Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP - The Inside View

This leanly staffed New York litigation powerhouse demands associates keep their witz about them from the outset...

It’s not often you’ll hear BigLaw and boutique in the same sentence, but Kasowitz is a rare exception. This Big Apple native is a litigation stalwart, and as co-managing partner Shemmy Mishaan puts it, it's “a place where people can come to litigate anything.” The firm’s aggressive reputation is reflected in its flexible approach to practice, because while other firms can be constrained due to their significant corporate and M&A practices, Mishaan adds that “we can be involved on either side of a lot of big matters, that can be difficult for other firms…” Indeed, Chambers USA gives the firm props across a range of practices, excelling in New York for general commercial, real estate and securities litigation, as well as white collar crime and government investigation, and antitrust. Associates were clearly paying attention to all of this when making their choices, as one shared that “I didn’t want somewhere bottom of the barrel!”

“You’re not spinning your wheels for months or years on doc review and research memos…”

Associates we spoke with also noted the firm’s prominence in the news, “from some big stories,” one junior chuckled. But we heard consistently that the junior experience was “completely divergent from some sceptical perceptions” of the firm from the outside. At OCIs, we were told “the people from Kasowitz were a lot more direct and honest – there wasn’t that unnecessary pretext you’d sometimes get.” On top of this, juniors were keen on the firm’s somewhat lean staffing structure where, “you don’t spend the first six months getting comfortable. People expect you to be an adult and take ownership of matters, you’re expected to give it your all from day one.” As such, juniors at Kasowitz revelled in the fact “you’re not spinning your wheels for months or years on doc review and research memos…”

Strategy & Future

Co-managing partner Shemmy Mishaan tells us that Kasowitz has had a stable year with the firm not having brought on any big additions of partners, but “as always, we’ve done a lot of interesting cases!” Here Mishaan references antitrust which Kasowitz places a heavy hand in being “really active, both because of the administration being active, but also in private matters like with the WWE case where the government isn’t involved.”  The wrestling world aside, the firm is also working on a number of pharmaceutical matters within antitrust, as well as real estate litigation, which is a real growth area for Kasowitz. This is a result of rising interest rates and the macro-environment, “which affects real estate first and foremost,” as Mishaan explains. It’s something that’s led to an increase in litigation with lenders and large landowners in the real estate world. Beyond this focus the firm has also brought in people from the international private client world “which we find interesting – it’s a place we want to be active in.”

The Work

Kasowitz is all about litigation. Within this, some of the subgroups include commercial real estate, securities, white collar, bankruptcy, IP and employment. Associates have the opportunity to specialize, but almost all of the juniors in our list sat in a general litigation pool and overtime “you naturally migrate to a team you work well with, then usually you just keep working with them.” Those just starting out at the firm typically lean on the work assignment coordinators, a group made up of partners, to hop onto matters. “Those partners act as liaisons between partners who need help and associates who need work,” one junior explained. Over time, as juniors develop relationships, work assignment becomes more organic, and the blend between the two systems tends to work pretty well. Our interviewees all felt they had control over the work they took on, “because after building relationships with seniors and partners there’s discretion to join matters without going through work assignment, and on the other side I’ve never been pushed to take on something.”

“You have those clear lines of communication and quick feedback.”

Kasowitz’s lean staffing is felt more keenly in some practices than others. Antitrust, for example, has teams typically made up of one partner and two associates working closely on drafting so “it’s not like the partner doesn’t know who you are. You have those clear lines of communication and quick feedback.”  White collar matters also featured trim teams where, “you don’t feel like a glorified intern!” Because the group practices defense for individuals “you do a lot more for that, reviewing and drafting small motions and meeting with clients.”

Antitrust clients: Teva Pharmaceuticals, Ford and Google. The firm is prosecuting antitrust claims against the WWE on behalf of its competitor, MLW Media.

Juniors in the general commercial litigation group worked on matters that ranged from helping property developers in breakdowns of contracts and agreements to sale, to “a trial in our RBS case stemming from the 2008 crash…” Cases like the latter can be “very complex and in the weeds, with a lot of discovery,”  but juniors work across different stages of matters from starting discovery to trial prep to deposition transcripts, and with both large and individual clients. A common thing we heard from our interviewees though was that “there’s almost no doc review,” so newbies were all hands from the outset. “A lot of first year involves drafting briefs, legal research and memo writing,” but we heard within the first few months, juniors were also starting to second chair depositions, and conducting witness examinations was also on the table. “As you get more senior you deal with clients and inhouse counsel, and there’s more delegation of administrative tasks because you’re more critical to the matter,” one junior explained, as senior juniors find themselves drafting discovery requests and motions more frequently.

General commercial litigation clients: Teva Pharmaceuticals, Pilgrim’s Pride and the State of Hawaii. Kasowitz is defending Ford against a series of class actions in the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

Career Development

Associates told us the firm gives newbies a “pretty long” fortnight of trainings when starting out, moving onto something they termed 'Kasowitz University,' a program in which juniors are given assignments to complete for which they receive feedback from senior attorneys, helping them develop “very specific” litigation skills. Outside of this though, Kasowitz’s leanly staffed structure is “a double-edged sword,” as, though it leads to hefty levels of responsibility on the job, “you have to learn quickly – there’s not as much training.” In addition, “partners really don’t push trainings,” but interviewees we spoke with weren’t too concerned about that, because the focus is more on mentoring. This takes the form of formal mentors in first year within a mentor group, including a partner and older associates, but is significant for juniors in informal settings. “There’s not so much of a bureaucracy for mentorship,” one interviewee admitted, because “people I’ve built a relationship with more organically are more helpful.”  The firm also has a business development department to help develop its associates through training programs.

“There isn’t that pyramid structure, so you expect this to be a place you can stay if you want to make partner.”

All of our survey respondents felt the firm was good for their personal development, in part because “people take extra time to talk through strategy and other things where my input isn’t critical – I’m not going to move the needle, but it gives me the opportunity to see the big picture.” Of course, “it varies by partner,” but we heard of partners “seeking my input on high level strategy decisions,” and that some juniors had even helped with client pitches. Insiders gave us the impression that the partners’ willingness to keep juniors close helped to encourage ambitions for partnership – “if you put in the work.”  The firm’s lean structure also means “there isn’t that pyramid structure, so you expect this to be a place you can stay if you want to make partner.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Associates regularly receive emails for events put on by the firm’s affinity groups, who usually meet a couple of times a year. Just over half of our survey respondents felt affinity groups were active, but a significant majority felt that the firm’s efforts to retain and promote diverse lawyers was positive.

“They do walk the walk!”

Speaking with co-managing partner Cindy Kelly, we hear that Kasowitz places importance on, “all aspects of the associates we hire – then an important component for all associates is that support and mentoring.” Part of this is through the firm's diversity committee which "allows them to talk about things that are important for them and allows for dynamic conversation." Juniors we spoke with felt that “they don’t make much of a splash in terms of recruiting for DEI and it’s not something that’s talked about, but they do walk the walk!” Kelly backs this up by highlighting the firm’s DEI programs including those that extend beyond the Kasowitz’s walls, such as Legal Counsel of Legal Diversity, which offers the 1L Scholars Program and the Pathfinders program for second to fifth years.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: no requirement

“If you don’t want to hit the ground running,” one junior led, “then maybe this firm isn’t for you.” All of the associates we spoke with warned that hours at Kasowitz sit very much where you’d expect for New York BigLaw. One source explained that “it’s not for the faint of heart; you can’t do as little as you can for as long as you can and also grab your BigLaw paycheck!” Though, one insider noted that although people stay around in the office late for certain periods, “I generally expect it will slow down eventually,” so “hours are relatively high but in my experience, you’re not losing sleep or sacrificing your health.”

“…in my experience, you’re not losing sleep or sacrificing your health.”

Associates also mentioned that weekends are “definitely part of the job – there was a stretch in December I probably worked two or three weeks straight!” Ultimately though, the prevailing opinion was that “it’s the reason we’re paid the amount we are paid,” and that “it is something you get used to.” A similar sentiment was had with regards to vacation. “I think it’s generally respected,” one associate told us, “but I definitely still felt the need to check my email periodically to make sure there wasn’t anything huge going on that I wasn’t aware of!” Interviewees were generally okay with the compensation package, but there were concerns that “it could potentially lag behind market – our bonuses are market but we’re certainly not paying above market.”  Nevertheless, juniors didn’t give the impression it was something that would be a significant push factor from the firm.


From the outside “the firm seems very hardcore and intense,” one associate admitted, with a number bringing up the firm’s seemingly favorite adjective – “aggressive. You open up the website and it’s sharp, black and white, and none of the attorneys are smiling! But the reality is very different from the perception.” For those on the inside, while “the aggressive marketing is 100% accurate with how we litigate externally,” juniors were overwhelmingly positive about their interactions with attorneys and staff at the firm. Overall insiders felt that “hustle and hard work,” were integral to the firm’s culture, but that “even though people work a lot and work hard it is generally a low stress environment.”

“Even though people work a lot and work hard it is generally a low stress environment.”

On the social side, juniors told us that within their teams, “we maintain close relationships and people will make time for me, so those ties are strong.” Strictly from an events standpoint, one junior told us that “we didn’t have an out of office holiday party, which was noticed,” and we heard clubs aren’t super active; although the firm is trying to find new ways to connect outside of parties. That being said, most of the socials tended to be informal; “every couple of months there are attorney socials at bars and every so often juniors will go out for drinks in small groups,” so there are opportunities on that front for associates looking for those informal interactions. We also heard glowing reviews about the full salad bar, which is especially popular during wellness events!

Pro Bono

“We do meaningfully promote it, and it’s great for getting hands on litigation experience.”

Our sources were positive about the firm’s approach to pro bono. At Kasowitz, these hours can be credited as billable, so as an associate, “you don’t lose pace” when trying to take on pro bono. Hopping onto matters is a simple matter of picking one from the regular emails from the pro bono coordinator, or just “going to the partner in charge and saying what you want to work on – a couple of weeks later and they’ll get back to you so it’s a little ad hoc, but it works!” Despite the less formal approach associates told us, “we do meaningfully promote it, and it’s great for getting hands on litigation experience.” One associate cited people “actually arguing motions in courtrooms from pro bono,” spanning a range of matters, but those we spoke with worked primarily on immigration, specifically asylum cases.

Pro bono hours:

  • For all (US) attorneys: 12,354
  • Average per (US) attorney: 49.34


Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 52; NEBLSA Job Fair Interviewed: 8; Resume Collect Interviewed: 27; Referral Interviewed: 4; Direct Applicants Interviewed: 18

Kasowitz conducts OCIs at several law schools and sees about 21 students at each of them. The firm also attends the Northeast BLSA Job Fair, considers applications from a number of resume collects (schools vary year to year), and accepts direct submissions from law students. The majority of the schools Kasowitz attends for OCIs are in the northeast, and associates commented that “no matter where people went to school, everyone is very confident in this job.” 

Where possible, the firm tries to send senior associates and partners who are alumni of the law school to conduct the OCIs. Co-managing partners Cindy Caranella Kelly and Albert Shemmy Mishaan tell us: “We ask questions to get to know the prospective associate and learn about their goals and motivation in becoming a lawyer.” Partner Andrew Kurland stresses that, as well as looking at how prior experience in things like leadership roles match with a junior’s responsibilities, candidates also “have to decide if they want to come to a firm that focuses on litigation; if they’re not sure about it, Kasowitz might not be a good fit for them.”

Top tips for this stage: 

“Be confident, have interests outside the law and express your interest in litigation.” – Cindy Caranella Kelly and Albert Shemmy Mishaan, co-managing partners 

“The goal for us is to get a sense of the candidate’s personality. How engaging are they? How rehearsed are they?  I like to see confidence - it’s how we see people working at the firm” - Andrew Kurland, partner


Applicants invited to second stage interview after OCI: 26; Applicants invited to second stage interview after NEBLSA: 3; Resume Collect invited to second stage interview after screen: 12; Referrals invited to second stage interview after screen: 3; Direct Applicants invited to second stage after screen: 6

Candidates will typically face four interviewers during the callback, conducted by a mix of partners, counsel and associates. Questions focus on determining if a candidate’s skills, abilities and character match the firm’s culture. Kelly and Mishaan say, “Our attorneys encourage a dialogue throughout the interview so we get to know the prospective associate and vice versa.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Kasowitz is looking for people who are outgoing and friendly to everyone s they meet in every capacity at their callbacks.”  a first-year junior associate 

“Display [that] you have curiosity, not just about the firm, show you’re not a robot! We’re looking for a person we’ll be spending time working with, so treat the interview as a conversation – we want someone who fits into our culture.” Jillian Roffer, associate

“Show you’re interested in the firm and the interviewer – pick up on something the attorney has said and ask something you’ve researched about the firm” Jillian Roffer, associate

I do get into substantive issues; what’s on their resume, what an article they’ve written is about, what they think about it. But I don’t just want to hear, “it was interesting”, “it was new”, “I learned a lot.” I want to hear the substance, even if it doesn’t translate to what we do here, even if it’s about marine biology! Anyone who can tell me about something with insight and passion I like seeing.” - Andrew Kurland, partner

“We like seeing dynamic people - interested and engaged people.” - Andrew Kurland, partner

“Exemplify good character -- this is very important to the firm’s culture.” –  Kelly and Mishaan 

Summer program 

OCI Offers: 7; NEBLSA Offers: 3; Resume Collect Offers: 5; Referral Offers: 2; Direct Applicants Offers: 3

OCI Offer Acceptances: 2; NEBLSA Acceptances: 1; Resume Collect Acceptances: 3; Referral Acceptances: 2; Direct Applicants: 1

Kasowitz’s summer program has no formal rotation system in place. Instead, summer associates are assigned a work assignment coordinator who oversees their work flow throughout the program. They can request assignments of interest from specific practice areas within litigation, which may be assigned subject to availability. Summers also participate in formal training programs, a partner “lunch and learn” series and a mentor program. Kurland highlights that, “we give summers real assignments because we want them to do work on a billable level .” This includes substantive work, such as conducting research and , drafting legal documents . Summers also attend courtroom appearances, depositions. client meetings, and team collaborations.

Most incoming junior associates train and practice in general litigation, but there have been instances in which an incoming associate has gone directly to a specialty department, based on interest or need. 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Never say no, ask questions, don’t be afraid to take things on.” - Jillian Roffer, associate

“You should take advantage of getting to know people – go out to social events- Andrew Kurland, partner

“Make an effort to learn about key cases that the firm is working on, not just your own.” – Kelly and Mishaan 

And finally… 

Summers can get involved with various charitable events. Over the past few years, the firm has worked/partnered with Citymeals-on-Wheels, The Law Institute at John Dewey High School, Sanctuary for Families, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and St. Luke’s Soup Kitchen. 


Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP

1633 Broadway,
New York,
NY 10019
Website www.kasowitz.com

Main areas of work:

Kasowitz Benson Torres is one of the largest litigation firms in the country. We represent clients in high-stakes complex litigation, with a particular focus on commercial, securities and antitrust litigation, bankruptcy restructuring and litigation, white collar defense and litigation, and government affairs.

Firm profile:

Our core focus is commercial litigation, complemented by our exceptionally strong bankruptcy/restructuring and real estate transactional practices. We are known for our creative, aggressive litigators and willingness to take on tough cases. We outthink and outflank our opponents, and understand how to win for our clients. We have extensive trial experience and are always trial-ready, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in every area of litigation. We are committed to pursuing aggressive and innovative approaches to our clients’ most challenging legal matters. Our lawyers have been recognized by, among others, Chambers USA, Legal 500, Benchmark Litigation, Law360 and National Law Journal for excellence in their fields.

Our clients include Fortune 500 companies, private equity and other investment firms across a wide range of industries, including significant experience across financial services (banking, investment management and insurance), technology and real estate.

Kasowitz is ranked third on The American Lawyer’s annual Diversity Scorecard. The firm’s success, strength, and superior legal work is a direct result of our coordinated legal services that recognize the individual contributions each of our attorneys and business professionals bring from their own backgrounds and experiences.

We believe the health and well-being of our lawyers and business professionals are crucial for the success of our firm, and the firm is a signatory of the ABA’s Well-Being Pledge.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, Georgetown, NYU, and NEBLSA Job Fair

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Resume collects:
 Boston University, Duke, Howard, Northwestern, University of Chicago Law School, University of Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School and University of Virginia Law School. In addition, we review all applications received through our online system.

Summer associate profile: We seek applicants from all backgrounds with a demonstrated interest in litigation who want to assume significant responsibility early in their careers. As a litigation firm, we look for candidates who are creative, independent thinkers and who are intellectually curious with the drive and motivation to litigate in and out of the courtroom. We require the highest level of academic achievement, writing ability and prior work/leadership experience. Judicial Clerkships, Law Review, Moot Court and Trial Advocacy are looked upon favourably. Candidates should possess outstanding judgment, strong character and exceptional interpersonal skills.

Summer program components: We provide our Summer Associates with quality work assignments and professional experiences reflecting the breadth and complexity of our firm. They learn first-hand about trying cases and drafting legal documents, motions and agreements, and are exposed to courtroom appearances, depositions and client meetings. Summer Associates participate in formal training programs, a partner lunch and learn series and mentor program. They attend weekly work assignment meetings, receive ongoing feedback and are provided mid and exit reviews. The Firm provides opportunities to work on pro bono matters and participate in offsite programs offered by legal services organizations, such as Sanctuary for Families, and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. Summer Associates participate in various programs held by firm committees, including: Associates, Community Service, Diversity & Inclusion, Pro Bono, Wellness, and Women’s Initiatives, providing exposure to the firm’s commitment and ways in which they can ultimately get involved and have a voice. We sponsor a variety of social and cultural events, providing Summer Associates the opportunity to get to know each other and our lawyers in an informal environment. Over the past few years the Firm has coordinated charitable events during the Summer Program, we have partnered with Citymeals-on-Wheels, The Law Institute at John Dewey High School, Sanctuary for Families and St. Luke’s Soup Kitchen.

Social media

Instagram: @kasowitzlaw
Linkedin: Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP
Twitter: @KasowitzLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 5)
    • Securities: Institutional Plaintiffs: Mainly RMBS Litigation (Band 1)

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