Latham & Watkins LLP - The Inside View

With a sprawling global network and a prestigious reputation, this firm is no lightweight when it comes to matters of international proportions.

“If you were to open up The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal and see an A1, above-the-fold story about a transaction – if we’re not doing that deal, then we would’ve already done a deal like it in the past two years,” one interviewee summed up when describing Latham & Watkins’ innovator status in the BigLaw world. And it’s not just on the transactional side that this firm is a trailblazer; Latham is testing uncharted waters in its representation of Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, and Larry David against class actions relating to the stars’ promotion of recently collapsed crypto exchange FTX.  

While Latham is considered a West Coast star due to its LA origins, its expertise stretches far beyond the Golden State. According to figures reported by AmLaw, the firm is now the second largest law firm by revenue globally – racking up a whopping $5.5 billion in 2022 –and it’s also high up in the headcount stakes with more than 3,200 attorneys working across 30 global offices. And if that still doesn’t paint a clear enough picture of this firm’s mighty impact, then Latham’s standing in Chambers USA renders it in high definition: the firm picks up 140 accolades overall, and 27 of these are in the top tier nationwide. Standout areas include antitrust, banking & finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, climate change, employee benefits & executive compensation, energy, intellectual property, life sciences, litigation, and tax. Basically, Latham’s prestigious know-how runs the whole gamut, echoing LA’s motto: ‘Los Angeles brings it all together.’   

The Work 

Associates are spread across the firm’s 12 domestic offices, though the largest contingent on our list of juniors could be found in New York, followed by DC and then LA. Most associates were in the corporate department, followed by the litigation & trial and finance departments.  

“I felt confident knowing that wherever I did go, I’d end up in a top-tier environment.” 

For associates who were unsure about where they wanted to land, Latham’s ‘unassigned program’ was the answer. “It’s a marquee factor that drives a lot of people here,” a source explained. For their first year (and a bit), associates are free to pick up work across practice groups: “You could literally be working on an M&A deal and an appellate litigation at the same time.” It’s a chance for associates “to get a sense of what you like and don’t like, and who you do or don’t like working with.” As an ‘unassigned’ associate, newbies find their work through ‘The Book’ – the firm’s centralized staffing system – though we heard “you could just as well fill all your time through connections made on your own.” A source added: “I felt confident knowing that wherever I did go, I’d end up in a top-tier environment.” Once associates became established in a practice group, they found work assignment to be largely free market, though groups do have staffing partners. We heard that “it’s incumbent on both associates to reach out and find matters they’re interested in being staffed on, and partners and senior associates to find associates they’re interested in giving work to.” 

“Our deals build casinos, stadiums, electric plants – you name it!” 

“Latham’s corporate department does everything under the sun, all the way from front-page Wall Street Journal public M&As, to IPOs, secondary offerings, high-yield debt deals, investments, funds work, and projects matters. Our deals build casinos, stadiums, electric plants – you name it!” The department is split into ten primary practice groups, including M&A, private equity, capital markets, emerging companies, investment funds, and real estate. In capital markets, associates work on “a lot of the big sexy IPOs,” equity and debt deals, private placements, and a lot of SPAC work – “We were part of the SPAC craze!” There’s also the opportunity to dabble in the crypto sphere. “I’m at a point where I’m taking on a more supervisory role,” one third-year associate told us. “I might draft most of the documents or review the work of a first or second year. I’ll also be responsible for maintaining a checklist for the deal – it sounds mundane but it’s important!”  

Corporate clients: Blackstone, London Stock Exchange, Thomson Reuters. Advised L’Oréal on an agreement to acquire skincare brand Youth to the People.  

The finance department serves the top dogs of the financial world and their various debt financing needs. There are banking, structured finance, restructuring, and project development subgroups. The banking team in particular works with lenders, private equity funds, and corporate borrowers, and handles leveraged buy-outs for corporate institutions. Here, juniors take charge of ancillary documents and the general collateral process. “As a third year, I’m now reviewing key credit agreements, and I’m usually the one coordinating with the client,” an insider reflected on their progression, adding: “The client contact has been really beneficial. Latham encourages you to take the lead on emailing clients and opposing counsel.” On the flip side, “with more responsibility, closings can be difficult as you’re the one staying up late at night and coordinating with international counsel. It’s good experience, but I would also like to sleep sometimes!” a source laughed. 

Finance clients: Apollo Global Management, Goldman Sachs, Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Advised Blackstone on an annual recurring revenue (ARR) financing to support Zendesk’s $10.2 billion acquisition by an investor group. 

“...think aerospace engineers turned attorneys!” 

Litigation at Latham is a large umbrella department that houses white collar, securities, IP, and complex commercial teams. “The white-collar team in DC is chock full of former DOJ staff and the like,” an insider told us. Similarly, “appellate is full of former supreme court clerks with incredible credentials,” while “IP consists of people who bring some level of engineering experience prior to law school – think aerospace engineers turned attorneys!” Over in the securities realm, Latham’s folks advise various public companies on violations of federal laws or provisions. Juniors here encounter matters involving government negotiation over a potential litigation or class action. Ultimately, “you’re trying to nip it in the bud.” Failing that, “you experience almost every stage” of the matter, from early document and fact discovery tasks to depositions, mediations, and motions to dismiss. “People give doc review a hard time! Is it the most exciting thing? No. Is it a good way to learn? Yes!” a source reasoned. “No one is able to tell you the story better than these peoples’ emails that you’re reading through.” Responsibility ramps up quickly here: “By five months in, I was managing doc reviews, leading client interactions, and drafting actual stuff to be filed in court or served to the opposing counsel,” a seasoned junior told us. “I quickly went from being the new guy to being the go-to guy!” 

Litigation clients: Apple, Twitter, Oaktree Capital Management. Defended Beyond Meat in a dispute alleging trade secrets misappropriation and unfair competition filed by the company’s former co-packer. 

Career Development 

“Because there are so many juniors, I do feel it’s harder for the firm to fully invest in everyone… But if they see potential then they are invested,” a source noted of career development at the firm. With that in mind, “the resources are there, and people are willing to help. It’s down to you to learn as much as you want to learn and be as proactive as you want to be.” There are regular formal training sessions geared towards specific practice groups, and various business development sessions – like how to build your brand, or LinkedIn 101 – for juniors. Essentially, we heard there’s some sort of training session every day! Additionally, juniors can get involved in preparing training sessions and bill the time spent doing so. Every junior can also sign up to the mentor program, which matches mentors and mentees by commonalities like school background and interests: “It’s basically like a Tinder profile!” a source joked. As part of this program, first-year and lateral associates are allocated resources to facilitate networking and other mentorship activities.  

“People who succeed here are folks willing to raise their hands, ask questions, and take ownership of the type of lawyer they want to be.” 

On top of all that, Latham hosts multi-day academies where entire classes are flown out to different cities for career development programs to mark key transition points in their careers. “As a summer, we went to Beverly Hills which I was very happy about!” one junior reminisced. “The trainings are focused on where you are on your career path,” they added. “Seventh year in particular is where the firm starts to ramp up, and they’re very frank about people having different career goals.” If you have your sights set on partnership, listen up. “Part of the progression to partnership is about making sure you’ve worked with partners across different offices, so as you become more senior, you’re encouraged to do more of this,” one interviewee explained. By way of advice, another added: “If you want to get the work you want and take control of matters and your career direction, it’s about forging relationships with the right people and being proactive.” Hammering the point home, a source concluded that “it’s a very large firm, so to be candid it’s easy to feel lost. People who succeed here are folks willing to raise their hands, ask questions, and take ownership of the type of lawyer they want to be.”  

Pro Bono 

Associates were crystal clear on the firm’s pro bono billing policy: “Any pro bono project that you bill gets billable credit.” Our sources were quick to relay their praises for this and explained that “a fair number of associates will say they were able to unlock their bonuses this past year because of that very policy. It’s an exceptional example of a firm putting its money where its mouth is.” 

On that note, we heard there are a ton of opportunities open to associates. The firm’s pro bono committee circulates matters that associates can volunteer for, which include (but aren’t limited to) immigration matters for people from Afghanistan; veterans matters; trans rights projects; and other work that provides legal services in the local community. There are also pro bono sub-departments that focus on violence against women and projects to help artists with IP-related issues. 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all US attorneys: 169,894
  • Average per US attorney: 68

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,900 target 

According to our sources, Latham’s 1,900-hour target is a reasonable one, with the firm’s unlimited pro bono policy and billable ‘knowledge management’ hours providing a helping hand to score a bonus and “get smart on things” in the process. Knowledge management activities include drafting standard forms, writing thought leadership materials, and delivering presentations at client and industry events. “There are even times when it feels like it would be impossible not to hit 1,900!” a source laughed. Not hitting the target means that a market-level bonus may be impacted, although there is a bit of leeway: “I heard of someone who was just 150 hours off and they still got their full market bonus, so there are some exceptions.” On the flip side, there are extra bonuses for those ultra billers out there who go above and beyond. 

“I haven’t encountered that all-nighter type of culture.” 

So, what does 1,900 hours look like in practice? Obviously, “it’s not a walk in the park,” an insider reasoned, but that’s the name of the BigLaw game. Our sources were typically logged on between 9 to 9.30am, headed off for dinner at around 6pm, and then came back to work for a bit longer in the evenings, with some not wrapping things up until around 10pm. Of course, there were times when some were working until midnight, but we were told that’s not a common occurrence. “If a client needs something done, it is what it is,” a source explained, “but people here have enough wherewithal to know what needs to be accomplished over the next two weeks and plan ahead.” Another added: “I haven’t encountered that all-nighter type of culture. Everyone works differently, but I’ve never been pressured to work super late.” 

On the hybrid working front, associates are encouraged to spend time in the office, but "in practice it’s up to you. Some people are in five days a week, and some people haven’t been in since 2020!” 

“...our roots are in Cali and we’ve retained some great cultural aspects from there.” 


“It’s not that typical New York BigLaw firm where everyone has bags under their eyes!” an associate told us, getting straight to the point. “Though we have a global presence, our roots are in Cali and we’ve retained some great cultural aspects from there,” another source explained. As such, “people here are capable of talking about more than just work and how great they are!” 

“I’m currently sitting on the UK floor, which is decorated like a red phone box.” 

Going by our interviewees’ accounts, associates had plenty of opportunities to chat over various events: “The spontaneous social aspect is back now that people are returning to the office,” an LA source told us. “We have drinks when it’s someone’s birthday or if we’re celebrating a big life event, but we also have formal stuff like holiday events and departmental parties. The firm is trying to do more scheduled things.” Over in New York, an associate explained how Latham’s international aspects are celebrated through the decor: “Each floor has amenity hubs themed on different locations. I’m currently sitting on the UK floor, which is decorated like a red phone box.” Who even needs travel at this point? 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

“There are quite a few female partners,” an insider noted, though they did point out that representation “depends on each practice group.”The firm has several affinity groups that run events and training sessions on various topics. The women’s affinity group, for example, recently ran sessions on how to put yourself forward and the various hurdles women face in the workplace, while the Black affinity group regularly hosts “civil rights icons” to give talks to the firm.  

What’s more, affinity groups also have yearly retreats to different cities. Towards the end of 2022, the LGBTQ+ affinity group held a retreat in New York: “People from the firm’s global offices were invited at no cost to themselves to fly out for a full weekend of activities, which included speeches from thought leaders and networking events.” 

Strategy & Future 

Looking ahead to what the future holds, it’s clearly full steam ahead for this LA giant. In February 2023, it was announced that 23 counsel were being promoted to partner; this comes after the January announcement of 44 associate-to-partner promotions, bringing the firm’s most recent global partner class to a whopping 67 (48 of which are based in US offices). And in more recent developments, the firm added former government lawyer Catherine Hein to its DC CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment) and US National Security offering. Hein was formerly at the US Department of the Treasury.

Summed up: “Five years from now, Latham is going to be bigger and badder than it already is… And I mean badder in a good way!” a source helpfully clarified for us. 

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

Applicants interviewed: 2,052

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.” New this year, the firm launched Latham Early Action Days (LEAD), an early-application period to encourage students to apply to their summer program within a two-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 associate 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


Applicants invited to second-stage interview: 990

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. Orange County capital markets partner and member of the Recruiting Committee Drew Capurro tells us: “As much as possible, we try to match candidates with Latham lawyers who share their interests, or who can best answer particular questions candidates have. We welcome candidates to share that information with us during the recruiting process - we recognize that candidates are trying to evaluate a number of firms on various criteria, and we want to make sure that callbacks are engaging, informative and relevant for all concerned.”  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. “Yes, it can be an intense process, with lots of talking, questions, and new faces,” he says. “But we hope it’s fun too. After all, you’re getting a chance to meet people who one day may be your supervisors, mentors, colleagues, and friends.”   

Top tips: “Take some time ahead of the interview to think about what you want to share. We want to hear about you, and we want to get to know your authentic self. Consider how your personal and professional experiences have gotten you to this moment in time, and how those experiences make you the right fit for Latham.” Bay Area partner and member of Recruiting Committee, Maj Vaseghi

Summer program 

Offers: 518

Acceptances: 308

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 .” Associates, such as San Diego associate and member of the Recruiting Committee, Patrick Tunnell, who have 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: “Like the interview process, the summer associate program offers you an opportunity to not only get to know Latham but to figure out what kind of lawyer you’d like to be. It’s an excellent chance to ask questions, attend training sessions, explore practice areas, and network with lawyers across the firm. While law school teaches you about the rigors and intellectual side of the law, the summer associate experience can help teach you about the practical side of being a lawyer.” – New York partner and Chair of the NY Recruiting Committee, Jason Ewart

And finally… 

“‘It begins with you’ is more than just a tagline for us. We want candidates who take charge of their careers by asking thoughtful questions, by being their authentic selves, 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 counsel and member of the Recruiting Committee, Pia Naib 


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USA Guide, 2023

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