If you’re looking to take down the opposition, the gloves are off at litigation powerhouse Kasowitz.
Take one glance at Kasowitz’s website and you’ll know this isn’t a firm that takes a softly-softly approach. “The people are real – we're not so fluffy,” declared one associate.Kasowitz boldly announces its ‘aggressive’ and ‘relentless’ courtroom tactics that foil the opposition on its homepage. “The Kasowitz name really holds weight. It’s not rare that opposing counsel will see our name, back down, and give our clients what they want,” another source asserted. Headed by uber-litigator Marc Kasowitz along with a committee of other seniors leaders, the firm’s key strength is undoubtedly its New York litigation practice, which earns the firm its two highestChambers USA rankings – real estate litigation and general commercial litigation. The firm’s litigation expertise, coupled with its lean staffing, grabs the attention of associates on the hunt for “a challenge.” Having firmly established itself as a litigation powerhouse, it wouldn’t be Kasowitz’s nature to stick to its comfort zone. “We’d be interested in expanding practice areas and bringing in the right candidates at the partnership level if it was a good fit,” explains co-managing partner Shemmy Mishaan.
“It’s not rare that opposing counsel will see our name, back down, and give our clients what they want.”
The New York-founded firm is relatively fresh-faced when compared to its state rivals, but its top attorneys are anything but amateur. Unlike other BigLaw firms whose name partners exist as distant memories, Kasowitz’s still walk the halls – or perhaps join the video calls. The firm came to fruition when Marc Kasowitz himself, along with 18 other lawyers, broke off from Mayer Brown to form their own practice in 1993. Starting off with a bang, the firm has never shied away from making top headlines, whether it be through its aggressive approach or courtroom triumphs. The firm’s New York HQ quickly decided to set up another base in Houston, and almost 30 years later Kasowitz now boasts eight additional offices in Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Washington DC. The vast majority of the associates on our list were based in New York, however.
Strategy & Future
You needn’t look far to find a Kasowitz headline, and 2021 saw the firm achieve a few high-profile successes. Among them are a favorable settlement for the firm’s longstanding client, MBIA; securities and antitrust cases for Teva Pharmaceuticals and Pilgrim’s Pride; real estate cases for InterContinental Hotels; and “one of the largest real estate disputes in the city” involving Hotel Chelsea. “We also had the Scarlett Johansson case,” adds Mishaan, referring to the breach of contract lawsuit filed by Johansson against Disney for releasing Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously.
Looking ahead, “the stock market is doing well, deals are flowing rapidly, and as gloomy cycles peak, disputes arise,” Mishaan elaborates. “The FTC has been incredibly active on the antitrust front – we have some major cases with them, and the DOJ and SEC are getting their feet back under and pushing hard.” The firm’s high-profile cases were credited to its famed partners by this associate source: “There are a bunch of younger partners who are building strong books of business, but the name partners still bring in a lot of work.”
“The opportunities to network have been great; you chart your own course.”
The number of young partners at the firm did not go unnoticed by associates. “The lateral market is hot at the moment but one thing that is keeping me at Kasowitz is that partnership feels attainable here,” shared a junior. This was partly attributed to the strong foundation that newbies are given, including enrollment in Kasowitz University and “early hands-on experience” that equips them with the skills needed to make an impact at court. “Once you have intimate knowledge of a case you get to punch above your pay grade, even at an early stage,” shared a source. Against the backdrop of the Kasowitz name, juniors are expected to steadily build a reputation for themselves. “The opportunities to network have been great,” confirmed an associate. “You chart your own course.” In a bid to encourage associates to become the best they can be, the firm is happy for newbies to take on CLE opportunities and count them towards their billables.
Associates praised Kasowitz’s summer program, which gave them the opportunity to be involved in court appearances, carry out trial prep, sit in on depositions, and attend hearings. The summers who were offered permanent positions largely went on to join the firm’s litigation practice. Newbies were staffed on matters by work assignment partners, but more seasoned associates were able to find their own work through “good working relationships.” “The staffing system is great to have as a backup and it helps you meet your billables,” shared a source. Juniors join the firm as generalists and most stay this way. “There are ways to specialize,” we heard. “You can become good at a particular type of litigation and it’s more of an organic specialization. However, for the most part, associates and partners do general litigation.” The firm offers niche groups for specialization, including bankruptcy, IP, matrimonial and employment litigation. The firm does do some real estate work, but doesn't actively recruit for it.
"We’re doing a lot of antitrust work in the pharmaceutical space."
Clients from all sorts of industries – including entertainment, insurance, real estate and hospitality – flock to Kasowitz’s litigation department. Cases here can cover breach of contract, antitrust, securities, class action, employment, fraud, defamation, and real estate issues (and much more!). "We’re doing a lot of antitrust work in the pharmaceutical space,” a source told us. Juniors assume various roles, depending on the size of the case and the team. On larger teams, common junior tasks include document review; deposition prep for the offense and the defense; drafting pleadings and letters; as well as working on discovery requests and responses. “If I’m the only associate on the team, my task is to do everything I’m asked from legal research to proofing briefs to generally managing the case and assisting partners,” an interviewee commented. Smaller teams allow juniors to take the first crack at portions of briefs and memos, interact with clients, and in some cases even write a motion to dismiss. One highlight for a newbie was the opportunity to second chair a deposition. “There are loads of opportunities for young associates to have substantial roles on cases,” we heard. It’s not rare for juniors to be called upon to “strategize with partners” and “directly communicate with opposing counsel and clients.”
Litigation clients: Ford Motor Company, MBIA Insurance Corporation, Teva Pharmaceuticals. Secured a favorable settlement for Scarlett Johansson in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Disney.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,150 target
You may have done a double take when you first saw Kasowitz’s billable target – it is indeed at the higher end of BigLaw targets. “The redeeming quality, however, is that everything counts!” a source was happy to relay; “Kasowitz University credits, mock assignments, business development matters, mentoring hours, recruiting activities, pro bono work...” This interviewee told us that the target “isn’t hard to meet, but it is a lot of hours – everyone has a lot of work, and it averages out at billing 50 or more hours a week or 45 if you don’t take a vacation, which is still quite high!” Late nights and weekend work can come with the territory at Kasowitz: “It varies depending on the case you’re on and how much responsibility you have – if a client wants something there’s no getting around it.”
We heard a few grumbles about the transparency of bonus allocation, with some juniors wondering whether hitting the billable target alone would be enough to nab a payout. The firm clarified that bonuses mostly revolve around hitting hours, but there is also a performance element. Kasowitz took a little longer than other firms to match the most recent Cravath increase, but match it, it did. The firm also tells us that salaries for offices other than New York are commensurate with top law firms in that particular market.
Our interviewees were keen to reiterate that all pro bono hours count as billable at Kasowitz. “There’s an informal push to do pro bono – and David Abrams, the pro bono chair, can be very convincing!” The firm takes on a number of pro bono matters from legal services organizations, meaning there is never a shortage of cases to be tried. Our junior sources were able to take charge of housing accommodation, social security, asylum, veteran discharge cases and much more. One highlight for an associate was the opportunity to partner with a New York high school to coach kids through mock trials and teach them oral advocacy skills. “You take a complex legal issue and explain it to 15 or 16-year-olds. It helps you become more understandable as a lawyer, and it’s really cool for the kids to get to speak to multiple lawyers,” we heard.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 12,298
- Average per US attorney: 52
Although Kasowitz’s website boasts about its aggressive stance, the firm makes the point that it saves this maneuvering for the courtroom only. “I really feel like it’s a large extended family,” a source commented. “There's respect for and from everyone starting with Marc Kasowitz at the top, all the way to the associate level.” With families there can be occasions when an element of tough love is required: "The culture is raw and the people are real – they tell you how it is,” shared a junior. Our sources also highlighted the “small BigLaw” feel of the firm, which allowed for more meaningful mentorship relationships to develop. “I’m not lost in a crowd with hundreds of other associates,” explained a junior. “People take the time to educate juniors as there is the understanding that you’re only as good as your weakest link.”
"The culture is raw and the people are real – they tell you how it is.”
Interviewees tended to find that they were able to form strong bonds with their colleagues. “Your team members become your friends – you work long hours together, so you get to know each other well,” we heard. But working hard doesn’t always mean playing hard. Our survey found that Kasowitz’s social scene wasn’t the most active, perhaps as attorneys were working past the happy hour to bring cases to a resolution. At the time of our research, associates were being asked to be in the office three days a week, or more if required.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
The firm is involved with several organizations that aim to increase diversity within the legal profession, including the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance. “What’s most important is walking the walk, not just talking the talk,” Mishaan explains. “We have a substantially diverse partnership and we’re constantly making young minority partners.”
A few interviewees had concerns about balancing a family alongside the demanding hours. In terms of female partnership, juniors gave the firm a thumbs up. “I see a lot of junior female partners at the firm – in fact, most cases I’m on are led by female partners.” Diverse individuals were felt to be “well represented at the junior level, and the firm has been making an effort to promote more women partners,” another interviewee agreed.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed (including NEBLSA): 99 Resume Collect Interviewees: 15 Referral Interviewees: 9
Kasowitz conducts OCIs at eight law schools and sees about 21 students at each of them. The firm also attends the Northeast BLSA Job Fair, considers applications from a limited number of resume collects (schools vary year to year), and accepts direct submissions from law students and judicial clerks. 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.” Among other attributes, interviewers look out for prior leadership experience and a demonstrated interest in litigation.
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
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 39* *includes two students who previously interviewed through 1L Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Scholars Program
Candidates will typically face three or four interviews during the callback, conducted by a mix of partners, counsel and associates. They’ll be given the option of attending a lunch during their callback to meet with junior associates in a more informal setting. 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 from the mail room to the partners they meet at their callbacks.” – a first-year junior associate
“People want to make sure you really are interested in litigation and not just saying so because you want another offer.” – a first-year junior associate
“Know how to maintain eye contact and ask questions if the conversation lulls a little.” – a first-year junior associate
“Exemplify good character -- this is very important to the firm’s culture.” – Kelly and Mishaan
OCI Offers: 18* Resume Collect Offers: 6 Referral Offers: 5 *includes one student who previously interviewed through 1L Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Scholars Program
OCI Offer Acceptances: 5 Resume Collect Acceptances: 4 Referral Acceptances: 2
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 from practice areas of their interest, which may be assigned subject to availability. Summers also participate in formal training programs, a partner lunch series and a mentor program. Kelly and Mishaan say that “summer associates learn first-hand about trying cases, drafting legal documents, motions and agreements, and are exposed to courtroom appearances, depositions and client meetings.” A current junior concurred: “They do a really great job of giving summers substantive work that truly winds up getting used in a real way. It made me so excited to come back!”
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. “Over the past three years with the exception of 1L’s and clerks, all of our summer associates have returned as permanent associates,” Kelly and Mishaan tell us.
Top tips for this stage:
“If someone asks you to do something, even if it seems super daunting, your answer is, ‘Yeah sure.’” – a first-year junior associate
“People who say, ‘I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna push myself and do my best’ are the kind of people who do well here.” – a first-year junior associate
“Make an effort to learn about key cases that the firm is working on, not just your own.” – Kelly and Mishaan
Summers can get involved with various charitable events which the firm coordinates during Give Back week. Over the past few years, the firm has worked/partnered with Citymeals-on-Wheels “Eat Cheap for Charity”, Project Sunshine, The Law Institute at John Dewey High School, Sanctuary for Families and St. Lukes Soup Kitchen.
Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 10
- Partners US: 86
- Associates US: 108
- Main recruitment contact: Mindy J Lindenman, Chief Legal Recruitment
- Hiring partner: Cindy Caranella Kelly & Albert Shemmy Mishaan
- Diversity officer: Hector Torres, Chair
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 11
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 2Ls: 11; 1Ls:1
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: NY 12
- Summer salary 2022: 2Ls: $4,135/week
- Split summers offered? Case-by-case
Main areas of work
Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, Georgetown, Howard, NYU, and NEBLSA Job Fair
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Resume collects: Cardozo, Duke, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn, University of Chicago and UVA. In addition, we review all applications received through our online portal.
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. Summer Associates 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 series and mentor program. Summer Associates also attend weekly work assignment meetings, receive ongoing feedback and are provided mid and exit reviews. Summer Associates have the opportunity to work on firm 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 but not limited to: Associates, Diversity, 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. The Firm coordinates charitable events during Give Back week. Over the past few years, we have partnered with Citymeals-on-Wheels “Eat Cheap for Charity”, The Law Institute at John Dewey High School, Project Sunshine, and Sanctuary for Families.
Linkedin: Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- 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)