This firm has “molded together as perfectly as Play-Doh.” Got your attention? Read on to find out more about the “incredibly collaborative” Hunton Andrews Kurth.
PAUL McCartney and John Lennon. Venus and Serena Williams. Arya Stark and the Hound. There’s great satisfaction in successful partnerships, whether it’s in the name of music, sport, dishing up justice in Westeros – or indeed, the noble practice of law. In 2018, two firms joined together to form Hunton Andrews Kurth, and associates on the inside tell us it’s “molded together as perfectly as Play-Doh.” Legacy Hunton & Williams (“a Richmond hub”) brought expertise in litigation, real estate, capital markets and insurance to the table, plus “a top cybersecurity practice.” Legacy Andrews Kurth brought knowledge on the corporate side, a “heavy oil and gas focus,” and “a large presence in Houston.”
Together, the two have “filled each other’s gaps – there’s been a lot of synergy between the two sides where clients are being referred across teams.” Associates added that the union has resulted in a mix of practices: "We’re still seeing new types of matters open due to the combined expertise.” Hunton is one of the best in the US for its environment and climate change work according to Chambers USA, which also bestows the firm with high rankings in capital markets, alternative energy projects, and privacy and data security. It also achieves regional rankings in five states, shining particularly brightly in Virginia, where it gets gold medals in bankruptcy, environment, labor and employment, and litigation. Texan nods come in for real estate, tax, M&A, capital markets and banking and finance. The firm is also ranked internationally in Chambers Global for its climate change and data protection work.
"Confident in my choice.”
Juniors are recruited into ten of Hunton’s 15 US offices. Houston, Richmond and New York each recruited about 20% of newbies; DC and Dallas accounted for around 10% each, and the remaining juniors were based in Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin and LA. Most of our interviewees had secured their job offer from the firm when the merger took place. “We got calls from leadership explaining what was going on and reassuring us that everything was going to be fine,” one recalled. “It made me feel confident in my choice.” By the time they arrived at the firm, “all the difficult kinks had already been worked out.” Lucky!
Strategy & Future
Managing partner Wally Martinez tells us Hunton has had “a terrific year” in capital markets. "Our leading renewables practice is also doing exceptionally well, and our cybersecurity and privacy practice continues to be in high demand," he says. "Our infrastructure practices continue to perform at a high level on the public partnership side, on the government side, and on the developer side." He says the firm’s performance is “attributable to executing a strategy that focuses largely on specific industry sectors," which include energy, financial services, real estate and retail.
Martinez also tells us that Hunton is well placed to deal with some of the medium-term expected fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Because the government has taken on a significant fiscal burden to make sure people have money in this crisis, we’re going to see a lot of public-private contracting," he says. "That will justify the investments we’ve made in building a robust public-private infrastructure practice."
After sampling two practice areas as summers, associates let hiring partners know which group they’d like to return to full-time. “Most people in my year got what they wanted,” one insider told us,but “it isn’t guaranteed.” When they join as first-year associates, work assignment tends to be “organic but not exactly free market – you just get plugged into the right people.” According to a litigator, “almost everybody I know works with the same three or four partners.”
“It’s scary, but the upside is you get real experience, real fast.”
Junior litigators are assigned to specific subgroups, such as competition, energy, commercial litigation, toxic tort, insurance and healthcare. The firm’s commercial litigation remit spans class action defense, contract breaches, business-government disputes and white-collar matters “for a bunch of different clients: telecoms companies, food and beverage companies, government entities, and even individuals.” In offices such as Houston, the firm does somethingcalled managed care litigation, which occurs when a healthcare provider claims that an insurer hasn’t paid fairly for a claim – “it’s our job to defend why it’s been paid correctly.” The team also handles healthcare fraud cases, “a booming area of lawsuits – private payers can pursue doctors who make fraudulent charges.” Toxic tort work meanwhile covers “individuals and class actions claiming exposure to a dangerous element.” Junior litigators were pleased with their daily responsibilities. “They staff leanly whenever they can, so juniors get a lot of responsibility,” a DC source divulged. “I don’t always have the senior associate help that I might need. It’s scary, but the upside is you get real experience, real fast.” Typical junior tasks include writing briefs, drafts and complaints, taking depositions and attending trials, as well as conducting research and doc review.
Litigation clients: Samsung, Johnson & Johnson, Fox News Network, Statoil Oil & Gas. Represented the county of Maui, Hawaii, in an appeal before the Supreme Court regarding liability under the Clean Water Act.
The corporate finance and real estate (CFRE) group covers business finance, healthcare, energy, pure real estate, public-private partnerships and bankruptcy work. Juniors said there’s “a lot of connectedness” between subgroups here, but they’re definitely “very distinct,” as this Richmond associate attested: “I only get work from my team.” The firm’s business finance group advises on areas including financial institution transactions, regulatory matters, and commercial lending for both private and public entities. Sources told us credit agreements and facilities formed “the backbone of the practice.” A Houston source said: “Juniors see both the borrower and lender side,” while in Richmond the work was more borrower-heavy. The team also handles refinancings and answers clients’ compliance questions. The real estate team advises clients such as financial institutions, developers, private equity funds, investors, and property managers on the financing and development of commercial real estate projects – think office buildings, malls, warehouses, and industrial facilities. Associates here “start with diligence,” which means “logistical tasks like working on signature pages and keeping up with the checklist.” Eventually they’ll get to draft ancillary documents like certificates, resolutions and agreements, and enjoy “lots of client contact.”
CFRE clients: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, New York State Urban Development. Advised Hospitality Properties Trust on its $2.4 billion acquisition of a portfolio of 722 properties from realtors Spirit.
Hunton is home to planners, according to associates we spoke to: “Most people want to stay to be at least counsel if not partner.” Across interviews, associates had the impression that Hunton “wants you to stay and be successful” in the long run. That said, we did hear that the energy practice can “be a bit of a revolving door!” Though juniors spoke positively of the firm’s support, they said “there’s not much visibility” on how to make partner. They emphasized the benefit of finding partner mentorship within the firm: “The majority of my knowledge and foresight comes from relationships.”
Fortunately, juniors told us this is a firm that “nurtures young people.” Juniors in Richmond got “a lot of handholding, but not in a bad way. There’s just a higher partner ratio here, so it’s easier to find that mentorship.” Some in offices like DC did wanta bit more formal training “when it comes to drafting specific documents. You end up learning through partners telling you what you did wrong – it can be a little unnerving!” After official orientation, associates generally liked that training at Hunton veers to a more informal style: “People go out of their way to explain things to you on the job.”
Mergers often leave associates feeling at sea, but this wasn’t the case among the juniors we spoke to. “We’ve created a new firm in which you can maybe have a say in how your practice group develops,” a New York source said. “It feels like the partners really want associates to be part of that.” As well as business success, associates said the two sides have “molded together really well” culturally too.They happily reported there was “no competition between people on either side,” and for particularly sunshine-minded juniors, the merger has also been “a great opportunity to make new friends! We click together socially.”
“It’s not just water cooler chat – people care.”
Houstonians were drawn to the firm because “people emphasize having a life outside the firm.” They described a true “Texas-based culture.” No kidding – this office used to hand out cowboy hats to all its summers! New Yorkerswere pleasantly surprised that the “Southern influence gives us a different vibe to other firms in the city.” They described the Big Apple office as “laidback and incredibly collaborative. People reach out and offer to help all the time.” Interviewees in Richmond admitted “it sounds cheesy, but people here are just really nice!” DC sources agreed that “people genuinely care about each other.” This was the common theme that interviewees across offices put at the center of the firm’s culture. “You get the sense people are really listening to you when you talk about your weekend or interests,” one said. “It’s not just water cooler chat – people care.”
The firm recently doubled the number of pro bono hours associates can count to their billing target to 100. Attorneys can request to go over that if a case takes off, but they might not get to bill the extra. Associates said lots of people billed around 50 hours, but getting to 100 “isn’t super common yet.” Everybody does at least some – the firm is currently on a ten-year streak of every single attorney “doing at least one hour of pro bono.” We heard of divorce work and “guardianship cases for incapacitated adults” in Richmond, asylum and elder law matters in DC, and veteran clinics in Houston. We also heard the firm works with the Innocence Project. Interviewees found pro bono a “great chance to go to court – it makes it a little less intimidating for later on in your career!”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 45,154
- Average per US attorney: 53.6
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
Juniors in Houston had been able to hit the billing target fairly easily, “especially with the upped pro bono hours.” In other offices such as Richmond and DC, we heard “it’s pretty common to not hit the target.” And while salary is competitive in each market, bonuses were a “point of contention” in some offices – “it’s a bit of a black box.” The firm confirmed that those who do hit the hours target get an individualized bonus which is based on the market they are in, and set by peer benchmarks.Juniors’ day-to-day hours varied, but “it’s not unheard of to stay until 7:30pm and then work from home for another hour or two.” People also took advantage of vacation, although “you might have to do a little work to make sure nothing drops off. It wasn’t like I was dragged away from my vacation or anything!”
Diversity & Inclusion
There was an appetite among our interviewees to see the firm doing more to promote diversity and inclusion, and they felt “Hunton is receptive to the idea that we need to increase our efforts.” Currently, the firm has a diversity committee and a 1L scholars program.We did hear praise for the women’s committee, which “puts on events and happy hours where we can ask women partners about how they got there. It makes you think, ‘Oh, I could get this too.’” Overall, interviewees felt that “while there could be more initiatives, I don’t feel isolated as a minority.” Last year, Hunton introduced a policy enabling associates to bill 25 hours of their diversity and inclusion activities, and juniors were hopeful that this measure “will encourage people a bit more. Hunton has a good eye toward the future.”
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, HAK hosts 1L Diversity clerkship programs in three offices, which you can apply for during late fall directly through Hunton’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.” HAK 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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