Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP - The Inside View

Litigation is at the core of this small but mighty Big Apple hotshot, where a cozy cohort and plenty of partner interaction means associates get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and that’s exactly the maxim that Patterson Belknap has stuck to. Not only has the firm stayed true to its NYC hometown for over a century (sticking to just the one office in Midtown Manhattan), it has also continued to keep up its long-standing reputation in litigation. And, to this day, Patterson’s litigation practice continues to draw new associates to the firm, one of whom was happy to tell us, “a main thing I wanted at the beginning of my career was substantive litigation experience at a powerhouse litigation shop. Litigation is the engine at Patterson, and I wanted to be part of it.” Another area that piqued newbies’ interest was the longevity of the firm: “I got the feeling they were willing to invest in me. I knew they could train me to be a good-natured and experienced lawyer.” 

“Litigation is the engine at Patterson, and I wanted to be part of it.” 

The firm also has also collected its fair share of rankings over the years, including a top-notch nationwide advertising litigation ranking from Chambers USA. In New York, meanwhile, the firm is awarded for its work in securities litigation. The Chambers High Net Worth guide has also recognized the firm’s art and cultural property law practice for four years running. So, with such a spread of top practices, a smaller cohort and a Manhattan base, newbies here found that “you’re more likely to get your hands on BigLaw litigation than juniors at other, larger firms in the area.” 

So, the litigation group took on the lion’s share of associates on our list, with a much smaller number working in the corporate department. However, it's worth noting that most new hires at Patterson are taken on laterally or through judicial clerkships. Whilst the firm does still hire smaller numbers from law schools, sources were clear that most have clerking experience. However, the current cohort offered a word of advice: “If you are coming from law school, don’t feel daunted by a lack of clerkship experience. Give it a chance!” 

Strategy & Future 

According to juniors, geographical growth isn’t a key focus for the firm: “I don’t think we want to grow the size of our offices or open new ones. From what I see, the firm wants to have a consistent number of lawyers to maintain the Patterson Belknap culture. We wouldn’t be the same if there were 200 to 400 of us.” Instead, sources explained that the firm is building on what it knows best. For example, the firm recently expanded its white collar defense and investigations group with the addition of former federal prosecutor Robert J Cleary. What’s more, Patterson recently promoted two partners in the tax-exempt organization group, further strengthening the firm’s work with charities and other nonprofit institutions. Six associates were also promoted to counsel across the firm’s litigation practice. 

The Work 

Work allocation is centralized across the firm, so much so that newbies are assigned a billable and a pro bono matter to get the ball rolling upon joining the firm. Patterson has an assigning partner in each department, as well as a pro bono partner, and a business services employee who monitor assignments and work distribution and “try to take requests into account to make sure people have the work that they want to do.” Partners are expected to go through the centralized system even if they are particularly eager to work with a certain junior, meaning “you can still go around and chat to people to get the work you want.” 

“The litigation group is what Patterson is known for,” a source boasted, and its wide spread of subgroups definitely adds to this reputation. Though not an exhaustive list, the group works on disputes in securities, real estate, IP, advertising and white collar investigations. Typical clients can be found in the pharmaceutical, banking, and food and beverage industries. As one interviewee explained: “With the type of work we get involved in, clients will need specialists and we can expect that matters will go to court.” A subgroup that got some extra love here was the false advertising group. A junior who got their hands on this type of work explained how “my role is to look into local rules and procedural requirements to advise partners on next steps.” 

Despite being the firm’s largest group, interviewees explained that “there are significantly fewer juniors than senior associates and partners. That means the type of work we do and the responsibilities we have are different from others in the area.” Typical day-to-day life can include discovery and legal research, but some lucky newbies had managed to get involved in depositions. For example, as one insider gushed: “I took on a substantive role in a deposition at the beginning of my time here!” Other expectations of a junior litigator include interviewing witnesses, attacking first drafts of documents and talking to opposing counsel. 

Litigation clients: Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, The Hershey Company. Represented Coca Cola in a class action lawsuit regarding the marketing of its single-use plastic bottles. 

“We receive a stipend each year to take law school friends to drinks and dinner…” 

Career Development 

Associates are matched with an onboarding partner or counsel, and an associate mentor upon arrival. As one source detailed: “They helped guide me through the beginning and answered any questions I had.” Newbies also join mentoring circles which are “a mix of associates, partners and counsel, and meet quarterly as a touchpoint for juniors who need advice.” Another collaborative development opportunity offered at the firm is a business development budget. According to one associate, “we receive a stipend each year to take law school friends to drinks and dinner so we can maintain relationships for the future.” 

Patterson also holds 'nuts and bolts' training sessions for associates in litigation. “The firm does a lot of litigation work, so they want good litigators,” a junior noted. “The sessions run through different parts of the litigation process. Even though it’s rare to see a case all the way through from the beginning, the sessions give us a snapshot so that, when the time comes, we’ll know what we’re doing.” Another interviewee was keen to highlight an industry-focused training session on AI and its legal implications and ethical risks. What’s more, the firm has a writing coach who comes into the office once a week to hold a writing workshop. Associates can snap up a meeting with the coach for feedback and, according to those who have utilized this, “we work up some writing examples to see what I could be doing to become a better writer, and it’s been so useful.” 

“It’s a small place, so you’re not just a nameless face in the crowd.” 


Size really does matter at this firm. After all, as one junior boasted, “it’s a small place, so you’re not just a nameless face in the crowd.” Because of this, the cohort generally felt that the firm is interested in their development: “Patterson preserves its old-school firm culture where people are professionals and train the younger generation to make sure that they are well-rounded lawyers.” More generally, alongside the greater exposure, sources were also impressed at the firm’s intentional hiring, noting how “everyone is competent and intelligent.” Even the slightly pessimistic newbies were pleasantly surprised: “I was skeptical about what associates were saying about how great it is, but I really am shocked at how accurate it’s been. The firm’s reputation of having good people precedes itself.”

In terms of its social life, the firm hosts firmwide 'teas' to welcome people to the firm, and drinks if an associate leaves. There are also various recruiting events, and interviewees mentioned a recent clerk recruitment event hosted at a sushi restaurant to introduce potential new recruits to the firm – that’s certainly one way to fish for new connections! That being said, an associate appreciated how “we do fewer happy hours as we’ve got a lot of young parents here and lawyers who live further away. People respect your time here so you aren’t expected to drink every night.” Adding to this, associates are expected in the office three days a week under the current hybrid working policy, with Wednesday set as a firmwide anchor day. Our junior sources reaped the benefits of this system as “you get to see people and can have some good corridor chats.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

The firm’s affinity groups received praise for their positive effect on the juniors who had connected with the communities: “The affinity groups I’m part of are great at giving you informal networking opportunities.” There are nine groups at the firm for Asian and Pacific Islander lawyers, black lawyers, Latin lawyers, LGBTQ+ lawyers (called 'Out at Patterson'), parents, attorneys of color, South Asian and Middle Eastern lawyers, veterans, and women lawyers. Insiders explained how these groups “help you speak to people about how to navigate the firm and give you resources to help you really thrive.” For example, associates had made the most of recent events headed by these groups, including an LGBTQ+ law student event and a speaker session for Black History Month. 

More generally, sources pointed to the firm’s size as a factor affecting diverse recruitment and retention at Patterson. As one interviewee raised, “the firm is smaller compared to other huge New York firms who may have more resources and internalized initiatives.” However, associates couldn’t dismiss the firm’s efforts in trying to improve on this front, noting that “it’s placing emphasis on the importance of having diverse voices in the room from a variety of schools and backgrounds.” Representation at the associate level was described as fairly diverse, particularly when it comes to the number of women at the firm. However, as is the case across BigLaw, interviewees still felt that Patterson has a way to go, but were reassured by the recent hire of Chief Diversity Officer Kito Huggins.

“Patterson does some big impact pro bono work.” 

Pro Bono 

“Pro bono seems to be a big deal here, and that was one of the main reasons as to why I joined,” exclaimed one pro bono regular. In particular, the firm’s involvement in public interest work was said to be at the firm’s core, with multiple shoutouts going to recent work done with Florida voters and on the legalities of restrictive diverse voting. However, we heard that typical pro bono matters for associates might include immigration, social security and criminal appeals. “When I was researching the firm, I read about a pro bono matter where the firm represented a mosque that was facing racial prejudice, and the firm continues to care about matters like that,” an interviewee reflected. To sum it up, “Patterson does some big impact pro bono work.” 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 24,000 
  • Average per (US) attorney: 114 

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,850 target (2,100 overall target) 

To break it down like Step Up, associates can count 1,850 hours out of their 2,100 total target as billable work. The remaining 250 hours include things like pro bono, professional development, business development, and firm citizenship activities. Another 50 is set aside for DE&I participation. In the past year, interviewees explained that fewer associates received their bonus due to the nature of the market. In such cases, sources advised that “you have to be proactive in tracking your hours. If you’re having a slow week, you have to ask for work to make sure you get that bonus.” When it comes to taking time off, juniors felt the squeeze and noted that “the numbers look crunched” but, nonetheless, still found it “very manageable.”  

The majority of interviewees reckoned that an average working week would see them working around 45 to 55 hours. “In my experience, most people come into the office at around 9 and then leave at 7, but some associates leave early to go home, have dinner with their kids and then log back on later,” a source noted. Others reported that late nights were a rarity but, when they do occur, “it’s last-minute stuff that needs to be responded to, so the partners are apologetic and clarify the exact reason why they need me.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed in 2021/2022 academic year: Undisclosed

Patterson Belknap focuses their OCI and first year recruiting efforts on the East Coast, but also “strongly encourage and regularly receive” applications from candidates throughout the US. H. Gregory Baker, partner in the firm’s litigation department explained: “As a firm with a single office, we’re interested in students who want to be in New York..”

The screening interviews are usually conducted by a partner or a member of the firm’s Talent team.  Given the interviews last around 20 minutes only, “we try to get a sense of the candidate as an individual and legal thinker to see if they’re a fit,” which means “intellectually curious, engaging, collaborative people who want early responsibility and are highly motivated to solve complex legal problems,” said Baker.

Top tips for this stage: “Be prepared to talk about a legal issue you have worked on.  And of course, we like to hear why you are interested in Patterson Belknap in particular!” Litigation Partner and Chair of Securities Litigation H. Gregory Baker.


This stage sees candidates meet with five partners or counsel and two associates, plus a member of the Talent team. Candidates are asked to speak about a legal issue from their resume, summer internship or law school classes: “We ask questions to determine intellectual ability and enthusiasm for litigation and whether they are prepared to take early responsibility for their matters,” explained Baker.

Throughout the process, Patterson ensures candidates are given the opportunity to connect with associates: “We find that our associates are often the most valuable resource for prospective candidates, so we make every effort to ensure candidates have the opportunity to speak with associates during the formal interview process,” explained Baker.

Top tips for this stage: “Ask questions that demonstrate you have thought about our firm and our clients. Show that you are motivated to work hard, think independently, and take ownership of your work.” H. Gregory Baker.

And finally…

"Be yourself and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions!”

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP

1133 Avenue of the Americas,
New York,
NY 10036

Main areas of work

 Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler delivers a full range of services centered around litigation and disputes, corporate and transactions, and the legal needs of tax-exempt organizations and private clients. We have deep and varied litigation and appellate experience in the areas of commercial law; intellectual property (patent, anti-counterfeiting, trademark and copyright); false advertising and class action litigation; employment; law firm defense; privacy & data security; product liability; securities; structured finance; and white collar defense and investigations. We also offer a unique transactional and counselling practice that includes corporate; tax; employee benefits; trust and estates; as well as a leading tax-exempt organizations practice.

Our clients include a diverse group of institutions and individuals including major pharmaceutical and medical device companies; media and publishing empires; household name consumer products companies; leading financial institutions; galleries and museums; and various private foundations and charities. We have a global client base ranging from foreign companies seeking to transact business on U.S. stock exchanges to U.S. companies doing business abroad.

Firm profile

 Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler is a firm of approximately 200 lawyers based in New York City. Our practice is global, and dedication to our people and to our clients makes us the choice of many admired institutions and attracts exceptional talent to our firm. Patterson Belknap is regularly included among the The American Lawyer’s A-list of the 20 elite law firms in the United States. We have also consistently ranked at or near the top of The American Lawyer’s annual pro bono survey. Since 2004, 100% of our lawyers have participated in pro bono projects every year.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
Columbia, Fordham, Harvard, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Yale

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Patterson Belknap hires lateral attorneys in all departments, as well as litigation associates directly from judicial clerkships.

Diversity Fellowship for Judicial Clerks:
Embedding and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the firm and throughout the legal profession is a core component of Patterson Belknap’s identity and guides our practice of the law and delivery of exceptional client service. We endeavor to foster a strong and supportive culture where all our talent can thrive, succeed, and experience true belonging and career fulfilment. We continually challenge and confront the unconscious biases and behaviors, as well as remove other barriers which could hinder or undermine our efforts to cultivate inclusion.

To that end, the Patterson Belknap Diversity Fellowship may be awarded to qualified applicants who matriculate as judicial law clerks and whose career accomplishments and passions demonstrate a longstanding commitment to justice. The Fellowship takes the form of a payment of $40,000 to selected applicants, payable in two installments: $20,000 paid on the applicant’s first day of employment and an additional $20,000 paid upon the applicant’s one-year employment anniversary, provided the applicant is still an associate in good standing at the firm. This $40,000 is in addition to the applicable bonus provided to lawyers joining the firm following their clerkships.

Social media

Recruitment website:
LinkedIn: patterson-belknap-webb-&-tyler-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 4)
    • Securities: Institutional Plaintiffs: Mainly RMBS Litigation (Band 1)
    • Advertising: Litigation (Band 1)

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