If you’re looking for BigLaw in the Diamond State, this firm may well be Dela-where you want to be.
Our interviewees were confident in their declaration that “Richards, Layton & Finger is the best firm in Delaware - we’re as good as it gets here.” With the one office in the one state, attorneys here can quickly become “experts in Delaware law,” and sources were keen to extol the benefits of being a lawyer in a small city: “The small size of the Bar means you’re more familiar with everyone in the city. Everyone’s seen your name or face at some point.” This gives juniors here the “unique” opportunity to be a “big fish” in the Delaware pond. Take that, New York.
“Our firm has this unique status in Delaware.”
The firm’s Chambers USA rankings confirm its status as the Diamond State’s preeminent outfit. It’s given top-tier rankings in the state for its work in the restructuring, chancery, corporate/M&A and alternative entities, and real estate spaces. It’s also highly regarded for its work in IP and labor & employment. Chambers High Net Worthgives it an additional top ranking for its private wealth law work.
Strategy & Future
Looking to the future, associates reiterated their confidence in RLF’s position in the market: “Our firm has this unique status in Delaware – it makes us indestructible.” Bold words indeed! The firm’s Delaware-only mindset means that unlike many other outfits, “we're not interested in opening national offices,” sources were clear. This state-based stronghold approach also meant that during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, “the firm was in a very strong position. We didn’t delay starting times and we didn’t cut salaries.” In fact, recent salary rises in 2021 show the firm is “incredibly healthy,” ourinsiders reasoned.
Summer associates spend half the program in one department and half in another. Around a third of the juniors on our list were in corporate litigation (easily the biggest recruiter). Between one and six juniors could be found in each of the following groups: bankruptcy; alternative entities; commercial transactions; corporate trust & agency services; real estate; trusts & estates; corporate advisory; and general litigation.
"We can crack into all kinds of markets because there’s an incentive to be incorporated here.”
The corporate litigationdepartment works with BigLaw firms around the country to help them as “the experts on Delaware law. Because a lot of companies are incorporated in Delaware, there are aspects of state law in these cases they simply don’t know about.” The team also handles a lot of hearings in the Delaware Court of Chancery, which has unique aspects covering equity jurisdiction. As well as assisting other BigLaw firms, the team also takes the lead on certain cases as well – particularly on the defense side incommercial contract disputes. In addition, sources pointed out that “recently, the firm has been seeinga lot of merger agreement disputes.” As the tax laws in Delaware are “very favorable,” the work touches on “a whole lot of industries – we can crack into all kinds of markets because there’s an incentive to be incorporated here.”
Most of the time, junior associates’ role is “supportive – handling simple filings and research.” The research often involves a “deep dive into niche, specific questions of law that arise,” said one source, adding that “it mainly involves looking at case law and secondary sources to come up with an answer.” The juniors here also get to get to do preliminary drafts of “procedural documents like motions to admit outside counsel, briefs and complaints,” negotiate search terms during the discovery process, as well as put together binders for directors based on discovery. “It’s substantive work with a lot of responsibility,” juniors agreed.
Corporate litigation clients: The Boeing Company, Kate Spade & Company, Wayfair, NVIDIA. Defended Dell in a litigation arising out of a transaction that got rid of the company’s former Class V trading stock.
“We have a pretty strong emphasis on pro bono,” our insiders made clear, adding that “they’ve tried to get us in on pro bono work from very early on.” Attorneys at RLF get involved primarily with cases in the family court, such as child custody cases. “It’s great to be able to help individuals with their lives like that,” one junior reflected. There’s also plenty of pro bono work in helping nonprofits with their corporate work, such as “drafting corporate governance documents or advising them on how to run the organization.” We heard that “it’s not uncommon for partners to be on the board of those nonprofits.” In addition, we were told there’s a small amount of wills, trusts and estates work for “seniors that can’t afford a private attorney.”
Juniors can bill up an unlimited number of hours of pro bono per year, but sources told us that “it’s limited to around ten hours a week.” One added: “It’s annoying as one week you could do more than ten and one week do zero. But it generally isn’t feasible to spend more than ten hours a week on pro bono anyway.” Interviewees had completed between 50 and 100 hours in the past year – “that’s about average.” Though it’s understood that “if you have work for a case, that’ll take priority over pro bono,” but with an overall sentiment that partners are “encouraging and understanding – they won’t ever dissuade us from doing pro bono.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 5,643
- Average per (US) attorney: 40
Interviewees told us that fellow attorneys at RLF are “supportive, encouraging, and willing to help.” They also told us that partners’ attitudes in particular went a long way in making “great personal experiences for juniors” by offering “constructive and gentle criticism – they’re always very patient.” Increasing in-office work means that RLF attorneys were getting back into the swing of things – “you can see people socializing in office and people are generally trying to get as much facetime as possible.” At the time of writing, official lines state that attorneys must be in the office three days a week and sources were pleased to report that “when you’re in the office people keep their doors open – we run by each other and pop in to talk.”
"Your salary goes much further.”
Wilmington is apparently “not as boring as you might think!” Though the general consensus was that “there’s not nearly as much going on as in a big city like New York or LA, it’s not, like, a terrible place.” For example, despite there being “not too much going on in the way of entertainment,” the “low cost of living here means your salary goes much further,” sources pointed out – “that makes up for it being a little boring.”
Hours & Compensation
“Some days I’ll bill between 11 and 13 hours and then there’s other days where I might bill just four hours,” one junior summarized. They added that “the more senior you get the more consistent your flow of work is because you tend to get staffed on a wider range of cases. But as a junior you might be suddenly burning the midnight oil a bit.” Despite this, interviewees told us that the workload “isn’t crazy at all,” with one junior noting that “it’s lower than my expectation.” Moreover, our survey results show that at 47.3, the average number of hours respondents had worked in the previous week is handily below the market average.
First-years get no bonus and have no specific billable requirement. Most agreed that “it’s positive in that you can find your feet calmly, but it’d also be motivating to have an incentive to bill a certain number of hours.” Once they hit second year, associates can expect an hours-based bonus program that scales upward. In general, “hours as a number aren’t a big concern for the first couple of years at least,” sources agreed, highlighting that “the firm wants to make sure you’re learning and developing.” With many juniors finding that “salaries are comparable to the New York market for at least the first few years,” Delaware’s lower cost of living led our interviewees to conclude that “from a financial perspective, this is the place to be.”
Career longevity is important at RLF: “They want you to develop your skills as a lawyer and have a long and successful career as an attorney.” A “super helpful” orientation covers setting up technology and how to work virtually. Then comes the practical stuff “on how to conduct research, what resources are available to us, as well as departmental overviews of the work, main cases and structure.” This is followed by additional internal training, with partners putting together materials and sample work product for review. There are also a series of lunchtime trainings that are “just a foundation to be worked on,” with the overall feeling that RLF is very much a “learn by doing place.”
"We’re encouraged to ask questions about their comments or revisions."
The juniors we spoke to found they received ample partner feedback – “and we’re encouraged to ask questions about their comments or revisions too. That’s how you learn most things.” Partnership is an attainable goal at RLF. Those that leave tend to do so for firms outside Delaware: “We are just in Delaware. Some people want to leave Delaware for whatever reason.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“Compared to other firms in Delaware there is a heavy emphasis on D&I,” associates said. We heard from interviewees that RLF has a “wide range of ethnic backgrounds and religions represented,” especially among its more junior classes, with the overall feeling from juniors that “we’re doing what we can.” The representation of women in leadership was also praised: “The current president is a woman, and her successor will be too. It’s great to see women in these high positions as a junior associate.” However, we heard “the partnership in general could definitely be more representative of the general population.”
The D&I committee was praised for its events and seminars – “it spreads awareness of different holidays and cultural events.” Anyone can get involved in the committee, who are also “there to talk to if you have any concerns about diversity-related topics. They advocate for the firm to be more inclusive overall.” When it comes to mental health, the firm hosts wellness initiatives sessions and bi-weekly guided meditations, and sources commended the firm for “putting on talks about boosting wellness and morale, especially during the pandemic.”
Richards, Layton & Finger PA
- Head office: Wilmington, DE
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners US: 75
- Associates US: 97
- Main recruitment contact: Samantha Stern firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hiring partner: Michael D. Allen
- Recruitment website: rlf.com/careers
- Diversity officer: Danielle Andrisani Nowaczyk, Director of Attorney Development
- Recruitment details
- Number of entry-level associates starting in 2021: 16
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Number of summers joining/anticipated 2021:
- 1Ls: 3, 2Ls: 13
- Number of summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: 16, Wilmington
- Summer salary 2021:
- 1Ls: $ 3365/week
- 2Ls: $ 3365/week
- Split summers offered? case-by-case
Main areas of work:
- Bankruptcy & Corporate Restructuring
- Commercial Litigation
- Commercial Transactions
- Corporate & Chancery Litigation
- Corporate Governance, Corporate Transactions, Mergers & Acquisitions
- Corporate Trust & Agency Services, Structured Finance
- Intellectual Property
- Limited Liability Company & Partnership Advisory
Richards Layton offers attorneys the unique opportunity to work on globally significant matters at a firm that feels more like a small town. With a partner to associate ratio of about 1:1, our junior attorneys receive personal attention, intellectual challenge, and early responsibility. The firm has participated in many of the groundbreaking cases defining Delaware corporate law, and its lawyers have long played crucial roles in drafting and amending the state’s influential business statutes. The firm understands the importance of pro bono work, and our pro bono program gives attorneys the opportunity to use their time and talents to enrich others as well as themselves. Our associates are encouraged to join the firm’s pro bono teams in their first year. Diversity and inclusion are core institutional commitments at Richards Layton. The firm participates in and supports a variety of local organizations that share our dedication to advancing underrepresented groups in the legal profession.
Law schools attended for OCI in 2022: BYU, Columbia, Cornell, Dickinson, Drexel, Duke, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Penn, Penn State, Temple, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Villanova, UVA, Wake Forest, Washington & Lee, Wash. U (St. Louis), Widener, William & Mary
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We encourage write-in applications from students at all ABA-accredited law schools. Please visit rlf.com/careers
Summer associate profile:
Richards, Layton & Finger seeks candidates with strong academics, Law Review/Journal experience and/or moot court who are motivated and responsible. We look for those with initiative and passion for the law, who are optimistic, energetic and efficient, and willing and eager to take ownership of assigned matters. We like to see those in leadership roles.
Summer program components:
Summer associates rank their practice area preferences prior to their arrival in May. Midway through the summer, everyone changes departments. Two designated assigning attorneys – one director and one associate – coordinate and assign work. Summer associates are routinely given the same level of work and responsibility as full-time associates. Informal seminars, luncheons, and weekly social events introduce summer associates to the firm as well as to all that Wilmington and the surrounding areas have to offer.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Chancery (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)