Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

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Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:31 pm

Hey guys,

I'm weighing Davis Polk with 2-3 other firms that do primarily international work but are lower "ranked" than DP in the USA (by about 15 to 20-ish on Vault): Shearman, Milbank, and W&C (haven't had W&C cb yet). I primarily want to do international capital markets and M&A in LatAm (esp. Brazil) or SE Asia, so I really only applied to firms with Brazilian and/or Spanish-speaking offices. How much should U.S. prestige be a factor versus how much I enjoyed the office environment, people, and practices? I'm thinking about long-term career options here (laterals or business).

I don't think I'd hate DavisPolk, and I loved their gorgeous office/location and the junior associates...but the partners seemed really dull. Lots of people on vacation, so things were slower all around but the people I did see didn't seem as "in this together" as the other firms. Is the office isolating for associates? Should that matter if I can handle that?

Thoughts/discussion much appreciated!

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby rayiner » Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:40 pm

Do you speak Portuguese?

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:01 am

Yes, I speak Portuguese and Spanish fluently

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:Hey guys,

I'm weighing Davis Polk with 2-3 other firms that do primarily international work but are lower "ranked" than DP in the USA (by about 15 to 20-ish on Vault): Shearman, Milbank, and W&C (haven't had W&C cb yet). I primarily want to do international capital markets and M&A in LatAm (esp. Brazil) or SE Asia, so I really only applied to firms with Brazilian and/or Spanish-speaking offices. How much should U.S. prestige be a factor versus how much I enjoyed the office environment, people, and practices? I'm thinking about long-term career options here (laterals or business).

I don't think I'd hate DavisPolk, and I loved their gorgeous office/location and the junior associates...but the partners seemed really dull. Lots of people on vacation, so things were slower all around but the people I did see didn't seem as "in this together" as the other firms. Is the office isolating for associates? Should that matter if I can handle that?

Thoughts/discussion much appreciated!


I work at DPW - I think we go out of our way to be polite and friendly generally, which some people can see as passive aggressive or cold, but once you actually land on a team people open up a lot more and there's a huge sense of cooperation and shared suffering (even if you're always working with the best people on the most interesting work, you'll still be doing an enormous amount of it...). It's not a place where associates form up en masse to go drinking after work, and there's an unmistakable quiet/polite/refined vibe, but I've made strong personal connections and spend a lot of my day smiling and laughing, for whatever that's worth.

The big sell on DPW in terms of prestige/careers/exit options is the finance industry. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say our firm revolves around major banks and financial institutions. We defend banks in litigation, represent them as underwriters, advise them on Dodd Frank, work on their internal investigations, etc. etc. etc. Lots of them are institutional clients and not just frequent clients, too. A lot of the exits I've seen/heard about have been straight into the finance industry (on the legal and business side).

I've long had the impression internally that our latin american and southeast asia practices were stellar, but I've never really looked into it more than that. Vault prestige isn't what you want here (it's just a survey of associates) - look up the firms and rankings on Chambers & Partners and then also look into league tables. Cross-check the firms' websites where they list the work they have done. Find big, headline grabbing deals and then figure out which firms worked on them.

You're ability to discern which firms are market leaders (and thus which will have stronger reputations and connections) might be better than any given magazine or trade press article at this point, because it's a relatively narrow universe that doesn't lend itself to rankings or people interested in those rankings.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Hey guys,

I'm weighing Davis Polk with 2-3 other firms that do primarily international work but are lower "ranked" than DP in the USA (by about 15 to 20-ish on Vault): Shearman, Milbank, and W&C (haven't had W&C cb yet). I primarily want to do international capital markets and M&A in LatAm (esp. Brazil) or SE Asia, so I really only applied to firms with Brazilian and/or Spanish-speaking offices. How much should U.S. prestige be a factor versus how much I enjoyed the office environment, people, and practices? I'm thinking about long-term career options here (laterals or business).

I don't think I'd hate DavisPolk, and I loved their gorgeous office/location and the junior associates...but the partners seemed really dull. Lots of people on vacation, so things were slower all around but the people I did see didn't seem as "in this together" as the other firms. Is the office isolating for associates? Should that matter if I can handle that?

Thoughts/discussion much appreciated!


I work at DPW - I think we go out of our way to be polite and friendly generally, which some people can see as passive aggressive or cold, but once you actually land on a team people open up a lot more and there's a huge sense of cooperation and shared suffering (even if you're always working with the best people on the most interesting work, you'll still be doing an enormous amount of it...). It's not a place where associates form up en masse to go drinking after work, and there's an unmistakable quiet/polite/refined vibe, but I've made strong personal connections and spend a lot of my day smiling and laughing, for whatever that's worth.

The big sell on DPW in terms of prestige/careers/exit options is the finance industry. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say our firm revolves around major banks and financial institutions. We defend banks in litigation, represent them as underwriters, advise them on Dodd Frank, work on their internal investigations, etc. etc. etc. Lots of them are institutional clients and not just frequent clients, too. A lot of the exits I've seen/heard about have been straight into the finance industry (on the legal and business side).

I've long had the impression internally that our latin american and southeast asia practices were stellar, but I've never really looked into it more than that. Vault prestige isn't what you want here (it's just a survey of associates) - look up the firms and rankings on Chambers & Partners and then also look into league tables. Cross-check the firms' websites where they list the work they have done. Find big, headline grabbing deals and then figure out which firms worked on them.

You're ability to discern which firms are market leaders (and thus which will have stronger reputations and connections) might be better than any given magazine or trade press article at this point, because it's a relatively narrow universe that doesn't lend itself to rankings or people interested in those rankings.


Also work at DPW and agree with everything stated. I hear from our Latin American guys that the group is small and close knit. You will be on a lot of deals and get a ton of early responsibility because there is so much work and so few associates with the requisite language skills. The LatAm partners in NY are some of the nicest people you will ever meet in any law firm.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:53 pm

Hijacking this thread momentarily to ask the two DPW responders about hours.

Mind sharing what dep't you are in and what your hours/days are like?

It would be greatly appreciated.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:12 pm

Longer winded DPW associate here:

I am in a deal-oriented corporate practice (i.e. M&A/cap markets/credit/SEG, not FIG or IMG). My worst month clocked in around 300 billable hours and hurt a lot. I'm starting to average 190-210 hour months now that I can manage my workload a bit more than when I was new and clueless. When my hours were near their worst, the people in charge of my practice group took notice and helped bring things back to reality, and even partners who stood to make a lot of money from my billing saw my time sheet and refereed to it as "unsustainable." I imagine my 2013 hours will be at least 2,300 and as many as 2,600.

A LOT depends on how busy your group is, which is a combination of staffing level and general economic climate. Q1 capital markets was EXTREMELY busy while M&A was slow for a lot of 2012 Q4 and 2013 Q1.

I've had senior associates tell me to my face "you're an adult, you don't need to wait around for me or ask to go home as long as you get the work done" and I've had senior associates just assume I was around the office at 9pm even when we hadn't been busy that day, so that can be hit or miss. Face time doesn't seem critical here from an office politics point of view, but everyone is plugged in and on-call basically all the time. Part of being in a service industry with incredible stakes - and incredible fees - is that you need to be responsive, and sometimes you need to accomplish tasks that fall squarely on the spectrum between "unreasonable" and "impossible." Are we a nice firm, a good place to work? Sure. But the work itself, and the hours, and the stakes and stress can be brutal. It's a place where the stress is coming from wanting to get the deal done - and done right - and with the best result for the client - on the time table they need - and not from screaming lawyers. But this is the big leagues in NYC with a lot on the line, so don't expect it to be a walk in the park.

Day to day, 9:30 am is around the average start time. Calls or projects sometimes have people in earlier, but it's a ghost town before 8:00 or 8:30 and plenty of people don't arrive until 10:00 (or even later) if they don't have pressing matters (see again that face time doesn't seem critical here). In the evenings I leave at 5:30 or 6:00 if I'm not busy and I don't feel bad about it, but it's not like I turn my blackberry off. Nights last until the work gets done... if it's just before closing or an otherwise busy time you and team may be there late into the night and on weekends. It's NYC big law, our clients are the biggest financial institutions in the world, the hours can be absoltuely shitty. I've used our rest/relaxation room and I've billed enough hours in a day that our time system asked me if I was sure I had really worked that many hours in a 24 hour period. But when I'm slow I don't feel the need to appear busy or hunt for work (nice aspect of having practice area coordinators and the like), and vacation is religious (people are strongly encouraged to take all 4 weeks per year, I've done so and I've seen others do so, never heard of it being canned or delayed, even when it required getting last minute coverage for people).

Comparing my lot in life with those at other firms, the stress of the work seems constant, but there's a lot less yelling/nastiness here than I've heard others report, and a lot less politics (we're good at what we do and busy, people aren't in any kind of competition with one another over work or practice areas, at least at the junior associate level). My hours and unpredictability are worse than some people I know in less-intense firms/regions/practices but about par for the course compared to others I know at big-name NYC firms.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Longer winded DPW associate here:

I am in a deal-oriented corporate practice (i.e. M&A/cap markets/credit/SEG, not FIG or IMG). My worst month clocked in around 300 billable hours and hurt a lot. I'm starting to average 190-210 hour months now that I can manage my workload a bit more than when I was new and clueless. When my hours were near their worst, the people in charge of my practice group took notice and helped bring things back to reality, and even partners who stood to make a lot of money from my billing saw my time sheet and refereed to it as "unsustainable." I imagine my 2013 hours will be at least 2,300 and as many as 2,600.

A LOT depends on how busy your group is, which is a combination of staffing level and general economic climate. Q1 capital markets was EXTREMELY busy while M&A was slow for a lot of 2012 Q4 and 2013 Q1.

I've had senior associates tell me to my face "you're an adult, you don't need to wait around for me or ask to go home as long as you get the work done" and I've had senior associates just assume I was around the office at 9pm even when we hadn't been busy that day, so that can be hit or miss. Face time doesn't seem critical here from an office politics point of view, but everyone is plugged in and on-call basically all the time. Part of being in a service industry with incredible stakes - and incredible fees - is that you need to be responsive, and sometimes you need to accomplish tasks that fall squarely on the spectrum between "unreasonable" and "impossible." Are we a nice firm, a good place to work? Sure. But the work itself, and the hours, and the stakes and stress can be brutal. It's a place where the stress is coming from wanting to get the deal done - and done right - and with the best result for the client - on the time table they need - and not from screaming lawyers. But this is the big leagues in NYC with a lot on the line, so don't expect it to be a walk in the park.

Day to day, 9:30 am is around the average start time. Calls or projects sometimes have people in earlier, but it's a ghost town before 8:00 or 8:30 and plenty of people don't arrive until 10:00 (or even later) if they don't have pressing matters (see again that face time doesn't seem critical here). In the evenings I leave at 5:30 or 6:00 if I'm not busy and I don't feel bad about it, but it's not like I turn my blackberry off. Nights last until the work gets done... if it's just before closing or an otherwise busy time you and team may be there late into the night and on weekends. It's NYC big law, our clients are the biggest financial institutions in the world, the hours can be absoltuely shitty. I've used our rest/relaxation room and I've billed enough hours in a day that our time system asked me if I was sure I had really worked that many hours in a 24 hour period. But when I'm slow I don't feel the need to appear busy or hunt for work (nice aspect of having practice area coordinators and the like), and vacation is religious (people are strongly encouraged to take all 4 weeks per year, I've done so and I've seen others do so, never heard of it being canned or delayed, even when it required getting last minute coverage for people).

Comparing my lot in life with those at other firms, the stress of the work seems constant, but there's a lot less yelling/nastiness here than I've heard others report, and a lot less politics (we're good at what we do and busy, people aren't in any kind of competition with one another over work or practice areas, at least at the junior associate level). My hours and unpredictability are worse than some people I know in less-intense firms/regions/practices but about par for the course compared to others I know at big-name NYC firms.


Thank you so much for this.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 31, 2013 11:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Longer winded DPW associate here:

I am in a deal-oriented corporate practice (i.e. M&A/cap markets/credit/SEG, not FIG or IMG). My worst month clocked in around 300 billable hours and hurt a lot. I'm starting to average 190-210 hour months now that I can manage my workload a bit more than when I was new and clueless. When my hours were near their worst, the people in charge of my practice group took notice and helped bring things back to reality, and even partners who stood to make a lot of money from my billing saw my time sheet and refereed to it as "unsustainable." I imagine my 2013 hours will be at least 2,300 and as many as 2,600.

A LOT depends on how busy your group is, which is a combination of staffing level and general economic climate. Q1 capital markets was EXTREMELY busy while M&A was slow for a lot of 2012 Q4 and 2013 Q1.

I've had senior associates tell me to my face "you're an adult, you don't need to wait around for me or ask to go home as long as you get the work done" and I've had senior associates just assume I was around the office at 9pm even when we hadn't been busy that day, so that can be hit or miss. Face time doesn't seem critical here from an office politics point of view, but everyone is plugged in and on-call basically all the time. Part of being in a service industry with incredible stakes - and incredible fees - is that you need to be responsive, and sometimes you need to accomplish tasks that fall squarely on the spectrum between "unreasonable" and "impossible." Are we a nice firm, a good place to work? Sure. But the work itself, and the hours, and the stakes and stress can be brutal. It's a place where the stress is coming from wanting to get the deal done - and done right - and with the best result for the client - on the time table they need - and not from screaming lawyers. But this is the big leagues in NYC with a lot on the line, so don't expect it to be a walk in the park.

Day to day, 9:30 am is around the average start time. Calls or projects sometimes have people in earlier, but it's a ghost town before 8:00 or 8:30 and plenty of people don't arrive until 10:00 (or even later) if they don't have pressing matters (see again that face time doesn't seem critical here). In the evenings I leave at 5:30 or 6:00 if I'm not busy and I don't feel bad about it, but it's not like I turn my blackberry off. Nights last until the work gets done... if it's just before closing or an otherwise busy time you and team may be there late into the night and on weekends. It's NYC big law, our clients are the biggest financial institutions in the world, the hours can be absoltuely shitty. I've used our rest/relaxation room and I've billed enough hours in a day that our time system asked me if I was sure I had really worked that many hours in a 24 hour period. But when I'm slow I don't feel the need to appear busy or hunt for work (nice aspect of having practice area coordinators and the like), and vacation is religious (people are strongly encouraged to take all 4 weeks per year, I've done so and I've seen others do so, never heard of it being canned or delayed, even when it required getting last minute coverage for people).

Comparing my lot in life with those at other firms, the stress of the work seems constant, but there's a lot less yelling/nastiness here than I've heard others report, and a lot less politics (we're good at what we do and busy, people aren't in any kind of competition with one another over work or practice areas, at least at the junior associate level). My hours and unpredictability are worse than some people I know in less-intense firms/regions/practices but about par for the course compared to others I know at big-name NYC firms.


Hijacker here:

I just wanted to thank you for this. This was the single most informative blurb I have come across through the entire OCI process. Perfect information. Thank You.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:59 am

OP here.

Thanks everyone for the insights on DPW...what do people think about the prestige of DPW versus Milbank, Shearman, and White and Case? Candidly, would it be a big enough factor to consider in itself or should I just go with which office I felt the most comfortable in?

Any insights on the hours/intensity at the other firms?

REALLY appreciate all of the help here!

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:26 am

Fellow 2L OCI'er here. I interviewed with 3 of the ones you did. So, some things to consider (which I'm sure you already are):

-DPW is ranked 5 on Vault and a big name. Don't know much else about it, frankly. Their CB wasn't too memorable to me, but they seemed decent, and they have to have good practice areas or they wouldn't be ranked so high.
-Shearman faded, but they seem stable. Think that their name was tarnished (just search shearman posts from a few years ago/ATL/etc.). That said, I liked the people I've met from there. I'd prefer to do Asian work, personally, but I think Shearman is good in LatAm, and they were first in Brazil. I'd say Shearman is an option if the prestige doesn't matter to you personally at all and if you really like what they do.
-Milbank seems like it's growing, especially for project finance which they're great at. And they're huge on Latin America. I've worked abroad, and Milbank is known for projects work, w/o doubt.
-White&Case...didn't see their office so no idea. But they are everywhere in the world. I've heard they have a better reputation abroad than in the states (as opposed to Milbank which seems to be standard across).

What I'm gathering is that it seems you didn't like DPW that much and you DID like the other 3? And you're just wanting someone to confirm that DPW is bad enough or that prestige doesn't matter so you can look harder at the others? Did you hate DPW enough to give up any benefit from the prestige that you would get? MEANING, if someone were to confirm your fears, that yes DPW is so much more prestigious and that yes prestige is really important...would you ever take the DPW offer? If you don't know the question to that, you might need a second look or do a few calls with ppl who have worked there. What's your school -- good number of now-3Ls that you could chat with?

(my 2 cents--don't work for a place you don't like...even if you stay there two years. 2 years of work you hate is a LOT of time)

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:48 am

Shearman's name is definitely not tarnished in Latin America; in fact, aside from Cleary Gottlieb, there is no other firm doing larger or more impressive work in Latin America than Shearman. Shearman's International Arbitration group has done some pretty amazing stuff in Latin America in the past few years. Also, their Project Development and Finance group in the area is second to none (see chambers, they are Band 1.) They have some of the preeminent partners in this field such as Cynthia Urda-Kassis (lat am projects - band 1) Greg Tan and Robert Freedman. I was thoroughly impressed with their work as I have dealt with them from the other side as an associate at another firm also in the area.

But yes, long story short, if you start at DP, you will have a very strong foundation, from which you can jump off into what you really want to do (Lat Am work at a firm that specializes in it) down the road, or you can pick a firm that does that stuff now and jump in right away. Up to you. Both great options though, good luck.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:51 am

Shearman summer here - FWIW, I heard informally that LatAm capital markets was pretty slammed the first half of this year. Don't know much beyond that as I didn't rotate through that group.

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:18 pm

Slammed in a good way as in "busy"? Or slammed as in "hit hard"?

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Re: Davis Polk and weighing U.S. prestige in int'l work

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:54 pm

Slammed as in really busy - the summer who was in that group regularly went home late

From what I understand, Shearman runs most of the LatAm stuff out of the NY office




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