After adding to its East Coast empire in 2018, New Jersey stalwart Gibbons is set on expanding its scope beyond litigation and the borders of the Garden State.
ONE source explained the rationale behind Gibbon's decision to only hire clerks into its entry-level litigation ranks: “clerkships provide a better avenue for training and learning the techniques of arguing litigation – clerks just have a level of familiarity and comfort with life in the court. They know who to call and what the standards are; it just makes court less intimidating and daunting.”
“In the future we’ll continue to branch out from New Jersey.”
With a premier regional ranking in Chambers USA for general commercial litigation (as well as high nods to its products liability, environment and white-collar crime/government investigations expertise), it's no wonder Gibbons is seeking the very brightest clerks in the market to continue building upon its stellar rep for all things litigation. But contentious work is not the only string in this firm's bow: its transactional practices also pick up New Jersey rankings in Chambers USA, especially when it comes to corporate/M&A, real estate and intellectual property. While a clerkship isn't a prerequisite for those entering the transactional groups, sources did say that “they're valuable even if you're doing transactional work; you still have to have a sense of what might go wrong, as a lot of litigation work comes up if transaction documents go awry.” The firm confirmed for us that the transactional groups are often bolstered by laterals coming over from larger New York firms.
While Gibbons' homestead is firmly established in its native Newark, the firm has expanded its geographic scope over the years, adding offices in Trenton, New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington. 2018 proved to be a bumper year for further East Coast expansion, with Gibbons opening new bases in DC and West Palm Beach. At the time of our calls though, the vast majority of juniors were based in the Newark HQ.
Strategy & Future
Chairman and managing director Patrick Dunican Jr. tells us that he’s “delivered on the promise of opening up new offices, including our Washington, DC office in July. In addition, in September, we opened an office in West Palm Beach, Florida staffed with one partner. Given the tension between current DC policies and those coming out of Trenton, it makes sense for some in our client base to relocate to Florida for tax reasons." With these office openings, juniors commented that “in the future we’ll continue to branch out from New Jersey in order to grow our clients’ interests.” Others admitted that “the middle market is a challenging place to be” and wondered whether the best thing for Gibbons would be to “focus on a particular area of litigation or set of products, or develop into a high standard full-service firm across the board. I don’t know yet which one would play to our strengths.” For more from Dunican, click the 'Bonus Features' tab above to read our interview with him.
Out of the crop of associates on our list, three had found a home in the firm's commercial and criminal litigation (CCL) group, while two had joined Gibbons' corporate practice. The following groups had one apiece: real property, products liability, intellectual property, and employment & labor law. Those in CCL were very pleased with the decision to install a new staffing partner in the practice: “The allocation system has changed for the better, as the channel through which we get work is now better understood. The head of the group now works in conjunction with the staffing partner, which has made my experience pretty easy – the staffing partner stops by on a weekly basis to gauge our bandwidth.” A similar system is in place within the corporate practice.
“There's a broad spectrum of anything litigation-related” in Gibbons' CCL practice. “It's a wide old net,” with the likes of environment, insurance, construction, product liability, criminal, class action and typical breach of contract business-related cases available. Junior associates are “not formally attached anywhere, but they do encourage you to start thinking about what you'd like to do in a substantive way.” We heard that a few juniors home in on the appellate subgroup. Responsibility-wise, sources told us that “we don't have years at Gibbons – we're just given the responsibilities that they think we can handle. It's not you starting small and progressing on to writing memos; I'm at the stage where I'll research and write the whole brief, oversee discovery production, speak with opposing counsel in client meetings, and sometimes even argue in court.”
Litigation clients: Hackensack Meridian Health, Vitamin Shoppe and New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. Recently represented the latter in connection with class action lawsuits brought over issues with automobile lease agreements that were distributed to over 500 New Jersey dealers.
Corporate also has a broad scope. There's a mix of M&A, private equity, tax, corporate finance and more for juniors here to sample. Our sources unanimously celebrated their early exposure: “You're never just a back-room person or churning wheels – you're really in the deal!” For M&A matters, both the size of the deal and the partner running the show will determine junior roles: “If it's a large deal, I might not touch the merger or purchase agreements. But for smaller ones, I might be drafting or revising the actual agreement.” Associates seemed to relish the opportunity to help research and edit documents: “It's never secretarial work. It's more a case of being told that 'we need this type of clause in this document for x reason, can you write one?' There's lots of legal writing involved and, compared to big coastal firms, the variety is great.”
Corporate clients: Triangle Home Fashions, Peloton Advantage and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Advised the latter and the state of New Jersey on the combined bid by New York and New Jersey to represent the US for the hosting of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Both corporate and litigation sources described opportunities for early client development at Gibbons. “I go to mixers with partners and clients so I can get to know them. Even though I’m the youngest person in the room, they [the partners] want to hone my skills and invest in me,” a corporate junior said. Litigators flagged that opportunities can be more conditional: “You can tell if you’re well liked by management, as you’ll be asked to attend meetings and events. Assuming you have a partner you’re close with, they’ll be very open about the firm, its future and what they see you developing into.” Consideration for the partnership begins “around the seventh or eighth year,” but sources did admit the criteria for success wasn’t overly transparent: “I don’t feel like it’s made abundantly clear what the objectives and benchmarks are.”
Hours & Compensation
The billing target for Gibbons’ attorneys stands at 1,980 hours for the year. While sources confirmed it's an attainable goal and “not an oppressive amount of work,” during busier times some did find that “there's not a great deal of support for associates with administrative tasks and paralegal-type work.” That said, the hours do tend to remain pretty consistent, especially for litigators: “I usually work from 9am until 6.30pm, and find that I’m the last here if I leave at 7pm. There have been a few periods where I’ve been super busy, where I’ll stay until 10pm or leave earlier and work from home, but those occasions are few and far between.”
Sources had mixed opinions on base salaries. Some told us that Gibbons’ lack of a response to the new market standard set by neighboring firms across the Hudson in New York City was “not well received – I think retention and recruitment will be dependent on whether or not we make a move.” While others were adamant that there’s a common “understanding that we’re not a New York firm and that the working hours are the trade off, I don’t think it [salary matching] will have a correlation with retention and recruitment – we’re still getting the laterals.” At the time of our calls there were “rumors” of a salary increase on the horizon (and the firm did indeed raise all of its associate salaries in December 2018). When it comes to bonuses, “you’ll still get one if you don’t hit your hours, but you will get a lower base salary raise.”
“If you haven’t done any pro bono, people will start asking why you haven’t,” one junior told us, emphasizing the extent to which pro bono is culturally encouraged. At the same time, however, sources did highlight that “it’s incumbent on you to forge your own pro bono path.” Being proactive is rewarded with 50 hours of billable credit that can count toward associates’ billing target. When it comes to pro bono subject matter, “Newark definitely influences our causes; the help we offer is for people seeking assistance in this community. We respond to the need of the city.” High up on the list of matters was work sourced through local expungement and domestic violence clinics, plus cases that are taken on behalf of veterans.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 12,850
- Average per attorney: 73
“It's incredibly professional,” declared one source, adding that Gibbons isn’t necessarily a firm to “mold to the flavor of the day – we're still wearing suits five days a week!” Banish any visions of Silicon Valley-style mod-cons now: “There are no slides or ping pong tables!” another source quipped. It’s fair to say then that Gibbons has a more traditional approach, with some sources labeling the culture “buttoned up in the office.” On the topic of the office, interviewees made it clear that they’re expected to be in it: “No one really works from home, but because of that, you really get to know people, which is a good thing. Partners know who you are and know about your lives.” Not that there’s too much unnecessary chit-chat during working hours, as interviewees tended to describe the office as “pretty quiet – I like that though. The door’s always open however, even if sometimes it seems that we have a monk-like existence!”
“Connection and conversation are of paramount importance.”
Outside of working hours, juniors made it clear that their existence is not so monk-like after all. “We’re expected to show up to firm events,” one told us, “so that we can continue the Gibbons legacy.” Another agreed, and explained that “we’re highly encouraged to go to activities and participate. People here want to know that you’re a person! On a macro-level, I’d say it’s a Kool-Aid drinking firm, in that you have to truly buy into the culture, the firm, the brand, and lay your roots here. They’re looking for junior associates who will dive into the experience; connection and conversation are of paramount importance.”
Diversity & Inclusion
“With respect to racial and ethnic diversity, it’s not good,” one source commented, matching other interviewees’ estimations. “However, we are fairly diverse when it comes to gender.” We think this interviewee summed up the situation best: “At the moment it feels like we’re in a middle ground position, and there’s changing sands; the firm is trying to figure what the most effective diversity initiatives and recruitment strategies look like.” One such strategy that juniors were keen to tell us about centered on the firm's 'clerkship to associate pipeline' program: “It’s about reaching out to people in law school who are trying to get clerkships; we give them feedback on interviews, submissions and their writing, plus we give them advice on what judges respond well to. It’s an initiative that’s aimed at the local community and shows that we care.” The program focuses on diverse students selected from three local law schools: Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-Camden and Seton Hall.
Interview with chairman and managing director Patrick Dunican Jr.
One Gateway Center,
- Head Office: Newark, NJ
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: $100,403,000
- Partners (US): 136
- Associates (US): 56
- Main recruitment contacts and hiring partners: Debra A. Clifford (firstname.lastname@example.org) Damian V. Santomauro (email@example.com)
- Diversity officer: Robert Johnson
- Recruitment details
- Clerking policy: Yes
Main areas of work
The firm’s main areas of practice include: commercial and criminal litigation, corporate, employment and labor law, environmental, financial restructuring and creditors’ rights, government and regulatory affairs, intellectual property, products liability, and real property.
With nearly 200 attorneys, Gibbons is a leading law firm in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, ranked among the nation’s top 200 by The American Lawyer. Gibbons has been recognized nationally for its work — as, for example, one of only 20 law firms on the National Law Journal’s inaugural ‘Midsize Hot List’— as well as regionally. The New Jersey Law Journal has awarded Gibbons a ‘Litigation Practice of the Year’ designation four times in recent years, in the class action, products liability, and commercial litigation categories and with the overall ‘General Litigation Practice of the Year’ honor. Law360 has also highlighted the firm’s multidisciplinary litigation strength, and its contributions to several high-profile corporate transactions in the public and private sectors, in its ‘Regional Powerhouse’ series. The firm has been certified as a great workplace by the independent analysts at the Great Place to Work® organization.
Judicial Clerkship Recruitment:
Gibbons currently focuses its entry-level recruiting efforts exclusively on judicial law clerks. Since eliminating the firm’s Summer Associate Program in 2003, Gibbons has focused on hiring new associates who have completed a judicial clerkship. Fully 70% of the attorneys in the commercial and criminal litigation department served for federal or state judges. These attorneys provide first-hand insight into the preferences and practices of federal and state judges, in addition to a well-developed knowledge of the inner workings of the courts, adding value for the firm’s clients.
Recruitment website: www.gibbonslaw.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Litigation: Products Liability (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)