This California firm-gone-global has a fascinating media client roster and a predominantly litigation-focused practice.
GOOGLE, Disney, Paramount, Sony Music, Warner Bros., Fleetwood Mac, Kesha. What BigLaw firm can claim such an impressive list of famous clients? O'Melveny, that's who. This firm acts for household-name sporting, media, and individual clients, as well as more usual BigLaw corporate and banking clients. At the time of writing, the firm spanned three continents with 15 offices (seven domestic, eight international). But its footprint could be changing soon: as of spring 2019 it was still in long-running merger talks with UK international heavyweight Allen & Overy, one of London's elite 'magic circle' corporate and banking firms. The merger could be one of the biggest transatlantic tie-ups ever. So if you're looking for a firm which offers glitz and glamor plus a little magic, look no further!
“Californian through and through.”
O'Melveny has a heavy presence in California with five offices here, including its HQ in Los Angeles. In the Golden State Chambers USA hands out strong rankings to O'Melveny's antitrust, litigation, tax, and media & entertainment practices, and nationwide the firm receives its highest commendations for ERISA litigation and antitrust. While the firm is Chambers-ranked for both transactional and disputes work, it's notable that the overwhelming majority of its Chambers USA rankings come in litigation-related fields and that roughly four in five juniors are litigators.
In addition, while the firm has national and global reach we heard that in terms of culture O'Melveny is “Californian through and through” and “a West Coast firm that still has its West Coast vibe.” This means a “laid-back” and “tight-knit” atmosphere influences the entire network. Keep reading to find out more.
At the time of our research roughly two-thirds of juniors were based in California, with LA and San Francisco having most rookies, followed by Century City, Newport Beach, and Silicon Valley. The remaining third of associates were split fairly evenly between New York and Washington DC. We also noticed that at the time of our calls all second and third-year associates in both DC and Newport Beach were litigators.
For their first two or three years all associates are either corporate or litigation generalists. "We are unassigned so can take assignments from anyone,” one junior said. “After your second year you're asked if you want to declare a subgroup. And by the end of your third year, you're expected to pick one.” A work coordinator is on hand in each office, but associates can also find work more informally through relationships with senior lawyers. We heard from a junior litigator that their department "has a work coordinator who you can reach out to if you're slow," while a corporate junior said their experience was a little different: “Litigation has a good system for getting work from formal coordinators, but because corporate is a much smaller group no one really uses the system, so work assignment is organic, with people asking your availability.”
"We are unassigned so can take assignments from anyone.”
At the time of our research around 80% of second and third-year associates were litigators. The practice covers healthcare, life sciences, white-collar investigations, antitrust, product liability, sports, media, entertainment, and more. “For the first couple of years, you get a chance to work with anyone in the subgroups,” we heard. So, to specialize or not to specialize? For one source, healthcare was the name of the game from the start with their work focusing on “internal investigations and life sciences kickback statutes. That's not for a want of opportunity to go other ways, but simply because it was my intention coming in and going forward.” For others, a more varied approach found favor. “Before I started they asked for three groups we'd be interested in," one source reported. "I selected antitrust, white-collar, and product liability. Within three weeks, I was working on a matter in each of those subgroups.” We heard that “the downtown LA office is a microcosm” of the firm as a whole, doing a whole mix of work, while “Century City has more entertainment matters.” Meanwhile New York has a lot more “securities and financial services litigation.” We also heard about antitrust and white-collar work in DC. Across offices and subgroups, “there's a classic amount of unavoidable doc review when first starting out, but after that I had some great hands-on writing experience,” one source shared. “There's a good balance of fact investigation and writing first drafts of client updates and motions.” Associates also reported giving client presentations, conducting witness interviews, and drafting portions of briefs.
Litigation clients: Disney, Time Warner, and La Liga. Represented Twentieth Century Fox in its dispute with Netflix following allegations Netflix unlawfully targeted and recruited top Fox executives.
Like their litigation counterparts, corporate rookies experience "a very general practice for their first couple of years.” There is scope for specialization – for instance, in an area like tax – but those who like the idea of being a corporate generalist will be happy here, as the early years are all about “trying various practice groups.” Our sources got their hands on a mix of M&A, capital markets, corporate finance, restructuring, and debt finance. For one source, where their first year was all about “diligence and scheduling,” by their third year they were “running the closing and doing first drafts of a main debt document.” We also heard there's scope for international work. “I worked with our Hong Kongoffice drafting sections of registration statements," one source reported. "I went to all the drafting sessions with all the back and forth with the stock exchange.”
Corporate clients: UBS, Bank of America, and Fannie Mae. Advised the Puerto Rican government while it was on the brink of a severe fiscal crisis on a monumental restructuring.
Interviewees agreed there's "a definite emphasis on associate development," with "office-specific training when you first come on board," followed by a Leadership Academy in LA, with "various training activities, lectures, and stuff showcasing our resources." One source informed us the academy is "more an introduction to the organization and firm life than a ton of substantive training," but added that “it's great for building connections and relations.” In addition, "there's a running list of training classes" which juniors can attend alongside their work, including talks from practice heads and outside experts.
“We have an upward review every two years."
Each new junior is assigned an associate and partner mentor, and informal support is also common. “The main partner I work for is always there for me," one junior said. "They let me run at my own pace but also push me to run faster because it'll be good for me.” The firm also offers juniors a chance to have their feelings heard. “We have an upward review every two years when associates get to review partners and counsel," one source reported. "It's completely confidential and from what I understand the reviews are taken into account.” On the note of partnership, while associates confirmed there were “guiding rubrics” and a new “video series on the path to partnership to improve transparency,” interviewees saw their time at the firm as being about gaining experience and finding their feet rather than making it to the top. “I'm not in the dark,” joked one source, “but I'm trying to survive as an associate rather than making my way to partner.”
Hours & Compensation
As in previous years, associates told us that there was some ambiguity about the firm's billing target. 1,900 hours appeared to be the figure most agreed on, however: “We've all had 1,900 in our mind, but I think the bonus eligibility is a bit fuzzy.” Recognizing this fuzziness, the firm seems to have taken steps to color in the gray areas. "They've told us that if you're over 1,900 you're guaranteed a bonus, and if you're under, business development and citizenship hours will be looked at and judged accordingly.” A merit-based bonus is also up for grabs for “people who really exceed the target or give a significant contribution beyond hours.” As we prepared the guide for print O'Melveny formalized its 1,900 hour target, so there should be no uncertainty from our interviewees next year!
“There are a few months throughout the year when I'm working all the damn time.”
With all this in mind, the target still felt very achievable for our interviewees. “It's nice that the billable standard is relatively low,” suggested one source, “but it doesn't reflect what people are genuinely putting in.” So what are people putting in? For one New York source, “when in the thick of things, the busiest week I've had was 85 hours.” For another in San Fran, the pattern seemed to be regular irregularity. “There are a few months throughout the year when I'm working all the damn time," they told us frankly. "Then there are two or three months when I feel like I'm not billing anything and stay with my parents for the week because I'm not busy. Then the rest of the time my hours are generally good.” Some of our interviewees were early birds ("I get in at 8am then leave at 5pm or 6pm"), while others preferred a later start ("typically 9:30am or 10am, and then I head home between 6pm and 7pm"). In both cases sources reported that they work from home in the evening when needed, and that weekend work is common but not invasive.
Juniors spend a significant amount of time on pro bono. "We are really dedicated to it!” one source exclaimed. Everyone is expected to do at least 20 hours – partners, associates and counsel – and “every hour is counted as billable.” Several of our interviewees had done over 100 hours. “A pro bono counsel acts as a gatekeeper coordinating the matters we participate in," a junior told us, "but if there's a cause that's come to your attention, you can raise it.” As such we heard about associates involved in immigration and social security cases, and even a police shooting. Sources also said working across offices on pro bono is common, with one San Francisco junior working with people from DC “on a national matter.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 67,448
- Average per US attorney: 107
Perhaps because O'Melveny “likes to push the whole 'one firm' thing,” we heard that “this is a firm that has been able to retain its Californian culture,” meaning it has “a pretty laid-back culture across the firm – I've visited and worked in various offices and they don't feel different at all." Asked for examples of what constitutes a laid-back culture, sources variously pointed to the "business casual dress code," the fact the firm is "open to people working from home," that "face time's quite flexible," and that "we like to have fun and have a laugh, and enjoy talking to each other on an everyday basis." We also heard that across offices “people are excited to see their colleagues outside work.”
"We like to have fun and have a laugh."
Drilling down further a few differences between offices did emerge. For example, those in New York are “jealous of friends in offices like in San Francisco,because they wear jeans all week.” Equally, “the number of people creates different dynamics in a smaller office” like Century City.
Diversity & Inclusion
Interviewees reported “there's a concerted effort" to improve diversity, saying there's still work to be done given "we're doing about the same as the industry as a whole.” As examples of the firm's efforts, they pointed to the LA diversity academy for attorneys of color and LGBTQ individuals and the introduction of a new recruitment tool called Pymetrics, which uses neuroscience and AI “to cast the net as wide as possible” and open up the hiring process through a series of blind and inclusive tests. There are also affinity groups – "the LGBT groups are pretty active" – which organize events like happy hours and cinema trips, “which are probably the best-attended events at the firm.”
Strategy & Future
O'Melveny's merger talks with Allen & Overy have been widely reported, and the tie-up would mark one of the most significant transatlantic law firm mergers in years – perhaps ever. But surprisingly our interviewees felt that at their level “not a lot would change day to day” if the merger goes ahead. They were more interested in other changes and the fact “the firm is constantly thinking about how law firms are run and trying to do things better.” For example, in LA it recently hired a former journalist as a writing coach to help lawyers “refine the craft.” Thinking more broadly our sources said they felt “the litigation practice will continue to be strong and shows no sign of slowing down.” They also anticipated that the firm will continue to do more cross-office work, allowing it “to be less parochial.” A transatlantic merger would certainly push the firm in that direction!
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
400 South Hope Street,
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 8
- Worldwide revenue: $800.6 million
- Partners (US): 208
- Associates (US): 451
- Main recruitment contact: Tina Metis
- Hiring partner: Allen Burton
- Diversity officer: Mary Ellen Connerty
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 65
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 58, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 6
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 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 2019:
- 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, 2019
- 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 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
California: Los Angeles & Surrounds
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 2)
- Appellate Law (Band 4)
- 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)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)
- Sports Law (Band 3)