Associates describe Cooley as “a firm on a meteoric rise.” Juniors get a decent variety of work with cutting-edge clients, together with a “West Coast vibe.”
COOLEY sits among the top firms in the country for its venture capital, startup and life sciences work. The firm's strengths and character owe much to its Bay Area roots – it's “right next door to all the players.” The firm's client roster is teeming with startups on the ones-to-watch list, but it also has industry giants such as Facebook, Google and Uber on its books.Some of the more exotic clients drawn to its doors include Elon Musk's SpaceX, which plans to colonize Mars, as well as Thalmic Labs, who are basically turning people into cyborgs. “We work with clients through their whole life-cycle,” juniors explained, “from their growth stage all the way until when they are fully established." CEO Joe Conroy expands upon this, explaining that "tech companies come out of a garage and within two years are major consumers of legal services. We benefit from that shrinking time span. It gives us a competitive advantage."
“We work with clients through their whole life-cycle.”
Chambers USA attests to this firm's full-service credentials across the network; however, providing cutting-edge clients with all their corporate, IP, regulatory and contentious needs has proved to be the true recipe for success in Cooley's “meteoric rise.” This year's cohort was attracted by the growth phase at the firm. Turnover in 2017 increased by 9.8%, marking the firm's grand entry into the billion-dollar revenue club. In the third quarter of 2017 alone, Cooley claims to have handled deals representing more than $5.3 billion in invested capital. The firm also elected 18 new partners in January 2018. Credit for this success is spread across its 12 offices. The biggest two are the firm's Palo Alto and Washington bases, followed up by a “rapidly expanding” post in New York. Elsewhere the firm has bases in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Reston, Boston, LA and Colorado. Internationally Cooley has, so far, planted flags in London and Shanghai.
Offices & Strategy
Associates were clear that the firm's growth was very visible among its network of offices. In Palo Alto, “we are running out of space," sources explained, adding that "for the first time first years have been allocated internal offices." Juniors in New York similarly remarked: “We are growing very quickly – our current space can't handle our capacity. We have recently added a whole arbitration and debt financing group as part of the firm's plan to build out the office as a new hub, balancing its presence on the West Coast and serving as an access point to the rest of the world.” To accommodate the growth, Cooley is one of a number of firms planning to relocate its NY base to the redeveloped Hudson Yards area in early 2019.
“We are growing very quickly."
Over in San Francisco and the pattern continues: “We've been very busy hiring people. We have just had an influx of people from Wilson Sonsinibut we are locked into our lease and are running out of room!” While the firm's growth is impressive, juniors insisted that “growth is very well managed. We are not looking to be a mega global firm that serves everybody and everything." Conroy affirms that he is "dismissive of growing to a number" and explains that Cooley's future growth rate is "bound more by what position we want to take in each market." New York was flagged as a key area, as was the Bay Area.
The 'business' (corporate) practice takes just under two-thirds of juniors, with litigation taking up the rest. Traditionally starting as generalists within their designated group, newbies are free to explore different areas. For litigators this means a mix of antitrust, commercial disputes, IP and white-collar crime cases, whereas transactional hopefuls keep busy in subgroups like corporate/M&A, emerging or public companies, technology, and venture capital. Assignment coordinators are in place to “have conversations about workloads, time constraints of projects and preferences,” but otherwise it's “a free market,” juniors explained. “You are free to approach any partners you want to work with and if you want to totally avoid one type of work, you can.”
"It's both very intellectually satisfying and exhausting!”
Cooley litigators had sampled a range of work including IP, trade secrets, employment and contract disputes. “We've done a lot of inter partes review cases recently,” one junior of the Palo Alto team observed. “It's all about providing submissions to the board to invalidate patents against our clients – it's all very technical. When I first started, I was just reviewing the submissions and doing overall checks, but now I'm actively drafting them.” Other sources described their preference for cases that are “more people-related and fact-sensitive. I enjoy digging around in trade secret cases, seeing what things were disclosed, finding out which companies have a background with each other, and looking at where a licensing may have gone wrong.” Whatever the case, litigators emphasized Cooley is a place “where they give you as much responsibility as you can handle.” We heard of sources drafting summary judgment briefings, arguing in court, drafting interviewing outlines, drafting expert reports, and participating in expert depositions.
Newbies in the 'business' group start out broad, doing a mix of work which could range from startups and venture capital funding to M&A and IPOs. “Not all the deals are super high value but just because they're not in the billions doesn't mean we sacrifice on quality,” one junior explained. “I've had great experiences getting a feel for M&A work, from profiling targets and drafting corporate profiles to putting together schedules and merger agreements.” Another regaled their experience of “holding an entire auction process for a potential merger. I was in regular contact with the CEO, having to walk them through the all disclosure obligations under the agreement.” In life sciences, juniors are busy doing IP licensing for biotech and pharmaceutical companies as well as “partnering products at a clinical stage with someone who wants to take it further down the line and commercialize it. As a junior I review everything from two-page confidentiality agreements to 100-page collaboration agreements. The way I describe it is we are putting together a puzzle and designing the puzzle pieces – it's both very intellectually satisfying and exhausting!”
Culture & Hours
The volume of work generated from startups opens up a somewhat unique opportunity for Cooley associates: “Working with an early-stage client is different from working with big, established clients who only want to interact with partners," sources mused. "I'm a second year and I'm already getting phone calls and emails from CEOs on a regular basis. It's exciting working with founders so intimately to achieve their visions, many of whom have put everything on the line.”
While associates appreciated this provided a “great opportunity to learn and grow,” they also acknowledged it as a “double-edged sword,” highlighting the “stresses of coordinating directly with CEOs when you don't want to make yourself or the firm look stupid.” A certain pragmatism is required: many startups are “used to being dynamic, and prone to frequently changing their direction overnight. Sometimes it feels like they are creating fire drills for no reason,” although sources observed this was more pronounced on the corporate side.
"...a vibe that is professional, but without a certain formality."
“Cooley advertises that it is somehow different from other firms,” thought associates, and this is true in many respects. But take a look at the hours and there is no mistake this is BigLaw. “I think the reputation of Cooley as a great place to work gives people a false sense of a great work-life balance,” one source reflected. Others told us they rarely had problems hitting their 1,950 hours target. As with previous years, associates explain the firm's culture as a result of its “West Coast roots.” But, taking a more realistic view, a source this year spoke of "a vibe that is professional, but without a certain formality." As one junior elaborated: "I'm not a very formal person and I didn't want to have to work somewhere where I would have to look like a fancy lady every day – I appreciate that I can be myself and casual here.”
A less buttoned-up culture also translated into a liberal approach to remote working. “As juniors, we are treated as adults – we are not expected to be chained to our desk all day.” Those in the firm's New York office observed that “a lot of people leave the office before 6pm and are able to eat dinner with their families before hopping back online later.” Others reported on the added bonus of “working a lot of Fridays from home.” Finally, while juniors acknowledged that “there is a knack to picking when to take time off,” sources were happy to report that their vacations were “true vacations,” without the stress of trying to draft a disclosure on a beach in the Bahamas.
Training & Development
Training gets under way with a week of Cooley College: a five-day series of events, some of which are for all new associates, and some are specific to corporate and litigation. On the corporate track, for example, juniors receive lectures “breaking down all the stages of an M&A transaction” and are provided with “annotated versions of key documents you will encounter.” They also provide basic finance and accounting training for both sides to better improve financial literacy. “It is a bit like drinking from the fire hose but it'shelpful to refer back to the binder of materials you are provided with later on,” juniors surmised.The firm also does a good job with on-the-go feedback. “In the early stages of a transaction I will always draft up a proposed response email to a CEO and shoot it by a couple of people on the team before sending,” one source explained, adding that “having their guidance helps manage the challenge of being in the driver's seat.”
“It is a bit like drinking from the fire hose."
Juniors appreciated the firm's efforts to make juniors “feel like part of the business. We are always kept in the loop on the firm's financials, the average amount of hours billed and our biggest clients; and each partner gives a brief summary of what they see in the pipeline and future deals.”
An unlimited number of pro bono can count toward billable. Associates were involved in a range of cases including immigration and asylum, work for KIND (Kids In Need of Defense), clemency projects that address sentencing disparities, and domestic abuse cases. Sources also highlighted that the “firm has been very active in response to specific situations. We have recently had some really terrible fires in the Wine County so the firm has been teaming up with local organizations to help people with their insurance claims process. The firm puts all its support staff at our disposal for pro bono cases.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 44,486
- Average per US attorney: 56.5
“Our CEO is very committed to diversity,” one source declared, offering an interesting theory as to why: “In my head it stems from the fact that he was a single father and so is therefore very sympathetic to the challenge of single parenting, which tends to be laid on the mother.”We were reluctant to pry too much into his personal life but Conroy did have this to say: "It is something I have been actively proselytizing about for some time. A big part of my push, culturally, is to make this industry more diverse and inclusive – at all levels. It is not just about ticking things off a checklist; it is that you consider the goal of being substantially more diverse and inclusive in all of your decision-making processes." The head of the women's program in New York was described as “incredible: if I were having issues about taking time off or transitioning back to work from parental leave, she would bend over backward to help.” Those in San Diego gave equal praise to “the powerful partners who champion us,” adding that “one of the partners mentoring an associate recently got them an introduction to a judge for a clerkship.”
“...the powerful partners who champion us.”
Offering more concrete evidence, sources pointed to the various programs in place to improve diversity. Recipients of the firm's diversity fellowship program for example can spend their 1L and 2L summers with the firm and receive a total of $30,000 toward law school tuition (the third and final $10,000 installment is paid when they join as an associate).
Cooley typically sees anywhere between 1,000 and 1,300 students on campus, across about 30 law schools. Associates explained that the firm's approach to OCIs has been marked by a push towards behavioural interviewing. “There are several core competencies we want to make sure they possess,” associates explain, “such as whether they are motivated workers and team players, with a behavioural question for each.” These might include the standard 'tell me about a time you faced difficulties' or “other questions that give us a chance to learn some practical facts about a candidate’s experience.” Associates assured that the “interview style is very laid back,” described strangely by one source as “more like a platonic first date with a friend.” During callbacks most associates will meet a mixture of five partners and associates.
Given the intensity of the client contact from the get-go, Cooley's chief legal talent officer, Carrie Wagner, made clear that “we want people who are willing to jump in and take a visible role early on.” Reflecting on the nature of the firm's client base, Wagner also stresses that candidates must have an “entrepreneurial mindset,” adding that “the students who really stand out are those who look for opportunities to cultivate relationships with us prior to the start of interviewing season. We spend a lot of time getting to know students during their first year of law school, and more and more of the 2Ls we hire for our summer program are students we have gotten to know before the on-campus interviewing even begin.”
Those lucky enough to bag themselves a place on the firm's summer program can expect a “competition and cattiness free” experience: “You get as much substantive work as you can expect for a law student who doesn't know how to do anything. All work is assigned through an online system to make sure you are getting a diversity of experience.” The program also includes a trip to Seascape Beach Resort inNorthern California. “You do a little bit of training but it's more about getting know everyone. I've remained friends with people I met at Seascape,” one source told us.
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,315
Interviewees outside OCI: 26
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 377
Notable summer events: Our summer program begins with a firmwide dinner and kickoff weekend at the Seascape Resort in Aptos, California. Summer associates from all offices attend this weekend filled with training and presentations by Cooley lawyers during the day and clambakes on the beach at night. During the presentations, we candidly share information about the Firm's business, background and strategic vision, while the interactive training focuses on exposing the summers associates to different practice areas. Summer Associates work in teams to follow a fictitious company as it encounters various Cooley practice groups. There is certainly enough downtime to enjoy the beauty of the resort and get to know fellow classmates from across the country.
The kickoff weekend is followed by a variety of local events that take place throughout the summer, ranging from outdoor activities and sporting events to concerts and dinner in partner’s homes.
Just a few of the additional events in 2017 included:
- Helicopter Tour
- GoCar Tour & Scavenger Hunt
- Wine Safari
- Grilled Cheese & Beer Tasting
- Sea Kayaking
- Napa wine tasting
- Surf Lessons
- Skeet Shooting
- Justice Bus
- Tiki Mermaid sunset cruise
Interview with Cooley CEO Joe Conroy
Chambers Associate: Many associates talked about the firm's meteoric growth – tell us more about Cooley's track record over the past year.
Joe Conroy: We had a record 2017 and broke through a billion dollars in revenue. As a firm, we have been on an ambitious path over the past decade – ambitious not just in terms of building muscle, but also in what we aspire to be. We see a world where only an elite group of powerful law firms will be able to successfully compete at the higher end for the best business, the most sophisticated deals and the most challenging litigation. Firms which have not differentiated themselves will not be able to keep pace. In this bifurcating world, our first goal is to be one of these elite firms, and to be powerful within that elite. We think we will be the only elite firm that is focused, branded and differentiated around technology, life sciences and the representation of high-growth companies. In short we aspire to be both elite and distinctive.
CA: Where do you see the Cooley's place within the legal market?
JC: We have a client base that is very broad in terms of the corporate life-cycle. We are preeminent in all of the markets in the emerging companies space. We also represent, in those core spaces of tech and life sciences, the global giants of Silicon Valley and beyond. We also do high-end, multibillion-dollar tax controversy work that has nothing to do with tech industry; we have an international arbitration practice; a big reinsurance practice out of the London market; and a bunch of other work that wouldn’t fit easily in the space. We do have partners who would not necessarily fit into a tech and life sciences box, but who want to be part of a firm that is branded the way we are.
CA: What are your plans for the firm for the next five years?
JC: First, I am dismissive of growing to a number – I think that is folly for a law firm. I think our ambition and ultimate growth rate is bound more by what position we want to take in each market. For example, we have only been in New York for about a decade – I see huge amounts of growth for us there. In London, we have been very successful during the past three years – the UK market is powerfully tied to our core client base. In the Bay Area, while the big firms that have not been so traditionally tech-focused are trying to compete, I also foresee further growth for us there. To be successful and powerful in the global market, we need to be bigger than we are now.
Culturally, our partners are tethered to the firm and to each other in a way that I think is rare in BigLaw. We praise collaboration and incentivize partners to think about creating opportunities for other people in other parts of the country and the world. Still, there is an outer limit to how much we can go grow and still preserve that culture.
CA: Which technological developments do you anticipate will have the biggest impact on business?
JC: AI is not only going to blow up, I think it’s going to be pervasive and ubiquitous. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how business is conducted and change the landscape completely. For us, it is not just about being on top of technologies like AI and blockchain, it's about representing the companies creating them and shaping the future. I think that is a principal differentiator for Cooley and one reason why associates are attracted to us. We have an outstanding number of people working with companies that will change, and have changed, the world. Ours is a cool client base that moves forward fast. Tech companies come out of a garage and within two years are major consumers of legal services. We benefit from that shrinking time span. It gives us a competitive advantage.
CA: Is diversity something that is important to the firm?
JC: Law firms are slowly waking up to the realization that becoming a substantially more diverse and inclusive workforce is both necessary and advantageous. It is something I have been actively proselytizing about for some time. A big part of my push, culturally, is to make this industry more diverse and inclusive – at all levels. It is not just about ticking things off a checklist; it is that you consider the goal of being substantially more diverse and inclusive in all of your decision-making processes. As our business gets more competitive going forward, effective decision-making will be at a premium and the best decisions are made by considering a strong and diverse set of voices and opinions. To that end, Cooley’s management committee is 60% diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexual preference. We want to inspire real change.
A few Silicon Valley facts
The southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area is home to more tech whizzes than you could shake a USB stick at. As a result, it's garnered a lot of attention with law firms too, each more willing than the next to represent your startup, or your well-established tech Fortune 500 corporation. So here's a few things you might want to know if you're setting your sights on this tech-centric area:
- The region isn't particularly precise, but is generally considered to cover portions of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties.
- In a 2008 study, it was the third largest cybercity in the US (next to the New York metropolitan area and Washington metropolitan area), but had the highest concentration of hi-tech workers in any metropolitan area.
- The 'Silicon' in the name stems from the large number of silicon chip/semiconductor manufacturers that started in the area.
- The informal term gained more traction in the 80s when IBM introduced the good old PC.
- Silicon Valley accounts for one-third of venture capital investment in the entire US.
- 39 companies from the Fortune 1000 are headquartered here including Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Adobe, Oracle, and Visa.
- The comedy TV show Silicon Valley is based on co-creator Mike Judge's experience working at a startup in Silicon Valley.
- Silicon Valley sees the third highest number of patents filed annually, behind Tokyo and Shenzhen-Guangdong. In 2013, this number was around 8,000.
3175 Hanover Street,
- Head office: Palo Alto, CA
- Number of domestic offices: 10
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $1.07 billion
- Partners (US): 300
- Associates (US): 600
- Main recruitment contact: Carrie Wagner, Chief Legal Talent Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Diversity officers: DeAnna Allen, Partner Frank Pietrantonio, Partner; Amie Santos, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 51
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 8, 2Ls: 51, SEO: 1, Google Legal Summer Scholar: 1
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Boston: 9, Colorado: 2, Los Angeles: 2, New York: 9, Palo Alto: 17, Reston: 3, San Diego: 5, San Francisco: 8, Seattle: 2, Washington DC, 4
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,462/week 2Ls: $3,462/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Please refer to the Events portion of our website for a list of the job fairs and campuses we will visit during the 2018 OCI season. Recruitment outside OCIs: Interested students are also welcome to send in their applications outside of the OCI process. For a list of legal talent career contacts by office, please visit: www.cooley.com/careers.
Summer associate profile:
Successful summer associates are highly motivated, independent thinkers, with a collaborative spirit and an entrepreneurial mindset. They have excelled both in and beyond the classroom. They recognize that the greatest successes are those achieved by a team. They take ownership, inspire confidence and are motivated by a shared sense of purpose.
Summer program components:
Cooley’s summer program is designed to give participants an unfiltered introduction to life and practice at the firm. It enables them to experience Cooley’s commitment to providing extraordinary legal services in a professional and collaborative environment. Comprehensive training opportunities are provided through “Cooley College.” Constructive feedback is provided at the conclusion of each assignment and in formal mid- and end-of-summer feedback sessions. Assigned mentors ensure that each summer associate is integrated into the firm over the course of the program.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- IT & Outsourcing: Transactions (Band 2)
- Life Sciences (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
- Venture Capital (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)
- Technology (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- International Arbitration Recognised Practitioner
- Investment Funds: Venture Capital: Fund Formation (Band 1)
- Life Sciences (Band 1)
- Privacy & Data Security (Band 2)
- Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 1)
- Corporate/Commercial (Band 2)