Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP - The Inside View

With practices as broad and bountiful as blades of grass, this Sheppard has associates Mullin over more than just its “California vibe…” 

Founded in 1927, it’s fair to say Sheppard Mullin’s near century-worth of experience has given it an excellent market foundation, and it’s one the firm has seized upon heartily. Juniors we spoke with cited Sheppard’s “wide range of practice groups” as a critical draw to the firm, but even with this – “at least, if you look from the outside” – one might not immediately see what distinguishes this from other self-proclaimed full-service firms. Dig a little deeper though, and Sheppard’s star power becomes apparent; “it’s a highly entrepreneurial firm. Usually you associate entrepreneurialism with instability, but everyone I have interacted with has been here for a really long time!”  

“Everyone I have interacted with has been here for a really long time!” 

 Sheppard Mullin’s entrepreneurial flair has driven its growth in tandem with its high-quality work year on year, and Chambers USA only serves to reflect this. The firm acts as an industry leader in Native American Finance while also scooping up rankings across government contracts, healthcare, renewables & alternative energy, and oil and gas. Headquartered in Los Angeles, it’s no surprise Sheppard is also a leading force in California with top honors in the corporate space. Void of cutthroat corporate attitudes, however, Sheppard has “a good working culture” with its “California vibe” stretching from LA to the East Coast… 

Strategy & Future 

“There are certain things juniors don’t need to know,” of course, “but I’d say they’re pretty transparent – they keep us in the loop with important things,” through avenues such as quarterly town halls. Juniors understood that the firm’s current strategy is “building on what we have, but developing other areas as a full-service firm – part of that is bringing in people with successful practices, and I bump into people from other firms on the daily.”  

Managing partner Luca Salva confirms associates' views on Sheppard Mullin’s development, and highlights the firm’s 30-year streak of year-on-year growth. "Sheppard Mullin prides itself on delivering excellent legal services to top-tier clients and by its long track record of incremental, strategic and focused growth year over year. For the past 31 years, Sheppard Mullin has increased its revenue every year without exception to over $1 billion. We continue to work on incredibly sophisticated matters, further cementing our position as a key player among top law firms."

The Work 

For associates at Sheppard, transactional matters take up a significant portion of the workload – “you could argue that even our litigation work is transactional!” In the corporate practice, juniors can spend up to 12 months taking on work from different teams before settling on a specialty, allowing them to shop around to figure out what kinds of matters they enjoy working most on. Some associates choose to remain as generalists. The firm does hold formal channels for work allocation where associates fill out a form outlining their availability, and a coordinator communicates “to make sure nobody is drowning.” Associates are typically placed on matters organically, “once you find partners you enjoy working with you use those relationships.”  

“Once you find partners you enjoy working with you use those relationships.”  

The corporate practice has associates working on a lot of private equity deals with clients “acquiring their first portfolio company – they tend to be higher in value.” SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) work is not uncommon, alongside M&A for public companies. Healthcare is a particularly strong group for Sheppard in this space; “we’re very regulatory-focused, so we’re making sure Medicaid requirements are met and helping health plans acquire each other.” Juniors are set on the typical management process, drafting ancillaries and preparing purchase agreements – there’s a lot of face time with clients.  

Corporate clients: Lionsgate, ICM, FAT Brands. Represented Sony Pictures Television in its acquisition of a controlling interest in Industrial Media. 

For juniors in the entertainment practice, work is channeled “nearly exclusively” from partners; “they’ll CC us into the request from the client, and from that point you’re the owner of the matter.” Newbies are quickly able to get their hands dirty as “partners lean a lot on the associates,” but there is ample support for juniors; associates are placed into pods which “they configure by diversity of experience,” so while you do own your own projects “you can reach out and get a second opinion.” The work in question includes a lot of production work on companies acquiring rights for TV or film adaptation. “Many of our clients are studios,” one insider told us, citing director agreements, production matters, and licensing as components of the work, but music, VR, and even Metaverse work make up the wide variety of matters. In typical Sheppard fashion, “it is very heavily transactional at every stage really! The clients are cool and fun to work with… I really like it.” 

Entertainment, tech & advertising clients: Disney, Hilary Duff, Crunchyroll. Acted as production counsel for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series. 

Career Development 

Outside of your typical on-the-job experience, juniors were generally positive about training at the firm, though this did vary somewhat by practice. “There’s a big focus on evaluating strengths” across the board, and “the guidelines and evaluation process is very transparent.” Sheppard integrates a mentoring program into associates’ schedules “where you meet with a partner twice a month to discuss your goals and what you’re working on,” alongside training programs at junior level, midlevel, and for seniors on the partner track. Finance juniors did feel training was a little less structured “so you need a good relationship with partners” to develop most efficiently, but “when you do ask questions everyone is very patient and responds.”  

“We’re drawing in teams from other big firms.”

The associates we spoke to told us the firm’s relatively low attrition rate is a reflection of this where, “from what I’ve seen it’s more one-offs than whole teams being incorporated into another firm – if anything we’re drawing in teams from other big firms.” Instead, the attorneys that do leave tend to head for in-house counsel roles, looking to switch things up. “You still see a lot of movement in the market, and Sheppard Mullin is a part of that,” but for the most part juniors are “happy to stay for the foreseeable future.” And for those with an interest in partnership “there’s a clear path… if you’re patient enough!” 


When it comes to the mechanics of attorney interaction, insiders doubled down on the firm’s “California-based culture; Sheppard hires kind people, so everyone is trying to achieve things together.” For many associates, working relationships have only strengthened over time, stretching back to summer classes “particularly amongst the juniors and midlevels. We’ve formed a pretty cohesive group.” This formula is replicated across Sheppard’s offices, strengthened by “a junior associate retreat where all associates nationwide can get together and collaborate.” Practice groups also schedule retreats to foster relationship-building. “You’re constantly connecting with people,” one junior grinned, summing up the firm’s distinguishing cultural feature.  

“Sheppard hires kind people.”

Alongside formal processes of interaction where “every office has a group who tries to organize events for the office,” are informal lunches, coffee meets and happy hours. “They’ve been making an effort to get people back in the office,” insiders told us. In New York, the firm has really gone the extra distance: “One cool thing they’ve done is expand to a new floor where there’s an open layout with a café! So you can count on seeing a coworker when you get your coffee.” Sheppard’s hybrid working model – where “they want people to come in but they’re not asking people to work themselves into the ground” – alsoplays a part in associates’ overwhelmingly positive view of the firm culture: “We do a really good job of having a work-life balance.” 

Hours, Compensation & Pro Bono 

Billable hours: 2,000 target 

Although Sheppard’s practice groups do make efforts to balance the work, “it’s dictated by the clients,” so “you roll with what you’re given.” Particularly as a junior, “they don’t expect you to work on the weekends,” though our sources “try to make an impression and gain as much experience as possible – sometimes I’ll put in more effort than is required, just to show what I’m capable of!” Despite the challenge in balancing partner, client and their own expectations, insiders noted “you just need to be clear with your communication” to work efficiently.

Associates informed us that this, alongside the phase of a matter, plays a significant part in juniors’ experience. “Finance and bankruptcy is pretty cyclical,” and corporate in general can get “super-intense with a signing or a closing” or be a little quieter at other times. That said, the associates we spoke with had no issuesreaching the billable target. Associates can also credit an unlimited number of pro bono hours towards the billing target.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 34,178 
  • Average per US attorney: 49.4 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

“They really do a great job,” one junior beamed, “whether it’s by nationality, race or gender.” Interviewees told us Sheppard’s year-on-year Mansfield certification serves as a reflection of its efforts in this area, driven by “our chief diversity officer – they are very vocal and active when it comes to issues of diversity and making sure diverse associates are considered.”  

“We try to have some kind of celebration every month, be it Black History Month or Chinese New Year.” 

The firm has an array of active affinity groups including the Black Lawyers Network and the Asian Network, which collaborate to provide CLE training and put together events. Firm-wide, "we try to have some kind of celebration every month, be it Black History Month or Chinese New Year. We try to provide more knowledge. There are lots of things people don’t understand until they’re shown something about it, so we try to make everything engaging, and talk about what we’ve seen or read.” In keeping with the firm’s culture of looking to connect associates beyond group and office boundaries, Sheppard also holds a diversity retreat where diverse and LGBT attorneys get to meet across offices. 

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 930 

Sheppard Mullin attends OCIs at schools around the country, but UCLA and USC are typically top feeder schools due to the firm’s large 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: “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 


At the callback stage, candidates meet with four to six attorneys – again, a mix of both partners and associates. Most offices conduct virtual callbacks but once a candidate receives an offer, we encourage them to tour the office, and meet more attorneys over coffee or lunch if desired. “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: “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  

Summer program 

Offers: 53 

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 assignments to the summers. Assigning attorneys review the work and then deliver feedback 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: “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 

Associates advised candidates to “keep in mind that we hire summers by practice area, specifically for corporate, labor & employment, business trial and healthcare, as opposed to hiring you as a general summer associate.” 

And finally…. 

“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,
Forty-Third Floor,
Los Angeles,
CA 90071

Main areas of work

Major Practice Areas: Antitrust; corporate; entertainment and digital media; finance and bankruptcy; government contracts; intellectual property; labor and employment; litigation; privacy and cybersecurity; real estate, land use, environmental; tax.

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.

Firm profile

 Founded in Los Angeles in 1927, there are now about 1,000 attorneys practicing in 15 offices (seven in California, plus Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York, Washington, DC, Shanghai, Seoul, Brussels and London). The firm remains a true partnership which governs itself through an elected, representative democracy. Stability is enhanced by skillful administration, excellent cost control and no firm debt. Core values include transparency in financial operations and governance, civility in the daily conduct of its business, advancement and celebration of diversity and inclusiveness, and a vigorous pro bono program.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
Baylor, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, U. of Illinois, Loyola (L.A.), Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Penn, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, SMU Dedman, Southwestern, Stanford, Texas Tech, Texas, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Law SF, UCLA, USC, USD, USF, UVA, Vanderbilt, Washington & Lee; Washington University, 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.

Social media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @SheppardMullin
Facebook: SheppardMullin
Linkedin: sheppard-mullin-richter-&-hampton-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 5)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • Cannabis Law (Band 4)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
    • Native American Law: Finance (Band 1)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 3)