Careers at Patterson Belknap

Patterson Belknap looks for intellectually curious, engaging, collaborative people who desire early responsibility and are highly motivated to solve complex legal problems. We hire new associates directly from judicial clerkships or, on occasion, following law school graduation. 

From Chambers Associate 2017 – 2018, 2018 – 2019, 2020 – 2021 

"Remember Goldilocks and her struggle to find the optimal oatmeal? Well, associates felt that among New York's buffet of scaldingly hot and lukewarm legal gruel, Patterson stood out as their ''Goldilocks firm.' It's 'big enough that it's established, but small enough that people are valued as individuals, not just bodies.' The firm has just one office, which is home to around 200 lawyers, but that's not stopped them from doing 'cutting-edge' work. Patterson has a Chambers USA top-ranked false advertising practice: 'it's not really done by BigLaw firms, so it's a little unusual,' and won another accolade in Chambers USA's latest rankings for its white-collar crime and government investigations work."

“‘Everyone told me to look at Patterson Belknap,’ said one former clerk, now a Patterson associate. Another chimed: ‘I just seemed to know loads of people who all spoke very highly of the firm. They take mentoring very seriously and its size means you're not in danger of falling through the cracks.’”

There's an emphasis on being nice to people and respecting your work and time. We consider ourselves humane when it comes to hours. It's a pretty positive place.”

The Work

“Most juniors head into Patterson's litigation department. The firm's generalist approach to dishing out contentious matters proved attractive to many of our associate sources: ‘After clerking I was used to the wide variety of cases and being able to do all sorts of things. I really wanted to go somewhere I wouldn't be slotted into one specialty straight off the bat.’”

“How do juniors know where to begin? ‘There's a formal structure in place – there are two assigning partners that all matters go through,’ which ensures that all attorneys are ‘well rounded and handling a good balance of cases.’ A source added: ‘The assigning partners are kind of a buffer to help you maintain your sanity and work balance and make sure you get to do the things you want to do.’ ‘One of the other nice things about Patterson is partners are willing to take you to hearings,’ explained one newbie, ‘and even though I'm quite junior, I've had cases where I've been staffed with just one partner.’ Attorneys have plenty of responsibility from the get-go, and should be prepared to take the lead on briefings, motions, independent depositions and legal drafting.”

“Judicial clerking experience stands associates in good stead to jump right into matters. ‘For the most part I've gotten a lot of substantive legal writing, research and drafting’ – such as motions to dismiss – ‘and I'm increasingly participating in client or co-counsel meetings,’ one third-year told us. Many of our sources had second-chaired depositions and we even heard of a few juniors being tasked with leading them: … one source laughed. ‘I've been taken aback – in a good way – about the responsibility I've been given.’”

“In the run up to trial sources had ‘drafted witness outlines and pulled together evidence. I've also read depositions and come up with ways to cross-examine witnesses. I'm not reviewing thousands of documents – my role is much more helping with strategies for pre-trial hearings and the trial.’”

Training & Development

“There's plenty of work for associates to chow down on, but how easy is it to swallow feedback on progress? Reviews occur every six months and ‘give everyone a chance to comment on a wide range of skills. They put names to comments so there are no anonymous pot shots. People are honest too,’ one source appreciated. For entry-level associates (but not laterals), ‘our first ever review is off the record, which is cool,’ another told us. ‘It's not circulated to the partners, so you have an opportunity to make corrections.’”

"Rookies are assigned a formal associate and 'onboarding' partner mentor when they first arrive, but (as Chambers Associate often hears) juniors tend to find mentors organically: 'the people you work with give detailed feedback throughout the year, so when it's time for the annual review nothing comes as a surprise.'"

“A whole buffet of easy digestible training is available from the get-go. A week of orientation covers things like using the IT systems and how to work with paralegals. Then there's a series of one to two hour long CLEs called 'nuts and bolts', which teaches lawyers how to manage a case from beginning to end. Writing and public speaking coaches are on hand to deliver ‘really helpful individual sessions.’ Attorneys also undertake a two-week externship with the City of New York's law department ‘taking depositions for cases against the City of New York.’”

"Co-chair and managing partner Lisa Cleary holds regular one-to-one check-ins with associates, 'which she's religious about.' These aren't just focused on work, either: 'she really takes an interest in how we're adjusting to life at the firm, as well our lives outside work.' One associate told us: 'She came into my office the morning of a hearing and said, 'Go get 'em, you'll be great;' things like that are really encouraging and shows she's tuned in to what's going on.'"

“Juniors are also assigned to an 'Associate Learning Group', consisting of six associates and a partner. Each group plans three social events throughout the year, perhaps to a theater or a high-end restaurant: ‘It's such a valuable opportunity to socialize with the associates outside of the office, as well as get some extra mentorship from the partner.’ Juniors also get informal mentoring with a midlevel associate throughout the year, ‘which is great, as you always have someone you can call for if you need help.’”

Pro Bono

"[Pro Bono] is clearly something Patterson encourages, given every single attorney has done it for sixteen years in a row. 'We're expected to treat it the same as billable work it's really woven into the fabric of the firm.'  Associates had been kept busy with recent changes to federal asylum policy, which reassigned asylum offices in Boston and Newark to the US-Mexican border.

Folks also help local high school students with moot court and mock trail competitions 'to help them break out of their shells, boost their confidence and give advice about college.' Patterson's various partnerships with local legal aid organizations means a good breadth of projects on offer, like helping former prisoners get jobs representing women and clinics in out-of-state abortion cases."

“Attorneys are expected to jump straight into the vast pool of pro bono from the moment they step through the door. Patterson has seen a 100% pro bono participation rate for well over a decade. It also means that ‘you get a lot of contact with the partner, as often it will just be the two of you trying to help this person,’ chimed one junior. ‘It also gives me an opportunity to take a lead role, so it's really rewarding for both of us.’” “The firm recently successfully represented a group of New Jersey Muslims who challenged their town's decision to ban them building a local mosque.”

From Vault Guide to Top 100 Law Firms 2020:

Partners really set the tone that we’re all in it together and we’re all equals. They value what we have to say and respect the work we do, which really struck me.”

I’ve never heard anyone raise their voice even if you make a mistake. We’re treated like attorneys, not just bodies.”

You’re expected to be a generalist here, so it’s similar to a clerkship, you jump on a new case in a new area of law and run with it.”

We’re expected to treat [pro bono] the same as billable work – it’s really woven into the fabric of the firm.”

We don’t have a big drinking culture and there’s a lot of respect for the fact some people don’t drink.”