Choate Hall & Stewart LLP - The Inside View

Based out of a single office, Choate holds its own in Boston BigLaw and beyond. 

Founded in 19th century Boston, Choate Hall & Stewart has been in the city ever since. While the firm has evolved over the decades in terms of expertise and reach, in a purely physical sense it’s never gone beyond its base in Boston – and this setup was appealing to many junior associates. “The one-office model means I can do BigLaw work in what feels like a small office,” one said. But with nearly 200 attorneys housed under one roof, Choate is better described as mid-sized in stature. One associate also felt that the one-office structure also engenders “an impressive focus on development. It was clear to me that associates are able to take on professional opportunities earlier in their career and that the firm entrusts its junior associates with more responsibility.”  

“An impressive focus on development.” 

Beyond the cultural makeup of a single-site firm, associates emphasized that “the level of work and the sophistication isn’t compromised. We still have the types of clients that bigger firms have.” On that list, Choate counts household names like Reebok and major financial institutions such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Its strong local reputation also attracts prestigious institutions based in the region, like Harvard. Interviewees were drawn to “the firm's reputation for excellence in middle-market private equity transactions,” as well as its footing in intellectual property (go figure, given Boston’s status as a life sciences hub).Choate’s insurance expertise is top-ranked in Massachusetts by Chambers USA, which also bestows strong state rankings to the firm in antitrust, banking & finance, bankruptcy, healthcare, IP, commercial litigation, and white-collar and government investigations. Nationally, the firm is ranked for fund formation. 

Strategy and Future 



Associates were clear that “the firm focuses very keenly on its core practice areas,” namely investigations and litigation, private equity/M&A, finance and restructuring, family office services, and life sciences and tech. Going by busyness alone, our sources singled out IP and corporate/M&A as particular areas of growth. Associates praised the firm’s transparency around business strategy and objectives, highlighting that at the most recent annual firmwide review, managing partners delivered a presentation on budget and the firm’s trajectory. “I did appreciate the time they took to share the company line,” one attendee said. 

The Work 



Associates can sample work from any practice during the summer program,before joining either litigation or corporate full-time. We heard the firm has started hiring corporate associates more directly into sub-groups “because of unprecedented demand,” but many still get involved in work across the department. To manage workloads, newbies submit a form indicating how busy they are. They can also request particular types of work via the form, a feature that insiders greatly appreciated. “As a first-year, work is allocated 100% that way,” one associate noted, “but by the third year work allocation is almost entirely organic.”  

The firm’slitigationarm encompasses four primary areas: insurance and reinsurance; government enforcement; complex trial and appellate; and IP. Our sources had dabbled in trade secrets matters, IP disputes, insurance arbitrations and employer-side employment cases. Government work formed a big chunk of this interviewees’ workload: “I’ve done like, 70% in government enforcement, but I still do insurance and appellate.” In terms of tasks and responsibilities, “it really falls into legal research and then drafting,” one reckoned. “I’ve done first drafts of motions and motions to compel.” Doc review is also commonplace for juniors, and associates also respond to document requests and depositions on the day-to-day.  

Litigation clients: Dartmouth College, Equifax, and Reebok. Represented Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code) in a lawsuit filed by his ex-wife. 

“I’ve done deals across the US and a handful of international deals across the EU, India, and Australia.” 

In corporate, the work is generally mixed between M&A, lender and borrower side finance matters, fund formation, tax, and private equity. Juniors start as generalists before gravitating into a sub-group. Due diligence, drafting ancillary documents, carrying out email correspondence, and tracking documents are all standard tasks at the junior end. We heard that work often crosses borders. “I’ve done deals across the US and a handful of international deals across the EU, India, and Australia,” one shared. On cross-border deals, associates got to “deal with a lot of foreign local counsel and foreign subsidiaries.”   

Corporate clients: Haemonetics Corporation, LeMaitre Vascular, and US Dermatology Partners. Represented Bain Capital Life Sciences in a $135 million fundraising round for biotechnology company Nuvalent. 

Some associates within corporate “almost exclusively work in private equity, which is a consequence of what’s been busy.” Clients are mostly private funds and venture capital firms, and associates had worked on a lot of mid-market leveraged buyouts valued at tens of millions of dollars. Juniors start out as the communicator between the client and the internal team – in one interviewee’s words, “thego-between, dealing with huge amounts of information!” As their experiences evolved, they were “able to interface a lot more with clients when they’re setting up a fund.” 

Private equity clients: BV Investment Partners, New Energy Capital, Xontogeny. Advised Riverside Partners on a $532 million continuation fund. 

Coming soon: Sports Finance with Choate.

Career Development 



Associates praised Choate’s “emphasis on mentorship” and said career development is seen as a “top priority.” Under the firm’s mentoring scheme, incoming associates are immediately paired with three mentors when they come in: a junior associate, a senior associate, and a partner. Associates found “it’s helpful to have an established system” to get integrated more easily into firm life. There’s also a monthly ‘feedback Friday’complete with incentives. There are also opportunities for associates to get involved in business development around the third- or fourth-year mark when “associates can get drafted into client pitching – one associate recently turned a pitch into a new business for us!”  

“On any given matter the associate to partner ratio is very often four, three, or two to one.” 

Particularly during lockdown, formal training programs “took a back seat because of how busy we are,” but associates were still overwhelmingly positive about opportunities for career development. Insiders stressed that “when people leave the firm, they tend to leave BigLaw,” instead opting for opportunities in-house or with government. Choate’s “robust alumni network sends out job postings, typically at clients.” While not a pipeline, “a lot of people do go in-house to clients, which is viewed positively,” associates said, elaborating that “partners really help to place the person. It’s good for the firm – it’s mutually beneficial.” One associate told us: “I’ve been encouraged to be open with partners of my plans.There’s an understanding people don’t usually stay in one place.” Still, nearly half of our survey respondents said they could see themselves staying at the firm for at least another five years.   

Culture 



Firm culture at Choate played a role in attracting almost all the juniors we interviewed to the firm. “The smaller nature [of the firm] really helps promote an atmosphere where everyone seems to be on the same page,” where “at no point has anyone been disrespectful to me.” Another associate followed the same thread, noting “a big factor is that people know each other” by virtue of working under one shared roof. “You automatically treat people better when you see them every day!” As one associate put it, “on any given matter the associate to partner ratio is very often four, three, or two to one, so you get that interaction early on.” Insiders told us that partners and senior associates alike regularly express their gratitude to juniors, and provide “lots of encouragement, even for small things.” 

Another pointed out that “you have a lot of folks here who didn’t come from a legal  [family] background – they’re first-generation college or first-generation lawyers,” resulting in “a less snobby atmosphere.” Many attorneys also have families, so juniors noted among partners and senior associates “it’s much more human – there’s less of the work hard, play hard mentality; we just want to go home to our families after working for 12 hours!” Associates do participate in social events though, with partners hosting small dinner parties at homes for their teams. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 



Juniors recognized that D&I is “a core area” for Choate. In an effort to promote diversity and inclusion, the firm hired a temporary diversity consultant “who we got periodic updates from,” but one interviewee felt “it would be nice to have a little more transparency from the practice group leaders” with regard to representation in specific groups. “The firm does an OK job at recruiting diverse associates,” another commented, “but it seems to struggle with retaining more senior attorneys that make it to the principal and partnership levels.”

“It really improves your day to day, seeing women in senior roles.”

Juniors were mostly positive about Choate’s efforts to promote gender balance across the practices. “We have a large number of female partners with families making decisions, which is great!” one observed. “It really improves your day to day, seeing women in senior roles.” The firm also has an active women’s network, but sources said other affinity groups tend to be a little less formal. 

Hours, Compensation & Pro Bono   



Billable hours: 2,000 target (up to 150 pro bono) 

Associates were satisfied with the firm’s review process, with bonus eligibility resting on 2,000 hours. Long-term bonuses (dubbed a ‘retention bonus’ by one associate) are also within reach for those who hit the hours target over successive years. We heard partners do look beyond billables for the regular bonuses, but associates didn’t typically have trouble meeting the target, particularly this past year, given the amount of work available. Working remotely “has had an impact on work-life balance,” interviewees noted, “but as things have opened up, it’s gone back to normal a little more.”  

Juniors’ bucket of non-client-billable hours to count toward the target has recently increased to 150 hours, which associates can spend on D&I activities, on-the-job training, wellness activities, and pro bono. For pro bono projects the firm has a number of key contacts: “We have a relationship with the EdLaw Project, which assists students; there’s a new relationship with the Innocence Project assisting folks on death row; and a CORI clinic helping with paperwork on past convictions.” For each matter, there is a main contact at the firm who juniors can approach to get involved with. Timing was one factor that determined how involved associates felt they could be: “Some of the matters, like with the CORI clinic, are usually around two weeks, while Edlaw matters are around three months. The Innocence Project can be up to a year – there’s a large variety.”  

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 218

Interviewees outside OCI: 36

Choate participates in on-campus interview programs at select top law schools across the country, including Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Howard, Michigan, and the University of Virginia, as well as Boston-based schools including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern, and Suffolk.

“We also collect resumes from many top schools like Cornell, NYU, Northwestern, Penn and Stanford,” Chief of Legal Recruiting and Talent Development, Elaine Bortman, explains, “and we’re happy to receive write-in applications from students who attend schools where we do not have a formal resume collect.”  Choate also participates in the Boston Lawyers Group Diversity Job Fair and the New England Interview Program.

Top tips for this stage:

“My advice would be to get to know the firm before the interviews.” – a third-year junior associate

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed

Those who advance beyond the screen interviews are typically invited for a callback interview, during which candidates meet with attorneys ranging from partners to associates. Candidates who schedule their interviews during “Choate Interview Days” also participate in a reception following their interviews where they have the opportunity to network with additional Choate attorneys. In all interviews, Choate's goal is to identify which prospective candidates have the qualities that will enable them to be successful at the firm.

Top tips for this stage:

“We are looking for people who have intellectual horsepower, drive, demonstrated leadership, and who will embrace a Firm dedicated to community.” – J.P. Jaillet, hiring partner

“Let the conversation evolve organically rather than sticking to your resume.” – a third-year junior associate

Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: 19 2Ls

Choate’s ten-week summer program is comprised of between 15 and 20 2L students each year. The summer class also includes between 3 and 5 1Ls hired through two competitive fellowships: Choate’s 1L Diversity Fellowship and a 1L Corporate Experienced Hire Fellowship for students with at least two years of work experience and a commitment to transactional practice. Summer associates have the opportunity to work in the firm’s five core areas of business: private equity/M&A, finance & restructuring, life sciences and tech, complex investigations and litigation, and wealth management unless they choose to focus on a particular area of our work for the summer. Hiring partner J.P. Jaillet gave us an example of what summers can expect to do: “I gave one summer an assignment on an upcoming trial where I asked them to find some background information about an expert witness that may be helpful for the cross-examination, which is the type of work I would give to a first-year associate. The summer found gold to impeach the witness. I used it at trial with good effect and we won the case.”

Top tips:

“Take full advantage of everything the firm has to offer. Learn about the work but also spend time getting to know the firm’s culture and begin to develop relationships with the people. Our goal is that by the end of the summer, you go back to school feeling like you know the firm well and are a part of the team.” - Elaine Bortman, Chief of Legal Recruiting and Talent Development

And finally…

Associates hinted that the firm is also interested in a candidate’s commitment to building a career doing sophisticated legal work in Boston: “Choate looks for people who want to work at a top national firm, that isn’t a mega-firm, and want to do so based in Boston.”

Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

Two International Place,
Boston,
MA 02110
Website www.choate.com

  • Head Office: Boston, MA
  • Number of domestic offices: 1
  • Number of international offices: 0
  • Worldwide revenue: $ $317,859,405
  • Partners: 98 Associates: 111
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Elaine Cohen Bortman, Chief of Legal Recruiting and Talent Development
  • Hiring partners: JP Jaillet
  • Diversity officer: Choate has a Diversity & Inclusion Committee which includes partners and associates from across the Firm.
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 18
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Diversity fellowship: Yes (1L + 2L)
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 3, 2Ls: 19
  • Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $4,135/week 2Ls: $4,135/week
  • Split summers offered? No

Main areas of work
Private equity and M&A, finance and restructuring, life sciences and technology companies, intellectual property and related litigation, government enforcement and financial litigation, insurance and reinsurance, complex trial and appellate, and wealth management.

Firm profile
Choate is one of the nation’s premier law firms. Choate conducts its national and international practice through a single office model, with all lawyers under one roof in Boston. The firm’s associate-to-partner ratio is low, affording junior lawyers opportunities to play important roles on matters and facilitating rapid career development. Lawyers know each other well and work together in dedicated client teams. That familiarity, proximity and continuity allows them to 10872543v2 share knowledge easily and respond to clients’ needs efficiently, seamlessly and immediately.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:

Boston College, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, Northeastern, Suffolk, and University of Virginia.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Choate collects resumes via a resume drop at many other schools. If we do not offer this at your school, qualified candidates may submit their resume to legalrecruiting@choate.com.

Clerking policy:
Choate offers progression credit, as well as a one-time clerkship bonus, to candidates who join the firm immediately following the completion of a federal district or circuit court clerkship or a federal or state supreme court clerkship.

Summer associate profile:
Choate seeks candidates who have a record of academic excellence and professional achievement. We value proven leadership, dedication to team success, a strong work ethic and the ability to approach challenges thoughtfully and creatively. We seek candidates who offer perspectives and talents shaped by a broad range of socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, professional and personal backgrounds.

Summer program components:
Throughout the summer, Choate’s summer associates are involved in real work with real clients. In recent years, summers have performed legal research, drafted memos and briefs, helped prepare transactional documents, conducted diligence, reviewed documents, participated in deal closings, assisted in fact gathering, drafted estate planning documents, observed depositions, negotiations and trials and worked on pro bono matters. Each summer associate is matched with a junior associate, senior associate or principal, and partner mentor, who provide guidance and feedback. The summer training program provides the opportunity to develop professional skills, to learn about the firm as a business and to have the experience of working at the firm as well as to develop important legal skills, such as writing. It also includes a two-week apprentice program which provides for a deeper understanding of two practice areas in the firm.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.choate.com/careers
Linkedin: choate-hall-&-stewart
Twitter: @ChoateLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Insurance (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)