Overview

Introduction

A corporate law giant and securities litigation all-star, Davis Polk is among the most elite law firms. The firm is synonymous with professionalism and is home to lawyers with strong work ethics who are committed to supporting and mentoring each other. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP boasts one of the nation’s best and most comprehensive corporate departments, with impressive teams in capital markets, M&A, finance, restructuring, and tax. Its lauded litigation practice includes top-notch antitrust, civil litigation, inte...

Firm Stats


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Total No. Attorneys (2021)


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No. of Partners Named (2021)


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Featured Rankings

Vault Law 100...


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No. of Summer Associates (2021)



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Base Salary

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No. of U.S. Offices

Vault Verdict

Stellar grades are a must for a heavy weight like Davis Polk. The firm recruits from a variety of law schools, and interview questions cover everything from past work experience to practice area interest to substantive areas of law. Lawyers at Davis Polk work hard, but they still have time to socialize with each other (even virtually during the pandemic), though there is no pressure to do so. The firm has a culture of respect, which starts with the partners, who are generous with their mentorship and constructive feedback. Associates are pleased with the firm’s progress when it comes to transparency and appreciate the regular town halls—although some wish there was more information on making partner. When it comes to compensation, associates describe the firm as a “market leader” ...

About the Firm

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP boasts one of the nation’s best and most comprehensive corporate departments, with impressive teams in capital markets, M&A, finance, restructuring, and tax. Its lauded litigation practice includes top-notch antitrust, civil litigation, intellectual property, and white collar criminal defense practices.

Historical Connections

Davis Polk was founded by Francis Bangs in 1849, making it one of the oldest law firms in the United States. Bangs’ successor, Francis Stetson, was quick to recognize the growing importance of corporate work. In 1887, banker and industrialist John Pierpont Morgan selected Stetson for his chief counsel—the firm helped Morgan restructure the Pennsylvania Railroad and create General Electric. Morgan’s businesses, in their mod...

Associate Reviews


  • “Collegial and professional—after-hours socialization is available, but certainly attorneys are never pressured to attend, and the firm is respectful of people's social/family demands outside of the office.”
  • “Davis Polk overall has a very ‘nice’ and caring culture. People I work with are understanding and respect personal engagements to the extent that the work is not necessary or urgent. There are plenty of social events, both firmwide and within the Restructuring group that I am in. During the pandemic, there have been various events (chocolate tasting, cocktail making, Lawyering 301 for third-year associates) and Restructuring group events (dinner with women partners, celebrations of various ethnic festivals, monthly restructuring group lunches). People generally work very hard, have high standards, and are very polite and nice.”
  • “Extremely polite. Everyone is generous with their time in explaining concepts to new associates.”
  • “Davis Polk's culture is simple: Treat everyone you interact with—support staff, clients, attorneys—with the highest levels of respect and professionalism. When we're in the office, partners will occasionally invite associates for drinks or dinner. Case milestones are often celebrated with a team dinner, and in the virtual world, these milestones are celebrated with videoconferences. Associates are busy, but when we have free time, we do socialize. I generally have some type of reunion (virtual happy hours these days) with friends I made on old cases every other month.”
  • “Our leadership has made great and intentional strides at transparency with the associates over the past few years. Neil Barr's virtual town halls during the pandemic have been a big help, and we now receive practice-level breakdowns of group financial affairs.”
  • “I have had good experiences with all of the partners that I have worked with. I think transparency in terms of internal promotion could be improved, as it is difficult to know where you stand compared to other associates if you would like to stay at the firm longer term. Performance reviews are annual and are typically followed-up by a meeting with your formal firm mentor. These meetings can be useful but if would be nice to be able to get a summary sheet of the reviews (anonymized) for future reference.”
  • “Partners are extremely interested in mentoring associates. This occurs in both formal mentoring roles, but also in more organic relationships. There is a good amount of positive constructive feedback, which helps associates to better understand expectations and develop stronger skill sets.”
  • “Every partner that I have interacted with has treated me with the utmost respect and encourages me to be an active participant in discussions, despite being a junior-ish associate. The partners are very respectful of your personal time and encourage you to take breaks from work, even when busy.”
  • “Hours have been extremely high during COVID. The lack of firm billable-hour requirement is a godsend, as when I do get some downtime, I do not feel any pressure to look for more work. The centralized staffing system is also much appreciated, and I know that in [my] group they do a fantastic job of parsing [out] the work and redistributing work if necessary.”
  • “The volume of work has exploded over the last year. Work is evenly distributed; there's just a ton of it.”
  • “Although lawyers work very hard at the firm, I have felt that the work is evenly distributed. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the firm has been very flexible in where and when we perform the work—as long as the work is getting done at the high level of quality that is expected of us and of our firm, I have felt like I have a fair amount of autonomy in that respect.”
  • “Although we do not have an explicit billable-hour requirement, the busyness of the firm has meant that we typically continue to receive work requests even when we are at capacity, which we may have limited flexibility to turn down.”
  • “Market leader. What more to say?”
  • “The firm has been generous particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began, by introducing a fall and now a spring bonus, in addition to our year-end bonus. The firm has been incredibly busy and profitable, so it was great to see that get passed down to the associates.”
  • “Davis Polk has shown these last 12 months that it is a compensation leader. Not only has it come over the top of other firms by shattering their previously ‘established’ bonus scale, but they also offered ‘spring gifts,’ with options ranging from $1,000 Marriott gift card, $1,000 Nordstrom gift card, home theater system, etc.”
  • “Compensation is at top of market, and—especially since the COVID pandemic began—the firm is leading the market with special bonuses and other significant perks and financial incentives. Given that the firm does not have minimum billable-hour requirements, all associates can definitively rely on receiving our full salary and bonus each year.”
  • “My billable work assignments are primarily a mix of document review, legal research, drafting memoranda, and cite-checking. I have also drafted court filings and sections in client reports and briefs for business development and pro bono projects. The work has felt appropriate and useful, and an associate or partner generally contextualizes the work that I am doing within the matter.”
  • “As a law clerk, I'm usually charged with circle ups, distributions of latest drafts in deals, follow up and tracking, light drafting (initial versions, reflecting multiple comments), setting up DD calls, etc.”
  • “I spend a good portion of my time on substantive writing assignments (e.g., brief writing, hearing talking points, declarations), strategy discussions, and review of research work product from more-junior associates.”
  • “The work I am doing is very substantive and engaging, as Davis Polk gets some of the most interesting deals in the market. At my level I am pushing the deals forward most of the time and coordinating to get the work done with a fair amount of autonomy. In general, people are busy and they trust you to take the lead on deals and perform without micromanaging you. However, everyone is copied on communications and counsel/partners are ready to step in and provide guidance when needed and to discuss tricky issues.”
  • “I feel that Davis Polk is very generous with its technology budget—not only are we given a computer and phone (and/or phone stipend) automatically, but we also get a $1,000 technology budget, renewable ever two years. We also got two supplemental COVID-19 technology stipends of $300 each time (so $600 total) to replace or upgrade hardware for our remote work.”
  • “The firm has provided technology budgets during the pandemic which have helped us stay connected. I do think the computer hardware can be improved and an increase in the budget would be helpful.”
  • “DPW provides a generous technology stipend. They also shipped us free monitors and keyboards at the start of work from home to ease remote working.”
  • “The firm can be a bit slow in adopting some technology until the security concerns are addressed, but it does continually explore new technology and the transition to remote work was very smooth.”
  • “Firm provides several wellness-focused programs including yoga, eating recommendations, and financial wellness services. We also have an onsite healthcare clinic. During the pandemic the firm has liberalized the existing stipend for gym memberships to be applied to online or in-person classes and home fitness equipment.”
  • “There are many wellness programs/initiatives available. The problem is finding the time to actual utilize them.”
  • “Davis Polk is mindful about attorney wellness. One big perk, though not during the pandemic, is that the firm has a health center staffed with a nurse practitioner in the office, which makes getting primary care super easy.”
  • “DPW makes a very good effort. But I don't think all the programs really help much. It would be more effective to have more time for self-care.”
  • “Each corporate group gives you an associate mentor as you rotate through, and I found that my partner mentor from the summer has been accessible and willing to answer questions. The firm also has large-scale Lawyering 101, 301 and 501 training sessions for first, third and fifth years respectively, which cover topics specific to those years. I will say that some corporate groups do internal, group-specific trainings better than others, and that could and should become more consistent.”
  • “[The] firm focuses on training by doing. Plenty of formal training programs offered but there are few mandatory programs that would create a shared language among participants. Several formal mentoring programs exist as well as ad hoc mentoring, which has taken on increased importance during the pandemic.”
  • “Many CLE opportunities. Depth of formal training could be improved.”
  • “We have weekly 30-minute coffee breaks to discuss various topics related to professional activities, for which CLE credit is often provided. We also have monthly department meetings to discuss notable cases and developments in the law, along with regular training opportunities. Informally, partners and senior associates often meet with more-junior attorneys to express investment in their careers and offer guidance with respect to how they may continue to develop.”
  • “This firm opens doors down the road that very few other firms can. The reputation and prestige bump on the resume is real, and exit opportunities are in abundance for associates. Counsel track is an option for many. Some have been counsel for years, presumably without a desire to take on the responsibilities of partnership.”
  • “On the career path within the firm, it can be opaque and dependent on whether there are openings for more partners or counsel. That said, exit opportunities are very high quality.”
  • “Davis Polk is doing extremely well, and this results in opportunities for associates.”
  • “I do not feel any limits on my career including opportunities to remain at the firm and be considered for promotion or to leave for roles within the government or private sector. The partnership process is not transparent but the firm has indicated a commitment to providing more transparency on this.”
  • “There is no minimum billable-hours requirement, and pro bono work is strongly encouraged. The firm recently hired a racial justice pro bono attorney to expand the firm's pro bono work with a focus on racial justice.”
  • “One of my primary reasons for coming to Davis Polk was the firm's commitment to pro bono work, and I was not disappointed. Because we don't have a billable hour requirement, we aren't penalized by taking on pro bono work over ‘billable’ work in terms of getting any bonuses. We have a dedicated pro bono department, including a Special Counsel for Pro Bono, two full-time pro bono attorneys, and a bunch of pro bono coordinators and administrative staff. I personally work on a lot of immigration and asylum matters and have always felt supported and encouraged by the firm in those efforts.”
  • “There are a TON of pro bono opportunities, which I have really enjoyed. … I teach a mock trial class to 8th graders weekly, help with an asylum case, and help with a family law case. I really enjoy being able to participate in these opportunities.”
  • “In my experience, pro bono work is valued as highly as billable work and is taken very seriously. The firm has provided trainings specific to certain pro bono work. I have been able to get a lot of experience--interacting directly with clients, drafting briefs and other court materials, helping an associate prepare for oral argument, etc.--through a diverse set of pro bono projects.”
  • “Davis Polk has consistently emphasized its commitment to promoting diversity along gender, race, sexuality, and ability dimensions. Accordingly, the firm has affinity groups meant to foster and increase diversity and presents itself as a firm where all attorneys are welcome to practice law. In light of the events of the summer of 2020, the firm has taken on a great number of racial justice initiatives and has hired a new pro bono coordinator who exclusively focuses on such initiatives at the firm. …”
  • “I think the firm is actively trying to improve its diversity. From the little I know, they seem to be doing a good job, especially with respect to women and LGBTQ+. There are diversity groups that do great programming.”
  • “I think the firm is very receptive to diversity, has made significant strides in gender diversity, and that it continues to experience challenges retaining diverse associates.”
  • “The firm clearly takes D&I initiatives seriously, but it will take time to fully assess their effectiveness.”

Why Work Here


Davis Polk provides the experience and environment that help you develop into an exceptional lawyer, no matter where your career takes you. From your first day, you’ll be involved in complex and meaningful matters, working side by side with some of the best lawyers in the world.

Who We Are

Davis Polk is one of the world’s most admired firms, with top-tier clients and an enviable reputation.

We are proud of our collaborative, close-knit culture. You’ll receive mentoring and training to develop your skills in an atmosphere of respect and support. This is a place of remarkable, accomplished people who work together seamlessly to achieve the best results for our clients.

The Firm’s approximately 1,000 lawyers are spread across our offices in New York, Northern California, Washington DC, São Paulo, London, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. Our presence in major financial centers around the world allows us to connect with our international client base on matters spanning borders, languages, cultures and jurisdictions

Diversity at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

"Davis Polk is deeply committed to promoting diversity and inclusion at our firm and in the legal profession. Our culture of inclusiveness and respect is integral to our values and inherent in how we relate to our clients and each other. We believe that the diverse perspectives of our lawyers enhance our ability to provide creative solutions tailored to our clients' most challenging business needs. We understand the urgency of improving diversity and inclusion in the legal industry as a whole and within our firm, and are focused..."

Getting Hired Here


  • “In terms of guidance given to associates who participate in the interview process, the firm emphasizes academic achievement, diversity, work ethic and character (i.e., good human beings who will advance the firm's positive culture and work environment), among other important factors. Although the typical first-year class has a high concentration of associates from the top law schools, those who achieve significant academic and personal success at lower-ranked law schools have significant opportunities to be hired during the recruiting process. …”
  • “The firm prioritizes (i) academic excellence and (ii) integrity and demeanor that fits with the firm culture. The firm does not seek to fill its offices with aggressive, self-centered individuals—they look to find smart people that can contribute to a team in a professional and respectful way.”
  • “Like all firms in its class, Davis Polk definitely considers grades, extracurriculars, law school rank, etc., but I also think they stress the importance of fitting into the culture quite a bit.”
  • “Interview questions typically ask candidates to describe their previous work experiences, favorite courses/clubs/activities in law school, and their particular areas of interest in the law.“
  • “The questions asked vary by interviewers, but a few common questions are the following: Can you describe your past summer experience—what did you work on, what did you find interesting or challenging about it, what type of legal analyses did you engage in? Why did you go to law school—what if anything surprised you about it, what are your career goals?”
  • “I always ask for someone to discuss a substantive legal issue they worked on.”
  • “There are not standard questions. There is general training for interviews, but ultimately every attorney has a unique style.”
  • “Amazing structured lateral integration process. The firm has dedicated resources to ensuring associates are versed in the tools they need to do well here. The firm also does not shy away from ramping up the workload quickly, which is part of what makes it so easy to learn and get up to speed so quickly.”
  • “The onboarding process was truly impressive especially given the need for it to be entirely remote. I do not feel like I missed out on in-person onboarding as there are consistently events attended by many in my group and I have had the pleasure of meeting most of the attorneys from my group through these various events and Zoom meet ups.”

Practice Area Q&A’s


Daniel Brass

Partner

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Dana Seshens

Partner

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Vanessa Jackson

Partner—Corporate Department, Finance Group

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Deanna Kirkpatrick

Partner

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
John Amorosi

Partner

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Perks & Benefits