This midsized firm has Stroock a nice balance: it's small enough to cultivate a “familial atmosphere” and big enough to provide “stability and sophisticated clients.”
NOT long before our calls with Stroock's juniors, the firm had announced its role advising a developer on a major new waterfront project in Long Island City, Queens – which is notable for two reasons. First, it showcases Stroock's New York heritage and ongoing involvement in the city (“We've been around since the late 1800s and we're steeped in the community,” sources were quick to tell us), and second, it exhibits one of the firm's core strengths: real estate. Chambers USA tips its cap to Stroock's development, financing and zoning work in New York in particular.
But there's a lot more to Stroock than a beating heart in Manhattan and a talent for handling the legal dimensions of its urban landscape. Over the years Stroock has expanded its geographic reach by opening offices in LA, Miami and DC, and its practice is composed of many areas besides real estate: other highlights in Chambers USA include bankruptcy/restructuring, employee benefits & executive compensation, IP and insurance; on a nationwide basis its international trade practice is highly regarded.
Our associate interviewees were fully aware of Stroock's reputation, but also chose it for its more midsized measurements: “I wanted a firm that had a low partner to associate ratio to ensure I got exposure, could grow as an attorney and do substantive work.” While small enough to provide that experience, juniors also felt that Stroock was big enough to provide stability thanks to a balanced spread of practices (which ranges from corporate to financial restructuring to litigation): “The legal industry is vulnerable to change right now, but Stroock can give you that BigLaw stability.”
Stroock’s litigation department took in the biggest number of associates on our list, followed by corporate and real estate. The rest went to the financial restructuring, tax, and business practices. Each department has an administrative partner who's tasked with distributing work: “It's somewhat traditional in that sense. In the beginning all matters come down through them, which ensures you become familiar with the broader practice group.” However, as times passes “a lot of reciprocation goes on, where if you've consistently worked for certain partners they begin to ask for you directly.” Our sources liked the blend of both assignment channels, and repeatedly flagged the benefits of Stroock's lean staffing arrangements: “There's never more than two or three associates on a deal, and I'm always the only junior. It's a hands-on firm and they do a good job of giving us responsibility early on.”
Litigators “particularly enjoyed how different each case can be.” A more generalist approach saw juniors sample matters tied to lobbying rules, real estate advertising regulations, discrimination claims, loan agreements, mergers and civil investigations. “The most common things are research and legal analysis, but you're not just writing up information while the partner makes all the decisions – it's very much a collaboration where your ideas and theories are exchanged and worked with.” Other tasks included journeying to clients' offices for fact-gathering exercises, drafting outlines for witness examinations and responding to subpoenas. “By the beginning of your second year you can expect to start taking cases from cradle to grave and driving them forward.”
“...taking cases from cradle to grave.”
It’s also “prettygeneral under thecorporate umbrella,” where associates had dabbled in a mix of M&A, finance and funds work. On the finance side, “we tend to represent the borrower during refinancings,” and for juniors this meant “a lot of paper! There's a lot of coordination and management to be done.” M&A deals, meanwhile, “tend to have larger teams, so juniors are usually tasked with turning comments on the more minor agreements.” Juniors felt that funds work offered the most responsibility, as “they keep you very involved, from leading on some calls to doing a lot of drafting: there are a preset number of documents that go into setting up the fund, and I take a first crack at them before they're reviewed by partners.”
The real estate department is “completely full-service and standalone, as opposed to being an ancillary bolt-on like it can be at many other firms.” Associates therefore saw “the whole range: acquisitions, dispositions, lending work, joint ventures and leases – we do everything!” Some of our interviewees had specialized early and taken on a lot of lending work: “We represent the lenders, and the deals can range from $20 million to half a billion. I get to draft documents like signature pages and speak to the client on the phone three or four times a week – not so much to give legal advice, but to be the point person that manages the deal flow and gets it closed.”
Training & Development
Juniors agreed that “you have to be proactive to get regular feedback,” but were grateful to have two formal reviews each year (one in June and one at the end of the year). “You ask for feedback from everyone you've worked for, and they review around 15 aspects of your performance. Once everyone's had their say you sit down and talk through it all with the administrative partner.” The implementation of several clear review categories was popular: “It's created more transparency, and it allows partners to give more substantive feedback instead of just checking boxes.”
Formal training manifests itself in “a great deal of CLE sessions; there's an active program that usually runs one or two events a month, covering business development, personal marketing and practice-specific talks.” For litigators, the pinnacle of Stroock's formal training is the summer mock trial. Participants found it “invaluable” as a learning experience: “You can write outlines for cross-examinations all day, but until you’re standing on that podium with everyone watching, there’s no substitute.”
Hours & Compensation
Juniors work to meet a 2,000-hour billing target, but can put 200 hours of 'non-billables' – like pro bono and time spent on business development activities – toward it. Sources in groups like litigation and financial restructuring described the target as “attainable if you're willing to put in the hours,” but those in more transactional groups like corporate and real estate found it more challenging: “It's been a slow summer so I'm not going to make it – I don't think there are any consequences as they prefer us to work more for experience and training at the start of our careers.” Those who fall short of the hours target by a small amount may still be considered for a bonus, as the firm also looks at factors like good performance, efficiency and the overall activity within a particular practice.
“They prefer us to work more for training and experience.”
Ten-hour days in the office were normal, with many sources working between 9am and 7pm. When deals ramp up so do the hours – the record we heard of was one junior staying overnight and leaving at 11am the next day. That's on the intense end of the scale though – normally “you're not expected to stay super late, and you won't find people regularly eating dinner here. People tend to leave by 7:30pm.”
Stroock's size means that “we still work for sophisticated clients but can do so in a more familial atmosphere where the partners care about our well-being.” This all helps to create a “not super competitive or cutthroat environment – people pitch in for doc reviews, and there's a 'collective action' approach to any problems that arise.” There's “still a hierarchy” but “often you'll find everyone conversing with everyone – the secretaries, the paralegals, the librarians. You develop a rapport with a whole bunch of people.” This was all truein the offices outside of the New York HQ as well, as this LA interviewee testified: “We're not cogs in the wheel – we have a tight-knit environment here where my practice group chair knows me by name and knows all about my family.”
“You develop a rapport with a whole bunch of people.”
On the social side, interviewees hadenjoyed happy hours, bowling excursions and “dinners to give us time to bond away from the office.” There was some hankering for “a little more interaction between departments,” but themed monthly events in each of the firm's offices were deemed helpful for fostering further unity: “We've had a Halloween one, a baseball one, a beach-themed one and even a pie contest!”
The majority of juniors were based in Stroock's flagship New York office on Maiden Lane. Its downtown location in the heart of the financial district also comes with “some of the best views in Manhattan.” While “the office space itself is not the greatest,” renovations are underway to spruce the place up: “The renovated areas look much nicer: we've opened up a beautiful new cafeteria downstairs, every floor has a new bathroom, and our lobby has also been done.” Once the common areas are done, the individual offices will be made shiny and new too. Juniors currently share an office for their first two years at the firm, before getting their own in their third year.
As with most firms, Stroock gets “less diverse the higher up the ranks you go,” but juniors felt that the disparity was “not through lack of effort on the firm’s part,” and praised the firm for making a “huge effort to increase diversity over the last three years.”They added that Stroock is “committed to retaining diverse professionals,” and partly does so througha series of “active, visible affinitygroups that plan events and talks to bring awareness to issues or simply to celebrate diversity.” The firm's LGBT group hosts a “very well-attended annual dinner that people look forward to,” while the women's group “meets at least once a month for lunch, a cocktail hour or a speaker event – before we meet we read up on articles in order to discuss gender disparity in the legal market.”
“...huge effort to increase diversity over the last three years.”
Juniors were “pretty active” on the pro bono front, with one excited to tell us that they'd written “about a third of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on a voting rights case.” Stroock doesn't “force pro bono on you but strongly encourages people to take it on – they give out nice medals and I have one sitting on my desk!” On the whole sources felt that “it's valid to prioritize pro bono work because the firm values it and the efforts from our leadership are genuine.” Some of the organizations associates worked with included IMPACCT Brooklyn, the Urban Justice Center, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Her Justice.
Pro bono hours:
- For all attorneys: 15,974
- Average per attorney: 64.7
Strategy & Future
“We're targeting greater growth in our financial restructuring, real estate, financial services and litigation practices,” co-managing partner Alan Klinger tells us. He adds that 2017 saw Stroock refocus its strategy along key industry lines: “The strategic planning process over the past year led us to approach the business from an industry rather than a skills-based point of view. We looked at the way clients purchase our services and subsequently reorganized the firm into eight core business units that are focused on the needs of our leading clients. In some areas, for example, we've combined litigators and transactional lawyers into a business unit in order to show our clients that we truly understand their business and can advance their interests.”
Hiring partner Marissa Holob tells us that Stroock is “looking for candidates who are willing to take ownership of their work and take on appropriate levels of responsibility. Given our lean staffing model we provide a lot of opportunities for responsibility early on, which we think is unique in today’s world.” Associates reiterated this:“We’re a firm of self-starters, so you should want to be exposed to responsibility early on,” associates revealed.With this in mind, they also had some words of warning for prospective candidates: “In bigger firms with classes of up to 50 or 60, you can take a paycheck and hide for a few years – take a few assignments, and just do doc review when no one’s looking. At Stroock, it will be apparent if you just want a high-paying job and aren’t willing to do the work.”
“We make sure candidates see a great cross-section of the firm when they come in for an interview,” Holob reveals. “Different interviewers have different styles and different questions that they like to ask. Some interviewers like to start off having candidates tell them something about themselves that’s not on their resume, to get a fuller picture of a candidate. Others like to jump right into the resume and ask about more substantive experiences from the start.” Associates who’d been involved in interviewing told us they asked scenario-based questions and used candidates’ questions to “get an insight into what concerned them.” Their tips for impressing were straightforward: “You should be able to talk about your resume without looking at it, and even if you don’t know much about the topic under discussion, you should be able to think on your feet. The interviewer doesn’t want to get the impression that they'll have to babysit you.” And make sure that handshake is nice and strong: “It astounds me how many people don’t give a firm handshake,” said one alarmed source.
Holob also has some advice for prospective candidates: “They should be able to explain not just what’s on their resume, but also their experiences – we want them to discuss their background substantively and be excited about what they’ve done and how it can help them when joining us. The candidates that always impress are the ones who are excited about law, who come in to discuss their past experiences and ask interesting questions about the firm. On the flip side, candidates stand out in an entirely different way if they ask generic questions or are unable to discuss something on their resume. I also want to emphasize that candidates should remember their entire time at the office is part of the interview – treat every person here respectfully.”
At a more general level, associates reiterated that prospective candidates should think long and hard about what they want to get out of their BigLaw experience. “You’re going to be working long hours no matter where you are, but it makes it easier if you’re getting something out of what you’re putting in.” They suggested candidates “pay close attention to the people you meet at interviews, and how happy and passionate they are – that will indicate a lot about the firm.”
More from hiring partner Marissa Holob...
Chambers Associate:What is the firm doing to improve diversity at the recruitment level?
Marissa Holob: Diversity is extremely important to the firm. We're looking to bring diverse talent in and have a well-rounded summer class. When we talk about diversity we are not only looking at traditionally diverse students but are also considering a broad array of diverse factors, including educational backgrounds and different life experiences. We work closely with various affinity groups during the recruitment period and we attend diversity job fairs as part of our recruitment initiatives. We've had a lot of involvement and success with a number of organizations, including first generation professionals student organizations at various law schools.
CA:What can students do now to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications?
MH: While we strongly consider academic credentials, we are really looking more holistically at the candidate. We want someone who'll be genuine and enthusiastic, as well as someone who has demonstrated dedication – not just in their academic achievements, but also in outside organizations and extracurricular activities, especially with regards to teamwork and leadership positions.
CA:How was the summer program this year?
MH: We had a great summer program that was really successful. One of the best things about our summer program is that it really provides a glimpse into the life of our junior associates; we spend time making sure our summer associates get real work. We have two assigning partners – one for litigation assignments and one for transactional assignments. We vet assignments – myself included – to make sure the assignments summer associates receive are appropriate and also allow them to see what it would be like when they come back as associates to the firm. On top of good work assignments, we have top-notch training programs. Some highlights include a firm-wide mock trial, a negotiation skills workshop, and communication skills and writing seminars. One of my favorite social events was a mentor event we hosted – it was a private dinner at Bouley Botanical with an appearance from celebrity chef David Bouley.
CA:How can someone stand out as a summer?
MH: Candidates who take advantage of everything we’re offering stand out. We provide a lot of mentoring opportunities, and these include an associate office buddy and a writing mentor – take advantage of them. Come to the trainings and ask us questions – the people who do that are the ones that succeed.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
180 Maiden Lane,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Worldwide revenue: $251,000,000
- Partners (US): 75
- Associates (US): 172
- Main recruitment contacts: Halle Schargel
- Hiring partner: Marissa Holob
- Diversity officer: Yakiry Adal
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 13
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
- 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 16
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- New York: 15, LA: 2
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: $3,563/week
- 2Ls: $3,563/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
New York Office:
■ Boston College
■ Boston University
■ New York Law School
Los Angeles Office:
Recruitment outside OCIs:
In addition to visiting a number of law schools throughout the fall to interview students for our summer associate program, we also recruit at a number of diversity, regional, and/or practice 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
Chambers USA Guide 2017
District of Columbia
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- 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)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)