Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP - The Inside View

Bostonian through and through, sources went nuts for Nutter's work-life balance and 'tight-knit' environment.

CO-FOUNDED by pro bono pioneer Louis Brandeis, this Boston firm has stuck to its people-oriented roots. For a start, associates hailed how “a good work-life balance is a clear part of the culture.” Then there's the firm's refined size.With 138attorneys, Nutter promotes a “tight-knit working environment. Younger associates spend a lot of time together outside of work – we're an intimate family.” Only a handful of juniors join each year, and this select group are told that “the firm intends to make us partner some day. It's something the people of the firm care about. They invest in you and support you on that path from day one.”

But choosing employee-driven policies and a select class size doesn't mean the work's small-time. Nutter picks up strong rankings from Chambers USA in banking& finance, litigation and real estate, with further rankings in environment and labor & employment.

The Work

At the time of our calls, there were four junior associates in litigation, three in private client, two in IP, and one in both tax and corporate & transactions. In order to dish out work fairly, associates must complete weekly capacity reports to their department chair, “saying if you have space for more work, or if you're totally maxed out.” Associates are then assigned cases or deals. “But as time passes you tend to get work informally through partners you've worked with in the past.”

Litigation is Nutter's largest department, spanning business and commercial, product liability, environmental, IP, white-collar, and employment and labor litigation. “Though we're based exclusively in Boston, our client base isn't,” said one junior. “I'm working on cases that are Europe-based, Canada-based – all sorts.” Sources in this department were clear: “Doc review is a big part of any junior associate's life! I do about five 20-70 hour doc review projects a year.” However, associates got their hands on more complex tasks too: “I've done scheduling conferences and written motion arguments. If you've written the motion and helped prepare for it, you can go to court. You're involved fully in the case.”

The work in private client “is about collecting assets, doing estate tax returns, then a lot of estate planning, tax planning and foundation work.” Clients are typically “nonprofits, donor-advised funds, individuals and families. Clients stay with us their whole lives.” And, in a certain way, beyond it. “When a client dies, we'll help the family deal with their affairs, administer estates, make filings – we get everything squared up so that the family can deal with part of the grieving process administratively.” Associates were involved everywhere, “having all types of correspondence with clients, including personal meetings. You develop relationships with partners' clients and become a point of contact. You never have the same day twice.”

In the smaller departments, associates were keen to tell us they still felt like “an integral part of the firm.” Corporate & transactions associates begin their experience “doing any type of corporate work that needs to be done.” The department handles regulatory work, M&A, and banking and finance (including work with startups), so there's plenty to cover. Meanwhile, IP associates waxed lyrical about getting face-time with clients. “I like working with more sophisticated, diverse clients. Being in Boston our clients include large biopharma companies, research institutions and startups which have spun off those institutions.”

Pro Bono

“Nutter's history is rooted in pro bono work,” said associates. And it's true: co-founder Louis 'The People's Lawyer' Brandeis helped to start the pro bono tradition in the US. Flash forward 140-odd years and you'll still find that “Nutter takes pro bono very seriously. You can count unlimited pro bono hours toward your billable total.”

Nutter is heavily involved with the charity KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), which “represents undocumented minors to make sure they're not deported. The organization shares our office space, so we can walk over to them and ask questions. It's really convenient.” Associates are “encouraged to be proactive in bringing opportunities to the attention of the firm. Everyone's free to pursue whatever projects they're interested in.” And sure enough, during our research we heard about one pro bono pro (a junior associate) formulating a pro bono relationship with the New England based AIDS Action Committee.

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys: 7,490
  • Average per attorney: 53


Aside from the Boston office, Nutter has a much smaller office in Hyannis, though associates rarely visit. The HQ is found in Boston's seaport district, “a pretty trendy up-and-coming Boston neighborhood. There's construction everywhere and a ton of restaurants – seemingly every day a new building pops up! It's a great neighborhood to work in.”

“My office and the managing partner's are the same size.”

Attorneys' offices are the same size for everybody, from junior associates to the managing partner. “There’s no large corner offices for partners. My office and the managing partner's are the same size. The office is a physical manifestation of the attitude that we're all equal. It shows that they're putting a lot of faith and respect in you.” Still, partners do get one bonus. “They often have the water view, so they get that little perk!”


Many associates couched their experiences in terms of the Nutter 'family,' telling us: “Literally when you walk through the door, you get the sense of a family environment. Everyone's proud of and invested in the firm.” Unlike firms with legions of faceless associates, Nutter's compact size means “you get to know people very quickly. It's such a comfortable place to work – people appreciate your opinion from the beginning.” Another associate believed “it's not an environment where you should feel intimidated to talk to the big partner in their big chair. You can walk up to the managing partner and ask silly questions – I ask her about 20 questions a day!”

“People appreciate your opinion from the beginning.”

Like the best of families, Nutter ushers in the holidays together; the office conference center is furnished with decorations, and an open bar is provided. There's also an annual associate reception with “a band, beer and excellent food. It's only for associates, so you can let your guard down a little bit.” More regularly, free doughnuts (in the morning) and pizzas (in the evening) are distributed on Wednesdays these help to nudge associates over the midweek hump. “If you have to work late, you try and make it a Wednesday!” If that weren't enough, there are'Wine Down Thursdays' where the firm “sets out wine and cheese – we unwind and get ready for Friday.”


Associates found that “Nutter is an inclusive place, but the numbers don't reflect that. They do a good job with associate gender diversity, but racial diversity needs work.” Hiring chair Christopher Lindstrom tells us: “There is a great deal of progress that needs to be made – that's true for Boston as a whole and it's true for us. We place great emphasis in terms of hiring and hosting diversity and inclusion events, and working with the area law schools.” On that front, associates mentioned “a speaker series which works with local law schools, doing talks on topics affecting communities of color. We had the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Massachusetts speak!”

Another positive was the tenure of managing partner Deb Manus. “I take a sense of pride in knowing my firm has a female managing partner because it's so rare,” said one interviewee. “It's a badge of pride the firm wears.” However, one female partner doesn't tell the full story. “One of the issues is the amount of women at the equity partner level. There needs to be representation across the board.”

Training & Development

Associates' training begins with the aptly titled 'Nuts and Bolts' program: “Six or seven sessions on different topics – written discovery for example.” One source described how “as a junior associate you can feel like there's information overload, so breaking it down this way is really helpful.” Nevertheless, some associates felt that “there should be some more training to communicate the expectations for junior associates.”

“They think you'll become a partner.”

Meeting those expectations gained importance since “when the firm hires associates it's because they think you'll become a partner.” That opportunity is, of course, a massive positive. “They invest in every associate here,” was a common refrain, backed up by the firm's mentoring program. First years have partner and associate mentors, and second years, a partner mentor. “Me and my mentor went for lunch every month like clockwork,” said one junior, but many more found frequent everyday interactions with “aware and willing” partners just as valuable.

Hours & Compensation

Nutter's billable hours target is 1,900, plus an additional 100 hours of “firm commitment hours: networking, training and pro bono.” Interviewees agreed that “associates, and especially juniors, don't hit that target. You shouldn't feel stressed about that. If you do hit it, people are impressed. It's a big achievement.” The private client department regularly clocks in at7:30am – “our clients are older and they wake up early!” – but average hours among interviewees settled around 9am-6pm, with “people often logging in for a couple hours once they get home.”

To that end, associates spotted a “trend toward more flexible working.” On offer there's a policy to work one day a week from home, or an 80% reduced-hour schedule. “It doesn't impact your career – I know people have been elevated to partner while on an 80% schedule.” Interviewees continued to advocate Nutter's work-life balance by telling us: “Weekend work is very rare. In three years I’ve only worked two weekends.” The snag? A salary that dips below the $180,000 benchmark. But associates opined: “I understand we're not going to be at market – we chose to have a life outside of work.”

Strategy & Future

"We're always looking at our alignment to our economy and the world," says Nutter's managing partner Deborah Manus. "For example, we recently welcomed Seth Berman as a partner to lead our privacy and data security practice. There isn't a client anywhere that doesn't care about data privacy." Manus also points to recent growth in the firm's banking and financial services, IP litigation and real estate practices. With regard to the latter, Manus explains: "There is a tremendous amount of real estate development happening in Boston right now. The city is literally rising all around us. Our robust real estate practice covers all phases of permitting, financing, leasing and development."

Get Hired: Interview with Nutter's hiring chair Christopher Lindstrom

Chambers Associate:Why are Nutter's class sizes so small year in, year out?

Christopher Lindstrom: We want to make sure they can make a full career out of it here. The only way to do that is a small class where there's a legitimate opportunity for every associate to carry on not only for two, three, four years, but well beyond that. Having small classes also means we get to know each summer associate well and can give them a better opportunity to grow as attorneys. I think it really makes a difference when you're not using a pyramid structure for attorneys. There is a real opportunity to make partner down the road and it requires the firm to invest in attorneys. We want everyone to stay.

Even the youngest level of associate will want to invest in the firm if they think that they are going to be around for a while. They will want to make sure the firm's headed in a great direction and that the clients are happy. It's a two-way street of investment. Because the class size is small, there is a real opportunity to stick with the firm for a long time.

CA: And where do you look to find your small group of associates?

CL: It's really nationwide, focusing on top schools across the country. Obviously there is extra attention paid to the schools here in Boston. However, we also encourage students from across the country to submit the old-fashioned cover letter and resume and state why they want to come to Boston, and why Nutter specifically. It used to be that our exclusive focus was on OCIs, but that limits you as a firm and it's much better to extend a wider net. We hold OCIs at every Boston area school, and also place importance on write-ins. I personally read every single cover letter. In terms of the split of the class that's starting in 2018 – there are six summer associates and three are from the write-in process and three from OCI.

CA: When conducting interviews, whether from write-ins or on-campus, what are you looking for?

CL: Every interviewer has their own style – I have more of a conversational style. I'm looking for people who hold up a great conversation, with curiosity and intellect. In terms of standing out, especially for Nutter, it's important to say why they are interested in our firm specifically. We are making sure it's a genuine interest in long-term success here. Where do you see your career and why would Nutter be a good place in terms of benefiting that career?

CA:Once associates get to Nutter, what can they expect from your summer program?

CL: We try to give a true and accurate reflection of what it's like to be a young associate at the firm. Each summer associate splits his or her time between multiple departments. Even if associates come in here and say 'I want to do nothing but litigation,' we still require people to practice in at least two departments. At Nutter we want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to see as much as they can and gather as much information as they can before deciding where they want to take their career.

CA:What does the firm do to encourage diversity in its recruiting?

CL: We have amped up our diversity initiatives in the last few years. There is a focus both in terms of hiring on the lateral market and at the summer associate level. 

There is a great deal of progress that needs to be made – that's true for Boston as a whole and it's true for us. We place great emphasis in terms of hiring and hosting diversity and inclusion events, and working with the area law schools. We also have a diversity and inclusion committee within the firm to make sure we continue on the right track. It's a twofold approach.

Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP

Seaport West ,
155 Seaport Boulevard,
MA 02110-2604

  • Head Office: Boston, MA
  • Number of domestic offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $90 million
  • Partners (US): 79
  • Associates (US): 39
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Donna M Yergeau, Director of Legal Recruiting
  • Hiring partner: Christopher H Lindstrom
  • Diversity officers: Julia S Cosentino, David L. Ferrera, Co-Chairs, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 7
  • Clerking policy: Case-by-case
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
  • 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 6
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
  • Boston: 7
  • Summer salary 2018:
  • 1Ls: $1,500/week
  • 2Ls: $3,077/week
  • Split summers offered? No

Main areas of work

 Corporate and transactions, intellectual property, litigation, private client, real estate and tax.

Firm profile

 Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP has deep roots in Boston and a long-standing reputation for business savvy and pragmatism. Nutter advises clients across a wide range of industries, including life sciences, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, banking and financial services, real estate, energy, and technology. The firm regularly represents major US global corporations and financial institutions, research universities, high technology and emerging companies, investors, developers, foundations, and families that select Nutter for the quality of its lawyers and its depth as a multi-service firm. Nutter was co-founded by Louis D. Brandeis, who later became a renowned justice of the US Supreme Court. The founding partners’ rich legacy continues to inspire and set an example for the firm. Today Nutter upholds the same standard of focused dedication, innovation, and unwavering commitment to client service that they set over a century ago.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law, Harvard Law School, New England Law | Boston, Northeastern University School of Law, and Suffolk University

Law School Recruitment outside OCIs:
Job Fairs: Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair (diversity fair) and Patent Law Interview Program
Resume Drops: Top 20 Law Schools

Summer associate profile:
Strong academic record. Intelligent, enthusiastic, confident and results-oriented team players with demonstrated interpersonal and communication skills.

Summer program components:
Our approach to the summer experience at Nutter is to provide our summer associates with as complete and accurate a view of the firm and our practice as possible. Summer associates divide their ten weeks between two departments. For those who desire exposure to other areas, assignment coordinators endeavor to provide them with projects tailored to their individual interests. Each summer associate receives two formal reviews, one at midsummer and the other at the end of the program. These reviews are intended to provide the summer associate with guidance and are based upon written evaluations by supervising attorneys. We expect attorneys to provide individual, ongoing, informal feedback to summer associates and encourage summer associates to solicit feedback directly from attorneys. Each summer associate is assigned mentors, from each department to which he or she is assigned. By the end of the program, our goal is for summer associates to have a thorough understanding of our client-base and the work environment they will encounter as full-time associates.

Social media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @NutterLaw
Facebook: NutterLaw
Instagram: @NutterLaw
Linkedin: nutter-mcclennen-&-fish-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Corporate & Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)