Troutman is a top firm in its hometown of Atlanta, but it swims in waters across the US.
TROUTMAN doesn’t need to go fishing for compliments from its junior associates – they were quite free-flowing. “I'd always put Troutman in the top three in Atlanta,” one junior said. This Georgia peach may not be playing the same international game as fellow Atlantans King & Spalding and Alston & Bird, but in Georgia it’s very much part of the same shoal, as exemplified by its Chambers USA rankings: it's ranked in Chambers' top two tiers for corporate, litigation, real estate, energy, environment, financial regulation, construction, bankruptcy, and immigration. Troutman gets a look-in in other parts of the country too – for example, it's ranked top in North Carolina for real estate and in Southern Virginia for corporate/M&A, IP, and real estate.
Junior associates sit in all but two of Troutman’s 12 offices. Most – about 45% – can be found in the Atlanta headquarters. The next two biggest recruiters are Richmond, where the niche multifamily housing practice is based, and DC, which is known for its energy and insurance work. There’s a “pretty strong connection” between the latter two offices too “because they both do a lot of government work.” The New York, San Francisco and Atlanta offices also work together closely on finance matters.
Across groups and offices, getting assignments is “a free-market kinda thing,” with partners and seniors approaching juniors with work. Our sources said it generally works well, especially in the smaller offices, but we did hear from some in Atlanta worried about becoming “dependent” on people. “It’d be nice to diversify who I’m working with,” one commented. Rumor has it the firm is “trying to establish a program whereby associates are assigned a partner who’s responsible for making sure we have enough work.” Watch this space.
“The most famous group in the firm.”
Troutman’s real estate and finance group was home to around 30% of juniors at the time of our research. Most were in either the real estate or multifamily housing subgroups. The latter is perhaps “the most famous group in the firm” because of its niche work: the team advises banking clients on selling apartment building loans to mortgage loan companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The group is mostly based in Richmond, but work spans the country. “I’m working on deals in Texas, Pennsylvania, and California,” one source said. Due diligence is a staple chore for juniors, with further responsibilities being partner-dependent. “With some partners I don’t even get to see any of the emails,” one source reported. “Others give me more freedom – I’ve communicated directly with partners on the opposing side and done an entire transaction by myself with minimal hand-holding.” Troutman’s real estate team does acquisition and leasing work for commercial clients like restaurant groups and shopping malls. Associates reported doing “a lot of drafting” and conducting survey and title reviews “maybe three days a week.”
Real estate & finance clients: Wells Fargo, Capital One, and real estate investment trust CyrusOne. Advised the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on a $3.3 billion construction financing.
Another 30% of juniors wind up in the business litigation group, just under half of them in the IP practice, which is mostly based in Atlanta. IP is split three ways between patent litigation, patent prosecution, and trademarks. There’s also some copyright litigation and trade secrets work. IP juniors get assignments across these areas, and described being involved in “a lot of mechanical and electrical engineering litigation” in District Court. Interviewees described doing “behind the scenes” work like “research in support of briefs and motions we’re filing,” but they felt supervisors were thoughtful with assigning work. “Heading up discovery collection and production in two cases puts me in touch with clients on a weekly basis,” one reported.
Atlanta’s business litigation group is “divided into four teams – one focuses on product liability, another on white-collar crime and government investigations, and then we have two general business litigation teams.” Interviewees in the latter groups had worked for an array of clients, including “a large media company, a power utility firm, a small local bank, and a health insurer.” Juniors “help prepare clients for depositions and draft outlines for depositions for other people to take them.” One had even “had the opportunity to take a deposition” themselves.
Litigation & IP clients: Ford, Johnson & Johnson, and Cisco Systems. Advised security company Brink’s on licensing its smart home and home security trademarks in the US and Canada.
At the time of our calls about one in seven juniors were in corporate, which also encompasses a small tax practice. Most corporate juniors are in Atlanta with one or two each in Charlotte, Orange County, and Richmond. In Charlotte the work is “a mix of corporate governance and a lot of middle market M&A,” while in Atlanta there's “capital markets, securities, financial institutions, and M&A work” to get stuck into. On a typical M&A deal, “juniors drive forward the diligence process as well as preparing the documents, working with opposing counsel, and updating the partners.”
Corporate clients: Chick-fil-A, Southern Company, and telecom manufacturer Arris. Represented energy infrastructure operator Con Edison Development during its $1.5 billion acquisition of a Sempra Energy subsidiary.
Strategy & Future
Troutman's had a bit of a shakeup recently: in 2018 it closed its only three international offices, all in Asia. At home, associates commented that the firm has “been looking to get into the Texas market for a while” and that the California offices “have been growing steadily.” The multifamily housing group also had two new hires in DC recently, and associates said DC's finance group is growing too. Managing partner Steve Lewis tells us: “One of the great things in 2018 was that almost all our practice areas were up significantly. If you look at the consistent drivers of the past three or four years – our financial services practice, our IP practice, our real estate practice, in particular our multifamily finance housing practice, continue to be strong. All of those practices continue to perform at a high level. Additionally, our corporate group has also done very well."
Everyone is encouraged to do 20 pro bono hours a year, and there's an inter-office competition to see which can get most attorneys to achieve this. We heard that “Charlotte is one of the leaders – about 57% of attorneys billed over 20 hours.” That office has done “a considerable amount of work helping individuals to expunge criminal records if they had an infraction as a teen.” Work on wills is common in Atlanta – “attorneys go to a big veterans' hospital to write wills for people in the final stages of life” – while New York associates work on juvenile immigrant cases via Kids In Need of Defense. Associates can count up to 50 hours of pro bono as billable, and there's even a special bonus for those who do much more!
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 13,030
- Average per (US) attorney: 20
Hours & Compensation
The firm ditched its minimum billable hours requirement a few years back. No target “takes the stress out of” finding work, but an “unspoken” rule was left behind – real estate and finance associates aim for 1,800 hours while litigators shoot for 1,900. The firm's compensation system is heavily dependent on discretionary bonuses. This black-box approach led to a lot of uncertainty among our sources. But lawyers clarified that if juniors in any department hit 2,000 hours “you’re guaranteed a bonus.”
Atlanta litigators typically do a 9:30am to 7pm day, “but if opposing counsel keeps filing motions that have to be responded to by Monday... your weekends are going to be ruined for a while.” The Charlotte office can empty by 6:30pm, while New Yorkers said 7:30pm was a more typical time to head home. One DC source noted: “The expectation is you’re available even if you’re not in the office, so if you get an email at 8am you should respond.”
Again and again associates emphasized that “each group is a little different” at Troutman. Some are more laid-back than others. One Richmond associate shared: “Others have to wear suits and I wear jeans every day.” The DC office “dresses fairly casually” too, while in Atlanta “you hear a lot of laughter” among litigators. By contrast we heard “people tend to have their doors closed” in the IP group, although “you never feel you can’t go to people or that they wouldn't be willing to help.” Despite these differences, associates across the firm agreed Troutman’s culture is a “top-down thing,” pointing to “extremely personable individuals” in management. One New Yorker appreciated that seniors are “available to give feedback when I ask for it – and sometimes when I don’t!”
“Something that dispenses wine – a winerator?”
The firm is currently rolling out an ‘opt in’ mentoring program by “pairing everyone up with mentors that cross practice areas.” It comes with a points system, “so you’re rewarded for more time spent together.” How sweet. Pairs are also put into ‘squads’ of several pairs, which “allows you to connect with associates you might not interact with otherwise.” Atlanta attorneys can also bond over a beer. “We have a kegerator,” one told us nonchalantly. “And something that dispenses wine – a winerator?” Who knows, but “people gather there on Fridays, and we haven’t had any problems with anyone drafting tipsy!” Thank goodness – don’t drink and draft.
Diversity & Inclusion
“We have a lot of women and people of color,” associates felt – over half of associates are female and over a quarter non-white. But one source also believed: “We could use a lot more minority representation.” Some context: 55% of the population of Atlanta is African American, while just 5% of Troutman's attorneys are.
In the IP group “a lot of us have science backgrounds, so diversity ties into the deeper issue of women in STEM fields.” An IP associate remembered working on an all-woman team: “The client said she was afraid of working with an old boys' club, and that it was cool to see a team of women.” The group was recently encouraged by the appointment of its first female partner – Puja Patel Lea. A litigator commented: “You look up the steps to see what your career might look like, and there are a lot of women ahead of you.”
In fact, most juniors felt pretty positive about partnership in general. In multifamily housing, “the partner who hired me said, ‘You’re here for the long haul, I hope!’” The firm has a one-to-one partner to associate ratio and it made up 13 partners in 2019 – impressive for a firm with a first-year class of 27 in 2018. Promotions for transactional associates “probably revolve around how many deals you can close in a year,” while litigators can gauge their progress with recently introduced ‘associate development goals.’ One group that has seen some attrition recently is IP. “A handful went in-house, but many have gone to other firms,” an associate told us.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 733
Interviewees outside OCI: 104
Troutman Sanders recruits mainly via OCIs and job fairs, but also accepts some direct applications. The firm typically interviews 15 to 20 candidates at a school (although smaller offices will see fewer students). Atlanta office hiring partner Anthony Greene says: “We often ask open-ended questions to learn more about the candidate’s skills, characteristics and personality. “
Top tips for this stage:
“If someone has a lower GPA but is involved in school, likes working in teams and seems like they’d be personable – that’s gonna matter more than a perfect GPA.” – a second-year junior associate
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 135
Candidates meet with six to eight attorneys during the callback – these will be a mix of partners, counsel, associates and members of the local recruiting committee. “The callback interviewers take a deeper dive into the candidates’ qualifications based on characteristics that we consider important in contributing to a summer associate’s success,” says Greene. “The characteristics include but are not limited to leadership, interpersonal skills, work ethic and a collaborative nature.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Candidates are encouraged to do their homework on the firm and the attorneys who they will be meeting prior to coming into the office for interviews.” – Atlanta hiring partner Anthony Greene
Summers can select their projects from an online database which is categorized by practice area. Greene explains: “At the onset of the summer program we encourage each summer associate to take advantage of all the resources given to them throughout the summer.” Each summer associate is also given an advisor team of attorneys to help them navigate their way through the summer program. “It is their offer to lose,” Greene adds. “They should be prepared to learn about the firm practice areas and to then build relationships with the attorneys in the section(s) in which they have an interest.” The firm puts on plenty of social events to help them do so.
Successful summers are given offers into specific practice groups.
Top tips for this stage:
“We did a lot of cool stuff, but the emphasis is on building relationships and figuring out if this is where you fit.” – a first-year junior associate
“Because effective, clear writing is an indispensable legal skill, significant journal experience during law school is important,” Greene says.
Interview with managing partner Steve Lewis
Chambers Associate:How would you describe the firm's current market position to our student readers?
Steve Lewis: 2018 was another very good year for us. It was our fourth consecutive year of sustained revenue growth. Our strategic plan guides us on what we’re doing, and if we do it well, it yields a good financial result. We’re very proud of how we’ve done from a numbers perspective. But really, what we set out to do with the plan was to have a road map so that we made business decisions that will help us to continue to serve our clients better, reach more clients, and become a destination place of work for potential lateral partners and associates and new associates out of law school.
Our two biggest assets are our clients and our people. If a law firm loses either, they’re in trouble. On the client side our goal has always been to partner with our clients and help them on their most important transactions, disputes and regulatory matters. We have deep experience representing middle market companies, and specialized experience representing clients in several industries: electric utilities, banking and financial services, life sciences, and insurance. We use that expertise to provide great solutions for our clients and that translates into complicated, noteworthy transactions, and big-ticket, high profile litigation.
On the people side of the plan, we emphasize ‘commitment’ and ‘collaboration’ – working hard and working together. And that again cuts across offices and practices, whether it’s sharing our successes or wins or the deals that close, or new clients with all of our people. We provide ‘a higher commitment to client care,’ and those are the words we live by internally. We go beyond what clients expect or even appreciate to what they value. That has proven to be a great bridge between our people here at the firm and our clients because everybody’s on the same page and rowing in the same direction.
We’ve done a good and effective job of growing across the firm. We’ve continued to add great laterals, both partners and associates, and to bring in new people with different experience, skillsets and client bases, which has been a real boost for us. We continue to be bullish on growth. Occasionally that will be a single partner or associate; oftentimes it’s a group; and occasionally a fairly large group. We spend a lot of time looking for the right fit to help us better serve our clients.
Over the past four or five years, as our office leases have come up for renewal, we’ve either moved to new space or decided to stay and undertake significant renovations, thereby modernizing our offices. The old U.S. law firms had large offices for partners and a lot of marble and dark wood – those were great, but the marketplace has moved on and we’re proud to be part of that. It’s a much more open space designed to emphasize collaboration, make great use of technology, and help us be more efficient. All offices are the same size with glass fronts, and collaboration areas are built all over the floor to facilitate more interaction among our people.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?
SL: One of the great things in 2018 was that almost all our practice areas were up significantly. If you look at the consistent drivers of the past three or four years – our financial services practice, our IP practice, our real estate practice, in particular our multifamily finance housing practice – all of those practices continue to perform at a high level. Additionally, our corporate group has also done very well. But again, most of our practice areas were up fairly significantly.
CA: Associates commented that the firm has its eye on the Texas market – can you expand?
SL: We’ve been fortunate in finding quality laterals across the firm. I think the combination of us with them has made the whole greater than the sum of the parts. We’ve had success in the past going to new markets, and it’s almost always client driven. The three most recent new markets for us were Portland, Charlotte and San Francisco. All of those expansion opportunities turned out to be great things for the firm, but all were fueled by client needs and work that we could expand and help clients with if we were in the market. Texas, particularly Dallas and Houston, also has the potential to be one of those markets. We have feedback from clients that it would help them if we were there, and they are places we have explored and continue to explore. Those are highly competitive markets right now: a lot of firms are trying to get to Texas for different reasons. So, we are patient, and we will only go in a manner we think will help serve our clients better and that will make good business sense for the firm at the same time.
We are also focused on growing our California and West Coast offices. We would love to grow New York and Chicago. Again, we’re most focused on finding the people who will help us be able to better serve our clients, and we can help them better serve their clients.
CA: Which practices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why? What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?
SL: I don’t know that it’s necessarily practices so much as it is the client focus. We tend to look through to the clients and industries I mentioned – the middle market and energy companies, life science companies, financial institutions and insurance companies. Those are areas we’re already active in and have significant cross-disciplinary work in. We have done a good job over the past several years of growing a data security and privacy practice that’s really taken off. It’s still a developing area of the law which has become very hot as technology has taken on so much more of an important role in the business world, and it’s an area in which we’ll continue to invest, primarily because clients need that expertise. So, we try to be nimble and focused on what our clients are going to need to make sure we’re able to provide it when they ask.
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 based on the lessons you’ve learned?
SL: I’d tell them to maintain a sense of humor, that’s always key. And I’d tell them to relax a little and be patient. Practicing law is still a wonderful career and can be a lot of fun. But the learning curve is fairly steep, and there are times you’ll be discouraged but it’s worth persevering to get through it. One of the things I tell young lawyers here is to try to maintain an even keel because things are never quite as bad or quite as good as you think they are at the very first reaction. So be patient, persevere, learn and enjoy.
Troutman Sanders LLP
600 Peachtree Street, NE,
- Head office: Atlanta, GA
- Number of domestic offices: 12
- Worldwide revenue: $509,000,000
- Partners (US): 294
- Associates (US): 273
- Main recruitment contact:
- Nicole Archibald (Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Ashley Story
- Diversity officer: Holly Hill
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 30
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1Ls: 16, 2Ls: 43
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- Atlanta: 26, Charlotte: 2, Chicago: 2, New York: 5, Orange County: 2, Raleigh: 2, Richmond: 11, San Diego: 3, San Francisco: 2, Washington, DC: 4
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: varies by office
- 2Ls: varies by office
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Law Schools: Cardozo University, Emory University, Fordham University, Georgia State University, Howard University, Kent University, Mercer University, Northwestern, University of Alabama, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, 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 Chicago, University of Richmond, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, Washington & Lee University, George Mason University School of Law, George Washington University Law School
Job Fairs: Loyola Patent Program, Lavender Law Job Fair, Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Emory NY Job Fair
Summer associate profile:
Troutman Sanders seeks highly motivated, personable individuals with outstanding intellectual ability, strong academic credentials, and extracurricular accomplishments. Because effective, clear communication is an indispensable legal skill, journal, moot court, or mock trial experience during law school is also desirable. Non-legal work experiences are viewed favorably, as they can greatly enhance insight for client issues. Evidence of leadership, motivation, energy, and the ability to effectively balance the competing demands of a rigorous schedule are essential.
Summer program components:
We strive 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 handle matters for real-world clients and have the opportunity to indicate an interest in particular projects and practice areas. They participate in client and internal meetings and attend strategy sessions, closings, and hearings; summer associates also draft documents, write briefs, and help prepare for trial. An abundant and diverse mix of social events are also offered during the summer program. The social element of our program aims to provide opportunities for summer associates to get acquainted with a variety of our attorneys, learn more about life at Troutman, and explore the city in which they work and live.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- 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 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
North Carolina: Charlotte & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- 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)
- Government Relations: State Attorneys General (Band 2)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)