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Overview

Introduction

One of the most prestigious law firms, Sullivan & Cromwell subscribes to a generalist approach, allowing lawyers to work across industries and subgroups. With a strong focus on mentoring and career advising, S&C is committed to helping its lawyers pave their future paths. A BigLaw powerhouse, Sullivan & Cromwell has followed—if not created—the blueprint for legal success: It has grown internationally and in response to the increasing cross-border M&A, restructuring, and finance transactional demands...

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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No. of U.S. Offices

Vault Verdict

Sullivan & Cromwell wants the best of the best—the firm hires the most competitive students with top grades from a range of law schools. The firm has a formal yet friendly vibe, with an emphasis on delivering top-notch work product. Partners are approachable and generous in providing associates with significant responsibility and feedback. Associates appreciate the opportunity to take on substantive work early in their careers, including client contact. And they’re definitely not without a lifeline—first years receive a whopping three mentors. The workload is demanding, but associates appreciate that they aren’t bound by a billable requirement and also feel that there is an effort to distribute work evenly and intentionally. Reviews on the firm’s tech are mixed—many feel t...

About the Firm

 

A BigLaw powerhouse, Sullivan & Cromwell has followed—if not created—the blueprint for legal success: It has grown internationally and in response to the increasing cross-border M&A, restructuring, and finance transactional demands of the biggest corporate clients in the world.

Kind of a Big Deal

Sullivan & Cromwell has consistently steered the development of many of the world’s corporate titans over the past 130-plus years. The firm founders, Algernon Sydney Sullivan and William Nelson, advised J.P. Morgan—as in the man himself—during the creation of Edison General Electric in 1882 and later guided key players in the formation of U.S. Steel and the financing of the Panama Canal. These lucrative foreign ventures caused the firm to be one...

Associate Reviews


  • “Sullivan & Cromwell LLP is a very large firm. There is no uniform ‘culture’ socially or politically. This is a great part of working here—you can find people at the firm who you relate to. Day-to-day, the firm is somewhat formal, though that ultimately depends on the people you work closely with. In any event, people are still friendly and approachable.”
  • “Generally, everyone I work with is smart, determined, engaging and kind. There is a demanding atmosphere, where attorneys are encouraging us to work hard and to be the best we can possibly be. … There is a very sharp learning curve, but this is something I expected and something I desired (didn't want to be handheld for a long period of time). Socializing has been hard given COVID, but my co-workers do make an effort to try to stay involved in my life and check in on me.”
  • “Everyone I have worked with is friendly, professional, and committed to delivering high-quality work under pressure. Pre-COVID, the firm would host bi-monthly cocktail receptions, which were generally well attended. Some lawyers will socialize outside of work, but it’s definitely not part of the firm culture.”
  • “The partners are very nice and respectful towards the associates. They are appreciative of their work. The firm, however, is not very transparent as to what the future holds for their associates in terms of role at the firm—not much feedback and the discussions on admission to the partnership seem to be kept very much [a] secret.”
  • “I work closely with partners, despite being a junior associate. All of the partners I have worked with have taken a vested interest in my development.”
  • “All of the partners I have worked with treat associates with respect and value their contributions. The firm gives an annual update on how the firm compared to its competitors, but it doesn't provide many details on the firm's finances. …”
  • “Reviews occur twice annually with the heads of your main practice group. Partners are generally very approachable and treat people of all seniorities equally.”
  • “This has been an extremely busy year, but in the general corporate group the work ebbs and flows—some weeks are very calm while others leave you gasping for air. This doesn't seem unique to S&C. As a result of us having no billable hours requirement, it's possible to enjoy the breaks in between the craziness.”
  • “The firm's lack of a billable-hours requirements does remove some of the pressure—particularly when it comes to bonuses. It is nice to not have to worry about qualifying for bonuses based on hours worked. As far as work hours, they are long and the expectations are high. But that is to be expected. In my experience, the firm is flexible with when and where we work, and lawyers can always decline a project if they are truly unable to take on the work. ...”
  • “The amount of work is overwhelming, but on the bright side, I feel I am already doing substantive work and contributing to the case.”
  • “Any time you work at a big law firm you're going to be working a lot of hours, and I'm no exception. But S&C is great about evenly assigning work, and carefully giving appropriate and diverse work to associates, considering skill development and the subject of the matter.”
  • “I am satisfied.”
  • “The firm has matched all special bonuses throughout the pandemic and our bonuses are not contingent on hours.”
  • “It is hard to be too disappointed when the firm matches the market, but it seems that peer firms with high profitability often offer above-market bonuses, at least for exceptionally high billers. It would be nice if we followed suit.”
  • “The fact that the firm does not have a billable-hours requirement for bonuses is one of the biggest perks. It removes some stress. The firm matches market bonuses and compensation. Generally, I have no complaints on this front.”
  • “My assignments have grown with my experience level, and I always feel that I am given challenging work. I also know that I am supported by more senior associates and by partners, who are willing to let me tackle new assignments and who help me learn how I can improve my drafting and legal reasoning.”
  • “Even first-years get a lot of client contact, and if they can handle, more senior people will give more substantive tasks, including sometimes leading calls and doing first drafting.”
  • “As a second-year associate, I am currently managing two highly anticipated IPOs working directly under the senior partner. At S&C, you are given as much responsibility as you seek out. I never would get to do this at another firm.”
  • “Yes, [I] mostly spend time on work that is appropriate. Partners make an effort to staff deals with enough junior associates that will let the more-senior associates do only substantive work. As a senior associate, I am responsible for drafting, communicating with client, coordinating workstreams, identifying key issues, taking the lead on everything. Partners provide the substantive knowledge and experience and associates keep the wheels moving. That works very well.”
  • “I love our transition to NetDocs (cloud-based software) and love how well integrated Zoom is into everything.”
  • “We've made a lot of progress at the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, the firm's tech was not as developed.”
  • “It has gotten better! We did not get a technology stipend, which would have been nice as we all bought new equipment, but otherwise the firm is adapting. We finally started using NetDocs, a cloud-based document management system, which has made a world of difference. People use Zoom all the time, too, which has been great to keep in touch face-to-face with people.”
  • “I have had no issues with the firm's technology during the pandemic. There is ample support staff available to assist with any issues that come up, either over the phone or by email.”
  • “There is once weekly mindfulness meditation. During the pandemic, there have been weekly tips from fitness center staff and nutritional staff, and far more department/group meetings and check-ins. There have also been virtual social activities like musical bingo or a Zoom tour of an animal sanctuary.”
  • “The in-building gym just for S&C is a big perk. Otherwise though, I think the firm could do more to encourage people to take time off and take care of themselves. The weekly email from operations isn't doing much.”
  • “We have good health insurance and a helpful benefits department. For example, we receive regular updates in terms of vaccine eligibility.”
  • “People are generally understanding, but [I’m] not aware of specific initiatives.”
  • “The firm pairs first-year associates with three mentors, which is very helpful for navigating firm life during COVID.”
  • “The firm provides a ton of training to associates, and it ramped that up to [more than 100 programs] during COVID—I think I am set with CLEs for the next 3 years. The firm also has an official partner mentorship program—though what you get out of it depends on how much effort you put in reaching out to your partner mentor. Informal mentorship relationships are also quite common, especially if you go seek them out.”
  • “First-year associates attended "GP Academy," which was a series of presentations about common GP matters and first-year tasks. In general, informal training and mentorship play a much larger role. Typically you are thrown into a deal and learn as you go, with guidance from mid-levels and senior associates.”
  • “There are tons of training programs available, and I have always been able to find help when I ask for it, but I think the best way to learn is by doing. I have always received feedback on my work, which I think has taught me more than any training program could.”
  • “Making partner is a bit of a black box, but there are other routes that at least lend the air of guaranteeing success. Senior associates can transition to special counsel (which sometimes is a stepping stone to partner, sometimes not). There is an entire career development office dedicated to helping you find your way out if partnership is not for you.”
  • “I have a very positive outlook on my career at S&C. Associates are encouraged to start thinking about their long-term careers from day one, and the firm provides structured opportunities to discuss long-term career planning. There is a career office dedicated to working with associates, and associates are able to be transparent about their long-term goals.”
  • “Partnership opportunities are almost nonexistent, but exit opportunities are great.”
  • “… The firm has a robust alumni network and the firm's career services office is always available to present and past associates. Associates from the firm often get high-level government positions or top in-house positions. Although the partnership process may be difficult, the exit opportunities abound and the firm is clear about its willingness to help associates transfer out of BigLaw.”
  • “Very committed to pro bono work. There is no pro bono hourly cap. I spent almost 500 hours on pro bono last year and there were no issues with that in my review.”
  • “The firm is a huge supporter of pro bono. We have an amazing pro bono counsel, Jessica Klein, who is always coming up with opportunities. I am currently working on a pro bono class action, coach a high school mock trial team (which counts as pro bono), and represent an individual woman pro bono who is attempting to get her green card through VAWA.”
  • “I've worked on an appeal in California state court with the ACLU regarding the treatment of defendants who are deemed incompetent to stand trial.”
  • “The firm takes pro bono very seriously and offers great opportunities. I have worked on asylum cases, bond cases, name changes.”
  • “There is a diversity committee, a Women's Initiative Committee (WIC), and affinity groups. We have required bias training throughout the year. The WIC has mentoring opportunities with senior associates and partners weekly and also puts on events to foster professional development and networking.”
  • “I am LGBTQ, and they support it every way they can.”
  • “There is a huge firm wide effort to improve diversity and this is definitely a top priority, but that being said, you still don't see a lot of retention of diverse groups.”
  • “The efforts to support women through the WIC initiatives are fantastic. I am beyond pleased with the female support at the firm.”

Why Work Here


Listen to our conversation with the managing partner of our Litigation Group, Sharon Nelles. Milana Hogan, Chief Legal Talent Officer, interviews Sharon about why she chose S&C, the Firm's approach to associate development and mentoring, her role as head of the Litigation Group, and her advice for students as they navigate their way through the recruiting process.

Diversity at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

"S&C has a long and proud history as a diversity leader and innovator in the legal community. In seeking to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment, we put at the forefront maintaining an environment where each individual is valued for their unique perspective and insight. Our longstanding Diversity Committee has the mandate of continually improving the effectiveness of Firm programs to attract, mentor, retain and assist in the advancement of our diverse and women lawyers. The Diversity Committee is comprised of lawyers..."

Getting Hired Here


  • “I think the firm cares a lot about getting the smartest associates and [is] very willing to hire from non-T14 schools to do so, which I appreciate. I think academic merit is weighted very high.”
  • “We take the most competitive candidates from the top law schools. We have training for associates on the interview process prior to the recruitment season.”
  • “Like any top law firm, S&C will heavily recruit from top 14 schools, with particular emphasis on Yale, Harvard, and Columbia. That being said, the firm will recruit top students from a variety of schools, even outside the top 14. In my experience, the screening process is very much focused on grades and journal experience. The follow-up interview is more informal and meant to get a sense of the candidate’s personality and ability to hold a conversation.”
  • “Diversity and stellar grades.”
  • “There are no particular questions we are supposed to ask candidates. We are instructed to ask questions that will facilitate conversation and give us a sense of the candidate’s ability to hold a conversation and speak intelligently about certain topics (such as a law review article or research project).”
  • “What's your favorite class of law school? Litigation or corporate? Why this firm? Very general, nonspecific questions in my opinion.”
  • “Interesting research question in prior internship. What practice group might you like to join. What you liked about law school/prior legal work.”

Practice Area Q&A’s


Thomas C. White

Partner

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Matthew Goodman

Partner

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Julia Malkina

Partner

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Stephen Salley

Partner

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Dustin Guzior

Partner

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Perks & Benefits