A "stimulating" place to work
Employees at Charles River Associates laud the firm's "scholarly" and "meritocratic" culture, which they hasten to add is far from "rigid - someone seems to understand that talent is usually accompanied by some level of eccentricity," says one insider. The "stimulating" work environment is "an interesting blend of the academic and business worlds," says another. Charles River Associates provides an unparalleled opportunity to work with "high caliber, experienced people, with incredible educations and experience" while working on "extremely high-profile cases that are national in scope." Says one insider: "It's pretty cool to be driving home listening to NPR and hearing them talk about a case I'm working on or picking up the New York Times and seeing my boss quoted on the front page."
Undergraduates spend an average of three years at CRA, after which they tend to go to graduate school or have no trouble getting hired at companies ranging from management consulting firms to Internet startups. One Research analyst termed his time at CRA as "a good learning experience, and a good entry-level position." Consultants lauded their relationships with their vice presidents, calling them "approachable and patient." One insider in the Oakland office added, "I am allowed opportunities to make significant contributions to challenging and important work."
An economic and business consulting powerhouse
Charles River Associates provides economic and financial analysis and consulting services to prominent legal clients, leading corporations, and government agencies worldwide. Founded in 1965, the firm has worked for 19 of the top 25 law firms in the U.S., as well as 14 of the top 25 industrial companies, in the last four years. CRA's thirteen offices are each engaged in Litigation and Regulation services, including economic and financial analysis, expert testimony, and research support. In addition CRA offers Business Consulting Services, which combines expertise in microeconomics and business strategy to assist clients in various practice areas (e.g. pharmaceuticals and healthcare, metals, and chemicals). CRA is located in Boston, Oakland, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Palo Alto, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. In 2000, CRA opened offices in London, Salt Lake City, UT, College Station, TX, Wellington, NZ, and Melbourne, Aus.
Charles River Associates is one of the top economic analysis and research firms worldwide, with peers like the Brattle Group, Cornerstone, LECG, Lexecon, and NERA. CRA's position in the top tier has been solidified in the last few years with two acquisitions; in 1998, the firm bought the Tilden Group, a California-based consulting firm specializing in economic analysis for telecommunications, antitrust and intellectual property, litigation, public policy design, and business strategy development. In 1999, CRA acquired FinEcon, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm with strengths in financial, economic, and management consulting in business and commercial litigation. The firm has also had substantial revenue growth in the last three years, from $44.8 million in 1997 to $53 million in 1998 to a whopping $74 million in fiscal 1999. Revenues for the 2ndquarter of 2001 increased 24 percent to $24.6 million, compared with revenues of $19.8 million for the second fiscal quarter of fiscal 2000. Net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2001 was $1.7 million, or $0.19 per share on a diluted basis, compared with net income of $2.6 million, or $0.30 per share on a diluted basis, for the second quarter a year earlier.
Focus on the individual
Charles River Associates' recruiting program is individually coordinated by each branch office, with each location focusing on specific undergraduate campuses. Applicants are encouraged to indicate their office preference as early as possible in the recruiting process, though candidates interested in Business Consulting should apply only to the Boston headquarters. While the firm currently recruits on-campus for undergraduates only, MBA graduates are encouraged to submit write-in applications. The firm receives applications through four primary channels: on-campus recruiting, college consortia, campus resume referrals, and direct applications. CRA is particularly interested in candidates who are analytical problem solvers with demonstrated research experience. Many analyst candidates have an academic background in economics, though successful candidates have come from disciplines such as physics, biochemistry, engineering, mathematics, and the liberal arts.
A congenial atmosphere where you'll be
Many insiders remarked on the "collegiality" of CRA, emphasizing the firm's "supportive environment for learning and career development" and the "extremely bright and talented staff." Other sources lauded the "willingness of staff members to assist one another" and the "multiple career opportunities" available for CRA alums. One business consulting employee remarked, "I feel highly valued as a person and an employee. I couldn't ask for a more nurturing work environment."
Experts in their fields
Charles River Associates employees are typically PhDs or MBAs with specialties in finance, economics, technology, energy policy, metals, engineering, or minerals and materials. CRA's staff includes economists, former senior industry executives, engineers and technology experts, experts in survey and operations research, and statisticians and econometricians. With locations in or around major academic institutions, the firm maintains close working relationships with leading academic and industry experts at institutions including the University of California at Berkeley, Georgetown University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Virginia.
Interviewing: two rounds, then an offer
Campus recruiting begins with information sessions and presentations to prospective candidates by teams consisting of analysts, associates, and senior staff. Following the presentation, there is a question-and-answer period during which candidates can ask questions directly, without any fear of evaluation. After applicants submit their resumes and cover letters, they are contacted at least two weeks prior to their first-round interview. During the first-round interviews, which are generally held on-campus, candidates are screened by two members of the recruiting team for approximately 30 minutes. Those selected for a second-round interview are asked to send their college transcripts and to indicate a preference for either CRA's litigation or business consulting practices. Second-round interviews are held at the branch office to which the candidate applied, and consist of 30-minute interviews with four junior and senior staff members over the course of a "Super Saturday" (Boston and D.C. offices only). Candidates are also taken to lunch during the Super Saturday to learn more about CRA's corporate culture and its employees. Candidates are contacted within two to four days of second-round interviews with a decision. Approximately 46 percent of job offers made for the analyst position (undergraduate degree) are accepted.
After an offer has been made, successful candidates are invited back to their particular branch office. Current analysts guide each candidate through a number of activities designed to give him or her a more comprehensive understanding of the position and the company. The candidate meets with a range of junior and senior staff members, and is taken out for a social lunch with other analysts.
Dress: from conservative to
The dress at Charles River Associates is business casual in Boston to casual in the other offices. In the Oakland office, according to insiders, the dress is "beyond casual - people wear pretty much whatever." In general, though, insiders say that "people dress well. Not everyone wears suits, but everyone wears nice clothes." Another source adds that "on Friday, most people wear jeans," and there is "no requirement that you wear a tie."
Keeping themselves engaged
Charles River Associates' expertise in areas such as antitrust, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, finance, and securities fraud has led to a number of high-profile engagements. For example, CRA chairman and MIT professor of economics Franklin M. Fisher was an expert witness on behalf of the Department of Justice in the government's antitrust case against Microsoft. CRA staff supported Professor Fisher's testimony with research, analysis, and assistance with trial exhibits.
In another example, Charles River Associates was recently retained by the National Basketball Association in litigation that challenged the legality of the NBA's assignment of exclusive national television rights. The firm analyzed the NBA's policies and provided support to a professor who testified that the league's policies were procompetitive and provided significant benefits to consumers. The case was settled after the NBA's successful appeal of the lower court finding in favor of the plaintiffs.
In a well-known case, the producer of the film Boxing Helena retained CRA to estimate damages stemming from Kim Basinger's breach of an oral contract to perform in the film. CRA has also done work for a diverse array of clients including the Recording Industry of America, Polaroid, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, Toyota, British Steel, the Baseball Office of the Commissioner, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and a wide array of prominent law firms.
Training focus: casework and systems orientation
A new analyst class joins CRA each summer, and the firm staggers its start dates into three groups to facilitate training and orientation. The orientation program is a five-day series of workshops, training sessions, and activities designed to introduce new analysts to the company. The first day consists of administrative matters, including medical and dental insurance, 401(k) plans, office tours, and use of the phone and voicemail systems, and is balanced with social events including breakfast with current analysts and lunch with mentors. On the second day, project managers and analysts present recently completed casework. (During the 1999 orientation, one consultant presented her role in the Microsoft antitrust case, in which CRA provided extensive research support to the Department of Justice's leading expert.) On this day, senior staff members also introduce the two main areas of CRA project work, litigation and business consulting.
The third day is set aside for computer training and overviews of software and concludes with a fun event held outside the office. The fourth day is reserved for senior staff members to explain data management policies. The latter half of the day involves a training module in which new analysts receive a mini-project for which they must organize the project directory, gather data, create spreadsheets, and manage data output. On the final day, once the analysts have completed the project, the entire group reconvenes to review the process and go over areas that can be improved. The rest of the morning is spent with their Mentor to begin working on their current assignment.
Charles River Associates also provides ongoing training sessions in a number of fields, including presentation skills, Visual Basic, and advanced SAS. In addition, experienced staff members regularly conduct case discussion colloquiums, during which they present recent project work. Furthermore, prior to their arrival at the company, new analysts are assigned a mentor, who generally will help him or her acclimate to CRA's culture through tours, introductions, lunches, and other social engagements. The mentor ultimately provides guidance with any aspect of the work environment, from assisting with technical complications to offering new approaches and ideas.
Able to party with the best of them
Insiders called social interaction among the junior staffers "substantial," relating that "junior staff members go to happy hour twice a week, and attend sporting events and concerts together." One source added that "almost all analysts participate to some degree" in these "ad hoc" activities. In addition, the firm sponsors several functions each year.
Publicly owned and operated
In 1995, Charles River Associates officers and directors completed a buyout of the firm, with each officer receiving an equity interest in the company. CRA went public in May 1998, when the officers sold a small portion of their equity interest. Today, the firm is managed by the Board of Directors and the officers of the company. Nearly all practice group heads hold PhDs in the area of specialty.