Holland & Knight LLP - The Inside View

Like Tropicana OJ, Disney World and Flo Rida, Holland & Knight is among the laureate of Sunshine State institutions that have earned national and international recognition.

“WITHIN the state of Florida, its reputation precedes it.” That's how one associate described Holland & Knight, one of the Sunshine State's biggest and most prestigious law firms. “We've got offices all over the country and more than 1,300 lawyers and I'm working at the nucleus of that,” one Miami junior shared. The firm does indeed have an impressive network of 24 offices across the US – plus three abroad – and the majority of those 1,000-plus lawyers are partners (unusually for BigLaw), giving juniors more opportunities for close-quarters senior mentorship.

"More than 1,300 lawyers and I'm working at the nucleus of that.”

It may be an absolute unit but the firm's still finding room to grow, recently pinching 30 attorneys from Reed Smith in Philadelphia and starting a new cybersecurity and data privacy team. It was also recently in merger talks with British firm Ince & Co, indicating further expansion ambitions. Chambers USA awards the firm an array of rankings cross the country including for banking, corporate, real estate and tax in Florida. Go to chambers.com for all the firm's rankings.

At the time of our research there were juniors in 22 of the firm's offices. Fewer than a third are actually based in Florida, with Boston and Miami having the largest cohorts, followed by Washington DC and New York. See the firm's Profile for where it has summers in 2019.

The Work

H&K's business and litigation sections take in almost all the firm's new associates, though a few join the real estate or government practices. Different offices take different approaches to hiring rookies: some ask summers to rank their practice area preferences, while others (like New York) ask applicants to apply for a particular group before their summer. “Because we have so many offices I'm able to get different types of work from them,” one insider shared. Staffing follows a relatively loose model, which one interviewee described as being a “drafted free agent," adding: "There's no hand-holding and the onus is on you.” Most associates get work directly from partners, telling us that “they are considerate about each individuals' workload” and that there is a fallback system for juniors with a light workload.

"Drafting secondary documents and keeping things in order.”

The business section is made up of the following subgroups: corporate, financial services, private wealth, structured finance, and syndication. The M&A practice spans “little private deals valued at $10 to 15 million and public transactions worth maybe $700 million.” Our interviewees particularly enjoyed diving into the firm's corporate nooks and crannies, including venture capital work and things related to the New Markets Tax Credit Program – the latter practice is run from Orlando, Boston,and Chicago. Other office specialisms include real estate in Jacksonville, healthcare in Tallahassee and international deals in DC.

“On 50% of deals I'm the subordinate in charge of diligence, drafting secondary documents and keeping things in order,” a corporate junior reported. “The other 50% I'm talking to the client, negotiating with the other side and making personal connections.” Another told us their day-to-day “varies wildly, though there are more 'junior' activities like reviewing documents, doing due diligence, creating checklists and whatnot.” Everyone we spoke to was happy with the balance between grunt work and more demanding practice. A financial services insider added: “Everybody's aware the partners know the clients and documents a lot better. If you have questions, then you ask what they want, and they will go through all the things you don't know.”

Corporate clients: Brynwood Partners, Harris Corporation, and Converge Technology. Advised a subsidiary of private equity firm Blue Wolf Capital on the $200 million sale of three companies to Canadian timber firm Conifex.

Most litigators start as generalists; specialist options include labor & employment, construction, and intellectual property. Mass tort cases are an increasing presence at H&K, thanks in part to new partner arrivals from Reed Smith who brought a “really interesting multi-district litigation practice” with them. Trust and estates, healthcare, consumer finance and more fall under the remit of litigation generalists. “I thought it would be almost all commercial litigation in New York,” a source there recalled, “but I've done life sciences and product liability cases too. There's a fun mix.”

“There's a lot of back-and-forth with partners.”

Some cases provide juniors with unusual tasks – on trust and estates matters they get to play detective, “going to people's houses to search their stuff when a will has gone missing.” Away from this Sherlock Holmes-style snooping, associates find themselves “doing very stereotypical BigLaw research and writing, drafting pleadings and undertaking discovery” alongside “case management and client contact.” “There's a lot of back and forth and strategizing with partners,” one junior told us, reflecting the firm's low leverage. “On the bulk of cases it's just me and the partner. I take first stab at anything written, filed or served; for example the first draft of answers, motions to dismiss, or discovery requests, and then work with the partner to edit or reformulate what I've written.”

Litigation clients: Samsung, Port of Vancouver USA, and Coca-Cola. Defeated a $32 million breach of contract claim brought against the Dominican Republic and its water resources agency.

Pro Bono

“The firm's pro bono practice is as broad as its regular one,” one junior informed us. “It's understood that everyone will take on at least one project a year.” All associates have an annual pro bono target of 50 hours, and once they've reached it earn a small trophy for their efforts. One source told us: “I got emails when I was slipping below the target asking me to justify why!” Jacksonville is perhaps the firm's spiritual pro bono heart, as it's home to partner Buddy Schulz “who basically runs” the firm-wide effort.

Asylum cases involving children “have been a big focus recently given current events” – H&K assists the Florida Guardian ad Litem program, providing legal services to children with educational, guardianship, citizenship or medical issues. Associates also work on charitable entity formations, veterans cases, and tenant evictions.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 72,981
  • Average per US attorney: 45

Hours & Compensation

Associates can count up to 100 pro bono hours towards their 1,900-hour billing target. Bonuses aren't strictly tied to the target, but some interviewees guessed “reaching 1,900 will probably become more important following the recent pay jump.” Given Holland & Knight's “reputation as a Florida firm first and foremost,” juniors were pleasantly surprised by the 2018 salary matches in most of its offices. Less popular was the bonus structure: “They don't release any information on how bonuses are decided," one junior lamented. "It's completely amorphous, and unlike at other firms we don't get bonuses until the end of the first quarter.” Some interviewees deduced that hours billed, seniority, and business development were part of what will get you a bonus, but they agreed: “There's a lack of transparency the firm hasn't really addressed.”

Few of our interviewees struggled to reach the 1,900-hour mark after their first 'stub' year. One insider declared: “You'd have to find somewhere without wifi to escape work regularly enough to miss it!” Juniors reported they're typically in the office “from between 9 and 10am to between 6 and 7pm,” and a few said they might then log in again at home to work. There are sometimes long hours, but these come in ebbs and flows. "I have down months and then last November I was staying until midnight," one source said. Another added: "1am is the latest I've had to work, one time." With the exception of New York, insiders reported that the firm has a liberal approach to flexible working: one Dallas junior said they sometimes "leave earlier or just work from home. As long as you're answering emails they don't care if you're in the office.”


“This isn't a firm where associates are logging a million hours and partners aren't," one interviewee shared. "They're working just as hard if not harder.” Juniors were also happy to find they had at least some influence on their own situations. “At one point there was a policy that could have ruffled a lot of feathers," we heard. "We associates came together to explain why we didn't like it, management was receptive, and they incorporated our thoughts into the final decision.”

“When I'm traveling I always grab lunch with someone from the local office.”

Firms love to toot their own horns about inter-office collaboration – H&K juniors were happy to back up management claims on this one. “When I'm traveling I always grab lunch with someone from the local office,” one told us. When we asked if there were any cultural contrasts between offices, interviewees zeroed in on the dress code. “If you show up in Los Angeles in business casual you'll be overdressed, but in Miami you'll be underdressed,” we heard. This translates into different attitudes too – for example, Tampa is very buttoned-up compared to laid-back Orlando.

Socially, Holland & Knight doesn't organize much beyond an annual holiday party and the usual summer season activities. “We'll sometimes go out for lunch together, but for the most part it's not super social,” an Orlando interviewee told us. “At the end of the day I just want to go home, and the thought of lots of firm events would feel mandatory.” Some sources did wish for “more firm activities,” and some keen beans had taken it upon themselves to make friends with colleagues. “We'll take it in turns to host events like birthdays or baby showers,” a Dallas source said, and a Boston junior had begun to “branch out of their practice area to find young associates to hang out with.”

Career Development

Career coaches help juniors unpick their aspirations. If that means exit opportunities, “most people who leave go either in-house or take their career in a different direction in their fourth or fifth year.” Long-term career opportunities at the firm seem to open up mostly for those with “a self-starter approach, and the firm's definitely committed to building up associates and developing them into partners.” Reflecting the firm's low leverage, H&K makes up nearly as many partners each year as it has summer associates. Confident that “the goal of hiring someone is ideally to keep them here,” interviewees told us: “Senior attorneys take you under their wing and help you create a network of mentors.”

Learning to fly requires a leap of faith as “a lot of training is more on the job than in a formalized curriculum. We have training videos like most firms which are really helpful, but almost everything I've learned has come from a partner walking me through the process.” Newbies are also assigned partner and associate mentors during their first week, with female attorneys having the option of picking an additional female mentor during their third year as part of the Women's Initiative.

Diversity & Inclusion

Holland & Knight also has African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, LGBT, Hispanic, Native American and veterans initiatives. “There don't seem to be any practice groups which are just a bunch of old white guys,” one associate observed, which is reflected in the stats that show over half of associates are women and over a quarter are non-white. “When I started things weren't great, but we've made visible efforts to improve," one interviewee felt. "For instance, we throw more diversity-related events and demonstrate more forward thinking.”

“There don't seem to be any groups which are just a bunch of old white guys.”

Many saw more room for improvement. A female associate pointed out: “It can be tough when you're in a group of 40 attorneys and there are only two female partners.” To combat the endemic industry problem of retaining female talent, H&K established a 'Rising Stars' program for women in their seventh year and beyond. Each year the firm selects a handful of promising female attorneys to enroll in a series of marketing, management and skills development programs. “In our office especially we do a really good job supporting women with flexible working,” an Orlando interviewee added.

Get Hired

“Initiative is something the firm wants to see. If you're not willing to roll up your sleeves and get things done you won't do well.” Get started by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above to find out more about getting hired at Holland & Knight.

Strategy & Future

In each of the firm's offices we spoke to insiders “shocked at how fast things have grown.” Interviewees noted that “H&K has purposefully built spaces with empty offices it intends to fill.” To find out more about the firm's future from managing partner Steven Sonberg, click the 'Bonus Features' tab to read our interview with him.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 774

Interviewees outside OCI: 121

At more than 40 schools across the country (plus some job fairs and resume drops), Holland & Knight conducts interviews with 20 or 40 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.” 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:

“Initiative is something the firm wants to see: if you don't have that and aren't willing to roll up your sleeves and get things done you won't fare well."

“If you are good humored, open-minded and a self-starter; if you can take an assignment, think through it and run with it without needing lots of oversight... you'll be successful.”



Applicants invited to second stage: 211

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:

It’s not so much about substantive legal questions as personality fit; callbacks are much more a process of identifying whether the candidate has an interest in H&K.”

“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: 78

Acceptances: 41

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.”

“Ask a lot of questions and don't feel stupid about doing so. Go all-out and learn as much as you can about the firm.”

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

Interview with managing partner Steven Sonberg

Chambers Associate: How would you describe Holland & Knight’s current market position, and what makes it stand out from other firms?

Steven Sonberg: We’ve had a lot of success in terms of our growth, not only at the associate level but also with lateral partners. The reason for that is twofold: our business strategy is sound and resonates well with people who’ve been practicing for a number of years; and our platform provides excellent opportunities for associates to advance and to learn, as they’re able to gain a lot of good experience early on and learn directly from experienced partners.

Additionally, I’d point to our culture. All firms have a distinctive culture, but here it’s particularly collaborative and oriented towards teamwork.  It’s something both lateral partners and associates have noted is important to them.

CA: Have there been any recent developments at the firm which you think are important for our readers to know about?

SS: We opened our newest office last year in Philadelphia.  The office has grown significantly (to 40 lawyers) in less than 12 months. This illustrates the nature of the attractive platform we have.

CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?

SS: Financial services is one of the firm’s largest practices. We do a lot of bank and lender representation.  Our work in specific industries such as aviation finance and tax credits has done well.  Private equity and M&A have grown significantly across our platform. Our real estate practice is one of the largest in the country, while our complex commercial and white collar litigation practices also are very strong.

CA: Are there any practices or offices you’ve earmarked for growth over the next few years?

SS: To some extent, all of our offices offer good opportunities – we’re especially looking to expand and strengthen on the West Coast in Portland, San Francisco, and LA. We’re relatively new in the Texas market with three offices in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. They will likely continue to grow. Our four largest offices are all on the East Coast (Boston, New York, DC, and Miami).  They’re also potential areas of growth.

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

SS: The changing nature of the industry is clearly something we have to constantly adapt to. There’s competition both among the firms in the AmLaw 100 and from other entrants into the industry, including alternative legal providers to accounting firms. There’s also been more of a tendency for corporate clients to do more legal work in-house. These challenges, which are being driven in part from developments in technology, also are going to bring in work too.

CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?

SS: All of us who’ve practiced for a number of years see how our careers migrated to one area or another. Look for opportunities all the time, find what’s of interest to you, and learn whatever you can about different areas of law.

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 2019: 29
  • Clerking policy: No
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 5, 2Ls: 41, 3Ls: 0
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 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 2019: 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 2019:
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, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Native American Law (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • 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)
    • Political Law Recognised Practitioner
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 5)
    • Retail (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Road (Carriage/Logistics) (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Litigation (New York) (Band 2)