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Overview

Introduction

From its single New York office, Patterson Belknap is a heavy hitter across a full spectrum of litigation and corporate services. The firm is also vigorously devoted to pro bono, with an impressive resume of various matters and a long-standing 100% attorney participation rate in the program. To highlight one example, the firm received Benchmark Litigation’s 2021 “Pro Bono Firm of the Year” award for its work representing a union of Department of Homeland Security officers who...

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

Best Law Firms for Pro Bono...


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No. of 1st Year Associates Hired (2020)



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Base Salary

All offices...


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No. of U.S. Offices

Vault Verdict

Personality fit is key to landing a spot at Patterson Belknap, and if you’re pursuing litigation, a clerkship is key. In addition to sophisticated work, the firm’s culture is clearly a high point—while attorneys prioritize personal and family time, the work-day atmosphere is social, collegial, and warm. Partners treat associates as equals and are invested in their career development. The firm is transparent with respect to big-picture information, although associates wish for more clarity into certain aspects, such as promotion prospects. The billable-hours requirement is 1,850 hours plus 250 for other tasks—like pro bono and admin work—and associates feel it’s reasonable. It also doesn’t hurt that if they don’t hit their hours, they can still earn 50% of their bonus. Because of t...

About the Firm

With around 200 attorneys working out of its single outpost in Manhattan, Patterson Belknap may seem like a modest operation relative to New York’s megafirms, but the firm holds its own. Handling litigation and corporate matters on behalf of clients from such disparate fields as media, financial services, banking, private equity and life sciences, the firm also represents nonprofits and foundations on a wide range of matters. 

A Distinguished Career

Patterson Belknap was founded in New York City in 1919. Leading name partner Robert P. Patterson was a veteran, judge—sitting on the U.S. District Court and then the Second Circuit—and Harry Truman's Secretary of War. In the late 1940s, Patterson joined the firm that would become Patterson Belknap, joined by his Harvard classmates ...

Associate Reviews


  • “The people are what make Patterson special. My colleagues are kind, personable, and easy to work with. The firm strikes the right balance of having opportunities for attorneys to socialize but not forcing people to spend too much time away from their families to attend work events.”
  • “Very collegial. Not in the standard joke that every firm says they're collegial, but in the very real way that people respect boundaries, business hours, and vacation. Accordingly, this is not the biggest party/social firm, but people enjoy coming to work and grabbing coffees. It's professional, polite, and warm.”
  • “I joined the firm during the COVID-19 pandemic, so almost all of my interactions have been remote. Based upon those interactions, attorneys at the firm are friendly and caring—even remotely, they go out of their way to check in on workload and how new lawyers are acclimating, and they remember and ask about personal details (e.g., a birthday, the birth of a new family member). …”
  • “The firm is staffed with kind, normal people who generally like each other and like working together. People are well-rounded and have lives outside of work, so the firm makes an effort to schedule social activities before people leave the office for the day (back when we were still in the office)—that being said, I have gone out for drinks or dinner with work friends (and, during the pandemic, for walks with neighbor-coworkers) many times.”
  • “The culture is great. Everyone treats each other with respect and professionally. Partners also make an effort to get associates new experiences and are invested in professional development. Transparency is a little more difficult—we have annual performance reviews and partners are approachable, but internal promotion and signaling about promotion prospects is less transparent.”
  • “Partner/associate relations are great. The partners I work for are terrific—they've taken an interest in me as a person and are very understanding of work flow and reasonable in their deadlines. In my experience, partners don't work associates for the sake of working. Friday emails typically are accompanied by the caveat ‘for Monday...’ The firm has been very transparent about its performance and finances, particularly during COVID, which has been comforting. Performance reviews are conducted annually, but there are opportunities for informal feedback during the year.”
  • “Focus on professional development and giving associates as much ownership over the matters as possible. I have tons of client interaction and it really feels as though I am on one team with senior associates and partners working collaboratively. I am surprised by how transparent the firm is as it relates to finances, and appreciate the regular communication providing all the relevant data regarding the health of the firm.”
  • “Partners at Patterson are kind and collegial. There is no ego, no hubris, no nastiness. Partners treat associates as colleagues, not minions. The level of respect and professional encouragement I've received from partners is one of my favorite aspects of the firm. Performance reviews are conducted annually; mine have always been detailed, thoughtful, and kind.”
  • “Definitely enough work if you want it, but no overwhelming pressure to bill an unreasonable number of hours.”
  • “My workload is about right. The centralized assignment system works well. The assigning partners frequently check in about workload. The discussion isn't just about amount, but also substance. The partners will help make sure that associates get the type of assignments in subject matter they're interested in.  The billable-hour requirement is 1,850 (with an additional 250 for non-billable work—e.g., pro bono, CLE, firm admin, etc.), which in practice is reasonable. I haven't had issues hitting it.”
  • “Patterson seems like the sweet spot: We work hard, but our hours are not soul crushing. Work slowed down a bit during the pandemic, but it is picking up again and seems evenly distributed. Most associates meet the 1,850 billable hours requirement, but even those who don't are entitled to a 50% market bonus.”
  • “The hours are very manageable, and partners are extremely deferential to time away from the office (both official vacations/leaves, as well as nights and weekends). I am seldom asked to work on non-emergencies during nights or weekends, and I have been left alone during vacations and periods of leave.”
  • “I've been very happy with compensation. My annual salary is consistent with peers at bigger law firms. Bonuses have been generous and commensurate with hours worked.”
  • “I was very happy that the firm met market on COVID-19 bonuses last winter, and feel that the compensation is competitive.”
  • “… [It] has to be noted that market rate only lasts [through sixth] year, at which point it rises slower than [the] Cravath scale. Senior associates/counsel suggest that they accept this tradeoff because of difference in quality of life for their level.”
  • “I am satisfied with my compensation, which pays market, and which assigns a very low threshold for making full bonus (1,850 hours).”
  • “I'm part of a smaller practice group and so it is entrepreneurial in the best way. Whether it is a transactional matter, one-off research question, or written advice, I'm able to and encouraged to own all my matters, but have access to the support of my managing attorney and other colleagues as needed.”
  • “My work has run the gamut. I have been given the opportunity to second chair depositions as a second-year associate, and was instrumental in preparing the partner for them. Any doc review I engaged in was critical to developing the case. I have not had to do any busy work. I am now working on a summary judgment motion and expect to have a key role in drafting.”
  • “I have consistently done interesting and substantive legal work. The firm is very non-hierarchical, so occasionally more-senior associates do work that might be completed by more junior attorneys in some firms, but nobody is spending huge amount of time on non-substantive work.”
  • “The work has been very rewarding. As a smaller firm, our cases are leanly staffed. That opens up opportunities for very substantive assignments, from drafting briefs to arguing motions.”
  • “The transition to remote work was smooth. We're in the process of updating our equipment and laptops, and working out kinks with our virtual desktop platform. I am happy with the firm's tech during remote work.”
  • “The firm has adapted well to the needs of its attorneys during the pandemic. While there have been some tech hiccups along the way, that is expected and quickly resolved.”
  • “Technology is great for remote work (we get a full in-office set up at home, plus technology stipend for incidentals like air pods, cell phone, etc.).”
  • “The firm has many wellness initiatives, and has ramped up those efforts during COVID times.”
  • “The firm cares about attorney wellness. Time off to recharge is encouraged. The initiatives are fairly standard.”
  • “I feel as though the firm cares and sends the right messaging about wellness, which is what's most important to me—I'm not as interested in using the actual formal wellness programs available. I'd rather feel like, if I needed to confide about an issue, that I could do so safely, and I do feel that way here.”
  • “The firm has provided Headspace app memberships to employees.”
  • “The firm provides a lot of formal training opportunities as it pertains to practical skills, firm procedures and CLEs. I find that the bulk of substantive legal training occurs informally (and is great). Most folks I've encountered so far are great people, good communicators and effective managers.”
  • “The firm has formal onboarding training, as well as an annual program with CLEs on basic litigation skills for new associates (and older associates who want a refresh), in addition to regular CLE programming. The firm also encourages informal mentoring through lunches (or pandemic-safe walks) and affinity groups. The informal mentoring program for women is especially noteworthy, and has resulted in my very strong friendships with colleagues at the firm.”
  • “[The] firm provides mid-level management training, as well as opportunities to work with writing coaches. [The] firm also provides growth and learning opportunities on pro bono matters, and is committed to associate professional development.”
  • “The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ CLE series for young litigators is incredibly useful for the basics of litigation—how to write and file a pleading, how to prepare for/second chair/take a deposition, etc. Attorneys are also assigned partner and associate mentors when they join the firm.”
  • “The partnership process is transparent in that they tell associates fairly directly in their sixth year evaluation whether they are on track or not. But it's not entirely clear what would place someone on track for partnership. Partnership does seem realistic.”
  • “The firm generally parks people at counsel before deciding whether to promote them to partner. As with any firm, the path to partnership is not all that clear, but appears to largely depend on networking with the right partners to navigate firm politics. Exit opportunities are strong, at least within NYC, where the firm is well regarded.”
  • “The firm overwhelmingly promotes to partnership from the associate ranks—it takes lateral partners rarely (not unheard of, but very rare). Therefore, I do feel as though the firm wants to give associates the tools to rise the partnership. Not everyone will, and not everyone wants to, but I do think that if the interest is there, the opportunity is there.”
  • “The firm has a counsel position beneath its equity partner ranks. I believe it is certainly possible to make either counsel or partner at the firm, as the firm is selective when it comes to lateral partner hires. The firm has good connections with many companies to allow for an in-house transition.”
  • “The firm views pro bono work as essential—from the perspective of being good citizens and also finding opportunities for young lawyers to grow. We've have 17 straight years of 100% pro bono participation by lawyers. The firm is very proud of this tradition, and pushes associates to take on a full pro bono docket. This past year, I've worked on a transgender name change petition and an actual innocence submission to the local DA's office's conviction integrity unit.”
  • “The importance of pro bono is stressed and all pro bono hours over the associate-average for that year are counted as billable.”
  • “This is undoubtedly one of the firm's key strengths. I've had the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting and meaningful pro bono cases.”
  • “Pro bono does not count as billable work, but if you [greatly] exceed [the average number of pro bono hours per attorney], it may go to your billable quota. I do a lot of pro bono here at the firm, from small matters helping individuals to larger federal and state litigations. I am very happy about the firm's pro bono commitment.”
  • “I think our efforts around diversity with respect to women have been extremely effective as seen in the representation of women in partnership and firm leadership positions. I'm not yet sure about the firm's efforts around other forms of diversity in terms of mentoring opportunities and advancement for associates.”
  • “Patterson is working very hard on diversity at the firm, but this is something that will take time. The firm does not offer billable credit for diversity related activities, and it should. As a woman at the firm, I spend a good amount of time recruiting diverse individuals, participating in diversity events, and just generally mentoring female attorneys.”
  • “The firm clearly cares about and tries to address diversity issues. The tone of the firm's communication about social justice issues over the past year has been remarkably attuned to the moment. The firm also has quite a few initiative and trainings.”
  • “These problems are pervasive in the profession, and I feel as though the firm is really, really trying to recruit and promote more diverse associates, not just to have their photos on the website (which is the feeling I get from other firms), but because it is a blemish on our profession that there aren't more diverse people at the top, and the firm wants to remedy that going forward.”

Why Work Here


Getting Hired Here


  • “In litigation, the firm hires mostly from clerkships. This inherently focuses the hiring on a particular type of associate—academically accomplished, intellectual, and good at writing. The interview process is more substantive than at many firms, as the firm is looking to hire attorneys who can jump into serious legal work, rather than bodies to churn hours.”
  • “Because my firm largely hires judicial law clerks, the hiring process is fairly competitive. Nevertheless, it does not appear to limit its hiring to a small handful of law schools, instead prioritizing performance as a law student, clerkships, and personal decency, and collegiality.”
  • “For non-litigation, lateral candidates, it seems as though relevant prior work experience and cultural fit are more important than which law school you attended.”
  • “The firm typically asks, ‘Why Patterson?’ [and] discusses some substantive legal issues.”
  • “[The firm asks about] representative matters (for lateral candidates), examples of substantive legal issues that arose, and reasons for leaving prior firm.”
  • “My interviews were confined mostly to asking me about my resume.”
  • “Since we have no summer program, everyone starts at Patterson without having made previous connections, so the firm puts a huge effort into introducing clerks to their new colleagues. There are department events, floor events, resource group events, class year events, etc. These can be formal or informal, and at all of these, existing Patterson attorneys really take the time to meet and get to know their new colleagues. …”
  • “[The] firm is used to weaving associates into the fabric with one or more clerkships. As someone with multiple clerkships, this was important to me, so that I wouldn't stand out as the only midlevel my year who had never done discovery, for example. [The] firm understands there are some gaps for clerks, but these can be trained and quickly filled.”
  • “They are great in onboarding lateral associates and integrating them to the firm, especially given the challenges of doing so in a remote work environment.”
  • “Most new associates are clerks. The firm has the new clerks start as a class/group so they get to know each other. Also, because most people at the firm clerked, individuals often relate on common experiences and backgrounds.”

Perks & Benefits