Schulte may put the ‘fun’ in investment fund management, but its top-quality work and enviable client list show that it means business.
ESTABLISHED in 1969, Schulte is a New York-centered firm with impressive credentials in the investment management space. “Schulte is known for its funds expertise, and it permeates everything at the firm,” juniors told us, who added that it was this “very interesting line of work” that attracted them in the first place. The firm's hedge funds know-how in particular picks up top awards in both Chambers USA and Chambers Global, giving Schulte kudos on both the national and worldwide stage. Despite this international renown, Schulte has a small physical presence that consists of just three bases: on home soil, its New York HQ is accompanied by a 19-lawyer DC office, which has a growing reputation for white-collar and government investigations work. Overseas, a base in London rounds out the firm's offering.
Our interviewees felt that Schulte's more navigable size forged a sociable and more relaxed culture: “It's a smaller firm so you get to know everyone much better. I feel lucky to be part of a class of 30 rather than 80.” But as chair of the executive committee Alan Waldenberg explains, a smaller scale means that Schulte also attracts those on the more ambitious and confident side of the personality spectrum: “It’s an easier place to shine but it’s also a more difficult place to hide compared to our competitors. If you want to go through the motions and sit in a big pool of associates this isn’t the place for you.”
Those who had decided that Schulte was the one for them typically found themselves based in the New York HQ (DC usually takes on one or two newbies each year), which Chambers USA also acknowledges for its corporate/M&A, bankruptcy/restructuring, real estate and tax expertise.
Strategy & Future
“I always say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” chair of the executive committee Alan Waldenberg tells us. Schulte's plans for the future are therefore crystal clear: “We want to continue to grow in our core practices but we don’t see any need to shift course. We’re not going to start new practice areas or open 27 foreign offices in five years' time just because our competition has.”
Around a quarter of the associates on our list were based in the investment management practice, but the firm's litigation and M&A and securities practices also housed a fair number of juniors. The remainder were split between the finance, individual client services, structured finance and derivatives, real estate, business reorganization, and tax groups. Each group has an assignment coordinator, but the extent to which they are relied upon varies by practice. What typically happens is that “as you progress things become more 'free market' – you gravitate toward the partners you enjoy working with, or you're asked to work for a specific client.”
Those in investment management work “primarily on hedge fund formations and management matters.” Juniors had helped to form “funds worth over $1.5 billion” and enjoyed “taking theseentities through the launching to the trading phase.” They also praised the lean staffing model (teams often consist of just a junior, a mid-level and a partner), but admitted that at times “it's a bit trial by fire.” On the plus side small teams mean that there's “regular contact with clients, who inquire about certain forms and so on; I'm currently helping with a fund's strategy and the client calls me twice a week.” The highs include “learning how to do launches by just doing them,” which gives juniors exposure to subscription documents. Matters typically cover multiple jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands and the UK.
“You can build your own niche here.”
The litigation department works on “a plethora of matters,” and juniors don’t typically specialize in one area. Sources had dipped their toes into SEC work relating to hedge funds, proxy litigation matters, white-collar crime cases, government investigations and regulatory issues. Associates generally praised the variety of work available, which included “drafting everything from complaints and motions to substantive briefs.” Those on regulatory matters revealed: “The bulk of my time is spent drafting letters to government agencies, and I’ve spent a ton of time preparing witnesses.” Many were “thankful” for the amount of face time they got with partners: “A lot of firms tell you they’ll give you all these experiences but I’ve really found that to be true here.”
Over in M&A and securities, the group encompasses traditional M&A, shareholder activism, capital markets and securities work. “I focus on one sub-group, but if I wanted to take on something else it would be very easy to ask them to bring me in on it. You can build your own niche here,” one insider explained. “On a complex deal the senior attorney oversees the more primary documents, but juniors still get to handle entity formation checklists, ancillary documents and signature pages.” With M&A deals, tasks depend on whether Schulte is representing the buyer or the seller: “On the seller side you get to be responsible for data requests, negotiating nondisclosure agreements, and turning edits on share purchase agreements. On the buyer side you're doing more due diligence – someone has to do it and that someone will always be the junior!”
Training & Development
An orientation period in New York gives juniors a chance to “figure out the IT and billing systems, as well as the more substantive stuff like the nature of the client base – associates can come in with very little knowledge of hedge funds and that type of entity.” Following this, associates attend various “boot camps” that are tailored to their practice. Litigators, for example, “go through training sessions for the first two years; right off the bat they're hosted by partners and associates every week, and they focus on specific things like how to draft pleadings and respond to document requests – they're really valuable for first-years.” M&A associates had enjoyed a similar experience: “There seem to be boot camps every other week!”
Most firms see a spike in social activity during the summer, but Schulte really knows how to host a memorable summer program. We heard of associates enjoying Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj concerts, go-karting expeditions and excursions to Nike’s flagship store to design their own sneakers. The fun doesn’t stop there, however: “The firm really does foster the idea of hanging out together. There are monthly associate lunches in huge conference rooms, parties all the time, and movie evenings where they rent out a theater and show movies before general release.” Other sources highlighted how social their practice group was: “This team hosts impromptu happy hours and we recently did an escape room. Our social events usually involve an unreasonable amount of food too…”
"...you can have a beard. It doesn’t matter."
Back in the office, interviewees pitched the overarching culture as “laid back and friendly; it's a little more casual, which I like, and people often stop by to chat.” The firm promotes a more dressed-down, “less prim and proper” environment, which is most evident on “jeans Fridays.” However, on any given day “it’s very rare to see someone in a tie if they don’t have a meeting or court appearance scheduled. You can dress how you want; you can have a beard. It doesn’t matter. You can be yourself – many people have different personalities here, so there's no need to conform.”
The firm’s midtown office in Manhattan has been undergoing a revamp of late, so “everything's brand new; it’s all glass and very hi-tech, with sit/stand desks that go up and down electronically.” The tech upgrade includes a new phone system “called 'Loop Up,' which enables you to see who's talking when you're on a call with multiple people.” At the time of our calls, the firm was also in the process of distributing laptops that associates can dock at their desks to serve as their main computer (making it easier for juniors to work remotely if needed).
Hours & Compensation
Juniors must reach a target of 2,000 hours each year to qualify for a bonus, and they can count 200 hours (and potentially more if they petition) of time spent on any mix of pro bono, marketing, writing, recruitment and other approved non-billable work toward it. “It's transparent,” sources reported merrily. “The compensation system is pretty fair: the salaries are all lockstep and there are additional payment tiers for the bonus when you bill 2,300 and 2,500 hours – it's nice to know you'll be rewarded.”
“It's nice to know you'll be rewarded.”
The 2,000-hour target means that “you need to fill up the majority of your day.” But what that day looks like often depends on the individual: “There are people who prefer to work from 9am until 7pm, and have that consistent eight- or nine-hour grind, while others will work some 15-hour days and then some where they leave by 3pm.” Those in investment management explained that “you can foresee the long days and plan accordingly,” while their colleagues in other transactional groups like M&A and securities said that “it really does fluctuate; I've done a couple of true all-nighters, and there are times when I'm here until 2am, but that's not the norm.”
“On observation, no, we're not very diverse,” associates declared, “but once you're here on the inside you see that we do a very good of promoting it, especially with regards to women; we also have a small but strong LGBT community that does a good job.”While “we don't have that many women in leadership positions, those who are take on an incredible amount of responsibility.” Sources put the lack of diversity in the partnership down to the fact that “not many people make partner here, and that limits the potential for renewal.”
There is a senior attorney who coordinates pro bono and circulates opportunities around the firm: “He's extremely active, and is constantly sending around emails, which is nice because you don't have to seek the work out.” Litigators told us that “pro bono is becoming a bigger deal, but the reality is that most associates are too busy to take on huge projects. There are associates that prioritize them though.”
Those in the transactional groups, however, explained that “if you want to do it you can, but you don'tget the feeling that it’s encouraged.” Others agreed: “You’re not forgiven for getting behind on your billable work because you’ve been on pro bono.” Those who'd taken on projects had worked on matters related to family law, the Innocence Project, green card/U visa applications and liability waivers for charities. All attorneys are encouraged to log a minimum of 30 pro bono hours each year.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 12,289
- Average per US attorney: 36
Interview with chair of the executive committee Alan Waldenberg
Chambers Associate:Have there been any developments over the last twelve months that our readers should know about?
Alan Waldenberg: We’ve had another great year. No one here is looking to radically shift the course of the firm; we’ve stayed true to our philosophy. I always say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. One thing we have focused on is dramatically increasing our diversity initiatives and associate development training programs.
CA:Where do you see the firm heading in five years’ time?
AW: Our plan is to stick to what we do well, and grow within the context of what we’re doing. We want to continue to grow in our core practices but we don’t see any need to shift course. We’re not going to start new practice areas or open 27 foreign offices in five years' time just because our competition has.
CA: What are the main factors driving your practice?
AW: Like everybody else, the biggest factors are the economy and the regulatory environment coming out of Washington. Beyond that we’re spending a lot of money on technology, but I’m not as worried as people say I should be about computers taking over. It influences what we do and we’ll embrace that.
CA:How would you describe the ideal Schulte candidate?
AW: I think the ideal candidate is bright and entrepreneurial – someone who takes on responsibility. It’s only fair to tell people it’s a smaller firm, so it’s an easier place to shine but it’s also a more difficult place to hide compared to our competitors. If you want to go through the motions and sit in a big pool of associates this isn’t the place for you. This is the kind of place where you’ll show up and after three weeks you’ll be put on a trial. It’s much different at a 400-person firm like ours than it is at a huge firm, so we want people who want to get their feet wet as soon as they walk through the door.
CA:What does the firm offer associates that is unique?
AW: Our size and culture sets us apart. Our culture is different because we’re a first-generation firm – two of the founding partners come in every day, and most of the partners have been here for many years. Because it’s essentially a single-office firm everyone knows each other and it has that small firm feel; it’s not like every time you’re on a new deal you’re working with seven strangers from different offices. It’s a more casual learning environment and that sets us apart.
“First and foremost we’re looking for people who can do the work, but a close second is people who are friendly and good to work with,” associates revealed. “We often conduct interviews through lunches and receptions so we can get to know people a bit better. They send associates out to evaluate the candidates and then give feedback.” Others also highlighted the importance of those 'softer' factors during the recruitment process: “Personality is so important. I was told they go by the ‘pizza test’: who would you want to grab a pizza with after a late night at the office?” Associates reiterated the extent to which Schulte’s “laid-back” culture informs its hiring priorities, and added that candidates should be “down-to-earth but also hard-working.”
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
919 Third Avenue,
- Head Office: New York
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 1
- Worldwide revenue: $424,100,000 (2017)
- Partners (US): 86
- Other lawyers (US): 250
- 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 2018: 38
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 2Ls: 41
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: NY: 41
- Summer salary 2018:
- 2Ls: $3,462
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Tulane, UVA, Wash U.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Lav Law, NEBLSA Job Fair, Resume Collections from Syracuse, UCLA, William & Mary, 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
Chambers USA Guide 2017
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 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 1)