Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP - The Inside View

As one of the oldest and finest finance firms in New York, Cadwalader balances Wall Street BigLaw with a culture where “you can be yourself.”

IT looks like Cadwalader’s efforts are paying off. The New York native saw its revenue rise to $420.7 million in 2018, then again to a hefty $459 million in 2019. Associates credit the turnaround to the firm’s strategic efforts to “refocus on the big Wall Street-style financial institution clients.” To service this particular breed of client, it helps that the firm has top-tier nationwide rankings in Chambers USA for capital markets (both derivatives and securitization). It’s also ranked nationally in corporate/M&A, financial services regulation, real estate, and corporate and finance tax, and picks up state-level rankings in New York and North Carolina, where the firm has a Charlotte office. There’s a third US base in DC, and an international office in London.

“Highly specialized, high-quality work.”

It wasn’t just the firm’s “highly specialized, high-quality work” that attracted juniors; “the culture drew me in.” Recalling their interviews, sources said: “Folks were interested in my background and what I was doing – it felt like we really connected.” Of course, “it’s still BigLaw,” and given that Cadwalader is one of New York’s oldest law firms, juniors didn’t go in completely doe-eyed: “People told me about the workload, the long hours and the stressful work, but I’ve found the collegial atmosphere to be true.”

Strategy & Future

Looking ahead, associates put it simply: “What’s been working recently is still working.” Managing partner Patrick Quinn tells us: “We continue to be in aggressive growth mode. We expect that to look like growth in all four of our offices – we are aggressively growing in New York, DC, Charlotte and London, and we’re in the process of planning our space moves in both London and Charlotte.” Associates expected to see growth “within our established groups,” singling out global litigation as one that’s been expanding: “There’s a lot of satisfaction in that group right now.”

The Work  

At the time of research, around half of the firm’s juniors were based in the New York headquarters. The remaining half were mostly in Charlotte, with around five in DC. The firm has a heavy transactional skew – 20 juniors practiced in the capital markets group, with a similar number split between corporate, finance and financial services. The global litigation group also houses some juniors. Most groups have an assignment coordinator who “works with the partners and keeps track of who’s on what and who wants what.” Some also mentioned getting work “organically from partners I’ve worked with previously.”

“There’s a lot of hands-on drafting because there are so many parts to a transaction.” 

The capital markets group largely handles three types of securitizations: commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) and asset-backed securities. “You don’t specialize as such,” juniors explained, “but you start to work more specifically in one area once you figure out what you like.” Don’t worry if you’re unclear on any of the terms above – capital markets is a notoriously tricky area of law. One junior broke down what happens on a CMBS matter: “We represent an issuer who will buy mortgage loans, turn them into securities and sell them to investors, thereby transferring risk from whoever issued the mortgages to the investors.” The group also does some work on the underwriter side. Day to day, sources found “there’s a lot of hands-on drafting because there are so many parts to a transaction.” Sources had tried their hand drafting documents like servicing agreements, mortgage asset purchase agreements and trust agreements. “One of the great things is that they really encourage you to try anything you want,” juniors in this group reflected. “Partners ask if there’s anything I haven’t had a chance to do yet.”

Capital markets clients: JP Morgan, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs. Represented Bank of America as lender, issuer and underwriter in a $950 million CMBS loan.

Finance is a broad umbrella that covers fund finance, real estate finance and general finance among other areas. The deals are pretty hefty: regularly in the millions and sometimes billions of dollars. The firm does a lot of work for big banks like Bank of America and BNP Paribas, and as such tends do more work on the lending side of transactions. Insurance and finance companies are also on the books, plus a mix of hedge, venture capital and private equity funds. The Charlotte and New York offices often work together, and sources in the former noted: “We do the same type of work as our New York peers, but life is a bit smoother here! Plus we get the New York pay” – ka-ching! Tasks like due diligence and ancillary documents fell to juniors, but sources were pleased with their responsibility levels. One noted: “I was even able to draft a loan agreement as a first year!” 

Finance clients: Investec Bank, Société Générale, The Renco Group. Advised HealthCare Royalty Partners on a $62.5 million loan to Portola Pharmaceuticals.

Global litigation covers white-collar defense and investigations, corporate and financial services litigation, general trial work and intellectual property litigation – juniors usually focus on one of those areas, though may help out elsewhere when needed. The DC office handles white-collar work, with juniors noting “the focus is more on criminal matters, though not exclusively.” Given the firm’s expertise in financial areas, many of these types of clients also turn to the firm’s white-collar group to “help them respond if they’re being investigated” or “help answer subpoenas about customers.” The civil litigation side sees classic commercial disputes, corporate governance, and occasional bankruptcy and restructuring litigation. Tasks for juniors included “deep-dive research” and memo writing, but “it’s not all doc review and research – it’s a good mix.” Juniors were sometimes called upon to draft motions to dismiss, summary judgment briefs and deposition outlines. They also got client contact through “preparing individuals for interviews.”

Litigation clients: Rubicon, Boston Consulting Group, Medley Management. Represented insurance company Assured Guaranty regarding Puerto Rico’s restructuring of approximately $73 billion of bond debt.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 required

As part of this, associates can bill 100 hours of ‘non-qualified billable’ activities – like pro bono, training, recruiting and marketing. “I don’t know anyone who’s really sweating it,” a Charlotte interviewee reflected. “It’s not like there isn’t enough work!” There’s an extra incentive for those who go above and beyond: attorneys who hit 2,200 pure billable hours get a ‘super bonus,’ which means an extra 20% of the bonus on top. One source thought “maybe one in five people reach the ‘super bonus.’”

“In the ebb of a deal, I leave anywhere between 7pm and 9pm.”

Both litigators and transactional folks alike experience long hours. “In the ebb of a deal, I leave anywhere between 7pm and 9pm,” a New York junior said. “It’s between 9pm and 12am at the more intense part of the deal, and a portion of nights are later still.” Sources estimated ten-hour days were the average, though they appreciated a “liberal work-from-home policy” which meant they didn’t always need to be in the office.

Pro Bono

Everyone we spoke to was involved in pro bono: “There are a lot of different kinds of pro bono opportunities, even with varying time commitments. You can do one-day clinics or take on full cases.” Sources had been involved in transgender name-change work, housing clinics, veteran matters, immigration clinics and helping set up NGOs. In New York, the firm regularly works with the Legal Aid Society, while Charlotte has “strong connections to children’s advocacy programs” as well as “a naturalization clinic for the Latin America Coalition.”

Pro bono hours

For all US attorneys: 5,010

Average per US attorney: 14


Across all three domestic offices, juniors praised the firm’s gender representation: “We’re at least 50% women,” a Charlotte source estimated. All offices reported “strong partnership representation” too, with DC litigators proudly adding: “Our rainmaker partners are two women.” On the minorities front, New Yorkers said “incoming classes have had better representation, but there’s less looking upward.” Sources felt “there’s a big push around” the firm’s five affinity groups for women, LGBT people, black and Latin Americans, Asian Americans, and veterans. Associates highlighted a civil rights series, featuring different speakers each month. “We recently had someone who survived the Holocaust come in.”


Cadwalader’s website projects a steely Wall Street vibe – in line with its former reputation – but associates told a different story. “There’s a recognition that if you can be human and be yourself, you’re not going to be spending energy trying to be something you’re not – you can spend that energy on the work.” One Charlotte source added: “People have heated blankets at their desk and get burritoed up – no one is going to be like, ‘why are you doing that?’” Of course, certain expectations remain: “They expect you to work hard and come in with your eyes open, but it’s better when you like who you work with.” 

"They expect you to work hard and come in with your eyes open, but it’s better when you like who you work with.” 

Other interviewees added that “it’s not all fun and games, but we have a good time.” Juniors had tight-knit groups by departments and classes. In Charlotte, folks were able to make use of the nearby US National Whitewater Center for kayaking and other water sports. The DC office is on the smaller side, so sources there admitted “everyone knows everyone – we’re all on one floor.” The team there have attended community events as well as trips out with clients; we also heard about attorneys going to see a Washington Nationals game.

Career Development

Associates across offices felt invested in “both by partners taking an interest in people, and other trainings and events for attorney development.” Litigators highlighted a two-day trial academy in which associates do “mock openings and closings, as well as cross-examinations. They try to make sure we’re getting training on things we might not currently be doing in our roles.” There’s also lectures and lunch sessions on topics such as taking depositions and market updates.

“People are committed to making partner.”

“I definitely think people are committed to making partner here,” a transactional associate reflected. “I can think of three partners on my floor whose first job was with Cadwalader.” Litigators got the impression that the path to partner was more difficult. “I can only think of one homegrown partner from the past five years.” But sources agreed that if attorneys decide to move on from the firm, “Cadwalader would look incredibly strong on your resume, especially if you want to do capital markets.” 

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 938

Interviewees outside OCI: 109

Cadwalader participates in around 30 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.  



Applicants invited to second stage interview: 461

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: 28

Acceptances: 24

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.  


Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

200 Liberty Street,
New York,
NY 10281

  • Head office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 3
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $459,020,000
  • Partners (US): 85
  • Associates (US): 229
  • Other attorneys: 48
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Tara Conlon, Director of Legal Recruitment (
  • 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 2020: 32
  • Clerking policy: Case by case
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 26, SEO: 3
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: New York 20, Washington, D.C. 2, Charlotte 5
  • Summer salary 2020: 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.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
American, Brooklyn, Cardozo, University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, University of Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Vanderbilt, 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 2020 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:
Linkedin: cadwalader-wickersham-&-taft-llp
Twitter: @Cadwalader

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 4)