Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP - The Inside View

An entrepreneurial culture runs through this sprawling national outfit.

With nearly 1,000 attorneys across 30 offices mostly spread in the sunny Southeast (but reaching as far as LA and Boston), Nelson Mullins truly is a king of the regions. This firm has almost doubled in size by headcount in the past decade and opened up shop in several new jurisdictions in 2022 (more on that later). The firm’s geographic spread was a selling point for our interviewees, with one noting: “I feel very connected to the whole country that way.” Most junior associates on our list were based in the firm’s largest office in Atlanta, though a good handful were based in Columbia. The rest were spread thinly between Baltimore, Boca Raton, Boston, Charleston, Charlotte, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Greenville, Huntington, Jacksonville, LA, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Orlando and DC. Talk about reigning the regions!

Nationwide, the firm is noted by Chambers USA for its prowess in the following areas: healthcare, automotive transport; product liability & mass torts; e-discovery & information governance; outsourcing; and startups & emerging companies spaces. In its home state of South Carolina, the firm gets a whole host of top-tier rankings including for its banking & finance, corporate/M&A, healthcare, general commercial litigation teams. For the full breakdown of the firm’s regional rankings, head to Chambers.com.

Strategy & Future



Nelson Mullins brought over 52 lawyers (31 of which are partners) from midsize firm Bowman and Brooke in January 2022. This led to the creation of not one, not two, not even three but five new offices for the firm in Dallas, Minneapolis, Richmond, Cleveland and San Diego. Not bad for a firm described by associates as “exceedingly conservative.” The firm’s historic conservatism was described as “positive – I want to work somewhere that has a secure financial future.” The recent growth wasn’t frowned upon though: “it’s very strategic and considered. I think they’re making great financial decisions and we’re extremely busy.” One associate pointed out that “within the past ten years, we went from being a pretty much regional firm in the Southeast with a few offices to a nationwide outfit. It’s interesting to see whether we’ll move toward being a more elite national firm.”

The Work



Associates are largely split between corporate and litigation – only one junior on our list was in another group: IP. Nelson Mullins’ structure doesn’t divide attorneys into strict sub-groups, instead, they’re divided into teams. Though some teams have niches like product liability and special government matters, “most teams are simply comprised of anywhere between five and 30 lawyers that either do transactional or litigation work,” sources clarified. It’s also possible to sometimes “get farmed out to other teams if they’re overrun.”

The corporateteam mostly tackles M&A work – “I’d say it’s about 75% of what I do,” one junior estimated.Atlanta takes on an even heavier load of M&A, with the Columbia and Charleston offices sinking their teeth into a lot of real estate work. Florida offices are “really healthcare M&A driven,” and LA sees work in the automotive space, “advising manufacturers on issues with supply contracts and dealer agreements.” Offices across the country also tackle economic development, corporate governance, and commercial contracts work. The M&A work straddles both public and private, with teams in different offices “overlapping a bit – it’s easy especially since COVID dissolved office borders even more.” Juniors here are “usually the primary associate on a deal,” meaning they run the data room and checklists – “it’s a higher level of responsibility than you’d think.” There’s also some drafting including employment agreements, escrow agreements, consents and “being in charge of pretty much all the ancillaries. It’s good training.”

Corporate clients: Interactive Data Visualization, Green Cloud Technologies, FinTrust Capital Advisors. Advised United Community Banks on two acquisitions – Aquesta Financial Holdings for $120 million and Reliant Bancorp for $517 million.

"Massive ongoing beasts."

Nelson Mullins has a “vast litigationumbrella” that juniors can shelter under. Sources had worked on matters spanning (deep breath): general commercial litigation; consumer finance; appellate; employment; foreclosure; medical malpractice; automotive, insurance; construction; and “contract disputes over millions or even hundreds of millions – they’re massive ongoing beasts that are black holes for time, effort and money.” Needless to say, the work on offer is “eclectic.” Depending on the team, juniors here can end up in court “quite often.” This means writing drafts of briefs and motions, “lots of research and some prepping for depositions. A lot of the time I feel that I function above my year.” Outside of court, there are times when “a partner walks in, hands you a file and tells you it’s your client and to take care of it. That’s one end of the spectrum.” At the other end of the spectrum, “you can also get an email with a set of 500 documents which you have to read through to see what’s relevant.” However, in general, juniors felt they got “plenty of opportunities to prove yourself, take the reins and learn to handle things.”

Litigation clients: Johnson & Johnson and Janssen, South Carolina Public Service Authority, Alaskan Airlines. Represented a recreational vehicle manufacturer, Textron, in a product liability case alleging that the company was negligent in the delivery of a tractor-trailer that caused injury.

Career Development



Formal and informal partner mentors were “investing in my career trajectory and my long-term success,” according to one source. Consequently, many of the juniors we spoke to felt partnership was on the cards. There’s a path to partnership program to “make sure you’re on the way. It’s a clearly defined route to success – but that route to success can be hard to live through.” One junior told us: “It very much depends on your team and the partners you work with,” but partners were generally rated for “having a good eye for internal and external marketing and getting us out there networking.”

As well as leaving to other firms, we were told that leavers tend to “take public jobs or alternative career paths.” One source added: “Some people leave to go to the US Attorney’s office, which is very prestigious.” Like many firms, our insiders told us that “some teams have been struggling to retain associates and junior partners,” owing to the strength of the lateral market. Some reflected that a market salary match would go a long way to keeping people at the firm.

Hours & Compensation



  • Billable hours: 1,900 target

In addition to the billing target, attorneys also have to meet a ‘collections goal,’ basically a set amount of money they are expected to generate. Some saw the logic in sharpening business acumen and “preparing us for partnership,” but many also felt the system was “a bit antiquated,” pointing out that “many groups outside of corporate aren’t able to bill at the suggested rate.” One insider likened the system to “being in the engine room on a steam ship. You can’t control which direction the ship is going. You can only control how much coal you’re shoveling into the engine, so your only option is to do more hours.”

When it comes to base salary, many in regions such as Columbia found it “fair. It’s definitely below market but it’s all relative – our city is cheaper to live in.” Those in Atlanta observed that there’s a “race to the top” in salaries in the city, with NM lagging slightly behind. That said, sources felt this was offset by the fact that the bonus amount is “completely discretionary. Compared to firms where you can all work different hours and get paid the same, it’s a positive. It rewards you for putting in extra time.” Many of our survey respondents seemed intent on taking advantage of the system, having worked an average of over 55 hours in the past week.

Pro Bono



“There’s an expectation for you to do pro bono,” sources were clear. Attorneys at Nelson Mullins can bill every pro bono hour they do for 90% credit. (There’s technically a cap at 100 hours, but not of our insiders had “heard of anyone ever being denied going above 100.”) Pro bono hours also count toward “the metrics by which we’re judged at end of the year,” sources highlighted, most of which had completed between 50 and hundreds of hours in the last year.

“We do a lot of work against scummy landlords – especially during the pandemic.”

“There are some really cool projects you can get involved in.” We heard those in Atlanta can work with a mental health nonprofit organization and get involved in landlord tenant eviction cases: “We do a lot of work against scummy landlords – especially during the pandemic.” The Columbia office does a lot of work helping incarcerated individuals gain parole. Interviewees told us pro bono work makes them “a well-rounded attorney.” When it comes to partners, one junior told us that “I sometimes have to do pro bono at odd hours, but as long as I’m answering partners’ emails during business hours, I can do what I want.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 32,112
  • Average per attorney: 39

Culture



Playing into Southern stereotypes we heard rife reports of “real friendliness. We all know each other’s kids and significant others’ names and things like that.” These “unanimously positive experiences” lead to a lot of ‘lifers’ at the firm – “my secretary has been at the firm since before I was born.”

"You can walk down the hall and knock on even a senior partner’s door."

Though the firm “doesn’t put on that many events,” there are always office happy hours and individual team summer and holiday parties to help let off some steam. Cross-office working is common but being “so uniquely team-based means there’s not a load of interaction with associates on different teams.” Associates told us working in the office is “very collegial and casual – you can walk down the hall and knock on even a senior partner’s door and they’re always more than happy talk with me. Colleagues arevery understanding of the fact we’re all human.” As an example, one source told us: “A partner sent me an email saying I should take a break and to make sure I turned my phone off out of the office.” They added: “There’s a level of respect and expectation that you should be taking care of yourself.” At the time of writing, associates explained “there’s some teams which prefer you to be in the office, but nobody’s going to say anything negative if you don’t come in – it’s entirely flexible.”

Those in Columbia emphasized to us that “it’s a really small city – less than one million people live in the area.” This means that it’s possible to live “five minutes away” from the downtown office, and in the proximity “of plenty of great restaurants, shops, and bars.” Everyone gets their own window office in “one of the more prominent buildings in the city.”Miami attorneys are housed in a classic Floridian “glass skyscraper,” and Atlantans were a fan of ongoing renovations at their digs. “They’ve done one floor so far - it’s much more modern, with all individual glass-walled offices.” The remaining floors are “dark wood and carpeted – it’s like the building is holding onto that carpet for dear life,” one insider joked.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



Diversity at Nelson Mullins is “at the forefront of everybody’s mind in both the recruitment and the retention teams,” interviewees agreed. The firm hosts various affinity groups, including ‘Women on the Go,’ “a group that meets monthly for women in the firm who advocate for issues such as parental leave, flexible hours, and going part-time.” Though only roughly 25% of partners are women at Nelson Mullins, interviewees were impressed: “Of course, every firm could do better numbers-wise, but they exist here and have families and do it all.” Columbia office managing partner Sally Caver got special mention – “it’s great to see her up there at the top.”  When it comes to mental health, the firm “prioritizes as much as it can. There are resources like counseling if you are struggling with the isolated culture.

Get Hired



NEW: Find out more about lateral recruitment with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough here.

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed

Nelson Mullins recruit at more than 30 schools, as well as resume collections in an additional 10 schools. The firm also attends multiple diversity fairs, such as the Atlanta Bar Minority Clerkship Program and Lavender Law. Slight variety aside, the firm “typically interview at least 20 students at each campus,” with the interviews conducted by partners and associates from a variety of practices and offices. At this stage, the firm note they’re looking “at strong academic performance, law review or other journals, moot court, and leading in extracurricular activities.” Differentiating qualities to the fore – the firm explicitly ask: “Be prepared to provide a meaningful response to the question, ‘What sets you apart from the other candidates we are meeting today?”

Top tips for this stage:                         

“Take the time to research each firm you are interviewing with and discern what sets our firm apart from the others. Ask thoughtful questions that are tailored to Nelson Mullins’ strengths and core values.  If you intend to stay in the city where you are interviewing after law school, make sure the interviewers leave the interview with a strong understanding of why you intend to make that city your home after law school.”- Nelson Mullins hiring source.

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed

Callback candidates progress to one round of in-office interviews, usually conducted with at least four attorneys from a wide variety of practice areas. We’re told “the questions are similar to those asked during OCIs.” The firm also remind candidates to demonstrate individuality: “Be prepared to explain why you stand out among similarly-qualified candidates.”

Top tips for this stage:

“We want to gauge the candidate’s genuine interest in the firm and whether they are a good long-term fit with regards to both practice areas of interest and personality.  Taking the time to do your homework about the firm and make sure your personality shines through in interviews is very important.”- Nelson Mullins hiring source

Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: undisclosed

Generally across the offices, summer associates receive assignments through formal work-flow coordinators. Coupling this, some offices see summers rotate through different practice areas; in other offices, coordinators “ensure each associate is getting meaningful work and feedback from each group of interest to that associate.” The firm tells us that they actively encourage associate feedback and encourage summers to “speak up if you would like additional exposure to a particular area and or group.” The firm note that most summers return after law school, and “aim to assign new associates to one of the practice areas they are more interested in.” Naturally business needs take precedent, but “we try to open the dialogue early so that summer associates can gauge which practice groups might be the best fit for them.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Work hard, ask for feedback, receive that feedback in a non-defensive way, and be open to different practice areas.  Get to know as many attorneys as you can and seek to learn whether or not you see Nelson Mullins as a good fit for you from a personality perspective.  Quality of work assignments turned in is a meaningful part of our evaluation of summer associates, so make sure your work product is something you are proud of.”- Nelson Mullins hiring source

And finally...

“There is no substitute for adequate preparation.  Take the time to position yourself to be able to show genuine interest in the firm and demonstrate what sets you apart from other qualified candidates.  During the summer program, make sure you have a good understanding of the expectations and deadline for each work assignment, and communicate openly to make sure you are meeting those expectations and deadlines.  Look for ways to not just meet expectations but exceed them.”- Nelson Mullins hiring source.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Meridian, 17th Floor,
1320 Main Street,
Columbia,
SC 29201
Website www.nelsonmullins.com

  • Head office: Columbia, SC
  • Number of domestic offices: 35
  • Number of international offices: 0
  • Worldwide revenue: $680,826,000
  • Partners (US): 509
  • Associates (US): 248
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Emily Martin (emily.martin@nelsonmullins.com)
  •  Hiring partner: Brandee J. Kowalzyk
  • Recruitment details 
  •  Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 39
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls – 32; 2Ls – 48 
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Atlanta: 16, Baltimore: 2, Boca Raton: 1, Boston: 3, Charleston: 5, Charlotte: 1, Columbia: 15, Denver: 2, Fort Lauderdale: 1, Greenville: 7, Huntington: 4, Jacksonville: 1, Los Angeles: 1, Miami: 3, Myrtle Beach: 1, Nashville: 2, Orlando: 4, Raleigh: 4, Tallahassee: 0, DC: 3, West Palm Beach: 1, WS: 1.
  • Summer salary 2022: California: 1LS $3,000/2L $3,000 Colorado: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,900 Georgia: 1L $2,600/2L $3,100 Boca Raton: $2,300/2L $3,000 Ft. Lauderdale: 1L $2,300/2L $2,300 Jacksonville: 1L$1,900/2L $2,200 Miami: 1L $2,300/2L$3,000 Orlando: 1L $1,900/2L $2,200 West Palm Beach: 1L $2,300/2L $3,000 Massachusetts: 1L $2,700/2L $3,000 Maryland: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,800 New York: 1LS $2,800/2L $3,100 North Carolina: 1L $2,400/2L $2,700 South Carolina: 1L $2,100/2L $2,300 Tennessee: 1L $2,300/2L $2,600 Washington, DC: 1L $2,700/2L $3,000 West Virginia: 1L $1,600/2L $1,800
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work




Banking and financial services, corporate and securities, cybersecurity and privacy, e-discovery, education, energy and environment, government relations, healthcare, insurance, intellectual property, international, litigation, real estate, tax, technology, transportation.

Firm profile
Established in 1897, Nelson Mullins has more than 930 attorneys and government relations professionals with offices in 14 states and Washington, DC.
For more information on the firm, go to www.nelsonmullins.com.

Recruitment



Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
Boston College; Boston University; Charleston School of Law; Emory University; Florida State, Fordham; Georgia State; Howard University; Loyola Law School; Mercer University; Northeastern University; The Ohio State; Suffolk; University of Alabama; University of Baltimore; University of California Irvine; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Colorado Boulder; University of Denver; University of Florida; University of Georgia; University of Kentucky; University of Maryland; University of Miami; University of Mississippi; University of North Carolina; University of South Carolina; University of Tennessee; University of Virginia; Vanderbilt University; Villanova; Wake Forest University; Washington & Lee; West Virginia University.

Summer associate profile:
Job description:
The firm’s summer program is designed to give summer associates a comprehensive view of the firm’s practice while giving the firm an opportunity to evaluate the skills of the summer associates. In evaluating applicants, consideration is given to undergraduate and law school academic performance, extracurricular activities and leadership skills, as well as other experiences and accomplishments.
Qualifications: In evaluating applicants, consideration is given to undergraduate and law school academic performance, extracurricular activities and leadership skills, as well as other experiences and accomplishments.

Summer program components: For associates who join us post-law school graduation, our associate development process includes bringing new associates onto established practice teams, a formal mentor program pairing new associates with experienced attorneys, and robust programming developed by our Associates Committee designed to advance professional development of associates across the firm. Associates receive training on business, marketing, and a range of substantive issues, and work side-by-side with experienced colleagues. 

Social media



Recruitment website: www.nelsonmullins.com/careers
Twitter: @NelsonMullins
Instagram: @Nelson_Mullins
Facebook: Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Linkedin: Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Mainly Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 5)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Medical Malpractice Defense (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)

Hear from attorneys across the Nelson Mullins network:

Ashia Crooms, associate in Charlotte:


Marc Williams, managing partner of the Huntingdon office:

Ashley Barebo, associate in Huntingdon:

Tim Hodge, managing partner of the Baltimore office:


Colleen Pleasant Kline, partner in Baltimore:

Deborah St. Lawrence Thompson, partner in Baltimore:

David Wilkins, partner in Greenville:


Mark Raymond, managing partner of the Miami office:


Rich Otera, partner in LA:


Doug Starcher, managing partner of the Orlando office:


Shaniqua Singleton, associate in Atlanta:

Matt Bogan, partner in Columbia:

John McElwaine, managing partner of the Charleston office: 

Randy Saunders, pro bono committee chair and partner in Huntingdon:

Tips for women litigators from Nekia Hackworth Jones, partner in Atlanta:

 

 

More from Nelson Mullins:

Visit the firm's careers page

Brochure: Why Nelson Mullins?

Pro bono at Nelson Mullins

Diversity and inclusion at Nelson Mullins

Community service at Nelson Mullins