If you’re after a firm with a rock-solid reputation among financial giants, you can place your bets safely on Cahill.
Located in the heart of New York’s financial district, Cahill steers Wall Street banks, Fortune 500 companies, and other major financial institutions through complex regulatory issues and gnarly financial litigation. With an overall headcount of around 300, it’s on the smaller side of the firms in our guide, but this NY institution packs a punch in the world of finance, and associates found themselves “drawn to its reputation in the financial sphere and capital markets.” Our sister guide Chambers USA places Cahill at the top of the national leader board for know-how in banking and finance and capital markets (high-yield debt specifically).
“Our clients include all major investment bankers, which is always exciting.”
Cahill has a second office in DC and a third in London, but most juniors join the mothership in New York. Beyond its great reputation and superb expertise, it was the promise to take control of their own careers that drew in many of the current crop of junior associates. “So many firms required me to choose a practice area at the beginning,” one recounted, “but Cahill did not and that was really attractive.” Linked to this, interviewees were quick to point out that “we have a free-market system” for getting work and assignments. This means “we get to form relationships” with senior associates and partners, “and seek out the work we want.” Finally, top-market compensation (including as many as three annual bonuses for all associates) certainly sweetened the deal.
Strategy and Future
Associates were reassured by Cahill’s reputation as what they described as “a steady and consistent ship.” When it comes to decision-making, senior partner Jonathan Schaffzin says, “We move with the clients,” whether that means growing its London practice to expand its reach in European markets, or getting a foothold in cryptocurrency, blockchain, and fintech.
To support this, senior partner Jennifer Ezring tells us the firm is committed to increasing classes, employee retention, and mentoring. “We continue to invest in a lot of young talent because we are playing the long game,” she says. “We are learning that with a new generation of lawyers, who have lived through a pandemic, flexibility and mobility are key. We recently moved to new offices with new technology, with a focus on being together in the office while prioritizing wellness.”
Incoming associates can choose to join corporate or litigation, with the corporate cohort outnumbering the litigators by more than two to one. “You choose who you want to work with and you can say no to some types of work,” sources said. “But to navigate this type of environment, you need a certain personality” – think entrepreneurial and go-getting.
Meanwhile, before jumping fully into the free-market system, first and second-year corporate associates are placed in “flexible assignment groups” whereby “work is assigned on a rolling basis" by two partners. Second-years can continue with this system if they wish, but it's not compulsory. There’s an eye on keeping things fair in that “the staffing group tries to make the work equitable and that means everyone develops at an equal footing.” One summarized the pros and cons: “It’s good, because you get a sense of the big deals that Cahill does, but sometimes you can be staffed on bond offerings for several months!” As associates progress, they can start voicing their preferences and getting work directly from partners.
Under the capital markets umbrella, corporate associates saw a lot of debt financing, leveraged finance and high-yield bond work, advising underwriters and issuers of debt. “Cahill is known to be the blockbuster firm for underwriters,” associates told us proudly. “Our clients include all major investment bankers, which is always exciting. If you have heard of them, we have worked with them!” The firm also works on a lot of structured finance, like credit agreements, “and we also have a growing M&A practice.” Day to day, “the work I do is more drafting the smaller documents,” one interviewee outlined. “I keep the checklist updated and I do due diligence.” On that note, “I don’t think anybody likes doing due diligence because it has very fast timelines. You have to review hundreds of documents in a day or two!” More appetizing was the opportunity to “lead calls where you discuss your findings, while making sure that there are no dull or dead moments. It’s great practice for talking to clients!” Associates were also involved in working with clients to coordinate and finalize agreements.
Corporate clients: Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank. Last year, Cahill represented Citigroup as purchasers in $1.5 billion worth of financings for The Gap.
“Working with these financial documents can feel like a new language!”
Meanwhile, in litigation, much of the team’s remit has a financial or insurance slant to it, given the firm’s core areas – “a lot of our clients tend to be banks.” Investigations are a central feature here: “We do internal investigations for banks and help them respond to regulators.” The firm also handles government investigations and some criminal matters. Elsewhere, juniors encountered securities litigation, antitrust cases, commercial litigation, and financial regulatory litigation with a particular focus on anticorruption matters coming out of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A few had even gotten the chance to work on some First Amendment cases coming out of the firm’s strong practice in this area (although this type of work isn’t so common). “As a junior associate, you draft briefs, or portions of briefs, and take part in client interviews and trial prep,” one explained. “You also take notes, do doc review, and run different reviews and research for briefs.”
Litigation clients: S&P Global, UBS, KeyBanc Capital Markets. The firm defended Ilya Lichtenstein, who was accused of playing a part in laundering over $4 billion in stolen cryptocurrency.
Many of our interviewees told us that the career development at Cahill surpassed their expectations, thanks to the mentorship and training on offer. “With initiatives like Cahill Academy, you get to learn what deals look like while getting feedback.It’s beneficial because working with these financial documents can feel like a new language!” There’s also a month-long internal secondment program for second-years during which they receive specialized training on all facets of corporate work, including credit agreements.
Before any junior associate can begin their work, they are assigned a partner mentor and a senior associate mentor based on their interests. The mentors not only answer any work-related questions the associates have, but also play a role in supporting their wellbeing and guiding their career goals. One associate mentioned that “my partner mentor is always telling me to go for vacation days,” while another noted that “I know I can go to my partner mentor when I start having questions about career progression.”
“They have retention bonuses, end-of-year bonuses, and a merit bonus if you have done an exceptional job.”
Interviewees praised a learning environment in which “all doors are open, and no question is dumb.” With class sizes of just over 30, associates felt that “working here, you get to know people better and you know what is expected of you.” In terms of the path to partnership, more than 80% of partners are homegrown. Associates on the corporate side agreed that it was straightforward and that it seemed attainable. However, those in litigation felt that “if partnership is a goal, you would probably think about going somewhere else.” The firm did recently promote three litigation partners, which you can read about here.
Hours and Compensation
Billable hours: No requirement
Associates usually work upwards of eight hours a day, up to twelve-hour days in the busy stretches, and might add a few more onto that in the very, very busy stretches, like when deals are closing. “Sometimes, I will go to bed at, like, 2am. In August, I was working all weekend,” an associate informed us. Reassuringly, “if I am working late nights, the mid-levels and seniors are working as well, and that’s comforting.” Fortunately, it isn’t always like this with the usual ebbs and flows of the market. Besides, associates emphasized, “it’s not about how much you work; it’s more that there’s the expectation of always being available.”
In terms of salaries, the compensation structure is lockstep and associates had no complaints. “Cahill has done a good job of being transparent about pay, and is a market leader in salaries. They have retention bonuses, end-of-year bonuses, and a merit bonus if you have done an exceptional job. It’s very hard not to get a bonus!”
With lockstep compensation and no billable hour requirement, associates appreciated that a layer of competition is removed, and felt this feeds into the overall environment: “There is motivation to not let each other down, because we are all valued.”
Another theme that emerged when we asked associates about the firm’s culture was its size: “By virtue of knowing everyone, it creates a pleasant work environment.” Not to mention that when a firm uses a free-market system for work, seniors who are pleasant to work with are more likely to get associates asking for repeat work in future. In fact, having to strike up conversations to get work means “we create great relationships with partners, to the point where we can tease and roast them. You can’t find that in a lot of law firms.” We’ll say!
“They trust us to work on billion-dollar deals. As a result, we can determine the best way to be productive.”
In the office, “we only have four or five floors. If there is a happy hour, everyone is invited. You become friends with everyone in your class – it isn’t cliquey.” Some associates pointed out that a slow return to the office means “it’s difficult to gauge the culture and foster community.” However, the firm has put on small ‘Cahill Connect dinners’ of six or seven people as incentive for people to return to the office. But there isn’t an official policy, which also has its advantages. “We don’t have a lot of rules,” one praised. “No rules on dress, or when to come to the office. They trust us to work on billion-dollar deals. As a result, we can determine the best way to be productive.” That sounds like the Cahill spirit.
At Cahill, pro bono hours count as billable (despite the lack of billing target). “It shows that the work we do for non-paying clients is as important as that of the paying clients.” Pro bono is also another chance for the associates to get some practice in other areas of law and get more substantive responsibilities. “On the last immigration pro bono case I worked on, I did 80% of the brief. It’s extremely rewarding and the experience gained makes you a better lawyer.” There were plenty of matters to be proud of: “Recently, the firm was able to get students at a music school in Afghanistan transferred to the United States.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed
Even though a few corporate associates noted that there are more pro bono opportunities for litigators, it is still encouraged across the firm. A pro bono committee has representation from all levels of the firm, with partners acting as core members. Whether it’s a custody dispute or helping a small business get approved for a loan, don’t be shocked if a partner joins the call.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Reflecting on the firm’s efforts in DE&I, one associate said, “From a gender standpoint, I feel like the firm is doing a good job of having women front, center and leading.” Gender-neutral bathrooms and the firm’s “encouragement to show pronouns in emails” gave one interviewee the impression that “they have gone out of their way to foster a progressive work environment.”
While they agreed more could be done to boost racial diversity, interviewees noted, “it’s rare to be the only person from a certain identity group.” One felt that the firm’s smaller size combined with “regular events” run with the firm’s affinity networks made it easier to cross paths with people from similar backgrounds: “You actually see these people.” The firm recently launched a diversity fellowship: in addition to the summer program, a successful 2L recipient receives $50,000.
Schaffzin tells us “we have consistently looked for opportunities to increase our diversity over the years. We are strengthened by the success we have had in doing so, and this is a very important part of who we are as a firm."
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
Cahill partners conduct OCIs as well as interviews at job fairs. “Every resume we receive is reviewed thoughtfully,” says chair of the hiring committee Sheila Ramesh. “A hallmark of our process is the amount of time and energy we put into this – after all, this is all about identifying the best possible future for everyone involved.”
Transparency is key as far as Cahill is concerned. “It is such a fast process, and we focus on being as transparent as possible,” says Ramesh. “We are really looking for students to do the same so that the dialogue moves as quickly as the process.” Associates confirmed the firm wants “someone that can explain something on their resume – if you had a really bad class first semester but you’re willing to explain that upfront, that shows that you’ve taken it upon yourself to improve.”
Top tips for this stage:
“We are always looking to see excitement around our work and our culture.” – Sheila Ramesh, chair of hiring committee
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
Candidates meet with two partners and two associates at the callback stage, with each interview lasting approximately 30 minutes. “We really work hard to create interview schedules that will allow each candidate to learn as much as possible about the firm,” Ramesh says. The panel could include junior associates, who say they look for “people who are entrepreneurial and seem to want to take control of their career.” Associates say candidates should “inquire about the firm’s culture and try and figure out if it’s something you like.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Don’t feel the need to do a ton of research about the people you’re interviewing with, but have an understanding of the firm and ask questions specific to the firm.” – a third-year junior associate
“Take your time, be thoughtful, and really work to determine where you think you will truly thrive as a new professional.” – Ramesh
Summer associates can sample work across Cahill’s practice groups, “and they will have the support of their mentors every step of the way to do so.” Associates said that this was their experience not only as a summer, but also after returning full time: “There have been a couple of times when partners have called me and said, ‘My mentee is interested in securities, I know you’re on this case, is there anything they can help out with?’” The majority of summers return to the firm: “They select their practice area of interest, and we honor that.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Because of the free-market system, you really have to show that you can put yourself out there both personally and in terms of work.” – a third-year junior associate
“Carpe diem! There is so much to get involved in, and there are so many people who are so excited to share what they know and teach you how to be successful. Don’t hesitate to try new things, meet new people and ask questions.” – Ramesh
“Cahill is a New York-based firm, so showing that you actually want to be in New York is important!” – a third-year junior associate
Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
32 Old Slip,
Main areas of work
Widely recognized as the leading law firm in lending and capital markets, and with a nationally recognized litigation practice, our clients entrust us with the most sophisticated and challenging matters. Building on over a century of excellence, our corporate, corporate finance, litigation, and investigations practices continue to be market leaders with some of the most celebrated practices in the industry.
We also offer premier practices in antitrust, bankruptcy and restructuring, communications, corporate governance, crisis advisory, executive compensation and employee benefits, environmental, insurance, intellectual property, media, pro bono, real estate, tax, trusts and estates, and white collar and regulatory enforcement.
Cahill has thrived for nearly a century by focusing on the most significant opportunities and complex legal challenges facing leading financial institutions and global businesses. Cahill is a firm where you can shape your own legal career. We believe that lawyers who practice in diverse areas are happier and more productive. We do not require immediate specialization and do not have formal departments or rotation policies. While among the most profitable New York-based law firms, our size is conducive to regular interaction between partners and associates. Opportunities abound for interesting work and unparalleled on-the-job training.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
Boston College, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, and The University of Virginia (with job fairs and write-ins from a dozen more).
Recruitment outside OCIs:
As a complement to our campus interview process, we review all additional direct submissions. We encourage candidates interested in our firm to contact us with inquiries about our Summer Program and associate opportunities.
Summer associate profile:
The firm seeks academically strong candidates who display good judgment, self-confidence and enthusiasm for the practice of law.
Summer program components:
Summer associates at Cahill gain first-hand experience of what it would be like to be an associate at Cahill. With substantive assignments and opportunities to gain valuable public interest work experience and attend client meetings, negotiations, court appearances and networking events, Cahill’s summer associates develop a true understanding of the firm’s practice. Formal and informal training, personal mentoring and comprehensive evaluations are components of the firm’s summer program.
Director of Legal Recruiting
Recruitment website: www.cahill.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
District of Columbia
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 4)
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: First Amendment Litigation (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Counsel (Band 2)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- First Amendment Litigation (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
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