Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

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Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by UVA2B » Fri May 04, 2018 10:47 pm

It's pretty important to research any job you're considering going into, but in the context of 1L law students, you might not really know how to do that. You'll get some guidance on resources available to you from your law school's career services, and it's pretty likely two of those major resources will be the NALP Directory and Chambers and Partners. Since you've probably never used either of these resources, we're here at LSL to help.

The Links
NALP Directory
Chambers and Partners

NALP Directory
What NALP Directory Gives You
This is the place to look into individual firms, individual offices, and get particular demographic and practice area information about firms. When you're developing a mass mailing strategy, you'll want to use NALP Directory heavily to generate your cover letters and to figure out who you should be contacting when you apply to firms for jobs.

After clicking on the above link, you'll come to home screen that looks like this:


I've gone ahead and included an introductory search by using Wachtell, but you can type in any firm name you want, or if you'd rather research just based on a market, you can leave the employer name field blank and only put in city, state, or any other field. No single field is required. In order to best research, I would recommend at minimum using the state field, and would prefer you use city and possibly even practice area in order to get the best results in your search. But this should be used as narrowly or broadly as you see fit for your particular research.

When you click search, you'll reach the search results screen:


With this particular search, there was only going to be one result, but if you just search based on city, state, practice area, or some combination thereof, your results will obviously differ. This is pretty simple: click on the links for firms that interest you.

That will lead you to this screen:


Each firm decides what info will show up on their NALP profile, so don't be too dismayed if the information on your search is less/more than what is provided in this guide. This format recently changed, and that's for the better. Formerly, none of this introductory information based on practice areas was provided. There is really good info to be gleaned from even this screen. First, you can see how substantially the firm plays in your particular practice area. Second, if the search yielded a satellite office of a firm with multiple locations, you'll see what practice areas they have in that office, how big that office is, and a general insight into how robust that office will be. So if the firm has a total of 900 attorneys, but the office you just searched only has 27 attorneys in 2 practice areas, you should appreciate that you'll want to target those practice areas if you want to work for that firm in that market.

Your best information from here is in the "Organization Snapshot" link located on the right side of the screen. Click on that link, and you'll get a .pdf outlining the firm, as seen below:


As you can see, you have important information here such as recruiting contact information, pay for first year associates and summer associates, and other information of interest such as pro bono program and attorney development. Again, the firm decides how much they want to provide to this, so each firm's profile will be different. So, for instance, Wachtell has left their pro bono section mostly blank, which may or may not be telling you something about that particular firm's approach to pro bono focus. It's not meant to be good or bad, but it's worthwhile data in your research. Depending on what particularly interests you in picking a firm, such as having unlimited pro bono, or having structured attorney development programs, or not having a two-tiered partnership track (the last one probably shouldn't matter to you at all, but I'm just illustrating the point here), this information can be helpful.

Scroll down and you'll find more useful information about firm demographics:


Of particular note here should be the diversity of the firm's ranks, especially noting the amount of diversity amongst both the associates and amongst the partners. This profession remains overly male, white, and non-diverse, but some firms undoubtedly put more genuine effort toward diversity than others. I personally think that has some serious value, so it's worth at least noting in your research.

Scroll down further, and you get to the meat and potatoes of what will probably matter to you most as a law student: the practice areas and hiring and recruitment:


You may have already seen the practice area breakdowns on the previous screen, but it's a very important factor in your job search. If you really want to do M&A, you better look for M&A or at least general corporate attorneys doing that work in that office. Otherwise, you're really missing the mark in targeting your job search. The recruiting and hiring is really helpful, in that you can figure out whether they hire 1Ls (if you're a 1L), how big their expected class is as well as how big their previous summer classes have been, and finally/most importantly: did they offer to all of their 2Ls who were considered for an offer. All of this should let you know something about how the firm does its initial hiring. There are things such as cold offers so that they can say they offered to all of their 2Ls on this report, but that will be discovered in your other, non-institutional research (such as following threads in the rest of our growing employment forum!).

Chambers and Partners
What Chambers and Partners Gives You
Chambers and Partners will let you know who the most well-regarded firms are in a given practice area. The market will somewhat dictate how granular this type of information is, but it's a really helpful tool in understanding the primary players in the market that interests you in the practice areas that interest you.


Upon clicking the link above, you'll hit the home screen:


Considering you're likely looking for a US firm job, I would recommend you choose the USA guide. It should be the first guide in the dropdown menu.

That will bring you to this screen:


You'll want to pick a market first (I've gone ahead and picked Southern California, but choose your own adventure). Then you'll have to pick based on a practice area, but thankfully for my search, Corporate/M&A was the only practice area discussed for Southern California. Each market is different, and the guides will occasionally be under-inclusive like it is in my hypothetical search, but that's just a limitation you'll have to deal with. If a particular practice area isn't discussed for the market you want, you can go back to NALP to search and see if firms are doing the practice area you want. That won't speak to the relative quality of their performance in that practice area, but it'll at least give you indication of what firms are doing that practice area in the market that interests you.

Now that we've picked Southern California (or the market you're interested in), you'll need to pick a practice area. I picked the only option, Corporate/M&A:



This will be your launching off point for learning about the firm in that practice area. You'll note that everything is headed by different "bands." Chambers define these generally, and really don't give a great definition of what it means, but it does a decent job of providing ordinal ranking/tiers of firms practicing in that area, letting you know who are generally regarded as the better firms in that practice area in that market. Keep in mind that firms can and do put concerted efforts to find themselves in an upper "band" of Chambers in their practice area, but it's a good proxy for knowing who is doing the top work in that market. You can then pick each firm, which will give a brief profile of the attorneys doing good work in that firm, the big clients they service, and some review from clients about how the firm has served the client. This doesn't mean the firm will be awesome to work for as a junior associate necessarily, but generally speaking, if the firm is highly regarded in the market for that practice area, it's more likely to have some stability in that practice group, should you get the opportunity to work for that firm.

Just because a firm you're researching doesn't show up on Chambers doesn't mean the firm doesn't do substantial work in that practice area, but it's just another data point for your consideration in determining which firms you should be targeting in your market.

Questions?

I hope you've found this helpful, and if you have additional questions about researching firms including and beyond what I've outlined here, please feel free to ask. We have users who can help in learning more about practice areas, markets, and specific firms. If you have questions, bring em on!

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by Stranger » Sat May 05, 2018 9:13 am

How comprehensive is the list of firms in a given city on the NALP directory? I did a search on Raleigh as my example, and four firms same up. Now, I'd be shocked if there are only four firms hiring in Raleigh in a given year. (Anecdata: the alum W&L connected me with when I asked works in Raleigh for a firm not listed.) Based on the names that came up, it seems like those four were more the big league/nationally recognized firms active in the market, and smaller or more local firms just don't bother having a listing in the NALP directory. Essentially, the firms that come up are Plan A for someone open to biglaw, while others active in the market and viable for someone open to not-biglaw might take a bit more research to turn up. Is that impression sound?

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by UVA2B » Sat May 05, 2018 5:51 pm

Stranger wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 9:13 am
How comprehensive is the list of firms in a given city on the NALP directory? I did a search on Raleigh as my example, and four firms same up. Now, I'd be shocked if there are only four firms hiring in Raleigh in a given year. (Anecdata: the alum W&L connected me with when I asked works in Raleigh for a firm not listed.) Based on the names that came up, it seems like those four were more the big league/nationally recognized firms active in the market, and smaller or more local firms just don't bother having a listing in the NALP directory. Essentially, the firms that come up are Plan A for someone open to biglaw, while others active in the market and viable for someone open to not-biglaw might take a bit more research to turn up. Is that impression sound?
This is a valid question, and it's something I didn't cover in the OP. In order to be listed on NALP, the firm has to be a willing participant in NALP (National Association of Legal Practitioners) and agrees to the bylaws that comes with being a part of NALP. Not all firms do this. Most all of the major firms participate in NALP, but as you get into smaller markets and somewhat smaller firms, they may be less likely to agree to the NALP guidelines. And right now NALP has been updating their forms, which has caused some major firms to disappear from NALP temporarily. So while NALP will not be a comprehensive directory of all firms in a market, it's a good place for most of your research in a firm.

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by gymnastsplits » Mon May 07, 2018 3:35 pm

Thank you for writing this UVA - I'd been trying to navigate NALP!

Separately, I'm not sure if this is just my computer but none of the images are coming up - they're showing as lines. See screenshot below.

Image

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by UVA2B » Mon May 07, 2018 10:48 pm

gymnastsplits wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 3:35 pm
Thank you for writing this UVA - I'd been trying to navigate NALP!

Separately, I'm not sure if this is just my computer but none of the images are coming up - they're showing as lines. See screenshot below.

Image
I can't speak to why the images aren't showing up for you. Everything in the OP was uploaded with the [media] function here, and everything was uploaded via Imgur. But hopefully the descriptions at least inform the searches you're doing and will help you understand the searches you're doing on NALP.

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by gymnastsplits » Tue May 08, 2018 3:02 pm

UVA2B wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 10:48 pm
I can't speak to why the images aren't showing up for you. Everything in the OP was uploaded with the [media] function here, and everything was uploaded via Imgur. But hopefully the descriptions at least inform the searches you're doing and will help you understand the searches you're doing on NALP.
Meh, PC bug - it is working for me now. Thanks for the guide, UVA!

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by NukinFutz » Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:11 pm

UVA, thanks for putting this guide together. Super helpful.

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by snarfing » Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:49 pm

im not sure what i should be getting out if this info. im doing this research for oci in 5 days but idk what im looking at or what to get out of it.

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by UVA2B » Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:39 pm

snarfing wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:49 pm
im not sure what i should be getting out if this info. im doing this research for oci in 5 days but idk what im looking at or what to get out of it.
Research for OCI isn't when NALP directory and Chambers are as useful. These databases are best used in mass mailing and putting together OCI bid lists, etc. There could still be some utility here though. If any of the firms you're interviewing with are Chambers-rated in your chosen market and practice area, you can see who the main attorneys are in that field from that firm. That's good for knowing the big players if your interest in the firm comes up during your screening interview. NALP will still let you know how substantial their practice is in that area as well, which you can use to answer the "why X firm" questions that usually come up in screeners.

But this close to OCI, I would focus research on other sources of information like Vault profiles of the firms you're interviewing with and looking into their major clients, work they've done recently (search them on Law360 and law.com, for instance. This guide is primarily geared toward 1Ls and rising 2Ls who are researching markets and practice areas that might interest them and focusing their job hunt based on that research. You already know who you're interviewing with, so this type of research should be mostly in the rearview (unless you switch markets or practice areas post-OCI or need to try to do 3L mass mailing or OCI, in which case this type of research would be helpful when you start with that.

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by Meelo » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:12 am

UVA2B wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:39 pm
I'm hoping it's just me, but your images aren't showing up in the original post nor in the quoted posts :/ Not sure whether being in a different country atm is messing with the internet.

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Re: Researching Firms: A NALP and Chambers and Partners How-to

Post by UVA2B » Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:59 pm

Meelo wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:12 am
UVA2B wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:39 pm
I'm hoping it's just me, but your images aren't showing up in the original post nor in the quoted posts :/ Not sure whether being in a different country atm is messing with the internet.
I'm sorry I never responded to this, but I suspect it's because you're in a different country. I'm not familiar with Imgur's policies with foreign countries, but it's not uncommon that they aren't licensed to show content outside of the US/in your foreign country, so the link used in the images won't display when you're accessing it from a foreign country. If you want regular access to US websites from a foreign country, a VPN will be your best friend.

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