Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates - The Inside View

The force is strong with this one: no list of the New York legal elite is complete without Skadden. 

“IS the stereotype that Skadden is the Death Star of law firms unfounded? Of course – but then again, maybe I’m a stormtrooper….” A Skadden junior gave that intriguing if slightly ominous take on a firm that’s become as synonymous with New York corporate law as Baby Yoda was with social media at the beginning of 2020. For our junior interviewees, what really mattered was “Skadden’s reputation for excellence. If you get an offer here, you don’t turn it down.” The firm’s got a galaxy’s worth of Chambers USA rankings including nationwide top spots for its antitrust, energy, FCPA, international trade, projects, real estate, sports law, tax, and M&A teams, the last of which also ranks in 'The Elite' in New York. On the global stage, Skadden is also a huge name, featuring in 14 of the Chambers Global-wide rankings, and sitting among the five most awesome firms in global M&A.

Skadden’s heritage (“the firm was built by a bunch of Jewish lawyers who were excluded from practicing at the white-shoe firms”) informs its modern identity, according to sources who felt “it was designed to be a different kind of firm. Today it's full of young and hungry people from diverse backgrounds.” New York remains the largest office, but seven more across the US bear the Skadden name – as do 14 overseas. Applicants quickly found ways to differentiate this firm from others: “During interviews they asked me about what Hogwarts house I would be in and what my entrance song to a softball game would be. I didn’t think they were taking it seriously, so I was surprised when I got an offer!” 

Strategy & Future



Inbound New York associates can look forward to a new office space – the firm relocated away from Times Square to the hip and trendy Hudson Yards development in March 2020. At the time of our calls before the big move, associates told us:  “It’s quite stressful in Midtown so I think we’re all looking forward to moving away.” Looking at the firm’s practice, executive partner Eric J. Friedman tells us that one of the firm's key distinguishers "is that we have 22 offices in major financial centers around the world. Being able to assist clients with challenges across borders is a hallmark of the firm, and our global platform positions us well to do that." Friedman continues that recent lateral hires have added to the firm's trial capabilities, securities litigation, M&A platform, and international restructuring practice, and "enhanced our extensive knowledge of the regulatory and litigation landscape for food, pharma and medical device companies."

The Work



Each year around half of Skadden’s juniors join the corporate and transactional department, while most of the rest head into litigation or a regulatory team (which includes tax). Each has a work allocation system “that helps you out when you first arrive.” We heard that “most people use that for the first six months, but more and more of your workload comes from connections made with partners – the idea being that you keep the attorney development partners in the loop.” Practice area managers are also in place to help keep work distribution fair and ensure associates get a range of experiences.

Litigators can slot into a subgroup like IP, white-collar investigations or insurance, but many join the 'complex litigation and trial' generalist team at the end of their summer. One source told us: “The generalist group does a lot of securities cases, as well as contracts, real estate and a mix of other things.” They remembered one case that provided a wealth of experience: “We were representing a large company in a dispute against its creditors. When I joined we were in the midst of the discovery process and a lot of my role was assisting the senior associate with privilege calls, deliberating whether we go going to waive privilege.” Juniors also get to prepare interview outlines for clients and prepare them for the process; initial drafts of briefs and document review fall under their remit too. 

 “…trusted with a ton of client contact.” 

Sources who’d worked on white-collar disputes were pleased to be “trusted with a ton of client contact. On one case the process involved evaluating the client’s liability, so there was a lot of back and forth requesting background information on their operations, which needed to be drafted into a report.”  DC juniors are especially likely to get involved in government enforcement and white-collar litigation. One was charged with taking “the first crack at the case analysis. It required a lot of thinking about what the issues at hand were, and what questions we needed to ask of our clients.” The practice also involves regular meetings with DOJ and FCC representatives. 

Litigation clients: Capital One, UBS Real Estate Securities, Citigroup. Represented the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in breach of contract litigation brought by an affiliate fund of Cerberus Capital Management. 

Most corporate associates join a subgroup right off the bat, but newcomers in New York rotate through two teams for eight months at a time before picking their favorite. M&A is the biggest group in the firm and although “Skadden works on mega-deals that require big teams,” sources were keen to point out that “for the most part, deals are staffed very leanly.” The corporate department works on a mix of domestic and international deals both private and public, in industries including energy, tech and transport. Juniors’ roles are largely administrative in nature: “We’re mainly in charge of managing due diligence and drafting the report as well as drafting ancillary documents. In the closing stage, we can put together some of the more substantive agreements.” 

There’s a different pace in the corporate restructuring team, “where the work requires a lot of deliberation. It’s all made public, so there's more thought given to how its presented and it tends to feel more intellectual.” Skadden’s practice covers pre-bankruptcy advice, Chapter 11 cases and prepackaged bankruptcies. “You definitely have to use your brain more than in other corporate areas,” sources suggested, highlighting their chances to manage diligence and present it to clients, and opportunities to mark up agreements. 

Corporate clients: Gilead Sciences, TridentUSA Health Services, WeWork. Advised e-commerce giant WorldPay in its $43 billion merger with fintech company Fidelity National Information Services. 

Culture



“I think the work is mostly comparable at top firms,” a source suggested, “so I was more interested in where I thought I would fit in.” On that note, what kind of person fits in at Skadden? Contrary to (un)popular belief, there’s no room for ‘fratty’ behavior: “We’re not smashing beer bottles over each other’s heads if that’s what you mean by fratty,” New York junior clarified. “Yes, we like hanging out with each other outside of work and yes, occasionally that might mean a party somewhere but it’s not a requirement to attend.” Another source weighed in, turning to dress code: “If you want to wear a three-piece suit with a bow tie and suspenders every day, that’s fine. In terms of idiosyncrasies we’re a very broad church here.” Sources did concede that “there are a lot of Type-A personalities in the office,” and positioned themselves against “the more eclectic and off-the-beaten-path firms, or more formal and bookish types. Overall we’re probably more laid-back and casual than some other firms in New York.” 

"Yes, occasionally that might mean a party somewhere but it’s not a requirement to attend.” 

Juniors in DC and Palo Alto were keen to paint their own picture, declaring that neither office “is as social and energetic as New York. Everyone is still very socially adept, but it's more family-oriented.” Some in the Big Apple did pick up on a bit of a hierarchy in the office, expressing their disappointment that "paralegals aren't allowed to use the gym in the building.” On the West Coast, one associate told us: "My understanding is that most of the paralegals here have been with the firm for a long time. It's made very clear that they are very valuable."

Pro Bono



Our latest junior data survey put Skadden among the top firms in Chambers Associate in terms of commitment to pro bono. “An unlimited number of pro bono hours can count toward our billable hours target,” juniors explained, with one source telling us that “first-years like myself have billed over 400 hours. It comes at you from all angles.” Pro bono coordinators regularly advertise cases which “are then raised internally within your practice group; we also have a number of standing programs every month so, such as a partnership with a local high school which helps raise awareness of social media and the law.” Los Angeles juniors were particularly proud of their “outstanding record – we outstrip the other offices by miles.” 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 185,700
  • Average per US attorney: 147

Hours & Compensation 



Billing hours: 1,800 target

As well as pro bono, juniors can count 100 ‘productive work hours’ (shadowing or writing articles are two examples of what they can do) toward their target. Given that nearly all our interviewees found the goal “very attainable” (and very much in line with the market), they agreed that any idea of Skadden as a sweatshop would be very wide of the mark. That said, many juniors were going further than the target and even beyond 2,000 hours, with one describing colleagues who’d logged a pretty ridiculous – and unhealthy – 3,000 hours in one year. These mysterious workaholics’ own colleagues were themselves baffled, especially as “you’re still going to get the same bonus as someone who bills 1,800 hours exactly.” Ouch.  

"...worked a full weekend seven or eight times this past year."

The bad news for all associates is that weekends aren’t sacred. One told us they’d “worked a full weekend seven or eight times this past year,” while others put in a few hours on most weekends. “They respectfully disrespect your weekends,” is how one generously put it; another more bluntly told us that “if there is work that needs to be done, there is an expectation that you will do it.” Sources agreed that vacation is generally respected but also that “you’re very anxious to ask for it as a first-year.” On work/life balance, vacation and accommodation to raise families, feedback for Skadden was far from glowing; in fairness, it’s worth pointing out that many of the other New York giants also fared poorly on these metrics. 

Diversity & Inclusion



Our interviewees were mostly impressed by the firm’s efforts to foster a diverse working environment, though statistically Skadden is around the national average in terms of female and BAME partners and associates. Confident sources in Palo Alto explained that “there has been a renewed focus on the issue. The diversity & inclusion committee has recently tripled its budget and there have been greater efforts to put on more inclusion training, bring in guest speakers and really build up a formal program that we didn’t have before.” Over in DC“the biggest change has been driven by the women’s initiative with the recent instillation of a daycare center downstairs, which is very good for parents at the firm.” Our interviewees were generally impressed with the visibility of the firm’s various affinity groups, noting that “they are very active and constantly emailing everyone in the firm.” 

Career Development



Every newcomer at Skadden spends a week in New York for an induction and training. Back in their own offices, they undergo the firm's month-long Associates' Comprehensive Education (ACE) program, which covers legal skills training across practice areas, as well as “basic financial accounting and business concepts training. They’re trying to make sure we’re doing more than just solving our clients’ legal problems; we’re considering their broader business practices too.” There's also a writing course included in the training: associates recalled the firm brings in a Yale Law writing professor who “sits down and goes through a piece of writing we’ve submitted in excruciating detail.” 

“They’re trying to make sure we’re doing more than just solving our clients’ legal problems.” 

For those who didn’t want to go the distance at Skadden, an in-house move between third and sixth year was fairly common according to sources in New York. In Palo Alto, "a lot of juniors here commute from San Francisco, so some people leave to join a firm with an office there." Government departments including the DOJ and STC are more likely destinations in DC,  though juniors did point out that “all our third and fourth-years have stayed on this year.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed

Skadden participates in OCIs across 35 different law schools but students from more than 40 make it to the summer program – that gap is filled by attendees from one of around 25 different job fairs. Top schools like Columbia, Harvard, NYU and Penn in particular are the biggest contributors. It's possible to apply for a summer position outside of formal interviews and the firm's happy to talk to students from any school outside of formal channels. 

As for the on campus channel, most interviews involve two attorneys from the firm's nearest office: the thinking behind this is to give applicants an insight into Skadden's collaborative approach to practice. The criteria for getting to the next level is being qualified to work at the firm; demonstrating a genuine interest in Skadden's work; and being able to integrate within teams at the firm. As the first point largely speaks for itself, the latter two should be kept in mind. 

Top tips: "Take a targeted and thoughtful approach when trying to learn about the firm – don't just read about the last three deals we've done and spout off about them!" 

"Skadden prizes folks who can communicate and interface with clients. There's more of a mix of people here than at some other firms: we're not just computer nerds." 

Callbacks 

Applicants invited to second stage: undisclosed

The firm gets a flavor of applicants' taste in practice areas before they arrive for callback, so when they meet two partners and two associates they'll be from relevant teams. Students also get to know juniors on a more informal basis over lunch or a coffee, and there are other opportunities to get an idea of Skadden's character. 

Impressing those you speak to is important at this level, as they'll all be assessing whether you can fit in at the firm and practice at a high level. Enthusiasm is the most important trait to demonstrate, but don't go overboard: it's important to be true to yourself rather than trying to be what you think the firm wants you to be. 

Top tips: "I look for the drive of wanting to learn as much as possible. The people who are happiest here want to be working even when it's late because they're learning new things from the best in the field." 

"The firm isn't necessarily looking for the life of the party or a social butterfly, though you certainly can be. We're looking for someone with 20 minutes worth of conversation to give, whether that's about a law school topic or Game of Thrones.” 

Summer program 

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: undisclosed

There's no formal rotation in Skadden's summer program – visiting students can sample different areas as they please. The firm does prefer summer associates to narrow their focus around the midpoint of the program, so if you want to experiment then the first few weeks are the best time. Experimentation is indeed encouraged – hiring partner Gavin White recalls "time and again I see students discover a passion for a practice area they had never previously considered during the summer. That includes me!" 

There's reasonably thorough general training including diversity and inclusion seminars and skills workshops, plus more specialized sessions on offer for anybody keen on specific areas like tax or derivatives. Explore what's on offer and don't be afraid of asking attorneys any questions you may have. 

Notable summer events: dancing at Rockefeller Center; baseball; sailing and kayaking; private documentary screenings. 

Top tips:  "You don't have to be the center of attention during summer but do express yourself and feel comfortable doing so." 

"Your work should form your reputation and that should be it – don't be known as the person who shows up late or got drunk at the party." 

And finally... 

Gavin White recommends you "don't get misguided by the chatter on campus or anonymous posts online. Selecting a firm is your decision." 

Interview with executive partner Eric J. Friedman



CA: How would you distinguish Skadden from some of the other big names in the market?  

EF: We distinguish ourselves from other well-known firms on several levels, starting with our platform, by which I mean both our geographic footprint and our breadth of practices.  

A fundamental difference between Skadden and many of our peer firms, whose offices are predominantly concentrated in New York, is that we have 22 offices in major financial centers around the world. Being able to assist clients with challenges across borders is a hallmark of the firm, and our global platform positions us well to do that.  

We also are top-ranked — including by Chambers and Partners — in a wide range of practice areas considerably more frequently than most other firms. I say that not to imply that we do all things for all people, but rather to emphasize that we seek to make an impact at the very highest level with all our practices. 

Equally important is our culture. The attorneys at Skadden like each other and greatly respect each other's talents. They truly enjoy working together and sharing the exhilaration of delivering incredible outcomes to clients on high-profile matters.  

If I were a law student or prospective junior associate, I would want to go to a firm that afforded me the flexibility to try a range of top-of-market practices, geographic mobility, and a culture that is inclusive, collegial and energetic.  

CA: What’s the firm’s five-year plan and which areas have been marked for growth?  

EF: Our recent lateral partner additions offer an interesting snapshot. We’ve added Alison Brown, a lead trial lawyer with a focus on mass torts and product liability, in New York; Kenneth Held in our Houston office to provide  even more depth to our securities, class action and commercial litigation team; George Knighton and  Simon Toms, who focus on cross-border M&A, in London; Mike Ringler, who brings significant tech M&A experience to our Palo Alto team; Bill McConagha, a 17-year FDA veteran who is now in our Washington, DC office; and Peter Newman to bolster our European corporate restructuring practice in London.  

We try to be opportunistic in adding high-caliber laterals whose experience aligns with our clients' needs. With this group of new partners, we've expanded our leading trial capability; added to our deep securities litigation bench; strengthened our world-renowned M&A platform in key jurisdictions and industries; enhanced our extensive knowledge of the regulatory and litigation landscape for food, pharma and medical device companies; and elevated the capability of our international restructuring practice.  

CA: What measures are in place in consideration of growing concerns around mental health and burnout culture in the legal profession?  

EF: We were one of the first law firm signatories to the ABA Well-Being Pledge — something that is very in keeping with our culture. Our "Live Well, Work Well" program focuses on supporting the emotional, financial, physical and mental well-being of all our attorneys and professional staff. This includes efforts to increase the visibility of and accessibility to resources, as well as to challenge the stigma associated with these issues and seeking support for them.  

Additionally, last summer we made a point to include summer associates in our Live Well, Work Well program to help them develop positive habits from the start of their legal careers, hopefully positioning them to feel comfortable utilizing resources and seeking support when they return to the firm as first-year associates. The transition from law school to practice is a significant one, and we have been proactive in collaborating with law schools around the country to support students in making that transition.  

Finally, we recently hired a head of well-being to oversee and advance our efforts in this important area. I feel confident saying that we are at the forefront of the legal profession in this regard.  

CA: How do you respond when competitors criticize your firm’s culture?   

Eric Friedman: We are a firm that has a certain amount of swagger, which may be a product of working on some of the most important legal challenges in the world, whether the biggest and boldest M&A deals or some of the most complex litigation or tax issues. But I think we are equally known for being incredibly collegial and a place where people can excel at their own pace, taking on incremental responsibility, depending on their capability and desire. 

We’re a big tent. There is no stereotypical Skadden attorney, and that is a reflection of having an inclusive culture. We cast an incredibly wide net to attract the best and the brightest talent. Unlike some of our competitors, we are hiring the top students from 40 different law schools rather than only a select few. 

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates

One Manhattan West,
New York,
10001-8602
Website www.skadden.com

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 8
  • Number of international offices: 14
  • Partners (US): 269
  • Associates (US): 809
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Carol Lee H Sprague
  • Hiring partner: Gavin White
  • Diversity officer: Melique Jones
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 166
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020:
  • 1Ls: 32, 2Ls: 147
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office:
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Splits were not offered as a result of program changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Summer salary 2020:
  • 1Ls: $3,700
  • 2Ls: $3,700
  • Split summers offered? Yes — splits must spend at least 8 weeks with Skadden for first half
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case

Main areas of work



 Antitrust, banking, complex litigation and trials, complex mass torts/insurance litigation, capital markets, corporate restructuring, energy and infrastructure projects, executive compensation and benefits, government enforcement and white collar crime, intellectual property and technology, international arbitration, investment management, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, regulatory, tax, trusts and estates.

Firm profile



 Skadden attorneys work on bet-the-company issues around the world for leading Fortune 500 corporations, financial institutions, governments and cultural, educational and charitable organizations. Communication and expertise across our offices enable us to provide unparalleled service to our clients. Our attorneys, spread among 22 interconnected offices around the world, are engaged in more than 60 practice areas, many of which are specialized. We also encourage pro bono work, providing chargeable time credit. With fostering professional growth as a primary goal, our attorney development partners and Training Committee ensure that associates receive appropriate training and mentoring from the start of their careers. Skadden is committed to creating a culture and tone that supports attorney well being. Our Live Well/Work Well platform offers resources that focus on emotional, financial, physical and social well being. Our global D&I initiative and women’s initiative are chaired by partners who work closely with firm leadership and local office committees to develop and sustain recruitment, development and retention strategies and programming that is intended to increase diversity at all levels of the firm and foster an inclusive workplace culture. Our widely regarded summer associate program is designed to provide substantive practical skills training, exposure to various practices, as well as a sense of what it is like to be an attorney at Skadden.

Recruitment



Law schools attended for OCI in 2019:
Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, Penn, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
In addition to participating in OCIs, the firm accepts summer associate applications directly from students. Interested. Interested applicants may submit their resume and 1L transcript through theSkadden online system: skadden.com/recruiting.

Summer associate profile:
The breadth of our practice and the success it has enjoyed is largely due to the capabilities of our attorneys. We look for candidates who combine intellectual ability with enthusiasm and creativity. Successful candidates display high academic achievement in their law school and undergraduate education. Law Journal and/or Moot Court participation are preferred.

Summer program components:
One of the most comprehensive programs of its kind, our Summer Associate Program (offered in our Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, Washington, DC, Wilmington, London, Hong Kong, Toronto and Tokyo offices) drives our hiring efforts. Summer associates are assigned to active deals and litigations, providing them with work experiences similar to those of full time associates.
For more information visit: www.skadden.com/recruiting

Social media



Recruitment website: www.skadden.com/recruiting
Twitter: @skaddenrecruit

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Deals in Asia (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Chancery (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 1)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 4)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Litigation) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration (Band 2)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 4)
    • Political Law (Band 1)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 1)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 2)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
    • Projects: Power (Band 2)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • REITs (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 2)
    • Sports Law (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 1)

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