Building its profile and revenue year-on-year, this firm is a (White &) Case study in international success.
IN 2015 the finest minds at White & Case laid out a five-year 2020 plan with growth very much on the agenda. As we near the end of the plan’s time frame, all signs point to a big success – global revenue has grown from $1.5 billion in 2015 to $2.19 billion in 2019 and the firm has promoted more partners globally year-on-year, peaking at 45 in 2020. We keep saying ‘global’ because the W&C story is as international as they come; its client list includes planet-dominating businesses like BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs as well as countries including the Republic of Sudan and Russian Federation. “It has prestige everywhere you go,” one junior said of their firm. “I’d struggle to find someone who hasn’t heard of us.”
“It has prestige everywhere you go. I’d struggle to find someone who hasn’t heard of us.”
Chambers USA puts White & Case top nationwide for projects, international arbitration and antitrust; the Miami office picks up a top regional banking ranking and the firm also shines in New York, DC and California. “White & Case is a big firm with a global reach, but US-wise we’re nowhere near the top yet so the firm is smartly emphasizing domestic growth” according to insiders. That strategy’s lead to recent office openings in Chicago and Houston. On the global stage, White & Case has a lot in common with the UK's elite magic circle.
Strategy & Future
The firm’s already getting a bit big for its cowboy boots in Texas and there are plans afoot to “expand pretty significantly by moving to a new office space” in Houston “with a lot of room for growth.” W&C is also growing out its older offices including the New York HQ: “The firm is actively working on building a stronger presence, focusing and solidifying corporate practices.” Sources assured us that domestic growth won’t lead to associates getting fewer cross-border work opportunities, “it won’t come at the expense of our international practice.”
“Each office does seem to have a specialization,” whether that’s a natural focus in New York on corporate-based practices or the powerful real estate offering in Chicago. Team Houston “focuses on both the disputes and transactional side of oil and gas matters,” while Miami is the firm’s link to Latin American project finance work. Despite these distinctions, “the firm does a great job of making the connections between locations seamless. Everywhere feels like a W&C office.” Even looking overseas, associates told us: “It feels like we all work in the same place.”
“The firm does a great job of making the connections between locations seamless.”
The New York HQ takes the bulk of W&C’s many juniors. DC is the most popular alternative; the rest generally head to Miami, Los Angeles or Silicon Valley. In the larger offices, associates start as generalists in either the transactional or litigation pool (they can normally pick which, aside from in litigation-driven DC) and can source work from any of the subgroups within. In the smaller bases, allocation tends to be more practice area-specific. Litigators specialize their trade after two years; for corporate associates it’s normally just one. Some considered the pool system “super helpful as you can get work from any group” and keep your options open, but at the time of our calls there was some criticism surrounding the fairness of assignment. “Some of the groups follow the rules and systems,” a source said, “while others function informally, and tasks aren’t spread equally. I’d appreciate a more structured way of getting assignments.” There were also worries that “some people get roped into things and can get stuck” in one practice, and rookies from across the pools reckoned that proactively forging relationships was essential to get what you want. However, the firm has recently hired two new work allocation managers in order to streamline this process and address these concerns.
Litigation juniors can sample international arbitration, white-collar work, antitrust, private client and general commercial litigation. “There’s a hierarchy on big rolling cases,” so “isolated research assignments” and document review are common junior tasks; it’s on the more leanly staffed smaller disputes that newbies can really cut their teeth. Our sources got to prepare oral arguments for hearings; develop outlines for opening and closing arguments; second-chair depositions; and write motions and sections of briefs. One gave us an individual highlight: “I helped prep one of our partners to be a fact witness in a trial. It was intense, but a fun and dynamic experience – I felt like a real lawyer.” Thanks to W&C’s global reach, many highlighted the fact that their actions “will have worldwide consequences – that really fuels you because what you do goes beyond the client, into the history books.” Working with colleagues in international offices is common: we heard of collaborations with Jordan and London. The antitrust sub-team is probably the best bet for globetrotting in your junior years: “I know a lot of juniors in my group who do a three to five-month stint in the Brussels office.”
Litigation clients: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Deutsche Bank, Pfizer. Acted for the Russian Federation during recovery claims of more than $50 billion brought by ex-shareholders of bankrupted oil giant Yukos.
“It was intense, but a fun and dynamic experience – I felt like a real lawyer.”
Corporate subdivides into four main groups: banking and finance, M&A, capital markets and EIPAF (energy, infrastructure, projects and asset finance). Sources appreciated starting in the pool: “It’s beneficial for seeing the big picture and the full scope of what corporate work actually is.” Where you are will (to some extent) shape what you do: Houston, for example, works primarily in the oil & gas industry, focusing on private equity and M&A. “The energy industry is a whole different beast down there,” one junior joked. W&C’s nationwide M&A practice welcomes “a whole spectrum of work, ranging from mega deals to smaller mid-market ones. Project finance and development projects like petrochemical facilities might have an M&A element so we’re roped in for those too.” Responsibilities correlate with seniority, but juniors got chances to shine. “The first time I drafted a shareholder’s agreement with only a timesheet and a precedent document was terrifying,” one recounted. “That level of autonomy really elevated my sense of self.” Other junior tasks include marking up purchasing agreements and drafting due diligence reports.
Corporate/M&A clients: Saudi Aramco, Sempra Energy, SodaStream. Represented Sony in its $3.5 billion acquisition to gain a majority stake in music publisher EMI.
For associates who ended up in banking, exposure was readily available, “from drafting letters of commitment and sitting through negotiations of those to sitting on the banking side of a sale. You’re able to see a lot of different aspects.” That said, the size of a deal determines your role: “Sometimes I’m just working on comments we’ve received and inputting changes to a document. Other times there’s lots of contact with clients and counsel on the other side.” The firm works for both borrowers and lenders and there’s occasional crossover with litigation.
Banking and finance clients: Credit Suisse, UBS, Macquarie Capital. Represented Morgan Stanley in the repricing of $1.1 billion of loans to supply chain provider Savage.
“Training is most definitely not lacking” and interviewees were united in praise of the firm’s mentorship opportunities and ‘milestone’ sessions – incremental training which targets skills specific to each class year. Practice groups also run their own sessions: a banking junior highlighted an eight-week program focusing on specific issues like sponsored designated bids for acquisition financing. Beyond formalized programs, support tends to be partner and group-specific: “The firm encourages and facilitates formal mentorship, but informal sessions are super helpful.” Insiders agreed that “if you reach out to someone more senior and express how you’re feeling, they work really quickly to address concerns.” The takeaway? Establishing informal communication channels with senior colleagues will help you “to not get lost in the shuffle.”
“They encourage and facilitate formal mentorship, but informal sessions are super helpful.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Recent promotion rounds have been impressively diverse: nine of 16 new US partners in 2019 were women, one was LGBTQ and four were from BAME backgrounds. Sources highlighted that there’s “still work to be done at the partnership level.” They commended the firm’s readiness for the “easy fixes” of inclusion, like fewer alcohol-focused social events and including pronouns in email signatures. Some in the smaller offices felt that more support could be given to attorneys who are leading the charge. “It would be great if the conversations went further beyond the diverse people who are advocating the causes,” one source in such an office noted. Most agreed that W&C’s “efforts seem genuine and it does a good job for a law firm. It doesn’t have that old-fashioned patriarchal or hierarchal feel.” The best results have come in cosmopolitan New York: “When you walk down the corridor you hear so many languages!”
“It would be great if the conversations went further beyond the diverse people who are advocating the causes.”
Associates were speaking the same language when describing the firm’s friendly feel. “I was surprised by how nice everyone is,” one revealed. “People are down to earth and laidback but striving for perfection." Scoring way above average for nearly every criterion in our annual associate satisfaction survey, White & Case has struck on a modern, pragmatic approach to culture. “I’ve never experienced that stuffy old-school vibe, nor felt stifled or nervous to say something,” a source said. “Sometimes I waste so much time chatting with friends in their offices.” Glass door offices in New York help attorneys there know who’s free for as much small talk as BigLaw allows for. DC has “a rep for being more buttoned-up because the clients are more formal there,” while smaller offices come with “more family feeling because you recognize everyone.”
“I’ve never experienced that stuffy old-school vibe, nor felt stifled or nervous to say something.”
Given it takes on more than 100 juniors each year, we wondered if they ever feel swamped by the firm’s size? “There are so many different groups that you find your people and don’t feel lost,” one reassured us. Others confirmed that while there is a one-W&C feel, the size of practice groups means that each has its own quirks. They also organize their own social calendars to sit alongside “a good number of office-wide events,” though there’s “never pressure to socialize outside of work hours.”
Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
White & Case takes “high-profile pro bono cases with big teams. We don’t take it less seriously than a billing client.” The firm encourages each attorney to do a minimum 20 hours a year – though many exceed that – and those we spoke to enjoyed seeing “global statistics showing which office has the highest numbers of hours each year.” Individual pro bono stars get a star-shaped sticker for their door once they reach 20 hours. Some of the big stories recently have included litigation on behalf of children in Flint, Michigan during the contaminated water crisis; fighting for citizens in Ferguson wrongly imprisoned for failing to pay fines; or projects in coordination with nonprofit group Her Justice in New York. “This kind of work is part of the prestige of the firm and we apply all our resources to it,” a junior beamed. Unsurprisingly there’s also international pro bono on offer, which recently included working with the IMF and the UN to return art stolen by the Nazis. Who needs Indiana Jones?
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 85,500
- Average per US attorney: 97
“The tone is ‘I hate to impose on your weekend, but do you have a chance to look at this?’”
There’s no billing target for first-year associates; from year two onwards the firm mandates 2,000 hours, 200 of which can be pro bono, training or help with recruitment. Second and third-years we spoke to felt that left time for the rest of their lives: “it’s still BigLaw but manageable and consistent and it's rare to find someone who hasn’t taken a real vacation.” On an average day, juniors arrive in the office at 9:30am and head home around 7pm. Busy periods can require extreme hours peaking at 3 or 4am finishes, most commonly in New York. Few complained about the hectic schedules: “When we’re all in it together on a crazy project, adrenalin’s running and there's a wartime spirit.” Even weekend work wasn’t enough to faze sources as “the tone taken is ‘I hate to impose on your weekend, but do you have a chance to look at this?’” These extra impositions are less common in smaller offices like Miami.
White & Case will be conducting its summer program virtually in 2020.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 2,306
Interviewees outside OCI: 100
White & Case participates in OCIs at over 30 law schools and job fairs across the country. Those interested can also apply directly on the firm’s careers website. The number of students interviewed varies quite drastically from campus to campus, from as few as 15 through to over 100.
The OCIs themselves are usually conducted by partners and/or alumni of the school. At this stage, the questions are usually competency-based but also conversational: “We view the interview process as a two-way street, and our goal is for the student to get as much information as possible about our firm and our training programs as we get from them,” explains hiring partner Brenda Dieck. That said, expectations are still high: “We expect intelligence, good judgement and academic excellence. We are looking for problem solvers who can think carefully, creatively and critically.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Come prepared but be your authentic self. Preparation is not just research on the internet. Think about what it is about us that attracted you to the firm, how we are different from other firms, our key practice areas and which recent deals or cases you have found interesting.” – hiring partner Brenda Dieck.
Successful candidates will be invited for callback interviews. These are typically conducted by two partners and two associates, and usually last between two to two and a half hours. The questions are also competency-based, but “allow us to go more in depth, and will differ depending on the candidate/practice,” Dieck explains. She adds that “we make every effort to tailor the callback interview schedule to reflect specific interests.” There is also the opportunity to get to know lawyers in a more relaxed setting through lunches, receptions or office tours.
Top tips for this stage:
“Rehearsed answers, articulate as they may be, will not teach us the things about you we are more interested in learning about. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion, share ideas and ask real questions.” – hiring partner Brenda Dieck.
Before the summer program even begins, the firm asks summers about their practice area interests. Over the course of the summer, assignment coordinators will dole out “real work for actual clients” and ensure that summers receive exposure to a variety of projects in practice areas of their interest. Summers will also work with and meet as many of the firm’s lawyers as possible. Typical tasks include writing briefs, assisting in negotiation sessions, and producing memos and legal documents for clients. The summer program also includes work on at least one pro bono matter: “It is a unique way for our summer associates to start making their mark at White & Case,” says Dieck. Summer associates from all offices also attend the firm’s US Summer Associate Conference in the New York office, which involves various workshops, talks from lawyers and an opportunity to learn about firm strategy. “It’s a great way to connect with the firm outside of just your office, develop new skills and meet new colleagues from around the region,” Dieck explains. The firm also offers domestic and overseas rotation opportunities during the summer program.
Top tips for this stage:
“Show your passion and enthusiasm. Attend events and trainings. We want to know that you are as excited about our firm as we are about you.” – hiring partner Brenda Dieck.
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White & Case LLP
1221 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 36
- Worldwide revenue: $2.185 billion
- Partners (US): 222
- Associates (US): 658 (including counsel)
- Main recruitment contact: Antonia Choi
- Hiring partner: Brenda Dieck
- Diversity officer: Maja Hazell
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 104
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020:
- 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 80, SEOs: 5
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office:
- BOS - 3, CHI - 7, HOU - 8, LA - 6, MI - 7, NY - 47, SV - 4, DC - 12 (includes 1Ls; not SEOs or touchbacks)
- Summer salary 2020:
- 1Ls: $ 3,700/week
- 2Ls: $ 3,700/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, Boston College, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Florida, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard, Houston, 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, Texas, Toronto, Tulane, UCLA, USC, Virginia.
Recruitment outside OCIs: Boston University, Brooklyn, Emory, Hastings, Hofstra, NYLS, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Santa Clara, St. John’s, SMU, Suffolk, Tennessee, Wash University.
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
USA Guide, 2020
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- 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: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Projects: LNG (Band 2)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
- Projects: Power (Band 2)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 1)
- Projects: PPP (Band 3)
- Tax: Controversy (Band 4)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)