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

You know the name, but do you know the people who proudly call one of the world's biggest firms home?

HOW would you describe Skadden? One of our interviewees was quick to answer and smoothly declared it “the New York Yankees of law firms” in what turned out to be a home run of a comparison. Both are one of the biggest brands in their respective fields, and both love to break records. In 2015 Skadden was the first ever firm to advise on $1 trillion worth of M&A within one year, and executive partner Eric Friedman believes its current market position “is stronger than ever. We're well positioned in the current climate to lead the charge for our clients.”

Indeed: Skadden's come a long way from its humble origins as a three-man firm founded on April Fool's Day, 1948, to challenge the ‘white shoe’ elite. There's no fooling with Skadden's practice now: it's top-ranked nationwide by Chambers USA for antitrust, corporate (M&A and more), energy, real estate, securities litigation, sports law and tax. “No matter what practice area I joined, I knew it would be A+,” another junior confidently summarized.

The Work

Around half of Skadden's annual intake of juniors slot into corporate and transactional, while most of the rest join litigation or a regulatory team (which includes tax). Each team has a work allocation system, but how strictly it's adhered to varies. “If you email a partner and tell them you really want to work on something they're usually pretty open to it,” and we heard from associates who'd done this “99% of the time” – even in the New York HQ. Some questioned the fairness of this, and suggested “equitable work distribution should be a priority so you don't have some associates doing nothing and others getting crushed,” but the vast majority were happy to duck and weave as they pleased.

Litigators can slot into a subgroup like IP, white-collar investigations or insurance, but many join the 'complex litigation and trial' generalist team. “There's a common misconception it's the bucket for everything else, but you can work on all different types of cases as a generalist.” In DC juniors are especially likely to get involved in government enforcement and white-collar litigation. Many sources found themselves “functioning as a senior associate, researching issues and running client meetings by myself.” At the same time there's no escaping the document review that's “universal with these big firms,” but motion and brief writing came quicker at Skadden than many expected considering the firm's size. “The scariest moment as a first-year was working a case with just a partner,” a source said. “They put me on a call with the other side and said, 'Let me know what happens'!”

Litigation clients: Capital One, BMW AG and Barclays. Recently won a settlement for International Flavors & Fragrances during bet-the-company trade secrets theft and breach of contract litigation.

“Skadden figures out where you are comfortable and gives you work slightly outside that to push you to get better.”

Most corporate associates are allocated to a subgroup right off the bat, but in New York they rotate through two teams for eight months at a time before picking their favorite. Options include a “pretty varied banking practice,” a restructuring group and the M&A work that Skadden is known for, and crossover between groups means you're never too siloed: “As well as a couple of international restructurings, I've done financings for the group's clients.” Research and motion drafting come quickly here too: juniors prized getting onto closings as “that's when we can step up and draft.” Laying out the learning curve, one said: “Skadden figures out where you are comfortable and gives you work slightly outside that to push you to get better. There's a natural discomfort that comes with it but it's the best way to grow and learn.” Insiders also appreciated that “as you do more senior work the junior stuff drops off – your workload isn't just increasing.”

Corporate clients: 21st Century Fox, Toshiba and Citibank. Recently acted for pharma giant Express Scripts during its $3.6 billion acquisition of eviCore Healthcare and $67 billion acquisition by Cigna.

The antitrust squad sits in New York and DC, and works on transaction regulation, litigation, internal antitrust investigations and some sports law. “Every day is somewhat different,” and as a result: “On litigation-related assignments you're piecing together clients' histories and looking for communication with competitors. Other times I've done individual projects.” More specialist groups like this one “rarely put together big teams, so I've had a certain level of autonomy. What I've most enjoyed is getting lots of opportunities to interact with clients including executives at major companies.”

Antitrust clients: Nasdaq, Nokia and Intel. Recently secured a dismissal of federal antitrust claims brought against brewing company Anheuser-Busch, which alleged a conspiracy to exclude American breweries from the Ontario beer market.

Career Development

This is one area where associates aren't left to their own devices – they're assigned a partner mentor for three years and use the RAMP (Rising Associate Mentorship Program) to get over the starting hurdle. “In my first month there was so much training to become fluent in finance,” interviewees shared. However, all agreed with this junior, who found that the “resources available are really helpful in first year but I think I learn the most by doing hands-on work. Partners are there to help but I like having a longer leash.”

Happy to note that “if you show promise and have what it takes to make partner you're told that early,” associates equally appreciated “how willing Skadden is to help you take opportunities outside the firm. I've heard horror stories about other places getting angry about that, but many of the associates here really want to do clerkships and that's fine.” The most common exit window was between third and sixth year. The firm has career coaches to help those planning to go in-house. “Skadden wants to help you get to your destination whether it's partnership or not,” according to interviewees, who added: “The firm's mantra is 'carve your path, start here.'” A big factor in why several sources chose to do just that was the prestige that comes with the name 'Skadden' – even beyond the law.


Skadden's name also has a fair few myths attached to it, especially regarding the office environment. “The least accurate description I've heard is ‘fratty.’ I'm surrounded by nerds in the best possible way!” Many were relieved to find that “people at Skadden were actually friends and enjoyed working the long hours together then going for drinks.” Zeroing in on each office we found that “each has its own distinct culture.” For instance, one source suggested that Chicago and DC have an easier work/life balance – working somewhere a little bit smaller makes things more personable.”

“The least accurate description I've heard is ‘fratty.’ I'm surrounded by nerds in the best possible way!”

Interviewees outside the New York HQ referred to it as “Skadden on steroids,” but the juniors who actually worked within it said: “Nobody's ever yelled at me. Perceptions at law school of Skadden being a sweat shop were completely wrong.” As for the intensity of individual practice groups, insiders reckoned “people in corporate tend to be a bit more Type A. It's not more competitive but there's more of a hustle to it.” Smaller groups, contrastingly, “have their moments but they’re a bit more casual and congenial overall.”

“We're spending dozens of hours together and after that we still want to go out and enjoy each other's company,” one interviewee told us, mirroring the positive assessments of the firmwide culture that we heard from other sources. The firm runs plenty of events to encourage just that, whether it's renting out Chelsea Pier or the Rockefeller Center in New York, arranging basketball and baseball games in DC, or hosting happy hours in most offices. A new attorney lounge on the 37th floor of the 4 Times Square HQ (note that the firm's moving to Manhattan West in 2020) is “a good place to take a quick break and hang out. Unfortunately the partners go there too!” one junior quipped. Other offices like DC are “not quite like the city that never sleeps, but we're more social than any neighboring firms.” The bottom line is “Skadden's not one of those places where people get work done then head home immediately. They arrange events to make people feel like they're really part of the firm, not just an employee.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Skadden's calendar is also full of occasions to celebrate diversity: we heard about “lots of great speakers coming in” during Hispanic Heritage Month and midlevel women's retreats among other events. The Women's Leadership Forum also hosts a six-month program for female associates. However, sources agreed that “there is a problem with retaining women and diverse talent, and that’s something the firm’s still trying to figure out.” Some chalked this down to “the partnership track generally being longer than it is at other firms, which may be an added barrier.”

More positively, sources noted that “the firm has done a lot better at junior level” and several third-year associates commented that “even in the last couple of years there's been more of a push to bring in women and minorities.” One credited this new energy to old ways of thinking: “Skadden's ethos going back to its foundation has been about judging people on the work product and not their background.” More concrete evidence of a commitment to the cause includes subscribing to the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity program, which brings in students from disadvantaged backgrounds during the summer.

Get Hired

“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.” You can find other (sadly non-Westeros) related tips by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Pro Bono

“I know people who've already done 150 hours of pro bono this year and will probably do a lot more.” Not all of Skadden's attorneys match that effort, but we heard again and again that “the firm has a real commitment to pro bono. That's reflected in how many different types of cases are available.” Asylum and immigration matters were the most common but civil rights litigation, landlord/tenant disputes and Legal Aid Society projects also tickled our sources' fancies. “When Eric Friedman came to Chicago he gave a shout out not to a big merger or case victory, but to an associate who'd done a transgender rights appeal in the Seventh Circuit. He was so fired up about that,” a Windy City source told us. Various offices conduct specialized 'Impact Projects' including monthly 'Military Mondays' clinics in New York and a partnership between team Los Angeles and the Creative Artists Agency and Learning Rights Law Center.

“I know people who've already done 150 hours of pro bono this year.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 193,081
  • Average per US attorney: 150

Hours & Compensation

As well as pro bono, juniors can put 100 'productive work hours' (time spent doing things like shadowing or writing articles) toward the firm's 1,800 billable target. “It's hard to miss” in most practice groups, and some of our sources aimed to clear the hurdle as early as October. Litigators especially “tend to get their hours fairly comfortably,” but transactional juniors were also confident despite the ebb and flow. Many interviewees were out of the office at 7pm most days, but euphemistically admitted that “there have been a good few times where I've had to work later.” Luckier sources had “never done an all nighter but have still been here until 10:30pm,” while others “have been here until midnight – but only a handful of times.”

Working from home via the wonders of modern technology is encouraged. “There are ways to strike a healthy balance” as a result, with associates concluding that on the whole “there are difficult days but also easy days.” Morale was also high thanks to respectful vacation policies and the firm's emphatic market salary match in the summer of 2018. “We're Skadden so there were never any doubts – raising speaks volumes for the firm's willingness to compete for top talent,” we heard.

Strategy & Future

Globalization is changing the law – great news for Skadden. “Cross-border M&A activity in the first nine months of 2018 increased 50% over the equivalent period in 2017 and accounted for 40% of the overall market,” executive partner Eric Friedman tells us. “Compared to other firms, that's good for Skadden's practice and really plays to our strengths.” Does more global wheeling and dealing mean more offices across the world? “There's nothing imminent on the table,” according to Friedman, “but we've been deepening our penetration in various core markets including private equity and antitrust.”

“That's good for Skadden's practice and really plays to our strengths.” 

Kept in the loop by state of the firm addresses, associates were reassured that “the future looks positive. Our client mix has diversified and partners are always looking for opportunities in new areas like cryptocurrencies.” Eric Friedman chimes in: “You won't be able to stay engaged enthusiastically with a job unless it provides a dynamic experience." Check out the full interview by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 2,330Interviewees outside OCI: 327

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."


Applicants invited to second stage: 1,011

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: 525Acceptances: 186

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 Friedman

Chambers Associate: How would you characterize Skadden's market position in 2018 heading into 2019?

Eric Friedman: I believe it's stronger than ever. Taking a look at M&A for example, we're in a record high market for total deal value but the number of deals being done is down. What's fueling the growth is a lot of big cross-border deals. Cross-border M&A activity in the first nine months of 2018 increased 50% over the equivalent period in 2017 and accounted for 40% of the overall market. Compared to other firms, that's good for Skadden's practice and really plays to our strengths. We've recently represented Fox both in the cross-border component of its $15 billion sale of Sky, and its acquisition by Disney.

Our litigation practice has also had an incredible run recently: it's very diversified, with securities class action and takeover-related litigation remaining perennial strengths. Recent examples include representing the underwriters for PetroPros, a Brazilian oil and gas company that issued significant securities into the US; and appraisal proceedings for the Clearwire takeover by Sprint, where the Delaware Court of Chancery found the fair value less than half of $5 per share that Sprint had paid. Our white collar practice is still doing outstanding work on cross-border investigations by the Department of Justice and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

It's been a robust time period for work and we're well positioned in the current climate to lead the charge for our clients. I'm proud to talk about the confidence clients have in our firm.

CA: Given the growth of cross-border deals do you envisage future growth in terms of the firm's global footprint?

EF: There's nothing imminent on the table in terms of offices on the ground, but we've been deepening our penetration in various core markets including private equity and antitrust. Two partners have deepened our PE offering in London and we've extended in Frankfurt too, while in antitrust we've brought on Dave Wales in DC, who was previously a senior regulator at the FTC and DOJ and the global head of antitrust at another firm. We've also brought Bill Batchelor on board in Brussels as an EU and UK-qualified antitrust investigations expert.

CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?

EF: The profession as a whole has recognized there's significant synergy in being able to offer clients multi-disciplinary and multi-geography solutions to their problems, which over the past 30 years have become increasingly complex and multi-dimensional. To maintain a seamless and team-oriented approach, firms need to be one entity rather than bolt different offices and practices together. The need to comply with global regulatory enforcement, and cross-border M&A, has really changed the market too. The US has recently adopted sweeping legislative overhaul because it recognized the current system put domestic companies at a disadvantage to global tax policy. With all these changes, the nature of client service has changed fundamentally.

CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?

EF: It comes with a high degree of intellectual complexity and professional development. Over any reasonable period of time, your experience in the law will vary enormously. People often ask if I'd recommend my kids become lawyers, and obviously I want them to be happy above all but if they're interested in the law then absolutely they should. It's a more complicated, professional, diverse environment than much else you'll find in the workplace.

CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?

EF: I decided to go to law school while in university, thinking legal education would be the ideal complement to the undergraduate business education I was pursuing at the time. As for the decision to stay in the law, that was down to the challenge and everything I was learning. You won't be able to stay engaged enthusiastically with a job unless it provides a dynamic experience.

CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?

EF: Be curious and flexible, but be committed. If you bring a level of intellectual curiosity and flexibility to law you never know what direction your career will take, you have to be ready to take any advantage you can. Give it all and invest in your own development – it'll benefit you, your firm and your clients.

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

Four Times Square,
New York,
NY 10036

  • Head Office: New York, NY
  • Number of domestic offices: 8
  • Number of international offices: 14
  • Partners (US): 282
  • Associates (US): 881
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Carol Lee H Sprague
  • Hiring partner: Gavin White
  • Diversity officer: Melique Jones
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 165
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
  • 1Ls: 35, 2Ls: 181, 3L:1
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2011 split by office:
  • New York: 9, Chicago: 2, Los Angeles: 1, Palo Alto: 3, Washington, DC: 4, London: 5, Tokyo: 1, Hong Kong: 4
  • Summer salary 2019:
  • 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 Diversity Committee promotes cross-cultural appreciation and competency through diversity and inclusion seminars, lunches, and our facets diversity publication and lecture series. 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.


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 starting 1st June. Interested applicants may submit their resume and 1L transcript through theSkadden online system:

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:

Social media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @skaddenrecruit

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

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 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • 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 5)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • 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)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • 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 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Representation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Representation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Representation (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 (Compliance & Litigation) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 2)
    • Healthcare Recognised Practitioner
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration (Band 2)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 1)
    • Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 4)
    • Leisure & Hospitality Recognised Practitioner
    • Political Law (Band 1)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 3)
    • 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 1)
    • REITs (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 2)
    • Sports Law (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 1)