If the pH scale measured law firm performance, then LA-born Paul Hastings would score a perfect 7 for balancing global, high-end work with a gentler and more sustaining BigLaw vibe.
MANAGING partner Greg Nitzkowski was riding high when we caught up with him: “If you look at the firm we’ve made today compared to what it was 20 years ago – we’ve moved more in the marketplace in terms of rankings, position and profitability than anybody else.” These comments came after a sterling financial performance in 2018/2019, which saw profits per equity partner reach a new record (almost a 25% increase in two years) and revenue jump by a very respectable 9.1% to $1.22 billion.
Chairman Seth Zachary made it clear to the legal press that the firm’s sights were set on completing ever-more complex work, and Nitzkowski confirms PH’s ambition to aim high: “We’ll be focusing on pretty much the same areas at the high end of the market. The strength we bring is the incredible intellectual capability to be creative around key transactions and problems. What law firms do at the high-end best is help the movement of assets and the financing of that movement. Parallel to that is the regulatory piece – interaction with governmental regulatory agencies is the nature of the work because of clients’ business activities and disputes.”
“I got the sense from PH that I’d really enjoy it here and it wasn’t an environment where I'd burnout.”
PH’s evolution from humble Cali beginnings to global juggernaut is reflected in the firm’s Chambers rankings today: Chambers Global rates the firm in various practices across the US, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America, with its employment expertise bestowed with global-wide recognition (a long-standing area of strength, dating back to the firm’s origins in 1951). In the US, PH’s corporate/M&A, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), labor & employment, leisure & hospitality, and real estate practices stand out nationally, while more state-specific highlights include IP and commercial litigation (New York); banking & finance and media & entertainment transactions (California); and labor & employment (DC).
While juniors were represented across all 11 of PH’s domestic bases, most on our list were based in the New York (its largest office), LA and DC strongholds. Top of the list of associates’ reasons for joining the firm’s ranks were its “great clients and reputation in the industry,” but also the atmosphere: “I wasn’t interested in a stuffy environment and PH didn’t strike me as being that way,” said one interviewee, while another recalled that “I could see longevity in my career here. I didn’t want to just do my time, get burnout and leave; I got the sense from PH that I’d really enjoy it here and it wasn’t an environment where I'd burn out.”
Strategy & Future
“We are a transformed place,” Nitzkowski reiterates. “What that transformation has done is create a cultural message that’s always focused on the future and following the golden path.” The “key” to that future is “deepening and broadening in four areas: M&A/finance, private equity, IP and white-collar investigations.” Geographically speaking, “we are focused on five key markets, not just New York and London, but those that continue to define the high end: the Bay Area in California, Washington DC, and, more broadly, Asia.”
PH’s litigation and corporate departments housed most of the juniors on our list. The rest were split between the employment, tax, and real estate departments. Preferences are usually noted during the summer rotations and once at the firm first-years typically start off as generalists, “later specializing into practices organically.” Our interviewees noted how the generally free-market work allocation system in most departments allows them to develop good working relationships with senior associates and partners: “As a first-year, you’re available to work with all subgroups in your department, and then by the end of the first year, you get your repeat customers.”
The litigation practice covers a variety of areas, including securities, IP, breach of contract and product liability disputes. Those in New York had come across many cases in the “life sciences field, like medical device and orthopedic matters, as well as your generic drug bread-and-butter work.” Others here had been involved in “early FCPA investigations and subpoena responses where we represent the client before the government.” Investigations “drive a lot of the DC office,” but juniors here also mentioned encountering patent cases, insurance coverage disputes and employment matters. “It feels like you get good work immediately,” said a DC associate, recalling occasions where they’d drafted filings, had “good client interaction” and worked with other offices: “We’ve worked with London and Tokyo, and brought in New York and Houston to assist when that makes sense. It’s definitely a global network.” Others told us of second-chairing depositions, traveling to South America and Europe and completing first drafts of documents. “I’ve got my hands dirty,” one summarized. “Matters are leanly staffed, so I've been required to do the work of both a junior and a mid-level associate if it’s just me, a senior associate and a partner.”
Litigation clients: GlaxoSmithKline, Royal Bank of Canada, Goldman Sachs. Represented the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on litigation matters occurring within the broader context of the island’s restructuring.
Our corporate interviewees were able to sample work in various areas too. Some had busied themselves with structured credit matters in the form of CLO (collateralized loan obligation) deals: “We do mostly underwriter and issuer work. From day one I was drafting – ventures and ancillary documents.” Others had found their groove in alternative lending work, where “we represent hedge funds and sovereign funds, which are regulated differently from the banks. The borrowers span any kind of industry you can think of. The rate at which we accelerate is incredible – by the end of the first year you’re not dotting together signature pages, you’re communicating directly with the client.” On M&A deals, meanwhile, sources had “worked closely with the partners and senior associates” and gained experience drafting due diligence reports and attending conferences with specialists. An exciting new area for the M&A and private equity groups is the burgeoning field of cannabis law: “That’s huge for M&A and there are some big entrepreneurial clients in that space. The regulations are still being navigated, which is really cool.”
Corporate clients: Intel, General Electric, Samsung. Advised Canopy Growth Corporation – a global cannabis company – on its $3.4 billion acquisition of multistate cannabis operator Acreage Holdings.
First-years are assigned a junior buddy and a senior mentor right off the bat. The latter is usually a senior associate in the mentee’s department who “isn’t necessarily working on the same matters as you are. They tend to pick people who are very familiar with the firm and have been here for a while, so they’re a great person to lean on for all questions about culture and substantive work.” In general, juniors deemed the PH environment as one that’s “open to talk about career advice and development.” This source in particular appreciated how “candid the firm is about the fact that not everybody will make partner. The firm does a great job of maintaining relationships with PH alumni and sends around a monthly newsletter to give you a peek into what former PH employees are doing now.” Others added that there is now a designated “career coordinator” to “help lawyers who are looking to transition out.” So, where do they go? We were told that ex-corporate associates can hop over to other firms or in-house departments, whereas on the litigation side we heard of attorneys transferring over to various government agencies. Paul Hastings has 'partner sponsors' who will promote senior associates' route to the partnership, if that's a road they'd like to go down.
“...open to talk about career advice and development.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 requirement
If associates reach their target they’ll receive their bonus. Our interviewees were very happy that all pro bono hours billed can count toward this target, plus first-years can bill 150 ‘Client Readiness Hours’ from the Developing New Associates program. Sources were unsurprisingly happy with market base salaries and bonuses, but a corporate junior did highlight that it can be difficult for first-years to meet their target, while others flagged that the firm's financial year runs differently to many peer firms so the compensation timetable is correspondingly out of sync.
With BigLaw comes some potentially Big Hours, as this employment associate pointed out: “There’s definitely the ‘Please get this pleading to me by 8pm on a Friday’ surprise. In the first year there are those classic BigLaw 80-hour weeks, but now I feel less pressure to be on call.” Litigators noted that “there’s not a huge facetime requirement,” with this interviewee sharing that they “feel comfortable working remotely – as long as you get your work done no one cares!” Corporate attorneys in New York tend to start later in the day, around 10am, “which is not the case in other offices,” and leave by 7pm “unless things are really busy.” It’s “not uncommon” to be working on cross-border deals which demand longer hours due to the necessary communication between offices and parties in various jurisdictions.
New Yorkers agreed that “the West Coast vibe” is apparent within their office. “Obviously, we have the hard work and long NYC hours, but the office itself is laid back; we have a casual dress code and casual interactions – it’s not white-shoe at all.” LA associates backed this up by stating how “the work is extremely high-pressured, but the culture is not. People dress casual in sweatpants and it’s pretty common to work from home, as long as you get your work done!”
“When we won a trial we were taken bowling! "
This atmosphere was given an extra boost in New York thanks to its junior seating system: “The first and second-year juniors sit in open pods. It’s really useful as a first-year as you always have someone to ask questions to.” Another nostalgic interviewee bemoaned that they “really miss the open space and the typical ‘reply all’ shenanigans!” In DC, the atmosphere was felt to be slightly more formal, with the tone pitched somewhere between “not laid back but also not like a pressure cooker. You’re expected to do great work – we're a billion-dollar firm – but they also recognize that we have a life outside of work!”
There’s also a social life within work to take advantage of, with interviewees describing regular office happy hours, as well as plenty of team-based celebrations, as this litigator in New York attested to: “When we hit our deadline the partner took us all out; when it was someone’s last day of a clerkship we celebrated with a happy hour in the bar downstairs; and when we won a trial we were taken bowling!” Work hard, bowl harder, mighty litigators. We also heard of lunch panels and informational events organized by the various PHAN (Paul Hastings Affinity Networks) groups.
Diversity & Inclusion
Interviewees mentioned ‘PH Balanced’ – the firm’s newest diversity initiative that’s focused on cultivating work/life balance. Part of the initiative includes “‘Mindful Mondays’, which consist of yoga sessions in one of the wellness rooms,” voiced one zen associate.
On a broader scale, associates flagged that PH is “very cognizant” of the industry-wide issue of decreasing diversity “as you climb the ranks – we get a lot of communication about the things they’re doing to remedy that.” While some were more skeptical over “how much is lip service and how much is real,” others felt that the various “affinity networks are helpful,” and highlighted monthly women’s network meetings in New York (each office has its own women's network), a recent “Latino event, for which we received multiple reminders encouraging us to attend,” and various summer events that are sponsored by each affinity network.
“The firm looks highly upon taking up pro bono work,” a New York source told us. Associates are expected to meet a 25-hour minimum target, and while there’s no official cap, sources did hear of “people billing around 500 hours being given a bit of a nudge to slow down.” Our New York and DC sources told us of pro bono coordinators who send out weekly emails listing various pro bono opportunities. “At any given time we have ten pro bono clients,” a New Yorker proudly declared, highlighting that the office regularly works on “really rewarding” immigration cases through Sanctuary for Families, as well as art-related matters. Asylum work was a notable thread in DC and LA too; in the latter an interviewee told us of the office’s links to the organization KIND (Kids in Need of Defense). Other pro bono clients include the Harvey Milk High School and the National Veterans Legal Services.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,389
Interviewees outside OCI: 143
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: 620
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 talked about college basketball 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
“We tend to look for applicants who are highly motivated to work hard for long hours, have an interest in the subject matter and aren’t afraid to take initiative.” – second-year associate.
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
Paul Hastings also offers a diversity scholarship award for 1L and 2L students.
Employment at Paul Hastings
The employment department spans the firm's US footprint and is known for drawing in tech and aviation clients across California and boasts an established reputation throughout the entertainment industry. “We work with a lot of entertainment companies on the production side and with a lot of household names – basically huge corporations,” one junior explained. Associates here had generally worked on “a lot of single plaintiff discrimination cases, EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) cases and PAGA (Private Attorneys General Act 2004) cases.” Working one-on-one with a partner gave employment juniors the chance to do “real fact-finding investigations and interviews to formulate case assessments, as well as drafts of all motions first-hand. It’s also common to reach out to subject matter experts all over the country.”
Employment clients: Disney, AT&T, Viacom/Paramount. Represented Google and its parent company, Alphabet, in two matters tied to the lawfulness of the tech outfit’s confidentiality, data security and conduct policies.
Becoming a leveraged finance lawyer
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…
Paul Hastings LLP
515 South Flower Street,
- Largest Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 11
- Worldwide revenue: $1,220,007,000
- Partners (US): 236
- Counsel (US): 70
- Associates (US): 459
- Main recruitment contact: Cynthia Hasson, Director, Talent Acquisition
- Hiring partners: Talent Advisory Council
- Diversity manager: Karlie Ilaria
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 71
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 96
- 1Ls: 4, 2Ls: 92
- Summer salary 2020:
- 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
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.
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.
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.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020
- 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)
California: Los Angeles & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
California: San Francisco, Silicon Valley & Surro
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- 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)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- 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)