Recent expansion on a global scale has given juniors here a sense of a Ful-bright future.
NRF's recent history has been one of mergers galore: the firm’s gumption for global growth was played out in 2017 by combinations with firms in Canada and Australia, as well as by a significant merger closer to home. A union with Chadbourne & Parke in June of that year bolstered the firm’s projects capabilities in both New York and DC. A legacy Chadbourne associate shared their thoughts on the benefits of this tie-up: “Pre-merger Norton Rose was very active in projects internationally everywhere, except maybe in the US and Latin America – and the merger gave them that.” On the domestic front, Chambers USA rates NRF’s projects work five times over in nationwide categories (including two tip-top rankings for its work in renewables and LNG projects). In the international arena, meanwhile, Chambers Global bestows four of its highest rankings on NRF's projects work, especially in the fields of power, oil & gas, and mining & minerals.
“Its focus is increasingly global.”
For the new wave of juniors,this string of mergers signaled that NRF is very much “aware of the global space; it seemed the perfect pick as its focus is increasingly global.” At the same time, juniors were keen to clarify that a lot of thought had been put into the firm's recent and future expansion plans: “It’s not just planting a flag in a bunch of different countries and saying, ‘Yay yay, rah-rah, we’re everywhere.’ They’re thinking long-term about having connected activity between offices.” At the moment NRF has a grand total of 58 offices worldwide, as well as a hefty selection of Chambers Global rankings – along with projects, top marks go to the firm’s global shipping, rail and aviation finance, Islamic finance, human rights law, climate change, construction, and insurance practices.
In the US, New York is the largest of NRF’s 11 domestic offices. The firm has a significant presence in the Northeast, as well as in the California and Texas markets, with the latter being particularly noteworthy: “Other firms have smaller offices in Texas but Norton Rose Fulbright is different – they have a huge presence in Texas. I mean, it dominates the Houston market.” Legacy firm Fulbright & Jaworski (which merged with London-headquartered Norton Rose in 2013) was already “a big deal” in the energy space and today’s NRF is no different. In Texas alone, Chambers USA pays its dues to the firm’s work in the antitrust, bankruptcy/restructuring, healthcare, IP, labor and employment, tax, and technology spheres.
Strategy & Future
In five years' time, US managing partner Daryl Lansdale says that new recruits can expect to “find us even bigger and stronger than we are today.” He goes on to state that “we’re obviously being opportunistic, and we clearly intend to grow domestically here in the US. It’s a very important growth avenue for us and we’re very focused on doing that through our hiring program through law schools, as well as with lateral partners and internal promotions.” When considering practices areas that have been performing well, Lansdale tells us: "We are a leader in energy and project finance. These are very important practices for us. Our cybersecurity practice has been a very hot practice because of the cyber events and developments that are occurring around the globe. Of course, with 1,200 disputes lawyers globally, we are a leader in that practice, including in investigations."
About 80% of the US junior associates on our list were clustered in four offices: New York, Houston, Dallas and DC. The remaining were sprinkled between the firm’s remaining seven US bases. There’s a whole host of practice groups for incoming juniors to join – just over 20 groups were represented on our list. The three groups taking the bulk of new talent were projects, commercial litigation, and corporate M&A and securities. Between them, they accounted for over a third of the associates on our list. Upon entering the firm, work assignments in the larger groups are disseminated through a formal system, but “after a year or so you develop relationships to the point where most of your work will come from one or two partners.” Half of the time “you get a polite email asking if you’re able to assist,” while the other half often sees juniors seeking work through more of an informal free-market system: “It works well for someone who’s a go-getter.” The formal system, however, continued to be a “useful resource” for slower periods too.
NRF’s corporate group advises on public and private M&A, disposals, debt and equity capital market transactions, regulatory matters, corporate governance issues, and shareholder activism for clients in the healthcare, energy and financial sectors, among others. In the space of a year, one interviewee had “already done everything from private and public mergers to asset acquisitions and IPOs.” A couple of sources commented on the growing number of warranty insurance deals: “The partner who spearheaded that engages a lot of young associates on those deals because you get to see a lot of documents in a short space of time. It’s really helped me understand where the market is going.” Working for global companies meant “by default there are international considerations in every deal.” We heard from associates who’d worked with offices in France, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, and countries in Latin America.
“You prepared the information, so you can lead.”
“Client interaction is a big part of my day,” corporateassociates in several offices told us, with this source explaining: “I didn’t expect to be speaking on calls, but I’ve found that if a senior can’t make it they’ll tell me, ‘You prepared the information, so you can lead.’ The first time that happened I closed my door and ran around in circles trying to figure out how I was going to handle it!” We also heard of one junior associate who was able to travelto a client pitch with a group of the firm’s global and national heads: “They were the only non-partner and non-head there!”
Corporate/M&A clients: asset management firm Ashford, merchant bank BDT Capital and Valero Energy Corporation. Advised mining company Randgold Resources on its $18.3 billion merger with Barrick Gold Corporation.
NRF’s projects practice got a big boost in 2017 thanks to the onboarding of Chadbourne & Parke lawyers in New York and DC. The practice “focuses on financing large-scale projects primarily in the energy and infrastructure space, both domestically and in Latin America. We also have a large presence in transportation infrastructure, like toll roads, for example.” In DC, associates summed up a three-way split in their time between working on domestic projects, projects in Central and South America, and “assisting the regulatory team on the various energy regulatory issues that come up.” Assisting with drafting transactional documents and contracts was a core task: “In that sense it’s similar to typical corporate/M&A work, only we’re more heavily involved in negotiating the contracts.” The group is based mostly on the East Coast, but there’s also a team in LA.Associates on the East Coast commented: “California is one of the leading states when it comes to renewable energy development, so it’s important for us to have an office there.”
Projects clients: Toshiba, Credit Suisse and GE Energy Financial Services. Acted for Canadian company BluEarth Renewables as it acquired interests in two Minnesota wind farms.
“A summer did some work on one of my cases and it went directly into the drafting of materials we were preparing for the Seventh Circuit.” Find out more about NRF’s summer program by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Our NRF interviewees had a real sense that partners were invested in them. In Houston, “several elder statesmen of the firm are very good at involving young associates in the firm’s major projects,” while in Dallas, “lots of partners have scheduled lunch sessions to give tips about drafting.” There are official group-specific trainings too – our corporate interviewees, for example, had just been to New York for an M&A bootcamp.
Commenting on their seniors as they approach the partnership, juniors felt that “what’s unclear is the dealbreaker that makes one person a partner and not another when they both tick the same boxes.” However, sources did concede that “they're trying to make the process clearer. There's a lunch coming up for senior associates who are considering partnership, and younger associates can sit in on it.” Reputation-wise, sources generally felt that the firm's prestige factor was most prominent in Texas, and then internationally in markets like Canada and the UK. Many of those who do leave tend to “go in-house to become GCs,” with positions in companies and banks proving popular, as well as opportunities to work within the government.
Hours & Compensation
And the award for “most controversial topic post-merger” goes to: billable hours targets. Bear with us here – not only does the target vary between offices, but the policy only recently changed and there’s speculation that it may change again soon. As it currently stands, the minimum billable expectation is 1,900 (1,800 in some offices). If associates hit these targets in their respective offices, then a 50% market-rate bonus will kick in. Depending on which office associates are in, full market-rate bonuses begin to be granted at 1,900 hours and above. Between 100 and 300 of these billable hours can come from credited non-chargeable “buckets” like pro bono and recruitment activities, but we heard that some of these buckets are capped. “The caps are quite ridiculous,” some felt. “Say you bill 31 hours of recruiting and nine hours of mentoring, why shouldn’t that extra hour of recruiting count? It’s over the cap that's been set for recruiting, but you didn’t hit the cap in mentoring.”
Associates were more appreciative of the firm's decision to match salary increases, although we heard the odd grumble in Texas, where a full match is only available for first and second-year associates; beyond that associates must meet their bonus-qualifying hours target in order to receive full market compensation. The same is true for associates in California.
Associates can bill pro bono hours toward their annual billable requirement. A firmwide committee “sends out messages about national and sometimes global pro bono projects” while subcommittees in each office “get the word out about opportunities in the area.” Interviewees described working on immigration and asylum matters, which can be “time-consuming” (one matter had lasted two years), but they also spoke of attending pro bono fairs, where “we spend one day advising an intake of low-income clients.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per (US) attorney: 30
Of course, nobody’s perfect. When this associate didn’t quite nail a purchase agreement, “a partner called me in and said, ‘It looks like you tried – want to sit down and go through what you missed?’ Next week he gave me the same project. If you don’t meet expectations, they don’t give up on you.” This kind of guidance made a strong impression on our interviewees: “Without sounding too much like a cheerleader, it’s a wonderful place to work,” a Dallas source exalted. “It makes the hours a lot easier when you’re spending them with good people.” Another interviewee reckoned that“while we have the resources of a global firm, it feels like a regional, familial place to work. There isn’t anyone trying to pick everyone off until they’re the last one standing.” There was even a reportedly laid-back tone in the DC base too – more than you might typically find in the capital: “I come in wearing workout clothes every morning and no one thinks twice.”
“There isn’t anyone trying to pick everyone off until they’re the last one standing.”
A 'we’re all in this together' sense pervaded the Houston office: “Even if you’re the new kid on the block you’re still treated as if you’ve been here for several decades.” There’s also an emphasis on mingling: “One of the lawyers here has a ranch not far from Houston and he attempts to get all his colleagues out there fairly regularly to give us all an opportunity to socialize in a way that isn’t tied to work.” Of course, with upwards of ten floors, “it takes a little effort to get to know everybody because the office is so big!” New York is still home to the firm’s largest space, however, and social events in the fall are “usually well attended after the fresh associates arrive.”
Diversity & Inclusion
It was NRF’s dedicated diversity month at the time of our calls: “Every week speakers are invited to come in and there are diversity-related CLEs,” sources explained.Interviewees went on to comment there could be a more diverse representation within the higher levels “throughout the firm,” but all our sources felt that “when it comes to programming, they do a decent job.” They added thatNRF is also cognizant of the need to address pipeline issues at the some of the earliest stages.One outreach program in Dallas sees attorneys visiting schools in “underserved communities that are predominantly Hispanic or African American. It’s important we reach out to schoolchildren. If you’ve never seen a lawyer that looks like you, you might not think it’s attainable.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 900
Interviewees outside OCI: 78
Each fall, Norton Rose conducts OCIs and participates in other recruitment events and job fairs at more than 50 institutions, bothnational and regional. Hiring partner Doug Wabner says: “We tend to focus efforts on schools where we’ve had success.” The firm also hires judicial clerks. Students can expect to meet with interviewers ranging from first-year lawyers to members of the firm’s management committee, who are selected “to reflect diversity across offices, practice teams, attorneys and experience levels. In many instances, we have law school alumni interviewing on campus."
Conversations are organic, but interviewers are trying to glean “the candidate’s level of interest in practicing at our firm and in which practice areas they have an interest,” Wabner says. He adds that “we look to hire students who will stay at the firm and who want to and will progress at the firm” –many of the questions are geared toward these goals. Wabner says “candidates should be able to articulate their experiences, including how they can tie into the practice of law and the development of clients, show that they've done their research on the firm, and understand our practices and the industry.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The practice of law is challenging and exciting, but it is also hard work! We seek candidates who demonstrate a commitment to excel, achieve success throughout their academic careers, exhibit entrepreneurial traits and demonstrate leadership abilities.” – hiring partner Doug Wabner
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 197
Many of Norton Rose’s offices host structured ‘Callback Days’ wherein small groups of candidates go to the office at the same time for a presentation on the firm before undergoing one-on-one interviews with four to six different lawyers.Each student will usually see the same panel of lawyers on a rotation system throughout the day. Some offices also host post-interview small group dinners, usually with more junior associates. Several offices host more traditional callback interviews.
Wabner tells us questions are designed to identify candidates who share characteristics with the firm’s successful associates: “We are eager to hear how your experiences have shaped your development, how those experiences will make you an important addition to our firm, and how your inclusion in the firm will benefit us and our clients.”
Top tips for this stage:
“I’ve talked to individuals who’re too comfortable, almost lax about the experience, and I’ve also had interviewees where every question is like trying to pry teeth! When someone asks you a question, look for those cues to talk more about yourself.” – a second-year junior associate
“We encourage candidates to let us know up front if they have questions that might be best addressed by particular lawyers, such as parents, women, lawyers of color, LGBT lawyers, new lawyers, etc.” – hiring partner Doug Wabner
The firm interviews potential summer associates to find out what type of law they’re interested in, “so we can be sure and give them experience in those areas,” Wabner says. “Our goal is to quickly integrate our summer associates into the firm by pairing them with mentors, offering training opportunities and giving them substantive work.” This associate told us “the work that a summer did on one of my cases went directly into the drafting of materials we were preparing for the seventh circuit later on!” Summers may be staffed on matters with lawyers across offices, and ‘out of office’ coordinators “try and make sure students get out of the office once a week to attend meetings, depositions, hearings and trials.”
All summers congregate via The Norton Rose Fulbright Summer Associate Academy in one location – Dallas hosted the most recent one. Wabner says “the academy allows everyone to get to know each other, and leaders from across the firm come to give talks and presentations.” On the social side, the firm organizes activities including individual and small group lunches, associate-only and partner-only events, and large group events. But Wabner says “we believe the most effective events are the smaller ones that allow summer associates to get to know our lawyers on a personal level.”
“Our summer associates return to the firm as associates at a high rate,” Wabner says. The firm extends offers to successful summers for a particular team, and they immediately join that team upon returning as full-time junior associate.
Top tips for this stage:
“There’s no expectation that a rising 2L will already know exactly what work they want to do, so the program is structured so summers can try different types of work and be exposed to all the different groups in the office.” – a second-year junior associate
“The summer associate program is an eight to ten-week job interview. Our summer associates need to provide us with exceptional work, demonstrate a “can-do attitude,” demonstrate a true desire to practice law and succeed in doing so, and they need to get to know us.” – hiring partner Doug Wabner
The Work: commercial litigation
In commercial litigation, associates had worked on “traditional contract law and business tort disputes” for clients from a range of industries. In New York, we heard that the team “draws a substantial portion of work from our project finance clients.” Cases covered “breaches of contract and employment issues, like termination and compensation. We've handled disputes in the healthcare realm, as well as very complex antitrust matters.” Outside of the healthcare and financial institutions spheres, we heard oflitigators working for clients in the telecommunications, entertainment and environmental sectors.The firm also has a dedicated energy & infrastructure team to handle contentious work in that area. Anassociate in Texas said: “We have companies that come to us from all over the world because it’s such a key place for oil and gas. A lot of international companies have a footprint here in Texas, and in Houston in particular.”
Litigation clients: AT&T, Exxon Mobil and Pfizer. Represented a former J. P. Morgan senior executive in multi-jurisdictional regulatory investigations arising from multi-billion dollar losses at the bank's chief investment office.
Hours & Compensation
Working habits vary by office and practice. In Houston, for example, a typical day lasts from 8.30am until 6.30pm, but juniors here often logged back on at home. New Yorkers, meanwhile, start at 9.30am, then go home anywhere between 6.30pm and 10.30pm depending on their workload. By its nature, the projects practice comes with unpredictable days: “I arrive in the morning and I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to leave at a ‘normal person’ hour.” Luckily, “everybody is understanding of your personal life,” although “that being said, if you’re walking out at 5pm you might get a look or two” – at least in the New York office, we heard!
Interview with US managing partner Daryl Lansdale
Chambers Associate: Norton Rose Fulbright has had several significant mergers across the firm’s global network. In the US, you merged with New York firm Chadbourne & Parke. How is that merger bedding in?
Daryl Lansdale: It’s going extremely well. We have grown the firm considerably over the last 12 to 18 months and particularly strengthened our presence on the East Coast, which was a critical strategic priority for us. It’s allowed us to become one of the top 30 in size in New York and significantly bolstered our presence in DC as well as LA. And it’s really positioned us to provide superior client service in these major global centers for business.
CA: The juniors we spoke to had a strong sense of the firm’s global growth strategy. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
DL: We’re obviously being opportunistic, and we clearly intend to grow domestically here in the US. It’s a very important growth avenue for us, and we’re very focused on doing that through our hiring program through law schools, as well as with lateral partners and internal promotions. That’s key for us – we’ve always been a firm focused on promoting through the system and hiring from schools.
CA: Looking five years down the line when our readers might be at the stage of joining the firm, what do you think Norton Rose Fulbright will look like then?
DL: I think we’ll continue to be one of the global leaders in the legal field, as we currently are. We’re at the forefront of hailing important legal work for world-leading corporations and delivering positive results. We expect to keep our foot on the gas pedal and continue to be a global leader in the provision of legal services around the world. So, in five years, I think they’ll find us even bigger and stronger than we are today.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently? Which have you earmarked for growth in the next year?
DL: We are a leader in energy and project finance. These are very important practices for us. Our cybersecurity practice has been a very hot practice because of the cyber events and developments that are occurring around the globe. Of course, with 1,200 disputes lawyers globally, we are a leader in in that practice, including in investigations. We’ve been awarded accolades in the past year in these extremely active practices, as well as in securities and M&A. Those were all very strong for us over the last 12 to 18 months.
CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
DL: We have obviously made major investments in global growth over the last 12 months. Growing our practices here in the US and around the globe has resulted in us being involved in significant legal matters, many of which involve complex cross-border components. We are a firm that believes very much in having an industry focus with a wide range of sector experts. We are committed to that, and we have fine partners and clients in all of the major industries. In the energy space, which is a very important area for us, clients ExxonMobil and BP are two good examples. We have financial institution clients like AIG and Bank of America. We also pride ourselves on our technology practice, which includes clients like AT&T, Dell and Amazon.
CA: How do you think the profession has changedsince you started out practicing as a lawyer?
DL: Clearly, innovation and technology have dramatically changed the way we practice law. It’s another important initiative at the firm, which is critical to our success. Our clients want to see innovation and efficiency. The demand for that wasn’t as high when I first started practicing. It’s very important to be innovative for clients, coming up with simple solutions and being efficient as we provide services to them.
CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
DL: I went to law school believing I wanted to do M&A and securities, and my experience completely reinforced that. I became a research assistant for my securities law professor and found that securities law and merger and acquisitions were very intriguing. I very much always enjoyed the deal world and, as I learned more about it through my law school experience, I became dedicated to being an M&A and securities lawyer.
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?
DL: Find a firm that has values that are reflective of your own, and make sure that you are practicing in an area for which you have a passion. Ultimately, those are both critical for being successful as a lawyer. It’s about both having a passion for your practice and making sure that your firm’s culture is reflective of your own principles.
Norton Rose Fulbright
- Head Office: N/A
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 47
- Worldwide revenue: $1,969,315,000
- Partners (US): 303
- Associates (US): 286
- Main recruitment contact: Jaimee Slovak (email@example.com)
- Hiring partner: Judi Archer
- Diversity officer: Denise Glass
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 53
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 44
- 1Ls: 17; 2Ls: 27
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- Austin: 6, Dallas: 9, Houston: 15, New York: 8, Washington: 6
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1Ls: $3,654/wk (CA, DC, NY, TX)
- 2Ls: $3,654/wk (CA, DC, NY, TX)
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Recognized for its industry focus, Norton Rose Fulbright is strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare. Through its global risk advisory group, Norton Rose Fulbright leverages its industry experience with its knowledge of legal, regulatory, compliance and governance issues to provide clients with practical solutions to the legal and regulatory risks facing their businesses.
Baylor, Cardozo, Columbia, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hofstra, Howard, Loyola (CA), NYU, Penn, South Texas College of Law, SMU, Texas Southern, Texas Tech, UC-Irvine, UCLA, University of Chicago, University of Southern California, University of Texas, University of Virginia, Washington University, Yale
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Cornell (DC and NY job fairs), Emory Job Fair, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Law, National Law School Consortium, NEBLSA Job fair, Notre Dame Interview Program, Penn Regional Job Fairs, SEMJF, Sunbelt, Vanderbilt Career Fairs, Washington University Walkaround Programs.
Summer associate profile:
We recruit motivated, energetic and personable individuals with whom we will enjoy practicing law. Candidates should have high academic achievement, maturity, and initiative. We also value other indicators of likely success at Norton Rose Fulbright, such as demonstrated leadership skills and an entrepreneurial outlook.
Summer program components:
Your summer experience will provide you with a realistic preview of what it is like to practice at Norton Rose Fulbright. You will do real work for real clients.
We offer sophisticated work, world-class learning and development and our lawyers are committed to teaching and mentoring. Our US Summer Associates are invited to participate in the Summer Associate Academy, a two day induction into the firm.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
- Antitrust (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
- Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
- Tax (Band 2)
- Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 3)
Texas: Houston & Surrounds
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- International Arbitration (Band 4)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 5)
- Projects: LNG (Band 1)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
- Projects: Power (Band 3)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 2)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
- Retail (Band 3)
- Tax: Controversy (Band 4)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 2)