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Overview

Introduction

With an impressive global footprint and a roster of top-notch clients, Sidley is the cream of the crop when it comes to law firms. Come for the sophisticated work, and stay for the polite, amiable Midwestern vibe—as well as a sincere commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Sidley is a global powerhouse, with approximately 2,000 lawyers across 20 offices. The firm boasts a long list of marquee clients in a range of industries, including banking, energy, health care, insurance, life sciences, and technology. The fi...

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 1st Year Associates Hired (2020)



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No. of Summer Associates (2021)



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Base Salary

All Offices...

Vault Verdict

If you dream of working at Sidley, you better have a resume that shines. The firm frequently recruits from the T14, but also scoops up stellar candidates from a range of law schools. Those who fit with the firm’s amicable, Midwestern vibe will cruise through the callback stage. Sidley has a polite, friendly vibe—lawyers enjoy catching a bite together, but are also uber respectful of family time. Partners approach associates with respect, and the firm has a culture of mentoring—which includes a budget for associates to dine with partners and get to know them. Associates are mixed on their views of transparency; some praise the firm’s candid performance reviews and Associates Committee, while others feel decision-making—including about promotion—can be murky. Associates are pragmati...

About the Firm

 

Sidley is a global powerhouse, with approximately 2,000 lawyers across 20 offices. The firm boasts a long list of marquee clients in a range of industries, including banking, energy, health care, insurance, life sciences, and technology. The firm’s work in complex transactional and litigation matters is bolstered by exceptional regulatory experience, and the firm features many former officials from governmental agencies in Europe, the U.S., and China. It is also where Barack and Michelle Obama met—a little glimpse into the caliber of lawyer the firm attracts.

Chicago & New York Powers Unite

Sidley traces its roots back to the 1866 founding of predecessor firm Williams & Thompson in Chicago. Historical clients of the firm that later became known ...

Associate Reviews


  • “People are friendly and close friendships develop but the office does not have a party culture where there is pressure to socialize or drink together after hours. Day to day, people are kind and collegial.”
  • “The day-to-day atmosphere is very collegial and friendly. I have never experienced a partner or management being unprofessional with associates. Sidley provides for numerous social activities throughout the year and during COVID has found online/virtual ways to continue socializing, such as trivia games, cooking demonstrations, online happy hours where a curated cocktail is mailed home, etc.”
  • “Before COVID, we had weekly attorney lunches and regular lunches for litigation attorneys. Day to day, partners treat associates more as colleagues than subordinates. Very respectful of demands of family/personal life.”
  • “The firm has a culturally Midwestern feel—people tend to be kind, polite, interested in you, and more family oriented.”
  • “Many of the firm’s U.S. offices have an ‘Associates Committee’ that has a direct, regular line of communication with their respective office’s and the firm's leadership. While the associates understandably do not get to see how every piece of sausage is made, there is generally a high level of transparency around firm policies, performance reviews, bonuses, and promotion to partnership. Reviews are conducted every six months and include two to three partners, including a member of the compensation committee and the practice group’s leadership.”
  • “The vast majority of the time, the partners I work with have treated me with respect. Partners listen to me when I speak, seem to value my input, and try to accommodate my schedule and competing matters as much as possible. The firm tries to be transparent regarding performance reviews, which it conducts formally twice a year (if anything, the performance reviews require too much time and effort). I’m not as in tune with firm performance and finances, although the firm does hold periodic associate town halls.”
  • “Partners and associates have a friendly working relationship at the firm. In terms of my practice specifically, I consider most, if not all, of the partners that I work with to also be my friends. The firm is very transparent about reviews—associates receive their reviews to read beforehand. Internal promotion discussions can differ depending on the office you are in.”
  • “Associates and partners relations are fair and professional. There is a sense of respect for each other.”
  • “The firm, including the Litigation [Group], has been extremely busy the past several months. Accordingly, the work that needs to be done demands a good amount of attention and hours. That said, the variety of work the firm encourages associates to take on is very rewarding, and makes for a more meaningful associate experience, in my opinion.”
  • “This is really group dependent, but I have a ton of flexibility on when and where I work. I have wonderful partners who are very supportive and understanding.”
  • “Hours are quite heavy for all transactional attorneys right now, but other than those opting to greatly exceed the group’s average, most workloads are evenly distributed. Sidley’s 2,000 billable-hour requirement for bonus eligibility has been significantly more flexible over the last few years as partial bonuses are paid to those who fall short, and as more and more non-client chargeable hours (e.g., pro bono, knowledge management, diversity and inclusion efforts) count towards bonus eligibility.”
  • “Workload has been a little less constant during the pandemic, but the firm has done a good job of gauging associates' availability through formal surveys and informal conversations. I am not a fan of the billable hour requirement in general, but it’s something that most firms do and it's not so important to me that I would consider giving up everything I love about the firm to go elsewhere.”
  • “I am very satisfied with the amount of compensation. I think it is fair and even generous. The healthcare options are excellent.”
  • “The firm is very open about its compensation structure. If an associate [meets] the billable target (a component of which can be made up of pro bono, knowledge management, and other non-billable work), he or she will get the market rate bonuses or higher. If he or she exceeds the billable requirement or otherwise has a high performance year that the firm is happy with, bonus compensation exceeds the market. The firm will also always match whatever is happening as far as special bonuses on the market.”
  • “Obviously, you can’t complain too much about a BigLaw salary. I'm just unhappy that the firm decided to advance [first years’] salary, after having delayed our start date at the last second, instead of giving us a stipend.”
  • “Sidley is generally fair when it comes to compensation, and absolutely did the right thing by not tying special bonuses to hours, the way last year’s [2020 COVID bonuses] were.”
  • “The best thing about this job has been the opportunities I’ve had to dig in deep and learn. I typically am taking point on running issues to ground with feedback and guidance from partners and counsel as I go along. The work is very satisfying.”
  • “As a senior associate, I spend a lot of my time managing cases, both downward in terms of managing a team of junior associates, as well as upward in terms of managing partners and clients. I also spend a lot of my time working directly with the client on various tasks and overseeing more junior associate work. At my level, most of the initial research and drafting is done by other associates, although I do take the pen on certain work, especially insofar as it involves preparation for client calls for either me or the partner. I do believe this is appropriate for my level, and I have the opportunity and leeway to dig into the facts, documents, or case law as needed.”
  • “The work is really good, really advanced, and very sophisticated. This is one of the best things about Sidley. You're going to be doing work well above your pay grade from the very beginning, and so you're going to advance and grow your skills faster here than at many of our peer firms. The work is very difficult and sophisticated, no two deals are ever the same. We joke in our office that the partners say on every deal, ‘This one is a little complicated, I've never done a deal like this,’ and we're all still waiting to get one of those ‘normal’ deals.”
  • “We are leanly staffed leading to greater responsibility for associates. We are encouraged to make relationships with existing and repeat clients so that there is a contact at every level between the firm and the client.”
  • “Massive improvements to our tech during the COVID pandemic. Nearly everything has been improved, from our remote work access to the hardware provided by the firm (webcams; phones; headsets).”
  • “I wish the firm gave a technology stipend for work from home, but otherwise the firm has adapted to work from home.”
  • “I was thrilled that the firm bought new laptops this year (capable of converting to a pad) and is providing us all a choice of various headset options for calls. My impression is that the IT team is always investigating new technologies for us, including for videoconferencing and now a new phone system. My transition to remote work has been very smooth.”
  • “The firm has provided upgraded laptops, updated phone system, and personal docking stations for home offices. However, I do wish they provided monitors.”
  • “We get 5 free mental health sessions through our EAP; we receive regular emails with wellness tips and occasional wellness podcasts.”
  • “There is only so much anyone can do. This is a stressful profession. That said, the firm has done a good job of maintaining pre-pandemic culture.”
  • “From my perspective, wellness at work is a product of how people treat each other. I watched a partner spend a week working nights so that the mid-level associate on our deal could take a vacation without being bothered. That’s worth 10 trillion guest speaker seminars.”
  • “Sidley recently hired a chief wellness officer and has generally increased its wellness efforts over the past couple of years. The firm has offered increased programming in response to the pandemic, including meditation sessions and workshops for working parents.”
  • “Every associate has another associate mentor and a partner mentor, but the level of informal mentorship is very high as well. There is significant and frequent training, including practice-group wide trainings on developments in each practice area.”
  • “There are plenty of formal training opportunities, but the real gold at Sidley comes from mentoring. Juniors are paired with an associate mentor and a partner mentor, but it does not stop there. I have found everyone I interact with is invested in my success as an attorney, and the success of the firm as a whole.”
  • “Associates are assigned formal partner mentors but also actively encouraged to cultivate additional relationships. The firm provides funding for associates to take partner’s out to nice lunches to get to know them, and the Litigation Group has a ‘Lunch Ladders’ program that I believe is getting adopted firmwide that assigns groups of partners and associates to go to lunches together. There are also a number of happy hours planned throughout the year and aimed at bringing together various affinity groups to mingle and build relationships.”
  • “In my personal experience, informal mentorship and training has been invaluable to my growth as an associate. I think it’s mostly fostered by our firm's ‘open-door’ culture.”
  • “Promotion to partnership is realistic for those who seek it and really work for it, although it is by no means a given. Beginning in associates’ fifth year, the firm begins loosely ranking them during reviews and letting them know where they stand. For those who don’t make partner, there are also counsel positions available. In addition, anyone seeking to leave the firm is encouraged to openly seek out guidance and support from partners to maximize where they might land. Or, if such an associate feels uncomfortable, there is also a designated partner who offers this type of career guidance and is sworn to total secrecy and discretion. This partner will occasionally even circulate exit opportunities that might be of interest—for example, to go in-house at a client. …”
  • “The firm does frequently look to promote internally and opportunities to thrive are there. For those who do not want to stay, the firm maintains a frequently-updated list of in-house positions to which associates can apply. The business outlook is healthy.”
  • “Promotion to partner seems at the outer edge of realistic for high-performing associates. The partnership process is completely opaque to junior associates. I think it gets more transparent as associates get more senior, but I’m not sure.”
  • “Promotion to partnership seems realistic within my practice area, as does promotion to counsel. The firm has dedicated career counseling staff who can confidentially help associates to exit the firm gracefully by identifying outside opportunities, including secondments, and reviewing application materials and the interview process for those roles.”
  • “Sidley puts significant monetary and time resources into community development and pro bono work. I’ve spent significant time working with detained children regarding gaining visas to stay in the U.S. Sidley also has a robust program where Sidley assists entrepreneurs in less developed countries with various legal issues.”
  • “Sidley has a very strong commitment to pro bono work, often winning awards for its pro bono efforts and hours. I have always worked on pro bono projects, without any gap, and have found them very meaningful. Feedback on pro bono work is considered in reviews, and … pro bono hours are considered for bonus eligibility once an associate has 1,800 billable [hours]. My pro bono work is primarily criminal defense work. It's a great opportunity to practice litigation skills, and associates are given a lot of responsibility in pro bono matters (with great supervision).”
  • “We are highly encouraged to dedicate at least 60 hours a year to pro bono work (if not more), and pro bono hours count as billable hours once we reach 1800 client billable hours in a given cycle. I have been representing a client seeking asylum in the United States for the past few years, and before that I worked on the Housing Right to Council project representing individuals in eviction cases.”
  • “I’m actively involved with the National Veteran's Legal Assistance Program. It is easy to get approval for pro bono projects; I’ve never had any trouble getting a sponsor or funding.”
  • “Diversity is an active focus at the firm in terms of hiring. I do believe the firm makes concerted efforts to recruit and hire associates that are diverse in all aspects (disability; gender; race). I think the firm (like the rest of the industry) struggles more at retention and mentoring. As a gender-diverse associate, I feel very supported, welcome, and feel as though I am given numerous opportunities to lead and interact with clients. … The firm has recently extended billable credit to diversity-related initiatives which I think is a great step in the right direction.”
  • “The firm recently elected its first female, and LatinX, management committee chair. The firm has a dedicated Chief Diversity Officer, who is actively working to improve diversity in promotion, retention, and hiring, and a 1L diversity summer associate program (which should probably be expanded), a 1L diversity mentorship program (mentoring students working elsewhere), and affinity-related committees. The firm has non-billable matter numbers for committee participation.”
  • “I have been pleasantly surprised by how willing to learn the partners seem to be. There has been a lot of feedback and suggestions made by diverse associates regarding programming and other initiatives that affect diverse attorneys and staff. So far, the partners seem amenable to hearing and making changes to the existing structures, which I appreciate. It might be too soon to tell what comes of it, though.”
  • “I am fortunate to be in a group led by incredibly talented women. I have never felt that being a female or a mom has held me back.”
  • “Sidley deserves tremendous credit for a generous parental leave policy and associated transition (to leave, and back from leave) policy. Leadership makes a point to celebrate new babies (including by widely circulating any baby photos and announcements) and to discourage any parent from taking less than the full amount of leave available. This is exactly the type of culture that is essential to avoid the stigma that could otherwise surround women needing to take maternity leave or any other persons requiring leave. And, it is terrific for morale across the board. It makes the associates feel valued in a long-term way, i.e. that the firm is comfortable with a short-term accommodation in the interest of keeping associates’ long-term loyalty and output. …”

Why Work Here


Diversity at Sidley Austin LLP

"Sidley's comprehensive diversity and inclusion programming is thoughtfully designed to build our firm's diversity, strengthen our inclusive culture, and provide opportunities that enable diverse and women lawyers to succeed at Sidley and beyond. Talent Development Early Outreach Our pipeline programs begin as early as elementary school and continue through college with our award-winning Sidley Prelaw Scholars Program. A "first of its kind" among law firms, Sidley Scholars subsidizes LSAT preparatory courses..."

Getting Hired Here


  • “Sidley hires the cream of the crop from the best law schools in the country and particularly compelling candidates from some slightly lower-ranked law schools. Sidley often relies on traditional academic achievements in its hiring process, but also heavily weighs prior work experience and personality. Otherwise competitive candidates who are not a good cultural fit may find themselves passed over. …”
  • “The firm focuses on candidates from top-tier law schools, but the IP group is specifically focused on technical background. We also consider prior work experience in the relevant technology field, diversity, and maturity very heavily.”
  • “The firm primarily hires from top schools, although [it] certainly has a number of top students from schools that are not highly ranked in U.S. News. The firm looks for people that fit well with the Midwestern feel of the institution.”
  • “Sidley’s Chicago office pulls largely from Michigan, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Harvard and the other T14 schools. We also take those in the upper band of their classes from strong regional schools like Notre Dame. Sidley is an elite firm, and we are fortunate to choose from the best of the best. That said, as one who is heavily involved in recruiting, I can say that top marks from a top law school do not guarantee an offer. You have to fit the culture, which is collegial, sharp, and warm.”
  • “The firm has several suggested questions and assesses candidates in a range of categories. The questions generally fall into the categories of professional skills, work habits, and personal attributes.”
  • “The interview guidelines are pretty open ended. Associates are encouraged to ask a few situational questions (‘Tell me about a time when...’; ‘How would you react if...’), but there’s also an emphasis on keeping the interview conversational.”
  • “Why do you want to work at Sidley, and why do you want to work in a particular location?”
  • “Why do you want to work for this office? What practice areas are you interested in? What brought you to law school?”
  • “Laterals receive two firm mentors (associate and partner) to help you adjust and integrate.”
  • “[I] was integrated seamlessly during [the] pandemic, and given incredible work off the bat.  [I] am treated like I have been here since I was a first year. [I] cannot speak highly enough about [the] lateral process.”
  • “People have been very welcoming.”

Practice Area Q&A’s


Emily Mallen

Partner

Sidley Austin LLP
Matthew C. Thompson

Partner

Sidley Austin LLP
Sally Wagner Partin

Partner

Sidley Austin LLP
Tacy F. Flint

Partner

Sidley Austin LLP
Gretchen Lamberg

Counsel

Sidley Austin LLP

Perks & Benefits