"There's a mentality that we have to be the best and do the best. And we need people who can sprint with us.”
PAUL Hastings is a big international legal brand with strategic bases in the world's economic hubs. Once a Californian firm, Paul Hastings' identity has shifted as it has grown: New York has emerged as the firm's largest office and the natural epicenter for its global network. Although the Cali factor can be felt in some top clients – Disney, Google, Blizzard – several others – Goldman Sachs, United Airlines – signal the firm's eastward trajectory. The culture, too, is decidedly un-Californian and quite "fast-paced," said one LA associate. "They have extremely high expectations." As one associate put it: “You're playing with the Dodgers! There's a mentality that we have to be the best and do the best. And we need people who can sprint with us.”
In a firm that likes to be always on the move, lawyers only get to stand still when using their standup desks – "I stand 80% of the day!” The forward-looking environment, the glass walls filling the place with sunlight "and all that fancy stuff – I love it!" associates told us.
The firm's go-getting attitude shows in the Chambers USA rankings it hauls in by the dozen. In Chicago, Texas and Georgia, Paul Hastings is recognized mainly for its corporate, finance and real estate work. In DC, California and New York, a much more diverse array of practices win applause: IP; antitrust; media & entertainment; Latin American investment; and environment to name a few. Nationwide and globally, the firm receives acclaim for its labor & employment practice.
The biggest groups for junior associates to join are litigation and corporate, followed closely by employment and real estate. The smallest group on offer is tax, which welcomes just a few juniors each year. Although “you're encouraged to bounce around,” once associates have a foot in the door they're able to pursue assignments and build a practice in specific areas.Work allocation is office and group-specific: one NYC associate told us, “Most of my work flows through the staffing partner.” Whereas an LA source told us, “It's a free market system – it's doled out fairly informally.”
“I just turned off The Today Show because one of our plaintiffs is being interviewed!”
Corporate subgroups available include M&A, private equity, investment management, project finance, and private investment funds. The work spans from “the usual banks work” to multibillion tech supply transactions. Across all groups juniors told us, “In the beginning it started out with a lot of typical rote junior work; due diligence, drafting smaller items, research assignments, marking up documents.” But this soon developed into “pretty substantial work. Once on a relatively small M&A matter, I was mostly driving the deal. I was doing most of the drafting, correspondence and driving the closing.”
Litigation encompasses subgroups such as white-collar investigations, IP, securities, and general commercial. “It can get more specialized in NYC or LA,” one associate from a smaller office told us, “here we're all in the general pool, we're not pigeon-holed because of our geographic location.” Associates wanted to tell us about something called 'good doc review': “It's not just doc review, it's a lot more engaging. My actual tasks are digging through emails, chronology of events, and control failures. It's doc review where you're putting together facts – it's been a lot of my work and I've loved it.” As well as that, juniors can expect to work on interview outlines, sit in on interviews, do some drafting of trial preparation documents and respond to subpoenas and requests for discovery.
The employment juniors are mostly based in California. The group is “the flagship department of the firm and it's super well known.” Clients include companies in technology, entertainment and the service industry, and cases are frequently discrimination-based. “The caliber of work we get is unique," thought one associate. "Two of our cases right now are in the news. I just turned off The Today Show because one of our plaintiffs is being interviewed!” As for the work, “we do a lot of motion writing for summary judgment, drafting deposition outlines, responding to discovery. Sometimes we even do witness interviews.”
There's an expectation that associates will bill at least 25 pro bono hours, with an overall goal of 75 hours, but there's an unlimited amount of pro bono hours that can be billed: “They're very honest about wanting you to do pro bono.” Work is handed out by local pro bono coordinators in each office.
"...a great way to develop skills and get your foot in the door."
“There are a lot of opportunities to work on very cool pro bono matters.” Juniors work with organizations such as the Innocence Project, Kids in Need of Defense, Sanctuary for Families, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Homeless Advocacy Project. There's also the opportunity to advocate for criminal justice reform, “drafting amicus briefs for hot topic social issues before the Supreme Court.” And for developing your own career at Paul Hastings, “pro bono is a great way to develop skills and get your foot in the door with a partner you may want to work with in the future.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
Training & Feedback
After a two-week orientation that's “a bit repetitive,” first-years will go to the (almost unpronounceable?) 'PHThrive', “a three-day workshop in Chicago for all first-years to meet each other and get the basic skills; interfacing with clients, firm policies, and also sessions on group-specific training.” Anyone who's trained at Paul Hastings will know the firm plays on its PH acronym with gusto – "we have a lot of quirky names!” The overall training program gets the catchy acronym PH DNA (Paul Hastings Developing New Associates). Many agreed that the best thing about these initial sessions is making new 'PHriends': “While the training programs are slightly helpful, the main purpose is to meet everyone and do some inter-firm networking. That part I did really appreciate.”
“You get to see these more advanced stages of the case.”
Although the coaching program has no PH-based acronym, sadly, it does “help us a lot," concurred associates. "Our coaches took us to lunch on the first day and I'm still in contact with my coach all the time.” Associates are given 150 hours of budget relief where for the first twelve months you can bill for work and not bill the client; “it's a good way to ask partners you don't work with, 'Hey, can I come in and sit on this call with you?' You get to see these more advanced stages of the case that give you a perspective of what the overall goal is.”
Culture & Offices
The Big Apple base is Paul Hastings' largest office, followed by LA and Washington, DC. The firm's other offices also take juniors in varying numbers: Atlanta, Chicago, Orange County, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Diego and Houston. As one associate put it: “It's hard to describe the culture of the whole firm at all. The culture differs office to office, department to department, floor to floor.”
The New York office is above Grand Central Station, so “you can avoid the weather and go straight up!” In NY associates agreed, “I think the LA-ness seeps into our office – it's more laid back than other firms around here!” On each floor there are two PlayStations; “it demonstrates the culture here – on a Friday afternoon you can just go and pick up a controller and relax.”
In DC, associates told us “everything else is on an informal level, but I wouldn’t say we're super social. Most people have families and a life outside the company and people tend to respect that.” Another told us, “In a nutshell, the culture's best characterized as mutual respect.” An associate from another smaller office told us, “We're relaxed – NY is buttoned up in suits every day, but here were have our jeans on!”
“The culture differs office to office, department to department, floor to floor.”
The LA office is in the very center of Bunker Hill in downtown LA. Despite what the Manhattan associates think about their Cali cousins' lifestyle, we were told, “LA can be super busy. It's very fast-paced.” This pace is set by the partners: “They're the rainmakers of the firm. They have extremely high expectations and it creates a pretty intense atmosphere. There's a sort of warrior culture – a mentality of 'if you can't take it, you're not good enough'.”
Associates in New York spend their first two years in an open-plan interior working area known as the 'In-Zone,' though “some people call it the bullpen!” Thoughts about this were mixed: “I like it for the opportunity to collaborate with other people.” Others said, “The downside is that it's distracting – you can't make private phone calls from your desk, you have to go to the designated phone booth.” One associate told us, “I have to look through a partner's office just to see outside!“
Once you're in the third year, you get your own office. The firm's smaller offices have been open-plan glass for quite some time, but the bigger bases have been adapting to this layout in recent years. “There's a lack of private space. The way you relax when you get into your own office and close the door, that doesn’t exist.” Though people did in general praise that “I get sunlight basically all day and the views are great. We can see the sunset every day.”
Associates agreed that “in terms of gender, it's great. Something I noticed when I first got here is how many senior people are women.” However, associates would “like to see more racial diversity.” Associates expressed a general consensus that “the firm tries really hard to take diversity very seriously.” Those natty acronyms get a resurgence in diversity initiatives: there are several PHANs (Paul Hastings Affinity Networks) for minority attorneys and staff, as well as their allies. “The women's PHAN is probably the most active. They have a program where you can go to lunch with female partner as a mentor opportunity.” PHANs put on seminars that get broadcast to all offices of the firm; “recently a managing counsel at McDonald’s told us about how when he's looking for lawyers, he always picks the only diverse person. It was really interesting.”
Hours & Compensation
“That's how it is on the books, but that's not how it is," an associate told us on the firm's policy of unlimited vacation. "On the one hand no one tells you not to take it, but at the same time any vacation has such a massive impact on everyone else it's hard to take. Every time I try to take vacation, it's ended up having to fall through.” We heard were told of an associate who “was on vacation with their family and a partner just said, 'I'm flying you back early,' and brought them back.”
"There's an expectation that you'll be broadly available."
Reassuringly, we came across few associates who'd pulled many all-nighters – in most offices and departments, “generally by 7 it's mostly empty” and people head home to finish up anything which couldn't wait. “That said, there's an expectation that you'll be broadly available. There’s never a time at night you just shut off or stop responding or working.”
Weekend work depends on the case. While one source said, “I billed 12 hours this weekend and 18 last weekend," that was the upper end, and most people we spoke to billed about half a day each weekend. As such. our sources had no problems meeting the 2,000 billable hours mark: “It's not like some sort of do-or-die cutoff. They don't judge you by your hours because you don't have control over your hours.”
Managing partner Greg Nitzkowski recognizes that this end of the legal profession is a "stressful job driven by demands of clients which are frequently unreasonable and hard to contain within day hours." Nitzkowski told us about the firm's investment in mobile working tools to ease the pressure. "I've never liked the 'life balance' moniker – to me it's about 'life flexibility.' We should have all the tools that provide people with that flexibility."
Candidates need to be able to “express an interest in why they want to be in this particular department in BigLaw in general” and demonstrate that they’re “good with time management and working long hours.” However, equally important is the personality match. Associates involved in hiring told us that they’re looking for “someone I'd want to be working with late at night, someone you want to be in the trenches with.” The Paul Hastings personality type “tends to be somewhat extroverted, wanting to socialize, wanting to go to happy hours – though that's definitely not universal!”
Associates reckoned prior work experience “can only be a plus” for candidates to demonstrate these kind of attributes, but for many newbies Paul Hastings is “their first real job. We come from all over the board.”
One associate with recruiting experience expressed a preference for seeing “strong demonstrations of writing ability. I also like people with practice on things like mooting or journal editing.” However it's no good just saying you have the experience. Another source pointed out: “If something is on a resume, I will ask about it – people need to be able to articulate everything on there. It's also important to me that they're able to discuss a legal issue they've worked on.”
What else are recruiters on the hunt for? “I'm looking for the kind of traits that show inquisitiveness,” one junior told us. One way to illustrate a curious mind can be “doing your homework and arriving ready to ask specific questions about the firm,” which has the added benefit of allowing you to interview Paul Hastings. As we're so often told by recruiters, fit is important. One key thing the firm looks for is what it calls 'achievement drive', reflecting its entrepreneurial culture.
While you're trying to work out if Paul Hastings suits you, its recruiters have a few things they look for when trying to assess if you fit them. “People here don't take themselves too seriously – if you want somewhere with that atmosphere then look elsewhere. We're laid back” and keen to “preserve the culture we have and promote our environment. You need to be able to work as a team and take feedback.” Another interviewee elaborated: “If I could give just one piece of advice to candidates, it's that they need to have really demonstrated a willingness to learn and develop their career and are on a path to improvement and bettering themselves.”
Interview with managing partner Greg Nitzkowski
Chambers Associate: You recently brought in Robert Silvers from the Department of Homeland Security into your white-collar investigations practice. What were the motivations behind the hire?
Greg Nitzkowski: So we've brought Rob Silversin from Homeland Security – I don't think we could have anticipated how busy he'd be coming out of the box of the Obama administration! The nature of data breaches relating to privacy concerns tie into traditional notions of laws in practice, but they really test us in ways that are somewhat novel. When a company is accused of bribery or something, the whole focus in the legal regime is 'what do we do to make sure that doesn't happen again?' But here, the companies are victims as well. People are struggling with the legal regime which deals with that.
Even with the disarray in Congress across parties, there's a sense of primacy of people's personal financial privacy. That's been a big change in scenario that we're invested in.
It's an interesting look at a developing area of practice speciality. My guess is we'll have a lot more associates focused on that area – class actions, internal investigations practice. White-collar is one of our core practices.
CA: Where does the firm plan to be investing?
GN: Mobility – we're investing enormous amounts in mobility. Although we think lawyers will collect communally in a place, more and more flexibility about where and how they're working is present. Does it matter that you're not in the office for a week and a half? Not as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing! We want to have the integrated mobile tools that allow people the utmost flexibility. That trend will intensify and it's already starting to transform the nature of the space.
Part of our design standard, the office of the future concept, which we like a lot – we think it's responsive to that. It's a stressful job driven by demands of clients which are frequently unreasonable and hard to contain within day hours. I've never liked the 'life balance' moniker, to me it's about 'life flexibility'. We should have all the tools that provide people with that flexibility.
CA: How would you define Paul Hastings' core practices?
GN: Certainly M&A and private equity, they're core to us. As are investigations and white-collar and IP on the litigation side. On the patent litigation side, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and technology are our core focuses.
It's funny – we're still identified as having strong employment law roots. We used to be real estate, employment law and finance. Our employment law practice doesn't do single-plaintiff cases, we do big, strategic matters. We have one of the largest employment law practices in a US top-20 firm.
However, employment was about 40% of the practice when I joined, but it's about 15% now, so it hasn't grown proportionally. It's bigger and more strategic, it's a highly ranked practice and justifiably so. It's one we're proud of as it gets more and more specialized.
It's a great practice for us, it's one of our most changed practices over time – when we look at long-term strategy, it'll be more focused on the highest-value aspects of employment work. You'll see us in the press, highly associated with Google in the fallout from the engineer who wrote that memo – it's a really high-level problem and required strategic advice, which included him being let go from Google. That's the kind of stuff that's super high-profile, along with big class action work.
Paul Hastings LLP
515 South Flower Street,
- Largest Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 11
- Worldwide revenue: $1,118,100,000
- Partners (US): 232
- Counsel (US): 58
- Associates (US): 469
- Main recruitment contact: Cynthia Hasson, Director, Talent Acquisition
- Hiring partners: Talent Advisory Council
- Diversity manager: Karlie Ilaria
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 59
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 82
- 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 75
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: $3,500
- 2Ls: $3,500
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? In special cases, we may offer the opportunity to spend two weeks in one of our offices in Asia. The summer associate must have the appropriate language skills.
Main areas of work
At Paul Hastings, we are committed to the professional development and career aspirations of our associates. We hire great people and provide them with opportunities to broaden their skills from day one.
Berkeley, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, Georgia, Georgetown, GW, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Santa Clara, Stanford, UC Hastings, University of Houston, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, University of San Diego, University of Texas, UVA, Vanderbilt, Yale.
Recruitment outside of OCIs:
Paul Hastings provides numerous opportunities for students to connect with our lawyers throughout the year. We sponsor student groups, host panels and events on campus and may also offer informational interviews.
Summer associate profile:
At Paul Hastings, it’s smart business to build diverse teams rich in talent, experiences, and creativity. We seek students who exemplify the hallmarks of successful Paul Hastings associates: innovative, strong communication skills, achievement drive, interpersonal savvy, client service excellence and ability to be collaborative team members. Students should be committed to work for a dynamic and entrepreneurial law firm on complex legal matters across practices and offices to help our clients overcome challenges and move their business forward. Law students with outstanding academic credentials, superior writing skills, law review, journal or Moot Court membership are preferred.
Summer program components:
Our summer program serves as a cornerstone for the recruitment of outstanding associates and the future success of our firm. We are fully committed to the professional development and advancement of each summer associate. Summer associates are given substantive and challenging work with a variety of lawyers and a realistic view of practicing law at Paul Hastings. Our summer associates observe and, when possible, assist in trials, hearings, depositions and negotiations, and participate in client meetings and closings. Summer associates can also expect exceptional training and development in a collaborative work environment.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment Recognised Practitioner
- Media & Entertainment: Regulatory Recognised Practitioner
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite Recognised Practitioner
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Latin American Investment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 3)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
- Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Climate Change (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- FCPA (Band 3)
- Gaming & Licensing Recognised Practitioner
- International Arbitration Recognised Practitioner
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions Recognised Practitioner
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation Recognised Practitioner
- Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)