Shearman & Sterling LLP - The Inside View

Hello, is it a New York megafirm with a global practice you’re looking for? Shearman would be a sterling choice...

ONE way to check if a firm really has an 'international presence' or if it's tooting its own horn a little too hard is by taking a look at its Chambers rankings. Shearman certainly fits the 'global' bill – the firm earns rankings in every continent it lays its hat in. In the US alone the firm stands out for projects, finance and dispute resolution, and there's a running theme of masterminding cross-border investments. Along with its “broad international presence” the big selling point for our interviewees was Shearman's “history and culture,” developed over its 145-year existence.

Most of the firm's juniors call the New York HQ home. In 2018 Shearman said 'howdy' to Texas by opening offices in both Houston and Austin; and 'annyeong' to South Korea's capital Seoul, where the firm opened in 2019. “We’re in expansion mode,” one associate told us. “I like this attitude, Shearman is usually relatively risk-averse and more cautious.”

Strategy & Future

Interviewees were excited about the potential Seoul office as an opportunity for the firm to “live up to its full potential” in the Asian market. Managing partner David Beveridge tells us the firm is focused on growing out – “we elevated eight attorneys to partner in 2017 and then 16 in 2018.” Upping its numbers aside, business as usual is the plan for Shearman looking ahead: “We're going to continue our focus on high-end work and being one of the elite global firms. We take a very long-term view of the future of the firm.”

The Work

Corporate welcomes the largest chunk of rookies, followed by litigation; smaller groups include tax; real estate; and compensation, governance and ERISA. Litigators tend to begin their careers as generalists; the same used to be true in corporate but now associates are placed directly into a subgroup. “There used to be some issues where some associates were swamped and others didn’t have enough work,” so it's no surprise that most juniors were happy about the change and looked forward to “forging relationships more organically.” A few argued that the pool let newcomers “try a lot of different things. Coming from law school you often don’t know what’s what so it was good to work with different partners and try different styles of work.” Managing partner David Beveridge suggests “most associates had a pretty good idea of where they wanted to be. We want them to get the best training possible in their chosen area but they can still rotate if they change their minds.”

Subdivisions within corporate include project finance, M&A, funds, derivatives, bankruptcy and capital markets. In theory there's a formal work assignment system and juniors send a monthly update on their availability to a coordinator, but the actual process of getting involved on matters “varies between practice groups.” The M&A team does “a lot of very interesting private equity work and public deals,” often with a cross-border element. Juniors typically drafted stock purchase agreements, transition services agreements and “did a lot of due diligence and proof-reading, obviously!”

M&A clients: Nokia, General Electric and CVS Health, which the firm counseled on its $69 billion dollar acquisition of healthcare benefit company Aetna.

Project finance features both lender and borrower work for infrastructure and energy projects. Deals come and go at high speed here – “at first it was overwhelming, but I like the pace of the deals more than traditional M&A,” one interviewee decided. The number-one task for project finance juniors was creating checklists, which at first can “seem boring and tedious. But doing them forces you to review the conditions and understand the big picture of the deal. After doing checklists time after time, you understand what really needs to be done and why!”

Project finance clients: Environment Protection Agency, BNP Paribas, Osaka Gas. Represented the United States Department of Transportation in its financing of a new train station to help ease congestion in the Northeast Corridor rail service.

The capital markets team works its magic at various stages of the money-moving process; “it's predominantly deal-based but we do equity and the debt side including investment grade and high-yield debt.”New Yorkers told us they typically represented the underwriter, whereas West Coast attorneys tended to work on the company side. The demands on associates varied accordingly but they typically reviewed and prepared comments for offering memoranda, worked on process management and ran correspondence with opposing counsel.

Capital markets clients: Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs. Advised finance company Bunge in their $1 billion issuance and sale of senior notes.

Bankruptcy stands out from the crowd: it's technically a corporate subgroup but “there’s a lot of overlap with litigation, which I didn’t realize was going to be the case! You get involved in court work, looking at dockets and preparing motions.”

Litigation itself varies from large-scale investigations and antitrust to securities, commercial and M&A disputes. Large financial institutions are a permanent fixture on Shearman's books but you'll find healthcare, retail and transport clients here too. We heard that litigation in New York has been particularly busy lately as “a few large-scale investigations sucked up a lot of time. There's a lot of antitrust coming in too.” Once juniors “get through the slog of document review” they can graduate to deposition prep, helping with interviews and preparing government presentations. “We had a meeting to role-play as if the government were picking holes in our presentation!” Juniors who got to work on collateralized debt obligation (CDO) disputes told us: “It’s cool talking with experts and writing the reports from that – you get to see how they tackle issues in their field.”

Litigation clients: Bank of America, Toyota, Viacom, Wells Fargo Board of Directors. Defended Citigroup against allegations that the bank conspired with Mexican shipping company OSA to falsify invoices.

Career Development

Each new class of first-years flies out to New York for a conference; there's another for midlevels and a final rendezvous called the 'Associate Leadership Academy' aimed at sixth and seventh-year associates. Our sources were open about the fact that juniors “typically stay for a long time.” We heard that the old corporate pool system “led to people being lost in the shuffle. I think there are times you feel like you’re a cog in the Shearman wheel!” Doing away with the pool may help to keep more associates on board.

“It’s really valuable and I really appreciate it.”

Less is clearly not more when it comes to mentoring at Shearman: “On the first day you’re assigned a junior mentor associate, and you also get a partner mentor. The firm then later aims to pair you with a mentor outside of your group so you can get to know more people.” If that's not enough, some groups also have an additional system where all the juniors in one class have a go-to senior mentor. “My partner mentor is crazy busy,” one source revealed, “but I really appreciate that he’ll still bring me into his office and take the time to properly teach me stuff.” Another interviewee agreed that “you encounter a lot of people who are concerned with mentoring and taking people under their wing. We don’t get yelled at here!”


“There are still remnants of what I'd think of as the old 'white-shoe firm' culture, but those are the best elements,” juniors explained. “There’s an emphasis on courtesy and respect.” In New York the only lingering problems came from “the dated office space. It's very '80s and the amenities are quite lacking.” But "rumor has it" that Shearman is dealing with this: we've heard architects have been consulted...

Any firm the size of Shearman is likely to have “variations in culture between practice groups,” to the extent that an associate who'd moved sub-teams suggested it felt like “moving to a completely different firm!” Most agreed, however, that their own group was “very friendly and tight-knit. People here do forge friendships and go out for lunch together.”

“There’s an emphasis on courtesy and respect.”

Shearman's New York social calendar involves happy hours, barbecues, dinners and holiday parties at partners’ homes. Smaller offices may host fewer shindigs, but there are “benefits” to being outside the mothership, namely “you get your own office – in New York first and second-years are two to a room. It could be fun to have someone there to commiserate with you during hard times, but I prefer having my own spacious office!” The whole firm sometimes comes together for special occasions – Shearman recently rang in its 145th birthday in appropriately classy fashion with “a black-tie dinner and plenty of cocktails!”

Diversity & Inclusion

Affinity groups also host their own events, sometimes in coordination with clients. Shearman's diversity initiative includes the WISER group for women, BLAQUE for black lawyers and AVALANCHE (no, really) for Asian attorneys; some of these are more active than others. A few diverse juniors feared “their initiatives are a bit stagnant. It feels like certain people in the firm think of diversity as something they’ve already accomplished, but more could be done.”

A good number of associates reckoned the current “manifestation of diversity across all groups is very good,” with a few exceptions. “There’s only one female partner in M&A in New York,” and in this traditionally male-dominated area the female attorneys have taken matters into their own hands, setting up a smaller affinity group “in order to best address their needs.” At entry level Shearman also has a supplier diversity program which encourages diverse-owned businesses to apply to enter into business with the firm.

Hours & Compensation

Shearman doesn’t have an official associate billables requirement – most logged more than 2,000 and the hardest-working interviewees reached 2,500. Not having a target clearly doesn't equal no pressure to bill, but juniors pointed out that “the most important thing in the early stages of your career is experience. If we’re not getting that we’re wasting our time.” It can be difficult to predict when that experience will come: we heard of juniors logging everything between 50 and 350 hours within a month. “Sometimes you’re billing eight hours a day but some days it’s 13. There was one three-day period where I had an hour and a half of sleep.” Sleep deprivation definitely isn't the norm and most interviewees were out of the office by 7 or 8pm on average.

“The most important thing in the early stages of your career is experience.”

Despite a “general expectation that you’re working a lot,” associates said that “people are respectful of your time off for vacation,” and associates are permitted to work two days a month from home. It's a less generous policy than some firms, and M&A insiders suggested that the face-time culture in their group meant they “absolutely would not use” even those two days, “it's a lot more common in litigation.”

The firm does stick closely to the market with salaries and bonuses, which follow a lockstep system. A partnership committee decides if an individual is in good standing to earn a bonus, and the criteria are “entirely discretionary.” Mysterious stuff, but we did hear that juniors who don’t hit their pro bono requirement won't get their bonus – and the firm has never seen anyone not achieve this.

Pro Bono

25 pro bono hours per attorney is the bare minimum and all our sources felt “the firm really encourages pro bono work.” Most associates therefore go above and beyond the target, some reaching as high as 200 hours. Because there’s no formal billing target “you can do as much as your schedule allows – especially early on during periods of downtime.”

“You can do as much as your schedule allows.”

Interviewees cut their teeth on nonprofit applications, human rights clinics, veterans' affairs and “no shortage of immigration work.” Shearman gets out onto the front line for that and “sent a team to El Paso to help with border issues down there.” Corporate juniors were a little jealous of their court-based counterparts: “Litigators get to do really cool work that you’ll see in the newspaper.” Some credit for that goes to New York litigation partner Christopher Lavigne, who sits on the Criminal Justice Act panel. Juniors can get assigned to the public defender pool on “a lot of interesting criminal cases. It’s great because the teams are smaller and that's where the most substantive trial experience is!”

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 37,990
  • Average per US attorney: 82

Get Hired

“The kind of person who comes here tends to be a little quirky” – find out what Shearman's looking for in recruits by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed

In 2018, Shearman interviewed students from over 30 law schools – both on campus and through job fairs. The firm looks at the top schools, but “also we look for impressive students at more regional schools or schools that may be beyond the top 50,” hiring chair John Nathanson tells us. The firm also accepts resume collections and unsolicited submissions. OCI interviews are typically conducted by a partner and occasionally by a two-person partner/associate team.

“The questions can vary by interviewer – some attorneys prefer a more conversational interview, while others ask more structured behavioral questions,” says Nathanson.At this stage, Shearman is looking for candidates who are “prepared and engaged, who have confidence and can speak passionately about their accomplishments to date.” If there are other events surrounding the OCI (hospitality suite, reception, dinner), you should consider all of that as part of the interview process too.

Top tips for this stage:

“Be prepared, think of relevant, unique questions to ask your interviewers. If you find yourself getting nervous, try to view the process as an opportunity to have a series of engaging conversations with interesting and impressive lawyers.” – John Nathanson, hiring chair.



Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed

When students visit for a callback interview, they typically meet with three partners and one counsel or associate. Then one or two associates usually take the candidate to an informal lunch or coffee. Nathanson tells us that: “Our callback interviews are a mix of conversational and behavioral interviews. We want to know whether the student has exhibited some of the competencies we feel are critical to be a successful associate.” Questions are more in-depth at this stage and students are expected to articulate why they are interested in BigLaw and why they are drawn to Shearman in particular. “At this stage, more so than the on-campus interview, we expect students to have done a fair amount of research on the firm and to have a clear idea of ‘Why Shearman?’”

Top tips for this stage:

“Similar to the on-campus interview, be prepared and engaged, and make sure you can speak passionately about your past work and your accomplishments.” John Nathanson, hiring chair.


Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: 36

Summer associates rotate through two practice groups. Senior and junior advisors are assigned during each rotation and, depending on the group, summer associates may attend client meetings, court hearings, depositions or business trips. Most of the work a summer associate receives comes from their advisors. However, there is some cross-staffing based on a summer associate’s expressed interests as well as business need.There’s also Shearman’s ‘Summer Associate University,’ a formal program that delivers training on a variety of topics throughout the summer. Programs have covered the likes of legal research & writing, negotiation skills, a corporate bootcamp and a deposition workshop.

In addition to weekly or biweekly training programs, the firm hosts several social events to help summer associates get to know each otherand the firm “in a more informal setting. Past events have included a sailing event, a ‘Field Day’ filled with hilarious outdoor games, and a cooking competition.”  After letting their hair down at these socials, most summer associates return to the firm. Prior to starting newbies are asked to rank their practice group and office preferences, then “based on that information, and taking business needs into account, first-year practice placements are made,” says Nathanson.

Top tips for this stage:

“Work hard; try to learn as much as possible; be enthusiastic about the work and about the opportunities in front of you; meet as many lawyers as possible; take advantage of social opportunities (events, lunches, practice group outings, etc.) to get to know your classmates who will be your future colleagues.” John Nathanson, hiring chair.

And finally…

Nathanson’s parting wisdom is to “come into the firm with an open mind and openness to learning. Be proactive about your career and take advantage of every assignment and every opportunity given to you. That is how you will learn the most and leave the best impression on those with whom you work.”

Shearman & Sterling LLP

599 Lexington Avenue,
New York,
NY 10022-6069

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 6
  • Number of international offices: 17
  • Worldwide revenue: $955.461 million
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Trisha Weiss ( Director of Legal Recruiting
  • Hiring partners: John Nathanson
  • Diversity officer: Sandra Bang, Chief Diversity & Talent Strategy Officer
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 48 approx. (some offers still pending due to clerkships/other post-graduate plans)
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 36
  • 1Ls: 4; 2Ls: 32; SEOs: 4
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
  • New York: 26, Washington, DC: 2, Austin: 1, Houston: 1, Menlo Park: 1, Toronto: 1 
  • Summer salary 2019:
  • 1Ls: $ 3654/week
  • 2Ls: $ 3654/week
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes, on a case by case basis depending on level of interest, business need, language skills, and other factors

Main areas of work

 Anti-Corruption and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, antitrust, capital markets, corporate governance, derivatives and structured products, environmental, executive compensation and employee benefits, finance, financial institutions advisory and financial regulatory, financial restructuring and insolvency, intellectual property, international arbitration, international trade and government relations, investment funds, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, patent litigation, project development and finance, real estate, sports, tax

Firm profile

 Shearman & Sterling LLP is a leading global law firm with approximately 850 lawyers in 23 offices in 13 countries around the world. Founded in 1873, Shearman & Sterling distinguishes itself by the way in which it harnesses the intellectual strength and deep experience of its lawyers across its extensive global footprint. The firm represents many of the world’s leading corporations, financial institutions, emerging growth companies, governments and state-owned enterprises.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Shearman & Sterling will be recruiting at the following schools or regional job fairs: American, BC, BU, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NEBLSA job fair, Northwestern, NYU, Osgoode, Penn, Stanford, St. John’s, Texas, Toronto, Tulane, Washington University, Vanderbilt, UC- Berkeley, UCLA, USC, UVA, Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
The firm conducts a number of resume collections and considers write-in applicants as well.

Summer associate profile:
We seek candidates who are bright, confident and enthusiastic about the practice of law and bring with them life, work, and educational experiences that will be highly valued by clients and colleagues alike. We also remain strongly committed to diversity and inclusion and overall excellence in our hiring. Finally, we expect that our associates will view collegiality and teamwork as important personal and firm values.

Summer program components:
Summer associates are given the opportunity to rotate through two practice groups. Senior and junior advisors are assigned during each rotation and, depending on the group, summer associates may attend client meetings, court hearings, depositions, or business trips. The firm has a robust training program for summer associates and also hosts a variety of social events.

Social media

Recruitment website:

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Representation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Representation (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Energy: Mining & Metals (Transactional) Spotlight Table
    • FCPA (Band 4)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 4)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) Recognised Practitioner
    • International Arbitration (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds Recognised Practitioner
    • Projects: Mining & Metals (Band 1)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Projects: PPP (Band 3)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)