Healthcare is a big deal at Tennessee’s Waller, as is having a better balance in a “cosier, more personal” environment.
In recent years we’ve noticed a trend when it comes to law students and associates considering living in markets outside of the major centers like New York, DC and California. That’s partly been driven by the pandemic and the possibilities afforded by remote working, but also the perception that you can have a better quality of life elsewhere. Our associate sources at Waller were adamant that you could have it all from the firm’s bases across Tennessee, Texas, and Alabama: “There are firms out there that present great opportunities, but they don’t have your best interests at heart, whereas Waller does. I would urge law students to really focus on that work-life balance.”
"I know how to get to where I want to get."
This is not to suggest that Waller is lacking in attractive opportunities or that the firm’s lawyers don’t work hard – to the contrary. Our interviewees felt that the firm struck an ideal balance. “People have such a crushing view of BigLaw, but I’ve been afforded a great opportunity to work in Birmingham and encounter complex work,” said one, while another gained satisfaction from having the sense of “clear progression at the firm – I know how to get to where I want to get. Waller’s fairly big, but it feels like a much smaller firm when it comes to mentorship.” This junior concluded that “Waller does a great job of finding people who are diligent and work hard.”
When it comes to practices, Waller is synonymous with healthcare work (the firm’s largest office is in Nashville, a healthcare hub in the US), and has top-tier Chambers USAregional strengths in areas such as corporate/M&A; banking & finance; real estate; labor & employment; and litigation. Don’t go thinking that the work is just limited to the South either: “Waller has strong national connections – you get out-of-state work.” Most of the associates on our list were based in Tennessee, but a handful were working in Waller’s Birmingham and Austin offices.
Waller’s corporate group was home to the most juniors, but a number were also working within the firm’s healthcare, finance and restructuring, and real estate practices. Some could be found in Waller’s IP; trial and appellate; labor and employment; and tax departments. The approach to work assignment can vary depending on the practice group. In corporate, for example, “we have a coordinator who manages our workload – we have a number scale between one and four, and depending on what number we say we are, the coordinator either assigns us work or makes sure we’re not overloaded.” This number system was used in other groups too, but we heard that a more free-market approach was common in these areas, as this healthcare source explained: “At the beginning of the week we give a self-analysis of where we’re at with our workload, but the onus is on you to reach out to partners. Work often begets more work.”
"...we represent entities operating in Florida, New York, Texas, and beyond.”
Waller’s corporate group has a premier reputation within the healthcare sector, but lawyers here also represent clients in areas such as manufacturing and financial services. Juniors here can expect to encounter a mix of M&A, joint venture, and private placement deals, as well as SEC regulatory work and capital markets matters tied to debt and equity capital raisings. “I’ve mostly been doing M&A deals and mainly working with healthcare clients,” one source commented, added that they’d worked with the likes of “dental service organizations, psychiatric offices, and management services organizations [MSOs].” The day-to-day work involves “a lot of due diligence and managing the closing checklists – I’m in charge of the documents that need to be signed, but I also attend meetings with partners and clients as well.”
Corporate clients: HCA, LifePoint Health, Surgery Partners. Represented Harrow Health during its $10.6 million sale of common stock in an underwritten public offering.
Those in the finance and restructuringpractice told us that they’d been “representing lenders on various financing and refinancing facilities, but also acting for the receiver, who is brought in to help in situations where a company is in financial distress.” Sources had also gained experience working on Chapter 11 bankruptcies. “Most of our clients aren’t local,” a junior added, “and we represent entities operating in Florida, New York, Texas, and beyond.” This interviewee commented that “you have to put on a lot of different hats when working on matters here. I’ve been on calls a lot; I’ve managed the checklist for deal closures; I’ve drafted correspondence to other parties; reviewed contracts; handled diligence items; and conducted research into the US bankruptcy code.”
Finance and restructuring clients: Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Promise Healthcare, Healthcare Management Partners. Serving as lead bankruptcy counsel to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg during Chapter 11 proceedings.
Over in the designated healthcarepractice, there’s a mix ofregulatory, transactional, and litigation work.On the transactional side, “most of our clients are private equity firms that are partnering up with physician groups that are building healthcare facilities.” Litigation can arise “when one hospital system is trying to build certain facilities, but another one opposes the approval that has been granted for them to do that.” Sources told us that they’d been “pretty involved in CON [Certificate of Need] processes,” which approve expansion and development projects in the healthcare space, as well as “the contested cases that emerge from them.” We heard that “client contact plays a fairly large part” in what associates do, with this source explaining: “The firm has been very willing to have me as the point of contact for clients, and it’s been exceptional to get that experience.”
Healthcare clients: Axia Women’s Health, Gastro Health, CleanSlate Centers. Advised HCA Healthcare on its acquisitions of Meadows Regional Medical Center and the Northcrest Medical Center.
We heard there’s “not a super formalized training plan” at Waller, but in areas like corporate partners do host quarterly sessions, while senior associates also host ad hoc trainings on topics like 'the art of a deal.'In addition, “some of the corporate trainings are required,” an interviewee pointed out. “They encourage us to work on our internal investment time at the firm, which includes additional education that can count toward our billable target.” Waller does sponsor associates to attend external CLE sessions and hosts some internal opportunities, too. Newbies are assigned “a formal navigator who’s a level or two above you” and assists with onboarding, “like how you bill and set up email – and the cultural education!” We also heard that juniors are assigned a mentor who is typically an attorney in their practice group. Beyond this program, “the partners are very available – maybe not in a formal way – but there are good mentorship opportunities.” “People do take you under their wing!” another junior added.
“...they tell you what the path to partnership is like."
Associates have career progression meetings twice a year with their mentor, where “they tell you what the path to partnership is like and show you the hours and other factors you should be aiming for.” Associates can be put up for partnership for admittance in their eighth year. Insiders added that some attorneys go in-house and then return to the firm. “I don’t think we’re interested in sending people away!” a source quipped, “but we do have people go in-house with our clients – that relationship is still good and there’s never any animosity. In our first meeting they said if we go in-house they’ll still have a spot for us! So, you don’t burn all your bridges.”
Sources frequently cited the “strong family culture” at Waller, which they felt was set “from the top down.” Interviewees noted that the family feel was evident in the way in which people treat each other at the firm, but also in the respect granted to family life beyond work. On the former side, this junior told us that “the thing that stood out to me when I joined was that there was a welcome social and everyone from the firm was there – it was clear how familiar everyone was with each other.” Another commented that “it’s a family-focused environment that involves attorneys and staff,” while this associate wanted to emphasize that “the partners are approachable and down-to-earth – lawyers here do spend time socializing with each other outside of daily work.”
While there are social events – “we have regular lunches and happy hours, as well as sporting events” – the overall ethos at Waller is one where “people work hard but everyone takes their family commitments very seriously.” This source added that “there’s less of a focus on doing activities outside of work, as most people have families and aren’t looking to go out to a bar or anything!” The pandemic and the rise of remote working have also “put a bit of a dampener” on the social side, but our sources were pleased to tell us that “we’re trying to move back to the social setup that we had before, where we’d have all sorts of in-person meetings and nice events around the holidays where we’d wrap presents together.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
The general feeling around diversity at Waller was positive, with associates telling us that “the firm has invested a lot of resources and time into trying to diversify its intake.” This junior flagged that Waller is “very good at fostering relationships with law schools” and hosts adiversity fair at the Nashville office. The firm also participates in other diversity fairs, like the Southeastern Minority Job Fair: “You can see the efforts that are being made when hiring through the diversity of the incoming classes.”
“I feel like people are very respectful of your time.”
Furthermore, the “affinity groups do have a voice,” with this source highlighting the impact of the women’s leadership council in particular: “The female partners have been really great!” A couple of associates also flagged that Waller organizes “a really extensive Black History Month program,” which recently included “video interviews and talks with Black attorneys, which was really nice.” This junior concluded that “for a firm of its size, the representation here is quite good – it’s one of the reasons I accepted the offer here!”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900 target
Although associates do have a target of 1,900 hours “there is a little bit of flexibility – they tell us that the number is just the threshold for bonus eligibility.” At the same time, one insider told us: “I’ve heard of people who didn’t make the target but still got the bonus.” Bonuses are discretionary and the firm takes into account associates’ overall contribution to both business and the internal life at Waller. Associates can count 50 hours of ‘firm investment time’ toward their target, which covers pro bono, DE&I and business development activities.Juniors generally felt that their “base compensation is strong” for the markets they work within: “My compensation is substantially above anything else offered in Birmingham,” one reported. 87% of our survey respondents agreed that the benefits package offered at Waller made the workload worthwhile.
On that note: survey respondents recorded an average of 44 hours worked in the previous week and had taken an average of eight vacation days in the last twelve months. “I feel like people are very respectful of your time,” an associate reflected, while another told us that “as long as you’re doing your work, they respect your chosen work schedule.” The general approach is one where “partners try to mostly have you work during normal business hours, unless there’s a big deal or a case going through.” If associates are planning a vacation, “you just need to make sure that you have someone to cover you while you’re away – I did that and the person said, ‘Don’t worry about this before you get back!’”
“There’s no strict policy for us to do pro bono, but we do incentivize it,” a source told us, pointing to the 50 hours that can be counted toward the billable target. “Every week we get emails with opportunities,” an interviewee said, but at the same time “associates are allowed and encouraged to bring their own matters in as well.” A lot of the opportunities are “established via a relationship with a partner,” however, so juniors are advised to seek out those who have built connections in particular areas of interest. Our sources spoke of attending clinics that focused on landlord/tenant matters, but also mentioned a lot of pro bono work being conducted for certain healthcare facilities and charities. The firm takes part in the Nashville Pro Bono Program and the Civil-Legal Advocate Program, as well as various LGBTQ+ legal clinics.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 2,663
- Average per (US) attorney: 21.8
Strategy & Future
“It certainly seems like the healthcare industry is the leading market for us at the moment,” a junior commented. “We are looking to grow and make acquisitions in certain areas.”
The first stage: recruitment of interested candidates
Waller seeks out candidates who plan to set up long term in one of the firm’s south-eastern offices. Associate sources emphasize the importance of this: ‘‘There are a number of questions asked that are directed to determining whether somebody would settle in Nashville or use this as a stepping stone to lateral to a larger city later on." Recruitment, however, spans several locations beyond Nashville. The firm accepts resume collections from just over 30 law schools and supports web applications. In addition, the firm participated in a variety of minority job fairs. “At this stage, we’re mainly looking to gauge the candidate’s interest in Waller and in the city they have applied. We want to ensure their interests match up with our practice areas and evaluate if they would be a good fit at the firm,” explains director of entry level recruiting Michelle Parsons.
“If I had a friend applying to Waller, I’d tell them to make sure they demonstrate on their resume - in one way or another - an indication of having a desire to work in the healthcare industry since so much of our work has a healthcare nucleus.” - a junior associate
Successful candidates partake in callback interviews, which together last between three to four hours. The interviews are split into 30-minute blocks. Each block typically consists of two attorneys interviewing the candidate. At this stage, interviewers are looking to “delve a little deeper into the candidate’s background and interests, and what they are looking for in a firm and career." As with the first stage, the firm encourages candidates to ask specific, practice area-focused questions to the panel of attorneys. Parsons suggests candidates do their research: “Attorneys are always impressed when a candidate has taken the time to research their specific practice area and even a particular matter.”
“As with the initial interview, make sure you have good questions to ask your interviewers.” - Michelle Parsons, director of entry level recruiting.
The summer program at Waller acts as a hybrid internship for both 1L and 2L students. Although all summers will be able to work on projects across any of the firm’s eight practice areas, 1 Ls will be focusing on one practice group, while 2Ls focus on two. This approach seems to be working as we hear that the majority of the 2L summers return to Waller as first-year associates. Practice Group dinners, watching minor league baseball and Top Golf are just some of the social outings Waller has on offer during the summer.
“Definitely seek out the summer program. For the most part folks are extended an offer to join as an associate. Be open to taking feedback on board and networking.”- a second-year associate.
“Get to know your fellow summer associates, as they will be your colleagues and fellow partners one day. Get to know as many attorneys as you can and impress them with your work product." - Michelle Parsons, director of entry level recruiting.
With 70% of its annual associate appointments coming from lateral hiring, it’s worth keeping an eye on opportunities at Waller, especially if you’re one for healthcare. “Waller will continue expanding our healthcare, private equity, white collar, real estate/construction and finance/bankruptcy sections with lateral associates addressing existing needs, and lateral partners to grow and diversify our client base," explains Parsons. Attorneys with experience ranging from one to 20 years, and those who are at Am Law 200 firms or nationally recognized boutiques will be considered.
Michelle Parsons leaves us with some important wisdom to follow: "This may sound cheesy, but be yourself. You do not want to start out your career pretending to be someone you are not!”
Nashville City Center,
511 Union Street,
- Head Office: Nashville, TN
- Number of domestic offices: 5
- Partners (US): 155
- Associates (US): 124
- Main recruitment contacts:
- Michelle Parsons (email@example.com)
- Bobby Weiss (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Colbey Reagan
- Diversity officer: Michelle Parsons
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 16
- Clerking Policy: One year of credit for relevant practice areas (Evaluated on case by case basis)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 26
- 16 - 2L / 10 - 1L
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office:
- 12 - 2L - Nashville / 8 - 1L - Nashville
- 2 - 2L - Birmingham / 1 - 1L - Birmingham
- 2 - 2L - Austin
- 1- 1L - Chattanooga
- Summer salary 2022:
- 1Ls: $3,350/week
- 2Ls: $3,350/week
- Split summers offered? Students are allowed to work at other firms if they can make it work with our program dates.
Main areas of work
University of Alabama, Belmont University, Duke University, University of Tennessee, University of Texas, Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington University in St. Louis, Boston College, Samford University, University of North Carolina, Howard University, North Carolina Central.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We offer resume collections at University of Houston, Florida A&M, Southern University Law Center, Texas Southern University, University of District of Columbia, University of Chicago, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, University of California - Berkeley, University of Michigan, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Emory, Pepperdine, Baylor, Tulane, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Georgia State, and Louisville. We are also participating in the Sunbelt Diversity Job Fair, the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, and Lavender Law.
Summer associate profile:
Waller recruits students who are diverse in thought, background and education, especially those with strong ties to the five Southeastern cities in which we are located. Individuals who have a record of academic excellence and are motivated to learn and be integrated in a collegial environment excel at Waller.
Summer program components:
Waller's Summer Program combines cutting-edge mentoring with the opportunity to engage in live matters and other assignments with attorneys across all practice areas and offices.
Summer Associates will contribute to current client matters and have opportunities to attend depositions, trials, hearings, negotiations and client conferences. Each summer associate will work closely with one or two mentors who will introduce their mentee to attorneys in all five offices, assist with project selection, and advise on practice group preferences. Throughout the program, numerous social functions afford opportunities to get to know Waller partners, associates, and fellow Summer Associates on a personal level.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
- Healthcare (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- Food & Beverages: Alcohol: Southeastern United States (Band 1)
- Healthcare: The Elite (Band 4)