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Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP

Published February 2011

2011 Vault Ranking: 19


Quinn Emanuel is a relative baby compared to the vast majority of long-lived firms in the American legal landscape. Founded in 1986 by John B. Quinn in Los Angeles, California, the firm stands out both for its youth, its headquarters’ location, and most prominently because it is the largest firm in the country dedicated solely to business litigation. Its litigation focus makes it a stark contrast to similarly ranked top firms. Over twenty years the firm grew from 4 to 450 attorneys through selective recruitment of partners from other firms, but without mergers or acquiring entire practice groups.

Though headquartered in Los Angeles with 178 attorneys in that office, Quinn Emanuel also features an equal sized New York Office, two smaller offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and a handful of outposts in Chicago, Tokyo, London, and Mannheim, Germany.

Unlike most litigation firms, Quinn Emanuel is not specifically a plaintiffs’ or defendants’ firm. Though the majority of the firm’s business is defending larger corporations, the firm has a successful track record of representing plaintiffs as well. Beginning in 2006, the firm took affirmative steps in selecting clients that would allow them to stake out a role as a firm that could be adverse to financial institutions. This has allowed the firm to bring large suits on behalf of clients against Bank of America, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Citibank, and others, seeking billions in damages. This also is an emphasis of the firm’s London office, since the vast majority of Magic Circle firms refuse to engage in disputes against major financial institutions.

Throughout the last decade, Quinn Emanuel has shown constant growth, with annual double-digit increases in revenue, reaching as high as 54 percent in 2006. According to American Lawyer, Quinn is second only to Wachtell in profits per partner. Much of this success can be attributed to the firm taking on and winning large cases, many on contingency. In the past seven years, the firm has won four nine-figure jury verdicts, and reached five nine-figure and three ten-figure settlements.

Practice Areas

Quinn Emanuel is a business litigation firm, period. It is the largest firm in the world of its kind, and its attorneys are good at what they do. Attorneys for the firm have tried nearly thirteen hundred cases, winning over ninety percent of the time. Because of its size, Quinn Emanuel can cover almost all aspects of litigation, including intellectual property, securities, employment, antitrust, and white collar defense. If a corporation needs something litigated, Quinn Emanuel can probably do it.

Chambers and Partners ranks the firm as Band 1 for General Commercial litigation, and Band 2 for Intellectual Property and White Collar Crime. Quinn Emanuel ranks #3 in both the Vault General Commercial Litigation and IP Litigation lists, #4 for Class Action, and in the top 15 for White Collar Defense, Appellate Litigation, Bankruptcy, and Securities Litigation.

Summer Program

Quinn is still a young firm by white shoe standards, but as the firm has matured, it has greatly increased the standards for hiring. As it has grown more prestigious, it has become a place where would-be litigators want to be, and the firm has become picky. Unlike many other top firms, Quinn Emanuel relies on hard GPA cut offs in making hiring decisions.

The summer program itself is similar to many other major firms, and is offered at each of the firm’s domestic offices. Summer associates attend monthly training events and participate in a weeklong Summer Mock Trial. Hours varied by office, with those in California being out of the office by 6 PM and having no weekend work, while summer associates in the New York office can expect to work until 8:00 PM and commonly have weekend work. In addition to the standard attorney lunches each week, Quinn Emanuel is known for organizing an “extreme” summer event each year, including hiking trips to Mount St. Helens, Zion National Park, and Interlaken, Switzerland. In 2010, Quinn Emanuel gave offers to all summer associates.

Compensation and Benefits

The firm is one of many paying the $160,000 market rate in New York. However in California it is considered a market leader, as all associates are paid the same regardless of office, while many other national and international firms will pay less in California. Bonuses are based on class year and hours killed, with a minimum of 2,100 hours required to receive the base level bonus, which typically matches the market. Billing between 2,000 and 2,100 hours will achieve a one-half bonus.

New associates receive a $10,000 bar stipend and relocation benefits. The offices feature in-house coffee bars and cafeterias, as well as a casual dress code. Parental leave is granted to both sexes, and associates receive three weeks of vacation a year. However, associates report being uncomfortable using their vacation time, and vacations are included on their monthly hourly reports. Associates billing less than 200 hours a month will have their name added to a “low hours list” that is sent to John Quinn each month.


Quinn Emanuel has a single partnership track with no set timeframe, but associates are generally considered for partnership approximately seven years after law school graduation, provided they have been with the firm for three years. The firm does not have a strong up or out policy, and associates passed over for partnership are allowed to remain for reconsideration the next year. Partnership is still a long shot, as it is with most large firms, but it is an achievable goal. In 2009, the firm made seven partners, more than twice as many as the comparably sized Cravath. In 2007 and 2008, the firm promoted pregnant women to partnership, suggesting the firm doesn’t hold things like having a family against you if you can do the work.


Quinn Emanuel, with its jeans and flip flop allowing dress code and its annual outdoorsy firm wide events may at first glance appear to be laid back and “California cool.” This could not be farther from the truth. It is certainly true that this firm with its Southern California roots is ultra casual and not beholden to common norms that are taken for granted at other top firms. There is no real organized structure to the firm, and no formal review processes for attorneys. Formal training is limited, and case assignments are entirely free market.

However despite all of this, the firm is extremely intense, and expects all attorneys to be ultra-committed to the job. Face time is important, with associates expected to be in the office during normal working hours. Associates are uncomfortable taking vacations, are expected to work most weekends and some holidays, and, in the words of one tipster, “take on pro bono at [their] own risk.” The billable hours expectations are high even for top firms (with the exceptions of places like Wachtell and Cravath).

Ultimately Quinn Emanuel will appeal to a very certain personality. The firm is informal, but intense. They expect associates to work their butts off, but don’t care if you’re wearing sneakers while you do it. It is a sink or swim culture, where you are either cut out for it or you aren’t. If this is what you want, then this is the firm for you. You can be among one of the best collections of pure litigators to be found anywhere. However if you can’t handle the intensity or being considered a slacker for billing less than 200 hours a month, you may wish to look elsewhere.

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