Latham & Watkins LLP - The Inside View

In Latham’s terms, a longstanding reputation and a massive global network open plenty of doors for associates, and make a recipe for success.

If you’re looking to rub shoulders with the stars, it’s no secret that you’ll find the big names in everything from music and movies to sport and reality TV in LA. And, as it turns out, the same goes for legal stars. According to recent figures, LA juggernaut Latham & Watkins raked in $5.6 billion in 2023, making it the second highest-earning firm in the world. Like many of its neighbors on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Latham’s got range too. The firm has 12 offices in the US and a further 17 across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The breadth of practices also impressed interviewees, who were pleased to say: “We take a broader approach and do a little bit of everything.” Perhaps that’s an understatement, as Latham’s “little bit of everything” has landed it a huge collection of top-tier Chambers USA rankings in its home city and across the country. While listing them all may exhaust our word count, top practices include antitrust, international trade, capital markets, energy, IP, life sciences, technology, and securities litigation.

“You can work on an M&A transaction, then a litigation project, or a bankruptcy matter.”

Incoming first years can capitalize on this variety thanks to Latham’s unassigned system, in which they are not tethered to a practice group until their third year: “It truly is choose-your-own-adventure. You come in as a brand-new associate and can fill your time how you want,” said one interviewee. “You can work on an M&A transaction, then a litigation project, or a bankruptcy matter.” However, despite Latham’s reputation for “top of the field deals” and “really smart people,” sources still enjoyed their colleagues’ company. “There’s a lack of ego here,” said one insider, “and people are super approachable from the top of Latham all the way down.”

Strategy & Future



Many of our associate interviewees were clued into the firm’s broader strategy as “we have a talk every year on the state of the firm, including the projects for the year and how we’ve been doing.” Another insider highlighted how financial regulation has been a huge growth point for the firm, explaining that “there’s been a ton of recent lateral partner hires in that space. Every regulatory body seems to be expanding its authority on financial institutions lately, so we’re bringing on people who understand the nuances of those federal laws.”

The Work



While the associates on our list were spread all 12 of Latham’s US offices, most found themselves in New York, with plenty also in DC. A couple of associates were based in the newest Austin office, while the remainder were split across the other locations. The corporate and litigation & trial groups both took on well over 100 associates apiece, while the rest were in finance or tax, or were unassigned. While unassigned, juniors find work through The Book, which is Latham’s centralized assignment system. Once assigned to a group, sources noted that work assignment generally became much more informal, but assignment via the central system was always a possibility. “I get the majority of assignments from the staffing partners on my team,” said one interviewee, while another “might stop by a partner’s office to see if they’ve got anything going on.”

The mammoth corporate group is divided into several subgroups, including M&A and private equity, capital markets, real estate and investment funds. “Each office has a similar makeup, but I’d say that our Chicago corporate team focuses more on public company M&A, while DC or LA might have more of a private equity footprint,” one interviewee reflected, “it just depends on the partners we have.” Associates in M&A praised the “broader experience” offered at the firm, with increasing responsibility as you progress: “After mastering more admin-style tasks such as helping on due diligence, associates typically start drafting some of the smaller ancillary documents. It grows from there, until you start running small deals.” Meanwhile, an associate working in investment funds had been involved in “everything from the smaller funds to the mega funds. It runs the full spectrum and we’re often staffed cross-office.” Although juniors need to first familiarize themselves with tracking checklists, we heard there’s still plenty of contact with clients and investors, as well as opportunities to try their hand at reviewing subscription agreements and side letters.

Corporate clients: Blackstone, ArcLight, JP Morgan. Advised Reddit on its multiple acquisitions of companies producing machine learning and AI-related software.

“The joke about junior litigators doing doc review forever hasn’t been my experience, and I wouldn’t even mind doing a bit more of it!”

Litigators are also spoilt for choice at Latham, with a range of commercial, white-collar, securities, appellate, antitrust and IP matters to try out, as well as domestic and international arbitration. “Although I’m technically assigned to one subgroup, I’m encouraged to try out different things and you don’t have to fully specialize until you get more senior,” one source shared. This breadth was reflected in the tasks assigned to juniors, one of whom boasted: “I’ve been able to see every aspect of litigation so far.” While greener associates may still find themselves reviewing documents, we heard responsibility extends far beyond this: “The joke about junior litigators doing doc review forever hasn’t been my experience, and I wouldn’t even mind doing a bit more of it! In fact, I know plenty of juniors who have first-chaired depositions.” With a mix of lean and large teams, our interviewees had experienced varying levels of responsibility, ranging from drafting complaints and motions to joining trial teams, prepping witnesses and working with experts.

Litigation clients: Twitter/X, Meta, Peloton. Represented Virgin Galactic in a securities class action matter relating to its commercial space travel business.

Associates in finance might touch on matters covering restructuring, structured finance, project finance and traditional banking. Though offices US-wide work on both the sponsor and lender sides, an interviewee in LA had worked with more direct lenders, while another in New York had experienced more sponsor-side work. Despite finance deals often sharing the same mechanics, sources gratefully reported that “the types of companies we deal with vary drastically, so our work varies as well.” Specifically, interviewees had done plenty of drafting, initially working on ancillary documents before progressing to the core purchase and credit agreements. However, while billion-dollar deals may call for massive teams, leanly staffed matters (such as those in project finance) offer more substantial responsibility: “I was allowed to run a deal in my first 12 months at the firm, with amendments and some supervision of course,” a junior explained, “I’m now running deals and have supervisees as a second year. It ramps up quickly.”

Finance clients: Lyft, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, The Walt Disney Company. Advised the former in a $5.25 billion revolving credit facility.

Pro Bono



At Latham, pro bono is not only entirely billable, but popular too: “When a corporate project comes out, all the corporate associates seem to fight to get on it!” That said, though pro bono is often the realm of litigation, the transactional opportunities that do come through often involve drafting wills, counseling small businesses and generally assisting local legal needs groups. The firm’s pro bono committee is in charge of circulating matters weekly, but associates can also bring their own for approval. Asylum and immigration work regularly crops up, but our interviewees also had experience working on matters related to veterans, housing, civil rights and legal name changes. A DC interviewee told us that “we tend to focus on local clinics, such as assisting the elderly or wiping decriminalized charges from people’s records.”

“…it’s a way to rehumanize the law while also breaking up your day and teaching you additional skills.”

So, while the firm pushes its attorneys to hit at least 50 hours, we heard there was more to the pro bono sphere at Latham than simply hitting a billable target: “There’s a positive impact that you can see immediately,” said one, “it’s a way to rehumanize the law while also breaking up your day and teaching you additional skills.” This was especially pertinent to IP litigators, one of whom shared that “veterans’ appeals go to the federal circuit, as do patent appeals. While it’s highly encouraged that we work with veterans in our group to develop skills in front of the court we practice in, it’s also just nice to help people in need.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 227,369
  • Average per US attorney: 90

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,900 target

Alongside pro bono, attorneys can also bill hours used for recruitment, diversity and knowledge management (eg, training or writing material for conferences). Thanks to this, most found that the target was achievable, though a few interviewees who had lateralled into teams without staffing partners struggled to maintain a consistent workload: “It’s not because I haven’t asked for work or reached out, but some people have been insular with who they normally work with,” one interviewee explained; “I think partners care, but it can be easy for them to forget when things get busy.” However, insiders appreciated that the only real consequence to missing the target is losing the bonus. According to one associate: “It’s an all or nothing bonus, so there’s no subjectivity. Although it can be a bit harsh if you just miss it, they’re transparent on the numbers. They break down the number of people who reached certain hour thresholds and lay out the bonuses they earned.”

Day to day, most interviewees tried to stick to a regular schedule, but those in more unpredictable groups “have days where I’m billing 4.5 hours, and others where I’m billing 11. That’s just the nature of deal-based work.” Although our interviewees were no strangers to working at the weekends, associates appreciated how “partners push back on unreasonable client demands when they can, including unnecessary weekend work.” That said, one insider mentioned how “there have been periods where I had to work every day and through the weekends for several weeks. It can be exhausting, but people check in and remind you to take vacations.” However, associates made the most of slower periods and felt “comfortable rejecting work if I’m at the pace I want to be at. I don’t feel pressure to go above and beyond the 1,900 target.”

Career Development



When it comes to resources, Latham certainly knows how to put its money where its mouth is. The firm circulates weekly Training and Career Enhancement sessions across the firm, and there are specialized sessions for different groups. For instance, one litigator noted how “there’s a really intensive trial advocacy program for third years. I was surprised to see that at least a dozen partners had flown in from all over the country to help us prep for mock trials.” Similarly, an insider in funds praised the group for investing in a formal training program: “it’s been very thorough so far and partners have popped in to listen and answer questions.”

When it came to long-term career aspirations, interviewees in corporate groups in particular were glad to see plenty of recent partner promotions from their departments. Others were also encouraged by senior attorneys who “had kids as associates and weren’t penalized when they did want to make partner.” However, associates acknowledged that “it’s well known that you’re not going to make partner coming right in at 1,900 hours. You do need to sacrifice a couple of years if that’s what you want.” Associates can discuss their career development with practice group partner mentors (alongside all the other “mentors they throw at you, so that at least one will stick!”), though some laterals felt that this system worked better for those who joined through the summer program. “Latham is known for having a lot of laterals,” an interviewee mentioned, “but I think it needs to do better at integrating them. Though I haven’t struggled much myself, others have left as they couldn’t integrate. However, the firm is so big that it doesn’t really take a hit from that.” Nevertheless, sources recognized that, being at such a large firm, there are plenty of opportunities to network and find more informal mentorship on top of any assigned, formal mentors.

Culture



“You can knock on partners’ doors to say hello, and even the very senior partners make themselves available at a moment’s notice.”

Despite Latham’s massive headcount, an interviewee in NYC told us that: “I feel like I know a lot of folks, even in the largest office. I frequently run into multiple people I know on lunch breaks at least!” Around the office, insiders made the most of the open-door policy, noting how “you can knock on partners’ doors to say hello, and even the very senior partners make themselves available at a moment’s notice.” Another telling example of the culture, as evidenced by multiple interviewees, was the fact that they have stayed in contact with people who have left the firm: “I meet up with people from my summer class at weekends,” said one insider, “we have lots of resources about career paths away from BigLaw thanks to our network of alumni. They definitely do stay in touch.” Maintaining this culture across offices is no small feat, but juniors explained that “Latham prides itself on being a one firm kind of firm, so we work across offices constantly and there isn’t a separation of culture.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



“We have a variety of committees that lead the charge on different areas of the firm,” an associate explained, and DEI was no exception. One source praised the committee for “caring and working hard to improve DEI. Whenever I’ve asked for assistance with something, they’ve responded within the day to resolve the issue.” Affinity groups also got a shoutout from our sources, who lauded their work in “recruiting and mentoring people when they join so that they can get settled and staffed on matters.” Some had attended small circle mentoring groups where partners discuss their progression at the firm in relation to their diverse identities. Associates were optimistic about diverse representation more generally, though still felt that there’s a way to go with regard to racial diversity (as is the case across BigLaw more generally). “The firm can still improve on that front, but we have a lot of female partners,” a source reasoned. Another added that “women in M&A are given an equal opportunity to participate in matters, which isn’t the case at every firm. Given that the group is the main moneymaker at big firms, and subsequently sees the biggest pool of promotions, those opportunities do encourage the organic growth of female talent.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

Applicants interviewed: 1,842

Latham’s broad approach to recruitment reflects its giant footprint on the legal scene. “Our open application platform allows any student, from any law school, to apply to our recruiting programs,” notes Michèle Penzer, a banking partner in New York and the Global Chair of the Recruiting Committee. “We seek the best and brightest legal talent, first and foremost. While we look at academic credentials for new associates, that’s not the entire barometer. We also look for leadership achievements, and characteristics that enhance Latham’s unique and diverse culture.” The firm has an early application period, Latham Early Action Days (LEAD), that encourages students to apply to their summer program within a one-week period in June. Students who participate in LEAD are able to receive a decision earlier on in the process. A whole host of Recruiting Committee members participate in interviews, including managing partners, practice group chairs, and associates. All applicants are required to take a virtual assessment which will assess candidates on different skills and behaviors that are necessary to excel at Latham. Following the assessment, students will receive written feedback on their strengths for their personal reference.

This might all sound a bit intimidating, but associate sources assured us: “Collaboration and collegiality are a key part of Latham’s culture. Interviews are meant to be conversational, less about ticking through a resume and more about people as individuals,” said Boston counsel and member of the Recruiting Committee, Gloria Ring.

Top tips: “Be yourself. We want to hear about experiences that demonstrate who you are, and that shows us how you’ll contribute to our consensus-based, entrepreneurial culture. We value authenticity, inclusivity, and diversity as well as teamwork, creativity, and innovation. The stories you tell will reveal your values and competencies in a very natural way.” - New York partner and Global Chair of Recruiting Committee, Michèle Penzer.

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second-stage interview: 1,034

Those invited to callbacks will meet with several attorneys over the course of several hours, and may also share a meal with a small group of attorneys. Bay Area partner and Global Vice-Chair of the Recruiting Committee, Aaron Chiu, tells us: “Whenever possible, we try to pair candidates with Latham lawyers who share their interests, or who can best answer a candidate’s particular questions. To help us with matching, we welcome candidates to share those questions with us during the recruiting process; we understand that candidates are often evaluating a number of firms, and we want to ensure that callbacks are engaging, relevant, and illuminating.” 

Interviewers and questions vary depending on the candidate and location, but candidates are urged to share their passions and experiences. Capurro notes too that candidates should prepare themselves for a long day. Houston associate and member of the Recruiting Committee, Zainab Hashmi, adds: “While the process can seem intimidating, especially with the large amount of talking, questions, and introductions over the course of the day, we also hope it’s a fun experience, and that candidates view the lawyers they meet during interviews as their potential supervisors, mentors, colleagues, and friends.” 

Top tips: “Before your interview, set aside some time to think through what you want to share. We want to hear about you, and learn about your authentic self. Think about how your personal and professional experiences brought you to this moment in time, and how those experiences demonstrate you are the right fit for Latham.” - New York associate and member of the Recruiting Committee, Lauren Sun

Summer program

Offers: 484

Acceptances: 315

Candidates who are fortunate to secure a spot on Latham’s summer program will take part in the firm’s unassigned program, where they can explore 50+ practice groups. The system is entrepreneurial and informal — summer associates are free to pursue projects that they’re interested in, including pro bono work. Penzer tells us: “Our firm has a deep commitment to training and developing lawyers at every stage of their careers, including summer associates. Our Summer Academy brings together summer associates from across the globe for several days of networking, training, professional development, and socializing .” Chicago associate and member of the Recruiting Committee, Jonathan Gordon, encourages summers to “find a good balance of your time between your substantive work and developing connections with people around the office. The firm is really geared towards balancing fun with work.” 

Top tips: “The summer associate program offers you an opportunity beyond just getting to know Latham — it allows you to see your future self as a lawyer, practicing at the highest level. By participating in the program, you will explore practice areas, attend training sessions, network with lawyers across the firm, and ask questions in the moment. Law school prepares you to navigate the rigors and intellectual side of the law. The summer associate experience completes the picture, preparing you for the career ahead.” - D.C. partner and member of the Recruiting Committee, Alan Devlin.   

And finally…

“When we say that a career at Latham is an investment in your development and your future, we mean it. We want candidates who take charge of their careers by asking thoughtful questions, by being authentic, and by demonstrating an interest in practicing law at Latham. We’re very proud of our unique culture, and we are eager to share it with law students.” -New York partner and member of the Recruiting Committee, Reza Mojtabaee-Zamani.

 

Latham & Watkins LLP

1271 Avenue of the Americas,
New York,
NY 10020
Website www.lw.com

Main areas of work



 Corporate; finance; litigation and trial; tax.

Firm profile



  A career at Latham & Watkins will give you the opportunity to do some of the best work of your life. Opportunities are boundless—Latham’s Unassigned Program allows you to follow your intellectual curiosity to explore the firm’s market-leading practices before choosing your department, practice, or industry focus. You’re encouraged to take on pro bono matters of interest to you. The firm gives billable hour credit for pro bono work, and doesn’t cap the number of pro bono hours that can be applied toward the billable hour target.

Latham provides the perfect balance of entrepreneurial spirit and career development support. The firm offers world-class training, including signature multi-day academies marking key transition points in your career. Associates are also thoughtfully paired with a mentor to further support them at every step of their careers and are surrounded by world-class lawyers who foster professional development. Our Associates Committee – boasting equal numbers of associates and partners – manages associate reviews, bonuses, and promotion to partnership and counsel, which leads to a remarkably transparent environment.

Here you are encouraged to bring your own unique perspective. You will fit into a global organization that thrives because our diversity fuels understanding and innovation.

At Latham, attorney satisfaction is paramount, and our rankings say it all. Latham is a top destination for both prestige and quality of life, a unique combination that highlights the firm’s incredible brand and culture.

A career at Latham is an investment in your development and your future. It begins with you.

Recruitment



  Latham & Watkins recruits students with incredible legal minds who are also incredible people; the firm values transparency, respect, innovation, collaboration, and diversity. As a meritocracy, Latham seeks out candidates who have demonstrated they can contribute to the firm’s culture through their initiative, communication skills, complex thinking, willingness to assume responsibility, resilience, and judgment.

Latham recruits students from more than 150 law schools through campus interviews, job fairs, law school resume collections, and online applications for the firm’s Summer Program, Pathways Program: 1L and 2L Diversity Scholars Program, 2L Practice Group Scholars Programs, Diversity Leadership Academy, and other signature programs for law students.

For more information about campus interview dates and online applications for US offices, visit www.lwcareers.com.

Summer program components:
Our summer program gives you a sense of life as a junior associate at Latham. As a summer associate, you will meaningfully contribute through our Unassigned Program, which allows you to explore our 50+ practices and participate in pro bono matters. Demonstrating unparalleled strength across diverse areas of law, Latham has earned 25 Vault Practice area rankings—more than any other firm in the country. An assigned mentor will answer your questions and help guide you through the summer. At Summer Academy—a highlight of our summer program—you will join summer associates from across the firm and will be immersed in Latham’s culture through training seminars and social events. Networking and building relationships with Latham professionals are an essential part of your summer and career. You will have opportunities to join practice group presentations, participate in affinity group events, as well as attend casual lunches with our lawyers. 

Social media



Recruitment website:www.lwcareers.com
Linkedin:latham-&-watkins
Twitter:@lathamwatkins
Facebook:lathamwatkins
Instagram:@lathamwatkins

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

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