Susman Godfrey is a challenging and rewarding place to work. The firm is always looking for intelligent, hard working individuals who have the skills and desire to work for one of the finest litigation firms in the country.
Susman Godfrey does not have a required minimum number of hours each lawyer must work. The level of our business sets the workload for each of us, and fortunately our business has been good. Within the firm, there is considerable variation regarding hours. While we value hard work, we always have placed a premium on quality over quantity.
In addition to billable time, all attorneys are asked to perform non-billable services for the firm. The firm meets weekly to discuss issues important to our practice, and all attorneys are encouraged to attend and participate. The firm is managed in part through a series of committees, and all lawyers are expected to participate on one or more of these committees. The firm also encourages all attorneys to attend in-house and outside seminars and training programs at the firm's expense.
At a time when some law firms are creating apprenticeship tracks -- offering new associates sharply reduced salaries in exchange for on-the-job-training -- and law school enrollment numbers are plummeting, Susman Godfrey is taking the opposite tack -- and with impressive results.
Unlike apprenticeship law firms, Susman Godfrey encourages its new associates to handle significant cases and trial work right from the start on its bet-the-company cases. Recruiting from the cream of the crop -- Susman Godfrey only hires lawyers who have clerked for federal judges -- the firm expects new attorneys to hone their skills not by “shadowing” partners, but by trying cases in front of a jury.
"In the first year our associates get more experience taking depositions, arguing motions and actually putting witnesses on at trials than lawyers typically get in the first 10 years at other law firms,” says Stephen Susman the firm’s founder. “The reason for this is that we leverage results, not efforts, for we staff cases very leanly and try to assign to the youngest lawyers the biggest tasks they are capable of handling.” Click here to read Stephen Susman's article on how we give new associates significant responsibility early on and as a result achieve better results for our clients.
Susman Godfrey’s firm structure also gives new associates an equal vote on accepting new cases, hiring and other important firm matters. The newest associate has the same vote as the managing partners.
That vote of confidence in new associates pays off. In the past year alone, new Susman Godfrey attorneys have argued and won summary judgments in state court, argued motions in federal court, and second-chaired an arbitration victory against opposing counsel’s veteran partners. Other associates just a few years out of law school have played key roles in such cases as Susman Godfrey’s historic $1.6 billion settlement in the Toyota unintended acceleration case.
Like new lawyers at most firms, new lawyers at Susman Godfrey learn by doing. Nonetheless, we try to approach the training of new lawyers, and the continuing education of all lawyers, in an organized manner. Subject to the approval of the Training Committee, a lawyer at the firm may attend seminars about areas of the law in which he or she is interested, at the firm's expense. In addition, the firm periodically conducts in-house seminars on litigation practice. These are conducted by lawyers at the firm and cover topics such as the drafting of pleadings, discovery requests, and motions; motion practice in state and federal courts; preparing for, conducting, and defending depositions; examining and cross-examining witnesses in court; and arguments to the court and the jury. We also encourage new lawyers to attend a mock trial advocacy program run by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. These programs typically cover ten days and are intensive trial advocacy programs. The firm also has an orientation and training program specifically geared for new attorneys at the firm.
During a new lawyer's first three months at the firm, a substantial portion of his or her time will be set aside for observation of the firm's practice, including meetings with clients, depositions, hearings and trials. Three of the firm's attorneys, at varying levels of seniority, will be assigned to each new lawyer to manage training during this orientation period, and to provide specific opportunities for observation and discussion. Assignments on billable projects will be limited during the three-month orientation period in order to permit participation in the observation and training program.
Incoming Associate Compensation
Susman Godfrey typically compensates our associates at or above the market in the cities in which we practice—Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York. Effective January 1, 2014, Susman Godfrey’s starting salary is $175,000 in all offices.
Susman Godfrey requires that all incoming associates complete a federal judicial clerkship for a district or appellate judge before joining the firm. As discussed in the “Policies” section, all federal clerks receive a clerkship bonus of at least $50,000. Effective January 1, 2014, Susman Godfrey’s salary for first year associates—those who join the firm after a one-year clerkship directly out of law school—is $175,000, which extends through the next calendar year for that associate. In addition, Susman Godfrey associates starting in the Fall are eligible for an additional bonus in December of that year at the firm’s discretion.
Many of our associates clerk for multiple years before joining Susman Godfrey, either with multiple federal judges or in a two-year clerkship for the same federal judge. As discussed in the “Policies” section and effective January 1, 2014, associates joining the firm after clerking for two or more years at the federal district or appellate level receive an additional $10,000 clerkship bonus, resulting in a total clerkship bonus of $60,000. All associates receive salary credit based on their graduation year from law school.
In addition, Susman Godfrey pays for its incoming associates’ bar exam fees (including preparation courses), bar membership fees, and reasonable moving expenses.
Susman Godfrey also pays year-end merit bonuses to associates. Merit bonuses take into account each associate's work and results, as well as the firm's overall success that year and are usually generous. Our merit bonuses have historically accounted for 20% to 60% of an associate's annual compensation and are far in excess of bonuses paid by our competitors.
Read recent coverage regarding year-end 2011 bonuses here.
Associates' merit bonuses for the past five years are as follows:
34,000 - 59,500
32,000 - 80,000
45,000 - 115,000
40,000 - 110,000
37,000 - 89,250
Additional Compensation and Benefits
In addition to salary and bonuses, Susman Godfrey provides other significant compensation and benefits to associates. The firm encourages associates to participate in its 401(k) program, matches contributions made by its associates, and makes a substantial profit-sharing contribution into every associate’s 401(k) account annually.
Exemplifying Susman Godfrey’s entrepreneurial focus and culture, all associates have their own individual business development budget. The business development budget is intended for the firm’s associates to create and maintain the network of professional contacts and relationships that will help them generate business as they progress in their professional careers.
In addition, the firm pays for associates' life, accidental death, and dismemberment insurance; long-term disability and major medical insurance; garage parking; bar membership fees; and membership fees in professional organizations. The firm also provides up to 16 weeks of paid pregnancy leave for associates and up to 4 weeks paid parental leave for associates.
Federal Judicial Clerkships:
All incoming associates are required to complete a clerkship for a federal district or appellate judge before joining Susman Godfrey. Associates who join our firm after clerking for one year receive a $50,000 clerkship bonus (of which $5,000 can be taken as an advance). Effective January 1, 2014, associates who join our firm after clerking for two or more years at the federal district or appellate level receive an additional $10,000 clerkship bonus, for a total clerkship bonus of $60,000 (of which $10,000 can be taken as an advance). All incoming associates receive credit toward salary based on their graduation year from law school and credit for partnership eligibility as described below. United States Supreme Court clerks receive additional credit toward salary and partnership eligibility and a bonus which historically has matched market rates.
We strongly believe the federal clerkship experience is an excellent way to begin a career in litigation. We routinely interview and hire judicial clerks who have not participated in our summer associate program.
To be competitive for an associate position at Susman Godfrey candidates must display outstanding academic achievement, be a member of the law review or journal at their law school, and show the desire and ability to become a successful trial lawyer. We regularly interview second- and third-year law students on-campus at many of the top law schools. We also welcome resumes from top students at law schools where we do not conduct on-campus interviews as well as current federal judicial clerks.
The firm accepts pro bono matters that are approved by the firm's attorneys. In the past we have handled a number of substantial pro bono cases. Time spent on pro bono matters is counted as billable time.
Associates at Susman Godfrey generally become partners much earlier than associates at large firms in Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles or New York. The firm does not adhere to a rigid "class" system. That is, attorneys from the same law school class will not necessarily be treated alike in terms of compensation or advancement in the firm. We strive for a merit-based system.
We do not adhere to any arbitrary quota for the number of associates who ultimately will become partners. Each associate is evaluated on his or her own performance. The most important criterion used in deciding to make an associate a partner is the associate's ability to handle cases effectively and independently. Other important criteria are the associate's dedication to the firm's practice as reflected by the associate's quality of work, amount of time spent working, long-run potential for generating new business for the firm, facility for leadership, and ability to work with and supervise other attorneys.
Generally, we consider associates for partnership after completing six years with the firm.
Susman Godfrey is committed to diversity among our lawyers. We believe this commitment is important to maintaining our position as a premier litigation firm, enriching the experience of our lawyers, and achieving the best results for our clients. Susman Godfrey seeks to attract the brightest minds in the country to work here, drawing from a broad range of talent. The firm strongly encourages women and members of minority and other underrepresented groups to apply. Susman Godfrey does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, disability, or sexual orientation.
Susman Godfrey sponsors a two-week minority and women fellowship for 1L students. We encourage women, minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone from a group that is underrepresented in today’s legal profession to apply. Each recipient will spend two weeks doing substantive legal work with us and getting exposure to our trial practice and will receive $5,000 upon the completion of the program.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Susman Godfrey's Diversity Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"As the first lawyer in my family, I entered the legal profession without connections and without an ability to play golf. I wanted to join a ‘tier one' firm that rewarded merit not an ability to politic and a firm that would let me run as fast as I could run. Susman Godfrey is a meritocracy and that has served me well. I have achieved my goals here, and I have achieved them quickly. I am where I want to be, working at the highest level with the high performing lawyers, paralegals, secretaries and support staff that excel in this merit-based system." — Erica Harris, Partner
"Susman Godfrey truly is an outstanding place to practice law. From the moment I joined the firm, I became a member of leanly staffed trial teams that prized efficacy over hours. In my first year alone, I wrote (and then argued) substantive motions in federal court, took and defended depositions all over the country, and strategized alongside the partners on my cases on how to obtain the best results for our clients. But most satisfying of all, I have the opportunity to come to work every day on interesting cases with some of the most talented and considerate attorneys in the country." — Frances Lewis, Associate
"From the moment I started at Susman Godfrey, my experiences have been incomparable. I argued in court in my first week, deposed witnesses in my first month, and tried my first case a few months later. My cases have taken me from rural Texas to Europe and everywhere in between. My practice has been extremely diverse, including energy, contract, defamation, patent, bankruptcy, securities, class actions, corporate mergers, and real estate disputes. Through it all, I've had the privilege to work alongside the most talented and dedicated trial lawyers in the country. There's simply no other law firm providing young lawyers the same opportunity for meaningful experience in the highest caliber lawsuits." — David Peterson,Partner
"I came to Susman Godfrey to get in the trenches and polish my litigation skills. I've been validated-in less than one month. The clearest example is that I argued a motion to dismiss in federal court in a multimillion dollar dispute. My opponent was a corner-office partner from a prestigious law firm. I'm sure that the associates in my class at the opposing law firm had researched and written the motion, just like I did. But the difference about working at Susman Godfrey is that I got to argue it, too. Susman Godfrey is a place where young associates take depositions, argue motions in court, and get standup time at trial. Here, that's the rule, not the rare exception." — Mani Walia, Associate
Susman Godfrey offers a four-week summer program to second-year and pre-clerkship third-year law students. As a summer associate, you will gain meaningful experience working for the firm’s clients under the supervision and guidance of Susman Godfrey attorneys. Our summer program is designed to give you a realistic look at what it is like to be a full-time associate at Susman Godfrey. Unlike many other law firms, our summer associates do not receive make-work or “practice assignments.” Instead, you will play an important role as a member of our trial teams as we work on our cases and prepare for trial. Our summer associates receive the exact same type of challenging legal work as our full-time associates. For example, if you are assigned a legal research project, you will also be tasked with incorporating your research into the final brief or argument. You will also receive advocacy-related experience, such as assisting our attorneys to prepare an oral argument or creating a line of questions for a deposition. We also strive to make sure that our summer associates have the chance watch Susman Godfrey lawyers in action at trials, depositions, mediations, client meetings, and other business activities. But it’s not just work: you will also have the opportunity to get to know our attorneys and to explore our home cities through a wide range of social events.
If you are a summer associate in a Susman Godfrey office other than Houston, you will spend 2 to 3 days in our Houston office. As a result, you will meet more attorneys in our largest office and learn more about the Susman Godfrey culture.
As a summer associate, you will receive a brief glimpse at the challenges, excitement, and unparalleled opportunities our full-time associates experience on a daily basis.
2014 1-L Summer Women and Minority Trial Lawyer Fellowship
Seeking diverse students in each of our five offices: Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York for a two-week fellowship. We are seeking students who performed extremely well in their first semester of law school, demonstrated excellence in their academic credentials and are interested in learning firsthand about trial work at one of the nation’s preeminent litigation boutiques. We encourage women, minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone from a group that is underrepresented in today’s legal profession to apply.
Each recipient will spend two weeks doing substantive legal work with us and getting exposure to our trial practice and will receive $5,000 upon the completion of the program.
How to apply: Please submit your application by February 28, 2014. We encourage you to submit your application as early as possible as we will be making offers on a rolling basis.
Applications must include: A cover letter indicating the Susman Godfrey LLP office in which you want to work;A current resume;A law school transcript containing first semester grades and your undergraduate transcript;The name, phone number, and email address of at least two references. One of your references should be a law school professor who can comment on the quality of your work;A 500-word or less statement on how to increase diversity in the legal profession.
Please submit your application to:
Susman Godfrey L.L.P.
1000 Louisiana, Suite 5100
Houston, Texas 77002