Consistently ranked as one of the most prestigious firms in the U.S., Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is home to about 200 attorneys in New York. The firm handles high-end, prominent work and specializes in mergers and acquisitions, and corporate securities transactions. Wachtell also has expertise in litigation, restructuring and finance, tax, executive compensation and benefits, antitrust, and real estate. It is one of the most profitable law firms in the world and leads the market in compensation. The firm's 2009 profits per partner ranked first among U.S. firms at $4.3 million, which was over $1 million higher than the firm with the second highest PPP, but gross revenue decreased slightly by 1% in 2010. Lateral Link Members describe Wachtell as "extremely generous across the board" and a place that "set[s] the standard for legal practice across the corporate board." Although associates have the "ability to gain invaluable experience," some Members claim the "hours" and the "pressure" are negative aspects of the firm.
Chambers Top Departments: Antitrust (#2); Bankruptcy/Restructuring (#1); Corporate/MA: The Elite (#1); Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions MA (#1); Securities: Litigation (#2); Tax: Corporate Finance (#1)
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First-year associates are paid $165,000. Base salary and bonuses are determined by a set lockstep system. Bonuses are calculated as a percentage of base salary. Wachtell's 2010 bonuses were slightly lower than 2009 bonuses, which were approximately 50% of base compensation. In 2008, bonuses were approximately 70% of base compensation; but in prior years, bonuses were equivalent to 100% of compensation.
There are almost the same numbers of partners as associates at Wachtell, and associates are given substantial responsibility and plenty of partner interaction in an informal atmosphere. Given the equal ratio of associates to partners, most matters are staffed leanly, and associates are usually exposed to all aspects of a deal or case, rather than piecemeal projects. At Wachtell, hands-on, informal training takes precedence over any formal training programs. According to one Lateral Link Member, "[Associates] are responsible for [their] own development, but the firm has been instituting more and more programs in aid of development," such as the firm’s formal mentoring program. Wachtell continues to implement various diversity efforts and is a signatory to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s Statement of Diversity Principles, which commits it to a broad set of diversity goals. In recognition of its high midlevel associate satisfaction, the firm received a top ten ranking among AmLaw 100 and Global 100 firms in The American Lawyer’s 2010 Midlevel Associates Survey.
Although face time doesn't seem to be too important at Wachtell, associates work very hard. Lateral Link Members indicate that holidays and weekends are just another workday and associates are in the office until at least 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. on average. The firm provides up to 16 weeks paid maternity leave, but does not offer paid leave for its male attorneys. The firm provides four weeks of vacation time, but it is not uncommon for associates to cancel vacations for work. Lateral Link Members report taking between 14 and 22 days of vacation annually.
Wachtell has a one-tier partnership track, and it generally takes eight years to be considered for partnership. "It is an achievable goal if you work for it," according to one Lateral Link Member. Senior associates who do not make partner are generally reconsidered the following year. Prior to 2011, when two out of the three new partners were women, the firm did not promote any women to partnership.
Incoming first-year associates receive a $20,000 salary advance and a $3,000 stipend. Benefits include a full gym membership, dinner four nights a week, lunch twice a week, free daily breakfast, and a frozen yogurt machine. In addition, Wachtell provides free car rides home after 7:30 p.m., reimburses associates for home Internet and cell phones, and issues free laptops. For new associates that need to relocate to New York City, the firm provides moving and travel expenses for associates and their families as well as salary advances for additional assistance in relocating associates. The firm also covers bar examination expenses and bar association dues.
Wachtell's 13-week summer program is "not a sugar-coated program," and summer associates "are treated like a real associate and expected to perform as one." Summer associates choose several practice areas of interest and rotate through those departments during the summer, and are expected to complete 10 to 15 assignments. Survey respondents say the summer is marked by "long hours filled with substantive work," as well as "many opportunities to work one-on-one with partners," but they also warn that they often work 10-hour days and do not leave the office until after 8:00 p.m. While survey respondents report that there is no face time requirement, they advise that summer associates "have enough work to ensure that [they] will either be working late or on weekends." Although Wachtell's summer program is "extremely light on events," summer associates can attend occasional dinners, for which the firm provides a $150 per person budget. Summer associates can also attend one out-of-office attorney lunch each week as well as one or two in-house catered lunches per week. In 2009, 24 out of 25 summer associates received offers, while all 17 members of the 2010 summer associate class received offers. The firm did not defer start dates for Class of 2009 or 2010 associates, and does not anticipate delaying the start date for the incoming Class of 2011.