Holland & Knight LLP - The Inside View

A sunshine state of mind carries across this 28-office Floridian firm – the lack of late knights certainly helps.

“WHEN I was growing up I knew of H&K as one of, if not the top firm in Miami,” a long-term fan among the associate ranks said. The firm is kind of a big deal in its home state of Florida. Surveying its 25 US offices, Chambers USA awards the firm top rankings in Florida for banking and finance, corporate M&A and private equity, and tax. H&K also tops the table for real estate in California, DC and Illinois, testament to its property pedigree.

TOP READ: Holland & Knight partner Brandon Faulkner tells us all about Florida's legal market and why it's an appealing destination to practice law.

2019 was a big year for Holland & Knight, as it broke through the $1 billion revenue threshold for the first time. Perhaps more impressively, that’s almost double the firm’s turnover coming out of the 2008 recession. Management chose to spend some of those hard-earned dollars on a brand-spanking new HK Health Initiative, including a subscription to Virgin Pulse; the firm also created a Director of Diversity & Inclusion role.

Strategy & Future

“I’ve heard repeatedly that the firm wants to demonstrate skills that clients might not realize we have,” a junior insider suggested. Part of that puzzle became clear in 2018, when the firm opened a Philadelphia office and started a new cybersecurity and data privacy practice. We heard that the New York and San Francisco offices enjoyed “big growth spurts,” perhaps aiming to catch DC, which remains (for now) H&K’s largest office by headcount. “They’re constantly on the lookout for talent whether that’s partner or associate level,” a Tysons source told us. “I’ve heard rumors of expansion to the Latin American practice.”

“They’re constantly on the lookout for talent whether that’s partner or associate level.”

The Work

H&K’s litigation and business groups draw around 40% of juniors each, the rest falling into other practices like real estate or government. Boston, New York and Miami were home to the largest cohorts of second and third years when we came calling. Some offices ask summers to rank their practice area preferences, while others (like New York) ask applicants to apply for a group before their summer. There isn’t a formal work assignment system, and associates warned us: “It’s very much sink or swim. You can’t just sit at your desk and stare at the wall.” Associates in Tysons agreed that “there’s very much a ‘fend for yourself’ system. Low tides of work can be stressful and competitive, but if you say you’re dying then other associates will try and help.” There is a fallback system for juniors with a light workload.

The broad-church litigation practice covers generalist disputes as well as labor and employment, IP, government contracts and other niches. Certain among our interviewees had done more ‘litigating’ than others – for example, while one source had dedicated most of their time to government contracts litigation, another had filled their days with nonlitigious government contracts work. “Although I’m considered a litigator by the firm, I spend less than half my time on it,” they said. Juniors in the practice also help other groups, sometimes supporting M&A transactions in a specialist capacity: “I’m often the lead IP associate involved in a deal, so I ensure the target company actually owns the patents it claims to,” one told us. Our interviewees found it difficult to escape unbillable document review, “which is tough when you have billable requirements – that’s the challenge of being a junior.” More challenging assignments are potentially on the menu: sources highlighted working on bid protests before the Government Accountability Office. “If you do manage to get such an assignment, you get a lot of freedom to run with it.” Juniors also got to write motions, take depositions and second-chair arbitrations. “I’ve had a lot of really substantive experience,” one said. “That’s the biggest advantage of working here.”

Litigation clients: Pacific West Bank, Royal Caribbean, BNP Paribas. Represented Netflix in copyright infringement claims arising from the Narcos series, brought by the mistress of Pablo Escobar.

“I’ve had a lot of really substantive experience. That’s the biggest advantage of working here.” 

Five subgroups make up ‘business’ at Holland & Knight: financial services, structured finance, private wealth, syndication, and corporate. Mid-market M&A is the name of the game in most offices; Miami tilts toward the Latin American market. Associates can specialize quickly if they’d like to: “I do a lot of M&A for healthcare providers, which is more specialized because of the regulatory concerns in transactions,” one said. Typical early tasks include reviewing purchase and operating agreements, researching tax issues arising from said agreements and putting together “pretty extensive” diligence memos. Interviewees were keen to tell us they work across several industries – like banking, energy and healthcare – but also stressed that they “tend not to work with the big public clients, like telecom or pharmaceutical companies.” H&K does have big market players on its books, but juniors didn’t mind working on deals for smaller clients who “don’t want to pay mega bills because five people were working on a document.” This means high levels of responsibility and working one-to-one with partners: “I did first drafts which didn’t have much precedent to go off from scratch.” This goes both ways though, so if a larger deal comes through you can expect “to do very junior tasks to learn the groundwork, like running checklists.”

Business clients: Pacific Premier Bank, Converge Tech Solutions, Macquarie Capital. Acted for software company Prometheus Group on its $1 billion+ sale from Francisco Partners to Genstar Capital.

Pro Bono

Firm-wide and office-based coordinators circulate pro bono work. The firm also recently adopted the ‘Paladin’ platform: lawyers fill out a questionnaire about their interests and expertise, so they can get matched with projects. That doesn’t mean attorneys are restricted to pro bono within their practice groups: real estate juniors recently helped with Miami’s bid to host the Super Bowl. Associates in the business section thought they were at a disadvantage given how much pro bono is litigation-focused: “H&K does what it can to help us, so we do a lot of work helping nonprofits become tax-exempt.” Attorneys are expected to do at least one pro bono project a year and there’s a 50-hour yearly requirement which can be credited toward the billing target. The firm also offers a helpful collections credit: “They look at how much money you’d have brought in if a pro bono case had been billable, and effectively pretend you did actually bring in that money. That counts toward the salary and bonus.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: undisclosed
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 1,900 target

Bonus allocation was a contentious topic for our interviewees, who told us the rate is below market and the process lacks transparency. Theoretically, associates earn bonuses based on their work product, extracurriculars (like attending client events) and whether they’ve hit the billing target. In reality, though, we heard that “most people get significantly under market or don’t get a bonus at all: we leave a lot of money on the table.” Many also perceived “a disincentive to reach 1,900 hours because the only punishment is not getting a bonus.” 

“Weekends are sacrosanct here.”

The base salary is in line with peer firms (only matching the New York top end in certain markets) until third year only, after which it’s based on performance along a sliding scale. Associates grumbled at being billed out at a lower cost than their official rate: “It’s like they’re giving discounts, which helps clients but not us associates.” On the plus side, associates typically get in at 9am and log off by 6:30pm: “I’m never in the office past 5pm on a Friday and weekends are sacrosanct here,” one told us. “Partners don’t create work out of nowhere just to make you stay late.” Many also had freedom to work remotely: “The firm lets us work from home pretty much whenever we want.”

Culture & Career Development

“These are some of the nicest partners I’ve ever worked for,” another of our sources gushed. “I’ve never heard them yell at anyone.” Some put this down the fact that from Miami to New York “a lot of the firm’s clients are keen on protecting Friday nights and weekends, and that definitely carries across to Holland & Knight. You work when you’re at work and socialize on your own time.” We also heard that “the firm is very family-oriented: people understand if you need to go pick up your kids.” That doesn’t mean a barren social landscape: the firm hosts happy hours every month and the lucky bunch in DC get to enjoy Friday drinks on the firm’s roof terrace. Sources also described a March 2020 firm-wide meeting in Orlando: “There will be a number of social activities then.” Interviewees in smaller offices like Philadelphia were pleased to not be siloed off from colleagues: “H&K really makes an effort to involve us, people come from elsewhere to visit this office and share work. Even here in Philly, everyone wants to help young associates grow into the best attorneys we can be.” Reflecting the firm's low leverage, H&K makes up nearly as many partners each year as it has summer associates.

“These are some of the nicest partners I’ve ever worked for.”

A Miami source agreed that “Holland & Knight definitely wants everyone to make partner, but how much oversight you get from senior attorneys can vary.” Many mentor figures took a hands-off approach – “they don’t keep us behind the desk: one of my partners tells me to 'go be a lawyer'” – which drew mixed feedback from juniors. “Some of the partners couldn’t care less, they’re more interested in us getting the work done instead of explaining it,” one complainant said. “I just learn from the changes they’ve made to my work.” Every new associate at the firm gets a partner and associate mentor, but some sources remained unconvinced. One was particularly blunt: “I forgot we actually have mentors, which says it all.” Others were more positive, citing the “generally helpful” annual associate reviews (biannual for associates’ first two years).

While problems seemed to trouble transactional teams, junior litigators benefited from more hands-on relationships: “A number of my colleagues are my friends too, they’re committed to helping me become successful,” a junior in disputes said. “They’ll take the time to explain things that they’ve been doing for 20 years.” Juniors in transactional departments also had bones to pick with formal training, which they felt “is almost always aimed at litigators – there’s very little on the transactional side.” Litigators themselves suggested that “the firm needs to do more training for specific groups, rather than generalizing.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Our sources were far happier with diversity at Holland & Knight. It didn’t take them long to be impressed: “Before OCIs I looked up the roster of attorneys and saw many Latinx names, so I felt comfortable applying,” one recalled. Female associates pointed to the Rising Stars program, where H&K takes a group of female attorneys (by application) and provides a year-long management and professional development series. There’s also a Women’s Initiative that’s particularly keen on well-being: “They do a series of physical and mental health seminars. The New York office recently sponsored the local running club.” Each office holds a monthly conference to talk about issues affecting women; “one that stands out was a presentation about how to make it as a working mom. H&K gets it right – the firm makes me feel like I can have a family and still succeed here.” Breastfeeding mothers can FedEx their milk back home if they have to travel for work, and female attorneys can pick an additional female mentor during their third year.

“…makes me feel like I can have a family and still succeed here.”

Reports about racial diversity were more mixed, largely by location. Cosmopolitan Miami got good feedback: “Diversity is well embedded in our culture. Most people in this office speak Spanish and the folks in leadership are diverse, which organically trickles down the firm.” Over in Virginia, however, “people have tried to encourage diversity events but at the last one literally three people came.” H&K has African American, LGBT, Hispanic, Native American, veterans’ and Asian/Pacific Islander initiatives and pays for “a handful” of attorneys to attend the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association conference.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed

At more than 40 schools across the country (plus some job fairs and resume drops), Holland & Knight conducts interviews with 18 to 20 students in a visit. Hiring committee members from each office visit campuses, alongside alumni of the school.

The questioning at this stage focuses on “a candidate’s intellectual, interpersonal and motivational qualities and prior relevant experience, if any,” says professional growth & development partner Deborah Bernard. Advance research of the firm’s practice areas and the interviewer’s background (if you know who will be assessing you) are essential.

Top tips for this stage:

"Be prepared, on time and familiar with the firm's practice areas. If you know the names of your interviewers, research their backgrounds. Above all, be yourself and ask thoughtful questions."professional growth & development partner Deborah Bernard


Applicants invited to second stage: undisclosed

As a means of getting to know Holland & Knight, applicants meet with four to six associates and partners during the callback phase. Their questions zero in on finding summer associates with “the skills, work ethic and work style needed to succeed at Holland & Knight.” Those skills include independent thinking, self-confidence, interfacing with clients and working as part of a team.

Interviewers will assess each candidate’s writing sample and could discuss anything on their resume. Also important – get to your interview on time!

Top tips for this stage:

"Everything on a resume is up for discussion. Review your writing sample and be prepared to speak about it. Reflect on what you're looking for in a firm in terms of practice area, culture, training and associate support, and focus on those firms that meet your criteria and resonate with you." professional growth & development partner Deborah Bernard

“The firm is definitely looking for someone who will be proactive when they get here and not just wait for their marching orders.”

Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: undisclosed

Work for clients from traditional and emerging industries, as well as pro bono, is up for grabs during the summer program; feedback comes after each assignment as well as from mid and end-of-summer reviews. There’s also a Summer Associate Training Program (SATP) that gets everybody clued up with practice-specific and soft skills training.

“Be authentic and work hard,” the firm advises. “Understand that every email and written communication is another example of your writing sample.”

Notable summer events: cooking classes, kayak outings, dinners at partners’ homes, sporting events and restaurant dinners

Top tips for this stage:

“Do as much as you can experience-wise. You want to turn out good work product, but I think sitting in on client calls and following people to court and doing the shadowing that you won't get the opportunity to do while working here full-time is invaluable.”

"Take ownership of your work and be your own feedback manager." professional growth & development partner Deborah Bernard

And finally...

Each associate’s practice area preferences – along with business need – are taken into account when H&K makes offers.

Holland & Knight LLP

701 Brickell Avenue,,
Suite 3300,,
FL 33131
Website www.hklaw.com

  • Number of domestic offices: 26
  • Number of international offices: 3
  • Worldwide revenue: $914.9 million
  • Partners (US): 740
  • Associates (US): 372
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Carrie Weintraub, Chief Professional Development & Human Resources Officer (carrie.weintraub@hklaw.com)
  • Hiring partner: Deborah E Barnard
  • Diversity officer: Tiffani G Lee
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 29
  • Clerking policy: No
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 1Ls: 5, 2Ls: 41, 3Ls: 0
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office:
  • California: 8, District of Columbia: 3, Florida: 10, Illinois: 1, Massachusetts: 4, New York: 6, Pennsylvania: 2, Texas: 6, Virginia: 1
  • Summer salary 2020: 1Ls: $3,400/weekly salary 2Ls: $3,400/weekly salary
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Holland & Knight advises clients in a range of practice areas, including complex commercial litigation, corporate law, intellectual property, private wealth services, mergers and acquisitions, real estate and zoning law, and public policy and regulatory matters. Attorneys work collaboratively across practices and teams, drawing upon their legal and industry knowledge.

Firm profile
Holland & Knight is a global firm with more than 1400 lawyers and other professionals in 29 offices in the US and internationally. Interdisciplinary practice groups and industry-based teams provide clients with access to attorneys throughout the firm, regardless of location. Every day, clients call on Holland & Knight to understand their issues, advocate on their behalf and create solutions to accelerate their position.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
American, Baylor, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Florida, Florida State, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Loyola of Los Angeles, Michigan, New York University, Notre Dame, Northwestern, SMU Dedman School of Law, Stanford, Temple, UC Berkeley, UC Hastings, UC Los Angeles, University of Chicago, University of Houston, University of Miami, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, University of Virginia, USC Gould, Villanova, William & Mary and others.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Attracting, retaining and promoting diverse professionals and fostering an inclusive work environment are priorities at Holland & Knight. We attend various events including, Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Boston Lawyers Group Boston Diversity Job Fair, Cornell Law School New York City Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, University of Connecticut Boston Off- Campus Interview Program and the University of Pennsylvania Miami Regional Interview Program.

Summer associate profile:
Holland & Knight seeks students of substance from diverse backgrounds with superior academics, leadership skills, involvement in extracurricular activities and demonstrated commitment to their communities. We look for candidates who have the desire and ethical foundation to make significant contributions as lawyers to the firm, the profession and in the community. We have been very successful in hiring students who meet these criteria, and our firm as a whole reflects these values.

Summer program components:
Our summer program provides a real-world law firm experience, with opportunities to learn how to practice law by working with experienced lawyers on complex matters for sophisticated clients; attend client meetings, depositions, hearings, trials, closings and other external events; build relationships with our attorneys through work assignments, our mentoring program, practice group meetings and events throughout the summer; work with your peers in the office and throughout the firm; meet our top leaders and learn about the history and future of the firm; improve your substantive and practical legal skills through customized training programs; and connect with associate and partner mentors who help you navigate your summer associate experience and begin your career with us.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.hklaw.com
Linkedin: holland-&-knight-llp
Twitter: @Holland_Knight
Facebook: HollandKnightLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Native American Law (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Food & Beverages: Alcohol (Band 2)
    • Government Contracts (Band 4)
    • Government Relations (Band 2)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 3)
    • Native American Law (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Road (Carriage/Logistics) (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Litigation (New York) (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)