Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP - The Inside View

If it’s true breadth you’re looking for, look no further than this Southeastern native with a reach across all corners of the nation and a range of expertise to boot.

It’s a well-known fact that once you hit your 20s, growth tends to screech to a halt. That’s certainly not the case for Southeastern juggernaut Nelson Mullins; 127 years on, and the firm’s still on a growth spurt. Today, Nelson Mullins boasts a network of 36 offices nationwide, spanning cities from East to West, with a total headcount of almost 1,000 attorneys.

“There’s no BigLaw hassle, but it’s also a firm with a name.”

If it’s not yet clear, one thing the firm’s certainly got is breadth. For our associate interviewees, this meant the ability to “sample different areas and have lots of options for where to end up.” Indeed, the firm’s main practices include corporate, litigation, intellectual property, and government relations, with further specialisms including real estate, private equity, automotive litigation, healthcare, and product liability. Our friends over at Chambers USA impart high praise on the firm’s nationwide healthcare and automobile product liability expertise, as well as the firm’s Floridian construction, general commercial litigation, and securities litigation work; its North Carolina energy & natural resources, and tax know-how; and its South Carolina banking & finance, corporate/M&A, and general commercial litigation prowess. “I wanted variety in which I could start my career,” one eager newbie noted. And variety they certainly got.

“We’re a national firm of a thousand lawyers and government relations professionals that provide the resources of a big firm, but have the flexibility of a small firm,” managing partner Jim Lehman tells us of the firm’s market position. Indeed, these Goldilocks proportions certainly caught the attention of many of our associate sources. “I liked the idea that Nelson Mullins was in between being BigLaw and a boutique firm,” one said. “There’s no BigLaw hassle, but it’s also a firm with a name.”

The majority of newbies join the firm’s Atlanta office, with a handful in Miami, Boston, and Columbia (South Carolina). The rest were spread across the firm’s vast network.

Strategy & Future

“We are continuing to open new offices,” Lehman makes clear.“We opened a new office in Chicago last year, and we doubled the size of our Cleveland office. I expect we will open more offices this year,” he adds when we spoke back in February. “In fact, there are two cities where we’re working hard with people who are looking for a safe port in this storm!” Enter Houston; the firm’s most recent office addition spearheaded by ten corporate and litigation attorneys. Watch this space for city number two…

All this growth comes as no surprise considering the firm’s recent successes. “I think our litigation group is performing at the highest possible level right now,” Lehman notes. “We have another strong litigation pipeline for 2024. I feel very optimistic about the economic environment and the opportunities available for associates. There really are great opportunities right now for people who want to learn their craft and work hard.”

The Work

The juniors on our list were fairly evenly split between the firm’s corporate and litigation practices, with an additional sprinkling of a small number in intellectual property. Our sources were unanimous in explaining that practice groups do not have a central staffing coordinator who doles out work, with associates instead given assignments by partners and senior associates. While this isn’t always the easiest way for new starters, rest assured that it will all work out in time: “Once you’ve established relationships with people, the work will flow your way.” So much so that “I now get a plethora of work from other people,” one interviewee mentioned. Of course, partner mentors and team members are on hand to help assign and distribute work if needed.

“…between 65-to-75% of our clients are startups…”

Within the corporate practice, juniors “work mainly with startups in the software space, representing sellers on M&A deals, with some buyer-side work, too! It’s really the whole life cycle,” a source explained, “through formations, and operating as outside general counsel for these types of companies.” Seconded by a colleague, “I’d say between 65-to-75% of our clients are startups, but we do have larger companies as well. The rest are funds that tend to come to us for deal work and financings.” There’s also some commercial real estate and securities work to be done with “institutional clients” like banks, private equity companies, and alternative lending platforms. Meanwhile, healthcare work within the department comprises of transactional work, private equity investments, and asset purchases, working with clients like healthcare providers, ranging from hospitals, to individual physicians, to healthcare startups. For juniors, getting involved on such cases often means doc review, preparing disclosures, drafting ancillary documents and (of course) “lots of due diligence!”

Corporate clients: Transit Energy Group, MJM Yachts, Azalea Capital. Represented Fat Projects Acquisition Corp. in a de-SPAC transaction.

Over in litigation, the firm typically works for general contractors, developers, insurance companies, and public entities on a whole host of matters, including commercial litigation, appellate work, employment law, and consumer law. Construction work is also on the cards here, with associates dabbling in public procurement work and other construction-related matters (including “water intrusion and structural deficiencies”) for hotels and building complexes. Others were able to work on issues relating to talcum powder and asbestos exposure. On such matters, associates are able to get stuck into plenty of research around state laws, draft motions for judgement, and prepare mediation statements. A junior litigator explained, “I’d normally be doing witness outlines and helping with motions.” But that’s not all – junior associates are also given opportunities to attend trials where they’re given “one-off tasks. We’re talking multimillion dollar cases!” an insider boasted.

Litigation clients: Hyundai, BIC, CFT Solutions. Represented Embry Riddle Aeronautical University against a personal injury suit.


“Nobody’s really trying to hide the ball…”

You’ll hear time and time again that one of the key things to consider when joining a firm is its culture and, by extension, your prospective colleagues. As one associate pointed out, “When you’re working 16-hour days with them, you need to like them!” It’s lucky then that this lot were unanimous in their praise for one another. “I consider many of my colleagues to be friends and people I hang out with socially as well,” one source gushed, “I really enjoy the folks I work with!” This feeling of ease extends beyond the associate ranks, too. “I’ve had full conversations with partners about their time at the firm,” said one interviewee. “Nobody’s really trying to hide the ball – they’re pretty transparent about it all.”

Of course, with a 31-office network, we’d be hard-pressed to summarize the whole firm culture in this feature. “The culture is office dependent,” one associate pointed out. “But firm wide, there’s a strong entrepreneurial culture. They really encourage you to get out and bring business.” Associates put this entrepreneurial streak down to the firm’s collection-based system. “It sometimes makes it a bit more money-driven as, largely compared to other firms, I’m thinking about my rates more,” an insider considered, though they were quick to add that this never translated into unbearable pressure.

The same variation extends to social calendars, too, with some offices putting on gatherings more often than others. “We have associate bonding budgets every quarter, and we spend that a happy hour or a boxed lunch,” said an interviewee. And of course, there’s the annual firm wide retreat which was most recently hosted in Orlando.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 1,900 target

With no mandate imposed regarding in-office time, associates felt free to structure their own working days “as long as you’re getting your work done, being diligent on things being addressed, and meeting your goals.” That said, “I would encourage junior associates to go in more often than not” added one source, ultimately “to learn, be more present, and to build relationships with partners which is important for future work.” The billable hours target the firms sets for associates is 1,900 and this was described as “definitely achievable” and “super reasonable by BigLaw standards.” But it’s important to remember that “Nelson Mullins is a collections-based firm and not an hours-based firm, and so hitting your collections goal is what will make you bonus eligible.” To make things clear, the collections goal is essentially a set amount of money that each associate is expected to generate from the work they complete, and exists as a separate goal to the billable hours target.

While the two stand side-by-side, Lehman explains that the collections goal reigns supreme as “we’re a performance-based culture where it’s based upon the actual production of work” and value-added to the firm by each associate. He continues, “That therefore reflects our ability to allow people to be successful even if they don’t charge the most premium rates, because instead of requiring everyone to charge the same rate, we allow people to charge different rates to reflect the flexibility of the practice. We then evaluate everyone on their collections.” The only gripe our associates had with such a system is that “there is little incentive to exceed your hours goal as bonuses are based on the collections goal.” Theoretically speaking, someone could hit “2,200 hours and someone else 1,500, but if they both hit their collections goal, then they’re both bonus eligible – and that’s a huge difference!”

Pro Bono

Associates are required to complete a minimum of 20 pro bono hours each year, but are “strongly encouraged” to hit 50. Although there’s no official limit to how much pro bono work an associate can undertake, our sources told us you had to request approval to go over 100 hours – “not that that’s ever been denied!” they added, “It’s more that someone will want to just check in with you to make sure either you’re not being overworked with pro bono, or that you don’t have enough standard creditable work.” All pro bono work counts towards associates’ billable targets, and 50+ hours can count towards the firm’s collections goal.

“…an opportunity to find something to really take ownership of.”

“There are tons of opportunities to get involved across the board,” associates praised, “We get weekly bulletins notifying us of pro bono opportunities, but we’re also able to go out and find our own part of the community we’re particularly drawn to.” Described as “super helpful from an ethical standpoint,” and as “an opportunity to find something to really take ownership of,” pro bono matters at Nelson covered things like wills clinics, veterans’ associations, child abduction cases, Central American immigration, and landlord/tenant work.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 42,233
  • Average per US attorney: 44

Career Development

Upon joining the firm, newbies are paired with a partner and senior associate mentor. With both firm-wide and practice-specific training on offer, the associates we spoke to felt optimistic about the firm’s investment in them. “Our team leader recently put together an associates’ retreat where we engaged in different development activities and had a panel discussing business development and marketing,” an interviewee told us. “It was a really cool experience that I learned a lot from!” The firm also has what’s called a real-world credit scheme, which offers associates billable credit for time spent on career development activities such as attending biweekly webinars on business development, mentorship, all-day CLEs, or development lunches.

One source very helpfully laid out the firm’s career development plans: “Years one and two, they just want you to learn the law. Years three and five, you want to start thinking about what you enjoy so you can start specializing and developing relationships with those you like working with. And then for those thinking about partnership, the firm has specific mentoring to help with the partnership track.” As a result, 75% of survey respondents agreed partnership was a realistic aspiration at the firm. All in all, “there’s cross-practice support and partners are totally willing to connect you with people in different offices. They want us to work as a team and for us to develop and help clients.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Our sources spoke highly of Nelson Mullins’ efforts within DEI. “I would say the firm is definitely doing a lot at the junior level as it seems a significant proportion of new hires are women or other traditionally underrepresented groups,” one source illustrated. Associates did voice concerns over the range of diversity “when it gets to that lucrative equity partner role,” but very much caveated that with the overall state of the industry, in addition to the natural time it will take to see the firm’s DEI efforts bear fruit.

“…you don’t necessarily know how to get from A to B without hearing it from someone who’s done it!”

But our sources felt Nelson Mullins was firmly on the right track, with LGBTQ+, Asian and American Pacific, Latinx, and Black affinity groups ensuring effective representation. “We also have a Women’s affinity group where we recently had a panel talk about how they’ve been able to balance family life with being a high-executing attorney. Those stories being shared are invaluable, and you don’t necessarily know how to get from A to B without hearing it from someone who’s done it!” Seconded by a colleague: “It’s so nice seeing women at the highest level – that’s been so refreshing to see.” To emphasize Nelson Mullins’ strong DEI initiatives, the firm last year earned the Mansfield Certification from Diversity Lab.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI applicants interviewed: 510  

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed  

Nelson Mullins recruit at more than 43 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.   


Applicants invited to second stage interview: 121  

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: 57  

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,
SC 29201

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 950 attorneys and government relations professionals with offices in 17 states and Washington, DC. For more information on the firm, go to


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
Baylor University; Boston College; Boston University; Cardozo; Charleston School of Law;, , Emory University; FAMU Law; Florida State, Fordham; Georgia State; Howard University; School; NC Central University; The Ohio State; Southern Methodist University; Suffolk; University of Baltimore; University of California Irvine; 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 Southern California; University of Tennessee; University of Virginia; UCLA; Vanderbilt University; Wake Forest University; 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:
Twitter: @NelsonMullins
Instagram: @Nelson_Mullins
Facebook: Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Linkedin: Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy Litigation (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • 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 2)
    • 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 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Government Relations: State & Local (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Product Liability: Automobile (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Toxic Torts (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)

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