Give your future some Friedom at a firm that is, quite Frankly, superb
Harder, better, faster, stronger? One comparative adjective Daft Punk never used in their 2001 hit was ‘bigger.’ We think they were on to something and Fried Frank proves it – being bigger doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with any of the aforementioned conditions. As this associate put it, “Fried Frank isn’t large, but it certainly packs a punch.” Indeed, with four offices in total (New York and DC in the US, and London and Frankfurt in Europe), Fried Frank makes quite a splash, especially when it comes to its heavy-hitting private equity, investment funds and real estate practices, which are rewarded with high praise in Chambers USA. The firm’s impact is felt far beyond the parameters of its office locations too: in Chambers Global Fried Frank is up there in the top tiers for its world-beating fund formation work.
“I didn’t want to go to a massive, faceless conglomerate firm.”
“It was a lot better than one would’ve expected,” reflects managing partner David Greenwald, commenting on the impact of the global pandemic on the firm’s business. Associates appreciated the firm’s “transparency” and regular town hall meetings to go through “the key financials and get a general update on what’s going on.” Beyond this open approach juniors also highlighted how Fried Frank appealed because of its size (“I didn’t want to go to a massive, faceless conglomerate firm”), which allows for personality to shine through: “When I did my callback interviews each person came across as a unique individual. Everyone was so different, quirky and cool.”
Strategy & Future
“It’s working for us,” says managing partner David Greenwald of the firm’s strategy. The focus remains on handling “our clients’ most important matters in all areas. Our strategy remains the same, but the environment is different,” adds Greenwald, referring to commercial changes wrought by COVID-19. “Some of our practices will be busier as a result and some will be slower.”
Almost 80% of the second and third-year associates on our list were based in the New York HQ, while the rest made their lawyerly nest in DC. Corporate is the most populated practice group, followed by litigation then real estate (which is available in New York and DC). Each group has an assignment coordinator on hand to help juniors get staffed on work. “That fits my personality because I’m not one to go hunting for my assignments or cozying up to partners to get good work,” said one relieved source. It’s not unheard of for attorneys to change practice groups within six months, with a junior commenting that “several people in my year have moved groups – they’d rather that you’re in a group you like than leave.”
Newbies are hired directly into one of corporate’s seven subgroups: asset management; capital markets and corporate governance; corporate real estate; M&A and private equity; finance; environmental; and IP transactions. Capital markets attorneys tackle the likes of public company offerings, while those in finance told us they split their time between leveraged finance matters and funds finance, “which is essentially private equity funds borrowing money to make investments.” This source noted that “there are some really crazy deals that come along with crazy timelines and hours. You learn a lot very quickly!” Juniors here conduct a lot of deal management, like “keeping up with where documents are; where we are in the transaction; and communicating with opposing counsel and passing documents on to specialists.” It’s not all organizing though, as corporate juniors also draft a lot of resolutions and certificates, on top of inserting comments from partners. “If it’s a leanly staffed deal, I might have the opportunity to draft more, like a security or collateral document.”
Corporate clients: CVS Health, Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital. Represented Aleris in its $2.8 billion acquisition by Novelis, the world’s largest aluminum recycling and production company.
Litigation juniors start life at Fried Frank as generalists and can source work in white-collar, securities, general corporate, insurance, family, and arbitration subdivisions. At the time of our calls government investigations work was reportedly booming. On these investigations, juniors had tackled a hefty amount of doc review – “the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] was sending soooo many subpoenas!” Once doc review was out of the way, juniors cut their teeth on supporting advocacy tied to enforcement action recommendations: “You do a lot of research and go through documents looking for information for the court.” Outside of working on government matters, juniors can expect to “do more substantive work like producing witness interview outlines, researching and drafting memos and maybe even writing portions of briefs and motions.” With regards to the DC practice, we were told that going to trial was not a common experience.
Litigation clients: Under Armour, Tradeweb, Onex Corporation. Represented national television broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group in connection with a federal securities class action following the termination of a $4 billion proposed merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media Company.
“The firm is committed to our long-term careers,” associates told us. An initial training program dubbed ‘Fried Frank University’ gets the ball rolling, and a mentorship scheme keeps associates on track. We heard that experiences with partners can vary by department and location, with litigation and DC highlighted as areas where associates “seem to have it harder.” Overall, we heard that “95% partners are great human beings. Then 5% have the cultural leaning of The Wolf of Wall Street.” The beloved majority “go out of their way to offer mentorship and training, but also pastoral and professional advice too. It’s all very meaningful.”
“Fried Frank has a person for everything.”
With the likes of formal feedback providers and a careers officer, “Fried Frank has a person for everything. If you’ve got an issue with something, or are unhappy and want a long-term career change, there’s someone to go to. They even have a career person to help you leave!”
Attorneys at Fried Frank can help to improve the world by working on immigration and asylum cases; helping trans individuals with name changes and legal issues; “challenging consequences of mass incarceration”; and helping the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with police misconduct cases. “Pro bono work is the most gratifying part of my work!” explained one happy Franker. In the run up to the 2020 election, many got involved with an election hotline to help people with “anything to do from voter rights to questions like ‘where do I vote?’” Following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Fried Frank became one of around 100 founding members of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance. The organization “supports activists on the ground and front-line organizations with attorneys who can be on call for pro bono opportunities.”
“Pro bono work is the most gratifying part of my work!”
Partners are supportive of pro bono work, with this interviewee explaining that “they don’t mind. At the end of the day, the clients pay the bills, so they’re cool as long as we stay up with client billables too.” Attorneys can count up to 300 pro bono hours toward their annual billing target and must have accrued at least 20 to grab a bonus. Though many told us they couldn’t do as much pro bono as they wanted to in 2020 given the broader circumstances, interviewees had nonetheless completed between 50 and 200 hours.
Pro bono hours
•For all US offices: undisclosed
•Average per US attorney: 76
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target for full bonus
Associates receive a partial bonus when they bill 1,850 hours and a full bonus at 2,000 hours. We also heard of an additional 2020 COVID-related ‘special bonus’ based on class year. In addition to the 300 hours of pro bono, associates can also count 125 qualified ‘nonbillables’ toward their billing target, which include hours spent on marketing, recruitment and business development activities. Most found that the 1,850 target was “easy enough” to reach: “It’s really just a case of billing between seven and eight hours a day with a few slow days here or there,” reported one cool-headed interviewee.
When it comes to billing, “generally people aren’t pushing for you to hit a target. I’ve never had anyone tell me I’m not getting enough hours – it’s an extra, not an expectation.” Though the juniors we spoke to tended to work the same hours overall, litigators’ hours were deemed to be “more consistent,” while corporate associates reported having “weeks billing 15 hours and weeks billing 70!”
Interviewees described their co-workers as “quirky,” with this source going on to explain that “people have niche interests that are completely divergent from mine. It’s very refreshing and wasn’t what I expected upon entering the firm! People have strong interests and you get to learn about them even through work.” Our Frankers were therefore happy to be “able to connect with colleagues beyond their legal persona.” It’s not uncommon for juniors to forge “real friendships – my officemates text and send memes to each other multiple times a day, and we often FaceTime too.” However, it’s fine if “you don’t want to spend your free time with colleagues. There’s a good line between work and life.”
“My officemates text and send memes to each other.”
Despite lawyers’ reputation for being “reticent” (as one source put it), this interviewee mirrored others when they told us how struck they were in their initial interview by “how off the cuff and natural everyone was – they said what was on their mind. People are very open here.” Though we heard that most partners “really try to cultivate that environment,” some “do the opposite and don’t necessarily respect the fact that people have personal lives.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Interviewees told us that Fried Frank has been “been trying hard for a while,” on diversity. “There’s action and desire, but the results aren’t instant.” The firm has a variety of affinity groups, but some were cited as being more active than others. The firm’s Pride Alliance received frequent praise, with sources highlighting the group’s speaker program and events: “During Pride month, a drag queen hosted a trivia night – it was fun!” Fried Frank attorneys have also started putting their pronouns in email signatures – a “heartening” move that has gained traction. The firm gives CLE credit for D&I talks, which means “they’re well attended.” Interviewees told us that “we have a lot of observant Jewish lawyers here. They make sure to have kosher meals or options at any event we do. It’s a small thing that’s really inclusive.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
Fried Frank recruits from the top 20 law schools, as well as schools with a large alumni representation at the firm. Fried Frank has previously held OCIs at the following schools: American; Boston College; Boston University; Brooklyn; SUNY Buffalo; Cardozo; University of Chicago; Columbia; Cornell; Duke; Emory, Fordham; George Mason; Georgetown; George Washington; Harvard; Hofstra; Howard; Michigan; New York Law; Northwestern; NYU; Penn; Rutgers; St. John’s; UVA; and Vanderbilt – as well as the Lavender Law Career Fair and the Northeast Black Law Students Association (NEBLSA) Job Fair. Our hiring source at the firm explains: “We plan to recruit from the same schools in 2020. Candidates can also apply through direct outreach and our website. Our goal is to get the most talented people wherever they are.”
Fried Frank typically has partners conducting interviews at OCIs, who try to interview “as many students that are interested in us as we can during this timeframe.” Our hiring source tells us that the OCI process creates a time for firm and candidate to “get to know one another. We want to try to learn as much about potential recruits as we can in a short amount of time.” Interviewers typically ask questions like “why did you go to law school? What is your favorite class; what makes it your favorite? What are you enjoying most about law school? We’ll ask students about summer work experiences and have them describe challenging moments. We want to find out their story and why they are interviewing with Fried Frank.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Have confidence and keep calm. Spend some time learning about the firm and what we do – we don’t expect you to be an expert but spending a lot of time talking about one’s interest in a practice area where we don’t have a significant presence isn’t a great use of either party’s time.” – Fried Frank hiring source.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
Callback interviews consist of a series of one-on-one interviews with two or three partners and two or three associates. “We create your tailored schedule based on information you provide to us,” our hiring source says. “Candidates can make specific requests about the types of attorneys they would like to meet based on practice area and other factors, such as gender, diversity, sexual orientation, law school and other specific interests.”
At callback level, questions will be asked to gauge whether “we relate to you on a professional and intellectual level. At the callback, we want to know why you are specifically interested in Fried Frank. The questions at this stage may not look very different from the OCI stage, but they will be substantive.” Candidates should be prepared to go into detail about prior work experiences: “We may ask about classes, professors, research or writing assignments. We want to get to the heart of your ability to be a team player and we may ask about challenging team experiences and environments. Our goal is to make sure that Fried Frank is the right place for you.”
Top tips for this stage:
“They try to make sure each candidate meets with a junior and a senior associate – it gives you a little bit of a different perspective.” – a junior associate.
“Demonstrate confidence, enthusiasm, and professionalism. The callback interview will be tiring, but candidates who remain engaged and upbeat stand out. Candidates who come to us well-prepared with thoughtful questions about our practice areas and our firm community make an impression. A good sense of humor never hurts either!” – Fried Frank hiring source.
The shift to working from home
At the time of our calls, all associates had been working from home since March 2020. The firm was reportedly “great at getting us set up and gave us a stipend for getting a home office established.” Some groups have “a weekly call to catch up with what’s happening in the group.”Corporate finance goes one step further and supplements their weekly call with “a goofy challenge – one week it was to show our best Halloween pictures.” One junior encapsulated the mood when they told us that they missed “my colleagues a lot. I can’t wait to be back in the office again with them!”
Wellbeing and mental health
Wellbeing in the context of long hours came up in conversation, with interviewees highlighting how “it’s important to let people know when you feel overwhelmed.” Teams were reportedly receptive to this, as one source explained: “As soon as I say it’s all too much, someone comes to the rescue and we figure out how to go forward.”Vacation time tends to be respected: “Every time I’ve requested vacation it’s been granted immediately and almost all partners will go out of their way to make sure you don’t have to work on vacation.”
Fried Frank offers a counseling program and mental health training, which has enabled the firm’s lawyers to “recognize the signs of stress,” with one source quipping: “If you sigh too heavily on a call with a partner, they’ll ask if you’re handling things OK!”
How the approach to D&I may develop
Some told us they’d “like to see a more interdisciplinary approach” to diversity, with intersectionality being such a prominent topic in D&I circles now. One thing the firm is looking at is allyship training, “where you can learn to be an ally and get a sticker to put on your office.” Some juniors felt that socio-economic diversity was an important area for the firm to foster more of, with suggestions including a broader recruitment scope beyond the top national and regional law schools.
Interview with Fried Frank chairman David Greenwald
Chambers Associate: How did the firm tackle 2020 and all that came with it?
David Greenwald: It was a lot better than one would’ve expected. It was like looking into the abyss at the beginning, we had no idea what was going to happen. Immediately when it became obvious what was going on, together with a lot of other businesses and law firms, we closed our offices. And we focused on four things. First and foremost was a safety of our people. Second was the technology point of view – how do we work remotely? I think it’s a miracle! We’ve all gone remote and it works! We gave a tech stipend to everyone to get the things they needed. Third was limiting financial consequences to the firm in that period. Fourth was to position the firm for recovery. This has gone on longer than expected. But the consequences to the business were shorter than expected. Business has been strong. It could have gone badly but it didn’t.
CA: Which practice areas were most affected in 2020?
DG: The firm saw a decrease in activity in April/May. Then a pick-up in activity that’s continued and we’ve been really busy since then. We’re off only by maybe a percent or two. Capital markets and finance activity got busy immediately because businesses were all looking to raise cash to survive the pandemic. There was an enormous increase in debt issuance and equity capital market transactions, and the IPO market has been surprisingly hot. And they’re not new but we’ve seen a flurry of Special Purpose Acquisition Companies. In addition, we have a big practice in helping private equity sponsors and real estate-investors raise money. That was busy at the beginning and has continued. At the beginning, these firms were rushing to close funds and began raising new funds to invest in opportunities presented in the new environment. M&A, private investment and real estate slowed down. M&A and private equity have picked up dramatically and have been busy since late summer. Real estate has seen a fall but has picked up a bit. Not back to pre-pandemic levels just yet, so it’s a small dent. I wouldn’t say our real estate lawyers are quiet, they’re just not as busy as they were.
CA: How has working remotely been for Fried Frank?
DG: Partners are staying in touch with teams and associates to make sure no one falls through cracks and partners are assigned associates to stay in touch with. Real estate has led the way in that, in having social events through the pandemic virtually and I know some of my partners are having lunch and dinner outdoors with clients. How they’re doing it in winter I don’t know! There are long-term real estate development work that we do. Those projects can go on for literally decades from acquisition of land, planning approval, financing, building it, developing it. Penn Station, we’ve worked on that project for decades. One of my partners now retired deep into his 70s told me it was his career. So those client relationships are important.
CA: What’s the firm’s strategy moving into the post-Covid world?
DG: For 2021, we want to work on our clients’ most important matters in all areas. So, our strategy remains the same, but the environment is different. Some of our practices will be busier as a result and some will be slower. But the strategy is flexible, I look at it regularly and it’s working for us.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
One New York Plaza,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $780million
- Partners (US): 138
- Associates (US): 325
- Main recruitment contact:
- Nancy Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partners: Randi Lally and Mark Hayek (NY); Matt Howard and Brad Lucas (DC))
- Diversity officer: Stephanie Quappe
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 69
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 84 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 77, SEO: 2
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: NY: 66; DC: 18
- Summer salary 2021: 2Ls: $7,916.67/semi-monthly
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Antitrust and competition; corporate (asset management, capital markets, corporate governance, derivatives, environmental, finance, mergers and acquisitions, private acquisitions and private equity); energy and energy enforcement; executive compensation and ERISA; financial services; intellectual property and technology; international arbitration; international trade and investment; litigation (antitrust litigation, commercial litigation, government contracts, healthcare fraud and compliance, securities and shareholder litigation, securities enforcement and regulation, white collar criminal defense and securities enforcement); pro bono; real estate (corporate; acquisitions, dispositions and related financings; restructuring and financing; leasing; land use, construction and development); restructuring and insolvency; tax; trusts and estates; white collar criminal defense.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP is a leading international law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, Frankfurt and London. Our lawyers regularly advise the world’s leading corporations and financial institutions on their most critical legal needs and business opportunities.
Recruitment Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
American; Boston College; Boston University; Brooklyn; SUNY Buffalo; Cardozo; University of Chicago; Columbia; Cornell; Duke; Emory, Fordham; George Mason; Georgetown; George Washington; Harvard; Hofstra; Howard; Michigan; New York Law; Northwestern; NYU; Penn; Texas; UVA; Vanderbilt
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Lavender Law; NEBLSA; SEMJF
Summer associate profile:
Our summer associate program is a critical part of our recruiting process. In hiring summer associates, we look for energetic, motivated candidates who demonstrate a high level of intellectual ability, curiosity, and creativity, as well as a strong interest in working in a collegial setting.
Summer program components:
During the program, summer associates receive meaningful work assignments in a variety of practice areas, as well as attend court, client meetings, drafting and negotiation sessions and closings. They are also given significant opportunities to work on a range of pro bono matters. Each summer associate is matched with one partner mentor and two associate mentors who review and provide feedback on assignments and guide them through the program. Working closely and socializing with partners, counsel and associates, our summer associates leave the program with a clear understanding of what Fried Frank can offer them as a place to begin their legal careers.
Recruitment website: www.friedfrank.com/careers
Linkedin: Fried Frank
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
District of Columbia
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Litigation (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Technology (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Derivatives (Band 3)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
- Hedge Funds (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- REITs (Band 5)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)