Solid is this king’s legal throne in Georgia, but its realm stretches across the country and the globe.
Long live the King of the Peach State. Founded in Atlanta in 1885, it’s one of Georgia’s oldest firms, so it’s had plenty of time to establish its pedigree in the state but also much further afield (we're talking global). “King & Spalding always stood out as a very respected and excellent law firm in the South,” juniors noted when explaining why they were drawn to the firm. “It is one of the biggest and most sophisticated firms in the city.”
Chambers USA adds credence this assertion: with eleven domestic offices (and the same number overseas), King & Spalding has garnered over 20 nationwide rankings, including top prizes in international arbitration and LNG projects, as well as localized rankings in seven different regions. Of course, it gets its highest accolades in its home state of Georgia where it’s considered among the cream of the crop for banking & finance, bankruptcy, corporate/M&A, environment, healthcare, litigation, real estate and tax.
King & Spalding also gets props in several states for its expertise in government matters, and it’s worth noting that the firm is known for its close ties to government. Most recently, former chief of staff at the FBI Paul Murphy returned to the firm’s ranks as partner in 2021. Two former US Deputy Attorney Generals, Rod Rosenstein and Sally Yates, were respectively hired and rehired in the last couple of years.
Strategy & Future
In June 2020, the firm opened a base in Northern Virginia. Working closely with the DC office, the team there will provide a range of services to technology and aerospace, defense and government services clients. Associates reckoned the focus of the firm now would be “trying to grow more deeply in places we already are.” Indeed, one interviewee was drawn to the firm because “it was expanding its practice in New York and had a lot of exciting opportunities.”
Partner Jennifer Morgan reiterates: “We’ve had tremendous growth in the number of our lawyers, in our revenue, and in our profits per partner.” In particular, Morgan highlights “the number of lateral partners” K&S has brought in: “54 lateral partners have come in over the last year, and they’re all over – Singapore, Dubai, London, Paris, New York...!” Alongside lateral hires, K&S also promoted 17 of its lawyers to the partnership across nine offices.
Just under half of King & Spalding’s 70+ juniors were based in the firm’s Atlanta office. Handfuls were also recruited into New York, DC, and Houston, while one or two were dotted in Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, LA, SiliconValley, and its newest office in Northern Virginia. Juniors were split across three umbrella practices: corporate, finance & investments; government matters; and trial & global disputes. Each of these areas hosts various subgroups within them. Most groups have formal staffing infrastructure in place to keep an eye on associate hours and “help make sure you’re staffed on stuff you’re interested in,” but some also mentioned having “standing relationships with partners who you enjoy working with” as a means to get work.
“A lot more sell-side transactions, either post-bankruptcy or to prevent bankruptcy.”
Corporate, finance & investments takes in the largest number of juniors and includes the subgroups of corporate; finance & restructuring; funds & real estate; and tax & executive compensation. The general corporate group “handles M&A as well as some capital markets and securities transactions.” Sources got experience in “anything that touches on equity or equity-like items,” including private M&A, equity investments, and reorganizations. Given the financial impact of COVID-19 on businesses across industries, interviewees noticed the firm was handling “a lot more sell-side transactions, either post-bankruptcy or to prevent bankruptcy.” Day to day, juniors got involved in “anything from running the due diligence aspects of the transactions to preparing closing ancillary documents.” One source was pleased that “I’ve been increasingly asked to help with certain parts of the overall acquisition agreements too.” Juniors appreciated the level of responsibility, which for some included “a lot of client face-to-face interaction, fielding their questions or other requests.”New Yorkers highlighted their office’s specialty finance, project finance, and leveraged finance groups.
Corporate clients: Rockstar, Baker Hughes, Capital One Bank, Georgia State University. Recently advised global payments provider TSYS in its merger with Global Payments, creating a $54 billion company.
“Slightly terrifying, but a great experience.”
The government matters practice covers environment, health & safety; FDA & life sciences; healthcare; and ‘special matters’ related to the DOJ and FCC. So far, sources had dabbled in a fair bit of white-collar defense, which was pretty prominent in the DC office, given its proximity to a number of government bodies. Juniors also got involved in “advising companies in responding to DOJ or FCC subpoenas and investigations.” The team also “conducts independent investigations for committees,” which involved “identifying and reviewing relevant documents, conducting witness interviews, and piecing together the underlying story.” Reviewing documents made up a large part of interviewees’ work, alongside “a lot of factual analysis, drafting various summaries, preparing witness interview outlines,andpresentations to clients or the government.” Given the nature of the work, sources found the responsibility “slightly terrifying, but a great experience.”
Government matters clients: international conglomerate Honeywell, accounting firm Grant Thornton, US Bank, California Hospital Association, Coca-Cola. Recently represented Google’s parent company Alphabet in the US House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust probe into Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.
Trial & global disputes is split between business litigation, intellectual property, international arbitration, and tort & environmental. There are also a number of unassigned litigators that work across a range of commercial litigation, shareholder litigation, and securities fraud cases. Class actions were pretty common for interviewees – one was on a team representing a bank “in a consumer class action relating to a data breach,” while another worked on the high-profile Equifax class action regarding its 2017 data breach. In between, sources also got into business contract disputes and occasional appellate litigations. On bigger matters, interviewees reported doing some typical document review and research. Where teams were leaner, sources were able to “manage the doc-reviewers and correspond with opposing counsel,” as well as “take the first cut at drafting memos, briefs, and pleadings.” Associates also usually “handled the first round of discovery responses and requests.” Litigators in the international arbitration group got a real sense of the firm’s international reach: “I work with people from all the other major offices – New York, London, Houston, Paris, Singapore…”
Trial & global disputes clients: Delta Air Lines, Kemira Chemicals, pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. Recently represented Progressive Casualty Insurance in antitrust actions alleging a conspiracy to constrict trade between automobile insurance companies in the US.
In Atlanta, interviewees flagged doing work with the Georgia Justice Project, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers. New Yorkers mentioned a fair bit of work related to helping small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, while those in DC highlighted work with nonprofit Voto Latino, to “help people who’ve come into the country with a number of legal issues.” The firm has “a dedicated partner who works on pro bono matters exclusively,” which meant associates felt “pretty well connected with opportunities.” One told us that “everyone I know is involved in a pro bono case. It’s talked about a lot and encouraged.” Attorneys can count 100 hours toward their billable targets, though sources noted “for significant pro bono matters, you can get additional hours above 100 counted upon approval.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 44,880
- Average per US attorney: 43.7
Hours & Compensation
Billing hours: 1,950 required for bonus
Some associates noted they’d prefer if – in addition to pro bono – “some other hours were included” in the bonus-eligibility targets, “like business development work.” But some found the expectation “a bit high,” and associates observed “people get bonuses more often than not.” On compensation, most felt they were paid well, but there was one consistent grumble in Atlanta: “Our salaries and bonuses are under market when compared to the going rate in New York.” Sources argued that “Atlanta isn’t as small a city as it once was, so the disparity shouldn’t be as large as it is.” That said, some reckoned “we might have a better work/life balance” than those in New York. Just as we went to press King & Spalding notified us that it is now paying all associates across its US offices the same New York market base salary and bonus scale.
Day to day, interviewees kicked things off anywhere between 8am and 9:30am, with an average finish time of 7pm. Depending on the practice area, we also heard of semi-regular 8pm to 9pm finishes. “I was staffed on a big matter that drove my hours through the roof,” one litigator told us.Our survey showed that the average number of hours associates across the firm worked in the last week was a little over 59. Given the move to remote working, sources appreciated that the firm was “flexible on which hours you work, as long as the work gets done.” One outlined their typical day: “I’ll probably work 9 till 5, then log off for a two-hour block for dinner, then get back on for an hour or two after.”
Given how busy our interviewees were, we heard “there's definitely enough work to go around, so no one is uber competitive!” Experiences of firm culture varied slightly by location and practice group, but many agreed that a “work first” mentality “is definitely part of the culture. It’s collegial, but very focused on our matters and our clients.” In some offices, this often meant “people come to work and then they go home,” leaving less room for socializing.
“I was surprised that these partners were giving me a call and offering to drop off groceries.”
Still, “there are also impromptu events to keep camaraderie up,” and one source in the firm’s Atlanta office said they were “genuinely friends with some of my colleagues – we do things outside of work together.” Others were pleased to find that “everyone was socially intelligent,” such as one associate who fell ill during the pandemic. “As soon as I told my team, I got calls from multiple people asking if I needed anything,” they told us. “I was surprised that these partners were giving me a call and offering to drop off groceries.” Multiple associates agreed that they “wouldn’t want to be practicing BigLaw at any other firm.” Others pointed out that “people realize that your development is also important” and praised the mentorship they got from senior colleagues.
King & Spalding hosts an annual associate academy program (it took place virtually in 2020), which sources found helpful for “helping you develop skills you might not have been able to in your day-to-day practice.” Juniors also flagged “one-off workshops about particular areas of law or skills” as well as a mentoring system designed to “guide you in ways that help you work on what you need to in order to get to where you want to be as an attorney.”
“There’s been so much back and forth between the government and King & Spalding.”
On the topic of career progression, “some firms want you to be there until you die,” one associate joked, “but I think this firm is very good about being open and flexible to people with different career goals.” It also helped that most felt the King & Spalding name “definitely carries cachet, especially in Atlanta,” which would help with future moves. Sources were well tuned into the fact that “there’s been so much back and forth between the government and King & Spalding.” That said, if partnership is your goal, juniors reckoned “it does seem to be achievable” at King & Spalding, adding that “from day one they give you the formal trajectory path, so it’s very clear.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Many agreed “the representation of women is really good” at King & Spalding. “I really value my team because there are so many women,” a government matters junior shared, “and they’re very open about things like the difficulties of having children and doing BigLaw.” Sources admitted that, like most firms, there isn’t as much diversity at partner level, but “the firm is conscious that it needs to continue working on that.”
“I’ve heard partners say, ‘We need to shift the case team because it’s currently four white males sitting in a room.’”
Sources pointed out that the recent summer classes had greater emphasis on diversity, and also highlighted other efforts such as seminars on diversity in the workplace and conscious staffing on cases. In one example, “I’ve been in a room and heard partners say, ‘We need to shift the case team because it's currently four white males sitting in a room.’”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
K&S holds OCIs at over 30 colleges across the country, as well as a number of law fairs. Washington, DC hiring partner John Fontham tells us that the firm sees between 20 and 100 students at each campus, depending on their size. Interviews are held by two attorneys and cover a lot of ground with questions assessing “intellectual horsepower, client service focus, interpersonal skills and relationship building and practice group preference.” Fontham advises interviewees to “show that you are well-rounded and intellectually curious with a demonstrated record of achievement.” He adds that K&S looks for candidates who “convey authenticity in their interviews and who have a genuine interest in our firm. They're the ones who tend to succeed, and we are not looking for hypercompetitive candidates or big egos – this is not a firm of sharp elbows.” Associate sources in the firm’s home city of Atlanta advised interviewees that “you need to articulate why you want to be here. Sometimes people are so focused on getting the job that they lose their awareness of where they are geographically.”
Top tips for this stage:
"We value diversity. Talk about your unique life and work experiences and how those will help you stand apart from your peers and succeed at King & Spalding." –Washington, D.C. hiring partner John Fontham.
Successful interviewees are invited back for a session that generally consists of “four to six interviews with attorneys and either a lunch or a reception afterwards,” according to Fontham. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, callbacks were conducted remotely during the Winter 2021 recruiting cycle, using a web-based video conferencing system.
Fontham describes the questions at this stage as “more behavioral in nature than during OCIs, but candidates can still expect a conversational interview style. We are looking for much of the same things we sought in the OCI phase, but now expect a deeper level of knowledge about our firm and interest in it.” He adds that the “ability to connect with our people and a demonstrated interest in our firm” at this stage is “even more important than during OCIs.” Associates told us: “We’ve turned down several people with stellar credentials who we feel wouldn’t command a room or be as personable as others. If I were speaking to a lateral or new attorney, I would only recommend them here if they want to help manage clients and win new clients and represent the firm.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Candidates who have a strong sense of their goals and how King & Spalding will help them to achieve those goals will do well."— Washington, DC hiring partner John Fontham.
K&S hosted 70 summer associates across the US in 2020. Summer associates indicate their practice area preferences before the summer and are then assigned a variety of work across their chosen areas. Fontham explains that summer associates “work closely with summer and work coordinators who are tasked with making the summer experience a rewarding one. We also supplement our summer program with substantive trainings, seminars, and panels, and client site visits and lunches.”
While the firm’s 2020 summer program was completely virtual, Fontham notes some of the unique opportunities available to summer associates during a typical summer: “In June, our summer associates meet in a single locale for a firm-wide mock negotiation and witness interview exercise and networking reception.” Summers also get to visit and work from another office in the firm’s network through ‘Connect K&S,’ which according to Fontham “allows summer associates to see how we connect the dots inside the firm to deliver solutions to our clients’ complex legal issues.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Be intellectually curious: we hire bright lawyers who want to learn and challenge themselves. We value summer associates who develop innovative ways to solve problems and are responsive to the needs of the supervising attorneys and their clients. Even as a summer associate, we expect that you will perform at a high level when met with challenging work." — Washington, DC hiring partner John Fontham.
Fontham tells us: “We have a full-time position available for every summer associate who joins our program, and we expect that each of them will earn an offer to return. In 2020, our summer offer rate was 100%.”
King & Spalding LLP
1180 Peachtree Street,
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 11
- Worldwide revenue: $1.53 billion
- Partners (US): 420
- Associates (US): 543
- Main recruitment contact: Michelle L Carter, Chief Recruiting Officer
- Hiring partners: Carmen Toledo (Atlanta) Adam Gray (Austin) Amy Peters (Chicago) Mark Thigpen (Charlotte) Michael Shortnacy (Los Angeles) Brandt Leibe (Houston) Ellen Snare (New York) Charles Katz (Northern Virginia) Megan Nishikawa (San Francisco) Anne Voigts (Silicon Valley) John Fontham (Washington, DC)
- Diversity officer: Harold Franklin, Diversity Chair Caroline Abney, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting 2021: 67
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 15 1Ls, 58 2Ls
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Atlanta: 23, Austin: 1, Chicago: 6, Houston: 6, Los Angeles: 2, Northern Virginia: 1, New York: 14, San Francisco: 2, Silicon Valley: 2, Washington, DC: 14
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls /2Ls: $ 3,653/week (all offices)
- Split summers offered? Yes, first half
- Can summer spend time in an overseas office? Generally, no
Main areas of work
Antitrust, appellate, banking and finance, corporate, energy, financial restructuring, government investigations, healthcare, intellectual property, international arbitration, international trade, litigation, pharma/biotech/medical device, real estate, tort and environmental, tax/ ERISA.
King & Spalding has over 1,100 lawyers in 20 offices across the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. King & Spalding combines a sophisticated legal practice with a commitment to excellence, collaborative culture, investment in lawyer development, and dedication to pro bono and community service.
Law Schools attending for upcoming OCIs:
Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Houston, Howard, Loyola (Los Angeles), Maryland, McGill, Mercer, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Penn, Southern California, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Yale.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Cornell New York City Job Fair, Lavender Law Career Fair, On-Tour Interview Program (Chicago & Houston), Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Southern Legal Interview Program. In addition to participating in OCIs and job fairs, King & Spalding also accepts summer associate applications directly from current law students.
Interested applicants may submit their resumes and transcripts at https://www.kslaw.com/pages/law-students
Summer associate profile:
Successful candidates are well-rounded, intellectually curious, and committed to excellence and continued growth. They have diverse life and work experiences and bring unique perspectives to client-oriented solutions. They are collaborative, they are enthusiastic, and they have a genuine interest in building a future at King & Spalding.
Summer program components:
Summer associates experience what it’s like to be a lawyer at King & Spalding by working on challenging matters for real clients. Our summer program is coordinated by a team in each office who work to ensure each summer associate has the right mix of substantive work, training, and social engagement.
We encourage a culture of mentorship and development. Each summer associate is assigned a summer advisor and can expect to get real-time guidance from attorneys throughout the summer. Weekly professional development opportunities include luncheon seminars, attendance at practice group meetings, and off-site client visits. Summer associates also participate in the K&S Summer Summit — a two-day retreat of educational and social programming culminating in a group Mock Witness Interview and mock negotiation exercise.
Our office visit program, Connect K&S, gives summer associates the chance to visit and work from another US office during their summer. By working with colleagues elsewhere, summer associates see first-hand the benefit of having talented lawyers spread across a global footprint, and they experience our collaborative, cross-office approach to serving our clients.
Recruitment website: www.kslaw.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Environment (Band 5)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
Texas: Houston & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: Whole Business (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 4)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 2)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 2)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
- Government Relations (Band 3)
- Healthcare: The Elite (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 1)
- International Trade: Customs (Band 4)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 5)
- International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 4)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)
- Life Sciences: Regulatory/Compliance (Band 2)
- Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 2)
- Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)
- Projects: LNG (Band 1)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- REITs (Band 4)
- Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 3)
- Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)