If you “want to work in Houston, there's no better option than Baker Botts,” chorused associates at Baker Botts, where a culture of conservative growth has propelled this venerable Texan to the international stage.
WHETHER you're a budding IP attorney, a litigation prodigy, or a wannabe corporate whiz, if you “want to work in Houston, there's no better option than Baker Botts.” Well, it's certainly true that this firm (jointly) wins the highest number of top-tier Chambers USA rankings in Texas, so there is some merit to this claim. Baker Botts' reputation and presence spread beyond the Lone Star State too: the firm is ranked nationwide by Chambers USA for a dozen areas including energy projects, energy transactions and environmental law, and has Chambers-ranked offices in California, New York, and Washington DC.
“In Houston, there's no better option than Baker Botts.”
Baker Botts can trace its roots back a long way. All the way to 1840 in fact, before the Republic of Texas became part of the United States. Like the state it calls home Baker Botts has a distinctive, independent streak. “I got the impression that it's a little more of a mature firm,” mused one of our sources. “There's a real emphasis on no-one burning out. We're encouraged to take time off, rest, and have a life.”
Strategy & Future
As you might expect from a firm so embedded in Texas soil, energy work – particularly for the oil and gas sectors – is a significant focus for Baker Botts. But associates suggested a slight, conservative, shift was occurring. “The firm is positioning itself for the future,” one said. “Traditionally we have done oil and gas work, but now it's renewable energy and tech that have become a big focus.” Another commented: “We move conservatively and that's allowed us to be such a long-standing but ever-shifting firm.”
Associates said that in all things Baker Botts is a “reactive rather than a leading firm,” so instead of seeing “big seismic shifts,” they expected “little incremental changes here and there.” Managing partner John Martin tells us: “In a very competitive environment, it's important for firms to stay differentiated. We're going to continue focusing on our strengths and sharpen our differentiation, so there'll be no dramatic or drastic shifts.”
Around two-thirds of Baker Botts' new associate recruits are hired in Texas, and at the time of our research we found about a third of juniors in Houston, a third in Dallas or Austin, and a third elsewhere (chiefly New York and DC, but also Palo Alto). Litigation is home to most juniors, closely followed by IP and corporate. There are also juniors in tax and global projects. The latter is mostly focused on energy work, though work for energy clients permeates other departments too.
Each new first-year is assigned a senior associate mentor, “who works as an advocate for you and also a shield. They keep an ear to the ground for new matters, source work, and protect you when you're swamped. Over time work assignment becomes far more organic, with people coming to your office and asking if you have the bandwidth to work on something.” Our interviewees praised the support the mentorship program offers, “as it allows partners to know when you're busy so you don't just get more gasoline thrown on the fire.” An apt metaphor.
“I've worked on discovery, interrogatories, settlement negotiations, and second-chaired a deposition.”
The litigation practice covers securities, oil and gas, insurance, antitrust, and white-collar matters. Interviewees were quick to note how geography affects the type of work associates take on. “Those on the West Coast do more IP litigation, whereas DC does more antitrust,” one source said. Many appellate and class action cases occur in Austin, while aviation and securities disputes find a home in Dallas. Recently the environmental law group was incorporated into the general litigation practice, so this work is on offer too – “the bulk of the environmental practice is either enforcement actions or litigation.” In Houston we heard matters can range from “billion-dollar securities cases” to “a client getting dinged for not complying with lead paint regulations.” One junior told us about their typical tasks: “I've worked on discovery, interrogatories, settlement negotiations, and second-chaired a deposition. It's common for me to get half a dozen client calls a day.”
Litigation clients: JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Halliburton. Defended EOG Resources against a $40 million claim by Wall Street bank CIT over an alleged breach in a lease for railcars used to transport crude oil.
In the IP group, “they look for associates with relevant backgrounds for specific issues, so technical skills will dictate the work thrown your way – some backgrounds will allow you to cross over between life sciences and technology work, for example.” The group handles patent litigation and prosecution and we heard the firm “wants you to have both in your practice.” On the litigation side, one associate outlined their typical tasks: “Negotiating orders, drafting motions, working on claim structures, reviewing documents, as well as helping prepare witnesses for depositions.” Another source shared: “I'm staffed on a number of District Court cases, on which I'm mostly being a technical expert on the patents we're being sued on. I have to know the technology and show why a patent is invalid. That involves a lot of legal research which goes into the motions we submit.” On the prosecution side, associates work directly with inventors to “write and file the first draft of patent applications,” as well as “lead and conduct inventor interviews” before “negotiating license agreements with the patent office.”
IP clients: Dell, Fox Sports, and Cisco Systems. Represented Ericsson and T-Mobile in a series of cases related to 12 different patents against Intellectual Ventures, one of the biggest patent holders in the US.
“In the beginning, it's diligence, managing schedules, and drafting ancillary documents. "
The corporate group handles M&A, capital markets, securities, private equity, and energy matters. We heard from one source that in DC “the practice is mostly split between private equity M&A – representing private equity firms in midlevel acquisitions – and energy M&A, mostly energy or utility companies buying assets from one other.” In New York too “because of Baker Botts' history, there's a significant oil and gas presence.” But the practice is much broader than just this. For example, in Houston capital markets work gives juniors exposure to “public equity offerings, preferred offerings, Exchange Act reporting, and underwriting.” We heard that “because deal teams are leanly staffed on capital markets deals, there are a lot more responsibilities for a junior associate than in M&A where the teams are a little bulkier because of the amount of due diligence that needs to be done.” One junior who had been doing M&A work told us how their tasks developed over time: “In the beginning, it's diligence, managing schedules, and drafting ancillary documents. But as early as my second year, I got to take a crack at the purchase agreement: I was looking at precedents and was involved in the early stages of drafting when we were acting on the buyer side in an auction.”
Corporate clients: The Carlyle Group, BP America, and Citigroup Global Markets. Advised engineering multinational McDermott on its $6 billion merger with rival CB&I.
Associates were positive about Baker Botts' blend of formal and informal training. We heard that the firm has “many markers about what you should be proficient at and when – client development, public speaking, professional expertise – but you're really encouraged to take ownership of your own progress.” This means that “if you have a question or concern, you're told to reach out for guidance and given feedback to help figure out what needs to be done.”
“A life saver for juniors.”
Formal training includes targeted sessions aimed at specific practice groups as well as a general – and tough-sounding – Associate Survival Program, which we heard is “a life saver for juniors.” As for making partner, our interviewees said they had “a good grasp” of what needs to be done to get there, but recognized that “a lot of the decision-making is kind of misty.”
Hours & Compensation
The firmwide billing target for associates is 2,000 hours, with 50 of those being 'management approved nonbillables,' which can include “writing articles, helping partners with pitches, or CLE presentations.” Achieving the target felt reasonable to most.
“As long as it takes.”
Juniors said they are typically in the office from 9am or 10am to 6pm, with some “then working from home” and others “liking to work late and not take work home, meaning leaving at 7pm or 9pm.” Things tend to get much later when associates are slammed, across all the offices. A Houston source highlighted that you work for “as long as it takes,” while an Austin interviewee said: “When it's crazy, I'll rarely pull an all-nighter, but I might bill 13 or 14 hours in a day.” And a DC source reported a typically long day lasting from 10am to midnight. Associates were pleased to be able to work from home in the evenings, and appreciated perks like “being able to bill your dinner to the firm and get them to pay for your Uber home” if you work late.
Previously associate pay was determined by an “unhelpful and unclear” tier system, but the firm has now scrapped this level system and introduced a “far more egalitarian” lockstep pay scale “that's about class level.” The firm also matched the 2018 Milbank pay rise.
Pro bono remains popular among Baker Botts' juniors and we spoke to several sources who had done over 100 hours in a year. Within reason, the firm's associates can do as much as they like, as all pro bono hours are counted as billable. Work on offer includes divorce, veterans, and asylum cases as well as advising nonprofits. “There are always matters being circulated,” one source said, while another commented that “pro bono is very much a thing, especially in litigation as it allows you to get early trial experience. And a firmwide pro bono committee publishes news and celebrations of what we do.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 30,000
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
Regional differences shaped our interviewees' outlook on firm culture. In Houston sources described a work atmosphere and dress code “a little more on the formal side – people aren't wearing polos or khakis, but that's only an issue if you care about wearing a suit.” By contrast we heard that DC is “far more laid back than Texas – no one's really wearing suits here.” In addition, on the East Coast Baker Botts “doesn't feel like a Southern firm where all we care about is oil and gas!”
“Everyone's working to live rather than the other way around.”
These differences aside, all sources noted a firmwide culture which is “very much a meritocracy – it's about doing the best job you can and propping each other up.” Interviewees noted Baker Botts is also “very transparent about not being a party firm – we work hard and play hard, but we just don't always play together!” Rather interviewees described their relationship with colleagues as “professional and polite” and one said: “We've developed a family-orientated culture where everyone's working to live rather than the other way around.”
Diversity & Inclusion
“There's always more that can be done,” interviewees said on the topic of diversity. Juniors differentiated between the informal, day-to-day level (“where there's been inclusion training and everyone recognizes the need to be sensitive”) and the more senior levels of the firm (“where diversity tends to get lost”). The firm's decision to sign up to the Mansfield Rule was warmly received. Associates also highlighted the Baker Botts Global Women's Forum, where “small groups of women are given a stipend to have gatherings and speak candidly with female partners.” Sources also mentioned the firm's involvement on the Texas Minority Counsel Program, which aims to inform diverse students about life in BigLaw.
"You have worked hard to achieve the academic success that has led to the interview. Don’t undermine that hard work by failing to put your best foot forward."
More coming soon...
Baker Botts LLP
One Shell Plaza,
910 Louisiana Street,
- Head Office: Houston, TX
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 8
- Partners (US): 249
- Associates (US): 335
- Main recruitment contact: Elizabeth Krichmar, Director of Recruiting
- Hiring partner: John Martin, Partner-in-Charge, Recruiting
- Diversity officer: Kathy Bowman-Williams, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 56
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 96
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 by office: Austin: 12, Dallas: 20, Houston: 33, New York: 13, Palo Alto: 9, San Francisco: 5, DC: 4
- Summer Salary 2019: 1Ls: $3,654/week
- 2Ls: $3,654/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,654/week
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? Splits between offices are limited and available on a case-by-case basis
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Based on our broad experience and our in-depth knowledge of our clients’ industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in energy and technology. Core practice areas include project development and finance; corporate transactions; complex business litigation; international arbitration; antitrust; intellectual property; environmental; compliance and enforcement; tax; employee benefits; and real estate.
Baker Botts is a globally respected law firm with 725 lawyers and 15 offices around the world. We are driven by the highest ethical and professional standards. This professionalism, combined with industry knowledge and insights and our understanding of the law, helps us to deliver effective, innovative solutions for our clients. For more than 177 years, Baker Botts has delivered results-oriented services, establishing us as a leading law firm. Our reputation is complemented by our leadership in government, the judiciary and our communities. Regardless of size, sector or jurisdiction of a client, our commitment is to help achieve their business objectives.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Baylor, Berkeley, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Mason, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Houston, Loyola Patent Program, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Pennsylvania, SMU, St. John, Stanford, Texas, UC Hastings, UCLA, UC Davis, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington University, Yale, Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Boston College/Boston University Job Fair, Harvard BLSA Job Fair, Lavender Law Job Fair, San Francisco IP Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, and Texas in NY.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Write-ins, Referrals, Judicial Clerkships, Baker Botts Winter 1L Open House (all US offices)
Summer associate profile:
Baker Botts lawyers are selected from the top graduates among the best law schools. We have formally established a set of core attributes we seek in candidates; some of which include leadership, collegiality, dedication, and commitment to excellence.
Summer program components:
Our philosophy is to allow summer associates to sample work in practice areas in which they are interested. Written and oral work evaluations are strongly encouraged and monitored. Each summer associate has both partner and associate advisors. All summer associates receive formal performance evaluations during the summer program. Baker Weekend, the cornerstone of our summer program, brings together summer associates and lawyers from all seven of our U.S. offices for a weekend of training and social events. Our summer associates learn about our firm through interactive panel discussions and informal break-out sessions with firm leadership and enjoy socializing with each other and our attorneys in a fun, casual setting.
Recruitment website: www.bakerbotts.com/careers/
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Electricity) (Band 2)
- Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Oil & Gas) (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Litigation: Appellate (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 1)
- Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 2)
Texas: Houston & Surrounds
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Climate Change (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 5)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Recognised Practitioner
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 3)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- International Arbitration (Band 4)
- Projects: LNG (Band 1)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
- Tax: Controversy Recognised Practitioner
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 4)