Alston & Bird LLP - The Inside View

Pop the fizz! Atlantan firm Alston & Bird has flown into the billion-dollar revenue club and is brimming with expertise in healthcare, antitrust, international trade, capital markets and more.

1893 was a big year for two Atlantan institutions: while one-year-old Coca-Cola was completing its incorporation and being sold nationwide outside of Atlanta for the first time, law firms Alston, Miller & Gaines and Jones, Bird and Howell were merging to create Alston & Bird. Over a century later, not only would Coca-Cola become a key client for the firm, but Alston & Bird would also grow significantly with three mergers and one acquisition. These (not so) little birdies are now experts with a “strong industry and sector focus” bubbling in finance, private equity and healthcare. The firm is also “increasingly competitive in areas of advantage right now like financial services, fintech, and regulatory healthcare.”

NEW: Find out more about lateral recruitment with Alston & Bird here.

Alston & Bird receives over 60 rankings in Chambers USA, receiving nationwide acclaim for its work in securitization capital markets, regulatory financial services, international arbitration, oil & gas litigation, international trade and more. In its home state of Georgia, the firm rakes in a whole host of top-tier rankings including construction, antitrust, regulatory finance, bankruptcy/restructuring, corporate/M&A, healthcare, labor & employment, general commercial litigation, securities litigation, white-collar crime, real estate and tax. Phew!

“It’s your career and you own it.”

The opening of a London office in 2019 was a “long time coming – they’re conservative and calculated in their decisions and growth.” This attitude meant that during 2020, the firm “didn’t have to do any salary cuts or lay anyone off.” It’s this attitude that led associates to feel that “the firm absolutely cares about us junior associates. I have absolute confidence that the firm is making choices that are in my interest.” But the firm isn’t making all the decisions: “You have to be super proactive, juggling work and running your own things. It’s your career and you own it.”

Strategy & Future 



Managing partner Richard Hays tells us that 2021 was “unexpectedly busy – we began the year with a lot of momentum.” A number of former US Department of Justice prosecutors were brought in to bolster several practices, alongside 50 shiny new associates to help with the workload. Logistically, Hays tells us that legal assistants and staff are “working back up to that full-time commitment in the office in January,” which gives lawyers “maximum flexibility” as to when they come into the office. Hays appreciates that associate “training and development comes about through in-person communication and dealings.” This means that office working is a “balance everyone is focused on. I don’t think there’s a ‘one size fits all’, so we’re relying heavily on our teams of lawyers to arrive on what works for them.”

The Work 



The litigation & trial group held around a quarter of juniors associates on our list, with another dozen or so in IP litigation. Finance was the second most populated practice area, with the remainder of juniors spread across 14 other groups including financial services & products, securities litigation, construction, and corporate transactions & securities. Incoming juniors can state their practice area preferences after gaining experience during the summer, with some flexibility to switch practices if they change their mind early on. Work assignment has “changed recently for litigation – they’re implementing a new system where you get assigned work by three assigning partners, but things are still coming in organically.” Traditionally, juniors get work via “random emails from partners – you end up forming relationships with people so assignment doesn’t need to be super formal.”

"Scary but amazing!”

In litigation, subgroups “aren’t as segmented as at many other firms.” We heard of juniors dabbling in areas including healthcare, environmental, natural resources, cybersecurity, construction, insurance, international arbitration, ERISA litigation and commercial litigation. Different offices tend to have specializations. For example, New York tackles a lot of commercial litigation – “basically very standard companies suing other companies.”Dallas is known for handling healthcare work, including whistle-blower lawsuits where people accuse hospitals of violating their government contracts. DC handles “all sorts of international trade, economic extensions, government contracts and data privacy work,” often conducting “large investigations into potential violations of economic regulations.” The team also undertakes M&A diligence “to understand whether the target has been compliant with international trade laws.” Juniors were surprised by the level of responsibility: “I thought I was going to come here and just do doc review all the time.” Rather, juniors can be found regularly on client calls – “which is helpful for my learning and development” – drafting statements and motions, preparing other documents like licenses and even taking depositions – “which is scary but amazing!”

Commercial litigation clients: Nokia, UPS, Dell, T-Mobile. Recently defended US Bank against a class action arising from an alleged data breach in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota.

The firm’s financeteam has sub-teams that cater for lenders or borrowers, residential work, corporate trusts, repurchase transactions and commercial lending. Commercial lending is the biggest area in the Charlotte office, with the team covering “loan originations on the lender side for real estate acquisitions. We do a mix of commercial real estate, finance deals, and servicing work for banks and their trusts.” In the New York office, associates covered “repossession, asset-based lending, and distressed debt trading.” Meanwhile, over in the corporate trusts team, associates worked on a “whole lot of mortgage-backed securities, CLOs and CDOs, working for basically every major financial institution.” The deals coming through “aren’t necessarily huge – my biggest deal has been $60 million and on average around $10-20 million.”

“They get you up to speed pretty quickly here.”

Juniors in finance tend to work on many deals at once, with each lasting a couple of months. Typical tasks include running “large-scale due diligence projects and grinding through docs and pulling things out to answer the client questions.” On bigger deals, juniors input comments, review documents, and conduct phone calls. On smaller deals, juniors get to “run the deal basically from start to finish.” This includes juniors reviewing initial document drafts put together by paralegals, and “running calls, checklists, revisions to documents, and closings. They get you up to speed pretty quickly here, then partners check over everything.”

Finance clients: Capital One, The Home Depot, Catchmark Timber Trust. Recently represented Duke Realty as a borrower in a $1.2 billion revolver loan, and represented Wells Fargo in an $800 million senior credit facility for a public real estate investment trust.

Pro Bono



Alston allows its attorneys to count 150 hours of pro bono work towards their annual target. “They do a good job of giving pro bono opportunities that fit with your schedule” – something valued by transactional associates especially. We heard of associates doing pro bono in immigration and asylum, domestic violence, child custody and homelessness. There’s also a lot of work with veterans on “upgrading to honorable discharges – you learn a lot of different skills on that and get a different change of pace.” Folks in the Charlotte office mentioned working with a charity called The Relatives which helps young people expunge their criminal records. Partners also push pro bono: “They want us all to be doing it and to treat it like any other client. My partner follows up on my cases regularly and it’s important to everyone in my group.”

Pro bono hours:

  • For all US attorneys: 48,447
  • Average per US attorney: 61

Culture 



“First of all, they don’t like jerks. I haven’t seen any jerks at all.” We heard that folks here are “friendly with almost no exceptions. The relationships between associates and more senior attorneys are fairly casual; everyone is treated as an equal.” Being headed up in Atlanta undoubtedly gives the firm a different flavor – but one interviewee felt that “we’re even nicer than other firms in Atlanta. We’re a step above.” This was exemplified by little things like “when it’s a person's birthday or someone gets married, people give gifts and cards of their own volition. You don’t find that a lot in BigLaw.” Wellbeing is also emphasized, with colleagues being “very open – whenever you’re down, the team has your back. There’s a camaraderie here.” Though a word of caution – “this is still BigLaw. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s not going to be demanding.”

“We’re even nicer than other firms in Atlanta.”

Most offices are steadily returning to office working some days a week. The Atlanta HQ “provides snacks – free breakfast, coffee, snacks in the afternoon. It shows they want to look after us.” We heard that DC is a “tight-knit group. Different teams sit together and learn about everyone’s work. You get to know everyone on a personal level too.” The Charlotte office is in a “booming place that’s coming up in the world. There aren’t quite the same bells and whistles you might find at the Atlanta or New York offices, but they’ve started to step it up.”New York is returning to the office more slowly than other places – “people are more cautious but still like to get together and connect on a personal level.” The smaller offices may “feel a little away from center of the action,” but the level of work coming through the door makes sure associates “don’t feel like you’re on the outside.”

Career Development 



“Alston is committed to helping others succeed and partners are keen to make sure I get the skills I need to develop.” Interviewees were pleased to find “they genuinely care about people and invest in them long-term.” Sources admitted that “it’s not the most structured learning environment,” but they emphasized that “there’s a lot of learning on the go.” There are also mentors that help – junior associates get assigned a mentor both inside and outside their group – “though with Covid, it’s been hard to stay in touch.”

"They told me they never hire anyone unless they plan to partner them eventually."

Associate interviewees were open about the partnership track – “when I interviewed, they told me they never hire anyone unless they plan to partner them eventually. So that’s the expectation.” With the firm’s delay to match Cravath salaries, interviewees noticed that the firm lost a number of associates. However, we also heard that that firm usually has a good track record with retention: “There are a lot of people that have been here their entire career.”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 2,000 hours for bonus

Alston bumped their salaries to match market in early 2021 – “it was a big deal as there was a delay in matching other firms. We lost some associates during the wait.” However, most were now satisfied with the revised compensation – “the only thing is they’ve not been super clear on the new bonus. They’ve said we’ll get more than we used to get, which is good enough for me.” We were told that associates who have a minimum of 2,000 billable hours, which may include up to 150 approved legal pro bono hours in the twelve months prior to December 31 of the calendar year, shall be eligible for a bonus.  A special discretionary bonus is available to associates who devote 'a meaningful number of non-billable hours significantly in excess of the standard expected of all attorneys. One source also mentioned that “you don’t have to go for the bonus if you don’t want to. I’d rather work fewer hours and have a better quality of life.” The bonus threshold is prorated for anyone who takes parental leave.

"I didn’t come here for the money.”

“The whole bumping of the salary in one way is exciting, but in some ways it scares me a little.” Some people found Alston’s move to market salary foreboding: “I hope we don’t lose our good work-life balance. I get that they want to be seen as one of the top firms, but I didn’t come here for the money.” In our survey of associates, the average junior associate had billed 59 hours in the previous week. We heard that “about 9am-9pm is a reasonable day but it can sometimes go further.” When the going gets tough and associates are “working past 11pm too many times in a row” sources appreciated that “partners ask how they can help you to stop burnout.” However, many associates were open that “last year was crazier than ever and it’s not slowing down, but at least it’s very good job security...”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 



Interviewees felt “the firm is working hard at creating an equal partnership.” Gender representation was highlighted many times, with more than half of partners made up in 2021 being women. We also heard that support for parents at the firm is “absolutely awesome – they have a lot of different resources.” However, interviewees found that “the firm’s hiring could do better in racial diversity.” Diverse associates have an annual meeting with the diversity committee heads so they can “check in on how you’re doing.” Diversity committees also put on events, though some felt they don’t always hit the mark. “There are many good sentiments here, but sometimes they need some work.”

Get Hired



LATERAL RECRUITMENT: Find out more about lateral opportunities with Alston & Bird here

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: not disclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: not disclosed

Alston & Bird recruits from nearly 40 law schools and job fairs each year. It also conducts resume collections at 25 schools nationwide. The firm takes a “one-firm approach” to law school recruitment, which Chief Legal Talent Partner, Liz Price, tells us means “that students may express an interest in any of our offices regardless of the office(s) represented by our interviewers.” At each school, the firm will interview between 18 and 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 “three key factors – desired office location, disposition, and a genuine interest in our firm,” says Price. 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.

Top tips for this stage:

“Make eye contact with your interviewers and be intentional about your responses. Relax and be yourself. We want to get to know you, not a fake version of you.” – Chief Legal Talent Partner, Liz Price

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: not disclosed

Each office handles the callback process uniquely. Some offices conduct interviews over lunch or dinner, others may conduct them in pairs. Price tells us that “in each instance, however, candidates meet with a combination of partners and associates from various practice groups, levels of seniority, and committees.” All candidates see their schedules in advance of the interview.

Price tell us that the callback isn’t “only for us to get to know the candidate, but also for the candidate to learn enough about us to decide whether to start their career with the firm.” For that reason, the firm ensures they interview candidates in a way that “encourages open dialogue and two-way conversations. To achieve this, we ask open-ended questions that allow candidates to provide us with examples of past experiences and achievements.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Being prepared, showing enthusiasm for the firm and being genuine are critically important to our lawyers.” – Chief Legal Talent Partner, Liz Price

“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 “allow students to maximize their exposure to our lawyers and our various practice areas,” Price explains. Some smaller offices hire summer associates to fill specific practice group needs, but all offices encourage “flexibility with work assignments with no formal rotation required.” In response to COVID-19, A&B pivoted to a fully virtual summer program that expanded training opportunities to a firm-wide platform and enabled summer associates to engage and collaborate across offices.  The firm looks forward to being able to resume hosting  its traditional summer associate firm-wide meeting in Atlanta, known for “teambuilding, hands-on training, presentations and plenty 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

“We want to hire people who are committed to maintaining our culture of collegiality, good humor, excellent legal skills, open communication and genuine respect for each other.” – Chief Legal Talent Partner, Liz Price

Alston & Bird LLP

One Atlantic Center,
1201 West Peachtree Street,
Atlanta,
GA 30309

  • Head Office: Atlanta, GA
  • Number of domestic offices: 10
  • Number of international offices: 3
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,023,935,000
  • Partners (US): 359
  • Associates (US): 382
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Erin L. Springer (erin.springer@alston.com)
  • Hiring Partner: Elizabeth A. Price
  • Diversity officer: Angela Payne James
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 53
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 13, 2Ls: 54
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Atlanta (ATL): 29, Charlotte (CLT): 6, Dallas (DAL): 5, Los Angeles (LAX): 8, New York (NYC): 10, Raleigh (RTA): 1, San Francisco (SFO): 2, Silicon Valley (SVA): 1, Washington, DC (WDC): 5 Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $4,135/week 2Ls: $4,135/week
  • Split summers offered? Yes, first half required
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

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.

Firm profile
Founded in 1893, Alston & Bird is a leading national AmLaw 100 firm. 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. Alston & Bird has been ranked on Fortune magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list for 23 consecutive years, an unprecedented accomplishment among law firms in the United States. The recognition speaks to the culture of the firm and the environment in which we practice law and provide service to clients. Alston & Bird has been consistently recognized by the BTI Consulting Group as a US law firm providing superior client service. Eight Alston & Bird attorneys have been named 2021 ‘Client Service All-Stars.’ Now in its 20th year of publication, the BTI Client Service All-Stars relies on in-depth interviews with approximately 350 corporate counsel at companies earning at least $700 million in annual revenue and spanning more than 15 industries.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
American, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Howard, Loyola – LA, Mercer, NYU, North Carolina, Santa Clara, SMU, Stanford, Texas, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington & Lee

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Interview Program, NEBLSA Job Fair, PracticePro Diversity Job Fair, Sonoran Desert Consortium, 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. 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 interactions with attorneys throughout the summer.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.alston.com/en/careers
Linkedin: alston-&-bird-llp
Twitter: @AlstonBirdLLP
Facebook: Alston-Bird-LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • 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 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Mainly Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • 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)
    • 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: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
    • Tax: State & Local (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: RMBS (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: Trustee Counsel (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • 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: Enforcement Spotlight Table
    • 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)
    • Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • REITs (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 2)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)

More about Alston & Bird's summer program:

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