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Jones Day

Published April 2011

2011 Vault Ranking: 18

Overview

Jones Day follows the mantra that bigger is better. The firm has over 2,500 attorneys around the world in thirty two offices on four continents, making it one of the three largest law firms in the country, and among the largest in the world. Its annual gross revenue of $1.4 billion makes it the eighth highest grossing firm in the world. Despite its size, the firm has emphasized a single firm-wide branding, even adopting the slogan, “One firm worldwide.”

The massive firm dates back to 1893, first opening its doors in Cleveland, Ohio, representing regional manufacturers and transportation companies. In 1946, the firm opened its first office outside of Ohio, and began a systematic expansion policy that would continue into the twenty first century. Jones Day’s history includes numerous acquisitions and mergers that bolstered the frantic growth, including firms of significant size based in such cities as Washington D.C., Dallas, and London.

Jones Day is ranked as the eighth best firm in Chicago by Vault. However it is outside of the Second City that the firm shows its prominence, ranking number one in the Midwest Region ranking. The firm is now a global enterprise, but its history as a Rust Belt and Middle America institution still guides the firm today. It has often found itself on the side of manufacturers and business interests. Most famously, the firm successfully challenged the expansion of executive power under President Truman in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, and even today continues to defend long time client Sherwin-Williams against lead paint cases.

Though Jones Day does not have the high profit per partner that many higher ranked firms boast, despite its large size it has weathered the recent economic woes very well. Gross revenue in 2008 was steady, and the firm opened new offices in Mexico City and Dubai in 2009. The firm has not apparently reduced associate salaries or deferred any incoming associates.

Practice Areas

Jones day is massive, and it comes as no surprise that it manages to cover a very wide range of practice areas. Though individual offices have general strengths and weaknesses, the firm as a whole can handle almost anything a client requires of them. However the firm’s best known practice areas are its Antitrust, Bankruptcy, and Appellate Litigation groups.

Despite its size, the firm is able to maintain a relatively high level of quality in a number of areas, and has Vault practice area rankings to match. It is ranked in the top ten for Antitrust/Antitrust Litigation Bankruptcy, Class Actions, and Labor. It also has top twenty ranks in Appellate Litigation, Intellectual Property, Mergers & Acquisitions, General Commercial Litigation, General Corporate Practice, Securities Litigation, IP Litigation, and Private Equity.

Nationally, Jones Day has Band 1 or 2 rankings by Chambers and Partners in Antitrust, Appellate Law, Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property, Outsourcing, Mass Torts, and Retail. Given the extensive reach of the firm, Jones Day has Band 1 or 2 rankings in other areas, depending on the local office, such as Corporate/M&A , General Commercial Litigation, and more.

Summer Program

Getting hired at Jones Day is not as academically demanding as many of their peer firms. Simple numbers explain why this is so. The sheer size of the firm and number of summer associates in past summers, nearly two hundred, means the firm can’t be as picky as other Vault 25 firms. As such, the firm is willing to look at students who have performed well at lower ranked schools, outside of the top ten, as long as they are mature, confident, and collegial. However the selectivity is expected to increase in the future as the firm reduces recruiting classes.

All fourteen domestic Jones Day offices have ten week summer programs. But like any large firm with numerous offices, the experience differs wildly in many ways, particularly in terms of relationships with attorneys. Summers are expected to complete between eleven and fifteen assignments over the summer. Work is assigned by a coordinator based on the interests of the summer associates, and there is no required practice rotation. Summers can expect to bill around six hours a day.

Budgets for attorney lunches vary by offices but they are unlimited firm wide. Social events vary by office, but generally occur once or twice a week and include happy hours and baseball games, as well as charity functions. The firm hosts two summer associate retreats: one in Washington, D.C. for everyone not in California and one in San Francisco for all California summer associates.

Though the firm has not deferred any incoming associates, the extremely large summer class of 2009 felt the economic sting the most, with only 77% of the 190 strong summer class receiving permanent offers. The 2010 summer class was close to half the size of the preceding one.

Compensation and Benefits

If asked to name one thing that differentiates Jones Day from its peers, nearly everyone would point to its compensation system. Unlike almost every firm above and below it, the firm has made no pretense of even attempting to follow a lockstep system, instead using an individualized and, in theory, merit-based approach. Associates still start at $160,000 or $145,000 as a first year depending on location. But after that, salaries are based on such factors as hours billed, quality of work, pro bono, business development, and overall contribution to the firm. The firm also dispenses with the concept of annual bonuses, instead adjusting salaries over the course of the year.

The approach has mixed reviews. Some associates complain that the system is a black box where compensation is not obviously correlated to any observable facts. The firm is proud of their system, claiming it ensures fairness and rewards associates the same way it compensates partners, providing a share of the firm’s earnings as deserved. A surprising number of Jones Day associates feel the same, noting that the system allows for above market salaries if an individual or practice group is performing well. Further, because it is all completely confidential, there is an argument that it promotes collegiality because no one is fretting over whether an underperformer or overachiever is being unjustly rewarded or wasting effort. Regardless of individual opinions of the system, the fact remains that Jones Day has surprisingly high retention rates. Either people are happy with the system, or it just isn’t that big a deal.

Jones Day associates are expected to bill 2,000 hours per year. Because of the individualized compensation, very high or low billables will be rewarded accordingly. However there are no other real consequences for underperforming as long as it isn’t because other attorneys are avoiding working with you. There is minimal pressure to bill excessive numbers of hours, but a high performer should be above 2,100.

Face time works in a similar fashion. It varies by partner and office, but generally while there is no policy enforcing face time, those who are around more are perceived as having more interest in the work. This can translate into better assignments and favorable opinions. The firm offers four weeks of vacation each year, but few make use of all of it.

The firm offers other standard benefits such as on-site cafeterias in the larger offices, regular social gatherings, and backup childcare. The firm also holds annual firm-wide retreats.

Partnership

Like many things at Jones Day, the partnership track has both positive and negative aspects. It is a single track with nine and a half years until eligibility. Between 2008 and 2009, the firm added nearly eighty new partners, even while adding a significant number of lateral partners in addition to this number. The partnership track is slightly longer than at other firms, but the vast majority of the firm’s associates believe partnership is an achievable goal. One major downside however is there is little feedback during the time leading up to partnership consideration. Associates would be well advised to seek out a mentor who can give them advice on positioning themselves.

Culture

Jones Day, despite its global reach, is still at heart a Midwestern firm with classical Midwestern ethics. The firm isn’t flashy and doesn’t try to be. It will never portray itself with the flashiness of a top Wall Street firm or the frattiness of a Latham. They are for the most part happy just to let their work speak for itself. The firm does its best to be accommodating to all cultures. While there are numerous firm sponsored chances to socialize, associates are not pressured to participate.

Jones Day stands apart from many other top firms in many ways. Its compensation system makes some law students and would-be laterals wary. Its large size combined with relatively low profit per partner can make it appear to be a lower quality firm, or be perceived as less prestigious in the eyes of others who are constantly striving for the top. Regardless of the concerns of outsiders, the vast majority of the legion of Jones Day attorneys are just fine with the way things are.







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