A nifty 50 years of funds management expertise convinced many a junior to invest their future in this Big Apple midsizer.
"WHERE do we sit?” Executive committee chair Alan Waldenberg took a moment before proposing that Schulte sits “comfortably” in its market position, 50 years from its founding. The firm's made its name in investment management and represents a whopping 3,000 funds including nearly half of the 100 largest hedge funds. Schulte's work in setting these up and editing their structure earns it a top-tier national Chambers USA ranking for investment funds; the firm also wins national accolades in bankruptcy and capital markets.
Most of Schulte's 350-odd lawyers can be found in the New York HQ; the firm's only other offices are in DC – which takes one or two juniors a year and focuses on government-related disputes and investigations – and across the pond in London. “I wasn't concerned about finding a firm with a big international footprint,” one junior told us, “and Schulte has a great reputation in New York.” However, Schulte is expanding its remit in DC: it has just launched a real estate practice there, and is also diversifying its bank regulatory practice in the office.
Schulte's litigation and investment management groups house most of the newbies, while the M&A and finance groups usually absorb an equal number each. A few can be found in real estate, individual client services, tax or banking regulation. Schulte's investment management group has two assigning partners on hand (one for juniors and another for senior associates), while the other groups manage with just one, who is available for everyone in the department. Most newcomers get their early projects from the centralized system, and over time "you take more on directly from the partners." Sources were happy with the compromise as "there's always someone to approach if you need more work. You don't have to go out on a limb and barge into a partner's office."
The bread and butter of the investment management group is setting up and editing the structure of various private equity and hedge funds. Side dishes came with some exotic added flavors; examples included "working on a quant fund that was all algorithms and a cryptocurrency fund centered around Bitcoin." Associates largely agreed that setting up a fund was the most rewarding type of project on offer. "Although they will often be based on precedent they're sometimes drawn up from scratch. You go through so many turns of the documents that you get to know them inside and out." Sources also appreciated that drafting was "part of daily practice. I get to write all the time and handle granular queries.”
Investment management clients: Westport Capital, DuPont Capital, Centerbridge Partners. Helped Cerberus Capital Management raise $4 billion for its Institutional Partners VI fund.
“I get to write all the time... it's part of the daily practice.”
Schulte's finance team also advises hedge and private equity funds, leaning more toward regulatory and acquisition advice. “By the time you're a second-year you're in charge of running the ancillaries of a project, communicating with everyone involved and keeping the deal going at the right pace." Associates in New York relished sinking their teeth into meatier opportunities after early days spent in the trenches of post-deal management – "that can be very repetitive. Bugging people to send things over to you again and again can get a bit exhausting."
Even in litigation there's no escaping private equity and hedge funds, which make up a hefty chunk of the client roster. The group covers securities, general commercial and (particularly in DC) white-collar disputes; all are available to juniors. One declared they got to do "a lot of legal research and writing including motions to dismiss.” Many got away from their keyboards to sit in on depositions, and less thrillingly completed their “fair share” of document review. Responsibilities were roughly even across the group's three prongs, though in criminal cases "there aren't as many discovery requests as in the civil realm” so associates had more time for research and drafting.
Litigation clients: National Retirement Fund, Black Diamond Capital, Spectrum Investment Partners. Represented former Equifax executive Jun Ying in two insider trading cases.
M&A and securities is also technically split into three subsections: shareholder activism is the third. Here too, juniors got to try matters from each chunk – "sometimes you want to make sure you're not being pigeonholed in one area." Due diligence and research into target companies were key responsibilities here: shareholder activism involved “in-depth analysis of the target company and what laws are applicable, such as whether there's a supermajority requirement." Juniors also got to sit in on negotiations conducted by seniors, which they found "very valuable. That helps you understand what processes lead to the other side's response."
M&A and securities clients: Greenlight Capital, Sustainable Growth Advisers, Saba Capital. Acted for Priority Holdings in its acquisition of MI Acquisitions.
Career & Development
Following an orientation period in New York, associates attend practice group-tailored 'boot camps' to build their skill sets. In 2017 the program for litigators was “completely revamped” to put more emphasis on practical training. “Partners and senior associates are very open about your prospects,” one insider felt, “but there could be more transparency about where Schulte is headed and what opportunities might arise.” Senior associates tend to rise to partnership or a special counsel position at around their eighth year: “A good number of associates will become partners. You can definitely grow your career and thrive here.” Juniors with ambitions beyond Schulte had varied plans for the future – we heard “investment management associates often get poached by the biggest firms because Schulte is so well known in that space.”
“A good number of associates will become partners.”
Diversity & Inclusion
"When you look at incoming classes it seems the firm is doing well," one interviewee pointed out, "but once you see who's leaving the firm and who's ultimately promoted the numbers are much weaker." Glancing at the stats, 16% of the firm's partners are female and 11% are non-white, “but these problems are industry-wide.” Various affinity groups aim to turn the tide and Schulte now runs implicit bias training; there's also the option of a reduced work schedule, with no drop in salary or bonus, available to attorneys returning from maternity leave.
Hours & Compensation
Juniors must reach a 2,000 hours target to qualify for a bonus, and they can count 200 (and potentially more if they petition) spent on any mix of pro bono and other approved non-billable work toward that. 2,000 hours isn't much of a challenge, according to sources in investment management; the goal was more difficult for juniors in other groups to reach. Most were out of the door by 6 or 7pm on an average day but logged shifts "at least 12 hours long" at various points in the year. The worst war story came from an associate who'd worked three days straight; they admitted they weren't “a great test case, I've been very busy for quite a while.”
Schulte matched market salary increases in 2018, but "among associates there was some eye-rolling because it took so long. Nobody was upset and I've heard partners admit this firm will never be a salary leader." We're sure they were more satisfied with Christmas bonuses that beat the market for associates who billed more than 2,300 hours.
The firm prefers associates to be in the office during the working day. Those we spoke to didn't mind, pointing out this "makes people connect on a personal and professional level. There are people here who I've become very good friends with because I'm always popping into their offices to say hello." They also spent a fair amount of time outside work hours hanging out – "from your first day here people take you out for lunch and want to become your friend.” Schulte's social calendar is fairly well stacked and hots up during the summer associate season. Recent classes “saw Hamilton when it had just hit Broadway, attended a Yankees game and did a mixology class. There are also events for just associates to help us get to know each other.”
“This isn't a big firm where you won't get to know half your colleagues' names.”
Describing the New York office as “a place where people work very hard but don't take themselves too seriously,” insiders explained “this isn't a big firm where you won't get to know half your colleagues' names.” That's reinforced by a "team-oriented" approach: "I always work with other people on projects and they always have my back. There are also a lot of young people here, which is nice for juniors." One source applauded the firm's recruitment staff for “doing a really good job reinforcing culture from the start; interviewers aren't like-minded in every sense but they all value the idea of respecting everybody.”
“A good chunk of the interview was personal conversation, which was an indicator of what kind of place Schulte is.” Click the 'Bonus Features' tab above for more on recruitment.
If we were to rank every firm on a spectrum from charity champions to pro bono scrooges, associates reckoned "Schulte would sit in the 'it's available but not expected' section." Insiders clarified they'd "never been told to put down pro bono work for billables" and that getting involved was as simple as responding to a firm-wide email. Finding the time was another matter, but most believed it's "fairly easy if you're serious about it.” Along with traditional pro bono litigation, juniors also took on contract review and research for voluntary organizations. One interviewee alone rattled through a list of “amicus briefs, appeals, and lobbying work and research for nonprofits” they'd completed.
"...never been told to put down pro bono for billables."
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 12,792
- Average per US attorney: 38
Strategy & Future
According to executive committee chair Alan Waldenberg, Schulte's structured products practice has grown exponentially, while the firm's core teams – investment management, M&A and shareholder activism – have also been faring well. Looking forward, Waldenberg predicts Schulte could expand its field of expertise. “One thing that's certain is the government will find new things to regulate,” he points out, “and we'll have to bring in experts, whether that's for cryptocurrency or cybersecurity.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: Undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: Undisclosed
Schulte conducts OCIs at more than 15 schools and two New York based job fairs. Candidates simply sending in a resume and cover letter are also welcome. Interviews are normally conducted with partners. Hiring sources at the firm inform us the OCIs are “designed to evaluate the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively and to make a preliminary assessment of the candidate’s potential to contribute to our firm’s success.” Candidates should be ready for questions about anything on their résumé, “including aspects of your college experience and your hobbies and interests.”
Top tips for this stage:
“It's so important to clearly convey your reasons for wanting to join our firm. Why us over one of our competitors? Even at this initial stage, we want to get a strong sense of your motivations.”– A second-year associate
“This is a great opportunity to let the interviewer know about any of our firm's on campus programs or 1L receptions that you attended throughout the year.”– Hiring sources at the firm
Applicants invited to second stage interview: Undisclosed
Associates face interviews with two partners and a further two to three associates. The interviews normally take place during the morning and may include a coffee or lunch meeting. The whole process takes up to three hours. As callbacks are a chance for deeper probing, interviewers “ask questions that allow the student to demonstrate their analytical and problem-solving skills” according to hiring sources at the firm. Alongside this, interviewers also focus “on evaluating whether the candidate would succeed in our firm’s dynamic and entrepreneurial environment.” Sources told us that “it’s very much a friendly interview – they want to know if you are a friendly down-to-earth person as well as whether you can express yourself in a professional manner.”
Top tips for this stage:
“At this point they want to know if they will enjoy spending time with you for 12 to 15 hours a day!” – A third-year associate
“Most importantly, be yourself and be respectful of everyone you meet in the process.” – Hiring sources at the firm
Schulte’s 11-week summer program got a lot of praise from associates we spoke to. “It was a lot of fun!” chirped one. “There was one big event and one or two smaller events every week. People were partied out by the end!” Watch out though. As this third-year associate says, “Make sure you are responsible at summer associate parties. The firm is not looking down on you for drinking, but you don't want to be the guy on the table dancing.” Previous events have included the musical Hamilton, a Beyoncé concert, and a Mets game from a “luxury box.” How fancy! Social events are dotted throughout to give participants a chance to unwind, alongside lunches and networking events organized by the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee and affinity groups.
Still, there’s plenty of work to do. The program is held only in the New York office and summers choose two practice areas to focus on (they can still pick up assignments from elsewhere). A mock negotiation program is on offer to sharpen transactional skills, along with trial advocacy training and legal writing and business of law training programs. Sessions with different practice areas are also available to help summers get a better grasp on them. A junior associate mentor and a mid-level associate mentor are on standby to help summers navigate the program. The firm tells us almost all summers return as first-year associates, and are placed into practice groups by individual preference and the needs of the firm.
Notable summer events: Broadway shows including Hamilton, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars concerts, a Mets Game, Shakespeare in the Park, and cookery classes.
Top tips for this stage:
“They plan to give everyone an offer if they can, so doing well is just a matter of not brushing of the work. The few times people haven’t gotten offers it was because they didn't turn in work even after this issue was raised with them!” – A third-year junior associate
“We offer summer associates opportunities to make substantive contributions to our work, and we expect our summer associates to demonstrate a professional commitment to their assignments over the course of the summer. They are part of our team in every sense.” – Hiring sources at the firm
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
919 Third Avenue,
- Head Office: New York
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 1
- Worldwide revenue: $439,965,000 (2018)
- Partners (US): 82
- Other lawyers (US): 252
- Main recruitment contact: Alissa K Golden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partners: William H Gussman, Jr, Taleah E Jennings, Jason S Kaplan
- Diversity officer: Taleah E Jennings
- Recruitment details:
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 38
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 2Ls: 54
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: NY: 54
- Summer salary 2019:
- 2Ls: $3,654
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Tulane, UVA, Washington and Lee, Wash U., William & Mary.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Harvard BLSA Career Fair, Lav Law, NEBLSA Job Fair, NYC Metro Area LGBT Legal Career Fair, resume collections from Syracuse, UCLA, interview write-in candidates from many additional law schools.
Summer associate profile:
SRZ hires attorneys who are bright, personable and enthusiastic about early substantive responsibility and client contact. We seek candidates with outstanding academic achievement, high motivation and strong interpersonal skills.
Summer program components:
Our summer associate program allows students to receive substantive assignments from practice groups of their choice during two assigning periods. Summer associates have interaction with our clients, attend meetings and depositions and work on complex projects. Training and feedback are emphasized through regular departmental training sessions, a writing seminar, a corporate negotiation workshop, a trial advocacy program, and a pro bono week. These experiences are all designed to allow students to explore various areas of interest, get immersed in the firm culture and gain first-hand knowledge of what they will see as a junior associate. In addition to our top-notch training programs and hands-on work experience, we offer fun and exciting social activities that allow summer associates to spend time with their associate and partner mentors, develop relationships with our attorneys and get to know everyone outside of the office.
Linkedin: Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 1)
- Investment Funds: Regulatory & Compliance (Band 1)