Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP - The Inside View

As a veteran of Wall Street, Cadwalader serves sophisticated financial clients in the Big Apple and beyond.

Sources kept it short and sweet when revealing their reasons for joining Cadwalader: “The firm has been here for over 100 years and works with big banks and financial institutions, so why not work for the best?” In fact, Cadwalader’s roots in New York have been down for 230 years and it's the oldest firm on Wall Street! This Gandalf of law firms has since spread its power to Charlotte, Washington DC, London and, most recently, Dublin. It’s no shock, then, that this longstanding firm has strong rankings from our Chambers USA guide. The firm holds high rankings in capital markets and derivatives (in both securitization and structured products), in addition to corporate and finance work (particularly in real estate). Managing partner Patrick Quinn pays homage to the litigation group: “Litigation is a critical growth area, with white-collar, antitrust and IP as our focus.” 

While the firm’s significant work and clients in the above areas were some reasons for joining, others highlighted the perks of the firm's size: “It’s smaller than others but that means associates can get their hands on more substantive work.” Our sources also found that “thesmaller size allows the firm to develop a close and friendly culture.” And what are the benefits of this close-knit culture? According to associates, “I feel encouraged with my career progression due to my close relationships with partners, instead of being intimidated by them.” 

Strategy & Future 

Quinn gives us the lowdown on the progress of the firm in the past year: “We have grown our litigation department, particularly with our new hires in white-collar. They have seen how much we are growing and that we are able to provide them a great place for them to grow their respective practices.” New hires include Kenneth Breen (previous former federal prosecutor and longstanding chair of Paul Hastings global investigations and white-collar team) and his colleague Phara Guberman (a well-recognized leading white-collar criminal defense practitioner in the US), along with Gina Castellano, former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.   

Cadwalader recently moved into a new “state of the art” London office, and there was a positive response concerning its design and general wow-ness. Quinn tells us that this approach has now been applied to the Charlotte office with similar “cutting-edge technology,” and this same “office of the future” concept is being applied to the reinvention of the DC and New York headquarters offices.    

The Work 

The majority of Cadwalader associates were spread across the New York and Charlotte offices, with a handful in Washington DC. A sizable chunk of associates found their home in capital markets at the firm, with some saying that “the clients – like  J.P. Morgan and Barclays – piqued my interest. I thought, ‘go big or go home!’” Other departments filled with associates include finance, corporate, IP, corporate and finance litigation and regulatory. Some areas like capital markets have work distributed by staffing attorneys and professional development managers, who monitor workload, so people aren’t overloaded. However, some newbies added that “developing relationships with partners and offering help ends up in partners approaching me with matters that interest me.” Sharing is caring! 

It's no secret capital markets is the king of the castle at Cadwalader. Work is separated into two groups: CMBS (commercial mortgage-backed securities) and CLOs (collateralized loan obligation). In CMBS, the firm acts for the big banks on matters like public issuances, private placements and high-yield bonds. Associates found they were a part of public and private deals. There were mixed views on people's favorite work; some associates found private work “less rigid compared to public work. You also get to know the collateral more.” Those doing public work found it to be “agreat experience for learning filing rules and having great exposure to different clients and types of documents.” It sounds like putting the two types of matters together like PB & J creates quite the skilled lawyer sandwich. Typical day-to-day tasks associates found themselves doing included “drafting contracts, incorporating comments into documents from the opposing side, and lots of communicating.” From early days, “no two days are the same.” Some associates even had the opportunity to “run deals under the eyes of a senior associate,” a unique junior experience. 

Capital market clients: Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas. Represented Morgan Stanley as lead manager, placement agent and initial purchaser in the $220 million BlackRock DLF-VIII-L CLO Trust transaction.

“The deals that come through the door aren't cookie-cutter, they're very sophisticated.”

Finance is also a large area at Cadwalader. Associates can dip their toes into either real estate finance, fund finance or general finance. Cadwalader specializes in the lender side, mainly working for big banks. Sources claim that “the deals that come through the door aren't cookie-cutter, they're very sophisticated.” Larger deals can be worth a billion dollars. Typical daily tasks consist of “closing checklists, moving papers and due diligence.” Where real estate finance specifically is concerned, juniors “get to do a deep dive into property, exploring and figuring out the collateral for a physical building, like high-end luxury hotels.”

Finance clients: Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo. Represented the lenders in approximately $4 billion in financings in connection with Blackstone’s acquisition of American Campus Communities.

Corporate work is generalized, and associates can do work in areas such as M&A, shareholder activism, corporate governance, hedge funds and private equity funds. Interviewees admitted to us that “corporate work is the most exciting because it’s the stuff you see in the Wall Street Journal.” Associates felt like they had “a lot of autonomy over their work, even in first year. Iwas talking directly to clients early on.” In addition to hedge funds and private equity firms, this department’s client base also includes healthcare and energy companies. With respect to shareholder activism, the group is also known for its experience in corporate governance issues and strategic board-level matters.

Corporate clients: Ashford, Forbes Media, Mantle Ridge, MBIA, Veris Residential. Advised Mantle Ridge on its $1.8 billion investment in Dollar Tree.  

Pro Bono 

When it comes to pro bono, some associates admitted to not being able to take part in much pro bono: “Transactional departments don’t allow for the time or freedom.” However, those who did manage to take part in it were involved in matters small to large. The different types of matters available include helping those in need with documents like wills and POA, and clinics helping nonprofit organizations get on their feet. The firm has also been kept busy with Ukrainian refugee work and transgender name change clinics. Insiders felt “the work is very rewarding. It put me in touch with the outside world.” Associates can count up to 100 pro bono hours to their billable target. Areas for improvement cited by associates include improving the level of autonomy associates have in the amount of pro bono they can do, and bringing in more meaningful and engaging work. 

Pro bono hours  

  • For all US attorneys: 3,960
  • Average per US attorney: 10

Hours, Compensation & Culture 

Billable hours: 2,000 target 

Associates must complete 2,000 billable hours to be eligible for a bonus – for the upper tier bonus, associates are expected to bill a whopping 2,200. The majority of our sources were on track to hit this, with one stating, “I’m going to have no problem hitting my billable target.”  These sources told us that their work had been dished out by a business development manager, who “ensures people are hitting their targets and looks out for people who are going over their targets.” Though it doesn’t sound like a mouth-watering buffet, it does sound like there are fair opportunities to build those billable hours! So how do these hours affect into daily life? When speaking to associates, we found on average that associates generally start at 9:30am and can finish between 6 and 11pm. Those in transactional practice groups found that “no two days are the same, and the work reflects this.” Another noted, “You have to adapt to the lifestyle, like not making many evening plans.” However, one associate conceded, “The busy periods don’t last more than two or three weeks.” 

“Everyone seems genuinely interested in getting to know their colleagues out of the office."

What really helps maintain a reasonable work/life balance is the approach colleagues take when assigning work: “It's very rare that weekend work will get dropped on me at the last minute – I almost always know in advance if there needs to be late night or weekend work.” If “collegial culture” is something you're looking for in a firm, Cadwalader has it in heaps: “Everyone seems genuinely interested in getting to know their colleagues out of the office. Although we take work very seriously, it's not the only think we talk about, and we often enjoy getting together outside of the office.”

Given the firm's smaller dimensions (in comparative BigLaw terms), associates found that “there's no hierarchical structure to the teams and there is a lot of teamwork to get the job done.” A response to our data sums it up quite well: “Cadwalader has a small-firm feel with BigLaw work and colleagues.” Sources also felt the teams looked out for one another, for example “when the team had finished a difficult deal and everyone was worn out, the seniors gave us three days off to rejuvenate.” One associate was adamant that “the culture is the best part of the job.” 

Career Development 

You’ve got a friend in Cadwalader... from the get-go. Our sources told us that they are buddied up with two mentors: a senior associate and a partner. These pairings receive a budget to get together: “We grab coffee, go for lunch and talk about everything, not just work.” One praised their relationships with their mentor, stating, “Having those people in your corner is the most important thing.” Another key factor in career development is the business development plans curated when associates go under the review. This personal improvement plan highlights strengths and weaknesses and puts into plan targets for improvement. Through this, associates felt that “personal development individually rather than group aspirations are the focus” and “my team is in invested in me and my development into a lawyer.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  

I think the firm does a great job with diversity and inclusivity initiatives. We spend a lot of time and resources obtaining and retaining newbies.” This praise went further, highlighting the firm's affinity groups. Those mentioned were groups for: Asian, Black, Latino, LGBTQ+, parents, veterans and female attorneys. Associates found that “these groups allow me to speak about any concerns I have as a woman at the firm.” One newbie told us that a recent talk they attended was about how to promote diverse lawyers – “there was a great turnout.” Patrick Quinn gave us insight into the firm’s DE&I priorities. “We have purposefully been attracting a diverse class of lawyers through very determined law school and lateral recruiting. In the last few years, we have seen the number of women partners in our annual promotion classes and our lateral recruiting rise from 10% to 30%, and that is very important to us as we continue to work toward creating a firm that, at all levels, including senior-most management, is fully diverse.” An example of this is the firm’s longstanding sponsorship program where female and diverse lawyers are paired with a senior member at the firm to be a driving force in their careers through mentorship and training. 

Get Hired

The first stage 

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. 


Candidates that make it through to the callback stage can expect to meet with four attorneys – two associates and two partners and/or special counsel – 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 us better understand our applicants. Our 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 our culture. All candidates are asked to complete an assessment prior to their callback interview. This new system will expand access for all candidates, as Cadwalader continues to strive to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a widespread reality. 

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. 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 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 2022:
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)