Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP - The Inside View

With a storied history on Wall Street, finance-focused Cadwalader embodies traditional BigLaw in the heart of the Big Apple.

As the oldest firm on Wall Street, Cadwalader’s managing partner Patrick Quinn’s branding of the firm as “the quintessential Wall Street law firm” has real substance to it. Fast forward over 230 years and you’ll find Cadwalader’s kept close to its raison d’etre, continuing to service financial giants, private equity funds, and corporates. “We’ve let that shape who we are,” Quinn states, and one quick look at the firm’s Chambers USA rankings confirms just that. Nationwide, the firm clocks in finance-related acclaim in spades, picking up top awards for its capital markets work involving CLOs, CMBS, and CRE CLOs securitization, and structured products. More locally, the firm garners further praise for its New York bankruptcy/restructuring work, and it’s North Carolina real estate finance practice.

“the quintessential Wall Street law firm.”

Despite its stellar position among the financial elites, the firm remains of relatively modest proportions. With a total headcount of around 450 attorneys across its five global offices, Quinn explains Cadwalader’s been able to “keep an extremely high level of quality as opposed to growth at all costs. Things like creativity and extremely high client service is the mantra here,” he underscores. Of the firm’s 166 associates, you’ll find the majority located in the firm’s New York office, followed by Charlotte, with a handful situated in DC.

Strategy & Future

Quinn tells us the firm has no intention to “expand for expansion's sake.” Instead, Cadwalader is focused on growing in particular areas. “One of the big areas has been private credit,” Quinn explains, which taps into the non-bank lenders and expands from Cadwalader’s typical client slate (“basically every major bank in the world!”) to the post-2008 industry of private credit.

Along with the firm’s more commercially-aligned strategies, Quinn emphasizes that Cadwalader is also focused on speaking to young lawyers and summers about what they want in a law firm, and it’s something the firm is integrating into a raft of changes to many of the firm’s key offices. In late 2020, Cadwalader moved into a “state of the art” office in London, while in 2022 the Charlotte office underwent an upgrade. The DC office moved to a brand-spanking new location in January 2024, and the New York premises is expecting an imminent facelift… “Young lawyers don’t want to be sitting at their desks all day,” Quinn notes of the firm’s efforts to create better collaboration and communal areas. “Just getting a change of scenery is really important to people,” he adds, “so I think these changes are going to be really powerful.”

The Work

Out of all of Cadwalader’s practices, the finance practice held the largest number of juniors on our list, closely followed by the corporate and financial services litigation groups. While summers pick up work from all practices, junior associates “specialize right away.” Each practice has a staffing coordinator who assigns work to newbies: “When you first start, you have a practice development coordinator who you submit your deal sheet to,” one insider explained, “and they see who has availability.” We heard some slight qualms from sources regarding being assigned work “irrespective of specific siloes,” but over time, we heard work was able to be picked up more organically. “Now, I do a lot of repeat work with partners,” one junior explained.

While finance holds the most juniors, it’s Cadwalader’s capital markets practice which stands as its crowning jewel. The group works on matters such as collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and asset-backed securities (ABS). Public issuances, private placements, and high-yield bonds for big banking clients are just a few examples of some of the matters dealt with on the CMBS side. On the CLO side, associates typically work in the middle market, representing underwriters. “We’re working throughout the lifecycle of the deal,” one junior explained, “from warehousing to the CLO takeout, and then with refinances and resets.” From the outset, juniors draft deal documents, where they’re “pretty much managing the documents, keeping track of what needs to go where and who the relevant contacts are.”

Capital markets clients: Apollo Global Securities, Citi, J.P. Morgan. Advised Morgan Stanley as underwriter in a CMBS issued by Freddie Mac, worth approximately $950 million.

“…involving no less than $100 million, and going up to $5 or $6 billion!”

Cadwalader’s finance group covers fund finance, leveraged finance, banking & finance, private credit and real estate finance practices; while some transactions involve crossover, for the most part they tend to operate independently of one another. In fund finance, associates explained the firm works “specifically on the lender side in 99.9% of cases,” with clients typically spanning “any of the big banks and investment banking branches. The deals I’m on are typically on the facility side, involving no less than $100 million, and going up to $5 or $6 billion!” one interviewee explained. We heard that lenders the firm works with generally lend to large PE firms, so matters are “maybe 50-60% international” in scale, or at least have an international component to them. “It’s pretty globally intertwined, so we work with London, but also more commonly with local counsel in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Canada,” another source divulged. Associates here are often tasked with operating closing schedules (“so getting everything finished on a deal”) alongside drafting terms sheets, credit agreements or amendments, and reviewing investor documents. “You’re also negotiating terms with counsel,” said one insider, “So you can get good experience with that negotiating side.”

Financial services clients: BNY Mellon, Kraken. Conceived of and drafted a legislative solution to mitigate risks associated with LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) ceasing in 2023.

Associates we interviewed in the firm’s “well-oiled” real estate finance group were all big fans of the work assignment and levels of responsibility they were receiving in the practice. They explained that the group strikes a balance between having a work coordinator and being able to work in a free market. The work itself generally consists of lender-side matters. “We’re pretty well known for our work with banks,” one associate told us. Examples include JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America (among many others).

“…commercial real estate, hotels, New York skyscrapers…”

On the borrower-side, the group often works in the hospitality industry – “so anything commercial real estate, hotels, New York skyscrapers, and securitization of smaller properties,” an interviewee explained. “We also do construction – that’s something we’re developing expertise on.”  Matters here are often in the “multibillion, or hundreds of millions; we’re not just financing parking lots!” a source quipped. On these cases, juniors’ day-to-day tasks mostly revolve around staying on top of the deal checklist, drafting ancillaries, and reviewing leases.

Real estate finance clients: UBS, Freddie Mac, Barclays. Represented JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Goldman Sachs as lenders in a $1.53 billion securitized mortgage loan related to student housing properties.

Cadwalader’s litigation practice covers antitrust; white-collar; corporate; financial; intellectual property; and compliance. “I think traditionally we’re more focused on compliance in Washington,” one associate divulged, but in reality, “the groups aren’t super defined. As a junior, you’re encouraged to be a generalist so we’re essentially one big group – aside from IP which works a little differently,” they explained. In fact, those who specialise in IP don't typically take on work from the subgroups. As the group often handles litigations arising out of the firm’s deal work, there’s a fair bit of overlap between the transactional and litigious clients, resulting in a pretty diverse array of work for juniors beyond doc review! Deposition prep, attending depositions, helping expert discovery, and assisting with discovery requests are just a few of the tasks that form a junior’s workload. Both the white-collar and compliance subgroups also provide juniors with opportunities to assist conducting interviews: “We’re establishing what we need to complete due diligence, so you really touch everything in due diligence. You’re working on trial prep, cross examination outlines, exhibit lists, and motions.”

Litigation clients: Boston Consulting Group, Janus Henderson, Nationwide Tax Experts. Represented Gramercy Advisors in two lawsuits brought against them by Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL.

Pro Bono

On top of their client billable work, associates can dedicate up to 100 hours of pro bono towards their billable target. “It’s something that comes up during the review process,” one associate commented, “But I don’t think you get in trouble if you don’t do it.” Our interviewees’ involvement in pro bono matters varied, but there were no qualms around the availability of such matters. “As far as DC goes, I’m on a matter with every other first year,” one source disclosed. Over in New York, there are opportunities to get involved in “a lot of immigration work. We also have a big name change clinic so we help out with that every year,” explained a source. Meanwhile in Charlotte, one junior spoke of their involvement with a local group that solicits pro bono work for small businesses in the area.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 4,446
  • Average per US attorney: 13

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 target

Within their 2,000 hour targets, associates can attribute up to 100 hours towards qualified non-billable work, including practice group meetings, trainings, recruiting, writing, and D&I efforts (as well as the aforementioned pro bono). “Most people reach the 100-hour requirement quite easily,” sources explained. As for the remaining 1,900 hours of client billable work, we equally heard no concerns. And for those mega-billers out there: the firm offers a “super bonus” for attorneys who complete 2,200 hours of client billable work.

Across the different practices, associates did note that workload fluctuates quite a bit. “The work comes in phases,” one finance junior explained. “If you’re busy, you’re working no less than eight hours a day, six days a week – then other times you’ll have a two-hour day!” According to our survey responses, Cadwalader associates reported working an average of 50.9 hours per week.

As for in-office requirements, there’s currently no official expectation for juniors to be in-person on Monday or Friday, though one insider noted, “In my experience, every time I’ve needed to work remotely it’s not been an issue.”


Across the board, associates we spoke to were positive about the culture at Cadwalader, from everything from day-to-day interactions with colleagues, to practice and firm-wide events. “I view most of my colleagues as friends,” one associate mused, “and that’s a common feeling.” Of course, “people get stressed when things get a little crazy, but people don’t get heated that often and are pretty relaxed on the whole,” another source reassured.

“People notice if you’re being overworked.”

On the social side, “it’s hard to compare because it’s pretty unique…” an interviewee considered. Practices host your typical happy hours and there are firm-wide holiday parties, but we heard there are also opportunities to let your hair down at “practice parties, and parties at associates’ and partners’ houses. The work culture can be high octane, but people notice if you’re being overworked. The goal isn’t to churn and burn!”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

The firm’s social side is also evident in its DEI efforts. “There are a ton of affinity groups who meet regularly – it’s really open and welcoming.” Among these groups are the firm’s Asian Pacific American Attorney group; the Black & Latino Association; the LGBTQ Network; the Veterans Network; the First Generations Network; the Parents @Cadwalader Affinity Network; and the Women’s Leadership Initiative. That said, one junior did highlight that while the groups “are very active and the community supports each other very strongly, there is still a retention problem” when it comes to diverse attorneys. The firm is making considered efforts to mitigate this though, with a series of diversity talent development programs for second-, fourth-, and sixth-year associates. Seventh-year associates also take part in a sponsorship program where high performing diverse associates are matched with a senior partner sponsor for a year ahead of partnership promotions.

Career Development

Insiders we spoke with were relatively satisfied with the firm’s approach to juniors’ career progression. While as a summer, “you’re given trainings for everything,” as junior associates, “the training is very different for different groups – and a lot of that is due to the nature of the work of your practice.” Juniors in transactional practices, for example, “are given much more training as their work is more structured.” On top of formal trainings, the firm also makes efforts to get associates involved with business development. “Last May, there was an event with New York clients,” one junior enthused. “They flew all the associates in Charlotte to New York to give them an opportunity to meet all our clients!”

As for direct supervision, juniors are given a peer mentor and a partner mentor with whom they can meet for mentoring lunches. The firm also encourages an open-door policy though, naturally, the effectiveness of this does “depend on how busy the firm is.” Of course, we heard questions are always encouraged regardless of busyness. In fact, “how well you ask questions does come up in your review,” an insider noted.

Turning to partnership – “It feels attainable in theory,” one junior told us, explaining that “everyone who is a partner in my group started out as an associate. I think because our clients are institutional, it’s not like you need to go out and get new clients to make partner, which makes it a little easier.”

Get Hired

The first stage 

Cadwalader participates in around 20 OCIs and job fairs across the country, targeting both top nationwide law schools as well as regional schools near the firm’s offices. The firm also participates in resume collects and accepts direct applications. 

The OCIs themselves are usually conducted by a mix of partners and associates “representing different practices areas and life experiences,” according to Lisa Pauquette, chair of the hiring committee. At this stage, interviewers tend to ask questions surrounding the candidate’s resume. Pauquette explains: “We want to get a sense of who they are, where their legal interests lie and how their life experiences to date contribute to the kind of lawyer they want to be and the kind of person we are looking to hire.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

Authenticity counts, so carefully articulate who you are, what your current career goals look like, desirable attributes you would bring to the firm and so on. Knowing who you are and maximizing your strengths can separate you from other top candidates” chair of the hiring committee, Lisa Pauquette. 


Candidates that make it through to the callback stage can expect to meet with a mix of associates and partners for a two-hour interview. The firm employs behavioral interviewing to evaluate candidates and find out whether or not they will be a “good fit” for the firm. Interviewers look for competencies including initiative/self-motivation/work ethic; communication/demeanor; analytical thinking/judgement/creativity and innovation; flexibility/multitasking; collaboration; interest in the firm and its practices; and involvement in the community. 

Cadwalader has partnered with the predictive candidate screening platform Suited to help better understand applicants. The goal is to make the recruiting process as fair, inclusive, and seamless as possible, in hopes of finding the right candidates who will be fulfilled in their roles and complementary to the firm’s culture. All candidates are asked to complete an assessment prior to their callback interview.

Top tips for this stage: 

"We look for candidates who have a genuine interest in the firm and our practices. It is very important to convey your interest clearly and concisely during the interview.” – chair of the hiring committee, Lisa Pauquette 

Summer program 

Cadwalader’s summer program is ten weeks long.  Summers are encouraged to take assignments from practice groups through an assignment database or directly from attorneys. Summers will have the opportunity to work with designated practice group assignment managers who “filter work and ensure that each associate is receiving assignments from preferred practice areas.” Summers also receives a partner mentor and a junior associate mentor with whom they are encouraged to “communicate regularly throughout the summer.” Over the ten weeks, there are a variety of trainings from both internal and external sources, plus regular social events “to encourage summer associates to get to know each other and the attorneys in a setting outside of the office.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Network, network and network some more, connecting with as many firm lawyers as possible, especially at the many programs and events designed for summers to meet our attorneys and get to know the firm well.”  chair of the hiring committee, Lisa Pauquette. 


Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

200 Liberty Street,
New York,
NY 10281

Main areas of work
The firm offers legal representation in antitrust, banking, corporate finance, corporate governance, executive compensation, financial restructuring, health care, intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, private wealth, real estate, financial regulation, securitization, structured finance, tax and white collar defense.

Firm profile
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP is a leading transatlantic law firm providing outstanding legal counsel to many of the world's top financial institutions, corporations and funds. Founded 230 years ago and with offices today in New York, London, Charlotte, Washington and Dublin, the firm’s litigation and transactional and other practices advise clients on matters across the business landscape, addressing and anticipating their wide range of commercial and regulatory risks and opportunities. The firm is widely regarded as a legal innovator across financial asset classes and has been consistently recognized across multiple areas of specialized finance, corporate and business law. Cadwalader’s exceptional team continues the firm’s legacy of valuing a highly collaborative and inclusive culture, pro bono service and client-centric innovation.
The firm has a determined and ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, which it pursues through year-round initiatives, programs and events to support and engage with diverse talent, and with open and direct communication to the entire firm about the importance of these initiatives, including the firm-wide value of allyship. 

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
American, Brooklyn, Cardozo, University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Washington University. 

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We accept student applications through resume collections, referrals, write-ins and job fairs.

In 2023 we will be participating in the following job fairs: Cornell NYC Job Fair, Lavender Law, and NEBLSA Job Fair. 

Summer associate profile:
Cadwalader is a community of talented and driven individuals committed to innovation and premier client service. We seek candidates with a record of academic and personal achievement who exhibit excellent communication skills and professionalism and who are analytical and creative thinkers. 

Summer program components:
Under the supervision of experienced attorneys, summer associates have an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to ongoing projects. You will work on diverse and challenging assignments in a variety of our practice areas, participate in substantive and skill building sessions and take on pro bono work. Our goal is to give you exposure to the various aspects of the practice of law: meeting with clients; participating in strategy and negotiation sessions; conducting research; drafting memos, documents and pleadings; and attending closings, depositions and court appearances. Associate and partner mentors will work closely with you throughout the summer. In addition to getting feedback on individual projects from supervising lawyers, you will also participate in mid-summer and end-of-summer formal evaluations. 

Social media
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: cadwalader-wickersham-&-taft-llp
Twitter: @Cadwalader

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust: Mainly Plaintiff (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Shareholder Activism (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: CLOs (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: CMBS (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: CRE CLOs (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Structured Products (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Derivatives (Band 2)
    • FCPA (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 4)