Bracewell LLP - The Inside View

Newbies at this Texan thoroughbred better brace themselves for leanly staffed matters in its core energy, finance and technology sectors.

ANY firm that lists Kinder Morgan, Apache Corporation, and Phillips 66 as clients must be high on energy. Bracewell's rep for being a Houston-founded dynamo and energy sector expert means Bracewell draws S&P 500 energy companies and exacting law students alike: “It’s up there with the best in Houston, and people can determine this from the outside by reading books,” said one associate. If by ‘books’ this source meant the comprehensive Chambers USA ranking directory (wink, wink), then they were absolutely right: Bracewell’s nationwide rankings are mostly won in the energy, projects and infrastructure spheres, with the highest accolades going to its oil & gas expertise across the transactional, regulatory and litigious spectrum. Energy is not the only string to this firm’s bow, however, with finance and technology completing its triad of sector focuses. In its home state of Texas, Bracewell’s capabilities in these areas are marked by a tip-top ranking for its banking & finance work, as well as worthy nods to its bankruptcy/restructuring, capital markets and tech outsourcing expertise.

“It just hit all the right spots.”

Also high up on our sources’ reasons for joining Bracewell was the sense that they’d be able to learn the ropes quickly. “During the summer it became obvious that I could trust them with my professional development,” said one. “I wanted to be able to get in and punch a little above my weight.” Another chipped in to add: “It just hit all the right spots. The culture fit was one of my bigger reasons, alongside wanting substantive work. I knew I’d be able to work on big, complex matters.” With teams veering toward the leaner side, our interviewees weren’t disappointed upon arrival. The Houston HQ was home to the largest group of second and third-year associates on our list, but the firm’s Dallas and New York offices also held a fair number; the odd one or two could be found in DC or Austin

Strategy & Future 



“Our strategy is simple – to build on our strengths in the sectors where we are recognized for our depth and excellence – energy, finance, infrastructure, technology – as well as our large practice areas such as litigation and regulatory,” says managing partner Greg Bopp. To read the full interview with Bopp, click the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

The Work 



Practice area-wise, most juniors were either in the firm’s business & regulatory practice (BRS) or its litigation group. A couple of juniors were developing their practice in the technology and labor practices. Bracewell’s BRS practice covers a range of subgroups including corporate & securities, finance, real estate, regulatory, environmental, projects, public finance and tax.

Assignment within these BRS subgroups is fairly informal, with sources explaining that “there’s usually a pooling system within each one; you have 15 or so partners in the group and every two weeks we have a meeting where we talk about what work is coming down the pipeline and who needs help.” Litigators don’t have a rigid assignment system either, but do have a supervising partner who acts as a “safety net for when you feel overwhelmed or if don’t have enough on your plate. You still have the freedom to seek out work from other partners and jump in on cases you want to do.”

A few of our BRS sources were working primarily within the corporate & securities group, which meant splitting their time between M&A, commercial contracts, securities matters and lending transactions. Juniors here had assisted clients with quarterly reports, but also honed their skills on acquisitions: “There’s a lot of helping clients with figuring out what kind of acquisitions would complement their business.” They added that “during the first year they start you off with smaller tasks to help you gain an understanding of how to practice and communicate with clients. They then lead you to the running of checklists, as they want you to understand the different documents, like sub-agreements, and track their progression.” 

Corporate clients: Chevron, Apache Corporation and Castleton Commodities International. Recently advised Great Plains Energy on an amended merger agreement with Westar Energy that ultimately created a company with an overall equity value of approximately $15 billion.

Energy is a big focus” in Bracewell’s litigation department, with oil & gas disputes highlighted as a “particular forte for us.” However, there’s still a “range of matters” to sample, with sources explaining that “you can work on everything from healthcare insurance disputes to general breach of contract matters, trademark infringement issues and white-collar investigations.” When it comes to matter value, “some cases will have models that calculate the damages to be worth around a million dollars, but one of my largest is almost in the billion range.” The smaller matters, sources pointed out, “allow young associates the opportunities to get the experience they don’t get on cases with billions at stake – the partners have a lot of hands in those matters!” One interviewee explained that they were currently “working on my own case where I’m responsible for picking out the most important documents and preparing them. As I’ve grown more senior the tasks have become more substantive, but even from the beginning I would say that there was a high level of responsibility.”

Litigation clients: ENGIE, Valero Energy and Westlake Chemical. Successfully defended Texas-based retail company Pier 1 Imports and its former CEO and CFO during a putative class action that centered on claims of securities fraud.

Career Development 



Associates felt that Bracewell’s external prestige-factor was “particularly prominent in Texas,” but still had power in DC and New York; DC in particular is a policy powerhouse that harmonizes well with our energy, finance and tech focuses.” BRS partners were praised for being “very good at introducing us to their clients; they are proud of their associates and involve us in closing lunches with clients so we can meet the likes of junior bankers and build those relationships.” This level of investment has paid off, with several interviewees highlighting the lack of attrition in recent months. Litigators revealed that “not many people have left – a couple have gone on to become court clerks, but there’s been no lateral movement. In the transactional groups it’s a bit more common for people to go in-house.” Sources also highlighted the “interesting phenomenon of ‘boomerang associates’ coming back to the firm – they left to try out other firms but realized the grass wasn’t necessarily greener on the other side!”

Culture



Bracewell’s partners were once again showered with compliments when it came to the discussion on firm culture. “They set the tone from the top, and it trickles down,” one Houston resident informed us. “Their approach is that everyone’s the same – there are no dumb questions. I’ve never been made to feel that I can’t ask them something or can’t approach them.” All of this creates a “healthy environment for someone who is curious and has the hunger to learn.” Others added that “it’s generally a collaborative environment; there is overlap between the practices, and it seems that every Monday morning meeting brings with it new faces.” With Bracewell attorneys “very much aware of what our culture is and how we want to make each other feel,” there is an overarching desire to be “protective of it when hiring laterals and first-year associates; there’s very little tolerance for yellers and screamers. Those that seek a tougher culture tend to figure out that this isn’t the right environment for them.”

“There are no dumb questions.”

Diversity & Inclusion



We are making an effort,” one Houstonian told us. “What I sense from the other firms is that we are putting in a lot more effort than other places, especially when it comes to looking at the numbers.” When pressed, this source went on to explain that this was true “especially in the finance, oil and gas, and other BRS groups – there’s good promotion and retention of junior and more senior female partners.” Across the offices, interviewees agreed that “women are well represented,” but did underline that “from the numbers you can tell that things are more Caucasian-dominated.” To help improve this situation, Bracewell has created a 'pipeline' program in Houston to target diverse first-year law students. It also participates in the University of Houston Law Center Pre-Law Pipeline, which targets college students.

Hours & Compensation



It’s not a monstrous amount of hours!” one BRS source exclaimed when we asked about their schedule. “Our group has more busy periods than slow periods; there aren’t periods where you’re waiting around for stuff, there’s always plenty to do!” For other BRS interviewees this translated into being in the office between 7:45am and 6/6:30pm on average, with some logging on at home required in the evenings. Litigators reported a similar daily schedule, but of course highlighted that hours “depend on the workload of that month,” with trial prep periods ramping up the hours in particular. 

Attorneys aim to hit a 2,000-hour billable target each year, and can count up to 100 hours of pro bono and/or other firm approved tasks (like time spent on diversity initiatives) toward it. Overall, interviewees found it “not too hard” to reach, and added that “the last year has been unusually busy – I knew of several people who were hitting 2,250 hours.” Hitting 2,000 hours gives the associates the 'full' bonus –  but another 'discretionary' bonus is available should they reach 2,200 hours.

Pro Bono 



The view from Houston was “very positive – we had lunches recently to encourage us to take on pro bono cases.” Sources here added that “we do a day of service every year, which is a firmwide initiative, and the new thing in our office is that there’s an initiative for us to take on cases through Houston Volunteer Lawyers.”Dallas interviewees, meanwhile,highlighted their work with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. A partner has recently been chosen to head the firm's pro bono efforts as a whole, while the pro bono committee consists of partners from all offices. They were mostly praised for “reinvigorating” the drive to pursue pro bono. Some in New York did feel, however, that it would be better to have a full-time pro bono coordinator, and explained that “pro bono is encouraged, but it’s more self-guided.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: undisclosed
  • Average per US attorney:  20

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 489

Interviewees outside OCI: 25

Bracewell recruits through OCIs and regional job fairs across the country. It also accepts written applications. Some offices also hire 1Ls as summers. Candidates meet with a mix of partners and associates from different practices and backgrounds.

If you want to take it up that extra notch to impress at the OCIs, brush up on your research about the firm and ask specific questions to make you 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

Applicants invited to second stage: 120

Successful candidates are invited back to meet with five or six lawyers as well as a member of the firm’s recruiting team. They’ll spend 30 minutes finding out about the candidate’s experience, career goals and how they 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.” Candidates also get the opportunity to walk around the offices and to get a real feel of what goes on behind closed doors.

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 you 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 sources at the firm.

Summer program

Offers: 71

Acceptances: 20

Bracewell’s ten-week summer program 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. The social side of the program includes an annual retreat and events ranging from concerts to local sporting events.

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 sources 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 associate

The Work: more on BRS



On the M&A side, the “overwhelming majority of clients operate within the energy industry – a lot of what I saw were midstream deals, but beyond M&A I also did some IPOs.” Another source enjoyed IPOs the most, “as you get to work on a collaborative project; you’re in on the management meetings with all the auditors, the bankers and lawyers, all coming together to get things done.” Those focusing more on real estate told us that they’d done a lot of work for developers and had encountered some bond financing deals for certain projects too. “My favorite thing is to see an acquisition deal from start to finish; you go right through from the client coming in with the terms sheet and the bare bones of what the agreement should look like, to the process of finding a lender or a joint venture partner, to handling all the acquisition documents, to seeing the transaction authorized and closed.”

Culture



There are some variations in feel and atmosphere between the offices. The Houston HQ, for example, “lends itself to formality as it’s the largest office and holds the marketing and HR teams, as well as other non-attorney positions.” In the Dallas office meanwhile, “thesmaller size allows us to get to know the people we work with a lot better and gives us direct contact with partners and clients.” New York is, well, “just a little bit more New York” sources joked. “It’s a style difference. Houston has a more familial style, but in comparison to other New York offices it’s still very collegial; we have a fall picnic every year, and the associates have a semi-monthly wine and cheese event together. The Texas culture is still pretty prevalent in a good way.”

Interview with managing partner Greg Bopp



Chambers Associate: How would you describe Bracewell’s current market position? 

Greg Bopp: Bracewell is one of the world’s most prominent law firms primarily focused on the energy, infrastructure, finance and technology sectors. We are consistently ranked by clients and our peers as a market‐leading firm in each of our geographic locations. Our clients include many of the largest energy companies, financial institutions and private equity firms in the United States and abroad.     

CA: Are there any broader trends that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm's practice?   

GB: Yes. Our business is booming across several important practice areas, including M&A, finance, private equity, litigation and regulatory, due to the tremendous amount of capital being deployed on energy and non‐energy infrastructure projects in the US and emerging markets. We are also seeing incredible growth in our renewable energy practice due to emerging technologies and the clean energy revolution that is taking place throughout the nation and across the globe. Our industry focus has allowed Bracewell to be at the forefront of energy, infrastructure and renewables development in the US, the Middle East and Africa.     

CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?   

GB: Last year our transactional work was incredibly robust. We were involved in roughly three dozen billion‐dollar plus transactions, as well as over a dozen energy infrastructure projects in the Permian Basin on behalf of many leading energy companies, including Kinder Morgan, Apache Corporation and Phillips 66. That’s a lot of significant transactions in a one-year period!    Our litigation group also worked on a number of very high-profile matters over the past year, including serving as special master in the Michael Cohen matter, and victories on behalf of HTC Corporation in a trademark infringement case and Pier 1 Imports in a high-profile securities class action case. We recently promoted seven associates and senior counsel to partner (four women and three men) across a variety of practices and offices. We are very proud of the fact that you can join Bracewell right out of law school, have the opportunity to become a partner, and spend your entire career at the firm. We also strategically recruit lateral associates and partners. We added 13 lateral partners last year who principally work in the energy, regulatory, project finance and public finance practices in DC, London, New York, Dallas and San Antonio. This strong group of lateral hires complements our existing strengths and allows us to add further depth to our team across the entire firm.

CA: What’s your long‐term vision for Bracewell? What do you want it to look like in five or ten years’ time?     

GB: Our strategy is simple – to build on our strengths in the sectors where we are recognized for our depth and excellence – energy, finance, infrastructure, technology – as well as our large practice areas such as litigation and regulatory. Our goal today and in the future is to be a destination firm for talent and a firm of choice for clients. We are blessed to have a combination of outstanding institutional clients and highly energized partners and associates. It’s a simple but powerful foundation for continued success in 2019 and beyond.   

CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?   

GB: It has changed in many respects, but the relationship of trust and partnership between lawyers and their clients continues to be the foundation of our profession. Technology has had the greatest impact on the profession since I started practicing law. We are much more technologically efficient today. Technology, including artificial intelligence, allows us to better serve our clients. At Bracewell, we have a technology committee comprised of associates, partners and administrative professionals who meet regularly and make recommendations regarding the use of new technologies for the benefit of our clients and the firm.   

CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?   

GB: I studied accounting as an undergrad, and after college I worked for a large accounting firm for a few years. During that time, I developed a passion for the service industry and decided to go to law school. Solving complex legal and business issues for clients is a wonderful job. Being a lawyer also provides you with the opportunity to give back to your community through pro bono work.   

CA: What do you consider to have been your big break?   

GB: I have had many wonderful mentors at Bracewell. The senior partners at the firm took an interest in me, in particular Patrick Oxford, one of our former managing partners. He helped me understand the importance of developing long‐term client relationships and the relentless pursuit of excellence. I attribute a lot of my success to him. I have also had the great privilege of representing many dynamic clients over the years. In particular, I have represented the largest energy and infrastructure company in North America – Kinder Morgan – throughout my entire legal career. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities given to me by the leadership team at Kinder Morgan.   

CA: What would you say has been the highlight of your career or your biggest achievement? 

GB: I love practicing law, and I believe it to be the best job in the world. In some respect, it combines the best of both worlds. I'm able to collaborate with highly motivated and intelligent colleagues, while at the same time being able to work with brilliant clients to help solve their complex legal and business problems. It is the ultimate dream job. One big highlight for me was the opportunity to work on one of the largest M&A transactions ever undertaken in the United States – Kinder Morgan, Inc.’s $76 billion acquisition of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., Kinder Morgan Management, LLC and El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P.   

CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?   

GB: Always take time to focus on your professional and personal life to ensure you have a balance between the two. Your job can consume you if you allow it. It’s critically important to maintain a healthy work‐life balance. If you do that, you will be a better lawyer in the long run. It’s important to spend time with family and do things outside of work that you enjoy doing. You only live one life!   

CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry? Any words of wisdom?   

GB: Be excited about starting your career as a lawyer. It is intellectually challenging and rewarding to be involved in complex deals and cases. Be enthusiastic about the work you do for clients and give back to your community. Take advantage of the broad experience you can get at a large firm like Bracewell, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

 

Bracewell LLP

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

  • Head Office: Houston, TX
  • Number of domestic offices: 8
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $300,000,000
  • Partners (US): 165
  • Associates (US): 154
  • Counsel: 52 Contacts
  • Main recruitment contact: 
  • Jennifer Queen, Chief Talent Officer
  • Hiring partners: 
  • Austin: Victoria Ozimek
  • Dallas: Rob Collins
  • Houston: Cle Dade and Chris Dodson
  • New York: Joshua Klein Washington, DC: Kirk Morgan
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 28
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 17, 2Ls: 26
  • Summer salary 2019: 
  • 1Ls: $3,653.84/week
  • 2Ls: $3,653.84/week
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
• Antitrust/Competition
• Corporate & Securities
• Energy
• Environmental Strategies
• Finance
• Financial Institutions
• Financial Restructuring
• Government
• Intellectual Property
• International Practice
• Labor & Employment
• Litigation
• Private Investment Funds
• Public Finance
• Real Estate & Projects
• Strategic Communications
• Tax
• Technology
• White Collar Defense, Internal Investigations & Regulatory Enforcement

Firm profile
Bracewell LLP is a leading law and government relations firm primarily serving the energy, finance and technology industries throughout the world. Bracewell’s industry focus results in comprehensive, state-of-the-art knowledge of the commercial, legal and governmental challenges faced by its clients and enables Bracewell to provide innovative solutions to facilitate transactions and resolve disputes.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:

Baylor, Columbia, Duke, George Washington, Georgetown, MCGC Houston, Northwestern, New York Job Fair, NYU, On Tour Interview Program, SMU, South Texas College of Law, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Sunbelt Minority Job Fair, The Consortium, Thurgood Marshall, Tulane, University of Houston, The University of Texas, UVA, Vanderbilt Houston Job Fair,Vanderbilt

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume drops at law schools across the nation and accept write-in candidates via our website.

Summer associate profile:
We look for candidates who have distinguished themselves academically and actively participate in law school and professional legal organizations. Successful candidates possess a strong work ethic and are self-motivated. Given the firm’s collaborative culture, we also look for individuals who are team players.

Summer program components:
The firm offers summer associate programs in all US offices, though demand in each office is determined from year to year. These programs vary by location, but typically range in length from eight 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 attorney dinners, summer associate lunches and a summer associate retreat.

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, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 3)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 3)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 1)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 2)