Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP - The Inside View

In its 225-year history, Cadwalader has firmly established itself as the go-to firm for all things finance.

“We think of ourselves as the quintessential Wall Street law firm,” Cadwalader managing partner Patrick Quinn summarizes for us. “We primarily work for large financial institutions, big corporates, and private equity and hedge funds – the type of clients that look to a Wall Street law firm. That’s what defines us.” Cadwalader has certainly solidified its reputation with Wall Street’s cream of the crop: with a hefty 228 years of history behind it, Cadwalader is one of the Big Apple’s oldest law firms and has long been respected firms for all things finance. And as everyone knows, age fosters wisdom. 

“We think of ourselves as the quintessential Wall Street law firm.”  

Such wisdom has culminated in numerous rankings in Chambers USA. Nationwide, the firm sits atop the rankings for capital markets work (for both derivatives and securitization specializations), but also gains recognition for its corporate/M&A, tax, financial services regulation, and real estate work. The latter proves to be an area of strength in state-specific rankings, especially when it comes to real estate finance work in New York and North Carolina. Cadwalader is also ranked for its corporate/M&A expertise in the former location, while in the latter it picks up additional recognition for its banking & finance know-how. On the international stage, Cadwalader boasts a global-wide accolade for its capital markets expertise, with its cross-border capabilities singled out for praise. Despite this international reach, Cadwalader maintains a relatively modest collection of offices: alongside its New York HQ (a stone’s throw away from Wall Street) and Charlotte base, it has another domestic office in DC and one overseas post in London

The firm’s history and reputation were both big draws for juniors who applied to Cadwalader. For many, it was also important to be in an environment that felt “more like a community,” and sources noticed that “the people at Cadwalader seemed to get along with the people they worked with.” Juniors also reckoned the culture “seemed team-oriented,” which was especially important in smaller groups such as the firm’s litigation practice.  

Strategy & Future  



Despite the industry-wide setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Quinn tells us that Cadwalader is “continuing the theme of careful strategic growth at the firm.” He flags the new office space taken on in London as an example of this considered approach, which “will provide us with capacity to double the size of that office.” Continuing in this vein, the firm is also moving its office in Charlotte, which has been “growing through organic promotions” internally. Sources at the firm also reckoned the firm “appears to be expanding its litigation/white-collar group,” in order to further cater to the contentious needs of its financial clients.  

The Work 



The majority (just under two-thirds) of junior associates were based in the New York HQ, with the remaining juniors based in either Charlotte or DC. The capital markets group contained the most juniors on our list, followed by the finance and financial services groups. In each group, most juniors received work through a formal staffing coordinator based out of the New York office, though in some cases sources noted “partners can just staff you on deals” too.  

Capital markets juniors were mostly spread across the New York and Charlotte offices (a couple were in DC). Sources observed that “Charlotte and New York mainly do commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) work, while DC does more lending and collateralized loan obligation (CLO) work.” It should be noted, however that CMBS and CLO work is available across all offices. Interviewees listed their work on “CMBSs, public issuances, private placements, investment grade bonds and high-yield bonds,” often for “large, multinational banks.” Day to day, juniors got their hands on “drafting, revising and processing comments on the main disclosure documents,” as well as “drafting ancillary agreements that go along with a securitization.” Responsibility-wise, one source noted that “they are very good at trusting you to do the work. You will be given tasks you might not necessarily be prepared for, but they allow you to learn and grow into them.” 

Capital markets clients: MBIA, Goldman Sachs, Arbor Realty Trust. Recently represented a significant creditor to Puerto Rico, Assured Guaranty Corp., in a matter related to the US territory’s restructuring of approximately $73 billion of outstanding bond debt.   

Finance attorneys practice in each of the firm’s offices. The practice covers real estate finance, fund finance and more general finance. Across the board, clients are “typically banks looking to provide loans.” In real estate finance, interviewees had experienced “refinancings and acquisitions,” where their role consisted of “organizing the deal and making sure everything was in place” as well as “drafting mortgages or the ancillaries that go with the loan agreement.” On the funds finance side, attorneys “almost exclusively represent lenders for revolving credit facilities.” Sources noted that “the teams are a good size at Cadwalader,” with one explaining that “as a junior associate I get a lot of exposure to the dealings with the client, and a lot of the time I will be the primary contact. It’s not something I expected so early on in my legal career.”  

Finance clients: Bank of America, BNP Paribas, The Howard Hughes Corporation. Recently acted for lender and shareholder Kingsland Holdings during the Chapter 11 cases of Latin American airline Avianca, which was experiencing the impact of reduced travel demand in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under the global litigation umbrella, subgroups include corporate and financial services litigation and regulation, white-collar defense and investigations, antitrust, commercial litigation and intellectual property litigation. “We do a broad array of commercial litigation,” insiders explained. “Matters range from breach of contract disputes, to issues with unfair trade practices, to advising companies as they assess different litigation risks in their business strategies.” Sources praised the firm for letting them “take active roles in preparing for trials,” which involved attending depositions, conducting a hefty amount of research, and writing memos.  

Litigation clients: Boston Consulting Group, Anheuser-Busch InBev, New Jersey Bankers Association. Cadwalader is currently assisting various clients with numerous litigation issues tied to the anticipated end of the LIBOR and the shift to a new interest rate benchmark. 

Career Development 



Most felt that Cadwalader was “pretty prepared when it came to attorney evaluations and development plans.” We heard that the firm also conducts upward reviews. 

“Having Cadwalader on your resume is going to be a boost.” 

At the stage our interviewees were at, most reckoned “it’s not clear at this point what the path to partnership is,” but noted that “as you go on, there are more opportunities and discussions with senior people at the firm.” For instance, some flagged “a mid-level bootcamp that goes over management skills and other partnership details.” If for any reason associates wanted to move on from the firm, most of our sources were “confident in the firm’s standing – having Cadwalader on your resume is going to be a boost.”  

Pro Bono 



Sources agreed that “there are definitely a lot of pro bono opportunities,” including matters tied to small business clinics; immigration clinics; representing people seeking asylum; and working on name-change cases for transgender clients. Attorneys can count up to 100 hours of pro bono (and other non-qualified hours devoted to tasks like training) toward their billable target. Sometimes juniors found they were too busy with standard billable work to fit pro bono into their schedule. That said, most agreed that “if you want to do it, the resources are here.” In addition, the firm also partners up with clients to host events and initiatives “where we dedicate a day of service to a specific cause, like helping at food banks or helping other nonprofits.”  

Pro bono hours 

  • For all US attorneys: 7,207
  • Average per US attorney: 21.25

Hours & Compensation 



Billable hours: 2,000 required

In order to get a bonus, attorneys must hit 2,000 billable hours. 100 of those hours can come from ‘non-qualified billable’ activities such as pro bono, training, recruiting and marketing. For those who reach 2,200 hours, an additional bonus awaits. The baseline requirement is “definitely achievable” according to sources, who added that “most people are over it by a good amount.” Some interviewees agreed that “one thing we would love to see is more pro bono hours counting towards that.” Cadwalader attorneys took a salary cut at the beginning of the pandemic, which lasted four months before the firm reinstated full salaries and fully returned withheld compensation.  

On average, most sources kick-started their day somewhere between 9am and 10am. “Sometimes I feel like I’m online until I go to sleep, but it tends to close down around 7pm,” sources reflected. “It depends on where we’re at in the case,” another concluded. Others found they were finishing closer to 9–10pm, but most agreed that “the average billed a day is around ten hours.” There are occasional times when hours are intense, with one source highlighting that they worked until “3 or 4am every night” for a deal, while another noted that they had worked “two 70+ hour weeks in a row.”  

Culture 



Juniors described Cadwalader as a firm that’s made up of “people who are immensely committed to their work, very smart, and also enjoyable to be around.” This no doubt makes a huge difference in the high-intensity world of BigLaw, and make no mistake, Cadwalader is still part of this world: “They expect you to work long and hard, and get the hours done. It can be a harsh environment, but people are good to work with and generally willing to help.”  

Research took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, so sources explained how “there’s a lot more interaction with counterparts in different offices now that everything’s virtual. It doesn’t feel like we’re working with someone in a different state!” Socially, groups had held various virtual events, from “trivia nights, happy hours and cocktail-making classes” to various virtual speaker sessions.  

Diversity & Inclusion  



The firm’s recruiting efforts at the junior level didn’t go unnoticed by interviewees, who noted that “they want to increase the number of minorities and women at the firm.” But, as with the BigLaw landscape in general, sources found “there’s definitely a lot of holdover from 20 to 30 years ago further up.” That said, juniors reckoned the firm makes a good effort when it comes to diversity and inclusion training, as well as hosting regular events – both within affinity groups and for the firm more broadly. “There’s a civil rights series where they bring in a speaker to talk on different subjects. We’ve got one coming up on immigration issues, and another on elections and voting rights.” While the representation of women was credited, sources felt that the Charlotte office lacked other strands of minority representation in comparison to New York and DC. The firm has a sponsorship program for high-performing diverse associates and special counsel with at least six years' experience; those who take part in the program are assigned at least one senior partner sponsor to help them with their progression.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 954 (OCI/Job Fairs)

Interviewees outside OCI: 87 interviewees (resume collection, write-in, etc.) 

Cadwalader participates in around 25 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 write-in 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.  

Callbacks 

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 483

Candidates that make it through to the callback stage can expect to meet with four attorneys – two associates and two 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.  

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 

Offers: 19

Cadwalader’s summer program is ten weeks long. There is no formal rotation system, and summers are encouraged to take assignments from any practice group through an assignment database or directly from attorneys. Each summer is assigned two associate 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 out attorneys and get to know the firm well.” – chair of the hiring committee, Lisa Pauquette.  

Formal training at Cadwalader



Juniors at Cadwalader get regular trainings on both “the substance of law” as well as sessions aimed at “helping you develop as a professional.” For example, one source mentioned having “training yesterday on different client events and how to build business.” Other interviewees flagged semi-regular practice-specific trainings where partners or senior associates would “walk us through different parts of documents and explain why they matter.” 

 

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

200 Liberty Street,
New York,
NY 10281
Website www.cadwalader.com

  • Head office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 3
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $452,600,000
  • Partners (US): 89
  • Associates (US): 181
  • Other attorneys: 79
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Tara Conlon, Director of Legal Recruitment (tara.conlon@cwt.com)
  • Hiring partners: Lisa Pauquette (NY) Jodi Avergun (DC) Henry LaBrun (Charlotte)
  • Diversity officer: La Tonya Brooks, Manager of Diversity & Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 24
  • Clerking policy: Case by case
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 2Ls: 19, SEO: 3
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: New York: 17, Washington, DC: 2
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,654/week 2Ls: $3,654/week
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
The firm offers legal representation in antitrust, banking, business fraud, capital markets, corporate finance, corporate governance, executive compensation, financial restructuring, fintech, intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, private wealth, real estate, regulation, securitization, structured finance and tax.

Firm profile
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, established in 1792, is a leading legal advisor to many of the world’s top financial institutions, corporations and funds, with offices in New York, London, Charlotte and Washington D.C. Lawyers provide counsel on sophisticated and complex transactional, litigation, and regulatory matters to help our clients overcome challenges, break new ground; and achieve their business goals.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
American, Brooklyn, Cardozo, University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, University of Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, University of Virginia and Washington University.

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

In 2021 we will be participating in the following job fairs: BU/BC NYC Job Fair, Cornell NYC Job Fair, Lavender Law, MCGC NYC Job Fair, 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 skillbuilding 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: www.cadwalader.com/makehistory
Linkedin: cadwalader-wickersham-&-taft-llp
Twitter: @Cadwalader

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • 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 4)
    • Derivatives (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 4)