“The culture is the biggest selling point” at this “hip, litigation-leaning firm based in California.”
Trying to find a firm that combines the perks of working at the pinnacle of legal practice, with a culture that avoids the worst qualities of operating at that level, can feel like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Interviewees at Los Angeles-HQ’d O’Melveny were adamant that they’d done just that. “The culture is the biggest selling point,” one declared, adding that “working at O’Melveny, it really feels like you have people in your corner.” Another weighed in: “Culture is something the firm is very committed to nurturing, and if anybody threatens to disrupt it, that is taken very seriously.”
Claiming the title of LA’s oldest law firm, OMM works from seven offices in the States and eight more overseas, including the major Asian economic centers of Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. “This really is one firm worldwide,” an associate told us. “I work with other offices on a daily basis, pollinating the work we do – it adds a different dynamic to your workload.” The vast majority of juniors on our list were in the firm’s California bases (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Century City and Newport Beach), with the rest on the East Coast in DC or New York.
“…the image of the hip litigation shop in California.”
“The firm has cultivated the image of the hip litigation firm based in California for itself,” another interviewee observed. Chambers USAcertainly recognizes O’Melveny’s disputes prowess, handing it Cali rankings for commercial, securities, media & entertainment and white-collar litigation as well as antitrust. The firm also earns a top spot nationwide for ERISA litigation (surrounding minimum standards for pension plans). Not to be outshined, sources in transactional groups were eager to point out that “the firm has an incredibly strong corporate practice too.” Chairman Brad Butwin told us in 2020 that infrastructure, middle-market M&A and tech work have been prominent recently; the firm also earns rankings for banking and capital markets.
Juniors painted O’Melveny as a firm “focused on investing in people, rather than strictly fulfilling business needs. Whatever direction you want to go in, they will support you.” Incoming litigation associates “get free rein to explore different practice areas” and are encouraged to opt into one group after their third year. In corporate, “you enter a big unassigned pool and meet with a work coordinator twice a month. They collect an idea of our interests and the people we want to work with.” Corporate juniors pick their group of choice at the end of their third year (second year in New York), “after which work assignment becomes more free-market.” Across the firm, sources appreciated the flexibility in the early going: “As a first-year with little experience, the ability to try different areas is very valuable.”
“You could be working with a team of 100 or just three.”
“There are so many different groups you can declare into under the litigation umbrella,” Los Angeles juniors declared. “The firm is very understanding that people coming out of law school probably don’t know the differences between a securities and financial services case, so they encourage you to explore as many areas as possible.” Other options include general commercial, class action and employment disputes. Century City is a hotspot for entertainment work, while DC leans more toward antitrust. Some of the firm’s most high-profile cases have included defending the legality of AT&T and Time Warner’s $85.4 billion merger and representing Exxon Mobil after the Valdez oil spill. “You could be working with a team of 100 or just three,” insiders told us. One junior with experience working on an arbitration recalled: “I helped draft the pre-hearing motions and objections to deposition requests. I also worked with an expert witness to draft the expert report and attended hearings for over a week – there’s never a want for intellectual stimulation!”
Litigation clients: 20th Century Fox, Madison Square Garden, Skechers. Represented HBO in litigation brought by the Estate of Michael Jackson regarding the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland.
M&A, capital markets, debt finance, restructuring and financial services are some of the groups on offer in corporate at O’Melveny. Clients come from the varied worlds of technology, entertainment and media, energy, infrastructure, finance and consumer sectors. “As a junior you’re typically responsible for deal management,” one source explained. “That means helping to advance deal closings and supporting the partner with administrative tasks.” Those we spoke to also got plenty of chances to brush up on their drafting skills in the form of ancillary deal documents, board resolutions and merger agreements. The financial services squad “does both company- and lender-side representation for loans. There’s also a large restructuring practice in New York which we support.”
Transactional clients: Bank of America, Centrus Energy, Warner Bros. Represented YETI and certain pre-IPO stockholders in two underwritten secondary public offerings of common stock totaling $618.3 million in value.
Our interviewees told us “there is a big emphasis on slotting you into the right place” among O’Melveny’s practice groups. “Everyone is investing in you and wants you to stay.” Many had forged connections with informal mentors who “will reach out to make sure you have enough work.” O’Melveny offers juniors access to “an overwhelming amount of training resources covering topics ranging from deposition strategy and managing the discovery process to drafting an answer to a complaint.”
“Everyone is investing in you and wants you to stay.”
The firm also provides “multiple formal mentorship avenues” that juniors can tap into. Part one: all associates are assigned a partner mentor upon joining the firm, “and they regularly take you to lunch to check on you.” Insiders saw the efforts to retain associates paying off: “The people making partner are the ones who have been at O’Melveny since they were summer associates. It’s a tribute to the culture they carefully shepherd.” We heard reports of juniors moving to in-house positions by midlevel, although most were confident in their assertion that “people rarely leave to go to another firm.”
“The people here are just really kind,” interviewees agreed. “They care about your career and personal development, and it’s become a self-perpetuating thing that’s passed down year from year.” We asked one to give us a real-world example: “When I helped a midlevel associate with a difficult piece of work, they then made the effort to showcase my input to the partner. That’s something I will strive to do myself in the future.”
Others noted that “everyone has high emotional intelligence and it shows in the way we treat each other.For example,if I was to go away on vacation and flagged the dates to my team, they would do everything they could so that I get the opportunity to completely switch off.” O’Melveny deployed “extra efforts to help everyone feel connected during the COVID-19 pandemic,” including additional mentoring circles and access to 24/7 counseling. “The entire agenda of the last associate council focused on wellness, with an emphasis on everyone taking vacation days,” a source divulged.
Diversity & Inclusion
Convinced of O’Melveny’s commitment to diversity in recruitment, a junior told us “they’re not looking to hand out scholarships just so that they can stick that person on marketing materials. They put in the effort to pair individuals up with mentors with relatable experiences.” As well as recently introduced Pymetrics game-based tools to blind-test candidates using neuroscience and AI, the firm also has a dedicated Racial Justice Committee to help tackle implicit bias. This group also helps coordinate the firm’s pro bono initiatives and organizes charitable donations.
“They’re not looking to hand out scholarships just so that they can stick that person on marketing materials.”
Juniors applauded the firm’s affinity groups for “going above and beyond to address issues. Meetings often have a substantive impact on the firm.” One gave us some more info about their group: “It’s one of the best things about the firm because it’s largely associate-run. We do meetings without partners, allowing us to have honest conversations – they’re not moderating everything we’re saying.” Another provided the context for how affinity groups powered change at O’Melveny: “We found attorneys of color weren't promoting themselves in the self-reports we all do at work as much as other attorneys.” The issue was particularly important to address as “self-reports are factored into your bonus and compensations. As soon as we brought it to partners’ attention, they immediately organized external training.” The firm confirmed that self-advocacy training was rolled out around the time of annual performance reviews following requests from associates.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900 target
The emphasis is very much on the word ‘target’ here: O’Melveny juniors told us “the firm understands that things happen, and you might not always meet 1,900 – it’s not a hard and fast rule.” This may be a slightly lower goal than at some firms, but associates aren’t removed from the reality of working late and on the weekend. “What makes it sustainable is the people you work with,” one reasoned. “If you need to collaborate with people who are rude and have unreasonable expectations then it can become unbearable; but working with people who are understanding of normal life circumstances makes those higher hours doable.” 40–50 hours a week tends to be the O’Melveny average, though this can tip to 60 and even higher at crunch periods. The firm does consider the 1,900-hour goal when determining associates’ bonus eligibility, as well as quality of work, firm citizenship efforts such as committee work, recruitment activities, and business development.
“Working with people who are understanding of normal life circumstances makes those higher hours doable.”
In keeping with OMM’s progressive image, our insiders confirmed that “pro bono is taken very seriously. There’s an appreciation that cases provide excellent experience for junior associates which will pay off when we apply what we’ve learned to fee-paying clients.” Associates can bill an unlimited number of hours and are “strongly encouraged to do at least 20 to 50,” interviewees told us. Those we chatted to had taken full advantage of the opportunities, with some billing in excess of 400 hours. “I was worried that I would receive a tap on the shoulder questioning why I had billed so much, but nobody said anything,” one confirmed. O’Melveny’s pro bono work spans immigration, asylum, housing, reproductive rights and transgender name change matters; the firm partners with organizations including KIND, Human Rights First, Bet Tzedek, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, CAIR Coalition, and Sanctuary for Families.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 99,062
- Average per US attorney: 157
Strategy & Future
Looking ahead to a rosier, post-pandemic future, our interviewees identified New York as a potential center of growth. “O’Melveny is interested in attracting people there and building out the firm’s transactional practice areas,” they explained. Merger talks with UK legal giant Allen & Overy spluttered out in 2019, but that doesn’t seem to have done any damage: OMM posted $835 million in revenue for the second year running in 2020, despite court closures impacting the litigation-leaning firm. In additional good news, disputes is a growth practice area across the legal market heading into 2021…
“…building out the firm’s transactional practice areas.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
O’Melveny recruited at over 30 schools last year; the firm also attends job fairs and accept applications through resume collections and direct submissions. O’Melveny recruits from a range of top national schools and more regional schools “that are important to our individual offices.” The number of attorneys interviewing at each school varies, as does the number of students. Two attorneys – of varying seniority, practice areas, and experience levels - usually conduct each interview, with the firm striving to include alumni from that law school in the interview process.
Through a broad range of questions aiming to accommodate differences, interviewers are encouraged to ask 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.” 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 is 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 includes members of the local office employment committee, including the hiring partner. Students should be prepared to clearly demonstrate what differentiates them from other candidates. The firm wants 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.”
O’Melveny also uses a software tool called Pymetrics 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
During the summer 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, 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 participate in deal closings, client meetings, depositions, and court appearances. The firm also hosts cross-office training programs– such as brief writing and oral advocacy arguments. 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,” fun and opportunities to connect with colleagues are also to be found. A smattering of social events allows for summer associates to “engage with partners and associates through a variety of social activities.” Past highlights include cooking events and paint nights.
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 are based on a variety of factors including the interests of the junior associate and business needs of the firm.
Interview with Bradley J. Butwin, chair of O’Melveny
Chambers Associate:Despite the pandemic, the firm has had a very successful year. What has underpinned that success?
Bradley Butwin: It’s our unmatched culture. There are many great law firms, but I don’t know of another firm that lives its values the way we do, or comprises as many people who have each other’s backs. We proved that in 2020 under the most difficult circumstances.
Despite the courts being closed and having 13 trials delayed last year, we have managed to achieve another record year financially, which is the sixth straight. We now have over 40 trials scheduled for 2021 and beyond, and our litigation group is continuing to make history tackling high-profile cases. For example, we serve as national coordinating counsel for Johnson & Johnson in more than 3,000 opioid lawsuits nationwide. Chubb turned to us for help taking on multiple US class actions and individual cases stemming from the pandemic. As massive pandemic-related, business-interruption claims threatened to drown the insurance industry, we successfully argued against the consolidation of COVID-19 business-interruption coverage cases against Chubb and 32 other insurers. And in doing so, we stifled the policyholders’ efforts to centralize over 130 actions against multiple insurers. Reuters said that the decision allowed the insurance industry to avoid “what could have been one the most consequential MDLs in US litigation history.” Our corporate department has also had a banner year. For example, we have continued to represent the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in its $100 billion debt restructuring – the largest municipal restructuring in US history. We handled nearly a dozen Hong Kong IPOs and secondary listings, including RemeGen’s US$588 million IPO – the world’s largest biopharma IPO of 2020. And we navigated new territory with SportsTek’s US$150 million upsized IPO. This Oklahoma-based special purpose acquisition company – or SPAC – will focus on targets in sports and related industries, such as franchises, media, and data analytics.
Overall, I don’t recall a busier time for the firm.
CA: Which practice areas has the firm identified for growth?
BB: Our 2021 plan calls for more of what has worked for us and our clients, rather than planting new flags. We are prioritising three main areas: our institutional client relationships; our market leading practice areas; and our collaborative culture, which includes being a leader in diversity and inclusion.
Moving forward, our focus is going to be on doing even more work for existing clients. We are judicious about the number of lateral partners we bring in as it is important to preserve our culture and quality, and we only want to pursue strategic growth in practice areas and locations that will allow us to better service our clients. For example, we want to expand our London offering, not only in terms of lateral partner hires, but in the organic hiring of associates too.
CA:Many of our interviewees singled out the firm’s culture for acclaim. What are the foundations of this culture?
BB: Our culture creates enormous cohesion and we are proud to earn many top accolades for it. It’s a culture that encourages diverse thought and innovation and is underpinned by the belief that there is a higher calling that comes with being a lawyer. Unfortunately, I think that many large corporate law firms lose a sense of why people go into the profession in the first place. However, we believe in the importance of pro bono work, not only in terms of the impact it can have on people’s lives, but also in its ability to make our associates better lawyers.
CA:Would you accept the label of the firm as liberal?
BB: The firm is not liberal or conservative, and as a firm we don’t take political positions. However, through pro bono, we do take a progressive stance on many issues, such as immigration and racial justice. A number of people who have worked at the firm have also joined the government in high-profile positions. For example, Lisa Monaco has been nominated to serve as Deputy Attorney General in the Biden Administration and Ron Klain is currently serving as Chief of Staff to President Biden.
CA: Does the firm have any set targets with regards to diversity? What policies are in place/what new policies is the firm implementing to ensure that the firm meets these targets?
BB: This is not something that’s the new flavor of the month for us. It’s something that has always been critical, and I believe that we all benefit when more of our colleagues have opportunities to take on management responsibilities. Over the past year, we have intensified efforts to diversify our leadership ranks and I think the numbers speak for themselves:
- 27% of our equity partners are women, up 16% from 5 years ago.
- 50% of our 2021 partner class were women or people of color, the sixth straight year that our new partner class has been at least 50% diverse.
- 50% of our department heads are diverse.
- 46% of our policy committee is diverse.
- 67% of our hiring partners are diverse.
- And in 2021, 85 % of my senior leadership appointees were diverse.
Those numbers are the result of years of mentoring, sponsoring, and platforming efforts.
We also have a highly engaged Racial Justice Committee, which is focused on soliciting a range of viewpoints throughout the firm and identifying a concrete course action to address systemic racism. I also helped found the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance that helps address systemic racist laws in areas such as education, policy, and homelessness.
CA: Do you expect the Biden administration to have a significant impact on business?
BB: It’s still early days and the new administration has placed an emphasis on vaccinating the nation and bringing back the economy. Infrastructure also looks set to be a top priority, with a major focus on clean tech and increased regulation generally – that all plays to our strengths and bodes well for O’Melveny. We have one of the strongest healthcare practices in the market. Our project development & real estate partners are in the thick of some of the nation’s largest infrastructure projects. Our restructuring practice could not be busier. Our energy practice has its hands full with clean tech deals in wind, solar, battery technology, and sustainable energy. And as the federal agencies and Congress ramp up activity, our financial services, antitrust, labor & employment, product liability, and white-collar lawyers will be ready.
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
400 South Hope Street,
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 8
- Worldwide revenue: $835.1 million
- Partners (US): 192
- Associates (US): 401
- Main recruitment contact: Tina Metis
- Hiring partner: Jeeho Lee
- Diversity officer: Mary Ellen Connerty
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 71
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021:
- 1Ls: 10, 2Ls: 48
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office:
- Century City: 10, Los Angeles: 13, Newport Beach: 5, New York: 11, San Francisco: 6, Silicon Valley: 4, Washington, DC: 7
- Summer salary 2021:
- 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, Chapman, Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Hastings, Howard, Loyola, Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Rutgers, Santa Clara, Stanford, UCI, UCLA, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, University of Texas, Washington University, 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 Bay Area Diversity Career Fair and veteran recruiting events. We connect with a variety of law student organizations to host presentations, 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 attend 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, cooking and art classes, trivia nights 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, 2021
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 5)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (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 2)
- Tax (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 2)
- Appellate Law (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- 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: The Elite (Band 3)
- Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
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