With an already flourishing global garden, Freshfields is now focusing on growing its US crops.
“THE atmosphere here is so energetic,” juniors enthused, adding: “The global focus of the firm is on our US presence right now – the place is really growing.” Freshfields' global nature has long been an attraction to associates all over the world, but right now a focus on US growth is where the excitement's at. The New York branch of this elite globetrotter opened its doors in 1977, followed by DC in 1998. Compared to the firm's long European history (it was founded 30 years before the Declaration of Independence), the US presence is still fairly 'fresh', so to speak. With that in mind, the firm achieves respectable recognition in Chambers USA for its international arbitration, commercial litigation, white-collar disputes, antitrust, corporate M&A and capital markets work.
"Freshfields endeavors to be a global firm with united teams across different countries.”
The 'magic circle' firm's international reach still remains “the big Freshfields draw” for many. US managing partner Peter Lyons tells us: “We don't have a dominant national culture: it's an international place. When you work here, you don't go a day without talking to somebody elsewhere around the world, whether that's a client or someone in another office. If you're a person who only feels comfortable talking to other Americans, this is not the place for you.” During the summer program, associates go on secondment to a foreign office for two weeks, which juniors felt was “reflective of how Freshfields endeavors to be a global firm with united teams across different countries.”
New York juniors are stationed in capital markets, finance, corporate or dispute resolution, while DC juniors also have the option of joining the ACT (antitrust, competition and trade) team. Disputes takes the largest chunk of juniors, and covers international arbitration, investigations and civil litigation. M&A follows in numbers, then ACT, then capital markets and finance.
Assignment works differently in the two US offices: for DC juniors, the system is somewhere “in between an informal assignment system and a more formal system.” Some groups have “a partner who manages everyone's workloads – you email them when you have capacity and want to be staffed on something new.” In other groups juniors generally “manage our own workloads, then pipe up if there is a lull.” In the bigger New York office, most groups have assigning partners. A source reported: “Every week we hand in a sheet of estimates of what we think our time commitments will be for the week. Partners are then responsible for allocating work to those who have time, or when someone comes to them and asks.” If a new matter comes in from a client whom a junior has worked with previously, “you're often asked to jump back onto a matter as the firm likes to show clients the same faces.”
“You're constantly coordinating with other offices around the globe.”
International arbitration is a popular branch of the disputes group. “It does mostly investment arbitration,” one source explained, “but there is a growing practice of commercial arbitration too.” Interviewees reported that the practice is rife with cross-staffing across Freshfields' international network. A junior told us: "I have colleagues who have worked with the Rome office, the London office and been on secondment abroad." Day to day, the drafting of claim memorials takes up a fair bit of associate time as “they can be quite lengthy – anywhere from 100 to 300 pages.” Other junior-level tasks include “preparing outlines for examinations of witnesses and experts” and “getting to run a couple of witness meetings.” The investigations side of the practice deals with “litigation and internal investigations for large banks” and other Fortune 500 companies.
The corporate practice has a pretty broad remit: it covers capital markets, finance, M&A and IP. Attorneys work across several industries from pharmaceutical and entertainment to construction and mining. M&A juniors do “a mix of public and private M&A and a lot of private equity work.” Sources admitted that “of course there's due diligence – every corporate junior at every firm does some due diligence.” There's also the chance to get drafting – "not only ancillary documents, but core legal agreements like share purchase agreements.” Here too, interviewees noted the highly international nature of the work: “You're constantly coordinating with other offices around the globe.”
The antitrust group is based in DC, though “it's an entirely international practice.” A lot of the group's work revolves around merger control and clearances – “taking deals through the regulatory process with agencies like the DOJ and SEC.” There's also some cartel and criminal conduct work. Juniors said they were able to “draft and analyze advocacy pieces” and “prep clients for agency meetings.” Junior tasks also include doc review and legal research. One source acknowledged: “There is always going to be a learning curve, especially with specialized knowledge, which can be a bit terrifying. But I've had a steady increase in responsibility which coincides with my level of comfort.”
TOP READ: Chambers Global places Freshfields among the top two firms in the world for antitrust, and among the top four firms worldwide for M&A. We interviewed associates from the firm’s DC and New York offices to learn how these two teams spend their days and work together...
Freshfields' international outlook means there's the opportunity for international travel to clients or firm offices. “I've been to the UK at least six times in three years,” a third-year associate told us. Longer-term secondments are also available, though associates need to make a business case for them. One reported: “If you want to go to a particular office, you can argue what would make you a good candidate to spend a year there.” And associates don't even have to leave the US to notice the firm's internationalism: we heard that “when working within the US, there are plenty of people here seconded from foreign offices.”
Every source unanimously agreed that the firm's international reach influenced the overall culture. “The type of people that work here are people who are comfortable working with people from very different backgrounds,” reflected one junior. This open-mindedness means “every day you might meet someone new, and the way they think about a legal problem might be completely different to what you've considered.” Interviewees also agreed that attorneys at Freshfields have “a good bit of ambition. People are always striving to secure the best work.”
"People who are comfortable working with people from very different backgrounds.”
The social side of the firm is pretty lively: New York associates recently laced up their sneakers to run the half marathon. If running 21 km isn't up your alley, juniors also mentioned team barbecues, going to baseball and basketball games, and “dinners at the hottest new restaurants in DC.” Juniors noted that “people here are invited to big events in each other's lives,” including birthdays, engagement parties and baby showers. In addition, “every time a big case or deal closes, everyone goes out for drinks after.”
Associates praised the firm's commitment to improving the gender balance – over half of US associates are women. Sources highlighted a “women's mentoring program in which female juniors are matched with a partner, and they try to work out what needs women have in the workplace and what support is needed.” There are also women-centered business development events. Associates also noted that the LGBT affinity group Halo is very active. Although attorneys from numerous countries work at Freshfields, juniors agreed that “a good bit of work could be done” to improve the representation of minority groups.
Training & Development
“There are practice-specific trainings for different associate levels," we heard. "There's a junior module, a mid-level module and then a senior module.” US juniors can also dial into training taking place in other offices to participate remotely. "For example," said one source, "the London office does big capital markets training sessions.” Formal training aside, many found they “prefer to learn on the job in some situations.”
Practice groups also have annual global conferences in different exciting locations each year. For example, disputes lawyers from around the world all jetted to Italy in 2017. Alongside training and team bonding exercises, the conference has “an extremely social side to it – it's a great opportunity to meet everyone you've been working with in the other offices.”
"The London offices does big capital markets training sessions.”
Formal appraisals take place annually, though first-years have an extra one after six months. Juniors approach senior associates and partners they've worked with and ask them to submit a short appraisal. “Two partners then meet with each associate to discuss your work. The formal process is a nice way to recall the informal feedback you receive throughout the year. It's nice to be able to sit down and reflect on what you've done and where there's room for improvement.”
In the Big Apple, Freshfields is based in the Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue. The offices boast "amazing" views of Central Park, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building – "it's one of the best things about the office.” Associates usually share with another attorney until their third year, though some younger associates mentioned already having their own office.
DC associates do all have their own office as soon as they start. The office “still feels very new as we only moved here in 2014. It was designed from scratch and has a very sleek look.” Juniors also mentioned a gym in the building and noted its convenient location right by Metro Center.
Hours & Compensation
There's no hours requirement, though most associates aimed for around 2,000 a year. That said, “it's not tied at all to your bonus. They expect that there will be years when you bill under and years when you bill over, depending on the work you get.” Salaries and bonuses are both lockstep, and the firm matched the Cravath raise in 2016. Vacation is a pretty standard 20 days. “Generally you need to be reachable, but people have been good about trying to leave me off email chains when on vacation.” The global nature of the firm means time differences can cause scheduling nightmares. “If you're working with somewhere in Asia, you learn to take conference calls at 2am,” one interviewee observed wryly.
“If you're working with somewhere in Asia, you learn to take conference calls at 2am."
Working days for New Yorkers usually end at around 8pm, though some leave earlier as the firm is “fine about people working from home in the evenings or at weekends.” The occasional late night in the office is inevitable, but it's “the exception more than the rule.” DC juniors noted the introduction of a new policy that means attorneys can work remotely once a week, which “everyone is excited about.”
“The firm is extremely supportive of pro bono," one junior remarked. "If anything, there are too many pro bono opportunities and not enough time to explore them all!” One source recalled having a hearing for a pro bono client and was “pleased with how my team took it, giving it the same importance as a paying matter.” Pro bono cases up for grabs include asylum and immigration matters, helping human trafficking victims and domestic violence matters. Corporate juniors reported getting involved in setting up foundations and helping get 501(c) status for non-profits.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 12,927
- Average per US attorney: 62
Strategy & Future
“Growing in the US is a priority for the firm globally," an associate told us. "I think with both New York and DC growing, people are feeling more excited," the same source continued. "We're often viewed as an outpost, but we have a very strong set of practitioners and clients here in the US.” Managing partner Peter Lyons confirms: “We're in growth mode here. The plan is to grow the US business from 200 to 300 lawyers by 2021.”
"The plan is to grow the US business from 200 to 300 lawyers by 2021.”
Our interviewees mentioned that “most associates speak more than one language, which is always helpful.” Hiring partner Jerome Ranawake confirms that “a second language is helpful for working with international clients. Chinese clients in particular really value associates who can speak Mandarin. But speaking a second language is certainly not a prerequisite for working here.” Ranawake also notes that “despite growing quickly, we don't have a huge bench of hundreds of associate vacancies that we need to fill. We like to be very discerning when it comes to cultural fit.” In what way? Ranawake highlights curiosity, empathy and common sense as desired traits. "Those translate into good client relationships," he explains. "We want people who can look clients in the eye and be comfortable speaking about a range of subject matters – not just legal ones.”
Ranawake warns those heading to OCIs: “We have a reputation on campus for being more rigorous interviewers. We ask tough questions, rather than talking about the latest sports game, but many recruits tell us that's why they chose us.” As for what students can do in their 1L summer to increase their chances of impressing, he tells us: “We look for people who have spent time abroad, reflecting our international outlook. We also view law school as somewhere you should indulge your intellectual curiosity and look to improve how you think rather than just cramming as much information as possible into your brain.”
Notable summer events: Baking event, design your own Nike sneaker event, Broadway show, art gallery tour, and more.
Interview with managing partner Peter Lyons
What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in your firm?
We continue to expand both our business and our offering, which I think makes us different to many people we compete with for talent. We brought in five new partners laterally last year: one in M&A from Cadwalader, one in IP transactions, and then three bankruptcy partners from APKS, filling a hole in our offering. At this stage we have what we want in terms of product offering. In terms of market presence, I continue to be quite pleased with what we're doing. Recently we represented Henderson, a UK company, in a stock-for-stock deal which was interesting. We did a cool deal for CVC, selling Formula One to Liberty Media – we continue to be very busy on the transactions side. On the disputes side, we've had several big arbitration wins, especially down in Latin America. We continue to have a market share in Latin America which we're proud of. We had a big win for Pepsi in an antitrust case where we secured a motion to dismiss for them. This year we've also had a high percentage of lawyers ranked by various outfits – in Chambers, for example, we have a higher percentage of lawyers ranked than many big firms. The quality of product we're offering is well recognized and our trajectory is good.
Given that our readers wouldn't be joining your firm for another couple of years, what's the general strategy going forwards, and what do you hope the firm will look like in the next couple of years?
We would expect to continue to grow our corporate/M&A business – we've been asked to double in size over the next three years. Otherwise, the business plan is to grow the US business from 200 to 300 lawyers by 2021. We are in growth mode here. Most firms here may be growing in particular areas, but most firms we compete with for talent aren't really growing the overall size of their business. We are, because we have a unique multi-jurisdictional approach and the percentage of transactions that will have significant components in multiple jurisdictions will continue to grow, notwithstanding people like Mr. Trump. It continues to be a durable business model. Every one of our major clients is entangled in dozens of jurisdictions across the world. That's not going to change.
What has the firm done and what does it plan to do with respect to the challenging economy?
The first question to ask yourself is 'is the Trump administration going to change much?' There are a couple of areas which are more active than they've been: for example, there's a lot of work in the sanctions area and that's always something we provide to clients. One thing we've seen a major impact in is Chinese investment in the US, which is much more difficult.
Brexit seems to have settled down in terms of the way it affects us in the States, and the cross-border work between Europe and the US. Initially everyone was like “what's going to happen?” and running around with their hair on fire. My impression is that we don't know what's going to happen so we better just get on with life. We've been spending a lot of time with big financial institution clients doing planning. Other clients have said that once there's more clarity on what's going to happen, they will adjust accordingly.
Define the firm's character or culture. How is it promoted?
This is the only major law firm that doesn't have a dominant national culture: it's an international place. When you work here, you don't go a day without talking to somebody elsewhere around the world, whether that's a client or someone in another office. If you're a person who only feels comfortable talking to other Americans, this is not the place for you. You should be an internationalist if you want to work here.
What was the firm like when you joined and how has it joined since?
I joined three years ago, so I'm a relative newbie. I would say this: like every other firm, we are focused on bringing in the next new case and next new deal. Our focus has only intensified in the three years since I've been here. We've doubled down on our focus on delivering for our client and our financial performance. I think it's evolved to be even more focused on delivering high-quality service.
Any advice or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?
Keep your mind open. Don't come into this process with any preconceptions – you don't really know where the next opportunity is going to be. Take a broad view, and you might be surprised. When I came out of law school, I thought I would be an antitrust litigator. I went down a different path, so I would advise others to go into it with their eyes open and don't have preconceived notions about your future.
Notable pro bono opportunities:
As a global firm, we are uniquely placed to represent charitable and not-for-profit organizations on tough cross-border issues ranging from sanctions and anti-terrorism compliance to corporate restructuring and innovative financing. Our corporate, IP, finance, tax, sanctions and litigation teams have come together on such projects for clients including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; (RED); The Vance Center; Conservation International; Save The Children International; Oxfam; the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; FINCA and Amnesty International.
For US litigators, we have strong institutional relationships with pro bono organizations including the Legal Aid Society, the New York Office of the Appellate Defender and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. Through and with these organizations, as well as in numerous individual mandates, our attorneys provide zealous representation to low-income individuals in criminal defense, civil rights, prisoners' rights, child custody, housing, benefits, immigration and fair labor matters in both state and federal court, and at both trial and appellate levels (including the U.S. Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals). We also have an exceptionally strong commitment to assisting individual asylum and refugee applicants, in partnership with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Human Rights First and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.
Freshfields' focus on women's rights in its global corporate social responsibility platform is reflected in the pro bono work of our US practice. We work with clients including the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Womankind Worldwide, Sanctuary for Families, Physicians for Human Rights and the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project to provide everything from policy advice to amicus support to individual representation, in support of women's rights both in the US and worldwide.
Finally, in addition to our wide range of existing pro bono clients and opportunities, Freshfields attorneys are encouraged to bring their own pro bono matters or clients of interest to the firm. We are proud of our pro bono accomplishments and firmly committed to helping our attorneys continue to make a difference.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
601 Lexington Avenue,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 25
- Worldwide revenue: $1.8 billion
- Partners (US): 41
- Associates (US): 157 (Includes associates, counsel, staff attorneys, contract attorneys, referendar, trainees, and secondees)
- Main recruitment contact: Lesley Stumphauzer
- Hiring partner: Jerome Ranawake
- Diversity officer: Tim Wilkins
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 18
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 12, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 1
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: NY 12 (including one SEO); DC 3
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $ 3,462/week 2Ls: $ 3,462/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
University of Chicago Law School, Columbia University Law School, Cornell, Duke Law School, Emory University, Fordham University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, University of Michigan Law School, New York University School of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Stanford Law School, Vanderbilt Job Fair, UC Berkeley School of Law, University of Virginia, Yale Law School
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Students who do not attend one of the law schools at which we conduct on campus interviews are welcome to submit their materials for consideration.
Summer associate profile:
Freshfields recruits lawyers with many different talents and values individuality. The firm’s ability to offer diverse skills locally and across international borders ensures clients have the very best advice possible. Freshfields operates a summer program for US law students in its New York, Washington, DC, Hong Kong, and London offices.
Summer program components:
Freshfields’ summer program provides summer associates with exposure to several practice areas. Summer associates get substantive work supported by both formal and informal mentors. Most summer associates spend part of their summer in other Freshfields overseas offices such as London or Hong Kong.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity Recognised Practitioner
- International Arbitration (Band 2)