Three years post-merger, “there’s definitely a lot of forward momentum” at Hunton Andrews Kurth.
Like two buddy cops in an action-comedy movie, Houston and Richmond are a perfect match. At least for Hunton Andrews Kurth, whose 2018 merger brought together firms rooted in Texas and Virginia. “We’ve seen so many benefits since the merger,” junior sources reflected. “There’s lots of cross-office work, as well as work in sections we didn’t have before. We now have the capability of handling all aspects of big deals in one place.” Legacy Hunton & Williams (headquartered in Richmond) brought expertise in litigation, real estate, capital markets, cybersecurity and insurance to the union, while legacy Andrews Kurth brought corporate and oil and gas know-how, plus a big Houston presence.
The firm’s largest office today is actually DC, and Hunton has solid national coverage with a total of 15 offices across the US, as well as six overseas bases. The firm’s industry focuses are reflected in many of its nationwide accolades in Chambers USA, whichinclude environment, capital markets: securitization, energy, projects, privacy & data security, retail, and climate change. The firm also garners regional rankings in nine jurisdictions, including Texas, Virginia, and Florida.
Across our research, Hunton falls within the stronger half of the market for all areas of associate satisfaction>
Strategy & Future
Managing partner Wally Martinez flags four key industries as strategic focuses: financial services, energy, real estate development & finance, and consumer products. “Right now, I think our key industries continue to grow,” Martinez explains. Looking at energy in particular, Martinez notes that “we already covered traditional power, renewables, and oil and gas very well. We felt we should invest in nuclear, so we recruited a highly regarded practice leader in the nuclear space [George Borovas] to our Tokyo office, showing that we are continuing to invest even during the pandemic.”
The Houston, New York, and Richmond offices took the largest clusters of juniors, followed by Dallas and DC. Smaller groups joined in Atlanta, Charlotte, LA and Miami. Around a third of juniors practiced in one of the corporate sub-teams, while the litigation and capital finance & real estate umbrellas also took on similar numbers. Smaller handfuls of juniors joined other groups including tax, labor & employment, energy & infrastructure, and administrative law. Most groups reported a free-market approach to work allocation and reckoned “the firm wants you to build relationships with different partners.” Some groups try to keep track of associates’ workloads with surveys, “but partners don’t always review them.” Eventually, juniors noticed that “people settle into grooves and find their niche.”
Practices that fall under the corporate umbrella include capital markets, M&A, private equity, global tech, outsourcing & privacy, and structured finance & securities. This last group was particularly popular, largely spanning the Richmond, New York and Charlotte offices. Associates said the firm “mostly represents underwriters – usually banks –” in agreements to provide loans to businesses such as mortgage companies, for example. “We come in to draw up the agreements and structure the deals,” interviewees explained. For juniors, this initially meant “more ancillary work like making sure the closing checklist is up to date,” but this swiftly transitioned onto “working on documents with senior associates and partners,” and “making sure the terms are right with the client.” Interviewees appreciated the progression to being able to take “more of a lead role on these transactions.”
Corporate clients: Duke Energy, insurance company GAINSCO, investment management company BlackRock. Represented private equity fund Pretium Partners in its $2.4 billion bid to acquire Front Yard Residential.
“We deal with a lot of well-known oil & gas and alternative energy companies.”
The firm’s contentious offering covers litigation in areas including antitrust, commercial, corporate & securities, energy, and insurance. Given the firm’s energy expertise, litigation in this sector was unsurprisingly a source of work for many juniors. “We deal with a lot of well-known oil & gas and alternative energy companies,” they explained, “and anything that comes across those companies’ desks that requires litigation.” This could be anything from class action suits, to mass tort claims, to typical breach of contract matters. Sources added that “one of the cool things about the firm is that even though I’m in the energy litigation section, I’m able to help on different types of litigation too, like real estate litigation and patent law cases.” The firm’s antitrust group (which is prominent in the DC office) was also quite popular, giving juniors experience in merger control work and government investigations. General junior litigation tasks included “drafting discovery requests and responses, reviewing document production, and deposition prep.”
Litigation clients: Smithfield Foods, the County of Maui, Samsung, Houston Police Officers Union. Represented AMC Entertainment, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark in a case that sought to make it law for movie theaters to create subtitles for pre-recorded operas, ballets, plays, and concerts.
“There are partners who work on every single type of asset.”
The capital finance and real estate (CFRE) practice includes bankruptcy/restructuring, business finance and health, public finance, and real estate. On the finance side, interviewees explained “we represent a lot of really big banks that are giving loans to various companies. We mainly represent lenders, but from time to time we will work on the flip side for borrowers in big transactions.” On the real estate side, sources particularly appreciated the variety of work on offer: “There are partners who work on every single type of asset and type of client!” Day to day, CFRE juniors came across “a decent amount of drafting for ancillary and other documents connected to the main loan agreement.” They were also responsible for “coordinating with the other side, and keeping checklists to keep track of things.” Sources flagged that there had been a significant uptick in work surrounding COVID-related loans, which meant juniors were able to handle some of their own deals for smaller businesses. “I got to draft the loan agreement and work one on one with the client,” one elaborated. “It was stressful but a good learning experience.”
CFRE clients: Savanna Partners, Beal Bank, Wells Fargo. Represented MFA Financial, a public REIT, on a forbearance negotiation across its credit facilities of over $2 billion.
“Other friends think it’s weird that we hang out after work, but we’re both friends and co-workers!”
“It was the people,” juniors replied when asked what sealed the deal for them choosing their firm. A Houston source was initially surprised by “the casual nature” of the teams – “in a good way!” they hastened to add.Interviewees agreed that Hunton had succeeded in creating an “enjoyable” environment in which “you feel like everyone has each other’s backs.” As a result, juniors found that “everyone is genuinely friends with each other.” One interviewee pointed out that “other friends think it’s weird that we hang out after work, but we’re both friends and co-workers!” Up in New York, we heard“there’s not much socializing,” but thankfully it’s “not an overly competitive environment” either. More than one associate said they were looking forward to getting back to the office to see their colleagues. “I genuinely like the people I work with and the remote environment just isn't the same,” a Richmond junior said.
Many also linked the firm culture to its emphasis on associate development. Juniors felt the firm was “invested in associate growth” and tries “to build up associates rather than break them down.” One Houston interviewee added “the fact that the majority of partners were summer associates really stood out to me – I figured this was a good sign that people wanted to stick around!”
Many reckoned that there’s “definitely a clear path” to partnership at Hunton, though also added that “if you don’t want to be a partner and just want to be of counsel, the firm supports that. It’s not like you either make partner or you’re gone.” Juniors felt “the firm wants us to get experience and exposure to new things so that we can improve, whether that be for a billable client, in the pro bono world, or through internal training – they have all these ways to build skills.”
Juniors also flagged several legal development workshops covering both transactional and litigious areas. Litigators highlighted oral argument training – “basically moot court arguments where you’re given a case file and go from there.” Others cited a series of “different presentations and CLEs from people both in the firm and outside the firm to give different perspectives from the industry.”
“Every single attorney participated in pro bono this past year.”
Interviewees were proud to highlight that “every single attorney participated in pro bono this past year” at Hunton.This has actually been the case for 11 consecutive years. Attorneys can count 100 hours toward their billables, though added “that’s not a hard cap – you can get approval for more.”Houston associates highlighted doing a fair bit of work for Houston Volunteer Lawyers, and had come across matters like guardianship cases and tenants’ advocacy matters. One source also mentioned participating in a pro bono prosecution program with Harris County: “We got to go into a courtroom every week for a few months and build our negotiation and deposition skills, while getting more comfortable in a courtroom.” In Richmond, juniors worked on cases for the Virginia Legal Aid Society, while DC sources noted largely working on cases for the American Bar Association. “You can bring in your own pro bono too,” one noted. “I brought one matter in when I was a first-year, and the firm didn’t blink an eye.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 53,960
- Average per US attorney: 69
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
Interviewees reckoned an average day would kick off at around 9am, and finish at around 6:30pm (give or take an hour either side, depending on personal preference). But we heard from a few associates that “the last few months have been harder because of the amount of work we’ve had going on!” Interviewees estimated that to hit the 2,000-hour target they’d need to bill around ten hours a day, which fell in line with their average weekly hours of around 50 in our survey. “It takes a lot of work, but it is achievable,” some reflected. Not everyone agreed. “The constant stress of not hitting hours definitely weighs on associates,” one felt, partly because attorneys are only eligible for a market-rate bonus once they hit 2,000 hours. “They are pretty strict in that if you don’t meet 2,000, you’re probably not getting a bonus.” In addition to 100 hours of pro bono, attorneys can also credit 25 hours on any diversity and inclusion activities.
Diversity & Inclusion
The 25 D&I hours was one factor that led sources to believe Hunton is “really trying and making a push” on the diversity front. Interviewees also flagged that one of the firm’s goals is “striving to meet the Mansfield 4.0 requirement,” having already achieved Mansfield 3.0 certification. Tying in its D&I efforts with pro bono, the firm is reportedly looking to “help up-and-coming businesses owned by minorities.” Internally, the firm has a diversity and inclusion committee, as well as several affinity groups. In particular, interviewees praised the firm’s women’s group.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
Hunton Andrews Kurth conducts OCIs at 30 law schools, including ‘top’ institutions and other regional schools. The firm also participates in job fairs including the Lavender Law Career Fair, Mid-Atlantic Black Law Students Association Job Fair, Northeast Black Law Students Association Job Fair, Sunbelt Minority Recruiting Program and the Southeastern Minority Job Fair. Beyond these, Hunton AK hosts 1L Diversity clerkship programs in five offices, which you can apply for during late fall directly through Hunton AK’s careers website or through the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity’s website.
OCIs are typically 20 minutes long and with two attorneys (mostly senior attorneys, including senior associates.) Diversity of interviewers is also a focus for the firm to “better reflect the changing demographics of our law student body and the future of the practice,” according to firmwide hiring partner Rudene Mercer Haynes.
Interviewers at this stage ask behavioral questions to “see how well the law students can think on their feet.” Here, the conclusions are less important than the analytical reasoning used to reach them. The firm is also looking for evidence of “resilience, passion and grit.” Hunton AK tends to focus on candidates’ successes, whether those are academic, professional or personal: “We want to recruit individuals who desire excellence in their professional pursuits, and our interviewing process is intended to glean as much as we can about the candidates’ potential for success by examining their academic records and personal and professional accomplishments.”
Top tips for this stage:
“It is impressive when candidates have done some research on the firm and the practices in which we specialize and can articulate, authentically and persuasively, a link between our firm’s strengths and their career aspirations. We are also impressed by those who ask thoughtful questions. The interview process is an opportunity to run intel on prospective employers, so using that time wisely reflects positively on a candidate.” – firmwide hiring partner, Rudene Mercer Haynes
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
At the callback stage, interviewers are typically members of the specific office’s recruiting committee and, where possible, from the practice area the candidate is interested in. “Typically, although it varies from office to office, each callback interview is scheduled for at least four and no more than six 30-minute interviews.” Offices generally provide lunch with a junior to mid-level associate, where “the callback interviewee gets the perspective of someone closer in their perspective who can answer questions about transitioning from the law school to law firm experience, finding housing and local cultural opportunities.” The questions at this stage are similar, though the candidate has the opportunity to “meet a wider range of individuals and get a better feel for the firm’s culture. It is also an opportunity to assess the candidates’ general preferences regarding their future practice.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The thing that drew me here at the beginning is the people. They’re extremely intelligent, quick on their feet and good quality attorneys, but they’re also humble people from humble backgrounds and they’re easy to be around. It helps a lot in stressful situations and speaks to the teamwork aspects of the firm: whether it’s a team of two or twenty, the base level teamwork is pretty special.” – a junior associate
“I would reiterate researching the firm and the practices/industries in which an individual office specializes. I would also recommend showing a familiarity with or having a nexus to the city in which the candidate is looking to summer.” – firmwide hiring partner, Rudene Mercer Haynes
Summer associates are “are active members of legal teams working on important projects and attending client conferences, depositions, trials, hearings and closings.” The matters they’re staffed on reflect the interests of each summer associate, and some offices do practice group rotations. Summers get matched to mentors and attend a “wide variety of social events to allow our summers to get to know our lawyers on a more personal basis.” There are also trainings, guidance on judicial clerkships and pro bono opportunities. The firm strives to recruit the “brightest and best summer associates — most of whom we are happy to report return as junior associates after graduation.” Summers are given an offer for a specific team and practice group based on their interests and team hiring needs. “One of our partners penned five “Tips for Having a Successful Summer,” which are posted on our intranet’s summer associate orientation page.” How very helpful! The five tips are:
1) Be diligent – do your very best work
2) Be professional – use your very best judgment
3) Be client-service oriented – the legal industry is a service industry
4) Be thoughtful in your communications – choose your mode of communication wisely
5) Be entrepreneurial – take every opportunity to get to know the firm, the lawyers and to be exposed to work that interests you.
Top tips for this stage:
“The summer program did nothing but reinforce my opinion that I’d picked a good place. When I got an offer at the end of summer I was excited to accept it.” – a junior associate
“If you are looking for a career that offers challenging work in a collegial setting, alongside lawyers who are supportive and eager to see you succeed, please let us know.” – firmwide hiring partner, Rudene Mercer Haynes
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