Sullivan & Cromwell

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This is a true international law firm, as the majority of its offices are overseas in major markets such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Beijing. The U.S. offices, in addition to New York, are located in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto. Despite this disparity, S&C is no lightweight domestically, considering that Vault has ranked the firm third overall in the U.S. (for 2003) and within the top 10 in the practice areas of Securities, Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, Antitrust, and Tax.

The firm is famous for its many high-profile deals involving mergers and acquisitions. Following its inception in 1879, S&C assisted in the creation of Edison General Electric in 1882 and U.S. Steel in 1901. Today, the firm works on deals that are front-page news, such as the $1.5-billion transaction involving online auction leviathan eBay's acquisition of electronic payment service PayPal. Additionally, S&C represented alleged Arthur Andersen document-shredder David Duncan in the Enron case.

Only the best of the best law students are offered employment at S&C. The firm, just as one would expect from a renowned, traditional law firm, puts great emphasis on grades. One must be a "superstar" to even be considered. However, if one is extended an offer, he/she should expect to be compensated at or near the top of the scale. Furthermore, S&C has been known to give enormous bonuses, especially in the early part of this decade, but these have since returned to more reasonable levels.

Because their first-year associates are being paid big money, the firm expects them to assume big responsibility immediately, unlike most other firms. The associates are charged with counseling clients and representing their interests from day one. S&C believes this sink-or-swim mentality will serve to strengthen attorneys' mettle and hasten their development.

This is a firm known for its high level of service. This may be daunting to new hires, who have no basis for comparison. However, the firm itself is not as stuffy and old-fashioned as it may seem. The work environment is actually quite friendly and laid-back. Even though S&C does not focus on face time, if one wants to make partner, he/she should be available to clients at all times. One interesting fact is that associates don't really need to keep track of how many hours they bill due to the fact that there is no billable hours requirement. It is not even a criterion for making partner. Long and unpredictable hours are a given. What matters is the service provided to the clients. In that sense, creativity, skill, and professionalism are valued most. Correspondingly, most associates will need seven or eight years' experience to make partner.

The only complaints center on the lack of space and the outdated décor of the New York office. Junior associates must be masters of organization in order to have access to all their relevant paperwork, as space is at a premium. As for the décor, it is best described as dark and solemn. All things considered, S&C is one of the best law firms in the country for which to work. Autonomy, excellent compensation, and important work are available to all S&C attorneys.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

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