Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP - The Inside View

Hol(s)well that ends well at this New York litigation boutique, where a close-knit firm feel allows associates to “take ownership of their work.”

When you’re in the Big Apple, it may be tempting to gravitate toward the city’s biggest law firms – and why wouldn’t you? They can provide bespoke intimate mentoring, lean staffing that allows for greater responsibility, a varied workload, and long-term investment in your personal and professional development… but wait. What if that description is more befitting of a boutique by the name of Holwell, Shuster & Goldberg? Spoiler alert: it is. Sources unanimously told us that tangible work and experience come faster for them at HS&G than it does for their peers at other firms. “I’m doing a lot of things here as a third year that I ordinarily wouldn’t do until much later,” one explained, “I was the lead on discovery within six months. I’ve gotten such incredible advancement in my career – it’s invaluable.”

“Everyone here just loves practicing law.”

At around twelve years old, HS&G is on the younger side of the firms that we cover in our guides. However, this doesn’t make it any less prestigious, as it attracts a high caliber of attorneys. “The firm has a really interesting mix of people with great credentials. Everyone here just loves practicing law.” This reflects Chambers USA’s assessment of the firm’s litigation expertise and hammers home the point that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Strategy & Future

Firm partners Vincent Levy, Blair Kaminsky, and Jayme Jonat sat down with us to discuss the firm’s approach as it moves into its pre-teen years. “We’ll continue to grow with deliberate hiring and diversification of our practice, which will ensure that we remain a preeminent litigation boutique in the city,” Kaminsky affirms. And while growth is important, it’s crucial to understand that HSG has no intention of ballooning itself to the size of its peers. “If the firm gets too large and starts to become more corporatized, you lose that cultural element, and it’s something that we all value and cherish,” Levy stresses, “So it will affect the practice if we get bigger.” That cultural element is something the trio can’t emphasize enough, citing the type of people that HSG tends to hire. “We can take the gloves off when we need to, but we do it as humans first,” Kaminsky explains, “That doesn’t change the zealousness of the advocacy, but it changes how we conduct ourselves. That distinguishes us in the courtroom and how we handle ourselves in the office.”

Looking at the firm’s present activity, the partners three detail the current docket of work, and there’s plenty to go around: “We are so busy!” Jonat happily tells us, continuing to say, “We’re having so much work come through the door and it’s fantastic to see.” With a broad 50/50 split between plaintiff and defense work, the partners claim this mix only adds to the firm’s appeal: “It makes our practice more interesting, as there’s more variety,” Jonat shares. Not to mention the amount of responsibility that comes with being at a smaller firm, Levy tells us that it’s common to see associates as first chair on big cases for clients, a change from “what they may expect – that being someone with a little more grey hair!”

The Work

Being a boutique litigation firm, there’s only one practice area to dive into here – and it’s major. Work assignment is done through a staffing partner who, we hear, “keeps tabs on the work you’re doing and the work you want to be doing. It’s all about associate availability.” Before too long, though, the system becomes more hybrid – partners who enjoy working with you with will offer you work, and equally as likely, associates can reach out to partners if they want to be staffed on something of interest to them. “If something comes through the door you want to work on, you can always raise your hand to them and say you want to get onto it,” one junior informed us, and this organic change to a more informal process was common for all our interviewees: “When you start, it’s centralized, but it balances as time goes on.”

“It’s incredibly important and sophisticated work, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.

Insiders were all about litigation, litigation, litigation – and all kinds of it too, just as they preferred: “We’re all generalists here and we like it that way. No matter the class year, we all love the variety.” The variety in question includes antitrust, appellate, judgment enforcement, contract disputes, securities, IP, fraud, as well as both sides of plaintiff and defense work. “It’s very complex stuff and that sums up our work here,” one source explained proudly. Two cases in particular held our interviewees’ attention, a pair of matters that have been long standing at the firm. The first is the HSG’s representation of Visa in a multidistrict litigation into swipe fees which we heard is a matter that “has been going on longer than the firm itself!” The second matter that insiders couldn’t get enough of was the firm acting for Chubb, which sources explained as “a nationwide trial counsel covering the opioid epidemic and if an insurance company is covering the consequences of that fairly; it’s incredibly important and sophisticated work, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.”

Due to the firm’s smaller nature, sources felt they were given more substantive work early on compared to juniors at bigger firms. Such work includes drafting; running document discovery; meeting clients; taking depositions; summary judgments; and prepping witnesses. Associates were eager to stress that work distribution is flat. There’s no real hierarchal difference between class years, and it’s largely based on your ability. So, “it’s not a matter of what year you’re in when it comes to responsibilities. Teams are going to trust you and let you take ownership of your work.”

Key clients: Visa, National Basketball Association, HSBC Bank, Aenergy. Represented TIG Insurance in a second circuit appeal against ExxonMobil Oil Corp. in relation to groundwater contamination lawsuits totaling $25 million.

Career Development

“One of the nice things about working at a firm of this size is that you’ll never not work with somebody,” said one of our sources, and this was echoed by many others; this level of firm interconnectivity made our interviewees feel more comfortable at HSG at the start of their professional development. Formally speaking, associates are assigned a partner and associate mentor from the outset, “but everyone understands that informal mentorship happens as well. Both methods proved extremely valuable to me.”

“Anyone who’s an associate here is considered partnership material.”

The community feeling at the firm was palpable, as sources explained why they get a lot more attention in comparison to their contemporaries at other firms. “A lot of the partners are really interested in how I’m doing and what I’m interested in,” an insider detailed. “Everyone is an integral part of the team because we’re so small. You must contribute and drive your cases forward.” This was reflected in prospects for partnership, as we heard that everyone is hired with the expectation that they’re at the firm for the stretch of their careers: “Anyone who’s an associate here is considered partnership material. Everyone who plans to be here for the long haul thinks they have a good shot at making partner.”

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: no requirement

Don’t be mistaken – the lack of a clear billable target doesn’t mean that there’s any shortage of hours at this boutique. Despite no requirement, we heard that there is a more informally agreed upon benchmark that juniors should shoot for: “There’s a soft recommendation of 2,100 hours that has been communicated.” This didn’t bother any of our associates who felt those hours were easily achievable. “It’s a pretty attainable target,” one shrugged. “We’re in demand and it’s a busy firm.”

We heard salary was market rate with a lockstep connected bonus, which associates were pleased with. Reportedly, the hybrid working policy is adaptable too, requiring juniors to be in three days a week: “Most people do Tuesday to Thursday, but the firm is flexible,” one insider explained, “No one is checking how many times you swipe in or anything – we’re all adults who are trusted to get our work done.”

Pro Bono

Akin to the billable target, pro bono is similarly uncapped at the firm, much to the appreciation of its associates. “One of the best things about pro bono here is that it all counts as billable time, and that incentivizes it,” a source happily told us. “Many people have also brought in interesting matters themselves, and the firm is super open to that.” Pro bono is a transparent process at HSG too: “We have a monthly meeting where we can talk about pro bono matters and what interests us.” The matters on offer range far and wide, with prisoner cases, criminal defense, and appeals highlighted by most of our sources. Overall, juniors were thoroughly enthused by the pro bono practice, with one commenting that “we regularly get on our feet here, and that’s why we do it.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys: 8,031
  • Average per attorney: 88.77


It should come as no surprise to hear that everyone at HS&G is quite well integrated: “You know everyone to varying degrees, but you know everyone.” This fosters a very organic culture at the firm, where mandated socializing is neither wanted nor required. “The firm doesn’t necessarily do loads of organized social events,” a junior reflected, “maybe once a quarter? But when we do have our annual holiday party or anything like that, it’s always well-attended.” We heard a great deal about the firm’s yearly retreat, which sources described as an “all day firm outing where everyone can play tennis and have dinner and socialize.” Speaking of keeping active, there’s a state-of-the-art gym located within the office building that is accessible to all employees of the firm.

“Everyone takes the time to get to know you on a personal level – it’s not just transactional.”

Outside of that, juniors were keen to emphasize the connections they’ve made with each other: “Everyone takes the time to get to know you on a personal level – it’s not just transactional.” Associates pointed out the academic feel of the firm, too. “The culture is intellectually curious,” an insider expressed, “friendly law nerds. I think a lot of people here would enjoy being law professors, but they chose to practice.” This means a lot of likeminded individuals have bonded over their shared interest in the law, which has created a warm community feeling. “Everyone is open, friendly, and relaxed,” an insider confirmed, “It’s not full of personalities that clash.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

While the size of the firm largely presented positive opinions from our sources, it led to one area that could use some improvement. BigLaw is no stranger to holes in diverse representation but when your share of attorneys is less than other firms in the industry, the lack of diversity becomes more apparent, as our interviewees pointed out: “The firm makes a significant effort in hiring diverse attorneys, but it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if potential recruits don’t see anyone who looks like them at the firm.” That said, we did hear that representation is better at the associate level with well-attended affinity group and a strong community focus on diverse hiring. “We have a DEI committee and a subgroup that focuses on these issues,” an associate told us, “There’s a lot of effort spent thinking about DEI to improve the things that don’t work and strengthen the things that do.” Awareness is also big at the firm, with events designed to create conversations around being inclusive during team meetings, appropriate language to use around the holidays – there’s even a DEI library filled with relevant children’s books you can take home to your family!

Despite the partnership not being overly diverse (there are four female partners compared to the 15 male partners), we heard gender balance was better amongst associates, with 35% being women. The consensus was very much that HS&G’s actions speak for themselves, and the firm is very much trying to bolster representation: “The firm wants people who have different backgrounds and perspectives,” one stated.And with 67% of survey respondents believing that there’s diverse staffing on matters, this source continued, “Our clients come to us with complex cases, and they want not only the best, but also diverse attorneys on them.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

Number of OCI applicants interviewed 2023: 67

HSG is now participating in OCI at select schools.  In the summer, the firm also sends letters to select law reviews and journals as well as student resource and affinity groups that introduce law students to the firm. At certain schools, HSG hosts receptions for law review members to meet HSG lawyers in person.  HSG is accepting resume applications from students interested in the firm’s summer associate program or for positions as full-time associates.


Successful candidates are interviewed at the firm’s New York office, meeting with a mix of four partners and associates of different levels. These interviews generally take place in a single day, preferably in person—though allowance is made for remote callbacks on a case-by-case basis. Founding partner the Hon. Richard J. Holwell tells us the budding litigation boutique is on the hunt for “talented, creative, strategic lawyers.” Holwell also shines some light on the interview questions: “The questions we ask are geared toward confirming a candidate’s interest in litigating at a firm like ours and ensuring that we hire top talent.  Our close-knit, collaborative, roll-up-your-sleeves culture is important to us, and we look for candidates who share that spirit.”

Top tips:

“Be yourself.  We are looking for colleagues who we will enjoy working with over the long term, and the best way for us to assess that is if you are genuine and relaxed during the interview.”– Richard Holwell

“The firm has a pretty eclectic group of characters and people do well to be themselves here. So be sure to offer your opinion, whatever that may be.”– a third-year associate

Summer program

Offers 2023: 17

The summer program at HSG allows summer associates to step into the shoes of first and second-year associates by working on real-world assignments like deposition preparation, drafting briefs and legal research.  Each summer associate is assigned a home team so that they have the experience of attending strategy meetings and observing the arc of a case over time.  However, summer associates are also encouraged to take on assignments on other cases and work with a variety of lawyers at the firm.  HSG also organizes a number of social activities for summer associates, ranging from cocktail parties to baseball games, as well as a chance to attend the firm’s annual summer outing.  Holwell encourages potential candidates to “make the most out of your summer, dig in to your assignments, solicit feedback, and take advantage of the opportunities we offer for you to work and socialize with a diverse group of lawyers at the firm.”

Top tips:

“Be confident in your abilities, make a strong personal impression, and enjoy the give and take of discussing and working through challenging issues with your colleagues.” – Richard Holwell

“Take the mask off before you come here.” – a second-year associate

And finally...

The firm's founding partner leaves us with some food for thought… "HSG is a non-hierarchical meritocracy where the value of one’s ideas counts far more than one’s seniority level," Holwell suggests.


Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP

425 Lexington Avenue,
New York,
NY 10017
Website www.hsgllp.com

Main areas of work
Holwell Shuster & Goldberg leads—and achieves winning results—in high-impact, complex commercial disputes with the greatest financial and legal stakes. The firm specializes in the following areas of complex commercial litigation: antitrust, appellate, arbitration/mediation, bankruptcy litigation, distressed debt and fund litigation, intellectual property, pro bono, securities litigation, transnational litigation, and white collar and internal investigations. 

Firm profile
Since its founding in 2012, HSG has become one of the most influential and respected litigation boutiques in the country. The firm is known for its ability to try high-stakes commercial cases, both domestic and multi-jurisdictional, and for the quality of its legal scholarship and writing. As the firm has cemented its capacity to handle matters of any size, it has retained characteristics important to its identity as a nimble litigation firm. HSG has likewise remained equally adept at representing both plaintiffs and defendants, and continues to offer clients and referring law firms relatively few conflicts of interest to navigate. Clients interviewed by Chambers remark that HSG lawyers “are incredibly smart, passionate and responsive,” and “are uniformly dedicated to providing the most on-point legal guidance and the highest-quality service.”

Our lawyers are the best in the business. They graduated at the top of their law school classes, and more than 70% of our partners and associates have served clerkships on domestic or international courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of our lawyers have distinguished themselves in other ways as well—in academia, industry, and prior practice at some of the nation’s finest law firms. We have an active D&I committee and are proud to celebrate our lawyers’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives. We are also deeply committed to giving back through a significant investment in pro bono work and other community initiatives.

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Securities: Institutional Plaintiffs: Mainly RMBS Litigation (Band 1)