Oh Melveny! This maestro has bucketloads of litigious kudos, a growing corporate practice and an assured desire to make it on its own...
“WE’RE operating at the very top of the market,” says chair Brad Butwin. “This includes doing high-profile litigation and trial work and we have worked on huge cases such as the AT&T-Time Warner/government antitrust matter and the Johnson & Johnson opioids cases.” O’Melveny is indeed known for its prowess in the litigation sphere, with this junior explaining that “the firm is an excellent place for someone interested in litigation, getting substantive experience and working with smart people.” O’Melveny’s jewel in the crown nationally is ERISA litigation, for which it earns a top Chambers USA ranking, but it also stands out for its insurance dispute resolution work. In its home state of California, O’Melveny picks up high praise for its litigious know-how in the areas of media & entertainment and white-collar crime & government investigations.
“We’re a Californian powerhouse and we’re litigation-heavy.”
There is a transactional/commercial side to O’Melveny too, as Butwin highlights: “We’re proud of our work in infrastructure, FinTech and sports law, as well as the IPOs we’ve handled in Hong Kong. We also do a lot of Hollywood deal making.” Clients on the latter side include media & entertainment hotshots like Paramount Pictures, CBS and Alibaba. One source gave us this handy aerial view: “We’re a Californian powerhouse and we’re litigation-heavy. We’re not a big corporate presence yet, but we have different practice groups in corporate that are recognized.” They pointed to the firm’s growing M&A, media and entertainment, and sports work on the East Coast. “Over the last three years,” noted one junior, “our brand and presence has grown even stronger in New York.”
The proof is of course in the financial pudding, and Butwin is pleased to report that “in 2019, we enjoyed record increases – we’re talking about a firm that started in 1885, so record growth really means something. 2019 was another strong year with a solid pipeline of new work.” 2019 also witnessed the breakdown of merger talks with one of London’s magic circle elite, Allen & Overy. Long speculated and discussed in the press, this potential merger would have been a significant transatlantic coupling. But, as we’re told, not much has changed amid the fallout, which again points to O’Melveny’s veritable standing: “I didn’t sense disappointment,” recalled a junior. “We were in a position of strength throughout, so the decision to let it go was fine. We’re doing well financially and as a brand, so nobody’s wallowing.”
Strategy & Future
“We’ve always played to our strengths,” Butwin explains, “and the aim is to invest more where we have a leadership position.” He cites growing market demands – in areas such as healthcare, life sciences, FinTech, transportation, and more – as providing “a strong connection to our existing client base and practices.” On the litigation side, O’Melveny’s busiest practices “have been high-stake trial work, investigations and restructurings,” while the firm’s corporate attorneys have been kept on their toes by a bustling mix of “infrastructure, middle-market M&A and technology work.”
At the time of our calls, the vast majority of the associates on our list were grouped in the firm’s California bases (LA, San Francisco, Century City, Silicon Valley and Newport Beach), with the rest located on the East Coast in DC or New York. “The firm has strengths and people distributed in a number of different places,” so naturally differences emerge between the offices. In DC, for example, the office’s “antitrust group is very strong,” as is its Congressional and government investigations capability. Century City, meanwhile, is “especially known for entertainment law,” while San Francisco sees “a high amount of IP and copyright work.”
For those in litigation, the first two years take on a generalist flavor. “I love the approach,” noted one source. “Specialization is essential long-term, and the firm makes it possible, but I’ve really welcomed the wide net.” Another declared: “I love that we don’t have to decide! I still haven’t decided and look forward to doing it at the last possible minute!” While more specialized routes were reported, most found their footing in a broader array of work. Corporate juniors had experienced a “new, evolving assignment system where first-years are unassigned.” Due to this, juniors had gained work via formal allocation, established working relationships, and by seeking out preferred opportunities themselves. “I personally don’t take the practice names as gospel,” one junior announced, “you can take anything on.”
“Because there are only so many associates, you can take on things on an accelerated scale.”
Litigation folks certainly took things on. The juniors we spoke with had worked on financial services, healthcare, ERISA, antitrust, white-collar matters and much more. In particular, interviewees noted “a lot of cutting-edge work and involvement in high-profile cases in the ERISA field.” They similarly raved about “doing marquee antitrust cases,”like the AT&T/Time Warner deal (see below). Some flagged how quickly they gained experience by taking a more specialized approach: “Because there are only so many associates, you can take on things on an accelerated scale. I was writing motions and preparing oral arguments within my first year.” Not only was this exposure common, elevated responsibility wasn’t exclusive to specialized routes either. Generalist juniors reported prepping and second-chairing depositions in False Claims Act cases; helping to draft motions to dismiss and summary judgment briefs; being “immersed” in prepping witnesses and opening/closing arguments. Juniors also emphasized their involvement in cross-border work: “I’m working on a real estate case in China and have a lot of contact with Hong Kong and Beijing. On a personal level, I feel it’s an intranational and transnational firm.”
Litigation clients: Johnson & Johnson, HBO, Kesha. Successfully defended AT&T and Time Warner’s $85.4 billion merger against antitrust claims made by the Department of Justice.
A similar tune was sung by our interviewees in corporate, who also had the opportunity to source a variety of work: “I really appreciate that you’re never pigeonholed or forced into one role – if you do good work they’ll allow you to explore.” A robust blend of M&A, capital markets, corporate finance, restructuring, and debt finance kept juniors busy. As with litigation, compact team sizes enhanced exposure: “There’s the typical due diligence, contracts, closing checklists etc... But when there are opportunities to do initial drafts, ancillary deal documents, board resolutions, and consents, we’re really thrown in at an early stage.”Associates drew our attention to the growth they’d witnessed in the practice: “It’s an evolving group for us, with a mixture of deal sizes – not necessarily a billion dollars, but we recently represented an investment adviser being bought by a larger adviser in the couple hundred-million-dollar range.”
Corporate ‘umbrella’ clients: Merrill Lynch & Co, American Honda Finance Corporation, Bank of America. Continues to represent the Government of Puerto Rico during the US territory’s restructuring, valued at around $70 billion in funded debt alone.
When asked about the long-term, juniors tended to share the same view: O’Melveny or bust. “There are several lifers here,” one junior stated, “and lots of people lateral in because they recognize that the culture here is desirable.” Another went further: “If I were to pursue the path of partnership, it would be this one. I can’t see myself anywhere else.” For those with partnership on their mind, the firm has a video series detailing what the path looks like, its time frame, and how to succeed. “It’s a place that fosters longevity: they give you all the opportunities, so you don’t want to leave.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900 target
In part, a healthy work/life balance helps foster this longevity: “I think you have certain busier periods but there’s flexibility. When you have really busy periods, people understand that you’re not working crazy hours for the next few months,” this source explained. Another added: “People seek us out because of the work/life balance and the friendly reputation precedes us – it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.” So how good is good? On average, juniors described between 45 and 50 hours as a “typical, solid week.” Yet this is still BigLaw we’re talking about, and hourly demands can be tough: “There’s a decent number of 60ish hour weeks and occasionally some get up to around 80.” But, thankfully, “they’re few and far between.”
“…people seek us out because of the work/life balance and the friendly reputation precedes us.”
With big demands, concessions ought to follow – at O’Melveny they certainly did, much to our sources’ delight: “The firm is really flexible about working from home and flexible hours!” Day-to-day, things again vary: “Corporate is interesting as there are weeks driven by the banks and clients. Some days I restart my computer because I don’t think it’s working as I don’t get emails, then other days I’m swamped!” Juniors viewed the 1,900-hour annual target for bonus eligibility to be achievable. In addition, “it’s transparent regarding bonuses. In fact, we got a voicemail yesterday telling us what the bonus will be for this year.” Amounts are worked out “entirely by class year, with a slight adjustment based on hours and quality of work.”
Sources also commended the firm’s approach to pro bono. “People take it seriously and all hours count toward our billables. Sometimes I feel I’m getting too many emails and they’re all so tempting, but I just haven’t got the time!” Juniors informed us that the firm “sets a requirement, which is loosely used but strongly advises us to do 20 hours of pro bono each year.” However, we heard of sources doing 100 hours and more. Opportunities-wise, it’s a case of take your pick: immigration, asylum, housing, reproductive rights and transgender name change matters were among the many good causes we heard attorneys devoting their time to. “I’ve worked on one four-year matter with millions of dollars of firm commitment. That speaks to the firm’s values,” declared one source. Even juniors in corporate – an area traditionally less synonymous with pro bono – found work readily available; they’d drafted court memos and consent letters and contributed to restructuring cases.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 71,508
- Average per US attorney: 114.5
Despite geographic distance, a common experience rung true across the country. “A lot of the culture is determined by leadership and that has historically come from California,” one junior ruminated. We don’t want to overstate the Californian flair, but sources generally felt that the expectations at O’Melveny were more reasonable, more... well, Californian. One junior explained: “I don’t see a lot of unnecessary challenges with people. Everyone works and socializes cooperatively, and expectations are never crazy or unreasonable.” This source neatly summed up their feelings: “I’d have a terrible time at another firm.” Interviewees also pointed to the “business casual culture,” the fact that “people apologize for intruding on weekends,” and regular opportunities to socialize in and out of the office as evidence of this ‘better than elsewhere’ atmosphere. We heard of juniors enjoying a sensible drink after work, having lunches, dinners, and attending sports games together.
Diversity & Inclusion
Juniors collectively noted an “awareness that BigLaw has a diversity issue,” and that the firm “is very frank about recognizing it. No one shies away from conversations.” Both associates and chair Butwin pointed to the make-up of recent partnership classes as evidence of change being made at the top. "We’re laser focused on our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Butwin confirms. “The last five years have seen our percentage of female partners grow from 16% to 23%.” He also draws attention to how “nearly 70% of women who’ve been promoted in the last six years have spent all or the majority of their careers here.” Coupled with greater gender parity, associates highlighted an intentional shift in recruitment efforts. The recent introduction of Pymetrics – a tool which uses neuroscience and AI to blind-test candidates – was also welcomed: “The introduction of this makes sure there’s no bias in the recruitment process.” Socioeconomic and cultural diversity was also celebrated: “I’ve never felt that your name or background determines your success here.” Juniors pointed to many well-attended affinity group events and initiatives, which they felt helped to bolster an inclusive workplace.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
O’Melveny recruited at over 30 schools last year; the firm also attend job fairs as well as accepting applicants through resume collections. Written-in applicants are also accepted. Balance is also sought, with O’Melveny attorneys recruiting from a wide range of top national schools and more regional schools “that are important to our individual offices.” The number of attorneys attending each school varies, as does the number of students seen at each school. Two attorneys – of varying seniority, practice areas, and experience levels - usually conduct each interview, with the firm also striving to include alumni interviewers.
Through a broad range of questions aiming to accommodate difference, interviewers are also encouraged to ask behavioural questions, “to allow us to get to know each candidate,” and their strengths. This stage also allows for students to learn about the firm, including “our distinctive culture, cutting-edge client work, commitment to pro bono, and thoughtful approach to diversity, inclusion, and wellbeing.” Behavioural questions – such as “’Tell me about a successful team effort and why the team was effective’” – allow for students to demonstrate how they might handle a situation. Beyond academic achievement, O’Melveny are looking for enthusiasm for the firm, extracurricular activities (like journal work and moot court), prior work experience, and “candidates with a diverse set of experiences.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Students stand out for a variety of reasons. One thing they all have in common, however, is a keen interest in O’Melveny—our practices, our culture, our attorneys. We want our future summer associates to be enthusiastic about us and help us understand why they think O’Melveny will be a successful place to begin their legal career.”- O’Melveny hiring source.
The firm tells us the callback interviews are a “deeper dive into getting to know the candidate.” As such, students generally meet several attorneys during their callback interview. Alongside a variety of practice areas and expertise, O’Melveny often include members of the local office Employment Committee, including the Hiring Partner. Be prepared to clearly demonstrate their difference. The firm want to hear from students about their “interest in O’Melveny, why they went to law school, their writing experiences and skills,” occasions when challenges were overcome, or leadership positions assumed, as well as indication of community involvement – whether “student organisations, community services groups, or volunteer organisations.” The firm also offers attorney one-on-one writing coaching sessions with a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
O’Melveny continue to use Pymetrics during the recruitment process in order to reduce implicit bias in the hiring process. “By assessing candidates’ social, cognitive, and emotional traits,” the firm tells us, “Pymetrics provides an objective data point for us to consider along with resumes, grades, and interviewer feedback.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Our attorneys appreciate candidates who are prepared with questions about the firm, our practices, and our summer program. We are also particularly impressed with excellent writing skills as they are critical to every lawyer’s professional development. Writing is a craft that we continue to hone throughout our careers. We encourage students to seek out opportunities that enable them to improve their writing skills, including joining a journal or participating in moot court.”– O’Melveny hiring source
Over the ten-week program, summer associates witness “an inside look at what it is like to practice at O’Melveny.” As such, summers work on “major cases and deals,” support ongoing pro bono matters, business development, and “join in social events to get to know our attorneys.” Alongside experiential training highlights – such as Advocacy Institute or Mock Deal Program – summer associates can accompany lawyers to deal closings, client meetings, depositions, and court appearances. The firm also often hosts cross-office training programs, with those located near one another flitting between bases for specific training – such as brief writing training in New York, or oral advocacy arguments given in DC. Summers receive work through formal allocation systems, and have formalised midsummer and final reviews to “help our summer associates make the most of their experiences.”
Beyond “hard work,” frivolity’s also there to be found. A wide smattering of social events allows for summer associates to “engage with partners and associates through a variety of social activities such as sporting events, dinners, trips to theme parks, and more.” The firm tells us that Broadway Shows in New York, Disneyland Ditch Day in Southern California, and “cheering on the Giants in a luxury suite in the Bay Area,” as highlights were noting.
Top tips for this stage:
“Successful summer associates do great work and make an effort to get to know our attorneys and staff. Our summer class sizes allow summer associates to build a rewarding career and create lasting connections with each other and with the attorneys and staff in each office. Summer associates are able to tackle new challenges while feeling appreciated, included, and supported.”– O’Melveny hiring source
The firm express pride that “the vast majority of our summer associates return to the firm as junior associates. Generally, practice group assignments are made after two years at the firm and is based on a variety of factors including the interests of the junior associate and business needs of the firm.
Career Development & Culture
“The partners you work with are invested in seeing you develop, which makes sense for them!” one junior noted. “I’ve been really impressed by the folks at mid-level – as well as senior associates – for taking an educational attitude towards working with me; it’s the gift you can’t really repay.” Juniors pointed to firmwide and practice-specific training sessions as further evidence of this educational approach. While sometimes “tough to attend when you’re busy,” sources noted that the training opportunities are there, such as ‘Litigation: The O’Melveny Way’; annual training academies; and on-demand video training on how to take witness interviews, for example. Sources noted how the firm is receptive to feedback: “When I first started there wasn’t a lot of corporate training, but we raised that, and they rolled out a bunch for us.” Like most things, practical experience is key: “The real training comes live when you’re staffed on cases.” Juniors also pointed to how the lean team sizes create a learning environment: “The firm informally cultivates skills and leadership elements to help you grow. The teams are staffed leanly so I get a lot of feedback that way, too.”
We quickly gathered that O’Melveny associates are a happy bunch from our interviewees. “The attorneys here are kind, down to earth, serious about the work but not serious about themselves. There are high expectations in terms of work product, time and energy, but the attorneys are generous with their own time and are rooting for you. There’s not a culture of putting people down to succeed.” Another source got straight to the point: “I think the culture here is as good as it gets.” Superlatives abounded in subsequent conversations we had, with this interviewee gushing: “I enjoy my coworkers a great deal. I immediately got the sense that the people are intelligent and laid back. People enjoy what they do. The collegiality is incredibly impressive to me.” It appears something’s in the O’Melveny water.
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
400 South Hope Street,
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 8
- Worldwide revenue: $835.3million
- Partners (US): 208
- Associates (US): 451
- Main recruitment contact: Tina Metis
- Hiring partner: Jeeho Lee
- Diversity officer: Mary Ellen Connerty
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 65
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020:
- 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 58, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 6
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office:
- Century City: 10, Los Angeles: 13, Newport Beach: 7, New York: 11, San Francisco: 9, Silicon Valley: 4, Washington, DC: 11
- Summer salary 2020:
- 1Ls: $3,700/week
- 2Ls: $3,700/week
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
For a complete listing of our client services and locations, visit omm.com
Berkeley, Brooklyn, Chapman, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Davis, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Hastings, Howard, Lavender Law, Loyola, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Santa Clara, Southwestern, Stanford, UCI, UCLA, University of Washington, USC, UVA, Yale.
Recruitment outside OCIs: We aim to strike a balance between recruiting at national schools and regional schools within our various markets. We also participate in diversity career fairs and initiatives, such as Lavender Law and veteran recruiting events. We connect with a variety of law student organizations for speaking engagements, networking events, and sponsorships.
Summer associate profile: We look for candidates who are enthusiastic about O’Melveny and want to dedicate themselves to our values. We consider a variety of criteria when making hiring decisions. We consider candidates who we believe will be well suited based on interests, personality, and credentials. We also look for high academic achievement, extracurricular activities like journal work and moot court, prior professional work experience, and candidates with a diverse set of experiences.
Summer program components: Our summer program offers an inside look at what it is like to practice at O’Melveny. Our summer associates work on major cases and deals, support ongoing pro bono matters, participate in targeted training and development programs, and join in social events to get to know our attorneys. Experiential training includes our Advocacy Institute, Mock Deal Program, and opportunities to accompany O’Melveny lawyers to deal closings, client meetings, depositions, and court appearances. In addition to hard work, we ensure our summer associates have the opportunity to engage with partners and associates through a variety of social activities such as sporting events, dinners, trips to theme parks, and more. Our work coordination system ensures our summers are exposed to a variety of practice areas, attorneys, and types of work. Partner and associate mentors, ongoing feedback, and a midsummer and final review help our summer associates make the most of their experiences.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 3)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
California: Los Angeles & Surrounds
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 2)
- Appellate Law (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- ERISA Litigation (Band 1)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 2)
- International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 3)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 4)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 4)
- Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
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