With more than a hundred years of Southeastern heritage to its name, Troutman's certainly a big fish in more than just its native Atlanta.
IS it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a superhero who can breathe underwater and swim faster than Michael Phelps? Well no, not quite, but as a legal entity Troutman has well and truly demonstrated its power as one of Georgia's premier firms, with an influence that extends beyond the borders of the 'Peach State'; its 600 (plus) lawyers are deployed across 12 further domestic offices that give Troutman ample national coverage. The Sanders portion of the firm's moniker comes from its former chairman, Carl E. Sanders, who also served as Georgia's governor.
Making waves in diverse waters, Troutman earns top Chambers USA rankings in Georgia for its banking & finance, energy and environment work; in Virginia it also picks up gold for its environment expertise, as well as for its corporate/M&A, IP and real estate practices. Other highly rated areas include insurance, immigration and general commercial litigation – especially in Troutman's Atlanta HQ. Weighing up the firm, associates noted that it “doesn't have a typical hierarchy, in the sense that people treat each other like equals,” which means that new fish can “dive right in and get their hands (fins?) dirty.” One interviewee put this down to a “pretty low leverage: the Troutman ethos is to let attorneys develop skills from the start.”
Strategy & Future
Up until May 2018, Troutman maintained three offices in Asia (Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai). These closed following a strategic review that found insufficient overlap between the firm's Chinese practice and its focus on middle-market clients and the energy, life sciences, insurance and banking & finance sectors. “We didn't know about the office closures until they leaked to the press,” associates told us, “but the firm is usually good at communicating to us its plans for the future.” The firm hosts regular videoconference meetings to keep attorneys in every office in the loop. Thankfully, these meetings “demonstrate a long-term investment in associates. It's comforting to know the firm is in great shape and I appreciate knowing where the firm is going.”
Each year Atlanta takes on a sizable chunk of new associates. New York and Richmond are also big recruiters, but the DC, Charlotte, Orange County and San Francisco offices also hire regularly too. Finance & restructuring is the most common destination for rookies followed by IP; financial services litigation; real estate; business litigation; corporate; and multifamily housing finance. Work assignment in each group “tends to happen quite organically,” but in the larger teams “the group leader is on hand to monitor associate hours and make sure that we're doing a good amount.” Associates found that “the free market works better for some than others” but appreciated “getting to work with a wide array of partners.”
The recently merged finance & restructuring group handles the likes of insolvencies, asset sales, infrastructure projects, and real estate and consumer lending deals. Chambers USA rates the Atlanta team's banking regulation practice in particular as top-notch. Transactions range “from smaller matters to enormous hundred million dollar deals,” and on all but the very largest mandates juniors “run checklists, do due diligence and curate loan documents from start to finish.” Some were surprised to find themselves “drafting the main documents as well as the ancillaries – it's pretty atypical for someone of my level.” That may sound a bit daunting, but sources assured us that “we're never left out in the cold – all I need to do is raise my hand and partners will help.”
“All I need to do is raise my hand and the partners will help.”
Business litigators handle a range of commercial and breach of contract disputes, while those in financial services litigation encounter an array of clients including credit card and mortgage lenders, banks and auto finance companies. Sources in the latter “deal a lot with what we call the alphabet soup acts” – an apt nickname for the likes of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Home Owner's Equity Protection Act (HOEPA). “I've done a lot of research but that will probably decrease over time,” an interviewee commented, “as thepartners are really good at taking into consideration what experience you already have – at the same time they try not to overwhelm you with things you're not familiar with.” Business litigators had sampled healthcare, data, tort and real estate work, and in each area were “thrown into the mix early on. Within my first year I'd drafted motions and pleadings, been to court and interfaced with opposing counsel.”
Multifamily housing finance is a distinctive Troutman niche; one associate estimated that the firm does “at least 50% of the lender work in the sector nationwide.” The practice involves counseling banking clients on mortgages that are sold to secondary market investors. Associates in the team “opened and closed small loan transactions,” and were happy to report that “client contact is definitely an integral aspect of our work.” Likewise, sources in the general real estate department told us that “the great thing about Troutman is that you get to work directly with clients very early on.” Interviewees were pleased to “experience a number of scenarios rather than just being siloed into one,” and thereforedipped in and out of development, construction, leasing, purchase and sale matters.
Training & Development
First years converge on Atlanta for the New Attorney Orientation Program. All lawyers subsequently enroll at Troutman Sanders University, but overall sources agreed that “most of the training is on the job and informal.” This approach was favored by some more than others. Financial services litigators, for example, felt they had “significant oversight that enables you to subsequently take off with something,” while their counterparts in business litigation “would prefer more formal training – we'd benefit from more instruction.” Transactional juniors were happy to report that they'd received a program of “significant trainings, where all associates go to one office for multiple days of CLEs, which take you through transactions, tell you what you should be looking at, and give you context for the things you're doing. They've been very helpful.”
Offices & Culture
Since 1992 Troutman's Atlanta HQ has sat in the Bank of America Plaza, which is Georgia's tallest building and the 15th tallest in the USA. At the time of our calls the firm was moving to lower, but freshly renovated floors – “a huge ordeal, but the new space looks incredible!” Richmond (the second largest office) has “a beautiful view of the James River if you're lucky enough to sit on that side of the building,” while DC is in a similarly “great location. I brought my parents in and they thought it was very professional.” The New York team has relocated from the Chrysler Building (which “everyone hated”)to a sweet spot in 875 Third Avenue: “It's a completely new construction. I don't want to say 'state of the art' as that's a cliché, but everything is modern and laid out well.” There's also “a good amount of communication between the offices,” associates reported. “It's as if people are just down the hall!”
“We're just normal people... as lawyers go.”
Fishing for compliments was easy in the Troutman pond. Interviewees gushed: “We have the best culture! I'm really good friends with associates in the other offices and wish I had more excuses to hang out with them.” Several suggested that “there's a more intimate feel here. It's less hierarchical than other firms, and if I think a partner's wrong then I'm encouraged to speak freely.” In a more measured tone one summarized: “We're just normal people… as lawyers go.” When asked whether a Southern vibe permeates the offices, New Yorkers felt that “it's pretty different here” and noted more of a 'city that never sleeps' culture: “I really enjoy it. New York itself is largely populated with attorneys who have grown up here, so this office has more of an NY feel. To the extent that we interface with the other offices, we see the elements of our office that are Northeastern in character.”
There were mixed reports on the diversity front – some insiders suggested that “there are no real issues, especially with gender balance,” while others argued that “gender balance is definitely an area Troutman needs to continue working on” through programs including its Parents' Group and Women's Forum. The latter hosts quarterly business development programs, mentoring sessions and firm-wide retreats in New York. “It would certainly be beneficial to have more female associates in certain groups, so they are trying to boost the numbers.” All our interviewees noted that “the firm is making a greater effort to recruit more diverse candidates” – an effort that seemed to be paying off in Atlanta and the other larger offices more than in the smaller ones with narrower intakes.
“The firm is making a greater effort to recruit more diverse candidates.”
Nothing spurs people on more than a competition, so in 2017 each of Troutman's offices vied to see which could do the most pro bono proportionally. “There was a prize for the office that secured the highest percentage of attorneys doing more than 30 hours, and another for the office that posted the highest percentage increase from last year.” This “motivating of associates into friendly competition” was one reason why sources felt “the firm very much pushes pro bono,” with the proviso that “it's on the attorney to take up the opportunities.” However, even post-competition juniors still felt that “there are big differences between the offices in terms of how much gets done.” For those who are interested,amicus briefs, prisoner litigation and immigration matters are all on the cards; Troutman also collaborates with organizations like the Atlanta Legal Aid Society to run clinics.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys across all US offices: 15,317
- Average per US attorney: 23
Hours & Compensation
Associate salaries vary by location, but are lockstep until the fourth year. In 2017 the firm abolished its minimum hours requirement in favor of a “holistic review process,” which it uses to calculate bonuses and “minimize pressure on associates.” How the new system will work was a mystery to some, who felt that “it leaves us with a lot of uncertainty – transparency is the main issue.” Others were more positive, however, and said that “they're now considering the whole picture of someone's value to the firm, including community involvement and all sorts of other factors. You're not just a number.” We heard that 2,000 hours guarantees a bonus and is a good amount to strive for if you're eyeing the partnership track.
Juniors “aren't expected to put grueling hours in” and “a typical day lasts from 9am to 7pm – it can be less, it can be more, and there are times when you do go home and log back on.” However, “you can go for weeks without having to work at all from home,” and 9pm was seen as a late night even in New York and Atlanta.
“The interviews are very relaxed here,” one source explained. “When I came in as a candidate the process was completely different to what I expected.” Much like many firms, “Troutman is looking for ambitious people who'll go out and find the work they want – not those who will sit at their desk waiting for it to come to them. The people who do best find what they enjoy most and go after that work.” Other helpful traits include “maturity, independence, common sense and experience in an office environment.” Past work experience inevitably works in a candidate's favor; new litigators often (though not always) have clerkships under their belt.
One associate who'd assisted with recruitment efforts revealed that “it'shelpful for a candidate to have done something besides legal work, whether that's working in a restaurant, or for a nonprofit or volunteering for the Peace Corps.” Another made it clear that “there's no one thing we look for; good candidates simply show on their resume who they are as an individual rather than trying too hard to highlight something they think will look good to us.” Diversity is taken into account, but so is diversity of experience: “It's important to Troutman that we bring in people with different perspectives.” Other factors considered include “whether you're committed to working at a larger firm like this one, and whether you have geographic ties to the office you're applying to.”
Characterizing theirs as “a firm where your willingness to be inquisitive and take initiative is rewarded,” Troutman juniors advised prospective candidates to “know your audience” during interviews – “it's great to talk about pro bono work, for instance, but when it comes down to it we're here to support paying clients.” They recommended that “students coming straight from law school should be able to show that they have the necessary experience to join a workplace environment” and advised “digging down a bit into what our firm does. Match that to your personal interests and show passion for what you're actually passionate about!”
Interview with managing partner Steve Lewis
Chambers Associate: What have been the most exciting developments at the firm over the past year?
Steve Lewis: Six years ago we put a strategic plan in place, and two years ago we updated it. Most of our recent developments have stemmed from that plan. Over the past year we've gone through a brand refresh with a new, more modern logo and a marketing campaign that's been very well received. In Atlanta we've just moved to a new modern space, and about half our offices have made similar moves as their leases expire. The firm has reached a high in terms of morale, and externally we've just finished a third consecutive record year from a financial perspective.
CA: What's your vision for Troutman's future?
SL: We've made the decision to consider our firm not in terms of practice areas, but in terms of our clients. Looking at the sweet spot areas we sit in, we found that traditional middle-market companies are prevalent in our client mix. That's an area we can really grow. Separate and apart from that we've got particular expertise in the energy, insurance, financial institutions and life sciences sectors. We're focusing everything – our marketing, approach to lateral hires, etc… – on those strengths.
In terms of manpower, we've recently made the decision to increase our leverage and grow much faster at the associate level compared to the partnership level. There's a couple of reasons behind this: with the rise of alternative fees you need to ensure the right level of attorney is doing the right level of task; and today's associates are tomorrow's partners and as such we want to attract the best and brightest and develop them here. Our training programs and recruitment process have focused on just that, while we've also made positive strides from a diversity and inclusion perspective. We strive to offer clients diverse teams because we believe that the resulting work product is better.
CA: The firm is set to close its offices in Asia – what does this mean for Troutman going forward?
SL: Going back to our strategic plan, we've had a lot of success in building cross-office and cross-practice work but found that our Asia practice was very different from our US practice. Not much work was traveling across the Pacific. We had a lot of great partners and lawyers there, but their practice didn't fit with what we're doing more broadly. We are moving away from this practice because it is not in line with our strategy.
Going forward, we've been very clear that we'll go where our clients are best served. In the past four years we've opened offices in Charlotte, North Carolina and San Francisco with great results. Texas is an example of a location where our clients say they'd like to see us. We anticipate growth in the US and perhaps outside of it, but only if we're growing for the right reasons.
CA: How do you promote the culture that you want the firm to have?
SL: That's something we discuss quite a bit and it's less about technical definitions than it is about leading by example. One good example that demonstrates what I mean is our cross-disciplinary and collaborative approach. We start every attorney meeting by talking about five or six examples of cases or engagements that have a cross-office or cross-discipline aspect, and highlighting the importance of those collaborations. We encourage partners and associates to visit other offices and spend time getting to know the people in them; there's also both an annual partner retreat and an associate retreat. When talking to potential lateral hires we make sure there's a cultural fit. That's the first hurdle to get over before we talk logistics.
To give another example, a couple of years ago we approached a number of retired partners and asked if they'd teach programs as part of our associate development function. They not only have the relevant skill set to share, but also their years of experience as people who've lived and breathed the firm, and by doing so they help to perpetuate its culture.
Troutman Sanders LLP
600 Peachtree Street, NE,
- Head office: Atlanta, GA
- Number of domestic offices: 13
- Worldwide revenue: $509,000,000
- Partners (US): 295
- Associates (US): 267
- Main recruitment contact:
- Clare M Roath (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Steve Riddell
- Diversity officer: Sallie Daniel
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 27
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
- 1Ls: 17, 2Ls: 39
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- Atlanta: 29, Charlotte: 3, Chicago: 1, New York: 6, Orange County: 4, Raleigh: 1, Richmond: 7, San Diego: 1, San Francisco: 1, Virginia Beach: 1, Washington, DC: 2
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: $3,000/week
- 2Ls: $3,000/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Diversity and Inclusion
Law Schools: Cardozo University, Emory University, Fordham University, Georgia State University, Howard University, Kent University, Mercer University, University of Alabama, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of North Carolina, University of North Carolina, University of South Carolina, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, American University, College of William & Mary, Columbia University, Georgetown University, New York University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Hastings, University of California, Irvine, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Richmond, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, Washington & Lee University.
Job Fairs: Loyola Patent Program, Lavender Law Job Fair, Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair.
Summer associate profile:
Troutman Sanders seeks highly motivated, personable individuals with outstanding intellectual ability, academic credentials, and extracurricular accomplishments. Non-legal work experiences are also desirable, as they can greatly enhance insight for client issues. Because effective, clear writing is an indispensable legal skill, significant journal experience during law school is another favorable asset. Evidence of motivation, energy and the ability to effectively manage the competing demands of a rigorous schedule are essential.
Summer program components:
Our summer program strives to give our summer associates a realistic view of the culture at Troutman Sanders and help them bridge the gap between academia and practice. Our summer associates work on current projects for actual clients. They participate in meetings as well as attend strategy sessions and closings. They draft documents, write briefs, and help prepare for trials. The workload in our summer program can be intense, but our summer associates value this fast pace and view it as preparation for a lucrative and successful career in law. An abundant and diverse mix of social events complements the rigorous workload in the summer program. The social element of our program aims to provide relaxing opportunities for summer associates to get acquainted with our attorneys.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Mainly Regulatory (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Energy (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Immigration (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A Recognised Practitioner
- Environment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Climate Change (Band 4)
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
- Environment Recognised Practitioner
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
- Environment (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)