Global meets local behind the K&L Gates.
“It’s kind of an oxymoron,” interviewees acknowledged, “but you can be both local and global at K&L Gates.” Before we look at the ‘local’ bit, let’s not skip over the firm’s “big global footprint.” In total, K&L has 45 offices around the world, giving junior associates “seamless connections with attorneys across the globe.” Craig Budner, the firm’s global strategic growth partner, says that more attorneys are looking for opportunities to practice from regional cities, “while still serving clients in the biggest markets” – and even more so since the switch to remote working.
With 24 offices across the US, associates reckoned “there’s something for the local in everyone” at K&L. Its offices are in many of the country’s major legal hubs, including New York, LA, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Houston. But it also has bases in cities that aren’t main players on the BigLaw stage (and some places where interviewees reckoned K&L is “the only truly global firm in the area”). There’s Newark, Miami, Fort Worth in Texas, Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, Charleston in South Carolina, and the firm’s largest office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh connection shines through in K&L’s top Chambers USA rankings in the city for litigation and corporate/M&A. Seattle is another key location – the firm is highly ranked in Washington state for tax, corporate/commercial, bankruptcy, labor and real estate. It picks up more accolades around the country in areas such as healthcare (North Carolina), environment (New Jersey), and hedge funds (Massachusetts). Nationwide it’s rated for shipping regulatory, government relations, and oil & gas litigation.
Strategy & Future
Nashville, Tennessee is the latest city where K&L has set up shop. “Nashville has become the leading center for private-owned hospital enterprises and related entities,” Craig Budner tells us. “Recruitment came from five very strong law firms in Nashville and brought in folks from transactional healthcare and regulatory healthcare spaces.” Budner adds: “Currently the office is 32 attorneys and counting – that number will continue to grow in the coming months. We’re really pleased with the professionals who have decided to join us and we’ve hit the ground running – it’s a very exciting time.” Along with the “booming” healthcare industry, Budner says the firm has been busy with labor & employment and workplace safety matters.
“K&L Gates is a meritocracy.”
Just under half of juniors across offices join either corporate or litigation – the rest are split across more than 20 different practices including IP, tax, labor and employment, investigations, healthcare and asset management. Some offices are hubs for certain types of work e.g. Palo Alto works with a lot of startups, the DC team handles government contracts, and Chicago sees a lot of IP and tech transactions.
Juniors get their initial assignments by “walking around, meeting people and telling them you’re interested in their work.” They reassured us that it’s “not exactly scary – everyone’s aware of the process and no one turns you away.” But it can be “a little uncomfortable. It feels like cold-calling!” Interviewees added that “K&L Gates is a meritocracy – if they like you and you do good work, there’ll be more to come.” We heard the firm has steadily been implementing a system whereby juniors can get work through an official assignment coordinator, though “they’re still working out the kinks.”
“Everything from debt offerings to IPOs, with a pretty active startup slant.”
Corporate juniors get to delve into midmarket M&A, corporate governance and regulation, capital markets, and startup and venture capital work. Across offices, juniors can expect to do both public and private M&A, though New Yorkersdo a lot more public work. “The disclosure obligations for public and private acquisitions are different, which is interesting,” one shared. On the private side, the group mostly deals with private equity buyers and sellers. Capital markets work covers “everything from debt offerings to IPOs, with a pretty active startup slant.” Juniors also get requests to help on more random assignments like “helping a company dissolve.” One told us that “the diversity of experience is exciting for a younger attorney. It keeps career paths open and teaches you a lot of versatile skills.” Typical associate tasks included conducting diligence and writing up memos. “Sometimes I’m the only associate, so I have to do all of it myself!” said one.As well as research and helping to put documents together, juniors can have a go at drafting and negotiating purchase agreements. “That means drafting the document, then having a call with opposing counsel to rationalize the changes and negotiate with them.” Needless to say, “they’re willing to give people who step up the opportunity to impress.”
Corporate clients: Veloxis Pharmaceuticals,Exact Sciences Corporation, industrial manufacturer Crane Co, senior living company Merrill Gardens. Advised Primo Water on its proposed $775 million acquisition by Cott Corporation.
“The global array of K&L!”
Under the complex commercial litigation umbrella, juniors get to sample work covering (deep breath) insurance, healthcare, insolvency and restructuring, white-collar investigations, IP, contracts, torts, construction, and class actions. In breach of contract cases juniors can expect to sink their teeth into motion practice writing and “all the research that comes with that.” White-collar work primarily covers FTC investigations, as well as criminal investigations with the DOJ – juniors liked getting to interact with these bodies “and learn a lot about how these investigations work.” On these cases, juniors conduct doc review, which means “going through the findings and marking them.” Newbies were also “drafting legal memos internally based on positions we might take with FTC.” IP work covers trademark, copyright, patent litigation and infringement, and trade secrets cases in sectors from media to life sciences and healthcare. Some work was connected to COVID-19: “It’s cool to be working in depth on the disease by talking to experts and clients.” On IP cases juniors can also expect to conduct research and write bench memos to “help attorneys during a hearing.” Some junior litigators got the chance to work with offices across the US and Europe – “the global array of K&L! It’s even easier now we’re all at home.”
Litigation clients: US Steel, XFL/Vince McMahon, paint supplier PPG Industries, chemicals company Arkema, Kettle Cuisine, Pachira Energy. Defended WWE against multiple brain injury claims.
Diversity & Inclusion
Associates had the sense that “this past year the firm has really attempted to push inclusion further.” For example, it started as a ‘fireside chat series’ which “brings in prominent black leaders [like judges and civil rights leaders] to teach us about important issues.” There’s also unconscious bias training for those involved in hiring, “which is pretty helpful,” and the firm sent out “thoughtful” educational resources including “a reading list, YouTube videos and blogs.” These trainings were “highly recommended and well attended,” but associates suggested that the hours they spent in training should “count toward our bonus.”
“People create an environment where your mental health is supported.”
Associates praised the firm’s gender-neutral parental leave policy: “People are respectful and encouraging of all people taking it.” When it comes to mental health, the firm emails seminars around for people to watch. Associates felt that “in general, people create an environment where your mental health is supported.”
It must be hard to keep a homogenous culture across 45 offices, but we heard K&L Gates makes use of interior design to help. “Our offices are all similarly designed – very white and modern, with marble and glass everywhere,” associates explained. “The only difference is that New York has the biggest conference rooms!” The firm recruits juniors into almost all of its domestic offices, with Pittsburgh, Seattle, DC and Chicago taking the most (between five and ten newbies each year). This meant that every office “has that small-office feel,” while being part of a global network. Associates in some offices, including Charlotte and New York, described a “jeans and a button-up” dress code pre-pandemic.
Before COVID, associates enjoyed happy hours where “almost all the juniors go and get beers.” Now that everyone’s working remotely, K&L started a mix of online socials (spanning firmwide, regional, office and practice area-specific events), which interviewees found “really good for morale – I hope they keep it up after!” Associates described their colleagues as “exceptional individuals,” who “really invest in each other's lives, even outside of work.” Associates agreed that “it's legitimately a team environment focused on developing everyone.” One appreciated that “other associates and partners check in to see how everything’s going. This level of care shows me many people are invested in my success.”
Juniors reckoned “the majority” of juniors want to stay on and make partner. In our survey, 70% of respondents said they wanted to stay indefinitely or until they make partner. We heard that “given the meritocracy” at K&L, it’s important to make a good impression early on: “If you don’t make an impression early then it can be hard to change your reputation.”
Juniors at K&L Gates get “a lot of formal training very early on.” As well as a two-week-long training seminar, they get to attend a mini MB program that “educates juniors on macroeconomic issues to help us understand and relate to client needs.” Juniors also have formal associate and partner mentors. Since COVID, training has continued digitally, with presentations and Skype meetings,and the firm has started online mentoring groups, “where a group of associates and partners across departments meet and talk about their work and careers. It’s a great way to offer support and advice.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
There was one grumble among some of our interviewees: compensation.“Salary isn't lockstep, and bonuses are completely discretionary,” one explained. Interviewees said discussions about salaries were “blackbox in nature,” which created “a tension” in the associate ranks. Interviewees from different offices told us that their salary is “below top market in the city, despite us being a much bigger firm.” But one interviewee was entirely unfussed, telling us that “I’d rather make a few less bucks and have a more sustainable lifestyle.”
There's an expectation to bill 1,850 hours a year, but associates who hit 1,950 qualify for a discretionary bonus. Associates found this target more attainable after their first year. Interviewees said they “generally manage to clock out by 7pm each day,” but when it got busy, juniors could expect to work “11 to 12-hour days with consistent work on the weekends.” The average hours worked in the last week by respondents in our survey was 50 hours, which associates felt “isn’t too strenuous” and is line with many BigLaw firms.
“Partners are really encouraging of pro bono,” associates said, “as long as it doesn’t interfere with billable work.” All pro bono hours count as billable and can go toward bonus considerations. We heard clocking up around 100 pro bono hours is common, but some interviewees, like this one, “haven’t done any at all – I have to take all the client hours I can.”
“There’s definitely more than enough immigration work to go around.”
For big projects, K&L blasts out emails with “plenty of opportunities each week.” Juniors said they might do criminal record expungement, veteran matters, work for charities or museums, and “there’s definitely more than enough immigration work to go around.” Attorneys can also ask to bring in their own pro bono matters if something grabs their interest.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 34,628
- Average per US attorney: 32
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 991
Interviewees outside OCI: 91
K&L Gates attends over 50 law fairs and around ten job fairs every year. The firm also collects resumes and will organize additional screening interviews for candidates at numerous schools. The number of candidates interviewed at each law school varies, but at schools where the firm is recruiting for positions in multiple offices interviewers may meet over 100 students at each location.
The interviews are typically conducted by two lawyers, and K&L Gates tries to pick pairs who have a diverse set of interests and practice area backgrounds, as well as alumni connections to the school in question. Our hiring source at the firm tells us: "Interviewers will assume that students have done some research on the firm and can articulate what pieces of information they’ve gathered so far that match their interests. Interviewers won’t expect yet that students will know much about the actual practice of law or specific areas of practice. In a short screening interview, it’s challenging to dig too deep into any one subject, but students should be prepared to highlight skill sets they bring to the table that aren’t obvious from their resume."
Top tips for this stage:
"Sharing personal experiences that exhibit a student’s abilities in key areas will leave the interviewer with a clear sense of the student’s unique perspective and also help the student stand out when callback decisions are made later. We recommend students prepare in advance the skill sets they want to highlight, as OCI interviews are short and, if not approached diligently, can be a missed opportunity.
Logistically, OCI can be challenging. By preparing properly, students should find the process educational, eye-opening, and possibly even fun." – K&L Gates hiring source.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 294
The set-up come callback time does vary among K&L's offices. Those who make it to this stage can expect the callback to last for around two hours and to meet a mix of partners and associates. Interview teams of two or three lawyers are common across the offices, and at some locations candidates may be invited to attend a coffee or lunch with associates. At this point, interviewers will be looking to see if the candidate has thought more deeply about how they will fit into the firm, and will also be trying to glean how well the candidate will work in a team. Showing that you are good at working collaboratively is therefore a must here. Going into the callback with a clear idea about how past experiences demonstrate solution-finding, personal growth and leadership skills will stand candidates in good stead. Being able to connect these experiences and skills to K&L's environment is very much a plus.
Top tips for this stage:
"As law student candidates, we understand that exposure to the practice of law may be minimal, however, we want to know about a student’s successes in all parts of their life and how that might translate into them being an excellent lawyer. For example, has the student had an opportunity to be a leader and will they inspire confidence in our clients and work to develop lasting relationships? Students who have achieved success in school, in other parts of their lives, and in roles within their broader communities indicate potential in this area.
Ask thoughtful and substantive questions – remember that this is a mutual assessment process. Be genuine, share your experiences, and exhibit professionalism." – K&L Gates hiring source.
All summer associates are paired up with mentors: usually one partner and at least one associate. A work assignment manager is also on hand to help steer summers toward the assignments they would like to sample and to help them manage their workload. It's common to take on assignments from a range of practices, and there's also the chance for summers to participate in pro bono matters as well.
Alongside the work, K&L Gates puts on a variety of social events and a formal training program to bolster the summer experience: "We offer a robust formal training curriculum to supplement the client, public interest and other work offered to our summer classes. The curriculum includes an intensive writing workshop, practice-specific programming, diversity and inclusion awareness, and sessions to build students’ understanding of the legal industry, such as 'Economics of a Law Firm' and 'Building Your Brand.' Beyond classroom programs, we also offer multi-session experiential and practice training programs like negotiation skills, advocacy skills, and mergers and acquisitions."
Top tips for this stage:
"A successful summer associate program is the goal for all parties involved. The following is a condensed list of tips to make the most of a student’s time at the firm, ease the transition from student to practicing lawyer and, ultimately, help the students become successful lawyers in the future.
- Do your best work with enthusiasm.
- Treat everyone with respect.
- Be pleasant, even when things are stressful.
- Utilize firm resources.
- Network and build your professional brand within the firm.
- Get to know your colleagues.
- Keep confidential client information confidential.
- Ask questions, follow up and show interest.
- Be responsive and dependable.
- Relax and be yourself." – K&L Gates hiring source.
"Students who want to join K&L Gates and achieve success here are those with creative ideas, are collaborative, identify and seize opportunities when presented, and work hard to help our clients solve their issues. In addition to the advice we’ve shared above, we suggest students consider the following –
- Stay abreast of the business world and the world in general – read the Wall Street Journal and Economist. Many of the issues you will read about are those that affect our clients and their businesses.
- Take time to network and meet a variety of professionals in the legal industry.
- Be well-rounded in your education, by taking a variety of classes, even if you can’t foresee how a particular class may benefit you.
- Become a better writer by joining a journal or continuing to improve upon your writing skills.
- Be diligent in your research rather than assuming what you hear is true." – K&L Gates hiring source.
Interview with Craig Budner, global strategic growth partner at K&L Gates
Chambers Associate: 2020 was an unprecedented year. What business moves did the firm take to approach Covid?
Craig Budner: The first step we took, which ended up being good in hindsight, was to form our Covid taskforce. Many lawyers were keen to distribute thought leadership on the unique issues our clients were facing. We wanted to make sure we were curating those materials through a central committee. We formed this taskforce of five partners and other allied professional to make sure we were focusing on practical solutions and advice for clients. We’ve put out several hundred pieces of thought leadership over the year.
Our second step was to talk directly to our clients. Like many firms we initially used webinars to push content out. But we quickly realized that clients were looking for more bespoke conversations that impacted the issues they were facing. Some had supply chain issues, government regulation funds issues, issues with being declared essential businesses, etc. We’ve had over 50 round tables and continue to do those. We generally have six to ten clients from different or specific sectors and industries with subject experts on the call. So clients were sharing what they were seeing and their best practices to help anticipate what was coming down the pipe to them. For example, a labor and employment expert would talk about navigating the different regulations over the world as well as litigation risk, money flow issues. Data privacy was also a hot topic during Covid as the hackers came out in full force. Insurance coverage was another topic that was very hot. So we continue to organize these conversations in different ways to make sure we’re helping our clients in the ways they need our help.
CA: Did Covid-19 affect any practice areas of the firm in particular?
CB: There was some minimal work disruption at first. We saw a significant impact in regulated industries, anything that dealt with the government. As governments tried to craft solutions to the pandemic, public policy, investment management, financial services, and other regulated spaces were really impacted. I’d say that we were really busy in labor and employment and workplace safety. The healthcare practice was booming to try deal with how hospitals and related entities were dealing with the crisis. We saw a little slowdown, at least initially, in litigation while courts adjusted to the inability to have in-person discovery, hearings and trials. In some cases we saw a slowdown but in others we picked up where we left off depending on the stage of the case. We saw litigation pick back up as courts and litigators adapted to help move cases along. Overall, it was shorter lived than we anticipated.
The deal flow especially at the end of the year was really, really strong. Once government solutions were put into place some deals had to be reorganized. It ended up being a much higher demand for legal resources than many feared at the beginning of the year.
CA: The firm opened an office in Nashville in February 2021. Why Nashville?
Craig Budner: We have a very strong healthcare practice . Nashville has become the leading center for private-owned hospital enterprises and related entities. We’ve been looking at Nashville for two or three years but no global firm has really managed to enter that market. We saw some firms try to enter but Nashville’s legal market, but we observed that the market was too strong for a firm to just come in with a couple of lawyers and moving attorneys to the region. We made a strategic decision that if we were going to do it, we needed to add more legs to the stool and make a statement that we're really committed to the market. Recruitment came from five very strong law firms in Nashville and brought in folks from transactional healthcare and regulatory healthcare spaces. We also added some of the top commercial and construction litigators in Nashville, in addition to IP, M&A and banking and finance expertise. Currently the office is 32 attorneys and counting – that number will continue to grow in the coming months. We’re really pleased with the professionals who have decided to join us and we’ve hit the ground running – it’s a very exciting time.
CA: Why do you think individuals are so keen to be present in regional locations like Nashville?
CB: An interesting thing we observed is that lawyers are looking for opportunities to practice from different cities – while still serving clients in the biggest markets. You see an influx of professionals who want to reduce how much they spend on housing and other associated costs of living. Covid has taught us we can still serve clients from any location. We think there might be a migration of legal talent to the smaller markets – not just Nashville but other markets in which we have a presence as well.
For example, in 2020, we hired a terrific high-end litigator from Skadden NY who moved to Charleston. We’ve seen those opportunities pop on our radar. It’s less about markets and more thinking about how they might synergize with where we’re strong as a firm.
CA: What was the thinking behind opening a new office during the pandemic, rather than waiting until the market returned to normal?
CB: As we’ve talked over the years about with Chambers Associate, we don’t carry debt. The equity partners capitalize the enterprise. Some firms, when the pandemic hit in March, may have been deep into lines of credit already. But we’re not in that position because we don’t take on debt. So it was a good time to exercise our advantage as a very fiscally conservative firm to take advantage of a strategic opportunity. In the US there are states that have adopted tax policies that have affected the flow of businesses into that state, like those you see in Texas, especially Austin. So Nashville isn’t just healthcare now. Amazon has a big presence in Nashville, and there’s a big investment management fund presence there too. The auto industry has also made a strong entrance into the market. These clients can make smart strategic investments in Tennessee and Nashville in particular. Having clients in those markets, our opening in Nashville synergizes with what we’re seeing with those trends.
CA: Going forward, is the firm planning to make any other significant changes or additions?
CB: We’re not going to alter our approach – we’re going to be opportunistic. But like everyone we want to see how people go back to normal, how governments deal with refilling their coffers after distributing trillions of dollars to businesses during the pandemic. Different crises call for different kinds of solutions. The pandemic has been full of legal challenges and GCs are in the boardroom all over the world to solve these issues. There will be many ramifications from that. 2021 is going to be another year of listening to our clients and helping them think through and execute on their business objectives and solutions.
K&L Gates Center,
210 Sixth Avenue,
- Number of domestic offices: 24
- Number of international offices: 21
- Worldwide revenue: $1,019,674,000
- Partners (US): 609
- Associates (US): 453
- Main recruitment contact: Amy Horn, Chief People Officer (email@example.com)
- Hiring partner: Craig Budner, Global Strategic Growth Partner
- Diversity officer: Ramla Farzad, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 51
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 19, 2Ls: 47
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Boston: 8; Charleston: 2; Charlotte: 4; Chicago: 7; Dallas: 3; Los Angeles: 3; Miami: 1; New York: 6; Newark: 2; Orange County: 2; Pittsburgh: 7; Portland: 1; Raleigh: 5; Research Triangle Park: 3; Seattle: 7; Washington, DC: 5
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: Varies by market
- 2Ls: Varies by market
- Split summers offered? Case by case
Main areas of work
Firm profile K&L Gates is a fully integrated global law firm with lawyers located across five continents in more than 40 offices. We foster an inclusive and collaborative environment to operate as one firm, united and without borders. Our clients include leading multinational corporations, growth and middle-market companies, capital market participants, and entrepreneurs in every major industry, as well as public sector entities, educational institutions, philanthropic organizations and individuals. Our robust set of multidisciplinary practice areas and services, combined with our collaborative culture, means our clients can confidently turn to K&L Gates to guide them through nearly any legal issue with reliable service and a consistent experience.
The industry recognition K&L Gates has garnered emanates from the foundation of a global community aligned on behalf of our clients. The people at K&L Gates are committed to working together to create a legacy for each other, the firm, our clients and the communities we serve. We thrive in an inclusive and socially conscious environment that embraces diversity and takes a holistic approach to the career evolution of all our professionals. We take pride in constantly striving for innovation, imagination and an entrepreneurial spirit. We come up with big ideas and then roll up our sleeves to get the job done, guiding our clients through their most complex issues in a variety of industry sectors and across multiple regions of the world.
Law Schools attending for OCI in 2021: With 24 domestic offices and summer programs in more than 15 different geographic locations, we visit a wide variety of law schools across the country to recruit for our programs. A list of the schools we visit and the events we host for law students both on campus and off campus can be found at https://klgates.recsolu.com/external/events_central.
Recruitment outside OCIs: We welcome the opportunity to meet with applicants who attend law school at campuses other than those we visit for OCI. Please visit www.klgates.com/careers to apply.
Summer associate profile: Our summer associate program is designed to give law students a full picture of the firm and our culture, all the while giving us the opportunity to get to know and evaluate current law students as potential associates following graduation. We look for smart, imaginative and hard- working people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideas.
Summer program components: Summer associates sample projects from different practice areas, working as part of a team and participating in pro bono work. We pair our summer associates with mentors, who provide guidance on seeking out and completing substantive work assignments, balancing workload demands, dealing with competing projects, integrating into the firm’s culture and setting and achieving career goals. Through on-the-job experience, a formal training curriculum, regular formal and informal feedback and opportunities to network and integrate into the firm, our summer associates begin to develop the professional skills and competencies to be successful.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities (Band 2)
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
North Carolina: Charlotte & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Insurance (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 5)
- Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
- Government Relations (Band 2)
- Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 4)
- Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
- Registered Funds (Band 3)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 1)