Most juniors were based in the litigation, business & finance and labor & employment groups. There were also some in IP, investment management, personal law, tax controversy, FDA, real estate and energy. Litigators in the Philly office often see clients with a focus on healthcare and pharmaceuticals, among them AstraZeneca and Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen. Work can include corporate/government investigations and class actions, and sometimes "international cases where you take on a junior role. There's also a lot of national work." As well as the big cases, litigators may represent individuals, for example in white-collar cases. "It's a full-scale shop," one reported. "We do pretty much everything except divorces." New York and DC, meanwhile, attract financial clients including Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase, although there's a varied amount of work from other industries too. Interviewees liked getting early responsibility: “Within my first year I was doing depositions potentially on my own," said one. That word "potentially" suggests a reassuring backup safety net, if required. "The cases wouldn't be thrilling, but the fact that I could do it in my first year made it an unparalleled experience.”
The labor & employment department acts for some big-business clients, including American Airlines, Toyota, Dell and Philips, usually defending them against class actions and smaller plaintiff cases (like whistle-blowers). New York has more of a financial focus, with Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citigroup among those on the firm's Rolodex. "I haven’t had any international work," sources revealed. "Clients are all over the country. The work is usually regional and national. I really enjoy working in smaller groups because on a massive team you can get lost in the shuffle." Another savored one "high-profile" case in particular: "It wasn't so much the case itself, it was more that I got to be involved on a substantive and strategic level."
Business & finance juniors are subdivided into corporate, finance & restructuring and energy transactions subgroups, with the vast majority doing corporate work. A corporate junior helpfully explained: "We work on securities, M&A and startup companies, and I've gotten a good bit of experience on all three." Work-wise, "it's definitely regional, as you can imagine, but the clients we have are all over the country."
All but the smallest practices have their work officially divvied out with the help of a workload coordinator; associates generally rank their availability each week. However, sources stressed that with experience they tended to get work “much more organically,” and "if you work with another associate, usually they will come back to you. Everyone here is pretty open, so you can say when you are too busy to take on more work."
Training & Development
Feedback on training tended to vary, with juniors in larger groups like litigation and labor & employment reporting more in-depth and formalized training, and smaller ones describing a less rigid, informal process. A litigator spoke warmly of their experience: “I think the firm is really good with offering training to young and midlevel associates, often more than people need.” Another said it “ranges from deposition training to skills-based training like conducting internal investigations. If you want it, it's there!” All interviewees reported that they're often given more general administration-based training, before receiving more practice group-specific instructions.
Across the board, associates reported being provided with both a senior associate (known as a “buddy”) and partner mentors, with most saying that this resource was “make what you want of it.” One expressed this candidly: “Was I in over my head? Probably. Did I feel like it? No. I feel like I get enough support.”
The firm's Philadelphia head office at 17th and Market has the largest collection of junior associates in litigation, business & finance (corporate) and labor & employment. While “not the most esthetically pleasing,” the Philly office does fill an entire building which “spans the length of the block,” associates said. The HQ also boasts particularly convenient transport links, with a subway station below.
Elsewhere, the DC base has “glassy, modern” interiors with juniors focusing more on litigation and labor & employment, and the Miami office has “beautiful” sea-view panoramas. Meanwhile, the views from the San Fran office are are so incredible that “you get distracted during deposition interviews because of how stunning they are.” In total, Morgan Lewis has 25 offices – nine of which are overseas. We heard there's a great deal of collaboration between many of them, with sources reporting that they “often get cases originating from other offices.” Chair Fran Milone confirms: “Collaboration is an important part of our culture.”
Associates described a relatively “casual” atmosphere: “You don't see a lot of suits and ties and you find that people use their first names.” One commented: “I thought the people were a bit more relaxed than in other firms but they had every reason to be pompous because they do cutting-edge work and are a big firm.” Happy hours, cocktail nights and staff lunches are common, and apparently an ice cream cart makes weekly rounds of the DC office.
However, “I think the firm is spartan in terms of perks,” several said. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though: “In the grand scheme of things, I'd like a firm that's financially conservative – there have been no attorney layoffs that aren't related to performance, and I feel safe in my job.” Others agreed: “I feel confident they are forward-thinking and financially conservative. Everyone hears about the law firms that implode, and our firm takes the time to study those. Long-term, I feel confident.”
Hours & Compensation
While there's no billable hours requirement at Morgan Lewis, sources generally felt they should bill around the 2,000-hour mark, but this figure wasn't something they had to hit “or else.” Hours vary, with one litigator reporting: “It tends to depend on the cases, but occasionally there are what I like to call 'self-created fire drills' where it's your fault for not planning in advance.” Juniors said there's an okay work/life balance in the main, but like any client-driven business sometimes deadlines are tight: “The issue is that with a lot of clients there are Monday morning deadlines, so although I'm not billing 3,000 hours per year, I wouldn't go home on a weekend without bringing my computer.”
Once associates in Pennsylvania breach the 2,000-hour mark, they become eligible for the “standard” bonus, and after that they can get a “discretionary” bonus based on their performance. Elsewhere, the bonus is purely discretionary. Some sources complained that bonuses were delivered late in comparison to other firms and that sometimes they were unsure about how they were allocated: “It's frustrating and confusing.” Despite this, one associate pointed out that, “even though there is a mystery about how the bonuses are given out, they tend to be generous and above market rate, and people tend to be satisfied.”
“Pro bono is one of the biggest things at this firm,” said multiple sources. “I know every firm says it pushes for it – but this firm is unique.” And while “unique” might be too strong a word, Morgan Lewis is certainly committed. According to one associate, “all of our hours here factor into our billable hours, 100%, no questions asked.” The firm is “nothing but enthusiastic. They'll send out details via e-mail, and you can choose your own adventure!” Junior associates are encouraged to take on pro bono cases as a way of gaining more experience: “It's a way to get a lot of experience very early.” The rationale is, as one source asserted, that “on the bigger cases our clients will want the best – someone with experience. For less senior associates, the way to get that experience is through pro bono.”
Pro bono hours
For all attorneys across all US offices: 64,702
Average per US attorney: 51
Morgan Lewis's newly elected female chair, Jami Wintz McKeon, will take the reins from Fran Milone in October 2014. One source said the firm is “certainly more diverse than other firms I've been around, at least at the BigLaw firms.” Generally women were reported to be pretty well represented – especially at associate level where the split is roughly 50/50. “Gender diversity is definitely there.” One source in one particular group in one particular office stated that: “We have substantially more female than male associates, but it's kind of the reverse for partners.” Another said: “The firm is looking for ways to encourage women to make them move from associate to partnership level, while also balancing the demands of a family and having children if they choose to.”
Morgan Lewis typically hires through summer programs and OCIs. Firmwide hiring partner Rahul Kapoor says: “The majority of our entry-level associates joins the firm through the summer program, but at times when there is an immediate need we will interview the 3L graduating class.” Between 55 to 65 students are admitted into the summer program each year. The firm attends around 28 law schools for OCIs, but encourages those who can't make it to send them a written application. Kapoor says: “This year we saw around 3,800 applications, and approximately 1,500 of those were from OCIs. The vast majority of callback interviews are from OCIs and approximately 25% of these students get called back for a full round of interviews. The callback rate for write-in applications is less than 5%.” According to Kapoor, the firm uses behavioral interview techniques, “so questions are tailored to each student's resume and attempt to delve into their past experiences in order to determine if it will indicate similar future success at the firm.”
What's the ideal candidate? “We are looking for future leaders of the firm. Ideal candidates possess outstanding academic achievement, clear communication skills, good analytical abilities, a strong commitment to client service, and the ability to succeed in a collaborative environment. We are looking for individuals who take ownership of a project and follow it through to the end.”
Strategy & Future
Morgan Lewis has further growth on the horizon, with a focus on international expansion. The opening of new offices in Almaty and Moscow in 2012 and Dubai in 2013 has set a precedent for such advancement. Fran Milone says: “We will continue to expand our capacity and footprint outside of the US.”
On the firm's practice areas, Milone says: “The litigation practice – and that entails IP, commercial litigation, financial services litigation, securities, white-collar, products and employment – continues to be very strong and successful. That being said, our energy practice continues to thrive and finance is also growing rapidly – the new Moscow and Dubai offices focus on these areas. As we expand, finance will inevitably play a bigger part, as will energy and corporate.”