For a refreshing take on BigLaw, take a hearty sip of what Cozen has to offer: a full-service operation paying plenty of attention to its people.
Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen, Rocky or the Fresh Prince, the streets of Philadelphia have stirred some strong emotions for many – Will Smith’s legendary character was shipped off to California to keep him away from them. But had he studied law and found an engaging Philly-based firm like Cozen O’Connor, there would've been no drastic move to Bel Air and no Fresh Prince. The firm has carved out an impressive national reputation and is well known for a more ‘forgiving’ atmosphere than some comparable outfits. “Cozen is a great firm and definitely what it purports to be,” juniors reported. “Lots of firms talk about complex practice with work/life balance, but that’s 100% the case here at Cozen.” The takeaway? “If you want a firm that won’t burn you out then Cozen is the right fit.”
With 26offices across the US (and four international bases), there are plenty of options for those who hope to fit here. Philadelphia welcomes the largest numbers, but there are also typically spots available in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Pittsburgh, Seattle and the nation’s capital. “I wanted to work in the DC office because it’s more laidback,” a source there told us. “I liked the idea of not working at the mothership and being at more of a branch location.” Several of the firm’s offices pick up Chambers USA rankings, and it’s in the top tier nationwide for government relations and transport regulatory work. Exciting new work streams are also developing: Law360 recognized the cannabis law practice as its ‘group of the year’ following a novel amendment to Canopy Growth and Acreage Holdings’ pioneering deal.
Strategy & Future
The sheer number of Cozen’s offices can be taken as evidence of an aggressive growth strategy. DC has been a focus of late, with high-profile hires include former Wisconsin deputy attorney general Paul Connell and “veteran litigator” Kurt Lindquist. Juniors in the capital noted that the firm’s office there “has grown exponentially in the last 50 years and most of it’s been in unique practice groups that don’t sit anywhere else. I don’t know of any other firms that do some of the stuff we do.” Across the Cozen operation, sources told us “growth always seems to make sense. The firm won’t hesitate when an opportunity presents itself.” On the flip side of that, CO’C has also held firm through economic downturns. “Before starting here, I looked to see how Cozen handled the 2008 crisis,” one well-prepared source recalled. “They hired their summer class and tried to avoid firing people.” This junior’s preparation paid off when 2020’s unprecedented economic mess broke out. “A lot of firms were unprepared for the pandemic, but Cozen didn’t touch salaries, didn’t lay off associates and was so transparent in its communications,” interviewees beamed.
“The growth always seems to make sense.”
It’s worth remembering that though Cozen is a full-service beast today, the firm began life a half-century ago as a four-lawyer insurance and litigation boutique. Over 70% of the juniors on our list were litigators: they begin law firm life “in a litigation pool with a workflow coordinator. That makes you better prepared going into second year and gives you the opportunity to see things from different vantage points.” Associates state their preferred specialism after “a little over a year,” whereas transactional attorneys start “in their group straight away.” Business law (where you’ll find nine practices including corporate, bankruptcy, real estate, transport and trade, and private client services) accounted for just under 16% of juniors, with IP contributing another 8%; most of the remainder could be found in insurance or labor & employment.
Litigators in the pool can swim across “a very wide range of work” from healthcare and insurance to cannabis law. Philadelphia, New York and DC juniors can taste the full spread, but we heard that “for the most part, offices tend to specialize in one thing.” Seattle is an insurance hub; white-collar crime and government investigations, real estate and construction are big news in DC; and Chicago shines in the labor and employment litigation sphere. Within the IP space, “Miami is more patent prosecution-focused,” for example. Cozen’s cases range from “multibillion-dollar warranty claims brought by massive companies to small contractor work,” but sources confirmed midmarket “contractual disputes,product liability and internal governance work” represent the biggest chunk of the pie.
“Partners don’t throw you to the wolves, they’re there to help guide you.”
“I wanted complex and challenging work,” a source announced. “I didn’t want to do document review for five years.” Good news, then, that our sources were impressed and satisfied with their work responsibilities. “That’s where Cozen is unique,” we heard. “It’s not just grunt work for junior associates – from the beginning you’re getting to draft motions and make arguments in front of court.” A shining star among our interviewees had even produced federal court appellate briefs. Pushed they might be, but associates didn’t feel like they were left to fend for themselves: “Partners don’t throw you to the wolves, they’re there to help guide you.”
Litigation clients: Lindsay Transportation Solutions, SAP America, Caesars Entertainment. Represented 29 foreign investors in a $16 million real estate fraud case centered on a development project in Florida.
Cozen’s transactional teams handle deals with multimillion and billion-dollar values, advising clients in industries like tech, healthcare, pharma, telecoms and financial services. “There are high expectations,” interviewees explained, “but there’s respect given across the board. If I’m working over the weekend, whoever I’m working with is probably doing so too.” Legal research, due diligence and disclosure schedules are typical junior responsibilities, but smaller deals offered bigger jobs and our respondents were pleased with levels of partner and client contact. “Knowing the firm is invested in me makes me happy to work for them,” one declared. Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Miami all have a corporate offering – M&A is the bread and butter, but securities, private equity and venture capital provide the filling in the transactional sandwich.
Transactional clients: Utz Quality Foods, Acreage Holdings, Beachbody. Advised data and analytics provider The Burgiss Group in the $190 million sale of a large minority stake in the company.
Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation
Unlike at many firms, hours targets at Cozen “are specific to groups and partners. The work is different, so the billing needs are different.” Sounds sensible. One source gave us an insight: “My hours target is 1,700 or 1,750, which is low compared to other groups, but a decent chunk of my time isn’t billable because I do research on topics that might become active matters.” What about those with higher targets? “I don’t give it any real thought,” one said. “I don’t think it’s unfair or arbitrary.” As for compensation, juniors described Cozen as “pretty competitive – pay is lower than some firms, but the tradeoff is unquestionably worth it.” With an average of 50 work hours a week from our survey respondents, the firm does sit in typical BigLaw territory, leaving some considering “whether to leave and join another firm with better compensation.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 25,190
- Average per (US) attorney: 34.1
Irrespective of practice group, pro bono is “encouraged across the firm.” Everyone’s encouraged to do 20 hours a year and it counts toward billables “for the first 75 hours. You can apply for a waiver to count more.” Many projects are coordinated alongside external partners, including the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Access Living nonprofit organization in Chicago. The firm’s pro bono “coordinator sends emails once or twice a week,” with a “wide range of opportunities listed.”
Juniors that did want to stick around found the inverted pyramid partner-associate ratio of around 3:1 encouraging. “I didn’t think I’d want to stay long-term,” said one, “but Cozen wants to keep you.” Sounds a bit sinister to us, but further digging clarified things: “Partners don’t want to burn you out, they want to develop you. In my group there are three or four partners who are invested in my career,” said one satisfied source. “Partners ask me about what I want to be doing in three to five years’ time and are just as interested in hearing about my social life.” The firm gives juniors a formal mentor upon joining, but we heard that informal mentors also played a big role in the career journeys of many.
“Partners ask me about what I want to be doing in three to five years’ time.”
Diversity & Inclusion
There were fewer happy faces when talk turned to diversity – while the firm fares better than many in Chambers Associate in terms of appointing women to partner, a 25% female partnership shows there’s still plenty of work to do. “The firm wants to do better and is very upfront about that,” our junior insiders said. “They’re very proactive and there’s no ‘boys club’ reputation here.” Racial diversity is a more glaring Cozen weakness and just 6% of partners are non-white. “The firm is getting better at hiring and retaining women, but is less good on race,” we heard. “It’s not through lack of trying, but it’s definitely something I’d like them to get better at.”
“The culture is not one of ‘the higher-ups are untouchable,’” juniors said. They pinned down the firm’s appeal to “the sense that people at Cozen are about more than just their work. They really care about you as an individual and make an effort to get to know you.” A recently married interviewee had this story to back up their words: “One partner told me, ‘You’re doing great work, but are you and your partner spending enough time together? Let me know if you need help to make time for that.’” Rounding off this heart-warming tale, they concluded that “people really do care here.”
“‘You’re doing great work, but are you and your partner spending enough time together?’”
That said, a sea change might be on the horizon. Some proposed that Cozen’s growing practice and headcount has had some knock-on effects: “As more lateral hires come over, especially partners from other firms, our culture shifts more to typical BigLaw firm instead of the work/life balance I was sold on.” Watch this space, perhaps, but our most recent round of interviewees felt “a fantastic work/life balance” remains very much available for now.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 116
Interviewees outside OCI: 28
Cozen O’Connor attends OCIs at schools in the regions of its offices that run a summer program. It also conducts interviews at top law schools with students who want to practice in any of Cozen’s office locations that have a summer program. The firm interviews about 20 candidates at each school. In addition to this, the firm attends job fairs including, the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair and the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Fellows Program. Hiring sources at the firm tell us “we are constantly evaluating the breadth of our recruitment drive to ensure that we are engaging the best talent for our firm.”
OCIs are conducted by two attorneys (normally partners) from the regional office, which tends to draw the most interest from students at a particular campus. “For example, we will have two attorneys from the firm’s Washington DC office conduct interviews at Georgetown,” hiring sources at the firm explain. In the interview, “we seek students who demonstrate sharp analytical thinking skills, leadership characteristics, and inquisitiveness about the career upon which they are embarking.” However, the most recent OCI recruiting season was conducted 100% virtually due to COVID-19.
Top tips for this stage:
“You should always know who is interviewing you and what they do. Once you know the basic background of your interviewers, it will be much easier to ask them more meaningful questions about their practice and the firm.” – hiring sources at the firm
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 49
The format of call-backs differs by office, but the firm assures us candidates are given all the details they need ahead of their interview. In Philadelphia, for example, “we conduct two two-partner panel interviews followed by a shorter interview with two associates.” Interviewers assess candidates on the same criteria as the OCI stage, but in much more detail. Hiring sources advise that “a big part of interviewing is listening to what the interviewer says and making appropriate connections to your own background and experiences.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Candidates stand out when they show a strong interest in the firm.”– hiring sources at the firm
Summers indicate their top three practice areas of interest. Attorneys across the firm can request assistance from a summer associate via an assignment portal. Each office also has an assignment coordinator who will get a sense of what summer associates are particularly interested in. “They will make best efforts to assign them work that aligns with their interests,” hiring sources tell us, “but we also believe it is very important that our summer associates take assignments from diverse practice areas and from as many different attorneys as possible to develop a strong sense as to what the firm does.” Every summer is also assigned two mentors – a partner writing mentor and an associate mentor. There are social events scattered throughout the program and weekly training sessions.
The firm says most summers return as junior associates (sometimes after completing a judicial clerkship). Associates who focused more on the transactional side during the summer may start at the firm in a specific practice area, while those who were focused on the litigation side return to the firm’s litigation general pool before joining a specific group after one year.
Top tips for this stage:
“When you’re given an opportunity to observe an attorney at court, in a deposition, conduct a client meeting, or participate in a call with the client or opposing counsel, take it!” – hiring sources at the firm
It may seem obvious, but “never ask questions that a cursory review of the firm’s website would have revealed the answers.” The firm sees hundreds of candidates, so “the less times we have to answer ‘tell me about your summer program,’ the better. With those questions out of the way, we can get to know you better as a candidate and as a person.”
One Liberty Place,
1650 Market Street,
- Head Office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 26
- Number of international offices: 4
- Worldwide revenue: $530,875,000
- Partners (US): 477
- Associates (US): 163
- Main recruitment contacts: Lauren Carella (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mindy Herczfeld (email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Calli Padilla and Maureen Holland
- Diversity officer: Lynne Espy-Williams
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 10
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 19 (5 1Ls; 14 2Ls)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Miami: 1, New York: 2, Philadelphia: 10, Pittsburgh: 2, Washington, DC: 4
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $2685-3454/week, varies by ofﬁce. 2Ls: $2885-3654/week, varies by office.
- Split summers offered? Case-by-case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Business/corporate, commercial litigation, construction, government and regulatory, health law, insurance coverage, institutional response, intellectual property, labor and employment, life insurance and annuities, real estate, private client services, subrogation and recovery, state attorneys general, transportation and trade, utility, environmental and energy, white collar defense and investigations.
Established in 1970, Cozen O’Connor delivers legal services on an integrated and global basis. As a first-generation law firm, we have not forgotten our entrepreneurial roots and continue to provide top-notch client service at unparalleled value as we have grown to one of the top law firms in the country. Our business and litigation practices serve clients in the most effective and efficient manner, with professionals across disciplines working collaboratively to resolve any matter.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021: Brooklyn, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Penn, Rutgers- Camden, Seattle, Temple, University of Virginia, University of Washington, and Villanova.
Recruitment outside OCIs: We anticipate collecting resumes at a number of schools and participating in the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair and the Loyola Patent Law Interview Program.
For students at non-OCI schools who wish to apply outside of these programs, please submit application materials at www.cozen.com/careers/law_students.
Summer associate profile: We seek summer associates who embody the best characteristics of our attorneys. These are candidates who have distinguished themselves from their peers in academics, legal writing ability and oral advocacy skills. Our summer associates have diverse backgrounds including, but not limited to, prior work experience, military service and a demonstrated commitment to serving their communities through volunteerism.
Summer program components: We provide our summer associates with a realistic experience of the responsibilities and high level of performance expected of our associates. They take part in an extensive firm orientation and weekly training programs, such as a trial skills workshop where they learn to prepare and present an opening statement. We assign writing mentors and associate mentors to provide advice and guidance. Summer associates are invited to practice group meetings and to attend hearings, depositions, or client meetings with attorneys. Social events and teambuilding activities are scattered throughout the program to help each summer associate become better acquainted with each other and the firm’s attorneys.
Recruitment website: www.cozen.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Labor & Employment (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Construction (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 2)
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- State Attorneys General (Band 1)
- Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 2)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)