It’s been an impressive decade for the folks at this Atlanta-founded firm – and the wheels aren’t slowing down.
IF you saunter down Peachtree you’re sure to find someone nattering about King & Spalding: “It has the best reputation in Atlanta; everyone knows us. Mention the firm and people know who we are.” Beyond its native city, the firm carries its clout across 20 other offices – ten domestic, 11 international – and most recently opened up a new base (dubbed an initiative) in Brussels last year. But as we’re told, “even though we’re a global firm with successful other offices, the personal touch from Atlanta still carries through.” It should be no surprise then that in the Georgian capital the firm bags numerous awards from Chambers USA, with top-tier rankings for their banking & finance, bankruptcy, corporate, environment, healthcare, litigation, real estate, and tax practices. Nationwide the firm does similarly well, most notably for their international arbitration and projects offering.
“It has the best reputation in Atlanta; everyone knows us.”
2018 saw the rollout of the firm’s 'Strategy 3.0', ushering in structural changes aiming to increase K&S’s global income by 50% before 2022. While ambitious, firm-wide revenue over 2019 grew to $1.34 billion, a 6.3% increase from 2018. Alongside financial success, organizational changes were implemented across the firm: “The biggest change has been the drive to have more collaboration between practice areas.” Objectives aside, “we’re integrated by being in one group, but the legacy groups still operate in the pools before and it’ll be several years before true cross-practice integration.”
Strategy 3.0 introduced three new umbrella groups in the organization. The most popular destination of the three is Corporate, Finance and Investments (CFI). The other two are Trial and Global Disputes (TGD); and Government Matters (GOV), a group covering government and regulatory matters spanning healthcare, life sciences, environmental law, and ‘special matters’ related to the DOJ and FCC. Each group experiences a blend of formal and informal assignment systems. One source characterized the prevailing experience: “If I’m without work, each group has an assignment coordinator. But I have established means so don’t really need to go through them."
“I never expected to do the things I’m doing […] I’ve been given loads of responsibility."
The CFI group encompasses corporate, funds and real estate, finance and restructuring, tax and executive compensation. CFI rookies are now introduced to a rotation system whereby they spend four months for two years across various subgroups. The funds team “spans the spectrum,” with associates experiencing “fund formations; purchasing, acquiring, and disposing assets; combining fund vehicles; and making allocations and designing fund structures.” Positive experiences abound: “I never expected to do the things I’m doing. I expected ancillary docs and due diligence, but I’ve been given loads of responsibility.” Naturally due diligence is unavoidable, but negotiating purchase agreements, speaking directly with clients, as well as support on “those sexy Wall Street Journal deals,” kept our sources content. The private equity team spans numerous industries: oil and gas, energy, food and beverages, automotive and more. “We do all ranges across market transactions,” told one source. “I’ve worked on single-digit millions to work in the several billion-dollar range.” Succinctly, “I’ve been pleasantly surprised about responsibility, it’s been absolutely fantastic.”
Corporate clients: Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo. Advised TSYS, a leading global payments provider, in its all-stock merger of equals with Global Payments in a matter totaling $21.5 billion.
Over in TGD, 3.0 saw previous practices – business litigation, automotive litigation, international arbitration, product liability, and more – consolidate under one wing, to collectively serve “bigger, institutional F500 companies." Associates reported work across the legacy groups: “I’ve done a few different things; a lot of consumer-related litigation and financial services. Also some compliance work with big healthcare companies and some data privacy work.” Naturally tasks vary in scope depending on deal sizes. “For big matters, it’ll be discrete tasks like answering questions and interviewing client witness,” noted one junior. “But even on the discrete projects, I don’t feel micromanaged or that I’m wasting my time.” More day-to-day tasks allowed our sources to consult with senior lawyers about case strategy, handle discovery, attend depositions and hearings: “I have more control in those instances and I’ve been given a lot of responsibility.”
Litigation clients: Johnson & Johnson, The Home Depot, Delta Air Lines. The firm continues to act as lead counsel for Chevron Corporation in numerous matters.
Early 2020 saw Rod Rosenstein – former US Deputy Attorney General – join the firm’s Special Matters and Government Investigations team in the nation’s capital. “In DC our bread and butter is government matters and our regulatory practices. So much of it is working with the government, across the table from them, advising their agencies.” Sources reported the practice rolling with the times: “There’s a really wide range of expertise and the work will change year on year depending on client demands.” For some that means compliance questions and research assignments for new environmental issues. For others that meant supporting “a large investigation involving the DOJ and FCC over concerns of fraud with public funds on a large project.” Cross-border work cropped up, as did the opportunity to travel to cases in Europe. Across all our sources, the variety of matters and industries proved most rewarding: “Every day is so different, and that makes it so exciting. Some days it’s doc review, some days I’m caught off guard and talking to the press on a matter!” Across the board, our sources championed their exposure: “We’re never in a room just doing document review, I’m in client meetings and my opinions are listened to!”
Government clients: Republican National Committee, OpenGov, Novo Norodisk. The firm continues to represent Amazon Web Series before Congress on a number of policy matters.
“So many people have my best interests and career trajectory at heart,” told one source – and it appears that they’ve all been at the Kool-Aid, as our sources collectively praised the training on offer. “From substantive training on grand jury subpoenas and the False Claims Act, to run-of-the-mill work on business development,” our interviewees commended the blend of the two. Specific practice group training – such as the CFI or advocacy academies – run concurrently with firm-wide sessions: “They do a really nice job and it’s a big priority for people to learn from the old-timers, with a big emphasis through the training sessions down in Atlanta to get to know people across offices.” Juniors also noted the importance of mentorship both formally – through the Link Program – and informally: “Most things happen organically, and senior associates have been invaluable mentors who’ve helped me all the time.”
“They do a really nice job and it’s a big priority for people to learn from the old-timers.”
Regarding the partnership track, while most saw the process to be transparent, “as a junior it’s not really the conversation we’re having.” One elaborated further: “After seventh year you become senior then eligible for partnership. It’s then about developing business and reputation, but it’s not on my radar yet.” On the note of attrition, due to the firm’s close governmental ties, “if people leave it’s never really to another firm, it’s like FBI or US Attorney's assistant.” Succinctly, people leaving “isn’t a dissatisfaction thing, it’s about a different experience being pursued.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: informal targets for bonuses vary across locations
How big are the BigLaw hours? “Everyone’s very flexible about remote working, and people genuinely want me to have a good work/life balance. Even during the crazy busy months, partners are checking in on me to see if I’m okay.” Sounds peachy. Although how crazy is crazy? “Between 80 and 100 hours in a week would be hellish,” told one. “When I’m busy, I’ve billed 250 hours in a month including weekends.” Thankfully steadier seas are more commonplace, and quotidian realities seem more forgiving: “When it’s quiet, you can take advantage of that.” Another went further: “There are no requirements to be here until the lights shut off,” alluding to the popular and widely used flexible working arrangements and more reasonable finishing times.
“Even during the crazy busy months, partners are checking in on me to see if I’m okay.”
Instead of a concrete billable requirement, we heard associates in some offices aim to hit 2,050 hours annually to be bonus eligible. “You’re eligible for a bonus at 2,050, and most hit that. No one’s nagging about hours.” Coupling this, associates in Atlanta celebrated the hourly bonus rate given: “If you meet threshold for bonus, you get paid for the hours you work on top of that” (both non-billable and billable hours). This aside, slight grievances emerged regarding the disparity of regional market pay structures: “We’re doing the same work as DC or New York but not compensated the same in Atlanta. It’s a sore spot for some of us. Not enough for us to leave though; we’re not in Atlanta for the money.”
Associates can count 100 pro bono hours toward their billing target, although it’s possible to get an extension for projects that go beyond this threshold. This said, uptake varies: “I’ve done one pro bono case for 130 hours. They’re big and significant cases but sometimes when you’re busy with billing, there’s an unspoken pressure to find someone else to focus on the pro bono.” Succinctly, “the firm aren’t on your case to do it; I know people doing five hours and people doing 200.” For those involved, cases vary from work with the Innocence Project, helping “an inmate on death row needing a new hip,” veterans' issues, immigration applications for those fleeing violence, or work with United Way of Greater Atlanta – an organization seeking to bring sustainable improvements for those in the local community and further afield. “The key with pro bono,” we’re told, “is that there is as much as you want as it’s available to you.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 39,456
- Average per US attorney: 40
It seems that stereotypes – namely that Southern charm – are stereotypes for a reason: “We do sophisticated work similar to other top firms but we have a great culture here. Everyone’s committed to longevity, growing from within, and making sure people are here for the long haul by not burning out.” In part, our sources attributed this to the commitment of those coming before: “We’ve got a lot of homegrown partners who have stayed on, and that contributes a lot to our culture.” Similarly, and equally celebrated, “there are no politics here! It’s work hard, work together; play hard, play together.” Collegial much.
“Everyone’s committed to longevity, growing from within, and making sure people are here for the long haul by not burning out.”
Views differ on the note of ‘playing hard.’ “Some people go to lunch a couple times a week, others don’t. We have at least monthly happy hours which gets a fair number of people out to our lovely rooftop deck in Atlanta.” That said, “it’s not a day-to-day party firm, people tend to head off to their homes at the end of the day.” In DC, the refined headcount allows for greater connection at events such as Wine Down Wednesdays, where “there’s drinks and appetizers to get people out of their offices to say hi.” We heard of colleagues – read friends – hanging out at weekends and attending football games together.
Diversity & Inclusion
Singing a familiar tune, associates recognized the wider issues plaguing the profession at large: “They’re very conscious and want to be on the leading edge, but if you look around it’s very white.” A point enforced further by a 90% and 79% white partner and associate class respectively. Echoing most, one source succinctly found that “overall we need to improve, but our heart’s in the right place.” Associates pointed to a day care center for associates’ children (“which everyone raves about”) and improvements with maternity leave evidencing how things are moving forward. We heard from the firm that summer classes are becoming increasingly diverse and new mentorship initiatives have been implemented since we conducted our original round of associate interviews.
Strategy & Future
The firm’s Strategy 3.0 will continue to flavor the firm moving forward. “I get the impression we’re following through with our goals; we’ve continued to grow and we’re now getting opportunities for multiple teams to support clients now.” Perhaps not to everyone’s inclination, but the firm is introducing stand-up desks in DC. “Other than that,” junior one joked, “I couldn’t be happier with how things are.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
K&S holds OCIs at over 25 colleges across the country, as well as a number of law fairs. Hiring partner John Fontham tells us that the firm sees between 20 and 60 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.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 291
Successful interviewees are invited back for a session that consists of “four to six interviews with attorneys and either a lunch or a reception afterwards,” according to Fontham. He 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 87 summer associates across the US in 2019. 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 your summer experience a rewarding one. We also supplement our summer program with substantive trainings, seminars, and panels, and client site visits and lunches.” He adds: “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 2019, our summer offer rate was 100%.”
King & Spalding LLP
1180 Peachtree Street,
- Number of domestic offices: 10
- Number of international offices: 10
- Worldwide revenue: $1.34 billion
- Partners (US): 401
- Associates (US): 518
- Main recruitment contact: Michelle L Carter, Chief Recruiting Officer
- Hiring partners: Carmen Toledo (Atlanta) Adam Gray (Austin) Zachary Fardon (Chicago) Mark V Thigpen (Charlotte) Peter A Strotz (Los Angeles) Brandt Leibe (Houston) Ellen M Snare (New York) Fritz Zimmer, Jr (San Francisco) Timothy T Scott (Silicon Valley) John H Fontham (Washington, DC)
- Diversity officer: Harold Franklin, Partner; Caline Mouawad, Partner
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting 2020: 72
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020:
- 1Ls: 15, 2Ls: 55
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office:
- Atlanta: 20, Austin: 2, Charlotte: 3, Chicago: 5, Houston: 8, Las Angeles: 2, New York: 16, San Francisco: 2, Silicon Valley: 1, Washington, DC: 11
- Summer salary 2020:
- 1Ls /2Ls: $3,653/week (Austin, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Washington, DC)
- $3,173/week (Atlanta, Charlotte)
- Split summers offered? Yes
- 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, Duke, Emory, Florida, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Houston, Howard, Maryland, Mercer, Michigan, NYU, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Santa Clara, Southern California, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, Virginia, Vanderbilt, 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, 2020
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 2)
- 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)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations (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 Relations (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- International Arbitration (Band 1)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 5)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (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 (Band 3)
- Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)