Alston & Bird LLP - The Inside View

Having spread its billion-dollar wings over the country, litigation giant Alston & Bird has long been ready to “compete at the top of the market.”

While the majority of associates are still based at the firm’s Atlanta office, Alston & Bird has come a long way since the early days, with offices all over the US including LA, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Washington, DC and New York, and further afield as far as London, Brussels and Beijing. As managing partner Richard Hays puts it: “We’ve been around for a long time, and have built up a strong culture and strategy to hire excellent people and compete at the top of the market.” What exactly has that looked like over the last few years? “Our overarching goal has been to march to that year to year,” Hays adds, “and we have seen this as we have grown in London and across the West Coast.” Of the associates that aren’t still based in Atlanta, there’s a handful sprinkled across the West Coast in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, with the remainder split between Charlotte, Washington DC and New York.

“Other firms just looked at good grades, but I felt Alston & Bird wanted to know me as a person.”

Alston & Bird’s Atlanta base remains a big part of the identity of the firm, however, and it’s a big part of the draw for newbies: “The firm is known in the area for the work they do. You know they are highly ranked and are big in the fortune area, so it was really a no-brainer!” The Georgia feel was felt to be personable by some, with one interviewee telling us that: “Other firms just looked at good grades, but I felt Alston & Bird wanted to know me as a person.” Of course, you don’t make your way into the billion-dollar revenue club without some serious legal talent in your midst. In the firm’s home state of Georgia, Alston & Bird can boast top-tier Chambers USA nods in antitrust, banking and finance, construction, corporate/M&A,healthcare, labor and employment, litigation (securities and white collar and investigations), real estate and tax. The firm is also recognized US-wide for its work in capital markets, international trade and government contracts, alongside top rankings for its environment work in California and both tax and white-collar crime and government investigations in New York.

Strategy & Future

I could bore you to death with how much we have done recently!” managing partner Richard Hays exclaims when asked about what's been going on at the firm this year. “We have advanced 23 associates to partnership, half of which were women and diverse. We continue to have a strong commitment to growing internally, so a number of those who have advanced joined us in our summer program.” In terms of practice areas, Hays tells us that “we continue to be present in the areas where we see demand and visibility. Corporate, financial services and real estate have been very busy this year. We have seen phenomenal growth in privacy and cybersecurity too, so we will continue to put ourselves in a position to see what's going on.”

An area highlighted both by Hays and the associates we spoke to was the firm’s growth in antitrust. According to Hays: “We have a very deep bench in antitrust. We now have over 20 of our lawyers in leadership roles within the Antitrust Bar Association.” Associates too confirmed that “antitrust is a growth focus for the firm. We have seen both lateral movement and internal hires which is resulting in even more work.” This isn’t just true of the US offices either. The firm recently opened its doors in Brussels, and interviewees stated that “we have heard of interviewing in bulk” there. 

The Work

Most of the firm’s associates were divided up between corporate transactions & securities, finance and financial services, IP and litigation, with the remainder spread between groups like healthcare,environment and real estate. When it came to work assignment, most associates use a free market system: “This means your work is relationship-focused. You will get work from the partners you work with within your group,” one associate explained. Similarly, in finance, “we do have a centralized system where we can get work if it’s slow, or if we have time, but otherwise I get work directly from the partners in my group.” For associates in IP, however, the process is a little different. As one put it: “IP lawyers have a separate process. We have a formal workload every week which is managed by a practice group leader. This works well because it ensures you have a good staffing model with good cases and hours.” Associates in other groups were eager to see their practice group follow a similar format, so “not all the expectation is on associates to reach out.” And the firm have been listening! Litigation is set to also follow suit.

“It would be easier to tell you what they don’t do in litigation!”

The litigation & trial group is home to the majority of the associates on our list. One noted that “the group is one of the biggest and covers many areas such as class action, food & regulatory, IT, white collar & internal investigations and financial litigation. In fact, it would be easier to tell you what they don’t do in litigation!” The group also dabbles in a bit of government work too. Due to the size of the practice, the majority of the teams are based out of Atlanta, but we also heard that there’s plenty of antitrust, FDC, trade agency and border protection work in DC. The breadth of litigious work on offer was part of the draw for newbies at Alston & Bird: “I was interested in the firm because I wanted the access to different subject areas and opportunities to try out the different groups.” On the antitrust side of the coin, associates touched on counsel work and “ranclient matters on my own with their final proofing.” One mentioned that they had handled both client interactions and presentations. There’s international work on offer too: “I’ve done custom advice work for companies across Europe and in China. It is pretty diverse work.” There’s also plenty of your bread-and-butter document review and first drafts of depositions.

Litigation & trialclients: Nokia, The Home Depot, UPS. Represented Microsoft as lead counsel in a merger challenge filed by ten gamers attempting to block its $69 billion proposed acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard.

The finance group at Alston & Bird is split into four main areas of practice: corporate debt; corporate trust, agency & asset servicing; distressed debt; and structured & warehouse finance. As one associate was quick to point out: “Our clients are typically big US banks and trusts.” This means that a lot of the firm’s finance work is based out of the New York office: “A lot of the clients are based here, but we work digitally with the LA, Atlanta, and DC offices, so we aren’t limited to the work in our area,” another clarified. In the day-to-day, a finance associate at Alston & Bird might find themselves “updating changes in deals and contracts, and phoning clients to discuss the changes.” Associates at the firm also spoke about the freedom to “take ownership of negotiating with counsel. So there isn’t much I haven’t had a stab at,” especially when it came to the smaller teams.

Finance clients: Bank of America, Capital One, Clearview Capital. Represented Qatar Airways in its lender capacity in the restructuring of LATAM Airlines.

“I am involved in all of the cases, so my work has meaning!”

The firm’s IP work is split between different areas of focus, but IP litigation makes up the bulk. The remainder is made up of a mix of patent prosecution, tech and privacy: “The range of patent clients is huge. We cover areas like telecom, cellular networks, manufacturers, food and beverage, mechanical, even biotech. Anything you can name for patent litigation, we do!” confirmed one IP associate. Typical tasks for a junior in IP “aren’t just the typical doc review work other junior associates do.” Instead, “I am working up merits of arguments and invalidity for patents. It’s a lot of analysis and managing discovery matters.” Unsurprisingly, sources praised the responsibility level in the group: “I am involved in all of the cases, so my work has meaning!

IP litigation clients: Nokia, Honeywell International, Toyota Motor Corporation. Acted as lead counsel for Ericsson in an international licensing dispute against Apple.

Pro Bono

A big factor that attracted me to Alston & Bird was their commitment to pro bono,” enthused one associate. Newbies can get their hands on immigration, social justice, landlord and tenant and local justice projects near their particular office. “I have got involved with a lot of landlord-tenant disputes,” one added, “there has been a spike in these cases as a result of the pandemic, and now many are facing eviction.” The benefits? “I was able to take things I learned during law school and apply it practically,” another was quick to point out. “I wouldn’t say associates are approached and outwardly encouraged to get involved,” one associate clarified, “but no one would tell you not to do it.” Opportunities are emailed out regularly and the firm’s pro bono partner can be contacted to discuss potential work.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 56,272
  • Average per (US) attorney: 65

Career Development

Newbies told us that a big part of career development at the firm comes down to the relationships between mentors and mentees. The firm has a formal mentorship programme where juniors are paired with associate and partner mentors. In their fourth year, these mentors are then switched out for a career coach. “There are allocated slots where you and your mentor evaluate yourself, receive evaluations from the people you work with, and you set goals for the next year.” Others found informal mentorship just as valuable: “The people you work with naturally gravitate towards you and you get informal mentoring from all levels.” As a general rule, “you never hear a ‘no’. I’m supported day to day by my team.” Some even found developmental support from the diversity mentorship programme (a product of the firm’s affinity groups). “I take full advantage of this opportunity. It’s helpful spending time with people similar to you and hearing their advice,” praised one interviewee. Specific practice group training sessions were also mentioned.

“Because the firm is so renowned, I know that doors will open for me.”

For some, all roads at Alston & Bird lead to partnership. When we asked about the path to partnership at the firm, sources confirmed “there is a very clear career path.” The partnership process begins in the fifth year, when associates register their interest in a particular practice group. This kick-starts a two-year process where junior associates are then monitored on their work and assessed on their partnership skills. While not all our interviewees saw themselves staying on through to partnership, they were happy with the benefits of the A&B name: “Because the firm is so renowned, I know that doors will open for me. So it makes sense to bed here.


“The first thing you’ll notice about Alston & Bird is our Southern charm!”

The first thing you’ll notice about Alston & Bird is our Southern charm!” boasted one associate (coincidentally, one from one of the firm’s offices down South). In fact, it’s a charm that associates in New York claim has spread its way all over the firm: “You hear about that New York culture, but that’s not what it’s like here. We still have that well-known Southern feel.” A big factor in this, we heard, was the positive relationships associates had built with their co-workers: “We do sophisticated and complex legal work, but at the end of the day, the people are pleasant and enjoy spending time together.” Opportunities for A&B attorneys to get together include happy hours (firm-wide and within teams), a biannual retreat, and weekly firm dinners at the Atlanta office. “There is a lot of cross-office work too. I am working with associates across the US, so our work can come from any region,” added one. This identifiable culture is very deliberate too: “Everyone the firm brings in (even partners) are hired very intentionally. I once met a partner who I thought had been here since summer, but he was a lateral. I was shocked because he was everything you would expect of an Alston & Bird attorney.”

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 target for bonus eligibility

There were mixed reviews surrounding the firm’s 2,000-hour billable target. “As a litigation associate, this target is extremely achievable,” said one source, but on the transactional side, “this year's associates are having a more difficult time, which is entirely market-driven.” Interviewees noted that partners had been “very understanding” of the difficulty of working within the market. The average start and finish time for interviews was 9am-6pm, with the occasional logging back on in the evening. Our survey responses indicated that associates were generally working 46 hours a week (which is under the market average), with bankruptcy/restructuring/ insolvency associates working the highest hours, marking the overall market rise. The cohort was pleased to confirm that the salary and bonus matched the Cravath scale across all offices, yet associates can receive ‘additional kickers’. You receive a 10% bonus bump at 2,200 hours and a 20% bump at 2,500 hours. Sources noted that “the kickers could be slightly higher, as these numbers are extraordinary!” 150 hours of pro bono and DEI initiatives all count towards the overall figure.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In terms of representation at the firm, “we have seen more women coming into partnership which is so encouraging to see!” highlighted one associate. The firm’s recruiting efforts for more diverse classes were praised by sources: “I have seen a lot of the recruiting process during my time here and increasing diversity seems to be at the forefront.” Of course, some noted that representation at the top level hasn’t yet caught up. As one interviewee put it: “They still have a very long way to go. It is very much white male-dominated, which sometimes discourages me from going further. I would like to see the new initiatives come into play.”

The firm’s current crop of associates identified a few areas where the firm is making a real effort. One such example is the firm’s practice group development fund. This is allocated to support those who wish to attend diversity conferences. Internal diversity events are typically centered around the firm’s affinity groups. 50 hours of DEI involvement can also be applied to the billable hour target. Gender-neutral toilets and policies around inclusive language were other ways associates felt the firm had been improving its inclusivity efforts.


Get Hired  

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed  

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed  

Alston & Bird recruits from over 40 law schools and job fairs each year. It also conducts resume collections at 30 schools nationwide. The firm takes a “one-firm approach” to law school recruitment, which Chief Legal Talent Partner, Holly Hawkins Saporito, tells us “permits students to express interest in any of our offices when interviewing.” At each school, the firm will interview between 18 to 40 candidates depending on the number of schedules for which they have registered. Interviews are conducted by teams of “enthusiastic” lawyers – usually one partner and one associate who are alumni of the school.  

Interviews focus on “four key factors – preferred office location, skills and behaviours, integrity and character, and a genuine interest in Alston & Bird” says Hawkins Saporito. Interviewers also note that while they are interested in an interviewee’s practice area interest, they understand that not everyone knows exactly what they want to practice so early in their career. “We do, however, want to make sure that a particular candidate is a good cultural fit, and we want to get to know them as a person” explained Hawkins Saporito.  

Top tips for this stage:  

“Make your office preference clear and show enthusiasm for the firm.” –Chief Legal Talent Partner, Holly Hawkins Saporito. 


Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed  

Each office handles the callback process differently. Some offices conduct interviews over lunch or dinner, others may conduct them in pairs with interviewers. Hawkins Saporito tells us that “however, in each instance, all candidates receive their schedules in advance of their interview.” There is opportunity to meet with a variety of attorneys from various practice groups, levels of seniority and firm committees. 

Hawkins Saporito tells us that the callback “helps us get to know candidates and assist them in learning about the firm and whether they want to begin their career at the firm.” For that reason, the firm ensures they interview candidates with open dialogue and two-way conversations. This is to “encourage them to provide us with examples of their past experiences and achievements.”  

Top tips for this stage:  

“Being prepared and be confident. Come armed with questions for each interviewer. Beyond this, know that our interviewing team wants to get to know “you” behind the resume. Be yourself and do not shy away from sharing adversities you have had to overcome.” Chief Legal Talent Partner, Holly Hawkins Saporito. 

“When I interviewed here I got this feeling that everyone really cared about me and was actually nice. There were no fake interactions.” –a junior associate  

Summer program  

Historically, Alston & Bird has a nine-week summer program that’s designed to “maximise the interaction between summer associates with attorneys and various practice groups,” Hawkins Soporito explains. Some smaller offices hire summer associates to fill specific practice group needs, but all offices encourage “flexilble work assignments and do not require formal rotation.”  The firm also provides “a variety of training opportunities,” including a firmwide retreat in Atlanta, for “team building, hands-on training, presentations, and lots of fun.”  

Almost all summer associates return to the firm as first-year associates, while some decide to pursue a judicial clerkship. During the summer, work is assigned “flexibly based on one’s interests, which allows our summer associates to explore a variety of practice groups during their time with us.” At the end of the program, summer associates flag their practice group preferences, and group-specific offers are subsequently determined with this information in mind.  

Top tips for this stage:  

“I always encourage our summer associates to take advantage of the many opportunities provided by the firm, whether it’s a project in an unfamiliar practice area, coffee with lawyers they haven’t met yet, the opportunity to attend a hearing, deposition, client meeting or negotiation, or a fun social activity.” – a junior associate  

“Remember that while you should enjoy your time with the firm, the summer program is a nine-week mutual interview. Take advantage of doing projects in the various practice groups you are interested in.”Chief Legal Talent Partner, Holly Hawkins Soporito. 

Alston & Bird LLP

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
GA 30309

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
GA 30309

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
GA 30309

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
GA 30309

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
GA 30309

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
GA 30309

Main areas of work
Alston & Bird provides a full range of services to domestic and international clients. Our core practice areas are intellectual property, complex litigation, corporate, and tax, with national industry focuses in health care, privacy and data security, financial services, and public policy, among others.

Firm profile
Founded in 1893, Alston & Bird is a leading national AmLaw 50 firm with over 900 attorneys in 12 major markets worldwide. Counseling clients from what was initially a local context quickly expanded to regional, then national levels and now spans a global economic environment. Alston & Bird has overlaid its broad range of legal skills and business knowledge with a commitment to innovation and technology. The firm has been ranked on Fortune magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list for 25 consecutive years, an unprecedented accomplishment among law firms in the United States. This recognition speaks to the culture of the firm and the environment in which we practice law and provide service to clients. . Alston & Bird is consistently recognized for unparalleled leadership in client service as part of the BTI Client Service A-Team, a survey based on direct, unprompted feedback from hundreds of corporate counsel.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
American, Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Howard, Loyola – LA, Mercer, NCCU, NYU, North Carolina, Santa Clara, SMU, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, UC Berkeley, UC Law San Francisco, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington and Lee, Wash U

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Boston College/Boston University New York Recruitment Program, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Interview Program, NEBLSA Job Fair, Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair (SEMJF), Sunbelt Diversity Recruitment Program

Summer associate profile:
Our lawyers have diverse backgrounds as well as varied social, cultural, civic, and educational interests and our summer associates are no exception. We value hard work, scholastic excellence and strong interpersonal skills.

Summer program components:
Our summer program provides students with substantive work for real clients, hands-on training opportunities, lawyer pairings to help foster relationships, and a firm-wide retreat in Atlanta. Summer associates work closely with their mentors to identify projects from our database that will allow for an authentic experience based on their legal interests. In addition to formal training programs, we offer opportunities to attend depositions, client meetings, hearings, and other hands-on learning experiences. Associate contacts ensure that summer associates have plenty of fun social interactions with attorneys throughout the summer.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: alston-&-bird-llp
Twitter: @AlstonBirdLLP
Facebook: Alston-Bird-LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 5)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Mainly Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Insurance (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Tax: State & Local (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: RMBS (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: Trustee Counsel (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 4)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Compliance) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Litigation) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 4)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 2)
    • Government Contracts: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Customs (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 2)
    • Occupational Safety and Health (Band 3)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 5)
    • REITs (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 2)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)

More from Alston & Bird:

WATCH: More about the firm's summer program

WATCH: More about the firm's hiring process