Epstein Becker Green Associates Give Firm High Marks in Chambers Associate 2014-15

Chambers Associate

Chambers Associate 2014-15 recently published its career guide to help law students choose the right firm. Based on independent research and interviews with second- and third-year associates and senior management, the profiles provide an in-depth portrait of the firms' culture and practices.

The following are excerpts of associates' comments in each area:

The Work: "Most people self-identify regarding the practice they want to join," an associate explained. "Almost everyone is either a healthcare or labor associate, and a handful join as generalist litigators." New York City has a larger proportion of labor & employment associates, while DC is healthcare-heavy. Healthcare & life sciences associates join as generalists in their field and are encouraged to try a range of disciplines within the practice. "Health law might sound narrow to law students, but it's actually very broad." With options ranging from regulatory, M&A and investigation to tax and international counseling, there's a surprising amount for associates to get stuck into. "A good health lawyer should have a grasp on a range of work," an associate said, praising the system. "There is a lot of opportunity to chart your own path and get that varied exposure."

Offices: Epstein only takes new associates in Washington, DC and New York, but the firm's footprint also exists in Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, LA, Stamford and Newark. EBG's DC office is in the West End of the city, close to various metro stations. "We're on three different floors, in a lovely building, and everyone gets their own office," an associate reported. "It's actually very chatty and friendly. Senior associates, partners and practice groups all intermingle, so you don't feel much separation or hierarchy." One added: "People are interested in your life and will stop and chat. Yes, everyone's working hard, but it's not a library."

Culture: "You know, except for its size," one junior pondered, "we are like a boutique in some respects. Of course we're not, but we do focus on certain industries and practice areas. To be honest, it almost doesn't feel like BigLaw: I don't feel like Epstein has this prestigious 18th century origin." Quite right, it doesn't: "It's a late 20th century firm," and perhaps as a result "the partners are more open."Another concurred: "We're definitely a younger and more entrepreneurial firm."

Some saw Epstein as "an organic project that's still developing, which is exciting. The next ten years should be very interesting. The founding generation will be retiring so one has to look to the next generation. There are younger partners who will take the firm in new directions. Some of the frustration that comes out of a lack of transparency is likely because it's a relatively new institution: things haven't been formalized over 100 years. New attorneys should be aware the firm continues to evolve and will continue to do so – exciting if that's what you want in your career."

Hours and Compensation: The annual billing requirement is 1,950 hours. Sources reckoned that if your group is slow and you don't make this number, the firm would"absolutely understand." However "it's something everyone works to go beyond. Most want to hit the 2,000-plus range." People felt that "1,950 hours is very reasonable. Ultimately there is a lot of work on at the moment, and no sign of it slowing down. There's almost no question that if you put in some effort, you'll be able to meet and surpass the 1,950 easily."

Pro Bono: If associates meet the 1,950 billable hours target, 100 further hours of pro bono can count toward their final billable amount. "Of course, you have to hit the 1,950 first," interviewees reminded us. One added: "The firm does make a real effort to market pro bono opportunities, and those who do a lot are well recognized and rewarded for their efforts." However, some associates were lukewarm about Epstein's commitment to pro bono for new starters: "It'd be great if there was a slightly more coordinated effort. The firm will fully support associates if they want to start a new project, but it can be daunting as a young associate to push for projects on your own." The firm does have a formal pro bono committee for scheduling assignments.

Diversity: Gender diversity is good at Epstein. "There are a lot of strong female attorneys and partners throughout the firm," associates reported, and the stats back this up. "One of the top rainmakers in the DC office is a woman, and she sets a great example for young associates. A lot of these women have families. Balancing the two is always such an impressive feat, but the firm is very supportive."

Get Hired: To join the healthcare practice at Epstein, "you have to have had experience in healthcare," interviewees cautioned. "It's fundamental." Current lawyers include former nurses, pharmacists, bio-technicians, a hospital CFO and people who have worked in federal government. "A lot of our healthcare associates seemed to have been pre-med at some point," associates chuckled. "Most people are that little bit older and have worked previously." Labor & employment sees a larger proportion of straight-from-law-school leavers, but these too can"demonstrate their interest in their field." Some may have experience working in HR, or a labor union. You should have at least taken classes on employment law at law school. An associate advised: "Management wants to see that committed interest, so make sure you've read the newspapers for a start! Epstein's a specialized firm, so can tell very quickly if you're genuinely fascinated or not."

Strategy and Future: Epstein's top priority is consolidating its focus and maintaining its reputation in core areas, says chair of the board of directors Mark Lutes. "We find that focusing on two core brands is liberating and energizing, as it means we can stand out from the competition. We are consistently in the top 30 firms for client service and satisfaction and feel that's incredibly important in this market. Alongside our two main practices, we continue to invest in our EBG advisory practice. We have specialists in a range of disciplines, including scientists, physicians and engineers."

The changing legal landscape in healthcare can only mean good business for Epstein, as Lutes reflects: "The law follows where business is. It's a virtuous circle. Laws and regulations can trigger business reactions, which in turn trigger transactions – which feature laws and regulations."

Chambers Associate
includes detailed profiles of the top U.S. law firms. In addition to providing the firmwide profile, Chambers Associate also features 23 practice areas in which it chooses firms to provide comments about the legal area.

Read the full Chambers Associate profile on Epstein Becker Green.