Alston & Bird LLP - The Inside View

This Atlantan soars in the BigLaw market when it comes to IP, litigation, healthcare and antitrust matters especially.

 

They say birds of a feather flock together, and, in this case, they head up international law firms together. Yes, Atlanta has two brothers who both became lawyers and rose up the ranks of BigLaw to chair two of the city’s top law firms. Brother one is Robert Hays, who’s in charge of King & Spalding, while brother two is Richard Hays, and he sits atop Alston & Bird. Both firms come out on top in Atlanta for areas like healthcare, corporate/M&A, real estate and tax, but where Alston stands out in comparison is in its IP, white-collar crime & government investigations, labor & employment and – by a pinch – its premier antitrust expertise.

The Atlanta office remains A&B’s largest base. It’s also the location where A&B earns most of its state-specific accolades in Chambers USA, although the firm does pick up a collection of nationwide nods too, in areas like IP, international trade and financial services regulation. Beyond Atlanta, A&B also spreads its wings across eight other domestic locations, as well as three overseas posts in Beijing, Brussels and London. The firm welcomed a new addition to its flock in September 2020, when it opened another Texas office in Fort Worth following the acquisition of five lawyers from Thompson & Knight. The strategy here is to expand the firm’s energy offering on both the regulatory and transactional fronts. The Atlanta office has also added to its ranks of late: A&B has recently grown its litigation team by welcoming Keith Blackwell, former justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, and welcoming back former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Byung J. Pak.

Antitrust and IP were attractive areas for our associate interviewees, who were also drawn to the firm because of its “reputation, sophistication of work and sense of community,” as this source eloquently expressed. “I’ve just always seen A&B as the major firm in Atlanta,” concluded another. Atlanta housed the most associates on our list, but other populous offices included Charlotte, DC and New York. Juniors were also based in LA, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Dallas.

The Work 



The litigation & trial group scooped up many juniors, as did A&B’s IP practice in its various forms (IP litigation, as well as patent and trademark subgroups). Other well-represented practices on our list were finance, financial services & products, healthcare, and corporate transactions & securities. Incoming juniors can state their practice area preferences after gaining experience during the summer. We also heard that there’s some flexibility to switch practice areas if an associate changes their mind early on. Work assignment across the departments follows a “hybrid” system, as described by this helpful source: “Associates indicate their availability on a weekly basis online, which in a way serves the function of a coordinator. Partners then see who has capacity to help and they’ll reach out to the associates.” Juniors also told us that they can reach out to partners if they’re interested in particular types of matter: “We’re definitely encouraged to reach out, especially if we’re slow to build those bridges with partners.”

Alston goes all out when it comes to litigation. Subgroups here include securities litigation; environment land use and natural resources; cybersecurity; international arbitration; financial restructuring team; ERISA litigation; and litigation & trial. The latter, which is essentially commercial litigation, reportedly pulls out all the stops when it comes to “export control and economic sanctions cases, antitrust compliance matters, discovery work, and broader trials and appeals [on the defense side.] Offices do have their individual specialties too. DC, for example, is the group’s nexus for government matters, while the Dallas base handles healthcare matters frequently. “We’ve now brought on a pretty active oil and gas team, consisting of three partners and four associates, and they’re based out of Fort Worth,”another Dallas source informed us. Juniors can expect to “draft several motions, occasionally participate in depositions, liaise with local counsel to arrange witness investigations, and – depending on the matter size – have a lot of client contact.”

“One of our clients has locations in around 155 countries, and so we’ve only just finished reaching out to all the local counsel!”

Associates over in the environmental land use subgroup told us about their primary focus on “regulatory work and advising clients on agency-related issues, which usually surround federal statutes.”Atlanta handles a lot of litigation related to Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act class actions. The securities group, meanwhile, homes in on everything from merger-related litigation to investigations into securities fraud cases. “We have a really large team of doc reviewers here in Atlanta, so once they’ve done the first review, I handle the management of teams for some investigation productions and the production of documents,” recalled one junior. 

Commercial litigation clients:Dell, UPS, T-Mobile USA. Acts as lead counsel for Microsoft Mobile in a matter involving the recovery of additional costs incurred due to a price-fixing conspiracy connected to the sale of lithium ion batteries.

Alston’s IP wing covers all manner of patent, trademark and copyright matters, as well as other areas like licensing deals. On the trademarks side, one associate explained that they do “a lot of portfolio management for large companies on the prosecution side – these companies usually have a big international network. One of our clients has locations in around 155 countries, and so we’ve only just finished reaching out to all the local counsel!” Interviewees here said that newbies can expect hands-on experience from the beginning, with this source proudly declaring: “I’m about to start my third year and I’ve already argued in court twice by myself.” Over in New York, IP litigators mentioned “there’s a bit of a tilt toward pharmaceutical cases across the office, but there’s also work going on with medical devices and some LED cases.” Associates in this subgroup felt they weren’t given quite as much autonomy: “There’s no way around doc review for juniors, but as you progress, there’s a lot more writing first drafts.” Another source shared that they were able to “do the first draft for a slide deck and outline summary motions before a judge. Of course, there’s also a lot of research to do!”

IP clients:National Geographic, Nokia, Skechers. Won a case for National Geographic against a plaintiff who alleged trademark infringement and demanded over $20 million in damages.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 hours for bonus

Across offices and groups, an average (pre-COVID) day would involve starting by 9am, working in the office until around 6 or 7pm before heading home for dinner and potentially logging on for a few hours more if need be. With the remote working era now in full swing, some associates mentioned how “the working day is more fluid, and sometimes it really just depends on the partners’ schedules. Those with children tend to wake up super early, while others prefer to stay up late. You follow their lead.” In addition, working hour trends can vary by group and office. For example, we heard that people in the DC office “tend not to start very early,” while the same was said about the IP group in Atlanta.

We were told that A&B has remained busy throughout the pandemic, so most interviewees felt that the 1,950-hour billing target was “pretty achievable.” This source explained that “you need to reach that point to be considered for a bonus and maintain good standing.” Additional bonus payouts are given in 100-hour increments above the target. Although our sources were mostly content with compensation, we did pick up some criticism of the comparatively lower base salary in Atlanta and Raleigh: “It’s frustrating. We’re the only offices not being paid on the New York scaledespite working longer hours, whereas Charlotte and Texas meet that standard. The cost of living just doesn’t match up.”

Pro Bono



Alston is a “big advocate of pro bono”and encourages associates to get involved by allocating 150 hours’ billable credit for this work. Juniors were pleased with the firm’s pro bono efforts: “We have an incredibly robust pro bono practice, with a partner in charge who sends out opportunities. The firm works with tons of organizations and the opportunities are endless.” The opportunities did sound plentiful from what our junior sources described. “We’ve worked with the DC Legal Aid Society,” commented one litigator, “which is handling a Medicaid waiver in home healthcare services, plus we’ve been working with clients who have had their benefits cut by the city.” On the IP side, associates had been assisting the Aging in New York Fund by navigating the trademark components of “marketing materials and programs that benefit the elderly population of the city.” We also heard about juniors working on immigration, asylum, domestic abuse, homelessness, and election-related cases.

Pro bono hours:

  • For all US attorneys: 54,245
  • Average per US attorney: 71

Culture 



“Everyone is kind to each other,”noted this source in the Atlanta HQ. “I’ve had a great experience in terms of how I’ve been treated, particularly by partners.” They added that A&B is “a large firm but doesn’t feel like it. As a new associate, they make sure that you are paired up with people who watch out for you and make sure you are doing okay. You’re not just lost in the crowd – they do protect junior associates in that way.” Another Atlantan noted how Alston “has really got that reputation for being the good people in BigLaw – that becomes a self-fulfilling thing as it means the good people want to come here!”

“As a new associate, they make sure that you are paired up with people who watch out for you and make sure you are doing okay.”

Juniors also felt that a sense of “no competition” fosters collaboration and retention. “The seniors are helping the juniors. The female partners are eager to reach out to young female associates to inspire and guide them, so there really is an interest in retaining the talent.” One interviewee highlighted the “official firm discussions regarding the path to partnership, which are a part of our initial orientation and the mid-year associate retreat.”

This atmosphere is further bolstered by weekly socials across all offices. These take place on either a Thursday or Friday and are typically either a happy hour event or an attorney luncheon. “There’s food and drinks, and we unwind a little bit. We talk about matters and our lives, and also do fun seasonal stuff like a pumpkin decorating contest!” Fortunately, these socials have continued in the remote working setup that’s been in place of late: “We’ve also had great virtual events, such as karaoke, trivia nights, and we also raised $50,000 for the Legal Aid Society,” a DC associate reported.

Alston & Bird featured in our US top 20 ranking for its response to the pandemic>

Career Development 



“They’re completely invested in developing associates and make sure we can build a long-term career at the firm,” one associate enthused. Quarterly training programs cover the ins and outs of various practice areas, as well as business development skills. There’s also a more formal mentoring program in place, which pairs each junior up with a partner from their practice group. After their fourth year, associates get promoted to senior associate level; they get a two-day training program (the 'mid-level associate meeting') beforehand to ensure everyone’s up to speed.

If anyone decides to move on elsewhere, we heard the most common exit route tends to be an in-house position: “We have pretty established working relationships with our clients. It’s rare that anyone would leave to go to another law firm.”But, as this DC source explained, A&B ideally hires for the long haul: “I remember when I was being interviewed, the interviewer said to me that if they gave me a job offer, they would want me to stay and make partner. They said they wanted to invest in me and see me thrive.”

Diversity & Inclusion 



“2020 really opened up eyes across the country,” reflected one source in Atlanta. “At the firm we’ve hosted several talks and series to discuss racial injustice and equality.” A colleague in the same office also told us about these talks and was glad to report that “they haven’t just been outward-facing – they've been about the firm evaluating itself.” Associates agreed that there was work to be done on improving racial diversity at A&B, but felt representation of women and LGBT+ lawyers was “pretty solid.” The situation is “certainly getting better,” said a New York junior. “In the past few years that I’ve been here, there has been a number of diverse attorneys entering the firm." In 2020 the firm hired a full-time D&I partner, "and they’ve made strides in this area.”

“2020 really opened up eyes across the country.”

A&B itself and the firm’s diversity committeewere praised for “being supportive of all my endeavors - they’ve paid for my ticket to go to diversity conferences and meet people.”New York’s diversity committee offshoot was also highlighted for holding “informal happy hours, which provide a setting to talk with some of the partners there. The partner in charge of the office also attends – it's nice to have him there as it underscores the importance of the event.”When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, “there are several mindfulness initiatives in place. We have an external expert consultant who comes in and has hosted sessions for those of us who have children. They’ve been useful to help with maintaining balance while we’ve all been stuck at home.”

Strategy & Future 



Associates had felt kept in the loop during the pandemic. Sources reported attending “monthly firm meetings” and “weekly associate calls with practice group leaders,” which provided them with all the latest info on how the firm was doing financially. “It was reassuring to know that if something were to happen [like a salary cut], we would be able to see it coming.”We heard from the firm that financial remained strong through 2020, allowing for the opening of the Fort Worth office even during the midst of the pandemic.

Get Hired



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: $851,601,000
  • Partners (US): 360
  • Associates (US): 350
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Erin L Springer (erin.springer@alston.com)
  • Hiring Partner: Elizabeth A Price
  • Diversity officer: Angela Payne Jame
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 41
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 43
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Atlanta (ATL): 24, Charlotte (CLT): 7, Dallas (DAL): 1, Los Angeles (LAX): 3, New York (NYC): 9, San Francisco (SFO): 2, Washington, DC (WDC): 4
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,650/week 2Ls: $3,650/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 healthcare, 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 22 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. The firm’s recognition in the ‘BTI Client Service A-Team 2021’ results from interviews with approximately 350 corporate counsel at companies earning at least $700 million in annual revenue.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
American, Arizona, Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Howard, Loyola – LA, Mercer, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, SMU, Stanford, Texas, UC Berkeley, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Santa Clara, UNC, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington & Lee

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Atlanta Interview Program (SEMW), Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, BC/BU Job Fair, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Interview Program, NEBLSA Regional Job Fair, Pennsylvania (ATL Program), Southern Legal Interview Program (SLIP), Southeastern IP Job Fair (SIPJF), 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, handson 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 addi¬tion 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, 2021

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)
    • 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 2)
    • 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 3)
    • 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)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
    • 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 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight Table
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Customs (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 5)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • REITs (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)

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