It takes resilience and “intellectual curiosity about the law” to thrive in W&C's “seamless” network of global offices.
THIS is a firm where working with offices across the globe is “just normal day-to-day business” for its associates, who actively sought such an experience while at law school. “When I was looking I wanted to join one of the best global firms,” one interviewee recalled, “and the breadth of W&C's practice was certainly an initial draw.” Despite maintaining its headquarters in New York, the majority of W&C's lawyers (around two-thirds) are housed in its 34 overseas offices, which stretch across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region. Chambers Global places the firm fifth in itsTop 30 list of international megastars, and especially rates W&C's work in the projects and energy space, as well as its international arbitration, construction, finance and public international law expertise.
Such a scope came with clear benefits for our sources, who enthused about “asking and answering questions no one has ever posed before.” Innovative lawyering was deemed exciting, as was the opportunity to contribute to headline-generating matters: “One thing that makes an impression on me is how big the deals and cases we work on are. It’s cool to see something in the news and say ‘I’m working on that!’” On its home turf, juniors help to power this global juggernaut from seven domestic offices (W&C expanded its presence on US soil in February 2018 by opening an office in Houston, which will strengthen its oil and gas offering). The New York HQ (alongside London) has been a key focus for the firm in recent years, and while W&C isn't in the habit of planting flag after flag in domestic soil, it did venture into the Boston market in 2016.
Strategy & Future
W&C is in the middle of its five-year growth strategy, and executive committee member David Koschik tells us how it’s panning out: “Our US lawyer head count is up to over 800 lawyers at this point, from 600-plus when we launched the strategy a couple of years ago.”
As W&C enters the second half of its current strategic plan, Koschik tell us that the focus will be on its disputes, capital markets and M&A practices. “In terms of industries, we’re very focused on four: financial institutions, private equity, oil and gas, and technology. We feel we have a substantial presence in those four globally, but feel we can and should be bigger in them in the US.”
W&C's commercial litigation and M&A groups absorbed the most juniors on our list. Other groups to take on a significant number included antitrust, finance, restructuring, EIPF (energy, infrastructure and project finance), and securities. In the majority of the firm's offices, both litigators and transactional-focused juniors typically start off as generalists and join a 'pool' before specializing – litigators spend two years in the pool while their corporate counterparts do so for just their first year. During that time, a formal allocation system keeps juniors busy: “You update a portal every week and indicate how busy you are, the matters you're working on, and the matters you're interested in working on in the future.” While assignment coordinators oversee this system, sources still found that they could “express particular interests directly with people in the group – they can then clear your availability with the assignment team.”
Pool-based corporate juniors can sample work from five subgroups: M&A, project finance, capital markets, tax and banking. In the first year “the two things you’re typically doing are due diligence and cross-referencing checks for main purchase agreements – you've got to make sure the documents are in a good shape.” Others highlighted that responsibility can quickly ramp up: “The culture of the group is to give you responsibility based on your commitment and capability. Trust is the key component and they like to delegate work to capable juniors.” For M&A juniors, working on multiple deals could become a bit of a puzzle, especially when they involved several jurisdictions. “For example, you have to time wiring correctly so the money gets where it needs to be – if the bank isn't open it can throw a wrench in there! These deals can also mean that you’re researching foreign laws or on conference calls at odd times. You also have to be aware of cultural norms.”
Fledgling litigators can sample a mix of commercial litigation, arbitration, white-collar, antitrust and IP matters during their time in the pool. Those who'd subsequently specialized in commercial litigation told us that “there are a lot of general contract cases, but also securities disputes, bankruptcy matters and some class actions too.” We also heard of a dedicated social media group over in LA, “which handles all sorts of litigation and gives compliance advice to such companies all over the world.” Responsibilities can “vary a lot, from something more menial like bluebooking texts to conducting legal research for summary judgments to helping to prepare deposition outlines to even taking depositions.” Sources were pleased to report that “most of the day-to-day involves legal writing: editing and drafting briefs, writing letters to the court and drafting discovery reports.” Litigators working with international offices were “always aware of the time differences between the jurisdictions we work with. For example, I might have to handle something in the morning or forward something on at night if I need to consult local counsel in a certain country.”
Hours & Compensation
The firm’s 2,000-hour billing target (which can include up to 200 hours of work from pro bono and firm-mandated activities, like “writing articles, attending recruitment events and contributing to client pitches”) was unanimously viewed as a reachable goal by our interviewees. One corporate junior even labeled it “too easy,” but was quick to add: “I don’t want them to put it up though – EVER!” A handful of sources going well over the target weren’t ruffled by working so much: “I’d rather work 2,300 happy hours than 200 at a place I was unhappy with.” We suspect the ‘super bonus’ associates get at 2,400 might also keep a smile on their faces – hitting the 2,000 hours qualifies associates for a lockstep bonus.
“They don't want you chained to your desk.”
“It's a little difficult but that's the cost of BigLaw,” said one New York-based corporate associate on the topic of work-life balance. “I usually get in by 10am and consistently work until 8pm or 9pm.” A securities source added: “The hours can be very long and I'm still navigating juggling everything and making plans outside of work. During the summer we were really busy and almost every weekend you couldn't count on making plans.” There generally wasn’t much of a face-time expectation across the offices though, which helped: “They don’t want you chained to your desk. Say I have an 11pm conference call with Asia, it’s totally normal for me to go home and take it there.” Others regularly left by 6pm and logged back on to do work at home in the evenings.
Training & Development
Formal training gets off to flying start with the New Associate Conference: “They bring all the new associates across the Americas up to New York for three days of introductory training.” This format is repeated for ‘milestone conferences’ at the junior, mid and senior levels. “The junior one I just attended covered deal and stress management training – it was very useful for identifying stressors and good ways to cope.” Ongoing formal training varied by group and office, and included monthly lunchtime seminars for litigators (“a partner will talk about some aspect of our practice, and the sessions are always enjoyable”) and 'boot camps' for corporate associates: “They walk you through different agreements, and it would be helpful to do more of them as we progress and begin to draft more – at the moment they’re held once every couple of months or so.”
All first years are put into 'mentoring circles' made up of a partner, a couple of seniors/midlevels and “two to three” juniors. Associates who’d hit it off with their circles found them helpful for bringing up concerns: “As you transition into different roles it’s great to bounce ideas off of a smaller group where you feel comfortable.” The circles provided a chance to have some fun too: “Some meet up for karaoke, some get coffee and lunches, and one organized a gin-tasting!” While some sources deemed the path to the partnership as “extremely hard,” they nonetheless praised W&C's culture of mentoring. “There’s a good sense of nurturing people to become one of us. Part of that involves putting you on the spot with partners and asking you what you think. People here want you to succeed.”
Culture & Offices
W&C's juniors felt strongly that the firm is “truly international not just because it has offices everywhere, but because ofhow integrated it is. When they say ‘one firm,’ it’s true. They staff matters across offices all the time, so I’m constantly working with people in London or Hong Kong. Associates enjoyed feeling part of the W&C network. “Despite being so big and spread out we’re still able to feel like a family – I feel connected to the people I've worked with in other offices.” Juniors can even get healthily competitive with their overseas colleagues duringthe annualWhite & Case World Cup: “All offices send teams to Europe for softball and volleyball tournaments. Last year it was held in Vienna and the year before it was in Hamburg. The New York team doesn’t do as well – we need to beef up!”
“I’m constantly working with people in London or Hong Kong.”
Off the pitch and back in the office, New York associates told us the atmosphere “isn't formal or stiff, but not exactly laid back either – it falls somewhere in the center.” They agreed that there's “a strong team-oriented environment. When we're working late everyone is happy to eat dinner together, and people will say things like ‘I’m a night person so I’ll work until 3am, and you can pick this up the morning.’ People are good about making sure we don’t lose our minds!” In DC there was a similar vibe: “It’s a ‘work hard’ mentality and can get pretty serious, but there’s an eye toward making sure people have time to relax. We had a big filing a month or so ago so we broke out the ping pong table to lighten the mood.” We also heard about other relaxation-encouraging perks: “Thefirm has people come in to give us massages – we get pampered and spoiled!”
The brand new “all glass” headquarters in New York was another highlight for associates. “It’s like a Silicon Valley tech office!” The majority of the juniors on our list (just over 60%) were based in the New York mothership, which is now located within the 1221 Avenue of the Americas skyscraper. All of that glass has given the office a sense of openness and has made it a “much more sociable” place, with lots of “collaboration spaces.” Other highlights included a cafeteria that “overlooks the city all the way down to the Statue of Liberty.” W&C's DC office was home to the next largest cohort of juniors(almost 20%), while the rest were spread between the firm's other domestic bases in Boston, LA, Silicon Valley, Houston and Miami.
As in previous years, sources identified W&C's international scope as a good foundation for fostering diversity. “When you go to firm events people speak different languages and look different from one another – that's not the case when you attend other law firms' events.” W&C's range of affinity groups – which include networks for LGBT, Asian, Hispanic, black and women lawyers – came in for particular praise: “The person in charge of ours does a great job of bringing people together for cultural events, and linking you up with partners for lunches – we get a lot of contact. There are partners who are the same race as me, so I feel like a person who looks like me could actually make it.”
Associates could get pro bono work via a dedicated global manager based in New York, whose location was no obstacle for juniors in other offices: “I emailed him about trying to meet my pro bono hours [juniors are expected to bill at least 20 each year] and he called me within five minutes to discuss. The responsiveness is great.” First years are also assigned at least one pro bono matter to work on.
“The firm has a close relationship with the UN in general,” juniors revealed, “so you can do research for them on genocide and war crime projects, for example.” Other pro bono matters included wrongful convictions, immigration cases, environmental lawsuits and work stemming from Trump's travel ban: “We supported nonprofits that were suing the Trump administration over the ban, so I did research related to that and some of us went over to JFK to help at the time.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 68,759
- Average per US attorney: 75
Sources told us that summer classes are getting bigger at White & Case: “My class had 37, but over the last two summers that number has been in the 60s.” While W&C juniors don’t generally sit in on any interviews, they do get involved in mocks, as well as the lunches and coffees associated with the callback interviews – “we'relike a tour guide who's there to make candidates feel comfortable.”
They added that W&C casts its net wide when it comes to personality: “A lot of places have a certain type of person that they’re looking for but this isn’t a firm where recruiters are only interested in one or two personality types.” While you don't have to wonder whether you're too quiet or too loud for W&C, our interviewees still had some pointers to help you impress at interview…
Firstly, associates told us that W&C's interviewers are looking for grit and an 'all in it together' approach: “Alot of people have told me that they look for someone they could be here with at 2am. That’s a big deal because when we are working at 2am, and it’s so much easier to do so with a congenial team player instead of someone who doesn’t care or isn’t curious. During the interviews, it's not so much about how well you did at law school but more about whether you're actually interested in talking about what you want to do.”
Indeed, holding a good conversation is crucial come interview time. “No one will be asking you to confirm aspects of the law. You should show a little personality. My strategy has always been to ask good questions; engage your interviewer and get them talking, as it prevents you from getting into a situation where you're talking too much!”
Litigators also made it clear that those who want to follow in their footsteps should have strong writing skills. “They care about that a lot, and you have to submit a writing sample with your application.” On a broader note, never underestimate W&C’s emphasis on cross-border work: “We’re definitely looking for candidates with an international perspective – that’s really important to the firm and I think the vast majority of people – if not everyone here – has international experience or some tie overseas.”
Then again, think carefully about why you want to be based in a certain domestic location, as this junior advised: “If you're interested in a certain office make sure that interest is genuine. I interviewed some people who had all the academic credentials and even ties to the city we're based in, but it became clear throughout the process that they were actually interested in New York or DC – those people don't do well!”
Interview with White & Case's executive committee member David Koschik
Chambers Associate: Last year you told us about White & Case’s firm-wide five-year growth strategy. How is that strategy developing?
David Koschik: Simply put, we think we’re successfully executing our strategy to grow in the US. Our strategy includes an important growth element in both London and the US, and we have a dedicated US growth team that I chair. We’re meant to look after our growth in the US, by working together with practice and industry leaders. We’re about halfway through the strategic plan since we rolled it out in 2015. The executive committee met recently to take stock of where we are – we confirmed our strategy goals to take us through to 2020, and they continue to include a big growth component in the US. Our US lawyer head count is up to over 800 lawyers at this point, from 600-plus when we launched the strategy a couple of years ago. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about quality and bringing in the right folks for the firm and our clients, both laterally and through internal development. We’ve got a long way to go, but midway through we feel good.
CA: Looking into the next half, what’s ahead?
DK: In many respects it will be more of the same. What we’ve just reconfirmed in the last month or two is that we need to be substantially larger in the US, but that growth should be focused on particular practices and industries. In terms of practices, we’re focused on growing disputes in all its various forms, as well as capital markets, M&A and private equity. In terms of industries, we’re very focused on four: financial institutions, private equity, oil and gas, and technology. We feel we have a substantial presence in those four globally, but feel we can and should be bigger in them in the US.
That doesn’t mean we won’t do something opportunistically – we’ve got to be opportunistic and flexible – but in terms of real focus, we’ve focused our efforts on those areas. I see that continuing as we look to build and become more prominent in New York and across the US.
CA: Has the firm’s goal to grow in those areas been affected by any broader political or economic developments? For example, the downturn in oil prices over recent years.
DK: There’s certainly been a shift over the last three or four years in the price of oil itself, but there’s still a lot of work in that industry, especially at a global level where we do have a very large footprint. We believe the oil and gas industry will occupy an important place in the world economy for decades to come; we still believe there’s a lot of important work to be done for clients around the world and in the US. We take a very long-term view. When we set our goals back in 2015 we looked at the industries and practices that we thought would be important for clients for decades to come – we don’t let ourselves get sidetracked by what we believe is short term. In a similar vein, London is an important part of our growth plan, and we’re undaunted by Brexit because we think London is going to be an important financial and legal capital for years to come.
CA: How is your most recent addition to the US office network – Boston – doing?
DK: We opened in Boston in April 2016 with four white-collar and commercial litigation partners. Since then we have added a team of three partners in IP, as well as one partner who specializes in broker-dealer regulation. We now have a total of 20 lawyers in Boston, and continue to look for opportunities to build out that office further.
CA: What other developments from the past year would you like to highlight to students?
DK: Our move in New York. We moved in the spring of 2017 for the first time in 33 years. It’s been transformational in many respects. The environment in which you work is a very important part of your daily existence, and we recognized that when we set out to move. We literally spent years designing the new space. In choosing the right kind of space and the way we wanted our lawyers to interact, we asked ourselves: ‘How do we want to operate? How do our clients want us to operate?' And we decided to create an environment that maximizes that.
We were on 30-plus floors in our old building, and we’re now on nine, so we can all see much more of each other for the first time in years. It’s a very big change for us. Building up to the move we spoke with all our offices around the world – we talked to various executive partners in offices large and small about what makes their office successful. Then we tried to bundle all of that in a way that made sense for New York. We’re now in the process of exporting that experience and knowledge back out to other offices.
CA: How would you define the culture at White & Case?
DK: I’ll speak personally first. I’ve been here a long time – my entire career since the early 80s – and what’s kept me here for so many years is the people and the way we like to practice. I'm talking about the way we like to give our clients the highest level of responsiveness and quality, while at the same time supporting each other personally and creating an environment where people want to pursue their careers. We work in a very competitive free market for talent here in the US. Our lawyers – everyone from our summers and first years though to our partners – are all talented people and we believe we need to win their hearts and minds on a daily basis by creating the sort of supportive culture in which they can develop professionally and provide for themselves and their families; that’s been my experience certainly.
CA: Do you have anything to add?
DK: There’s a very good vibe at White & Case these days. I feel like we’re in a good place and that it's getting even better. We’ve just finished 2017 – our finances are still to be accounted for but it will clearly be our best year ever, both globally and domestically. That’s just our finances, but I think they reflect how the firm is resonating with clients and how we’re getting on with one another too.
White & Case LLP
1221 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 43
- Worldwide revenue: $1.8 billion
- Partners (US): 186
- Associates (US): 477
- Main recruitment contact: Antonia Choi
- Hiring partner: Brenda Dieck
- Diversity officer: Maja Hazell
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 108
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
- 1Ls: 8, 2Ls: 109, SEOs: 2
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- BOS: 2, LA: 8, MI: 8, NY: 68, SV: 4, DC: 27 (includes 1Ls; not SEOs)
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: $ 3,500/week
- 2Ls: $ 3,500/week
- Split summers offered? Case-by-case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
American, Bay Area Diversity Job Fair, Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Florida, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Irvine, Loyola, Loyola Patent Job Fair, McGill, Miami, Michigan, Mid-Atlantic BLSA, Northeast BLSA, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Penn, Pepperdine, San Francisco IP Job Fair, Stanford, Toronto, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Yale.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Brooklyn, Emory, Hastings, Hofstra, Houston, NYLS, Rutgers, Santa Clara, Suffolk, Tennessee, Texas, Tulane, Wash U.
Summer associate profile:
We look for highly motivated individuals with excellent academic credentials, significant personal achievements and a strong commitment to the practice of law in a global and diverse environment. A successful candidate will be able to demonstrate evidence of our core competencies which include excellent judgment, client readiness, drive, initiative and an entrepreneurial mindset. We are looking for those with the ability to work collaboratively in high pace, high stakes situations.
Summer program components:
We pride ourselves on giving summer associates real work for real clients with real deadlines. We include a full curriculum of training programs in addition to hands-on training working side-by-side with our lawyers. Our assignment coordinators ensure that each summer associate is exposed to a variety of work, including pro bono matters. Mentors are assigned to provide guidance. One of the highlights is the US Summer Associate Conference in New York, which provides an opportunity for our summer associates across the US to network with their peers and learn more about the firm, our people and our culture. At the end of the program, our summer associates will have a thorough understanding of what it is like to be an associate at White & Case.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Latin American Investment (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 5)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
- Latin American Investment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 3)
- International Arbitration (Band 1)
- International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 1)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 4)
- Projects: LNG (Band 1)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
- Projects: Power (Band 2)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy Recognised Practitioner
- Tax: Controversy (Band 4)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)