Paul Hastings LLP - The Inside View

Make haste to this firm that has roots in the Golden State and rays that stretch far beyond…

A wise artist once said: ‘You could travel the world, but nothing comes close to the Golden coast.’ That may well be true, but if you’re lookingfor superb West Coast legal work in areas like environment, labor & employment, employee benefits, and real estate, then nothing comes close to Paul Hastings. In the Golden State, PH shines the brightest for the aforementioned practices with several top-tier Chambers USA rankings as proof. But that’s not all there is to the story. PH’s influence stretches far beyond the West Coast; in fact, while its origins can be found in California, its largest base is actually located in New York where its local general commercial litigation and white-collar crime & government investigations practices garner further accolades. And this firm isn’t just a coastal heavyweight: with 11 offices spanning six states, PH gains nationwide recognition for its capital markets securitization, corporate crime & investigations, FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), international trade, leisure & hospitality, and privacy & data security expertise.

TOP READ: Becoming a leveraged finance lawyer - the view from Paul Hastings

With its expansive list of Chambers rankings, it’s not a surprise to see “Paul Hastings’ attorneys named in opinions” – a point that caught the attention of one of our star-stuck interviewees. This caliber of top talent coupled with more manageable cohort sizes drew our sources to the conclusion that this Paul struck “the perfect blend of sophisticated clients and smaller teams.” The firm’s Cali-culture is not to be underplayed either: “When I went to visit the firm, I saw that everyone was friendly – even going in the elevator everyone knew each other’s names!”

Strategy & Future

Juniors were clear about the firm’s plans for growth and highlighted the litigation group’s increase in sanctions-related activity. “It’s great that we’re challenging the older, more established firms,” one associate beamed. Managing partner Sherrese Smith tells us that rather than looking to launch new offices or practices, the firm is focused on developing its existing areas to “make sure they are robust and diverse enough to handle the entire life cycle of deals and investment structures,” particularly given the unpredictable economic climate. As such, Smith explains that “corporate, M&A, private equity, global finance, securities, and capital markets are all key areas of the firm, along with fintech on both the corporate and litigation sides. We also have pure litigation and investigations work, as well as our intellectual property group.”

“Our clients are asking firms to do much more on the business side as well, and our growth has enabled us to do that,” Smith adds. “The focus used to be on being a great lawyer, now that’s a base level.” Smith emphasizes that clients are “buying intellectual capital” from firms on the legal and general business acumen fronts, and PH gears up associates to advise on both.

Career Development

“You learn by doing! It’s the most efficient way, but they don’t abandon you out there,” one associate assured us. The firm also provides practice area-specific trainings to ensure associates have a solid foundation to build on through practice. “As first-years, all associates are required to attend a three-day training program in Chicago,” a litigation junior explained. Upon joining, newbies are also equipped with either an associate or partner mentor (depending on the office) who carries out “regular check-ins to make sure you’re getting the work you want.”

Associates are also offered “opportunities to go on secondment if you’re interested in finding out about in-house counsel life – it’s almost like an internship or a test run.” Those looking to make the move in-house often do so “around the fifth year – if you’re going to leave BigLaw, that’s the standard,” sources at the firm explained, highlighting the firm’s support for those who are interested in doing so: “It’s good for business!” For those hoping to set out on the path to partnership, “it usually takes at least ten years,” insiders told us. The firm hosts a symposium for fourth-years to explain the pathway in more depth.

“You can volunteer… or be volunteered!”

The Work

At the end of the summer, prospective associates rank their preferred practice areas after typically experiencing two rotations and a ‘free agency period.’ Esentially, depending on the office, juniors can request work from various attorneys rather than operating in a formal rotation. Once within their practices, partners will usually reach out to ask associates to work on matters. “They go out of their way to make sure you’re busy and give you work that aligns with your broader interests,” one associate explained. “They’ll ask if someone is interested in the issue, and you can volunteer… or be volunteered!” A common theme across practices was that the firm makes an effort to ensure “nobody is siloed into their own workstream,” with one lateral noting that “the firm’s practice areas aren’t very strict – you can work across several.”

“Several matters we’ve worked on have been in the Wall Street Journal.”

The litigation group at PH encompasses general commercial litigation, securities, and white-collar crime and government investigations work. The firm’s general commercial litigation remit spans US federal and state courts, as well as global dispute resolution, across client sectors like life sciences, financial services, real estate, tech, and manufacturing. Within the white-collar realm, the work is “very diverse,” and juniors can expect to be working on anything involving the CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission), the SEC, or the DOJ on criminal fraud issues, with clients ranging from large corporations to individuals. “In the criminal process, you’re working with the DOJ to prosecute or secure a deferred agreement,” an associate explained. “Several matters we’ve worked on have been in the Wall Street Journal,” another proudly reported. Though there are larger teams staffed on hefty matters, our junior sources often found themselves working closely with a partner or a senior associate. “As a first-year, you’re working on putting a timeline together, preparing interview memos and outlines, and calling clients,” a source recalled, noting that “if you want the responsibility, you can get it.”

Litigation clients: GlaxoSmithKline, Barclays, Fox News. Represented Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka in a complex commercial dispute relating to unpaid royalties on the sale of a liquid CBD solution used for the treatment of seizures associated with epilepsy.

Over in the corporate department, juniors are met with “a menu of things you can work on,” including matters relating to M&A, shareholder activism, and takeover defense for clients across the technology, media & entertainment, life sciences & healthcare, energy, infrastructure, retail, and telecoms industries. Here, newbies initially find work through “a pretty formal workload allocation model, but as soon as you build rapport, it comes organically.” In typical junior manner, “drafting is the biggest one” when it comes to day-to-day responsibilities. Beyond this, “clients will send us laundry lists where they can do X, some of Y, but can’t do Z. It’s our job to modify it to make sure they can do all three,” an interviewee explained. On medium-sized funds in particular, “clients will look to juniors to be general counsel on the matter,” a source enthused. “They’ll be on a call with an investor and ask us to jump in – I really enjoy that relationship more than anything!” Of course, “when someone is looking to you to be responsible for something it’s a lot of pressure! You change one line in a document, and it can have a ripple effect…”

Research 'becoming a leveraged finance lawyer' with Paul Hastings.

Corporate clients: AT&T, Nokia, Intel, Warner Bros. Discovery. Advised Morgan Stanley and Lion Tree in their capacity as financial advisers for MGM Studios during its acquisition by Amazon.

Over in real estate territory, the team tackles an array of development projects, acquisitions and dispositions, lease agreements, and finance and joint venture transactions for pretty much any type of client, including investment and property portfolio entities. “It’s a pretty well-oiled machine!” one associate enthused. “On acquisitions, you’ll be helping with the due diligence, and negotiation of the purchase and sale agreement. Then there’s the financing, where we mostly represent lenders,” they continued. “You’re involved in negotiating the loan documents, sending them to the borrowers, trading drafts, and hopping on all-hands-on-deck calls. Everyone on the deal team is on those calls so you really get to learn how negotiations are done and what role the partner plays.”

Real estate clients: Qatar Investment Authority, Facebook, LinkedIn, Represented Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo as lead lenders and Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Citi, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and J.P. Morgan as co-lenders in the $2.4 billion financing of the Ala Moana Center in Hawaii.

“We’re always trying to prove ourselves with challenging cases that don’t have a lot of precedent.”

Employment  law is a bit juicier!” one junior exclaimed. “It’s more engaging early on… it’s more about the people, interviewing, and reading people’s texts!” The firm’s Cali offices are hot spots for associates in this arena. “We run the gamut,” a junior proclaimed. Matters in this realm span trade secrets, discrimination, and wage disputes, but “we’re the go-to for pay equity at the moment,” a source told us. “We’re always trying to prove ourselves with challenging cases that don’t have a lot of precedent.” As such, juniors are expected to take on a significant portion of responsibility when staffed on cases: “You’re running discovery, writing motions, preparing for mediation, and collecting information.”

Employment clients: Google, Meta, ESPN. Defended Activision Blizzard in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the State of California.

Pro Bono

Across the board, pro bono is a staple in juniors’ workloads. “I was encouraged to do it within my first week and they set you up as soon as you join,” we heard. Associates can take on an unlimited amount of pro bono, and “every hour counts toward your billable target.” The firm typically expects juniors to do at least 25 hours, but all our sources had undertaken far more. Associates are sent daily emails on matters they can get involved with, many of which include adoption cases, immigration clinics, rent assistance, housing discrimination, and veterans work. As a transactions lawyer it can be “rare to get pro bono work associated with your practice,” butour sources happily shared that they’d been able to find “corporate adjacent work.” For example, one interviewee had the opportunity to assist with a fund formation for a nonprofit.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: undisclosed
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed

Paul Hastings is a Top 10 firm for pro bono in our 2023 survey.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Our sources were quick to point to the diversity among PH’s partner ranks as a sound indication of the firm’s commitment to DE&I. The firm has PHANs (Paul Hastings Affinity Networks), which “host different events and circulate emails about different causes,” interviewees explained. “You can join and be as engaged, or as little engaged as you want” (but obviously the firm prefers engagement!). Associates involved in these networks are often partnered up with a more senior mentor, and the group will host regular meetings to talk about issues. The Black PHAN in particular hosts an annual event at Howard University, an historically Black university.

Read our interview with some of the firm's female attorneys to find out more about the firm's approach to gender and intersectionality.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 target

“A lot counts toward the 2,000 hour target, so it’s not too hard to hit,” our associate sources reckoned, adding that “there’s definitely enough work to go around.” For many of our interviewees, hitting (or even exceeding) this target meant “logging on at 8am, taking a break around 5:30pm, and then staying online for another couple of hours,” though sources assured us that “people don’t expect you to be online all the time during non-business hours.” For their toils, this lot receive market-level bonuses upon hitting the 2,000 mark. According to our sources, the firm makes a concerted effort to allow attorneys their time off during vacations without having to keep checking in. Of course, “the nature of client demands” does mean that weekends aren’t always kept entirely sacred: “If it’s an emergency, you just have to respond! It comes with the territory of BigLaw.”

“Someone’s planning a 90s-themed Mario Kart party which should be interesting!”


“The expectations are high,” so prospective associates shouldn’t be expecting a “lifestyle firm,” insiders warned, “but the culture is very relaxed.” Across the firm, juniors we spoke with felt well integrated into their teams, both on the professional and informal side: “Partners are texting me, and I’m texting younger associates jokes!” one source enthused. On the social side, “people aren’t hiding from each other in their offices.” Phew. Likewise, this lot aren’t hiding in their home offices either, as juniors are encouraged to attend the office around three days a week. “They’ve made an effort to get people in more,” interviewees told us, highlighting Tuesday bagels, Thursday tacos, and Friday pizza lunches as motivators in the DC office. The firm also provides a budget to an associate committee to host happy hours, summer and holiday parties, and ad hoc events. “Someone’s planning a 90s-themed Mario Kart party which should be interesting!” one insider told us. Social culture does differ by department though, so there’s something for everyone: “In real estate, everybody gets lunch and goes to happy hours together, but the employment group will just get the occasional lunch… We do things but not all the time, which is nice.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed  

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 managing 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 a 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   


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 interviewing at the same time. Each student will still meet four attorneys, but in a ‘round-robin’ format.  “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.” 

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?”   Cindy Hasson,managing director of talent acquisition  

“We tend to look for applicants who are highly motivated to work hard, have an interest in the subject matter and aren’t afraid to take initiative.” – a second-year associate.   

Summer program   

Anticipated acceptances: 80  

Summer Associates can expect substantive and challenging work assignments.  Work allocation varies by office, in some offices summer associates can 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..”   

The firm also provides workshops and trainings throughout the program, focusing on professional development, pro bono, legal writing, negotiation skills, and deposition skills. Summers are also assigned mentors 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:   

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

And finally….   

Paul Hastings also offers a $50,000 diversity scholarship award open to 1L and 2L law students. 

Paul Hastings LLP

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

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 10 ‘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 2022:
Berkeley, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, Georgetown, GW, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, Northwestern, New York Law School, NYU, Penn, St. John’s, 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 virtually and on campus and may also offer informational interviews. Students interested in learning more about our Summer Associate Program and/or Diversity Scholarship Award are encouraged to visit the Careers page of our website.

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, and 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:
Facebook: paulhastingsllp
Linkedin: paul-hastings

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional: Mainly Talent (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: CLOs (Band 1)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 5)
    • Energy Transition (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • FCPA (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
    • Hedge Funds (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 5)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)
    • Projects: Power (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Registered Funds (Band 3)
    • REITs (Band 5)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)