The New York midsizer was so nice they named it twice.
ON his song 'Homegrown', Zac Brown (of the Zac Brown Band, funnily enough) sings that he's “got everything I need and nothing that I don't.” We've no idea if the management at New York-based Stroock are country music fans, but they certainly seem to have taken that maxim to heart. Its office network includes only small offerings in Los Angeles, Miami and DC and there's a familial feel in each location with a lower partner-associate ratio than at many larger competitors. “My callback interview was a lot more conversational than at other firms, which I felt were sizing me up,” one interviewee remembered. “I got the sense from Stroock they wanted to see who I was as a person.”
A shakeup to its partnership structure in 2017 meant the firm's profits jumped despite an overall fall in revenue, part of a refocus on its strengths. Stroock's practice is fairly broad but the firm's known for real estate expertise and gets three different Chambers USA rankings in that area – others cover insurance, international trade and bankruptcy.
New York takes the majority of new juniors. A handful head to Los Angeles, while Miami and DC only take on juniors laterally. Litigation and real estate are the most popular destinations but corporate and financial restructuring take a few too. Each department has an attorney who also oversees work assignment, but over time most associates cut out the middle man and go straight to partners for work. “You have more face time with them” as a result, though it’s best not to get too reliant and get “tied to their workload, so if they’re light you might be too.”
Stroock's real estate department serves a mixture of developers, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and large banks. Associates juggled multiple deals each day “with a partner overseeing the whole shindig” and kept themselves busy “drafting loan documents or paying attention to diligence items that come in” for each. Charting their trajectory, a source explained that after demonstrating they “could handle drafting a whole set of ancillaries, I then got to do an opinion letter. As I improve I'll see more of them." Higher-level work couldn't come sooner to another interviewee who declared: “If I had to only do signature pages every day I would scratch my eyes out!”
Real estate clients: Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Verizon. Represented Delancey Street Associates for its $1.5 billion Essex Crossing mixed-use development.
"You also have a lot of interaction with clients, including during negotiations and structuring business points."
There's also real estate fund work in corporate, though private equity and M&A are also moneymakers; a decent chunk of clients here come from the engineering and pharmaceutical industries. Juniors tended to specialize in one particular area but were free to dabble in others if they chose. Private equity deals involved “more drafting, phone calls and negotiations,” whereas in M&A “you're keeping track of the process and making sure everything's organized.” Days spent slugging through "the classic first-year admin tasks” could drag, as “they're mechanical and not very exciting.” That said, the firm's size means teams are small so juniors “also have a lot of interaction with clients, including during negotiations and structuring business points.”
Corporate clients: Atlas Merchant Capital, Ultimate Software, Loeb & Troper. Advised Irish chemical multinational Linde AG on government issues related to its $73 billion merger with a US firm.
Within Stroock's broad litigation practice, insurance gets the biggest plaudits from Chambers USA but there are civil investigations, real estate and regulatory litigation here too and “the firm doesn't specialize associates, you take what's given to you.”Miami and Los Angeles also do some flashy media litigation. Less glamorous consumer complaints disputes involved “getting plaintiff forms en masse and figuring out if there's merit to them. It's pretty fact-intensive and there's a lot of negotiation and document review." We heard the relatively low value of claims meant juniors “got to run with cases a bit more” and one breathless associated claimed they'd "single-handedly prepped depositions and then sat in for the partners.”
Litigation clients: JPMorgan Chase, Physician's Reciprocal Insurers, Spanish Broadcasting System. Represented insurer Arrowood in a suit alleging the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was liable for $300 million of claims paid after 9/11.
Junior litigators are able to sample work from the department's subgroups for three years before specializing within either the financial services or government regulation 'business units.' The other practice groups don't tend to have formal subgroup divisions, and juniors in these areas specialize in a more organic way. They all get a balanced diet of “regular presentations, with different partners teaching us what they do and running us through a document.” Juniors slowly get weaned off this formal learning in favor of associate and partner mentoring (they also get a say in who their mentor is). Those who felt comfortable seeking out advice found "the support and training is very good" while other recognized that "if you're not comfortable with the person you’re assigned to, you won't want to approach them." Formal mid-year reviews helped reassure them though some worried that these were "very light on details, I got a stellar mid-year review which was flattering but not very helpful."
“Showing a massive amount of drive” is essential to impressing Stroock's interviewers: learn more about how to get hired at Stroock by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Diversity & Inclusion
As at most firms, the common line among juniors was that Stroock “isn't terribly diverse" but is “making an effort.” We drilled deeper for more concrete results and learned that "bias in work assignments" had been combated after the firm introduced mandatory implicit bias training, including for senior staff. "The feedback has been tremendous," explained a cheery associate. "People are saying they didn't even realize what implicit bias was and they can now be mindful of changing the way they think." They and others felt the firm's summer associate pool has diversified lately, but were less sure about initiatives to retain and promote female and minority attorneys long-term.
“They can now be mindful of changing the way they think."
We've long heard that Stroock's smaller headcount means “there's a very collaborative, warm culture,” but the firm's big enough that there are distinct elements within that. In the Los Angeles office “everyone is very hard-working but there's a more relaxed dress code, which I think people appreciate,” whereas in the much larger New York HQ “there are differences between departments. Corporate is all pretty internal, there's more cross-office collaboration in others.” Most interviewees felt their home base was quite insular, admitting they were “not overly aware of what's going on” elsewhere. Each has themed monthly events as well as the odd happy hour to get everyone together.
"Even when it's a high-pressure environment people don't seem to react in a mean or negative fashion."
A common thread throughout the firm was appreciating your colleagues – essential in small teams. Little things like partners “asking you to do work nicely, phrasing it as 'can you please do this assignment?'” put newcomers to the firm at ease. “Even when it's a high-pressure environment people don't seem to react in a mean or negative fashion.” Stroock isn't full of clones, though – “everybody has their own little quirks and can be very different outside the office,” we heard; “a lot of people prioritize their time outside of work.” As an extension of that, “people are pretty understanding as long as you get work done.” Picking an admittedly unusual example, a junior suggested “if an exterminator is coming to my home I can email saying I'll be a bit late and the firm is very understanding.”
Hours & Compensation
Flexible working was commonplace everywhere bar Los Angeles, where “there is an expectation that everyone works in the office.” However, the firm did tell us that some people in LA do work from home remotely one or two days a week, and there is some flexibility on that front. Bucking the 'California cool' stereotype, sources there felt they were busier than colleagues elsewhere. The consensus view across Stroock was that hours were “not overwhelming. The compensation means they're worth it!” The firm moved to match 2018's market salary increases (in its New York, LA and DC offices) quicker even than some associates expected. “We switch from lockstep to a merit-based scale from fourth year,” they explained; “transparency around compensation is lacking.” Over in Miami, there is also a junior lockstep salary scale, but the amounts are calibrated to reflect the market in the city.
Juniors work to meet a 2,000-hour billing target, but can put 200 hours of 'nonbillables' – pro bono and time spent on business development activities – toward it. Most saw this as “a reasonable minimum” but doubted they'd hit 2,000 especially in their first year. "I am not a slave to the office,” an insider laughed appreciatively, “but I would like to get a bonus and I don't know if that's doable.” Those who got in at around 9:30 in the morning were normally out of the door by 7:30pm or 8pm if nothing massive was in the diary.
Operating out of the New York office, Stroock’s dedicated Public Service Project Director organizes opportunities that span immigration, asylum, reproductive rights and domestic violence cases. The Big Apple doesn't get all the juiciest matters – juniors in other offices told us they got plenty of chances to contribute. Examples included "drafting an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit in opposition to Trump administration legislation changes" and "representing a woman seeking child support. I conducted all the client interviews with a senior associate and got to attend court, getting that opportunity felt very empowering." For associates uneasy around litigation, transactional opportunities included "setting up small businesses or working with nonprofits on their governance documents."
Pro bono hours:
- For all attorneys: 15,492
- Average per attorney: 64
Strategy & Future
Co-managing partner Alan Klinger informs us that Stroock has recently refined its strategy. “We have reimagined the firm through what we call our ‘Stroock 2020’ project,” he explains. “Essentially, we are focusing on the areas that will most benefit our clients and on those practices where we are established leaders in the field.” In practice, that has meant focusing on the firm’s core areas, which include financial restructuring, real estate, litigation, government relations and private funds. The firm has also undergone some growth recently, adding nine lateral partners in 2018, and as of March 2019, two lateral partners have joined the firm, with more expected to follow.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 495
Interviewees outside OCI: 1
Stroock recruits mostly in the Northwest and LA, meeting between 20 and 50 students at each school. Unsurprisingly, the firm recruits heavily from schools in the New York area for its office there. The firm also visits several job fairs and participated in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity 1L Scholars Program. Short 20-minute interviews on campus are typically conducted by partners, though mid to senior associates may also participate.
The firm tells us that at this point, interviewers are looking “to see if a candidate’s practice area interests match up with what we offer.” Moreover, hiring sources at the firm acknowledge that a candidate that’s great on paper may not be so appealing in person – and vice versa: “Many intangibles, such as interpersonal skills, as well as a person’s level of maturity, leadership/charisma, and overall persona, are not discernable on paper, and these are competencies we are looking to assess during the initial screening interview.”
Top tips for this stage
“It’s most important that you demonstrate an ability to carry on a conversation, speak articulately and with enthusiasm about your prior experiences and interest in pursuing a legal career, and demonstrate an ability to work hard, take ownership and do good work.” – Hiring sources at the firm
“Don't come with some robotic spiel. You want to come in showing that you have life experience and interests – let those things shine through.” – A second-year associate
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 194
Candidates meet with five interviewers for 30 minutes each. One interview is conducted by a member of the recruiting department, the other four are with either associates or partners. Interviewers will have different questions, but “all of our interviewers are trying to gauge the candidate’s overall skillset, initiative, interest in the firm and practice, and relevant prior experience.” The firm advises candidates should be prepared to discuss “everything that is on your resume. Come prepared to give examples of work you’ve done and challenges you’ve faced, and demonstrate a level of enthusiasm when discussing your substantive experiences.” Associates added that their interviewers “asked me questions to get a better sense of who I was as a person - personality matters a lot.”
Hiring sources say candidates should also “come prepared to discuss why you think our firm is a good fit for you. We don’t expect that you know everything there is to know about our firm or the practice of law, but we do want to get a sense of your genuine interest in exploring career opportunities with us.”
Top tips for this stage:
“As a firm, because we like to staff projects leanly, we are looking for candidates who are self-starters – those who are going to take ownership over their work and who are looking to take on appropriate levels of early responsibility.”– Hiring sources at the firm
“You need to show a certain amount of drive and ambition. It is what makes a really good lawyer at our firm.” – A second-year associate
“Last, ask questions! It would be nearly impossible to answer all of a candidate’s questions during a 30-minute interview. Interviewing is a two-way street, and this is a great opportunity for you to get to know more about us.” – Hiring sources at the firm
Hiring sources at the firm described the ten-week summer program as a bespoke “choose your own adventure” experience. Rather than being assigned to a specific practice group, summer are matched up to work in their areas of interest by two assigning attorneys – one for the litigation side and one for the transactional. Throughout the program, summers undergo training such as a mock trial, negotiation training and soft skills training. They’re also assigned three mentors: a partner, an associate, and a writing mentor.
Throughout the program, summer associates meet with a member of the recruiting team to discuss their interests. “Some of our summer associates come in with very specific ideas of what they want to do while others have varied interests,” according to hiring sources. “That all works for us!” Offers are made for specific practice groups, and the firm tells us most of the summers return as full-time associates.
Top tips for this stage:
“The summer associates who impress are those who also take it upon themselves to be as involved as they can, asking for feedback, taking advantage of the training programs offered, taking the time to sit and get to know our lawyers and business services staff.” – Hiring sources at the firm
“We want to get to know you as a person, so have something interesting about yourself ready to demonstrate that you can bring to the office.” – A third-year associate
The firm has some final words of caution for interested students: “Also remember, during the on-campus interview and the callback interviews, all interactions are part of the process. Treat everyone you meet with respect and know that their opinions count, too.”
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
180 Maiden Lane,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Worldwide revenue: $251,000,000
- Partners (US): 77
- Associates (US): 168
- Main recruitment contacts: Halle Schargel
- Hiring partner: Claude Szyfer
- Diversity officer: Yakiry Adal
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 16
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 11
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- NY: 10, LA: 2
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1Ls: $3,653/week
- 2Ls: $3,653/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
New York Office:
• NEBLSA Job Fair
• New York Law School
Los Angeles Office:
Recruitment outside OCIs:
In addition to visiting a number of law schools in July and August to interview students for our summer associate program, we also recruit at a number of diversity and regional specific job fairs. We begin accepting resumes from those law students entering their second year of law school in early July with whom we are not able to meet during OCI or at a job fair. Stroock is also proudly participating in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity 1L Scholar Program.
Summer associate profile:
Successful summer associates at Stroock are self-starters who quickly take ownership of their matters and are able to function at a high level early in their career. While not a prerequisite, those with prior work experience and those who have held leadership positions typically do very well with us.
Summer program components:
The firm’s program includes a flexible work assignment system, billable work across different practice areas, extensive training programs, pro bono opportunities, access to diversity/ affinity group activities and social events. In addition, each summer associate has a partner and an associate mentor, as well as a first-year office mate, which allows summer associates to quickly build relationships with our lawyers. Summer associates receive formal feedback at the mid-point and at the end of the summer, as well as when they complete assignments.
Linkedin: Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 2)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)