Approaching its 50th birthday, Cozen's fire for growth still burns bright as its size catches up with BigLaw's senior citizens.
FOUNDED in 1970 as a four-attorney insurance and commercial litigation boutique, Cozen has grown to over 700 lawyers in 27 offices in the US, the UK and Canada. Sources found the firm to be “a young, energetic, creative law firm that cares about developing its young lawyers and investing in them.” Its headcount grew by an estimated 14% in 2017 alone, with a recent spate of lateral hires bulking out the private client, litigation and project finance practices. Clients come chiefly from middle-market industries.
“...a young, energetic, creative law firm that cares about developing its young lawyers."
In Chambers USA,Cozen wins most of its rankings in its home state of Pennsylvania, for areas including construction, corporate/M&A, healthcare, insurance, labor & employment, litigation and real estate. Nationwide, the firm gets kudos for its insurance disputes, government relations and transportation practices. But Cozen doesn't just do nicely on paper – juniors were also attracted to the people they met. “When you talk to lawyers they can be a bit rough around the edges or have high opinions of themselves, but I didn't get that sense at Cozen," one source said. "They're just normal people who like a joke like anyone else.”
At the time of our research around half of Cozen's juniors could be found in the firm's 'litigation pool.' The other half are scattered across transactional teams like real estate, tax, IP, corporate and transportation. Sources reckoned “the firm is branching out, and is dedicated to growing its transactional practice,” having historically been known best for insurance and commercial litigation. There were several juniors in real estate at the time of our research. "I do zoning work, property acquisitions, sales, leases and financing," a source here told us. "I've also dealt with a contract between the owners of an office park and different vendors that they're working with to run their operation." We heard that deals "range in size – some are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, some are smaller." In Pennsylvania the firm recently advised on the acquisition of the Wanamaker Building and counts the City of Philadelphia as a client.
"They remember what it was like to be in my shoes."
Juniors in the litigation pool can sample insurance, environmental, labor & employment and general commercial work. They can also try “both plaintiff and defense work” which many found “invaluable.” Sources described the pool as “a very formal system that works like a well-oiled machine.” Everyone in the pool has someone assigning and managing their work, and that coordinator “makes sure everyone has enough work or redistributes work if someone has too much. They also look out for work you're interested in.” Once associates finish their time in the pool and join a subgroup (after about a year or so), work assignment becomes more free market, although most tend to work for a couple of specific partners – “that's definitely an organic process.” The biggest litigation subgroups are commercial litigation, insurance and subrogation. Across the groups juniors handle “complaints and answers, motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgments, client updates” and more. Do responsibilities change after you leave the pool and enter a subgroup? “On bigger cases I do similar work to when I was in the pool," one junior reflected, "but on smaller cases the partner lets me handle everything and monitors my updates – I'm the one going to court and calling the client.” At times, this could be overwhelming, but juniors added: “I can't speak highly enough about the associates here. They remember what it was like to be in my shoes, so no one is going to turn you away.”
Training & Development
Training kicks off with an orientation in Philadelphia: all new entry-level associates are flown in for a three-day period. Juniors found this training to be “admin-focused: things like billing, and how to handle yourself in a law firm.” Litigators have specific training programs called CODEP (the Cozen O'Connor Deposition Program) and COTA (the Cozen O'Connor Trial Academy), which sources found “very hands-on” and “the kind of training you can use day to day.” Transactional interviewees found “the firm emphasizes feedback from partners, which is where you get the most training. They make you feel like they really care about your development.” Outside of that, there are classic CLEs and “opportunities to participate in video conferences and webinars with firm leadership.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable targets differ by practice area, ranging from 1,600 to 2,000 hours, and associates found that to be reasonable. “One thing I appreciate is that the firm doesn't use a universal number across practices," said one interviewee. "They understand the nuances of billing.” Bonuses at Cozen are “completely discretionary,” associates said, though our sources guessed that “it's a holistic process – they look at your reviews, the hours you've billed, and your overall contribution to the firm.” In addition, for the past two years Cozen has rewarded its associates' hard work with a year-end bonus, which is allocated based on the firm's profits.
"I think it's a good trade-off.”
On a regular day juniors are in the office for around 8:30am to about 6pm. When things get busier, this could extend to an 8pm finish, followed by “logging in at home.” Juniors appreciated the flexibility offered by teleworking and emphasized that “there's no one going around seeing who's here or not.”
Historically Cozen's salaries have been below market, though one associate noted: “They've increased salaries three times since I started!” Salary doesn't match the Cravath scale, but juniors found: “When you balance that out with what's asked of us, I think it's a good trade-off.” Another source said: “I think associates understand that when you get a high salary, there are strings attached – most of us would say 'keep the $10k, I'd rather work 100 hours less.'”
“The Cozen culture is awesome,” one source beamed. “I would describe us as having a very Philly culture – laid back, and not cutthroat at all. Everyone is supportive of each other and willing to help anyone out regardless of expertise.” On top of its Philadelphia roots, juniors reckoned the firm's relative youthfulness also had a bearing on the culture. “They like to use the word 'entrepreneurial,'" we heard, "which I interpret as meaning young and fresh. Cozen is more open-minded than other firms – if you have a vision or goal, they're going to support you.” Many agreed that “while the firm has resources comparable to big firms, it maintains a small-firm togetherness.”
"a very Philly culture"
But with all Cozen's growth and expansion, how is it going to maintain its culture? In 2017 we heard from DC that new arrivals had stirred things up and toughened up the culture a bit. This year a source in DC described the culture as "work hard, play hard" and said that Cozen is "a firm willing to take risks other firms aren't willing to. It always seems to be looking for the next opportunity and whether to acquire laterals." Meanwhile a source in Philly had this to say about the culture: “People are keeping an eye on it, but so far it's stayed exactly the same. Management is pretty mindful and selective of which firms and which people they're adding.” Another junior added: “The culture trickles down from the partners. The ones I've worked with have always taken an interest in my personal life, as well as understanding my career goals.”
The culture is reinforced by a number of social activities. “Last year we had an associate symposium where we all went to Philadelphia for the weekend," a source reported. "It was a mix of work and play, which was nice.” The firm also has an associate committee – "each office has a rep who is in charge of local events like happy hours or grabbing lunch.” Such events include anything from sports games to informal drinks after work.
“The firm has really ramped up what it does for pro bono," associates agreed. "When I got here it was like the Wild West with no real system. Then midway through my first year, they hired Melinda deLisle [as pro bono director], who over the course of a year totally unwound that Wild West system and put in place a smart, centralized pro bono database.” Every junior we spoke to sang deLisle's praises, especially when it came to “advocating for people who have had pro bono cases with long hours to get all the credit they deserve.” Attorneys get automatic credit for up to 75 hours, and they can submit a request to count hours above that. Juniors can get involved in a variety of pro bono, including civil rights litigation, asylum cases, homeless advocacy projects and veterans' matters.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 21,372
- Average per US attorney: 31
“I think Cozen is in a good place when it comes to women, but I think we could do better in terms of other areas of diversity,” one source commented. “I would love to see more diverse faces.” The firm has a Women's Initiative that is “giving female associates a sounding board.” A diversity committee meets regularly to “discuss how to increase diversity in terms of recruitment, but also how to retain diverse attorneys.” Cozen also has a number of affinity groups for diverse attorneys to get involved in.
Cozen is headquartered in Philadelphia, in “an awesome office with an ideal location.” The HQ recently moved digs to One Liberty Place, just two blocks from City Hall. “I don't know what the old building was like, but this one is definitely fancy,” said one happy junior. Other offices also praised the HQ: the office in Pittsburgh is reportedly set for a move and one interviewee enthused: “I don't care what they do with it, I just want to get what the Philadelphia folks have as quickly as possible. Their office is gorgeous.” Currently, Cozen has two offices in the Big Apple – one in Midtown and one in Downtown. A source explained: “Traditionally, one has been more litigation-focused, and the other has been more transactional. That said, I think the goal is to eventually merge the two offices.”
Strategy & Future
Cozen has been expanding rapidly in recent years, and managing partner Vince McGuinness says it has “a very active lateral integration program” so new hires can get to know their colleagues. The firm recently passed the 700-attorney mark, and one source reported: “Firm management have said they won't shy away from 900 attorneys.” McGuinness says the plan is for growth across all practice areas: “We want to continue to be conservatively managed, and represent the middle market in terms of industries, which is something we do well. Then in terms of geographies, we will continue to grow as we have in DC and New York, then in other markets where we're gaining good traction like LA, Chicago and Miami.”
“Personality is a really big deal. I don't want to say you have to shine, but you have to have other interests and be willing to talk about what makes you you. It's the sort of place where they welcome you being yourself.” This was the general consensus among juniors when asked what the firm was looking for when hiring. One advised: “You have a ten-minute shot in front of these partners, so make your personality come out. Make a personal connection – that's what they'll remember, not the hundreds of papers on their desk.”
OCI applicants interviewed: 392
Interviewees outside OCI: 47
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 130
Notable summer events: Summer 2017 events included: Escape the Room, wine and bourbon tastings, cooking class, city-specific sporting events, bowling, museums, comedy clubs, brewery tours, summer associate class-wide trip to DC, including BBQ at managing partner’s house
Interview with hiring partners Lezlie Madden and Dan Luccaro
Chambers Associate: Roughly how many associates do you take on each year? What is the distribution like across the firm's offices?
This year we have 22 2Ls across nine offices. We're also adding an additional five to six 1Ls. Those numbers are slightly up from last year, where we had 17 2Ls and five 1Ls.
Typically, we always have summers in Philadelphia, DC, Seattle, New York and Chicago. Then on a year-by-year basis, sometimes in other offices. This year we added LA, Denver and Pittsburgh – one of our newer offices. It varies by need. In previous years, we’ve had a Houston 2L summer associate, but we do not have need there this year (although we participate in a 1L summer associate diversity program). We didn't have a Pittsburgh office last year, but now we do and they have need.
CA: What's the scope of your recruiting drive? E.g. sorts of law schools, geographical coverage?
We've expanded the offices where we hire summers. For instance, in our upcoming 2018 summer class, we've hired at least one summer associate for ten offices, which is up from the past. In 2017, we went on campus to about 19 schools, where we participated in some form of OCI, or collective OCI. Then we did formal resume collections at four other schools. We also welcome write-ins from other schools. In each city where we hire, we typically will have some OCIs in major law schools in that city. Most of our hiring is focused on the cities where we have offices.
CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?
We're always looking to add high-quality diverse candidates. We participate in programs such as PDLG [Philadelphia Diversity Law Group] every year, and bring on one 1L summer associate through that. We've also rolled out a diversity fellowship this year, and have invited applicants to apply for positions in a number of offices. There's a potential $10,000 scholarship on top of the annual salary - $5,000 on completion of the 1L summer, and the $5,000 after their 2L summer. We have a wonderful diversity committee, and a new chief diversity officer who chairs that committee [Lynnette Espy-Williams]. The diversity committee works with our hiring committee, as those processes are integrated.
CA: What kind of questions do you ask during OCIs and callback interviews?
We have a broad range of people that participate in recruiting, so it's hard to say what kind of questions we ask. There's no typical question per se, but we're looking for students who have strong backgrounds either in experience or academically. As well as that, we look to see whether they're committed to becoming the best lawyer they can be, and whether we think they'll be successful at our firm. We want to ensure the candidate is happy as well – it's not just a selection process for us. We want to hear whether candidates can articulate how their experiences, whether in law school or work experience, might translate into this kind of work environment.
CA: What makes someone stand out at interview?
We're looking for somebody that’s going to be energetic, and a good personality fit for the firm. We have a friendly and collegial environment, so it's important that the person who comes in can do quality work, but also be a good colleague. It's people who come in and have a combination of energy, confidence and maturity, and drive the interview to make it more conversational, as opposed to a question and answer session.
CA: What can students do now (in their 1L summer for example) to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications and at interview?
We just want someone who shows commitment to being in the legal profession. There's not any one job that students should have done; people do a range of things, like working for judges, nonprofits or law firms. We understand that, especially in the law firm context, 1L opportunities can be very limited. We're not looking for someone to have a certain type of experience, but I think we want people to have done something meaningful that they can talk articulately about. That's more important than what they did.
CA: Can you briefly outline your summer program? Is there anything distinctive about it, or anything different from other firms that students should know about?
The summer program typically ranges anywhere from eight to ten weeks. In Philadelphia, that gets broken into two rotations – a business rotation and a litigation rotation. We try to expose summers to as many practice areas as we can, and also try to replicate the experience they would have as an entry-level associate, both in terms of the type of work they do and the sort of volumes and time lines they deal with. As for unique aspects, we have a significant amount of training and mentorship built in. Each associate gets an individual writing mentor who reviews their work product and advises on improvements, which they find helpful.
CA: How can someone really stand out as a summer associate?
From the outset, our expectation is that every summer associate we hire will perform and perform well. It's not a 'knock out the competition' type of program. We hire to what our need is on the associate level. That said, obviously we look for people who are collegial, who are self-starters, and who will take ownership of their summer experience. We provide a broad range of opportunities, and the best and happiest candidates take advantage of those and ask for opportunities if there's something we're not providing. That might be asking to go to a deposition, or a closing.
One thing we've prided ourselves on, regardless of the economy, is that we never take on more summer associates than we can absorb into an entry-level associate class. We hire with the expectation that they will come on full-time, provided they can handle the work.
Interview with managing partner Vince McGuinness
Chambers Associate: What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in your firm?
Vince McGuinness: First and foremost, I'm most proud that our midlevel associates gave us a report card. This year we ranked number one in the city of Philadelphia, as well as number one in the US. Through the midlevel associate survey, we've ranked in the top ten for the past five years, but cracking that number one spot was a real proud moment for me. I've been a lifer here – I was in the summer associate program, and I've had a very good experience in our firm. I want to make sure our younger lawyers have a similar experience, from a training perspective, as well as a professional perspective. I would put this highlight top of the list, as it says we're doing the right thing.
CA: What's your long-term vision for Cozen?
VM: We have a strategic plan in place, and we're following it. In terms of growth, we want to continue to be conservatively managed, and represent the middle market in terms of industries, which is something we do well. Our strategic plan contemplates growth in our core practices, such as labor & employment, IP, litigation, real estate, corporate, and government relations/regulatory. Then in terms of geographies, we will continue to grow as we have in DC and New York, then in other markets where we're gaining good traction like LA, Chicago and Miami. The third area would be continued growth in our ancillary businesses. We have five or six now which have continued to perform well. They really augment our core practices and help provide our clients continued high value – not just purely legal, but in non-legal areas where they need advice.
CA: And how about short-term? What do you hope the firm will look like in a couple of years?
VM: As mentioned, our long-term strategy is deployed on the short term. We are moving forward and continuing to focus our resources in those areas and geographies mentioned. We're also continuing to hear that culture is a really important part of who we are. Associates like working here and we have a low turnover rate. Our culture is entrepreneurial, collegial and philanthropic, and promotes creativity and innovation. We will continue to invest in technology, in professional development and in HR to make sure we have the top talented lawyers and staff, and the top tech so that clients can be best represented through an efficient and excellent manner.
CA: With all the growth, how do you plan on maintaining that culture?
VM: How to preserve and maintain our culture is something Michael Heller [CEO] and I talk about daily. People here can move from office to office, and lawyers take with them the culture from one office to the next. It's not different silos of lawyers who don't know each other – there are over 700 of us, and our lawyers know each other, which is incredible. You have to work at it, but I enjoy doing that and the lawyer at this firm enjoy that. We have a very active lateral integration program which helps, plus our summer program isn't huge, which makes it more intimate. They get to know the lawyers they're working with. Every year, Michael and I make an effort to have an entry-level attorney work with us on a matter. We encourage senior lawyers to give the same opportunity for younger lawyers to work directly with them.
I was at the firm in the 1980s and I remember sitting around with the other partners – at that time there were maybe 45 lawyers – and we said, we never want to be one of those huge 100-lawyer law firms. The reason we said that was because we didn't want to lose our culture. The bigger number makes that more of a challenge, but you have to continue to work and make certain the culture you have in place is preserved and carries forward, which it has.
CA: What would you say are Cozen's growing practices? And what is the split between contentious and noncontentious work?
VM: I would say the focus of growth is in labor & employment, IP, litigation, real estate, corporate, and then regulatory and government relations. We're probably higher on the contentious side, percentage-wise. We're about 60% contentious, and 40% noncontentious. Noncontentious happens to be growing more though.
CA: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?
VM: I have been very happy with my choice to be a lawyer. The practice of law when I first started is different from what it is now – you have to be flexible and understand change. There are challenges the next generation of lawyers will face, that we didn't. Our challenge was embracing technology. Something else will impact theirs, but change is good and healthy, and valuable to our clients. They should be sensitive to the changes they experience, but embrace it and don't be fearful. Enjoy the practice – it's fabulous. We are lucky and blessed to have a good profession.
Notable pro bono opportunities
Cozen O’Connor partners with numerous organizations throughout the country representing clients pro bono in matters involving immigration and asylum, post-conviction remedies and death penalty litigation, child advocacy, and homeless advocacy. We provide legal assistance to the arts community, the disabled, and to active duty military personnel and to veterans. We pursue litigation in furtherance of important civil and public rights, criminal record expungements, and other matters.
One Liberty Place,
1650 Market Street,
- Head Office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 24
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $416 million
- Partners (US): 444
- Associates (US): 169
- Main recruitment contacts: Jill M. Caughie (firstname.lastname@example.org); Mindy Herczfeld (email@example.com)
- Hiring Partners: Dan Luccaro, Lezlie Madden
- Diversity officer: Lynne Espy-Williams
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 16
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 6, 2Ls: 23
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Chicago: 2, Denver: 1, Houston: 1, Los Angeles: 1, Miami: 1, Minneapolis: 1, New York: 3, Philadelphia: 10, Pittsburgh: 1, Santa Monica: 1, Seattle: 2, Washington DC: 5
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $2300-2973/wk, varies by office
- 2Ls: $2500-3173/wk, varies by office
- Split summers offered? Case-by-case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
eorgetown, Harvard, Howard, NYU, Penn, Penn State, Seattle University, Temple, UVA, University of Washington, Villanova, GW, Fordham, University of Miami
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in a walk-around program, The Law Consortium – Philadelphia, and two job fairs, The Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair and the Northwest Minority Job Fair. 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 beginning in July.
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 have learned to prepare and present an opening statement. We provide 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Government: Government Relations (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
- Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 2)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 2)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)