As you’re Mullin over law firms, allow us to Sheppard you toward this California establishment.
SHEPPARD Mullin was founded in 1927 in Los Angeles and is now a towering California redwood of a firm. It has seven offices across the Golden State: Los Angeles, Century City, Orange County, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Diego and Del Mar. Sheppard has spread out across the US and beyond as well (it has five international offices), but it's still firmly rooted in California with close to three-quarters of its attorneys based there. The Dallas office is the newest: it opened in 2018.
Most of the firm's Chambers USA rankings come in California for areas including litigation, labor & employment, media & entertainment, healthcare and banking & finance. Sheppard’s also nationally recognized for its government contracts and Native American law practices. At the time of our research there were juniors based in all the firm's offices: around two-thirds were in California (half of those in Century City or downtown LA), while San Francisco, Orange County, Del Mar, DC and New York also had a significant number of juniors.
Sheppard’s corporate, business trial and labor and employment groups take the bulk of new associates, while the rest are in IP, government contracts, banking & finance, entertainment tech, and real estate. “The firm operates a very free-market system,” we heard, so to get work “you need to hustle.” There's a coordinator available in the event associates find themselves short of work, though most interviewees agreed: “You’re encouraged to go out and chase opportunities, and in your first or second year you develop relationships with partners you enjoy working with.”
“You need to hustle.”
Corporate juniors told us that “deals range from $50 million to a billion, and our clients are mostly private equity companies,” with matters ranging from M&A to venture capital financing. Interviewees had worked with clients across the nation, as well as deals with cross-border elements for US companies with an international footprint. One third-year told us: “On the last deal I worked on I was basically the lead associate doing everything from drafting the main transaction document and ancillaries to constant client contact via phone calls and email.” Others enjoyed similar exposure to clients and hands-on work. “I’ve mostly been negotiating agreements and responding to clients," a junior told us, "as well as doing the occasional bit of diligence.”
Corporate clients: adidas, Bison Capital Asset Management, Warner Bros. Advised nursing facilities company AMN Healthcare on its $215 million acquisition of healthcare staffing firm MedPartners.
The business trial practice covers securities, insurance, professional liability, private wealth, and bankruptcy litigation. “In the first few years people bridge a lot of different areas," one junior informed us. "I’ve done everything from employment matters to a bribery case worth billions in damages.” We heard DC handles a lot of litigation related to communications regulation, including strategic advice to clients, defamation and breach of contract cases. A second-year broke down their workload for us: “Classic grunt work like doc review and preparing binders takes up about half of my time. The rest of the time I’ll be working on case research and preliminary drafting of motions for summary judgment and motions in limine.” Another interviewee reported: “Some days I’ll be doing doc review for hours and other days I’ll be preparing witnesses for depositions.”
Litigation clients: Pizza Hut, Amgen, BBC Films. Defended Starbucks against a national class action in which the plaintiffs argued that Starbucks falsely advertised the size of its lattes and mochas.
“Sheppard Mullin doesn’t expect a lot of drop-off,” one junior said when we asked about turnover. The firm has about twice as many summers each year as it makes up partners. One junior believed: “The goal when you’re hired is that you’ll become a partner eventually. There’s a robust mentorship program and individual training from the beginning.”
Interviewees praised feedback from partners, saying: “When I write something they take the time to print it out and go through it with me. They really do focus on your improvement and give you opportunities to take on higher-level work. For example, I was trusted to fly to another city and help take a deposition.” We heard about a number of formal training sessions on writing, teamwork, depositions and diversity, with sources adding: “You’re encouraged to travel to conferences and multiday trainings to build expertise, which the firm covers the cost of.”
"I was trusted to fly to another city and help take a deposition."
Almost all our interviewees mentioned Sheppard's working environment when we asked why they were attracted to the firm, saying they were "drawn to the relaxed but professional culture" which they described as "laid-back," "amiable" and characterized by a "sense of camaraderie." We've been interviewing associates at Sheppard for ten years now, and we've got positive vibes about the firm's easygoing culture every year. "Attorneys here are people who want to do good work and also have dinner with their kids two days a week," one source observed. Others mentioned regular social events and "an effort to get people to interact," for instance through "all-attorney lunches every third Wednesday" in LA and "social activities within practice groups." Another source gave an example of an activity which they felt typified Sheppard's culture: "We had someone lateral out, and we bought them a cake and did a goodbye even though they were going to a competitor." That's charming.
Juniors did point out there were cultural differences between practice areas. For example, “in business trial we tend to do teambuilding activities and like to poke fun at each other," one junior reported, "whereas corporate is a little more buttoned up and they host things like lectures.” Some practices each have their own retreats, usually held in California, and there are also women’s and first-year retreats. Finally we heard from a source on the East Coast that "California things make their way to New York," like the fact that "happy hours are well attended."
Hours & Compensation
Sheppard has a 1,950 hour billing target, and once juniors hit 1,800 hours of standard client work they can use 150 hours of pro bono, business development and training to make up the rest. “You’re gonna have weeks where you bill 60 hours.There’s no way around that,” a California litigator told us. “But if you come in at 11am on a Monday after a big filing deadline nobody’s going to say anything.” Those in corporate had a similar experience. “The hours are true to the M&A cycle," a corporate junior reported. "Some months are just crazy and others are much quieter.” Sources reported that a typical working day lasts from around 8:30am to 5:30pm, followed by a spot of work at home in the evenings. “Sometimes people come in at the weekends." one source said. "I’ve done that by choice.”
“You’re gonna have weeks where you bill 60 hours.”
While the facilities for flexible working at Sheppard are “getting better every day,” the system for working remotely garnered mixed reviews. “You still have to get approval every time, so it’s not as accessible as it was intended to be,” one source grumbled. Another felt: "You can’t just announce you’re not coming in on Fridays. You're expected to be in the office, and as you get more senior there's more flexibility." Sheppard has an unlimited vacation policy, but some of our sources would have preferred a more delineated setup. The firm met the 2018 salary hike, and market-rate bonuses are handed out when associates reach the magic figure of 2,000 hours. There's also a discretionary element to bonuses, which reward time spent on the likes of business development and pro bono.
Diversity & Inclusion
Associates praised the firm’s efforts to improve diversity at the recruitment level. “Most of our summer classes have been at least 50% diverse,” one source observed. However, interviewees also described “something of a supply chain problem where female attorneys are leaving at the higher levels.” Those in the business trial group in particular wanted to see an increased representation of women across the group, but did note efforts to provide flexible working for those with children. “The reality is women are just leaving at higher rates than men," we heard, "and that’s an industry-wide problem.”
There are affinity groups for women, lawyers of color, LGBT people and veterans, and interviewees praised “frequent meetings that everyone’s encouraged to attend.” There’s also an annual diversity retreat in California with a program centered on the firm’s diversity initiatives as well as training on unconscious bias.
“You’re expected to do at least 20 hours of pro bono a year and the firm really pushes it," a junior reported. An interviewee in San Diego told us: “Because we’re so close to the border we do a lot of immigration work. We’re closely involved with organizations like the Casa Cornelia Law, which helps provide amnesty assistance for immigrants.” Juniors in DC are also able to work on asylum cases and handle matters for nonprofit Human Rights First. In LA a third-year told us: “I’m in control of my own asylum case, which I’m beyond stoked for.” We also heard about associates on the East Coast challenging federal agency actions on behalf of sea turtles. On the corporate side, juniors help form nonprofits and do regulatory work for low-income businesses. “The firm is open to finding new opportunities,” we heard. “Someone in the office is interested in the arts and the firm helped find pro bono work in that area.”
“I’m in control of my own asylum case, which I’m beyond stoked for.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
Strategy & Future
Interviewees felt quietly confident about the firm's game plan for the future. “Sheppard is financially conservative and I see that as a positive," one said. "It’s very proud of the fact that revenue continued to grow during the 2008 recession, and there’s an emphasis on not getting into debt paying partners or buying new offices.” Indeed, Sheppard reported its 27th (!) consecutive year of revenue growth in 2018. Another source pointed out: “We have just opened a Dallas office, but I don’t see the firm making any seismic changes.” Associates also appreciated the firm’s transparency when it comes to things like bonuses and financial statistics, which are shared at various retreats and town hall meetings.
"Sheppard is financially conservative and I see that as a positive."
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 838
Interviewees outside OCI: 29
Sheppard Mullin attends OCIs at schools around the country, but UCLA and USC are typically top feeder schools due to the firm’s presence in Southern California. Depending on the school, the firm may interview anywhere between ten and 150 students on campus. OCIs are conducted by a mix of partners and associates. Hiring sources at the firm tell us interviewers are evaluating candidates “on key characteristics such as communication, preparedness, academic credentials, prior work experience, technical skills, interest in our firm, interest in the law, leadership skills and drive.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Do your homework to find out what practice areas are hiring and explain why you want to practice in those specific areas.” – hiring sources at the firm
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 234
At the callback stage, candidates meet with four to six attorneys – again, a mix of both partners and associates. If there’s enough time, candidates will also go for a meal with attorneys. “We use behavioral interview questions during our callback process,” hiring sources at the firm tell us. “The questions are aimed at distilling the candidate’s skills, client service and value, self-awareness, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as their ability to work in a team and self-manage.”
Top tips for this stage:
“I would encourage you to find someone you can call in advance and talk to. If you’ve spoken to people at different offices, the firm thinks you’re really working for this.” – a junior associate
“Read up on different interviewing techniques and styles, attorney bios, practice areas, and firm clients in advance.” – hiring sources at the firm
Sheppard Mullin’s ten-week summer program starts off with a reception and two-day summer associate academy in LA. The firm tells us the program is “designed to acquaint students with the firm’s practice through hands-on work experience and lawyers through a variety of social activities and work assignments.” Each office has a work assignment coordinator to distribute pieces of work for the summers. These assignments are then reviewed and feedback is delivered at mid-summer and end-of-summer reviews. Sheppard Mullin also understands the importance of socializing and networking: “The summer is a time for you to get to know the firm and the firm to get to know you! Attend the events and lunches, build relationships, go to court or client meetings, and have fun.”
Top tips for this stage:
“You need to be independent because you need to go out and get work via our free market system.” – a junior associate
“Demonstrate your ownership and ability to work hard – if you make a mistake, own up to it immediately and propose a solution.” – hiring sources at the firm
“There are no rainmakers here who play golf all week!” One junior associate told us. “Work is very important; the firm expects talented attorneys.”
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP
333 South Hope Street,
- Head Office: Los Angeles, CA
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 5
- Worldwide revenue: $671,101,000
- Partners (US): 343
- Associates (US): 320
- Special counsel (US): 74
- Staff attorneys (US): 62
- Of counsel (US): 49
- Main recruitment contact: Rheanna Smith (RSmith@sheppardmullin.com)
- Hiring partner: Bess Sully (Chief Human Resources Officer)
- Recruitment details Diversity officer: Lois Durant (Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Talent Strategy)
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 30
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1L: 1-2; 2Ls: 28
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- LA (Downtown): 6, LA (Century City): 4, Costa Mesa, CA: 2, San Diego, CA (Downtown): 3, San Diego, CA (Del Mar): 4, San Francisco, CA: 3, Palo Alto, CA: 1, Chicago, IL: 1, Washington, DC: 4, New York, NY: 1-2
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1Ls: $3,462 per week
- 2Ls: $3,462 per week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Major Industry Focus: Aerospace and defense; blockchain technology and digital currency; construction; energy; fashion, apparel and beauty; food and beverage; healthcare; hospitality; insurance; life sciences; private wealth; retail.
Columbia, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hastings, Howard, U. of Illinois, Loyola (L.A.), U. of Michigan, Notre Dame, Southwestern, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, USD, USF, Virginia, Vanderbilt; plus several regional/ national/ diversity job fairs.
Summer associate profile:
High academic achievement is a precondition to employment. But the firm is interested in more than that: it seeks associates who will succeed over the long term. It looks for associates who have the personal traits needed to become outstanding practicing lawyers: self-awareness, drive to succeed, capacity for hard work and an ability to work well with other people.
Summer program components:
The firm’s ten week summer program is structured to give students an idea of what life is like as an associate with the firm. Our summer associates do meaningful, billable work and work closely with partners and associates in various practice groups. Summer associates are given opportunities to attend depositions and court appearances, participate in conference calls and negotiations, draft documents and sit in on meetings. All summer associates work on at least one pro bono project. We also offer comprehensive transactional and litigation training programs. Attorney mentors assist the students in a variety of ways throughout the summer, and we plan a well-balanced calendar of social events that gives students the opportunity to get to know our attorneys outside of the office as well as enjoy the geographic area in which they are working.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 3)
- Native American Law (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite Recognised Practitioner
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- Government Contracts (Band 2)
- Native American Law (Band 3)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)