Latham & Watkins LLP - The Inside View

‘Unassigned’ juniors, free to roam across practice areas? No HQ in a sprawling international network? You can’t pin the mighty Latham down...

IF you’ve put any serious thought into becoming an attorney, you’ve probably already heard the name Latham & Watkins. If not, allow us to introduce you – this is the world’s second-largest law firm by revenue, overseeing an empire of 30 offices worldwide including in Boston, Chicago, DC, Houston, Los Angeles (where the firm began) and New York (Latham’s largest base). The “premier work and high-profile clients” described by juniors… that comes with the territory.

TOP READ: How to be an effective ally: Allyship has become an ever-prominent model for helping to make the legal sector more diverse and inclusive. Latham's seasoned lawyers explain there are many forms allyship can take.

Our interviewees were attracted by the international reach of the firm as well as its distinctive ‘unassigned’ program. “For the first two years, you have exposure to all types of work and clients” across Latham’s practices, associates explained. “Not having to commit immediately was a very attractive prospect.” Doubly so given just how varied Latham’s scope is – Chambers USA awards the firm a stunning 44 rankings nationwide including top prizes for antitrust, banking and finance, capital markets, climate change law, M&A, energy, environment, life sciences, projects and real estate investment. We wouldn’t blame you for not being able to pick a practice straight away.

The Work



Associates get their early work assignments via ‘The Book’. That’s a James Bond-esque codename for the “central staffing coordinator. They’re there as a safety net to help us get set up in our unassigned stage and to find us backup work,” sources explained. Once juniors are settled in, the balance shifts: “I would say 90% of the time my work comes through my own personal connections within the firm,” a third-year told us. “By the end of first year, things become more organic and you work more closely with partners and senior associates to the extent that they come to you with work.” After two years maximum, juniors are encouraged to formally align with one of the firm's five core practices: corporate transactional; finance; litigation and trial; tax; or environment, land & resources.

“Not having to commit immediately was a very attractive prospect.”

New York, Los Angeles and DC housed the greatest number of junior Latham litigators when we came calling – the last of those especially has “a huge litigation focus. We’re known as the biggest disputes office, handling a lot of white-collar matters as well as antitrust." San Francisco is another antitrust hub, while Orange County is best known for securities litigation. Complex commercial litigators handled “several big contract disputes between large public companies, which typically end up going to arbitration.” Juniors here were “preparing witnesses for trial, preparing for depositions, researching issues for briefs and motions and drafting various documents.”

Over in antitrust, the Latham team conducts investigations and litigation through trial; works on cartel defense cases; and collaborates with the M&A team on global merger clearances. “Antitrust clients range wildly from billion-dollar companies and hedge funds to smaller firms but every case comes with thorny and complex issues,” juniors said. “There might be months of document review and complex outlines; or you’ll have the opportunity to attend and speak in a meeting with the Assistant Attorney General of the US.” The latter is not guaranteed. Securities litigators saw “big class actions and some derivatives. By the end of first year, I was able to take ownership of small briefs.” Latham’s disputes juniors appreciated “knowing deadlines weeks or months ahead of time and being able to prepare for the busy trial periods.”

Litigation clients: Facebook, Miramax, American Beverage Association. Represented Apple in a class action brought on behalf of nearly all the owners of the company’s products in the US after security vulnerabilities were discovered.

Over on the firm's corporate wing, juniors can jump from working on big-ticket M&A, capital markets and IPOs to high-profile matters in the entertainment, sports & media (ESM) team. DC interviewees were full of praise for the firm’s practice: “I wanted a firm which had a sophisticated transactional practice in DC itself, as opposed to the New York office handing out deals. At Latham we work on matters which originate in DC and stay in DC.” Associates in the capital primarily worked on “large bond offerings in connection with private equity acquisition financings.” Interviewees had some top tips to share: “The capital markets group is easier to break into as a junior as they have projects which are easier to separate out, whereas on the M&A side it’s harder to parcel out similar projects for juniors to work on.” Junior roles on M&A deals include reviewing transaction documents, due diligence and drafting ancillaries. The ESM practice – primarily run from Los Angeles and the Cali bases – ranges from “huge Wall Street Journal deals for studios that have been clients for ages” to representing independent and new media companies. “I’ve worked on joint ventures, credit facilities and all sorts of media production agreements,” a junior recounted.

Corporate clients: Energy Transfer, El Dorado Resorts, T-Mobile. Represented Virgin Galactic in its $1.5 billion merger with Social Capital Hedosophia to create the first public commercial spaceflight company. 

Strategy & Future



“I think it’s difficult to maintain a law firm that is as big and as global as we are, but that is why we’re always staying on the cutting edge of legal needs and client services,” one forward-looking junior felt. “An example of this is our entertainment and music matters. These deals didn’t even exist five years ago and it’s now a booming segment; the firm has constantly been rolling out new initiatives and I’m impressed with its flexibility to adapt.” Latham has also gone against the grain with its upcoming New York office move, snubbing the hotly tipped Hudson Yards development in favor of a renovated space at 1271 Sixth Avenue near Times Square. “We’re all really excited,” sources on the ground said.

“The firm has constantly been rolling out new initiatives and I’m impressed with its flexibility to adapt.”

Career Development



Latham guides associates through to their fifth year by offering a mentor and a wild card budget to “informally take a senior attorney out for lunch, coffee or a sporting event, which is super helpful.” The firm incentivizes mentors with “institutional compensation for the best mentors throughout the firm. They single out the best mentor for praise, which helps maintain that culture of support.” Turning to skills training, Latham runs a formal academy for third and fifth-year associates including a series of training and conferences (there are also academies for summers and first-years). Practice areas have their own programs – sources in antitrust described a “boot camp which takes place every other year for ten weeks during the summer and provides in-house training sessions. The litigation group has recently been dealing with a lot of bankruptcy-derived cases, so the firm started a four-part program to teach associates about bankruptcy law.”

Though there’s only space at the top for some of the firm’s associates to make partner, insiders told us that “not a lot of people have left”from the junior ranks. Litigators who do fly the nest tend to go to government or in-house roles; ESM alumni “tend to go in-house to studios or talent companies as we don’t have a direct artist representation practice here,”a Century City third-year said.

Culture



“Latham breathes the Cali ethos through most of its offices,”we heard, “whether that’s the laid-back dress code or relaxed working environment. It’s very common to see partners in jeans or folks in khakis and buttoned-down shirts." Orange County interviewees felt partners “genuinely care about what’s going on in your life. There’s a common understanding here that a well-rounded associate is one who is also happy in their personal life.” It’s easy to be sunny in the OC, but what about the New York concrete jungle? Of the Latham offices, New York"is probably the most quote-unquote ‘BigLaw’,” sources there admitted. Slight differences between offices aside, the common theme throughout the firm was a global view of things. “It’s pretty seamless moving between the offices, even internationally. In corporate I’ve worked from the DC office on deals originating in China.”

“It’s very common to see partners in jeans or folks in khakis and buttoned-down shirts.”

Another common trend across the firm is weekly wine and cheese Wednesdays followed by Thursday happy hours. Clearly full of energy, New York’s junior litigators were planning a trip to Soul Cycle when we came calling. If that sounds intense, “there’s always a group of people around who are happy to go out for a meal or a drink,”a self-confessed “introvert”told us. “The hours are tough and demanding like any big firm, but the atmosphere is relaxed.”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours:1,900 hours

Hitting the goal automatically nets you a market bonus; unlimited pro bono counts and associates “can also count ‘knowledge management’ hours toward the bonus. This includes approved internal office projects and article writing.”Interviewees were pleased with the “standard salary across the firm,”but there were some complaints about the bonus policy. “We’re one of those firms that follow the strict lockstep scale when it comes to bonus allocation,”one explained. Their beef was with a lack of additional bonuses for high billers: “I think we need to be recognized for the extra work and hours we do.” The firm reiterated that its bonus policy has been designed to de-incentivize unhealthy working patterns and it has recently tweaked its bonus allocation model to ensure that those who produce quality work but have fewer hours billed are rewarded.

“If you receive any weekend emails, they’ll always be prefaced with an apology.”

DC and Orange County offer a more “lenient work from home attitude and less of a facetime requirement,”but sources in New York told us: “You can work from home at least one day a week and everyone is respectful of your personal time. If you receive any weekend emails, they’ll always be prefaced with an apology.”Associates here tended to favor later starts, arriving at 10am and leaving by 8:30pm on most days (however, there is a flexible arrangement and office hours do vary by individual; of course, there are still expectations about how many hours are worked and it's not the case that associates can simply pick and choose their hours entirely). Litigators mentioned occasional all-nighters during trial prep; “there is no boundary between life and work in those times. There have definitely been some extreme cases of last-minute work popping up on a Saturday night but they’re the exception.”Things can also hot up in transactional groups before closings.

Pro Bono



Latham’s internal policy “sets the threshold higher”than the NALP-mandated 20 pro bono hours “and strongly encourages associates and partners to meet at least 60 hours.”Litigators told us that homelessness and immigration matters are popular. “We work closely with the RAICES organization in Texas, representing immigrants detained at the border. We’ve had several successful family reunification cases.”DC associates frequently dabbled in landlord/tenant disputes: “In this city we have very useful tenant laws which protect tenants from interfering landlords.”Up in New York, interviewees worked on everything from transgender name changes to adoption cases. Corporate juniors don’t need to miss out as “Latham is involved in a small business clinic every month, where small businesses or nonprofits come and ask questions. We provide advice on the spot and help them get set up with 501C documents.”All these opportunities are publicized via a firmwide pro bono newsletter and regular ‘blast’ emails.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 163,143
  • Average per US attorney: 89

Diversity & Inclusion



Alongside affinity groups, Latham has a Women Enriching Business committee (WEB) which promotes and encourages women throughout their careers and enables them to create a ‘global network’. The DC recruiting committee in 2020 “consisted of eight or nine people, all at different levels and including women and BAME individuals. It’s definitely a great year to bring in a lot of diverse talent especially since we have that representation on the committee.”In both New York and the Cali offices we heard mixed reports on how well Latham’s done on the diversity front. “I think there are certain groups that are adequately represented such as the LGBTQ group, but I know other affinity groups are underrepresented and there isn’t much support from senior attorneys,”one suggested. We heard that Latham's new Times Square office has been designed to boost collaboration and interaction, so hopefully this will make a difference on this point.

“It’s definitely a great year to bring in a lot of diverse talent especially since we have that representation on the committee.” 

As for general wellbeing, associates believed that conversations are taking place and “partners are incredible when and if associates have to take leave for mental health issues.”2019 saw Latham become an inaugural signatory of the American Bar Association’s pledge campaign, signing up to take necessary steps to improve mental health and wellbeing in the legal industry. The firm has established a Johns Hopkins medical center in its LA office, which has facilities to care for attorneys’ mental and physical wellbeing; a similar center in the New York office is due to be opened soon.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 2,258 

Interviewees outside OCI:  357 

Latham’s broad approach to recruitment reflects its giant footprint on the legal scene. “All told, we visit or collect resumes from more than 60 law schools,” notes Abid R. Qureshi, a Litigation & Trial partner in Washington, D.C. and the Global Chair of the Recruiting Committee. “We seek the best and brightest legal talent, first and foremost.” The firm also accepts online applications starting May 18 this year and attends various career fairs. A whole host of interviewers participate in OCI, including managing partners, practice group chairs, and members of various committees. This might all sound a bit intimidating, but associate sources assured us: “I was a little nervous about my on-campus interview with Latham, but the interviewer quickly put me at ease. Upon joining the firm, I learned that this was part of the firm’s culture and recruiting strategy. Interviews are meant to be conversational, less about ticking through a resume and more about people as individuals,” said San Diego associate and member of the Recruiting Committee, Sam Seikkula.  

Top tips: “Be yourself. We want to hear about experiences that demonstrate who you are, and that show us how you’ll contribute to our consensus-based, entrepreneurial-oriented 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.” – Washington, D.C. partner and Global Chair of Recruiting Committee, Abid R. Qureshi

Callbacks 

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 711

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. San Francisco tax partner and Vice Chair of the Recruiting Committee Julie Crisp 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 OCI or subsequent follow-ups—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. Crisp 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,” she 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.” – San Francisco partner and Global Vice Chair of Recruiting Committee, Julie Crisp

Summer program 

Offers: 455

Acceptances: 199

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. Qureshi tells us: “Our firm has a deep commitment to training and developing lawyers at every stage of their career, including summer associates. Our Summer Academy brings summer associates from across the US, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore for several days of networking, training, professional development, and socializing.” 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: “Like OCI and callbacks, 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.”– Washington, D.C. partner and member of the Recruiting Committee, Shagufa Hossain 

Covid-19 changes

Latham plans to run its 2020 summer program and fully honor financial commitments to summer associates and 1L Fellows. Summer associates do not need to book travel or enter into previously arranged leases/rental agreements at this time.

“We look forward to welcoming our newest colleagues to the firm. We are confident that, together, we will be able to meet the challenge of the months ahead and hold a Summer Program and a 1L Fellowship Program, in whatever form those programs take, that are rewarding, successful, and engaging.” Abid R. Qureshi, Chair, Global Recruiting Committee.

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 partner and member of the Recruiting Committee, Chirag Dedania 

 

How to be an effective ally



Insight from Latham & Watkins.

Latham & Watkins LLP

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

  • Number of domestic offices: 11
  • Number of international offices: 18
  • Worldwide revenue: $3.768 billion (FY2019)
  • Partners (US): 527
  • Associates (US): 1,327 (As of 12/31/19)
  • Contacts 
  • • Main recruitment contact: James Boyle, Director of Associate Recruiting
  • • Hiring partner: Abid Qureshi, Global Recruiting Committee Chair; Julie Crisp, Vice-Chair US; Deborah Kirk, Vice-Chair EAME
  • Main diversity contact: Lauren Clairicia, Director of Global Attorney Diversity & Inclusion
  •  Diversity officer: Kevin Chambers, Global Chair of the Diversity Leadership Committee
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 164 (US)
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 1Ls: 12, 2Ls: 197, 3Ls: 0, SEO Interns: 1
  • Summer salary 2020: 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 2,700 lawyers across 29 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.

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, whether virtual or in person, 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 and London offices.

Social media



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

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

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 3)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • 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 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets (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 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
    • Appellate Law (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • 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 2)
    • Climate Change (Band 1)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • 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 3)
    • 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)
    • Privacy & Data Security (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 2)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
    • Projects: Power (Band 1)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • REITs (Band 1)
    • Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 2)
    • Sports Law (Band 2)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 2)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)

More from Latham & Watkins

Latham: Get to know us

More about the firm's summer program:

Latham's 1L fellowship program:

Latham's 2L diversity scholar program:

Latham's diversity leadership academy:

Latham's 2018 pro bono annual review:

Visit the firm's careers website.

Latham & Watkins: Why Latham?