Experience-hungry graduates await a smörgåsbord on the Southeastern seaboard.
“NELSON Mullins doesn't believe in growth for the sake of growth,” one source assured us. “We'll only go if the food's gonna fill our stomachs.” Indeed, it appears the firm is currently hosting a veritable banquet along the Eastern Seaboard. Following its 2018 combination with Floridian heavyweight Broad and Cassel, the menu at this super-regional firm is packed with “complex and challenging work,” “unparalleled camaraderie,” and courses “offering the allure of working at a big firm without the nightmarish elements.” Table for two, please.
“We'll only go if the food's gonna fill our stomachs.”
But throughout this period of expansion, Nelson Mullins' famous “charm” has remained. “It's been a wild ride and we've come on leaps and bounds,” suggested one source, with another reporting that the firm's “a steady ship and sailing strong.” Chambers USA gives the highest rankings awarded to South Carolina'scorporate, banking, and litigation groups. Broad and Cassel's preexisting expertise means it scoops equally high awards for its healthcare practice in Florida. The firm's construction, real estate, and environment groups scores similarly well along the coast.
With dipped toes and the “opportunity to try lots of things over the summer,” new associates are shepherded into two broad practice areas: corporate and litigation. But there are subtle variations across the network. Take Atlanta,“the firm's largest office,” for example: those in the Georgia capital “have practices and specializations that aren't in all the offices.” While the Columbia office is considered a “good representation of the whole firm,” in the Huntington office it's “pretty much all litigation, with no real transactional practices.” For New York, it's known for “FCC, regulations and securities,” Boston's considered to be a “powerhouse product liability and national litigation office” (its IP expertise in the life sciences space is also recognized), and Greenville we're told is “the only office doing family law.” Regardless of where associates were located and what group they found themselves in, the work seemed to come thick and fast: “The work is free-flowing. Partners ask you, then sometimes they don't ask and drop it on you. But it's very much on you to balance. If you're overwhelmed, tell people! If you're drowning, they won't put more water in.” Associates taking “piecemeal work” from other teams was common, as were “collaborative” practice groups working across offices.
“If you're drowning, they won't put more water in.”
The spread of work in the firm's litigation group is extensive, covering product liability, consumer protection, commercial law, government relations, labor and employment, class action and appellate. This broad array of work aside, the associates we spoke to were all quick to cite how responsibilities grew rather quickly. “When I first came on it was a lot of handholding,” with research questions and document review, “but now when things come up I know it's my job. With a complaint, for example, I know I'm going to draft a motion to dismiss.” Another source went further: “I've been fortunate enough to work on two really high-profile election law matters.I was very involved in the brief and strategy and was the last person to handle the brief before submission.” On other matters, the “Swiss Army approach” pays dividends,where it's “a little bit of everything. It's hard to find something I haven't done!” Work's not curtailed by regional borders either; for one source, “the majority of product liability work comes out of Korea.” But back at home, a “good portion of work is investment broking and fraud, with varying midmarket clients from a range of insurer carriers.” There is genuine responsibility on offer here and “client communication increases as you move along.”
Litigation clients: Pfizer, Salvation Army, Johnson & Johnson. Successfully represented Chief Justice Margaret Workman of the WV Supreme Court in halting an impeachment proceeding brought against her.
“The range of corporate opportunities available is huge”:sources had worked on M&A, securities, real estate, corporate governance, and venture capital financing. Some sources get to specialize: “I work largely in commercial lending, working with banks, private equity firms, and life insurance companies, who will all lend money for commercial development.” Others had a more varied corporate practice. For one sourceworking in M&A, “the majority of our work is acquisitions or sale of companies, and I'm fortunate enough to work equally on both buy and sell side.” Whether serving “a private equity firm making a couple of acquisitions a year,” or simply “mom and pop selling their business,” there seemed to be a lot of early exposure. One source explained: “There's a ton of early responsibility compared to friends at other firms. My role has grown so now I'm doing the main cut at all the documents on venture capital deals with limited oversight: it's a huge plus.”
Corporate clients: Novolex, Beach Community Bank, City National Bank of West Virginia. Represented the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority in the solicitation, structuring, negotiation, and closing of $250 million of tax-exempt lines of credit from Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
“You have to be both a self-starter as well as someone who seeks out advice,” declared one source in South Carolina. “As far as substantive training,” reflected one source, “there wasn't really any.” Though rather than lamenting this, our sources all resonated with the learn-on-the-job style: “I've noticed quantifiable development. In hindsight, it was structured and incrementally grown with new work I hadn't experienced before being introduced appropriately.” Though for one source, this process happened all very quickly: “During my first week on the job, a partner approached me with what I thought was an impossible legal issue and I got asked to write a brief on it. It was terrifying, but we got a really good product out the door and made the judge think about considering.” While our sources weren't overly enthusiastic about the amount of formal training, there is indeed a structured 'Associates Training Program' at the firm, which covers topics such as 'Appellate Training,' 'Corporate Formation' and 'Being a Star Associate and the Path to Partnership.'
"It was terrifying, but we got a really good product out the door..."
Without much reported formalized training then, other areas are required to come to the fore. Take the firm's mentorship system. One source declared “the program is robust and tailored,” commenting that “it's inspiring to see they want me to advance.” For another, they consider themselves “fortunate” as the “partners are invested and take time to walk you through things, understanding it's a learning process.” Another couldn't speak highly enough of their mentor for “pulling back the curtain on things that might not be transparent for everyone.” Though what did seem quite transparent is the path to partnership. “There's an idea of what needs to be done,” suggested one associate; “one of the good things about the firm is that the goals are really transparent.” And while there doesn't seem to be a “document shared on what needs to be done,” the path seems clear: “They circulate a monthly collections report so you can see how everyone in the firm's doing. The general track is around seven or eight years.”
Hours & Compensation
Collections, you say? Yes. In scrapping convention and offering a rather novel billable system, the firm keeps its finances in check and its associates in the know. “Here we have an hours target of 1,900 but the real target is the collection goal. We are charged with getting to a certain number in terms of collections. The goal isn't a mystery as it's a set financial target.” Another associate clarified the confusion: “Associates at every level have a rate that they have to charge for billables. If you work so many hours, you'll bring in so much money.” So, does the system work? “It's kind of a double-edged sword,” an Atlanta source reckoned; “as an associate you don't have control over what collects and what doesn't. But I've found it very fair and a business runs on how many dollars you collect rather than how many hours you bill.”
“The goal isn't a mystery as it's a set financial target.”
Day-to-day realities seemed to be all very typical for a firm of this size and scope. For corporate attorneys, “hours are dependent on the deal flow; there'll be slow days with no deals working three or four hours, then when deals are all moving at the same time, I could be here from 7am to midnight.” Similarly for those in litigation, “it's tough to say there's any normal day. When cases are moving hot, you'll be here from 6am to 9pm, then sometimes it's cold and you're in later and leaving earlier.” With weekend work common but not extensive, late nights frequent but all-nighters unheard of, our interviewees had little to complain about other than the firm's bonus structure. “Assuming you meet collection goals you become bonus-eligible,” said one source, “but we don't have any direct insight on what the bonus will look like.” Another source went further: “Everyone last year was on the edge of their seats regarding what the bonus would actually be. Perhaps there's a formula, but no one knows.”
“The firm holds pro bono close its heart,” said one interviewee; “they're adamant about hours.” One source went further: “One of the reasons I like the firm is that it has such a strong dedication to it. The goal is to do 50 hours, but I was closer to 100 last year.” After an associate reaches 20 pro bono hours, all subsequent time spent on pro bono can count as billable.Through an active “in-house recruiter amalgamating opportunities by practice, with specialized opportunities available,” there's a wide net for associates. Whether “revising by-laws and organizational documents,” “drafting some board policies,” or getting a golden retriever rescue nonprofit “all squared off from a governance standpoint,”there's plenty of substantive work available. One particular focus is on Wills For Heroes, where “several attorneys across all the offices will open up shop on the weekend to write wills for first responders, firemen, etc.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 35,955
- Average per attorney: 72
“It's like nothing I've ever seen in BigLaw,” cheerily declared one source. But as the firm continues to grow, “keeping our culture really matters.” Another source added that “we're a big firm doing big work. We have a Southern feel and can all run at our own pace.” And while the pace seems to be shaped by the firm's recent growth, much appears to be the same: “The combination with B&C doesn't determine my day-to-day. We've worked with them but because the change is so gradual the effects aren't real or immediate.” Although one change that will be real is the firm's annual retreat. Historically held in South Carolina, the new retreat has moved to one of the firm's Florida bases to accommodate the new cohort of attorneys. But back on familiar territory, while “it's not a competitive feeling among associates,” and “couldn't be further from the white shoe cliché,” the firm's social calendar is reportedly not what it once was. “The active social life has kind of trailed off,” claimed one source, “but there's a big impetus to pick things back up.” This being said, “sociability depends on teams and offices.” As in Atlanta,a rooftop terrace bar allows for after work drinks on Fridays, whereas culturally, the office in “New York is pretty New York.”
“Keeping our culture really matters.”
Diversity & Inclusion
The firm is no stranger to the diversity issues common to all of BigLaw. The firm is “putting resources to it because heads can't be in the sand to pretend it's not an issue.” And while one source stated they've “never felt out of place as a minority or a woman,” with “no difference in treatment once through the door,” interviewees agreed that there is “still work to be done.” The conversation seemed to fall back to the idea of retention, dubbed “the biggest issue" by one source. Another added: “We need to be more cognizant of female attorney retention.” With explanations being few and far between, some drew attention to the disconnect with older attorneys. “There's a generation much older,” suggested one source, “and they're struggling to adapt sometimes.” So, as eyes fall to “an associate level where work and friendship is not determined by difference,” perhaps the future looks brighter for women and minorities at the firm.
Strategy & Future
If we're to believe one associate who thinks that in the future “the firm will look totally different from the one I originally joined,” the question beckons about how to manage growth while keeping its idiosyncrasies. “Gradually,” seemed to be the buzzword, meaning incremental shifts will allow the firm's “Southern feel” and “personality” to continue defining the entire network. Alongside this, “the firm is very conscious of overextending. We're in a position to sit down for a while because of the growth we've had.” Whether seating or standing, the folks at the Nelson Mullins table have full plates, full stomachs, and full calendars for years to come.
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Meridian, 17th Floor,
1320 Main Street,
- Head office:Worldwide revenue:Partners (US):Associates (US): Columbia, SC Number of domestic offices: 25 Number of international offices: 0 $ 517,003,000 441 205
- Main recruitment contact: Emily Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Dell Chappell
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 14
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 20, 2Ls: 41
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Atlanta: 7, Baltimore: 3, Boca Raton: 1, Boston: 2, Charleston: 3, Charlotte: 3, Columbia: 15, Denver: 1, Greenville: 5, Huntington: 3, Jacksonville: 2, Los Angeles: 1, Miami: 3, Myrtle Beach: 1, Nashville: 4, New York: 1, Orlando: 1, Raleigh: 1, Tampa: 1, Washington, DC: 1, Winston-Salem: 1
- Summer salary 2019: California: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,600 Colorado: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,600 Georgia: 1L $1,600/2L $2,600 Florida: 1L $1,500/2L $1,800 Massachusetts: 1L $2,600/2L $2,600 Maryland: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,600 Miami: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,600 New York: 1LS $2,600/2L $2,600 North Carolina: 1L $1,600/2L $1,750 South Carolina: 1L $1,400/2L $1,500 Tennessee: 1L $1,500/2L $1,800 Washington, DC: 1L $2,600/2L $2,600 West Virginia: 1L $1,000/2L $1,150
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Firm profile Established in 1897, Nelson Mullins has more than 785 attorneys and government relations professionals with offices in 11 states and Washington, DC. For more information on the firm, go to www.nelsonmullins.com.
Boston College; Boston University; Charleston School of Law; Columbia; Duke; Emory University; Florida State; Fordham; George Mason; George Washington; Georgia State; Harvard; Howard University; Loyola Law School; Mercer University; New York University; NOVA Southeastern University; Northeastern University; Notre Dame Law School; The Ohio State; Suffolk; University of Baltimore; 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; Washington & Lee; West Virginia University; William & Mary.
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.
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This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
Florida: Outside Miami
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial Recognised Practitioner
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)