Bracewell LLP - The Inside View

A BigLaw firm with a “small-firm feel” – this Texan outfit has energy to burn…

For the majority of law firms, the past year or two have been about steadying the ship. “Our approach has been to remain focused on the well-being and engagement of our lawyers and staff and to continue providing excellent service to our clients,” managing partner Greg Bopp tells us. “We simply continued to prioritize what’s always been most important to us – our clients and our talent.” Indeed, with Bracewell boasting specialist expertise in the energy, infrastructure, finance, and technology sectors, they had good reason to stay optimistic. “We didn’t have any layoffs, or any salary reductions during the pandemic,” one associate explained, “and every six weeks or so, the senior leadership would hold meetings with associates just to reassure us that things were going well, and that these things weren’t going to change.” 

"While traditional fossil fuels businesses remain a core area of the firm’s practice, with each year the focus on renewables and energy transition technologies grows.”

Half of Bracewell’s eight domestic offices are located in the Lone Star State, adding to associates’ assertion that Bracewell is “a big market player in the state.” The bulk of the firm’s junior associates set up shop in Houston, with a handful of others spread out between Dallas, Austin, New York, and Washington,DC. Like a lot of Texas-bred firms, energy is core to the fabric of Bracewell. The firm scoops multiple nationwide Chambers USA rankings in the sector, for areas including oil & gas, oil & gas litigation, and renewables projects. In particular, the firm is considered among the cream of the crop for electricity finance and oil & gas regulatory & litigation. Beyond energy, the firm also picks up top marks in Texas for its environment and banking & finance work, as well as recognition for labor & employment, litigation, real estate, technology, and bankruptcy/restructuring (among others).

Strategy & Future



"To quote the Truman Doctrine, ‘the world is not static and the status quo is not sacred” Bopp explains, “all firms should articulate a vision, what they aspire to be, and be proactive about creating priorities to make their vision a reality.” For Bracewell, at the center of this idea has been the energy transition. As one associate put it: “While traditional fossil fuels businesses remain a core area of the firm’s practice, with each year the focus on renewables and energy transition technologies grows.” Indeed, it seems Bracewell has got the balance right when it comes to staying at the forefront of renewables: “We are a market-leading firm in the renewables space” Bopp explains, “because ofthe tremendous expertise we have in carbon capture, hydrogen development, offshore wind, solar and ESG [Environmental, Social & Governance].”

It doesn’t come as a huge surprise therefore that the firm’s energy practice remains a key area of growth. As Bopp summarizes: “It’s certainly drives a tremendous amount of momentum and growth to have a very large platform of excellence across the entire energy spectrum.” But the firm’s growth isn’t confined to its energy practice: “We are also developing larger pockets of excellence in sectors such as finance, infrastructure and and healthcare, which are critical to the economy of the United States,” Bopp explains. The firm added 18 lateral partners across six offices in 2021 alone, and Bopp estimates that the firm has increased its headcount by 20% in the last twelve months.

The Work



While summer associates will get the opportunity to try out different practice areas, most will specialize by the time they start at the firm full-time. The exception to this is in Bracewell’s Washington, DC office, which operates under what’s called a ‘pool’ system: “In your first year, you’re put into a general pool where you kind of work for everybody,” one associate explained. “There’s not a work coordinator as such, so partners and senior associates can come to you from wherever. One day you might wake up and be doing M&A, then by that night you’ll be doing litigation.” Eventually, juniors will be sifted into a single practice area, but in this initial period associates appreciated the opportunity to get “a broader exposure to numerous partners.”

Work assignment for junior associates is largely free market. Associates can approach partners and ask to be brought onto matters that interest them – “and that door swings both ways.” As one associate in Houston put it: “It makes it really relationship-based, and while it makes for busier times and slower times, it works for me. I have a little bit more control over who I work for and where I want my practice to go.”

“I was able to sit in on depositions, help out with those depositions, and draft parts of our pre-hearing brief.”

Bracewell’s litigation department is split into three smaller sub-groups: trial, financial restructuring, and labor, with the majority of junior associates placed in the trial team. “There’s a lot of commercial litigation – things like contract disputes and supply chain issues,” one source told us, “and that’s across several different industries.” Junior associates are also able to jump onto contentious matters in IP and white-collar work in a criminal context. In the day-to-day, there is plenty of document review and research, but that’s not all: “I was working on a case a couple of months ago where there were four of us on a large arbitration case,” one associate highlighted, “so I was able to sit in on depositions, help out with those depositions, and draft parts of our pre-hearing brief.”

Litigation clients: Kinder Morgan, Equinor Wind, Hilcorp Energy Company. Represented the Apache Corporation on multiple litigious matters, including a class action suit worth $400 million alleging underpaid royalties in thousands of oil and gas leases.

Associates interested in transactional work file into Bracewell’s business & regulatory section, which is in turn split into eight sub-groups: finance, public finance, energy regulatory, corporate & securities, projects, real estate, tax, and environmental. As the largest group in the section, junior associates in the finance group spoke of working “at the intersection of high-end finance work, and its local effects.” As one associate explained: “A lot of the work involves financing transactions on the banking side, representing the bank in negotiating the credit agreement.” Day to day, a Houston junior said: “I happen to do a little more on the borrower side. It’s never the same day to day, but I do typical junior associate work – things like correspondence on deals via email to keep everything moving, and drafting the ancillary documents for the credit agreements.”

Finance clients: Beacon Offshore Energy Development, JPMorgan Chase Bank, Citibank. Represented the Pioneer Natural Resources Company as a borrower in a revolving credit facility with Wells Fargo Bank. The financing, as well as the acquisition of Parsley Energy, increased the size of the facility to over $2 billion.

Culture



‘Are you happy because you’re winning, or are you winning because you are happy?’ – a relevant quote managing partner Greg Bopp shared at a recent morning meeting. “We certainly work hard as lawyers,” Bopp says, “but we all need to remember and prioritize spending time with friends and family, and pursuing interests outside of law.” In line with this sentiment, the work/life balance at Bracewell came out as one of the firm’s real strengths from our survey, with associates at the firm billing an average of less than 50 hours a week. Bracewell even has its own BWell initiative – a well-being program that the firm launched in 2019 to promote a healthy work/life balance. The program includes things like mental health first aid training, fitness challenges, and a speaker series.

“I doubt that at most firms, you could straight up call the managing partner, and he would know who you are.”

“It has the culture of a small firm at a large-sized firm,” one associate remarked. “I doubt that at most firms, you could straight up call the managing partner, and he would know who you are.” Associates described the culture as one where you wouldn’t go home at the end of the day without having spoken to folks. In particular, interviewees pointed to the firm’s “really big” summer programwhere there are “different events every week. It’s usually things like lunches, movies, big dinners, some of the partners even have events at their houses.” As one associate put it: “There are no barriers between associates and partners/counsel. The relationships between attorneys are genuine and personal; it’s not just limited to a professional courtesy.”

Career Development



There was a very tangible sense among the associates we spoke to that partnership at the firm was achievable: “They tell you right from the off that they hire you as a summer associate with a view to hiring you as a full-time associate, and they hire you as an associate with a view to hiring you as a partner.” This translated to a willingness among existing partners to mentor the junior associates at Bracewell with that end goal very much in sight: “Partners will mentor you to become a partner yourself.”

“Partners will mentor you to become a partner yourself.”

Associates described a principle of two-way open communication when it came to feedback, with junior associates assigned a partner and an associate mentor when they first join. “We have a boot camp, either for our transactional side, or litigation. They try to cover a really broad spectrum of things so that junior associates have at least touched a bit of everything,” one associate remarked. These boot camps form an important part of the training on offer at Bracewell, but beyond those, the different groups also hold their own trainings: “In our finance group, we have meetings every week for an hour, focusing on one aspect of something like a credit agreement or a security agreement.”

Find out about lateral recruitment at Bracewell here.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 2,000 requirement

The firm has a billable hours target of 2,000 hours, but for junior associates, it’s likely that work will start more slowly: “It’s partly because they intend for us to slowly grow our book of business,” one associate explained, “but it’s also given me an opportunity to get settled and figure out post-COVID office protocols.” So far, the firm has avoided putting any hard-and-fast rules in place regarding office working; as a general rule “the firm leaves it up to you to work out how to work.” That being said, staff are encouraged to come in where they are comfortable: "They’ve expressed that they do want in-office involvement from everyone, but they’ve kept it very flexible.” As for compensation and bonuses, associates were confident that the firm was going to stay market-rate: “We matched the latest pay hikes, and I think Bracewell is always going to match market, and keep the associates happy.”

Pro Bono



Associates are encouraged to do as much pro bono as they like, but only 100 of those hours can a year can go towards their billable hours target. That said, we did speak to some juniors who had billed in excess of this. “There are various programs that we can sign up to that will bring pro bono work in,” juniors noted. One such organization associates had worked with was Momentum Education, which works with minority students in the Houston and Dallas areas. The project gives attorneys an opportunity to mentor minority students through essays and applications to colleges.

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: Undisclosed
  • Average per US attorney: Undisclosed

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



The associates we spoke to highlighted diversity as something that needs to be improved at the firm. One noted that “in the finance group in particular, we are mostly women. But I would say the representation of minorities isn’t yet what it needs to be.” To tackle this issue, the firm recently added a director of diversity, inclusion, and outreach – Greg Bopp explains: “Her role is to work with me and other firm leaders to coordinate a purposeful and impactful  firm wide approach around recruitment, outreach activities, retention and professional development.” Associates too were quick to point out the positive change: “I’ve noticed a lot of change since she started,” one associate told us. “We started a diversity summer program in the Houston office, which has been really effective for attracting diverse candidates, and we have inclusivity and unconscious bias training the moment we start interviewing.” The Bracewell Women's Network also exists to support women in the firm and regularly hosts events including panel discussions, volunteering drives, and coffee meetings.

Get Hired



LATERAL RECRUITMENT: Find out more about lateral opportunities at Bracewell here.

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed:125

Bracewell recruits through OCIs and regional job fairs across the country. It also accepts write-in applications. The firm does 1L hiring as well, primarily in its Texas offices. Candidates meet with a mix of partners and associates from different practices and backgrounds during the interview process. 

If you want to help ensure your success at OCI, brush up on your research about the firm and ask specific questions to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Hiring sources tell us “the firm looks for law students and lawyers who wish to be part of a team and will appreciate regular interaction with senior associates and partners.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Enjoy the process for what it is and look around and see what makes the firm stand out. Notice how the attorneys are interacting with each other and remember how you felt when you were leaving the interview.” – a third-year junior associate 

Callbacks 

Successful candidates are invited back to meet with six to eight lawyers as well as a member of the firm’s recruiting team. They’ll spend 30 minutes finding out about the candidate’s experience, their career goals and understanding how candidates would fit within Bracewell’s culture. At this stage, hiring sources say “it’s time to demonstrate your knowledge about the specific office in which you are interviewing.” In the most recent recruiting season, all interviews were held virtually, but in a typical year, candidates also get the opportunity to walk around the offices, see attorneys interacting with each other and to get a real feel for what the office is like.   

Top tips for this stage: 

“What got me the position was being transparent about who I was and what I can bring to the table, and I was willing to express that.” – a junior associate 

“Be sure to familiarize yourself with the major practice groups in the office, any alumni from your law school, and be prepared to discuss both your connection to the market, specific interest and experience in a particular area (if known), and information you’d like to share that doesn’t come through your application materials.” – hiring source at the firm 

Summer program 

Offers:  33 (excludes returning 2Ls who had spent the previous summer at the firm)

Acceptances: 10 (excludes returning 2Ls who had spent the previous summer at the firm)

Bracewell’s eight to ten-week summer program held in 4 offices consists of a “combination of rotations, specific section assignments and a pool approach to work assignments.” Summer associates will receive rolling informal feedback as well as midpoint and end-of-program reviews before offers are given at the end of the program. One of the goals of the summer program is to have the summers meet as many lawyers as they can to see if Bracewell is the place they want to start their careers.  To that end, one of the highlights of the program is the annual retreat in Austin, Texas. 

Top tips for this stage: 

“We want our summer associates to connect with as many of us as possible – whether socially or through work experience – to get the fullest sense of our firm and the real experience of our junior associates.” – hiring source at the firm 

And finally…  

“I became enamored with Bracewell after my OCI. When I returned to the firm to begin working as an associate, I felt like I was coming home to a familiar place.”  a second-year junior associa

Bracewell LLP

711 Louisiana Street,
Suite 2300,
Houston,
TX 77002-2770
Website www.bracewell.com

711 Louisiana Street,
Suite 2300,
Houston,
TX 77002-2770

  • Head Office: Houston, TX  
  • Number of domestic offices: 8  
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $289,000,000
  • Partners (US): 152
  • Associates (US): 97
  • Counsel: 51
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Queen, Chief Talent Officer
  • Hiring partners: Austin: Tim Wilkins Dallas: Rob Collins Houston: Molly Butkus and Charles Still New York: Josh Klein Washington, DC: Britt Steckman
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 13
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 17 and 2Ls: 17
  • Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $3894.23/week 2Ls: $3894.23/week
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
• Antitrust/Competition

Carbon Capture Utilization & Storage
• Corporate & Securities

Data Security & Privacy
• Employee Benefits/ERISA
• Energy
• Environment, Land & Resources
• Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG )
• Finance
• Financial Institutions
• Financial Restructuring
• Government Contracts
• Government Enforcement & Investigations
• Government Relations
• Healthcare & Life Sciences
• Incident Prevention & Response
• Infrastructure Development
• Insurance Recovery
• Intellectual Property
• International Arbitration
• Labor & Employment
• Litigation

Outsourcing
• Private Equity
• Public Finance

Public Lands & Resources
• Real Estate & Finance
• Renewable Energy & Sustainability
• Strategic Communications
• Tax
• Technology

Firm profile
Bracewell is a leading law firm that is known worldwide for its unique depth and experience in the energy, infrastructure, finance and technology sectors. To complement our sector-focused excellence, we boast an impressive and diversified array of market-leading substantive practices, including award-winning transactional, litigation, regulatory and government relations practices. This robust mix of sector and practice strengths has allowed us to be a firm of choice for many of the world’s largest and most successful corporate enterprises, financial institutions, private funds and governmental entities. Our firm’s success is anchored by four authentic pillars of strength: a culture based on personal relationships, collaboration and a shared passion for the firm and its clients; our distinction as a destination firm for talent; blue-chip clients; and a reputation for excellence as a sector and large-practice powerhouse.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:

George Washington, SMU, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Tulane, University of Houston, The University of Texas, UVA. We participate in resume collects at Duke, Georgetown, Howard, South Texas.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume collects at law schools across the nation and encourage accept write-in candidates to reach out to us via the application on our website.

Summer associate profile:
We look for candidates who have distinguished themselves academically and actively participate in law school. Successful candidates possess a strong work ethic and are self-motivated. Given the firm’s collaborative culture, we value individuals who are team players and want to work collaboratively to provide innovative and sophisticated solutions to challenging legal issues. 

Summer program components:
The firm offers summer associate programs in three US offices. These program lengths typically range from nine to ten weeks. During this time, summer associates have the opportunity to explore different areas of the law by working on actual matters. Summer associates attend hearings, depositions, trials, negotiations and client meetings. They also hone legal writing skills by helping research and draft agreements, briefs, articles and blog posts. In addition, summer associates are encouraged to explore the local community and attend summer associate lunches and events and attend the annual summer associate retreat in Austin, TX.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.bracewell.com/careers
LinkedIn: Bracewell LLP
Twitter: @BracewellLaw
Facebook: bracewell.llp
Instagram: @bracewellllp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 3)
    • Energy: Electricity (Finance) (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 1)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Government Relations (Band 3)
    • Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Projects: PPP (Band 4)