Some-Pea-body once told me, the world is gonna roll me – but not at Nixon Peabody, where associates are part of “a small class with a low ratio of partners to associates.”
ON the cusp of the new millennium, a Boston firm and a Rochester firm collided to create the AmLaw 100 firm Nixon Peabody. That same firm turns 20 in 2019 – along with the Smash Mouth hit 'All Stars,' hence our highly relevant reference above. The two legacy firms which merged in 1999 each had over 100 years of history – and as Smash Mouth sang: 'The years start coming, and they don't stop coming.' The firm's reputation, gathered over those years, means it receives Chambers USA rankings in Massachusetts for half a dozen areas including corporate M&A, commercial litigation, real estate, and private wealth. It's also ranked in DC for corporate M&A, in Illinois and nationwide for healthcare, in New Hampshire for litigation, in Rhode Island for labor & employment, and in New York for another half dozen areas.
Juniors were attracted to “being at a big firm but with a better lifestyle” at Nixon. Indeed, while this firm has a total of 17 offices across the US, the UK, and Asia, each US office only has a handful of junior associates. On the list of juniors the firm sent us for our research, the largest gatherings of second and third-years were in Boston (seven), New York (six), and Chicago (five); Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC were all home to four second and third-years, while Rochester and Long Island were home to three each. As a result of its small intake, interviewees reckoned, “the firm gives you the ability to craft your own practice and be a little more entrepreneurial in your pursuits, which really appealed to me.” On top of that, everyone “interacts so closely with each other on a daily basis, so everyone is friendly and welcoming.”
Most juniors end up in litigation or corporate, and at the time of our research there were also rookies in IP, real estate, private client, housing, labor & employment, and a few other areas. Most practice areas have a free-market assignment system. One source reported how this leads to a more entrepreneurial spirit: “Partners and senior associates come directly to me and ask if I have availability to work – so you make your own relationships.” Many appreciated the variety of work this allows for, explaining: “It gives you a chance to build your own practice if there's someone in your group who specializes in something you're interested in.” Plus, one source added: “Nixon encourages you to reach out to partners in different offices too.” As a safety net, some groups such as corporate have “partners who are aware of and review everyone's workload.”
“I'm going to court tomorrow."
Junior litigators told us of working on commercial disputes, class actions, construction litigation, and personal injury cases – to name just a few areas. Interviewees appreciated the mix of work on offer. “I really like that I'm getting exposure to a wide variety of matters,” one said. Juniors are often tasked with research assignments, drafting motions to dismiss, and attending 'meet and confers.' Sources admitted that responsibility levels “depend on the partner's comfort level with you and how much they're willing to hand over.” That said, many appreciated “getting to do cool things like going to court. We're not just in a back room doing doc review all the time”– though doc review does come up now and then. Another source shared: "Initially I was concerned I wasn't getting much substantive work, especially in terms of drafting, which is what I had been looking forward to. But that was probably because people knew I wasn't quite there yet. Then I picked up more substantive assignments, and I'm going to court tomorrow."
Litigation clients: Cummins, Air Liquide, and real estate investor Boston Capital. Represented Allergan in a class action brought against seven pharmaceutical companies which manufacture and sell eye drops.
Interviewees in corporate estimated that “about 50% of the work is M&A and general corporate matters, while the rest is corporate finance and securities work.” On the M&A side, juniors conduct diligence and draft closing documents, as well as “generally communicating with the client and opposing counsel.” On smaller transactions, sources reported being “able to run everything – the diligence, the drafting, and the negotiation of agreements.” On bigger matters, juniors are “just doing the due diligence and writing memos.” Generally though, interviewees found they had “a lot more responsibility and a lot more client contact than I was expecting!” Some found it “overwhelming at times” but added, “there's good mentoring and people are there if you have questions.”
Corporate clients: Coca-Cola Bottling, tech logistics company FusionStorm, and bottling company Refresco. Represented premium wine and beer mark Constellation Brands in its $4 billion investment in Canopy Growth, a Canadian legal cannabis company.
Associates are encouraged to do 60 hours of pro bono a year, which can go toward their billable target. You can also “request for additional hours to be counted” if you go over 60 hours. “It's not like an unlimited number of pro bono hours can count toward billables," one source noted, "but partners will come up to you and ask if you need pro bono work without prompting.” Sources also highlighted that the firm has a pro bono partner “dedicated to promoting and assigning pro bono.” Some juniors had taken advantage of this and others praised being “allowed to bring in pro bono clients of my own.” We heard that one associate had even been “flown out to Boston to meet pro bono clients”by a partner who was "very invested in pro bono.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 37,319
- Average per US attorneys: 53
Pro bono opportunities associates can take on include immigration and asylum matters (New York sources highlighted working on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status matters in particular), domestic violence cases, adoption cases, and some transactional work like drafting commercial contracts for nonprofits. A San Francisco source also highlighted working with StartOut, a nonprofit organization that helps LGBT entrepreneurs.
“I do get the sense the firm is invested in developing its associates, because I've been given assignments purely because others thought it would be a good learning opportunity.” Other indicators of the firm's support for associates include “being assigned mentors when we first start” – although some also found mentors by developing relationships outside of the formal program. An interviewee also highlighted that the firm has “created a new department within HR for attorney development and retention, which is focused on building the careers of associates.” Part of this includes “offering training programs every few months, when we all meet in one of our offices.” A recent session was on 'the anatomy of the deal' hosted in the New York office.
“A new department within HR for attorney development and retention.”
Looking ahead at their future careers, most juniors felt confident given those who had been before them. “I've witnessed people in my group move up and become of counsel, partner and equity partner in the time I've been here,” one source said. It's notable that the firm promoted 12 individuals to partner in 2019 – that's a lot of promotions for a firm with a relatively small summer class and first-year intake. If associates do choose to move on, one source reckoned, “the firm has a good reputation among people who know law firms, and I think that would help me with my future career.”
Some firms keep an arm's length between partners and associates, but not Nixon: the consensus across offices was that the atmosphere felt “comfortable and open between partners and associates.” One source elaborated: “I can't think of a partner I couldn't speak to if I had a problem with something.” Many thought this was a product of how “deals are so leanly staffed. You end up working very closely with partners – more than you would at a firm with more associates.”
“You have to be comfortable with the fact you're working in a fish bowl and everyone can see you!”
This collaboration has been enhanced by a recent move to revamp the offices to “promote a more unifying one-firm culture.” So say goodbye to corner offices and opaque walls – it's all glass now, which interviewees felt “looks very modern and beautiful, but you have to be comfortable with the fact you're working in a fish bowl and everyone can see you!” These new spaces have also helped with the social side of things – there are now office events like happy hours and networking events with current and prospective clients. Some groups were described as being “more family-oriented” and as such, interviewees here felt “you're not obligated to go to events.”
Hours & Compensation
Associates at Nixon Peabody are expected to bill 1,850 hours each year. If they go beyond that and reach 1,900 qualifying hours (approved pro bono and other accountable time can count toward this total) then they are considered for an hours-based bonus, which is determined by a certain formula. In addition, extra bonuses can be awarded for 'working attorney collections' (where associates earn a percentage of the compensation they bring in) and also for 'other extraordinary performance and financial contributions.' The amount allocated for the latter is discretionary and determined by Nixon's professional personnel committee after feedback and input is received from practice group/team leaders, office managing partners and the management committee. Generally, associates at Nixon don't get paid market-rate salaries, but most agreed that the bonus structure means “higher-billing attorneys can close the gap with other firms.”
“It's not a midnight oil sort of firm.”
Day to day, associates found their hours were more reasonable than at more hard-driving BigLaw firms. New York folk start a bit later (around 9:30am), but most others aim for an 8:30am or 9am start. Most then leave between 6:30pm and 7pm on average. “I find if I leave any later, the office is already pretty empty," one source reflected. "It's not a midnight oil sort of firm.” Occasional late nights do come up from time to time, as well as “a few hours over the weekend,” but generally juniors felt “Nixon stresses having a work/life balance, plus you learn to take advantage of slower periods.”
Diversity & Inclusion
“In the past two years we've made a strong push for diversity and inclusion,” one junior felt. “The representation of women is decent and improving. You can see the steps in place are producing results.” One such step is the adoption of the Mansfield Rule 2.0. And it's notable that the number of female partners has been increasing recently: from 21% in 2015 to 25.5% in 2019. Improving minority representation hasn't been as successful yet, according to juniors, and sources felt “it's a slow process and will take time to fully flesh out.” The firm has various affinity groups, and some of these hold retreats; the women's group went to LA in 2018.
Strategy & Future
"This is our best year yet," managing partner and CEO Andrew Glincher tells us. "Our revenue surpassed the $500 million mark in 2018. For the first time in our firm’s history, we are a half billion-dollar business. This is not something that happened overnight. It is the result of continually reassessing and adjusting the strategic plan we put into place several years ago. We have terrific momentum leading us into 2019." When it comes to future growth, Glincher explains: "We are always opportunistic about adding colleagues in practices and geographies that align with our clients’ needs. Specifically, we would like to grow our presence in New York City. On the West Coast, we are focused on expanding in California, notably in San Francisco. In Washington, DC, we are focused on growing our real estate, commercial litigation, and government investigations and white-collar defense practice."
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
Nixon Peabody conducts OCIs at a handful of schools and sees between 10-20 applicants at each. Candidates will interview with attorneys from local recruiting committees, which are comprised of attorneys at all levels of seniority.
At this stage, Nixon is looking for candidates who can “articulate why they are interested in working for NP in the location in which they apply,” hiring partner Stacie Collier explains. Questions will also aim to assess the candidate’s commitment to client service, entrepreneurialism, innovation and collaboration.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
Callbacks at Nixon follow on from the information gained during OCIs. The format varies between offices: some conduct individual meetings, while others hold ‘super callback events’ in order to meet multiple candidates in one or two sessions.
Top tips for this stage:
“To the extent possible, it is important to understand the background of each callback interviewer. Review that interviewer’s website bio, and conducting preliminary research on the firm is a smart first step.” – hiring partner Stacie Collier.
Acceptances: 10 (with two pending as of 3/5)
Nixon’s summer program involves weekly training sessions on topics including department overviews, pro bono, diversity and inclusion, and law firm economics. There are also writing and transactional workshops on offer too. In terms of work, the firm uses an “online workflow coordination tool that is managed by our recruiting committee members and HR professionals. They ensure that assignments are distributed as evenly as possible and that workloads are manageable,” explains Collier. Social outings are also part of the program, based on summer associate preferences.
Top tips for this stage:
“Summer associates should get to know as many attorneys in the office in which they sit as possible. If a summer associate has a practice area preference, he or she is encouraged to develop a rapport with attorneys in that practice group to create a lasting impression which will likely impact offer consideration and group placement.” – hiring partner Stacie Collier.
Interview with CEO and managing partner Andrew Glincher
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm's current market position (financial position)?
Andrew Glincher: This is our best year yet because of our team, differential investments we have made, and our ability to change how we do business. Our revenue surpassed the $500 million mark in 2018. For the first time in our firm’s history, we are a half billion-dollar business. This is not something that happened overnight. It is the result of continually reassessing and adjusting the strategic plan we put into place several years ago. We have terrific momentum leading us into 2019.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?
AG: Our transactional practice had an especially strong year. We represented Constellation Brands in a major investment in a Canadian medical marijuana company. We counseled Paychex in its $1.2B acquisition of Oasis Outsourcing. Our public finance team represented New York’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, one of the biggest municipal issuers in the country, in a first of its kind transaction that garnered recognition as The Bond Buyer’s “Northeast Deal of the Year.”
From a litigation perspective, we represented clients making front-page headlines. A cross office trial team secured a defense verdict for Daher-Socata Aerospace in a high-profile jury trial and our Arts and Cultural Institutions team successfully upheld an earlier decision that a famous Henri Matisse painting belongs to London’s National Gallery.
CA: Which practices/sector focuses/offices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why?
AG: We are always opportunistic about adding colleagues in practices and geographies that align with our clients’ needs. Specifically, we would like to grow our presence in New York City. On the West Coast, we are focused on expanding in California, notably in San Francisco. In Washington, DC, we are focused on growing our real estate, commercial litigation, and government investigations and white-collar defense practice.
CA: What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?
AG: Law firms like to be something for everybody, but the most successful law firms right now are more focused on the things they do really well. We see that trend continuing. You want to make sure that your strategy, and where you’re going to focus, has at least these two elements: client demand and great talent to compete successfully.
Our strategic priorities are focused on uncovering significant opportunities to better serve our clients which could include developing a new service area or having deeper resources in a specific location or practice. We are focused on helping our colleagues leverage technology and new approaches to provide greater value to clients and identify new lines of business. Our staffing models will continue to evolve to meet the demand and provide even greater client value.
CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?
AG: While the legal profession is based on precedent, we are focused on building the law firm of the future. We are a people business, so the law firm of the future will be primarily about having the right people and being able to provide differentiating value. They will impact the way we serve our clients, which has changed in definition over the years. Today it means offering diverse perspectives and unique industry insight. Lawyers must be experts in the business and industries of the clients we serve. We want to attract and retain top talent and provide opportunities and experiences they may not receive at a different firm or company for that matter. We are focused on cultivating our talent and making our firm a place where people can grow into new roles that challenge them and meet the future needs of our clients.
CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate/adapt to in the future?
AG: The landscape is evolving and we can’t sit still. There are forms of competition that didn’t exist just a few years ago that are changing the business model of our industry. We must continuously anticipate and embrace change.
We consider innovation essential to survival in a tighter-than-ever legal market. We are focused on inspiring our attorneys to think beyond the routine to serve our clients.
When I started as CEO nine years ago, I encouraged people to step out of their comfort zone. Everybody would say this is how we have always done it and I would say forget about it. Make believe that I am giving you the choice of doing things differently. What will you do?
The practice of law has been based on precedent. Now if you are only looking at what has happened before, you are not really looking at the future. So changing that mind set, while not ignoring precedent, is crucial to success. Precedent is important, in terms of actual case law, when you are helping clients, but in order to compete effectively and create the law firm of the future, it is critical to think out of the box. Come up with new solutions and new ideas.
CA: What achievement are you most proud of?
AG: I love working with people and solving problems. Specifically, I use my responsibility much like a coach, to help provide my colleagues with support, guidance, and the best opportunity for success. I am inspired by our people.
Succession planning is a major challenge for law firms. In my role as CEO and Managing Partner, I make investments with a focus more on people’s potential than what they’ve already accomplished. This is a conscious move to help people grow and take on meaningful opportunities sooner than they might find elsewhere.
Diversity makes us a better organization. Today, 37 percent of our leadership roles are held by women and minority attorneys. I am focused on bringing up the next generation of diverse leaders who can provide a wide range of perspectives for clients and are thinking about what’s ahead for the firm’s clients.
CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?
AG: I believe in lifelong learning. I do not pretend to know all the answers. I learn things every day from the people I work with. I ask a lot of questions. Sometimes, we can create obstacles that maybe don’t exist just because we’re only seeing things from one perspective. I try to understand what motivates my colleagues and get suggestions from them as to how they think we can improve our business.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?
AG: One of the things I do is remind people that they have a choice. You control your career more than anyone else. You can achieve anything with hard work, a positive attitude, and the right mindset.
People don’t necessarily go to one organization and stay a lifetime anymore. We know this is also true of new lawyers entering the legal profession. Being an excellent lawyer requires a huge dedication of time and effort. To succeed, you need to be passionate about what you do. A legal education provides many opportunities. Spend your time doing what you want to do. Passion is everything when it comes to your career and the life you lead.
Nixon Peabody LLP
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 12
- Number of international offices: 4
- Worldwide revenue:
- Partners (US): 309
- Associates (US): 202
- Main Recruitment
- Contact: Cristina Fontane
- Hiring Partner: Stacie Collier
- Diversity officers: Joseph Ortego
- Recruitment details:
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019:11
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Chicago: 2; New York: 3; Rochester: 4; Washington DC:4
- Summer Salary 2019 2Ls: $3,460/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Business and finance; litigation and dispute resolution; real estate; intellectual property; private equity and investment funds; M&A; securities, public finance; tax; labor and employment; tax credit finance and syndication; affordable housing; government investigations and white collar defense; estate, trust and financial planning; health services; life sciences; energy; food and beverages; gaming and government relations.
We see the law as a tool to help shape our clients’ futures. Our focus is on knowing what is important to our clients now and next so we can foresee obstacles and opportunities in their space and smooth their way. We ensure they are equipped with winning legal strategies as they navigate the exciting and challenging times we live in. The qualities that drive Nixon Peabody are extreme understanding of our clients and their industries, a future-leaning orientation, and a culture that taps collective intelligence to create value for clients. We provide counsel on the full range of corporate transactions, disputes and regulatory challenges.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Nixon Peabody recruits from top tier law schools throughout the US. In 2019, we expect to conduct interviews at various leading national and regional law schools.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We actively recruit for summer and school- year interns through cooperative programs, our diversity initiative and directly for select practice groups.
Summer associate profile:
We seek candidates with excellent academic credentials, solid research and writing skills, demonstrated leadership ability and sound judgment. We value innovation and collaborative work styles. Prior work experience and diversified outside activities are a plus.
Summer program components:
Our summer program lays the foundation for your career at Nixon Peabody. The program is intended to introduce you to as many opportunities as possible. We believe the more you learn over the summer, the better career choices you will make. You will be exposed to a range of practice areas and take part in billable client work and pro bono projects. In addition to exploring the practice of law, we also encourage our summer associates to get to know the Nixon Peabody attorneys in the cities in which we work. We provide formal and informal mentorship, various group training sessions and substantive feedback through our evaluation process.
Recruitment website: www.nixonpeabody.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Corporate/Commercial (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Energy: State Regulatory & Wholesale Electric Market (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt Recognised Practitioner
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
Upstate New York
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Franchising (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 5)