Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP - The Inside View

With two centuries of legal lore to its name, Cravath’s hold on what's big in BigLaw remains steadfast.

REMEMBER that scene in Mean Girls where Regina George wears a top with somewhat risqué holes cut into it, and then within a week everyone is wearing a top with somewhat risqué holes cut into it? Stick with us, but we’d like to suggest that Cravath yields a similar power in the world of BigLaw. For starters, the firm’s influential business model, known as the Cravath system, even has its own Wikipedia article. Take another obvious one: salaries. Historically, it’s Cravath that tends to set the bar with its ‘Cravath pay scale.’ And even when fellow New Yorker Milbank surprised everyone in summer 2018 by raising salaries first, Cravath was hot on its heels a week later. Once Cravath made the move the masses followed suit, prompting one associate to say: “At the end of the day, firms still look to Cravath.”

“We do not put our name on anything that isn’t perfect.”

In 2019 this venerable trendsetter is celebrating its 200th anniversary. “It’s an exciting time for us to look back on our history,” says litigation managing partner Karin DeMasi, “and on how the Cravath system has maintained its excellence, as well as the ways the firm has changed and improved.” Ever since Chambers USA was first published 15 years ago, Cravath's prestige has been matched by top Chambers rankings: in New York it's currently top-ranked for corporate M&A, commercial litigation, securities litigation, tax, media transactions, antitrust, and environment. And – despite the fact the firm only has one international office – Chambers Global ranks it global-wide for capital markets, corporate M&A, and tax work. But more than anything this firm is a New York institution, and don’t associates know it. “We do not put our name on anything that isn’t perfect,” said one.

The Work

On arrival, newbies are sorted into subgroups to begin their first rotation (they can indicate preferences at the end of their summer). Cravath’s system sees its lawyers rotate through different practice groups or working under different partners for a set period of time, which suited those looking for a generalist practice. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to specialize in right out of law school," one source said, "so I enjoy the protection of not having to choose one specific path.”Before each rotation the practice head meets each associate individually to ascertain their interests. There are some differences between corporate and litigation, but the core structure is the same – “we rotate continually until either leaving or making partner.” One skeptic was eventually won over by the system, telling us: “If you don’t click with a partner, you’re stuck with them. But on the flipside they’re stuck with you too, so it forces them to invest in you.”

The three main groups that corporate associates rotate through are M&A, banking & finance, and securities. Each of these is broken down further into partner groups to which associates are assigned for rotations lasting 16 to 18 months. Work assignment varies group to group, but the typical setup sees one or two partners monitoring associate activity. Bank finance came out as the group where juniors get most responsibility, with associates describing working on “big acquisition financings for borrowers in industries ranging from aerospace to cardboard.” A junior told us: “On plain vanilla refinancings, I took the first crack at drafting all the changes to an agreement then worked with a partner to finish it.” Typical junior tasks in M&A include “scheduling calls and running the diligence process," while one source told us: "Even on my very first deal I was helping draft agreements.” We also heard of associates occasionally getting to go abroad, for instance to Southeast Asia. “It was interesting working with local counsel," one junior said. "We went to China, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong, and… I think I’m missing a few places!” Some sources said they preferred domestic work, because of the demands of working across time zones.

Corporate clients: Amazon, Starbucks, Northrop Grumman, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and Deutsche Bank. Represented Disney in its pending $85 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

“An hour’s heads-up to prepare witnesses for cross-examination in the Weinstein case!”

Litigation subgroups are a bit more loosey-goosey than corporate, with juniors assigned to a partner rather than a group. Rotations also last a bit longer, from 18 months to two years. We heard from juniors who’d worked on matters ranging from bankruptcy cases to environmental litigation to IP disputes. The department also covers a large volume of securities, antitrust and general commercial litigation. Second-chairing depositions was a common experience among our interviewees – some had even traveled as far as East Asia to do so. In one bankruptcy case, “all five of the first-years were able to partake as second chairs in over a dozen depositions. We also got experience preparing witnesses – both individual fact witnesses and corporate witnesses.” Headline-hitting work also sometimes lands in juniors' inboxes, and one associate “had an hour’s heads-up to prepare witnesses for cross-examination in the Weinstein case!”

Litigation clients: Qualcomm, Colgate-Palmolive, and Deloitte. Represented IBM in an FCPA investigation by the DOJ into its operations in Poland, Argentina, Bangladesh, and Ukraine.

Two areas that are a bit more defined within litigation are the investigations and antitrust practices. Antitrust associates recently worked on the $100 billion sale of Time Warner to AT&T. “It was a dream on paper, but a lot of sleepless nights and missed holidays in reality!" one source reported. "But I got the chance to prepare partners who were questioning witnesses on the stand. There was also a lot of more unglamorous work, like putting together exhibits.” Antitrust sources also told us of “working a lot with economic experts for reports and expert depositions.”

Antitrust clients: Morgan Stanley, Novartis, and Anheuser-Busch Inbev. Acted for American Express in a 2018 Supreme Court case, defending its business model against government antitrust enforcement action.

Career Development

By nature of the rotation system Cravath's juniors “get very comfortable being thrown into challenges where we’re not supported and we’re expected to figure it out. That helps us develop grit.This 'grit' is something associates said was recognized beyond the firm’s walls too. “Once people know you’ve succeeded here, they know you can handle whatever stress or schedule they throw at you,” one said. Many felt themselves to be “far more marketable” than peers at other firms and targeted Cravath for that reason. “Number one was the exit opportunities," said one junior when we asked why they joined the firm. "Folks who leave go into prime in-house positions.”

With just one office in New York and a small London base, geography also plays a role in why associates move on. “One person had to go to LA for personal reasons, and the firm was really supportive in helping them get interviews,” we heard. Designated career advisers are on hand to assist. Generally speaking it isn’t surprising that people tend to move on: even though partners are almost exclusively promoted from within, associates outnumber them by roughly five to one, so there simply isn’t room for everyone at the top. Still, current partners “know they have to promote from the associate ranks, which motivates them to refine our skills.”

Culture & Hours

By their own admission, our interviewees’ preconceptions about Cravath’s culture were “tainted by what I was expecting – stuffy and unfriendly! When a firm has been around as long as Cravath, it’s difficult to change students’ minds.” Juniors shared their views with us on what the firm is really like. “Don’t listen to the voices that talk about big, bad Cravath,” one said. “Because we’re so highly ranked people assume we can’t be nice!” At the same time interviewees noted life at Cravath can be “tough.” We heard that “expectations are very high,” and although “partners are understanding of gaps in your knowledge because of the rotations, the expectation is you exhaust all resources before you really call for help.” If you're seeking guidance, “other associates who’ve been through your group are very willing to advise on how to work with a certain partner or handle a specific situation. I wanted advice from someone I’d never spoken to, and they spent half an hour on the phone with me!”

“You’ll work tough hours.”

No question, “you’ll work tough hours” at Cravath. “No one is going home at 6pm every day.” It’s busy “from the top down” in both corporate and litigation, with a junior litigator telling us: “I usually come in for four hours every weekend,” and a corporate associate acknowledging “if it’s a huge deal you’re going to have 3am finishes.” Sounds like a slog to us, but there were no complaints from the Cravath crew. “I personally haven’t found the hours as scary as what I was lead to believe, but maybe that’s because I like the work!” one indefatigable interviewee said. There isn’t a billing target at Cravath, and sources reported that “the culture is not to look for work because work will always find you.”

On their down time, we heard about associates attending hockey games with partners, as well as other more unusual outings. “One of the partners really likes death metal and wanted us to go to a concert with them,” one junior told us. “I do not like death metal...” Fortunately, there’s no pressure to socialize. Whether it’s a networking event or a Cannibal Corpse concert, “it’s never a problem when you don’t have time.”

When Milbank upped pay in 2018, no one at Cravath broke a sweat despite its rival announcing a pay hike first. “Cravath was obviously going to match,” one source said. “We heard the news [from Milbank] when our partners were in their weekly meeting. We figured by the same time next week we were going to hear about our raise, and we did – like clockwork.” (The firm even beat the Milbank raise for midlevels and senior associates.) Bonuses are lockstep, which associates felt “dictates the culture from the partners down. There’s zero financial incentive for anyone to swipe each other’s clients.”

Diversity & Inclusion

“I’ve noticed more associates of color coming in every year,” interviewees commented, with one asserting: “My closest friends here are a smattering of people from different backgrounds – we’d make a great brochure cover!” Beyond the optics, diversity groups “are active for their members, but it’s not like law school where people are putting on seminars or anything.”

“Other women make an effort to put your work forward.”

While acknowledging that Cravath's partnership is undiverse, one associate felt “it says something that in our bicentennial year we have a Pakistani-American woman as the head of our firm. That alone is symbolic of how far we’ve come.” Associates also reported that presiding partner Faiza Saeed often attends monthly women’s lunches at which “you come to chat and feel welcome.” Another interviewee told us about an “unwritten rule I’ve noticed on internal email chains – if a woman gets pushed out or isn’t acknowledged, other women make an effort to put your work forward.”

Pro Bono

An official coordinator staffs pro bono matters, but we get the impression that how much pro bono you do is a “partner dependent” affair. Some juniors work under people with hardline views on pro bono. “Even when a case was taking over my life, the partner was adamant I always made time for pro bono,” one said. An associate working with someone else told us of a very different experience: “I don’t think my partner would be unsupportive if I wanted to do more pro bono, but I wouldn’t say they’re encouraging.” We heard about juniors working on matters tied to disability rights, including “litigation with New York City to make its sidewalks compliant with ADA requirements.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 34,963
  • Average per US attorney: 67

Strategy & Future

Furthering our Regina George analogy, litigation managing partner Karin DeMasi tells us that the firm’s generalist approach means Cravath is “not a firm that follows fads or does pop-up practices or brings in a group because it’s the hot thing to do. We think long-term, keeping in mind what is important to our clients.” DeMasi does single out the firm’s financial restructuring and reorganization group as one that’s been very active lately. “It’s acrossover group combining our work in corporate, bankruptcy, and litigation,” DeMasi explains. “It has been an area of enormous growth recently.” Click the 'Bonus Features' tab above to read our full interview with DeMasi.

Get Hired

There’s no time limit, so you might be in a meeting for 30 minutes or it might be two hours.” Find out more about Cravath’s unstructured interview system by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed

Cravath sees more than 1,000 students at 30 schools and job fairs in the US and Canada for around 100 summer positions every year, so competition is fierce. But even if Cravath isn’t coming to your campus, don’t disregard it: “We encourage any student with an interest in Cravath to apply,” recruitment sources at the firm tell us, “as we look seriously at every application we receive.” And Cravath also considers candidates “who spent time in other careers or took detours from what might be considered the ‘straight and narrowpath.”

The OCIs are conducted by partners, which is “consistent with the investment of time made by our partners throughout all phases of the recruiting process.” Questions focus on “the candidate’s experience in an effort to better understand their unique backgrounds and interests — it is very much a two-way, free-flowing conversation.” Recruitment sources add that they’re looking for “a breadth of skills and attributes in candidates at the OCI stage: a strong presence; evidence of good judgement and resilience in the face of challenges, often demonstrated in work experience; interests outside of law school; and a genuine commitment to learning and development.”

Top tips for this stage:

“The number one thing is to be knowledgeable about our rotation system – it’s something the partners are proud of.” a first-year junior associate

“We want to get to know you, and we want you to get to know us, so we encourage students to share their unique experiences.”



Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed

Cravath’s OCI process isn’t dissimilar to that of other firms, but the same can’t be said for its “unstructured” callback interviews. “Most of the callbacks I did with other firms were regimented 30-minute interviews and then I was out the door in three or four hours!” Cravath candidates should be prepared to set aside a full day because here, “there are no time limits – you meet with partners and talk for as long as the conversation goes, so you might be in a meeting for 30 minutes or you might be in for two hours.”

There’s no pre-set schedule for who conducts the interviews either, “which means that a candidate may meet with different interviewers for different amounts of time — whatever period allows for a full and open discussion,” sources say.The interviews are done on a one-to-one basis, and candidates are likely to meet with at least four partners, associates figured. Associates also told us that “you typically come in at 9am and leave around 3pm.” For those asking the most important question (when will I have time to eat?), a “long lunch” with associates is a staple part of the day.

Our recruitment sources told us that one of the main reasons for having the full day is “to give students an opportunity to get a true sense of who we are as a firm.” It also means the interviewers “really get to know applicants and their unique qualities.” At this point, associates say “you’ve already gotten past the stage where people are judging you based on merits and grades. You’re now here for us to see if you’d be a good fit for the firm.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Don’t be stressed out because everybody that comes through these doors is in the same unstructured interview –  go with the flow.” a first-year junior associate

“Candidates who communicate well and show hunger and intellectual curiosity stand out in an interview, so we encourage law students to use the discussions as a chance to learn about the Firm, but also to demonstrate your unique attributes and a commitment to learning and development. ”


Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: undisclosed

Summer associates are given the option of spending the program in one department or splitting it between two. They’re assigned to either one partner or a small group of partners, so assignment varies between summer associates, but one sure thing to expect is that it’ll be challenging: “Partners view their summer associates much like first-year associates in collaborating on and assigning work.” Associates confirmed “you get a serious slice of what it’s like to work at Cravath” as a summer.It might be tough, but “one of the big benefits was that when I came back as a first-year I was already very comfortable with the lifestyle working as junior at a BigLaw firm.”

Most summers are made offers, andwhen associates start at the firm, they indicate their practice preference between corporate, litigation, tax, executive compensation and benefits or trusts and estates. They are subsequently assigned a partner or partner group for their first rotation of 12 to 18 months.

Top tips for this stage:

“They need someone who’s gonna work just like a first-year associate, because people aren’t gonna treat you differently.” a first-year junior associate

“Summer associates stand out when they show commitment to the work and professional development, but also demonstrate that they genuinely enjoy the practice of law.”


Interview with litigation managing partner Karin DeMasi

Chambers Associate: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?

Karin DeMasi: We have had one of the best years in the firm’s history across practice areas, including a number of high-profile deals, litigations and firm developments—going beyond client work to firm culture as well. This year we had a Supreme Court victory in our long running AmEx litigation against the DOJ. That was a victory at the very end of the Supreme Court term in one of the most significant antitrust cases frankly of all time. It set a standard for two-sided markets, making it not only an enormous victory for our client AmEx, but one that will have wide-ranging effects over antitrust law for the future.

On the corporate side, we are doing very significant work. We had a role on every marquee deal in media in 2018, including the Disney/Fox and Time Warner/AT&T mergers, the latter of which included representing Time Warner as trial counsel against the DOJ. We also handled three mega cross-border deals for AXA, Barrick Gold and The Linde Group, as well as significant deals for AveXis in the biotech space and Pinnacle Foods in the consumer products sphere, so it has been a great year across a diverse range of industries.

One thing that makes our firm different is that even a firm as large as Cravath is very focused on our trial practice, and every year we continue to go to trial in state and federal courts. In addition to the Time Warner trial, this year we had two ICC victories on the patent side, and I just finished a jury trial in Delaware with a verdict in the client’s favor. We have had a number of trials this year that have been successful.

Culturally, the first most significant development is that we had the return of alumna Katherine Forrest, former U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She started her career at Cravath and left to go into public service—first in the DOJ and then she took the bench as a federal judge. She had been gone for almost ten years, but in 2018, she decided to return to Cravath as a partner in our Litigation Department. I think what she said was emblematic of how we all feel: it was like coming home, and while it was hard for her to leave the bench, it was very easy for her to decide where to go. It’s very exciting for clients and for everyone at Cravath, both those who have worked with her before and those who will now have the opportunity to do so.

The second bit is that we’re in the midst of our bicentennial this year. It’s an exciting time for us to look back on our history and how the Cravath system has maintained its reputation for excellence, as well as the ways the firm has changed and improved. We are  enjoying this unique chance to celebrate who we are today and where we come from—it’s a very special time to be at Cravath.

CA: Starting with litigation, are there any broad trends that are currently shaping the type of work conducted at the firm?

Karin: Our litigation practice is and always has been very broad, so unlike other firms our lawyers are generalists by and large. We rotate as associates and we promote from within – we very rarely hire laterally – so all of our lawyers are trained to work in any number of areas, and we continue to practice as generalists as partners. Because of that training, we are able to take on a wide variety of matters, and as a result market fluctuations don’t impact our business the same way they do at other places.

I think the large trend that came to an end in 2018 is the credit crisis that arose from residential mortgage-backed securities. That downturn began in 2007 and consumed a lot of firms. We did have two clients in that space, so we’re winding those cases up in other arenas. But that area’s dip hasn’t negatively affected us as the firm always continued to do other types of work.

We have also continued to expand in other areas, like our government investigation practice, for example, which is growing and booming. Evan Norris joined the firm as counsel in 2017 from the Eastern District of New York, where he was an  Assistant U.S. Attorney, and has a very active practice. John Buretta, with whom I was an associate years ago, left Cravath to focus on government service, but returned to the firm from the DOJ several years ago. His practice has taken off together with Evan Norris, and our partners Ben Gruenstein, Dave Stuart and Rachel Skaistis. He’s developed a large compliance practice, in addition to his FCPA practice, which was already very active, and he was tapped to take on global monitorships in connection with the airbag issues faced by Takata. Our patent litigation practice is also very active and continuing to develop – it’s largely led by Keith Hummel. Katherine Forrest, Evan Chesler and David Greenwald all have significant experience in IP, so our depth in patent litigation is very strong, notwithstanding being a generalist firm.

CA: What about on the corporate side?

Karin: Our corporate associates rotate between our key areas – banking and credit, capital markets, and M&A. We continue to have a wide variety of clients, deals and matters for public companies. We’ve had significant mergers including Disney/Fox, as I mentioned earlier, and on the litigation side, we work very closely with corporate on a number of matters.

The Corporate Department is currently led by Mark Greene, whose M&A practice focuses on a variety of industries, including healthcare, consumer products, energy, financial institutions and technology.

One major area of growth is our financial restructuring and reorganization group (FR&R). It’s a crossover group that leverages our experience across corporate, bankruptcy and litigation matters to handle any financial reorganization work our clients need. It’s led by Jed Zobitz and Paul Zumbro and has been an area of enormous growth recently, with two incredibly sharp and talented partners at the forefront, who’ve done work in M&A, leveraged finance and litigation. Whether clients come to us seeking a reorganization or perhaps they’re an existing client thinking about M&A or leverage finance activity, there is a core group of partners that collaborate across practice areas within the firm to meet these needs. For instance, in this space we represented creditors in the Lehman matters and had a devoted role on the Weinstein bankruptcy matter. I want to commend that group, as it’s a major area of growth for the firm and something we are doing more and more for clients.

CA: Some of our readers may be at quite an early stage in their studies and careers, so we try to give them a picture of what the firm will look like in the next five years. Can you tell me about any specific aspirations the firm has either on the corporate or litigation side?

Karin: Our firm, being 200 years old, has really garnered success through both consistency and approach. There are two overarching goals that have been unchanged since I’ve been here: number one is to provide the best service to clients; and number two is to develop our associates. We don’t strive to be the largest and we never have, so in a world where there are lots and lots of firm mergers, and maybe firms with 2,000 lawyers in 30 offices worldwide, that won’t be Cravath.

That said, our goal is to be the chosen firm for the most significant transactions, and the most challenging, difficult disputes. We focus on long-term relationships with clients in whatever their largest area is, and we do this primarily out of New York, though we do think strategically about whether it makes sense to have offices in other places. We also have a small office in London. We don’t currently have offices outside New York in the US, but we do always give thought to where clients want us to be. We have clients across the country and around the world in corporate, so our footprint has not negatively affected relationships with clients, but we do always think strategically – are we in the areas our clients want us to be? We constantly review that through our strategy board, then discuss it as a group of partners on a very regular basis. Strategically, our goal is to continue on the path we have gone down of being open to the ways the markets are changing. We're not a firm that follows fads or does pop-up practices or brings in a group because it’s the hot thing to do. We think long-term, keeping in mind what is important to our clients.

CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?

Karin: Just asking that question is a reflection of the way the environment has changed. I came to Cravath about 21 years ago, and as I said, Cravath continues to focus on training and has remained as excellent now as it was then. The industry as a whole, and Cravath in particular, however, has had much more associate-focused programming.  The changes have been very positive.  Cravath has, and I’m sure many other firms also have, been very responsive to the needs of associates in terms of what they want: to continue to receive high-level, challenging work, while at the same time taking a more holistic approach to career development.  For example, topics such as diversity and inclusion are now more than ever important to associates, law firms and clients.  Women’s initiatives and affinity groups are now much more prevalent at law firms.  Diversity and inclusion is rightfully viewed as an integral component to talent development.  The results have been promising.  In the past three years, we have had two partnership classes that are 100% women.  The firm is bringing in more women and people of color, focusing on retention and promotion and implementing a number of associate initiatives that have opened and will continue to open doors for communication.  These steps will benefit our associates and firm and thus ultimately allow us to better serve our clients.

CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate/adapt to in the future?

Karin: I think one of the main challenges that law firms face, which is also a benefit, is technology. It’s become incredibly prevalent. Twenty years ago people weren’t communicating, filing, reviewing or dealing with iPhones or emails. In many ways these have been changes for the better. It enables people to do a variety of different things and serve clients in a variety of different ways that have been very positive. It’s also created new challenges in terms of how we work and in terms of how we interact with each other. It's created issues for clients in terms of how they communicate, the types of documents available in litigation, and the types of forensics. That expands to entire areas like cybersecurity, different types of bitcoin currency and entirely new areas. I think that continues to be challenging in an exciting way, this rapidly changing technology that’s changing the way we practice. The effect blockchain has had on corporate governance is going to create shifts in the way clients practice. We have developed programs externally and internally to make sure we’re at the forefront of these areas, educating clients and ourselves, and we take great pride in that.

CA: What made you did you decide to become a lawyer?

Karin: When I was in college, I thought it would be academically challenging. I was a communications major from Northwestern University In Chicago. It wasn't a job-oriented major and it wasn’t clear what I could do with it, but I was very much focused on debate, forensic studies, and legal argumentation. I grew up in Vermont and I don’t have lawyers in my family so it was not an obvious choice for me. But I thought law school would be academically challenging and interesting. It really wasn’t until I came to school and was working in a law firm that I thought I would like the pace of law. I thought about becoming a professor, then realized it would be much more interesting to answer questions and advocate than be in a law school classroom, so it was when answering questions that I was really enjoying myself.

CA: What do you consider to have been your big break?

Karin: I came to Cravath from a clerkship in the fall of 1997, so I was clerking and living in New York. I was really very focused on where I would be best trained. One of the things I liked about my clerkship was that I had a point person, a judge, who I interacted with regularly, got feedback from, who was very invested in me, and in developing me into a good legal thinker and writer. He happened to depend on the work I did as his clerk, and I depended on learning from him. When I interviewed with Cravath and learned about the rotation system, it had that very same feel to me. Coming to New York, which I’m not from, it seemed like a very big environment, and I was very focused on not starting my law firm career in a place where I would be one of 100 people who may rise or sink. I felt strongly that being assigned to a partner who has every incentive to invest and to train and to work closely with me was going to be very positive. That’s how I chose Cravath.

When people ask me about my big break, as students do sometimes, I do think of a moment as an associate when I was working for Paul Saunders, one of our senior partners here. He’s now retired but he was a long time trial attorney. As a second year associate, here I was assigned to Paul and we had a trial together. It was my second trial, a contract case about surface-to-air defense missiles and how they operate at cold temperatures. One had failed at a cold temperature – it’s seared in my head that it was at -38 degrees Fahrenheit. Paul had said to me that I was going to cross-examine the expert on solid rocket motor. I had this moment, and I think I said, ‘Paul you’re a great trial lawyer, I would love to watch you. I’m going to put together good materials.’ He said, ‘No, I know how I’m going to teach you and you’re going to cross-examine.’ That’s how it went, and I physically remember being very nervous the night before getting ready. Paul sat with me for endless amounts of time helping me get ready, teaching me how to be patient, asking questions to box the witness in so I would only get the answer I needed. The moment that Paul sat next to me, the other side produced a whole bunch of documents, and I panicked and I said to him, ‘Let’s take a recess, I need to look through these.’ He said, ‘Karin I’m going to look through while you question,’ and I remember thinking in that moment that Paul had so much confidence in me. I was sick to my stomach with nerves, and I don’t know if it was my ‘big break,’ but we won and I remember it as a time that I realized I’d come to a place that was going to give me every opportunity to succeed.

CA: Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?

Karin: I would tell students to realize they’re a lawyer from day one. People often ask what makes associates who do well off the bat different from those who may take a while to find their footing. The thing I say is: you are not a helper – you are a lawyer. You’re here from day one to practice law. We look to our associates to advise clients. We’re not a firm where the partner is doing legal work with support staff around. We are a group that practices law together. As soon as any attorney can begin to see themselves providing legal advice, the better off you are. My husband, who’s also a lawyer, sometimes says that the first thing to do is to learn to make decisions, and the second thing to do is learn to make the right decision.

A lot of what we do is gray. Clients don’t come with easy questions. They come with difficult problems that typically don’t have clear answers. What we need are creative minds that want to take all of their intellectual curiosity to make recommendations to clients, to disagree with the people they work with when it makes sense to bat around issues, and come to a reasoned decision. Our lawyers, from day one, begin to make decisions – that’s certainly who we’re looking for here.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Worldwide Plaza,
825 Eighth Avenue,
New York,
NY 10019-7475

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 1
  • Number of international offices: 1
  • Partners (US): 82
  • Associates (US): 437
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Lisa A Kalen (
  • Hiring partners: Michael A Paskin, D Scott Bennett
  • Diversity officer: Kiisha J B Morrow
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 61
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 5, 2Ls: 95, SEO: 2
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: NY 100
  • Summer salary 2019: 1Ls: $3,700/week 2Ls: $3,700/week
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes

Main areas of work
Corporate, litigation, tax, executive compensation and benefits, trusts and estates.

Firm profile
Cravath is known as one of the preeminent law firms in the country. Each of our practice areas is highly regarded and our lawyers are widely recognized for their commitment to the representation of our clients’ interests. We believe the development of our lawyers is our most important long term objective. Our partners come almost exclusively from the ranks of our own associates. We recruit the most talented law students and have our partners directly train the next generation of associates. Through our rotation system — a system in which corporate associates ‘rotate’ from one practice group to another and litigation associates ‘rotate’ from one partner to another — associates work directly with a small team of partners and associates. We have found that this system enables even our most recently hired associates to work directly with our clients and to quickly assume substantial responsibility for important matters, while at the same time preventing undue specialization.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:

Berkeley, Boston College/Boston University Job Fair, Brigham Young University New York Interview Program, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell Job Fair, Duke, Emory Job Fair, Fordham, George Washington New York Job Fair, Georgetown, Harvard, Harvard BLSA Job Fair, Howard, Lavender Law Career Fair, LeGaL LGBT Career Fair, Michigan, Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium, Northeast BLSA Job Fair, New York University, Northwestern, Stanford, Texas, Texas New York Job Fair, Tulane/Washington University Job Fair, Vanderbilt Job Fair, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Clerkship hiring, LL.M. hiring for London office.

Summer associate profile:
Our summer program is designed to provide law students with an experience that mirrors the life of a first year associate. Summer associates experience the day-to-day working life of a Cravath lawyer and gain valuable hands-on experience working directly for, and with, our clients.

Summer program components:
Prior to the summer, we collect department and assignment preferences (type of matter or practice area, specific teams or partners). Upon arrival, summer associates are assigned to a partner from their selected department, along with an associate mentor. This partner is responsible for assigning work, providing feedback, integrating summer associates fully into their teams and ensuring that the experience resembles that of a first-year associate. Additionally, there are a number of social and cultural activities including a party at the Central Park Zoo, Broadway shows, Hudson River Sail, the Apollo Theater, Shakespeare in the Park and various professional sporting events.

Social media
Recruitment website:
LinkedIn: cravath-swaine-&-moore-llp
Facebook: cravath
Twitter: @cravath

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
    • Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Representation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Representation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Representation (Band 2)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • FCPA (Band 4)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 4)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 1)