When a global network, high-end matters and multiple practice areas are par for the course in BigLaw, it’s the “Cali dynamic” that makes this Paul stand out from the crowd.
Time and again, our research finds that law firm culture is what brings it home for associates. “Firms look the same on paper – multinational, a broad range of practices and lean staffing – so I was looking at how to differentiate them,” reported one LA source, “and I really cared about whether the people would be people that I’d like to work with, and yes, here they were good people.” A New Yorker had a similar experience and highlighted how “it’s hard to differentiate firms, but I knew I wanted a humane one, and I gathered this was a place with a better lifestyle and well-rounded people.” Another Big Apple interviewee commented that they could see “the cultural dynamics from west to east: there’s definitely a more Cali dynamic. I knew that doing high-end work would be stressful, so I didn’t want any additional pressure. We take our work seriously, but not ourselves, and believe that we’re better as a collective.”
We imagine that a quite a lot of collective energy had to be summoned to get Paul Hastings the status that it has today. On a nationwide basis, PH’s labor & employment, real estate, high-end corporate/M&A, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and leisure and hospitality work shine in Chambers USA. The firm’s strength in labor & employment matters is particularly marked in California and DC. Media & entertainment, banking & finance and environment work is also praised highly in the latter, while in New York PH’s commercial litigation and IP capabilities come to the fore.
“We take our work seriously, but not ourselves, and believe that we’re better as a collective.”
PH juniors were spread across the firm’s 11 US offices, although most on our list were based in New York, DC, LA, and Chicago. Interviewees also told us about different practice strengths and specialties across the firm’s network. In DC, the “bills are paid with investigations and white-collar work,” while New York was similarly noted for its investigative work on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act/white-collar investigations, as well as its lender-side finance work. Recent lateral hires have boosted the firm’s entertainment and antitrust expertise in Century City, with LA reportedly doing “a lot of complex litigation.” Chicago has strength in the transactional space, with the firm’s global heads of private equity, M&A and corporate based there.
Survey superstar: Paul Hastings was one of the top performers in our 2021 research, scoring band 1 in every category>
Strategy & Future
Lateral hiring has been a key component to growth at Paul Hastings in recent years, yet associates were quick to tell us that such growth has been “slow and steady. We’ve solidified our spot toward the top of the rankings, but we haven’t just gone and swallowed up other firms and practice groups to bloat out the firm.” Another junior highlighted the targeted approach to growth and lateral hiring over 2020: “The firm’s sensitive to the market and proactive, so we might acquire a partner in an area of need. Bankruptcy became big so they grew the practice, as did healthcare so they put a lot of resources behind that. Financial crime work slowed down with the Trump administration, so associates found work elsewhere.”
“The firm’s sensitive to the market and proactive.”
“We’re strong and I don’t foresee us faltering despite COVID-19,” summarized this interviewee, adding: “We’ll double down on what we’re really good at with the partners we’re hiring in finance and a few other practice areas. There’s a lot of business development work, which isn’t billable but everyone understands it’s for the longevity of the relationships with clients – if we get the business then it’s worth it.”
Most associates found their home in either the litigation or corporate groups, with a handful joining the real estate, employment and tax departments. Incoming litigators have initial assignments lined up for them to help them hit the ground running. “You grow relationships with people and if you’re doing your job right then they’ll bring you into other cases in the future,” one source noted. In DC, “everyone starting out gets some sort of white-collar investigation matter because the practice is so big.” Corporate juniors similarly get assignments off the back of good working relationships, although some groups – like finance and restructuring – have staffing partners, “so we’re not overworked, and things are evenly allocated.”
For juniors, the litigation group is defined by variety. We heard of newbies getting acquainted with various commercial and civil disputes; securities cases; international arbitrations; appellate work; entertainment cases; LIBOR and SEC investigations; and employment matters. Across the offices, juniors come in as generalists: “There’s a wide cross-section of matters and you’re not focused on one particular thing,” one said. “You organically make your intentions known and form relationships with people to find your niche.” Sometimes the “luck of the draw” determines what litigious work juniors learn the ropes on. Some had ventured into the healthcare space via work with multinational banks, while others had developed connections with famous sports brands via employment matters. Task-wise, “they ease you in a little bit with some document review or memos, then elevate your substantive work gradually.” One junior highlighted the culture of positively “pushing work down” for development’s sake. They found that “it’s common for us to have the first stab at drafting a brief or motion or marshaling an entire section of the brief in the second year.” Communicating with clients directly, taking “prominent roles on smaller investigations,” and sitting in on depositions also proved common early on.
Litigation clients: GlaxoSmithKline, General Electric, Goldman Sachs. Successfully represented GlaxoSmithKline against allegations of RICO Act violations, fraud, conspiracy and misconduct in the Chinese market.
There’s plenty for corporate associates to get their hands on as well: M&A, private equity, investment funds, banking and finance, capital markets, bankruptcy and restructuring (and more) all fall under the corporate banner. Those in New York start as generalists due to the office’s large size, whereas juniors in other offices tend to follow a more specialized route. Finance in New York is reportedly split between the finance and restructuring group (FARGO) and leveraged financing. This Chicago-based junior reported getting “about 90% private equity work with occasional assignments on a strategic transaction” for clients in various industries: “It depends on a fund’s direction, but I’ve worked with clients in the healthcare space on pharmaceutical drugs or medical equipment, or with those in the manufacturing space.” On the financing side, “I’ve done debt and equity financing recently, as well as some bankruptcy matters,” said one, while another source highlighted: “M&A associates tend to work on three or four deals a day, but our FARGO team probably works on 30 deals a day!” Across the board, juniors commended the department for giving them “lots of responsibility very quickly.” One source happily revealed that they were drafting credit agreements as a first-year, while another explained that “even if you’re not substantively part of the drafting process, they make sure you’re involved.”
Corporate clients: Boeing, Walmart, Intel. Recently advised Intel on its $2 billion acquisition of Israeli-based developer Habana Labs.
"Partners do care about your development,” said one junior, adding that support is available from the get-go: “You’re given substantive work right out the gate and they keep challenging you to help you get up the ladder. It feels like there’s progression and that you’re developing new skills.” On the formal side, juniors reported attending training sessions, presentations given by partners and hour-long CLE ‘lunch and learns.’ In addition, first-years are allocated 150 ‘client readiness’ hours, which they can “use on anything related to development, which is really helpful.” This enabled one of our interviewees to “attend my first deposition, which wasn’t on the client’s time. Those hours really allow you to ramp up.” Informally, “almost every partner has a door open so you can ask for feedback,” one source noted. However, not all end-of-year formal reviews were rated highly, with feedback centering on delays in the New York litigation group and concerns over having a review with a partner “you’ve never worked for – they don’t know your work product.” Before publication the firm informed us that it has moved away from an annual feedback 'event' and now focuses on providing continuous feedback and coaching in real time.
“It feels like there’s progression and that you’re developing new skills.”
Juniors are also assigned two mentors (who are typically midlevel or senior associates) when they join to help with their development. Senior associates can get the assistance and backing of ‘partner sponsors’ if they have their sights set on the partnership. The attainability of making partner was questioned by some, however, with this source explaining that they found it “unlikely. We also get partners from other firms.” The outlook could be different depending on the department though, with this finance associate flagging that “the goal is longevity. Four of the lawyers here came to the firm together and made partner together - I feel very strongly that if it’s what I wanted I would get there.” For those who are looking to exit the firm, we heard that there’s a dedicated team “whose job it is to find associates work outside of the firm. We get emails from them every few weeks with job opportunities at clients, which is pretty progressive.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
Juniors must hit 2,000 hours for the year to be bonus-eligible. What does that mean working hours-wise? For a litigator, billing eight hours a day “keeps me on track and usually isn’t a problem, but when you hit billing ten hours a day it feels long, especially when you’re not billing every hour, and in practice it works out to be a 12-hour day. You can have some crazy years, but the firm’s good at not swamping associates hours-wise. You’ll work hard, but not billing every night until 4am is helpful.” For those in corporate, the experience is captured in the “sprint mentality: closings will mean all-nighters and all hands on deck, but you do get a break. If you’ve just closed a big deal, then partners email out to say ‘X has worked a lot, so they’ll be taking a day or two off.’” One junior on the private equity side did concede that “it’s pretty bad sometimes. They’ve been a lot of weeks where I’ve billed 40 to 50 hours and before a closing I’ll ramp up to 60.”
Juniors were content with their market-rate salaries and bonuses, but one did note a point of contention regarding when bonuses are received. “The bonuses here are usually allocated in March, whereas at other firms you get them closer to the end of the year.” We heard that the firm set out a date range for bonuses to be announced in February 2021 and paid out in early March – a shift from previous years when there wasn’t “much transparency about when bonuses would be received.”
All pro bono hours can be counted toward the firm’s billing target – a stance that chimed with this source’s motivation to join PH: “I wanted to be at a firm that was willing to allow its associates to do pro bono. It’s important given that a lot of us are now in privileged positions, so it’s key for us to give back to the community.” Another interviewee also felt that “the firm pushes it,” which “allows for great experience.” That translated into being able to “draft substantive portions of a motion to dismiss within the first two months of being here” for this junior. The firm’s emphasis on local causes was another positive for one interviewee. “The firm has recently shifted focus to help communities in the LA area,” they noted. “It’s about having a genuine commitment to the community rather than just box-ticking.”
“It’s about having a genuine commitment to the community rather than just box-ticking.”
The firm’s initiatives do extend beyond local causes, however. Prompted by the events of 2020, one PH pro bono initiative saw the firm create “model acts for nationwide police disciplinary reviews” to demonstrate how “officers across the country should handle proper disciplinary reviews in the 21st century.” Associates were also allocated eight hours of billable credit (under the firm's Volunteer Time Off policy) to put toward voting rights advocacy and initiatives devoted to ending racial inequality. We also heard of associates devoting their time to prisoner; veteran; landlord/tenant; adoption; immigration; asylum; human trafficking; and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) matters.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 82,352
- Average per (US) attorney: 113
“The culture here is good,” was an estimation we heard regularly in interviews. “It’s not a burnout culture at all,” reported one satisfied source, with another drawing our attention to the emphasis on informal mentorship among associates: “We’ll check in on other people – personally or professionally – to see if they need help.” They added how these supportive dynamics are “a testament to how the firm facilitates relationships,” and pointed to PH’s approach to the summer program as a good example: “Other firms have giant events and go to clubs, but here we have a more humanized and well-rounded approach to camaraderie. People become close to a few people in their practice area or class and become real friends outside of work too.” Mercifully, PH “isn’t a firm where you’re expected to become friends with everyone – you're allowed an outside life as well!”
“We’ll check in on other people – personally or professionally – to see if they need help.”
Indeed, the social life and number of activities were felt to be pitched at a balanced, manageable level that took into account this truism of BigLaw: “Generally, people get on with the work – because there’s a lot of it – and then sleep or spend time with their family!” Partners were identified as “good culture setters” who “set the tone” in offices, with this Chicago source highlighting how a mix of private equity partners (“they’re pretty laid back”) and bankruptcy seniors (“they’re big golfers!”) help to create “a pretty good place to work from a personality perspective.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Associates did note a shift in the level of uptake and support for D&I initiatives among PH lawyers generally. “As a second-year you want to do X, but you can’t push for it [without broader support],” commented one source while highlighting a positive change in allyship: “A partner who wasn’t affiliated [with a diversity network] took it upon himself to go and champion these things. He was like ‘let me take it up to these people’ and that’s been a productive thing to see people engaged with certain initiatives recently. Often the burden has been put on diverse associates to spearhead change, but the firm is improving and getting more people on board.”
Sources flagged the activity of various diversity affinity groups – known as Paul Hastings Affinity Networks (PHANS) – as well as the hosting of panel discussions. “We had a number of people talking in really personal terms about what they’ve experienced, even at the workplace,” one commented. “The firm had no ego in that regard.” Other initiatives were commended: “We’re partnering with more diverse organizations at law schools to teach students how to navigate the legal industry.” On the whole, PH was deemed to have “always been good about sexuality and gender,” but “could do better on racial diversity.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: 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. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul Hastings conducted all on-campus and callback interviews virtually in late 2020 and early 2021. Interviewers may range from mid-level and senior associates to partners, and managing director of talent acquisition & enrichment 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.” – managing director of talent acquisition & enrichment Cindy Hasson
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
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?” – managing director of talent acquisition & enrichment 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.
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. It’s almost like a different recruiting path.” The Paul Hastings 2021 Summer Associate Program will be remote for the full length of the traditional program - 10-weeks.
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:
“Even if the program is virtual, make time during the summer to meet as many people as possible. Attend events, introduce yourself and network.” – managing director of talent acquisition & enrichment Cindy Hasson
Paul Hastings also offers a $25,000 diversity scholarship award open to a 1L and 2L law student.
Paul Hastings LLP
515 South Flower Street,
- Largest Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 11
- Worldwide revenue: $1,307,952,266
- Partners (US): 239
- Counsel (US): 75
- Associates (US): 411
- Main recruitment contact: Cynthia Hasson, Managing Director, Acquisition & Enrichment
- Hiring partners: Talent Advisory Council
- Diversity director: Karlie Ilaria-Garcia
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 84
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 79
- 1Ls: 77, 2Ls: 2
- Summer salary 2021:
- 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, Georgetown, GW, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, 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, 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Private Equity: The Elite (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 5)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional: Mainly Talent (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 3)
California: Los Angeles & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
California: San Francisco, Silicon Valley & Surro
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- 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 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 6)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
- 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 5)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 4)
- 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: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 5)
- FCPA (Band 1)
- Hedge Funds (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 4)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 5)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 1)
- Privacy & Data Security: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Registered Funds (Band 3)
- REITs (Band 5)