration practice in D.C., but some of our most successful lawyers don't speak any other languages.  So in short, languages are great but what we are really looking for are people that will thrive in our fast-paced, collaborative environment and who have a real interest in being part of something bigger.

CA: What can students do now to increase their chances of successfully navigating the interview process?

BD: We want students who have done well academically and who love the law. Law journal experience is always a plus because we want great writers. Moot court experience is always good because we love people who can advocate. 

CA: Finally, is there anything else you think our readers should know?

BD:  Working at White & Case opens doors to experiences around the world that will help you build your career, wherever it takes you.Whether you begin your career in a large office like New York or a smaller office like Silicon Valley, your White & Case summer experience will introduce you to international, cutting edge legal work.  I began my career in Tokyo and now have a Wall Street finance practice.  One of my associates started in Stockholm, did an LLM at USC and now works in Los Angeles and one of the associates I hired in Los Angeles is now working in the Latin America Capital Markets group in New York.  Careers evolve and transform and we are there to help you become a great lawyer.  Our people are important to us and I hope to continue to make the associate experience even better.

More on getting hired



We asked insiders what people should be doing now to maximise their chances of successfully navigating the interview process at White & Case. “Don't limit yourself to one area of law that you think you might be interested in, because you might realize later on that you're more invested in something else.” Sources also told us that it would be good “to take as many substantive classes at law school as you can, because if you're interviewing in a specific practice area and you can actually talk authoritatively about it, that's really good.” But what to take? “Anyone who wants to be a litigator try and take civil procedure at law school,” suggested newbies. Others extolled the benefits of moot court and law review.

As a firm with a vast global offering, we asked interviewees about the importance of speaking a second, third or even fourth language. “Generally, they like it if you have another language, it's clearly an asset as there are lots of international clients. But it doesn't take precedence over good grades.” Hiring partner, Brenda Dieck confirms this for us. “Fluency in another language is always a plus, but it’s really the global mindset and interesting life experiences that we are looking for. Sometimes language skills can be evidence of that.  If you think about who we are as a firm, our global clientele trust us with their most complex, cross-border matters.  We are looking for exceptional lawyers who think about the world as integrated and appreciate subtleties of culture, experience and business norms." Associates echoed her take on things, “we have a global perspective, so it's good if you have that international exposure by living abroad or something, you don't have to speak another language. But get global exposure, because it's better than just saying 'oh yeah I want to work with international clients.' Actually get that experience.” Dieck concludes by saying we are really looking for are people that will thrive in our fast-paced, collaborative environment and who have a real interest in being part of something bigger.

 

White & Case LLP

1221 Avenue of the Americas,
New York,
NY 10020
Website www.whitecase.com

  • Head office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 6
  • Number of international offices: 34
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,630,800,000
  • Partners (US): 203
  • Associates (US): 450
  • Summer Salary 2016 
  • 1Ls: $3,500/week in LA, NY, SV, DC; $3,346 in MI
  • 2Ls: $3,500/week in LA, NY, SV, DC; $3,346 in MI
  • Post 3Ls: $3,500/week in LA, NY, SV, DC; $3,346 in MI
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
  • Summers 2017: 107 (including 1Ls) 
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 94 offers, 87 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.

Firm profile
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.

Recruitment details
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180k/$174k ($180k in BOS, LA, NY, SV, DC; $174k in MI) • 2nd year: $190k/$180k ($190k in BOS, LA, NY, SV, DC; $180k in MI) • Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
American, Bay Area Diversity, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, 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, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Yale

Summer details
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.