Paul Hastings LLP - The Inside View

This go-getting international brand is hastening its way toward a golden, global future.

WE never focus on the golden past,” says managing partner Greg Nitzkowski. “We’ve been moving northward for 20 years, so our future always looks more golden than our past.” In the late '90s Paul Hastings was perhaps best known for its labor and employment practice, which dates back to the firm’s founding in 1951. Nowadays that specialty remains exceptionally strong, but the firm’s other practices have grown up around it, making today’s picture a much more varied one. Litigation and corporate are the firm’s largest groups, and a plethora of Chambers USA rankings reflects what’s on offer. Nationally, its work in leisure and hospitality, corporate/M&A, real estate and labor and employment law stands out on top.

Paul Hastings added to that variety in early 2018 by opening a Century City office focused on media and entertainment law. The firm has 11 offices in the US – and just as many overseas. Half of these are clustered in Europe, the other half in Southeast Asia – there’s also a São Paulo office which opened in 2016. Six of the firm’s domestic offices are concentrated on the West Coast, forming a line from San Francisco through LA and down to San Diego. The remainder are spread more sparsely between New York, DC, Chicago, Atlanta and Houston. This attracted associates for whom “a lack of international presence was a dealbreaker,” but beyond the accolades and offices: “I wanted to make sure the firm had an emphasis on ‘soft’ areas like diversity and mentorship structures.” That’s a tricky business in BigLaw, for sure, and Paul Hastings' juniors (especially in employment) don't get the easiest ride work-wise, but several juniors thought it struck the right note: “When I emailed the managing partner of my office, they responded and included details they’d read in my resume. That personal touch shot the firm to the top of my list.”

Strategy & Future

We want to continue to move toward being in the top 15 firms in the world,” says Nitzkowski. Consecutive years of growth have the firm headed in the right direction, but Paul Hastings was listed as being the 33rd largest global firm by revenue in 2018 (according to The American Lawyer). Closing that gap will be a seriously impressive feat. As Nitzkowski sees it, “it’s pretty clear that New York, DC, the Bay Area in California, and London – despite Brexit – are the areas where real strategic headcount growth is most focused, and we’re no exception.” The firm has been focusing its efforts on the London office and its finance, M&A, private equity and regulatory practices in particular. In five year’s time, Nitzkowski projects “London should be our second or third largest office.”

The Work

All eleven of PH’s domestic offices had at least one junior at the time of our calls, but three quarters of the 80-strong group called New York, DC or LA home. Associates are distributed across six main areas: corporate, litigation, IP litigation, tax, real estate or employment. Litigation (including IP litigation) and corporate take roughly three quarters of the intake. Across groups, associates told us “work happens when I ask for it. If you don’t ask, you may get stuck with more junior tasks.” This free-market approach is underpinned by capacity reports submitted every two weeks. According to a litigation source: “If I’m expecting to bill 60 hours in the next two weeks, I get an email asking if I’m going on vacation or if I want another project. On the flip side, if I’m down to bill 120 hours I’ll get one saying ‘Can I take anything off your plate?’”

“Several juniors had opportunities to take depositions.”

Half of the juniors undertake work on litigation, which is portioned into subgroups including complex litigation and arbitration, securities litigation, investigations and IP. The firm excels at the last of these in New York, where it has a “strong pharmaceutical presence,” taking on high-value patent cases for large drug and medical device companies like Johnson & Johnson. Juniors involved informed us that “a lot of the work is district litigation under the Hatch Waxman Act.” Pretrial work included “helping with the initial pitches on the pre-suit investigation, anticipating what the arguments are going to be, and what kind of documents the defendants will want.” Litigation juniors also got to draft portions of expert reports, and in New York, “several juniors had opportunities to take depositions.” Palo Alto and DC also have significant IP litigation teams, while the wider Californian litigation teams are more heavily involved in securities litigation, plus breach of contract and other general commercial litigation. 

The white-collar and investigations group acts for companies and individuals in government investigations, litigation and corporate compliance matters. Unsurprisingly, almost all the juniors in this group were in the DC office – there were just a couple in LA and New York. FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) work and sanctions advice make “most matters international by definition. I frequently work with people in other domestic offices, and have corresponded with people in China and London.” We heard from associates who’d been involved on anti-bribery and accounting fraud investigations. “On some cases it’s been heavy, heavy, heavy doc review,” one associate said. “Some people hate it, but it’s helped me learn. I’m the person who knows all the facts about a particular facet of a matter.” Another helped write up client presentations: “I’d find out everything I could about one aspect of the investigation, then email the partner a summary for them to pull together for a presentation.”

Litigation clients: Johnson & Johnson, Galena Biopharma, Helsinn Healthcare. Defended Matthew Connolly, a former supervisor at Deutsche Bank, in a DOJ prosecution alleging he had conspired to manipulate LIBOR rates.

Corporate associates can “take work from various groups,” such as M&A, private equity, private investment funds, and finance and restructuring. In the last of these, the team works with private equity sponsors in “asset- and acquisition-based finance. There tend to be a lot of middle-market financings for acquisitions of companies with an enterprise value anywhere from $50 to $500 million. We also encounter intercreditor arrangements a lot.” The practice “isn’t limited by geography,” so cross-office collaboration was common. The M&A team is well versed in cross-border deals, and has strengths in the media, technology and hospitality sectors. We even heard of associates traveling to Europe for work.

Ever look at massive M&A deals and wonder, “where is all this money coming from?” They might well involve leveraged finance. We asked the Paul Hastings team for an insight into this important area of law. Read on >>

In private investment funds, tasks were initially more traditionally junior: “Creating initial organizational documents for a fund, helping to put together client checklists, and making sure signature pages are done right.” But after doing those correctly a few times, “they were very quick to say ‘Why don’t you take your first side letter?’ It was like a pie-eating contest – if I did well I was given a bigger piece of pie.” Sources here also tried their hand at drafting limited partnership agreements. Over in structured finance, juniors handled a lot of drafting, “but as is common in structured finance, there’s usually a strong precedent, so it doesn’t entail too much stress!”

Corporate clients: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merck & Co. Acted for Asian private equity firm CDH Investment Partners in the $1.2 billion acquisition of housewares business SharkNinja.

The firm’s prestigious employment group, based primarily out of the LA office, has an iron grip on the Californian market for enormous clients like Google and Disney, in industries from tech to entertainment to aviation. Sources said high client demand for the group’s expertise contributed to “a more highly charged atmosphere.” Associate matters involved “single plaintiffs, but also big wage and hours class actions with hundreds of plaintiffs.” Working one on one with a partner gave one source the chance to “take the first draft of all the motions to dismiss we filed in the case, and take the reins of discovery.”

Employment clients: Google, Disney, Toyota. Defended Google in a class action suit filed by a former employee (author of the notorious 'Google memo') alleging that Caucasians, males and political conservatives suffered discrimination at the company.

Career Development

For some, Paul Hastings was the firm of choice because of “how well known they were for associate development.” The PH DNA (Developing New Associates) program was one example. In part, the program allows each associate to put 150 'Client Readiness Hours' toward their billable total. This allowance gives associates time for informal training: “If I want to listen in on a call, I’ll ask the partner if that would be OK and use my development associate hours. It’s got to the point that the partner now emails me asking if I want to sit in!” In another instance, a junior used the hours “to go to a hearing during an investigation into employee misconduct to add to my understanding of the case.”

A structured review process sets out competencies and benchmarking goals, “so I know where I’m supposed to be and what I can do to build.” Partnership, however, wasn’t on the minds of our interviewees. “You have to do something quite special for that,” reckoned one. “Most partners either lateraled in, came straight out of government or went away, got experience and came back. You have to have done something more than sitting at your desk for seven years.” Investigations attorneys often “leave to be prosecutors and to join different government agencies.” In corporate, “more leave to go to other firms than in-house.” The firm's Career Pathways program helps associates assess their options. And the overall reason people move on? At least one associate suspected: “It’s burnout.”

Paul Hastings scored 7th in our career opportunities survey in 2019 >>

Hours & Compensation

We could see why. A corporate associate recounted: “Within a couple of months of starting I was billing full-time. I’d sometimes be staying until 1am or 2am, but it was more consistently between 8pm and 10pm.” It wasn't always this busy, fortunately. Nevertheless, in some corporate groups “it’s very normal on Friday at 5pm for someone to say, ‘Here’s an assignment, get it to me tomorrow.’” Litigation offered a more predictable schedule “because we get to know the case schedule. I’m usually in the office 9:30am until 7pm.”

To be bonus-eligible, associates are expected to bill 2,000 hours. Some described it as a “firm cut-off” while others got the impression “it’s not like, ‘you haven’t hit 2,000 – goodbye!’” Our interviewees had no issue hitting the number – “you might even say it’s too achievable!”


In DC and New York, “you have to earn your credibility” before the firm eases up on its face time expectation. It wasn’t so in LA: “There are people I’d go a week without seeing. If you want a firm where you’re working every night and these people become your best friends, this isn’t it.” The office wasn’t without its fun, though. We heard about a group of friends who “go rock climbing every weekend.” DC associates also took opportunities to get together: “There’s a Halloween housewarming for one of our classmates tomorrow night.” In New York, “we’ll sometimes go out for Chick-fil-A or bubble tea. It’s exactly what I was looking for in a community.” Some felt the policy of grouping juniors into an open plan ‘end zone’ area in the New York office contributed to that community spirit, because “it’s a lot easier to ask questions to other first-years.” LA’s glass walls gave the place an open feel too, so “you look from your office straight across to the partners. It’s just a little too close for comfort.”

“People are receptive to go-getter personalities.”

We heard culture varies “floor to floor,” but “they try to limit the ‘asshole factor’ of being in a BigLaw firm.” While LA associates reported “there are outlier partners that will yell,” others encountered the opposite end of the spectrum: “After I write a memo, the partner will come by my office and help me understand why they made changes. I’m impressed that someone with so many clients to take care of will take time to come to a junior’s office.” Elsewhere, a first-year admitted: “I’m often very confused, but I can ask mid-levels as many questions as I need. They’ll always be willing to reward curiosity.” A proactive approach is also rewarded: “People are receptive to go-getter personalities who say, ‘I wanna learn the most and do the most.’”

Get Hired

“At one of my interviews here we just talked about college basketball the entire time because I had it as an interest on my resume.” Find out more by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Diversity & Inclusion

“There are new initiatives I see coming through all the time,” observed our interviewees. The firm’s mandatory unconscious bias training was praised, as were “events multiple times a month” organized by the firm’s ‘PHAN’ groups (Paul Hastings Affinity Networks). Sources got a “sense of including everyone” in the events, which were often fun in flavor. At the time of our calls, the Asian PHAN group had organized a screening of Crazy Rich Asians: “They rented a theater and we all had popcorn.” The women’s PHAN group does Wine Wednesday once a month. Can we come?

Pro Bono

Associates have a target of 25 pro bono hours, but there isn't a strict limit on how many pro bono hours they can put toward their billable target. “Most end up doing 50 to 100 hours,” associates guessed, “which is somewhat encouraged and expected.” But it's also expected that they won’t go overboard: “I have heard of people who’ve done hundreds of hours, then the firm gently tells them that’s a lot.” In the run-up to the mid-terms lawyers in the DC office were encouraged to volunteer for voting rights organizations and litigators reported working on immigration cases. Public Counsel, KIND, ACLU, Acumen Fund and the National Veteran's Legal Service Project all received help from PH attorneys.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 74,577
  • Average per (US) attorney: 98

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,628

Interviewees outside OCI: 247

Paul Hastings interviews more than 1,500 students every year at schools and job fairs across the country. The firm may interview anywhere between 20 and 200 students at one school, depending on its size. Interviewers may range from mid-level and senior associates to partners, and director of talent acquisition Cindy Hasson says, “We tend to send law school alumni to interview on campus.” Junior associates get involved in the recruitment as well: “The firm flew me out to New York for an LGBT conference at Lavender Law. We had a booth there and talked to people who came for interviews. It was a really good experience. It helps to get the firm’s name out there as an employer that values diversity.”

“We ask our interviewers to explore the candidate’s interest in working in BigLaw and in particular at Paul Hastings,” Hasson says. “We also want to know the student’s preferred office location and practice area interests, if known. We may ask a candidate to share examples of how they are collaborative and work well on team.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Before the OCI process, try to reach out to someone at the firm to get a sense of what it’s like – whether it’s someone who went to the same law school as you, or someone you have something in common with.” a first-year junior associate

“Candidates should research the firms they are interviewing with, not the interviewers they believe they will meet, since interviewers often change at the last moment.” – director of talent acquisition Cindy Hasson



Applicants invited to second stage interview: 487

Callbacks at Paul Hastings take approximately two and a half hours and are made up of four 30-minute interviews and an ‘informational session’ with members of the talent acquisition team. Candidates typically meet four attorneys in their preferred department. It’s a bit different in the New York office, where callbacks are conducted in a ‘super day’ format with up to 24 candidates in the office at the same time. Each student will still see four attorneys, but in a ‘round-robin’ format. There is also a lunch hosted at the office with junior associates. “Individual interview styles may vary,” Hasson says, “however, the format will generally be conversational with some behavioral questions focused on the candidate’s leadership skills, creativity, and business acumen.” But there are really no set topics to discuss, as one junior associate found out: “At one of my interviews here we just talked about college basketball the entire time because I had it as an interest on my resume.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Consider developing your 30-second elevator pitch. If you found yourself in an elevator with a firm’s hiring manager and had only 30-seconds, what would you say?” director of talent acquisition Cindy Hasson


Summer program

Offers: 264

Acceptances: 84

In most US offices, summer associates rotate through two departments and also do an open rotation, during which they can take on work from any department. Rotations have some flexibility, so summers may also take on work outside of their assigned department. Each department has a designated work assignment attorney liaison, who works with the talent acquisition team “to provide summers with a healthy balance of meaningful assignments and shadowing opportunities,” Hasson says. Incoming summers rank the main departments before rotations are assigned, and associates said “pretty much everyone gets their top two choices to do rotations in.” IP is the exception to the rule – summers in this group are hired directly into IP: “There are ten of us in my class and almost all of us did the job interviews at patent job fairs. It’s almost like a different recruiting path.”

The firm also provides workshops and trainings throughout the program, focusing on professional development, pro bono, legal writing, negotiation skills, and deposition skills. Summers have weekly check-ins with mentors who are assigned based on department interest, law school, and background.

Offers made at the end of the summer program are general firm offers rather than tied to a particular practice area, but Hasson says that “summer associate interest is noted at the end of the program and is taken into account when department assignments are made.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Take the time during the summer to meet as many people as possible. Attend events, introduce yourself and network..” director of talent acquisition Cindy Hasson

And finally….

Paul Hastings also offers a diversity scholarship award for 1L and 2L students.


The Big Interview: Greg Nitzkowski, Paul Hastings managing partner

Read the full interview with the managing partner of Paul Hastings

Paul Hastings LLP

515 South Flower Street,
Twenty-Fifth Floor,
Los Angeles,
CA 90071

  • Largest Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 11
  • Number of international offices: 11
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,220,007,000
  • Partners (US): 236
  • Counsel (US): 70
  • Associates (US): 459
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Cynthia Hasson, Director, Talent Acquisition
  • Hiring partners: Talent Advisory Council
  • Diversity manager: Karlie Ilaria
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 71
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 96
  • 1Ls: 4, 2Ls: 92
  • Summer salary 2019:
  • 1Ls: $3,653
  • 2Ls: $3,653
  • 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

 We understand the imperative for innovation, efficiency and breakthrough performance facing today’s leading companies – and what it takes to help them succeed.
Our practice areas include: anticorruption and compliance, antitrust and competition, complex commercial litigation, employment, finance and restructuring, global banking and payment systems, intellectual property, investment management, mergers and acquisitions, privacy and data security, private equity, real estate, securities and capital markets, securities litigation, tax, white collar defense and investigations.

Firm profile

 At Paul Hastings, our purpose is clear — to help our clients and people navigate new paths to growth. With a strong presence throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America and the US, Paul Hastings is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative global law firms; named Vault’s Top 5 ‘Best Law Firms to Work For.’

At Paul Hastings, we are committed to the professional development and career aspirations of our associates. We hire great people and provide development programs to help associates reach their goals, whether a path to partnership, in-house with a client, or other organizations.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
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 law firm on complex legal matters across practices to help our clients 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.

Social media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @PH_Recruiting
Facebook: paulhastingsllp
Linkedin: paul-hastings

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • FCPA (Band 2)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)