Latham & Watkins LLP - The Inside View

Associates get to plot their own course for world domination within the 'unassigned' system of this international giant.

TO paraphrase Ron Burgundy (which you should probably never do in your interviews), Latham is kind of a big deal. Founded in Los Angeles more than 85 years ago, it's now the world’s second-highest grossing law firm and its “nationally integrated” network doesn't have an official HQ, though New York is the largest office. Latham may long have outgrown its Cali roots but associates reckoned “it still has a West Coast vibe. We're a lot more relaxed than other BigLaw firms.”

That's some achievement given how big the firm's got and how many different practice areas it excels in: Chambers Global ranks it a worldwide leader in banking and finance, projects and capital markets, while Chambers USA awards Latham top marks in eight practice areas plus recognition in 45(!) others. The good news for associates is that they start life at the firm 'unassigned' and can explore different practices to their heart's content. “I didn't know if I wanted to do appellate law or antitrust,” an aspiring litigator revealed, “and here I could try both!” Juniors can be found in all 11 of Latham's US bases.

The Work



Associate work assignment is initially handled by 'The Book' – not a sentient tome, but a full-time (human) work coordinator. While sources appreciated having “a nice cushion” during busy periods, most agreed that “after first year it becomes more entrepreneurial” and juniors get work directly from partners they've hit it off with. After two years (most don't need all that time) associates are encouraged to formally align with one of the firm's five core practices: corporate, finance, litigation & trial, tax, or environment, land & resources.

"After your first year you become more entrepreneurial.”

We spoke to litigators immersed in a wide range of cases including white-collar, intellectual property, commercial and shareholder disputes. Some sources leaped at the chance to hedge their bets: “I really enjoyed both white-collar and commercial so I was glad I didn’t have to pick one.” Each office has its own specialty: San Francisco focuses on antitrust, for example, while DC’s biggest litigation subgroup is IP and Orange County is a securities hub. Latham's commercial litigation clientele runs the gamut of international organizations but the Los Angeles team “does a lot of work for local companies or companies that were originally based here.” Contrastingly, IP litigators handled “almost entirely federal law” and made full use of the firm's international network. “The real benefit of Latham is being able to collaborate with associates from other offices and I do so on almost every case.”

Commercial litigation comes with “a ton of writing experience as well as sitting in on calls and drafting discovery responses”; white-collar disputes involved “supervising document review and drafting portions of analysis and interview memoranda for clients.” An antitrust junior in DC told us they'd worked on “a number of monopolization cases representing defendants” plus “a class action defense surrounding an illegal conspiracy claim. On district court cases the associate workload is a lot more unpredictable.”

Litigation clients: Miramax, UBS, Apple, 24 Hour Fitness. Represented Facebook in the Second Circuit challenging disclosures in connection with its IPO, as well as multiple class action lawsuits.

Corporate associates can sample capital markets, IPOs, M&A and emerging companies, charting their own course through the unassigned system. New York insiders were happy “not to be limited to one industry or deal type. Because we have certain institutional clients I’ll sometimes be the lead associate on smaller cases worth $100 million or so.” Junior tasks on these smaller deals included drafting purchase agreements plus the ancillaries and exhibits. Latham's corporate client base ranges from national healthcare companies to tech startups; the capital markets practice is largely issuer-side, with associates “working on things like public company representation and public filings.” M&A insiders were “sat on calls with clients right away, which I didn’t see as much in other practice areas.” A Houston-based second-year told us they'd established “a good handle on primary deal documents, and clients treat me as a midlevel associate.” Juniors are more likely to handle the due diligence process on larger international matters.

Corporate clients: Shamrock Capital, Landmark Health, One Equity Partners. Represented T-Mobile US in its $146 billion merger with communications provider Sprint.

Strategy & Future



Interviewees told us Latham's “leadership generally thinks that we can and should be the best BigLaw firm out there. The strategy is to command the highest rates through excellent work.” Sources felt “the firm is determined to put its best foot forward and is always open to taking criticism and talking about any issues. I’ve always been given a platform to influence how things are handled.” Chair and managing partner Richard Trobman tells us: "In today’s world, companies face unprecedented challenges, and these challenges arrive at breakneck speed, across borders and time zones. So our firm needs to respond at the same speed, with agility across practice groups and geography."

Career Development



As part of a formal academy program, third and fifth-year associates fly out to one location for a series of condensed training sessions and conferences which summers and partners also attend. Litigators attend a number of programs throughout the year covering depositions, trials and advocacy. DC residents were particularly quick to hand out praise to “a group of young, accomplished partners who are invested in training people to do well so they can take over and expand the group internally.”

“It was overwhelming but the partner was adamant that I get the experience.”

On one case I was in charge of two motions to dismiss and an opposition to an injunction, which I’d never done before,” a third-year recalled. “It was overwhelming but the partner was adamant that I get the experience without anyone micromanaging me.” Associates were however happy to receive business development leg-ups: “I've been brought along to at least five client pitches, which are really interesting and give a good line of vision to what it’s like at partnership level.” They also appreciated that “partners go out of their way to give honest feedback. I’ve never felt anything was sugar-coated.”

Culture



Dismissing any suggestion of an “aggressive” environment at Latham, interviewees instead described “a culture of enthusiasm” and a “work hard, play hard” ethos. Using up any competitive spirit dueling with opposing counsel, associates pointed out that Latham's “doing so well that no one’s workload or job security is an issue, so there’s no need to compete with other associates.” Likewise “impressed by how little attrition there’s been,” sources attributed this in part to partners being “conscientious about making sure you’re not going to burn out and ensuring you have time for a life outside of work.”

"...garbage like terrible teams and internal politics does not happen.”

My understanding of the firm’s mentality is that they realize attorneys perform better when they’re happy,” one Los Angeles resident felt. It's easy enough to keep people happy under the California sun, but in DC too we heard “people are very kind and thoughtful considering we’re a very competitive law firm. Latham doesn’t have the hard edge of other firms in our tier.” As for traditionally hard-edged New York, insiders told us: “There’s always a baseline of BigLaw character you can’t get rid of, but garbage like terrible teams and internal politics does not happen at Latham.”

Latham doesn’t have an official headquarters and the majority of sources we spoke to felt that the firm's culture was shaped by the need to work with attorneys all over the globe. “Things work pretty seamlessly as most of the communication in my office already takes place via phone and email.” Juniors in smaller offices assured us their base “didn't feel like an outpost. If I look at my emails I can see messages from New York and DC popping up so I feel pretty connected.” A source in Century City told us: “A lot of people interviewing here fear that we have smaller or more local clients than big offices, which isn’t true at all. Latham’s rates are high enough that you’re only going to get bigger clients.” That said, “there is a calmer lifestyle than somewhere like New York even if the work is the same.”

Hours & Compensation



That carries across to working hours: in Orange County, for example, interviewees described an average day in the office as 8:30am to 5pm, whereas in New York or DC they were more likely to be at their desk until 7 or 8pm. Taking full advantage of the lack of face-time policy, many had “the same tech setup at home as the office. I can take calls from my room at home and no one will know.” Associates' ID badges get them into every Latham office “so even if I’m in another city I can just work from there,” and we heard that in many cases “most of my group is in a mix of other locations anyway so it really doesn’t matter whether I’m in the office or not.”

Latham quickly matched the recent salary hike, which came as no surprise to associates. “The firm's very transparent when it comes to bonuses,” they confirmed, as everybody who hits 1,900 billable hours makes the grade. “We have meetings and presentations that lay out where bonuses sit and the median average number of extra hours people have billed” – discretionary bonuses are a possibility, depending on hours billed and reviews. “Having spoken to friends at other firms I think it’s very fair,” an insider reckoned.

Pro Bono



All pro bono hours count toward the billable target and associates are required to do at least 20 hours each year. “The firm really wants at least 60,” we heard. “Latham views pro bono as a way to get necessary experience and transfer those skills to your billable work.” Associates explained that immigrant visa matters “are very popular because you can fit them into your schedule easily,” and DC interviewees in particular told us: “There’s been a huge push recently for us to work on family reunification cases for people separated at the US border.” This enthusiasm wasn't just shared among juniors: one said they'd “not once encountered a partner or an associate who has a negative view of pro bono.” Other recent examples included habeas corpus cases; work with the ACLU to sue a town in California; human trafficking matters; and pro bono work for military service members. We also heard about transactional pro bono including a merger for the Humane Society in DC.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 176,907
  • Average per US attorney: 100

Get Hired



“Maturity is definitely a big part of it, it's important not to have unrealistic expectations.” Find out more about Latham's hiring criteria by clicking on 'Bonus Features' above.

Diversity & Inclusion



Agreeing that Latham had brought in greater numbers of women and minorities “in line with the rest of BigLaw,” insiders suggested that “the firm is fully aware of the benefits of diversity and does go out of its way to remedy issues as best they can.” Latham hosts an annual diversity retreat and invites current associates, 1Ls, applicants who have received diversity scholarships, and future summer associates. On the most recent retreat the group was “flown out to San Francisco, put up in a hotel and taken on a cable car ride over the city.” Many came out of the trip with invaluable connections: “I had contacts from all across the country, which made me feel like I wasn’t going through this alone.”

“I had contacts from all across the country, which made me feel like I wasn’t going through this alone.”

Latham has affinity groups for women, Asian & Middle Eastern, LGBTQ and Hispanic/Latin American lawyers – there's a fair amount of overlap as “everyone goes to everyone else’s events.” Recent examples include a talk by Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative. The firm's recently brought in implicit bias training and is contributing toward a program that assesses students’ SAT scores based on their geographic area. The plan is to find candidates who are excelling despite hailing from economically disadvantaged backgrounds: “Latham wants to invest in those individuals for the long term and broaden the pool of candidates entering the legal profession regardless of whether they end up coming to this firm.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 2,462Interviewees outside OCI:  271

Latham’s broad approach to recruitment reflects its giant footprint on the legal scene. Hiring partner Larry Seymour tells us: “We visit over 30 law schools across the country for on-campus interviews and collect resumes from another 30+ schools.” The firm also accepts online applications from June 1st and attends various career fairs. A whole host of interviewers participate at this stage, including managing partners, practice group chairs and members of various committees. This might all sound a bit intimidating, but associate sources assured us: “The interviews are more of a conversation than a test; we’re looking for someone who’s not too formal and can develop a rapport with interviewers.” Seymour adds: “We want to hear about experiences that demonstrate important personal qualities, including drive and dedication, teamwork, analysis and reasoning, problem-solving, and time management.  We want to understand how a candidate would contribute to our culture, which emphasizes transparency, respect, innovation, collaboration, and diversity.”

Top tips for this stage:

"First and most importantly, be yourself and show your personality and traits.  We want to get to know the real you to the greatest extent possible in a limited interview window.  Second, tell your story.  Your experiences will naturally reveal qualities and competencies that are relevant to your ability to perform this job. Third, ask thoughtful questions regarding topics that cannot be learned from online materials.  This demonstrates your interest, but, more importantly, it allows you to learn about the firm and its culture."Hiring partner Larry Seymour.

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 739

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.” Seymour tells us: “We also ask candidates to share their interests and let us know if there are particular attorneys they would like to meet or aspects of the firm they would like to learn more about.” While noting that interviewers and questions will vary depending on the candidate and location, he tells us: “I am always interested to hear about particular passions and experiences that have brought a candidate to this moment in time and prepared the individual for an opportunity with Latham.” Finally, he adds: “The callback interview day can be long.  You’ll be speaking with a lot of people and sharing a lot about yourself.  But we hope it’s fun too, in that we’ll be asking you to share relevant information about your life and your experiences.”

Top tips for this stage:

"We want to learn about you.  We pride ourselves on being a place where everyone can fit in and everyone is included.  As a candidate, you will benefit from presenting your authentic self."  Hiring partner Larry Seymour.

Summer program

Offers: 470Acceptances: 181

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 our 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.” Seymour tells us: “Thehighlight of our summer program is our Summer Academy, a multi-day professional development program that brings together our summer associates from across the US, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore.” Associates who had gone through the program encouraged summers to “try to strike a balance between getting substantive work and getting your feet wet with networking and getting to know people around the office. The firm is really geared towards balancing fun with work.” 

Top tips for this stage:

"There is no single formula for success.  As a baseline, however, summer associates should be responsive, ask questions, be mindful, and be respectful.  Summer associates should show an eagerness to work and to get involved in substantive projects, while also participating in social opportunities and getting to know our lawyers. They should also take advantage of the opportunity by learning more about the firm while they’re here, exploring practice areas, attending training programs, and networking with lawyers in the firm." Hiring partner Larry Seymour.

And finally…

Ask thoughtful questions regarding topics that cannot be learned from online materials. This demonstrates your interest, but, more importantly, it allows you to learn about the firm and its culture.” – Hiring partner Larry Seymour.

Latham & Watkins LLP

885 Third Avenue,
New York,
NY 10022-4834
Website www.lw.com

  • Number of domestic offices: 11
  • Number of international offices: 19
  • Worldwide revenue: $3.386 billion (FY2018)
  • Partners (US): 519
  • Associates (US): 1,112
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Debra Clarkson, Director of Global Recruiting
  • Hiring partner: Larry Seymour, Global Recruiting Committee Chair; Abid Qureshi, Vice-Chair US; Ross Anderson, Vice-Chair EAME
  • Diversity officer: BJ Trach, Chair of the Diversity Leadership Committee
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 160(US)
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 12, 2Ls: 181, 3Ls: 0, SEO Interns: 1, Ron Brown Pre-Law Fellows: 5
  • Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,700/week 2Ls: $3,700/week
  • Split summers offered? First 8 weeks at Latham required
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case

Main areas of work



 Corporate; environment, land and resources; finance; litigation and trial; tax.

Firm profile



  Latham & Watkins’ extensive practices, one-firm culture, and global footprint provide associates with virtually limitless career opportunities. The firm includes more than 2,600 lawyers across 30 offices and 14 countries. Associates harness the resources of a fully integrated firm that values integrity and diverse perspectives. Every associate receives exceptional training and support to ensure seamless collaboration on projects that span time zones, teams, and offices in the world’s major financial, business, and regulatory centers. As a result, associates play an essential role in addressing clients’ most important and complex challenges — with the best possible results.

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, willingness to assume responsibility, maturity, and judgment.

Latham recruits students from more than 90 law schools through campus interviews, job fairs, law school resume collections, and online applications for the firm’s 1L Fellowship Program, 2L Diversity Scholars Program, as well as through direct applications.

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

Summer program components:
Latham’s Summer Program gives you a sense of life as a junior associate at the firm — for example, by participating in the firm’s Unassigned Program, having an assigned mentor, networking and building relationships, and attending Summer Academy — a highlight of the summer program — where you will join summer associates from across Latham’s US, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore offices.

Social media



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

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • IT & Outsourcing: Transactions (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Venture Capital (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
    • Appellate Law (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Representation (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Representation (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Representation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 1)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 1)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 4)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 2)
    • Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 2)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 2)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
    • Projects: Power (Band 1)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • REITs (Band 1)
    • Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 2)
    • Sports Law (Band 2)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 2)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 2)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)