Cozen O'Connor - The Inside View

Having made its mark in the Keystone State, this Philly firm is set on expansion across the nation and beyond.

COZEN O’Connor may sound like a distant relative you only see at Thanksgiving, but it’s actually a Philadelphia-born law firm with 28 offices across the US, the UK and Canada. In 2018, the firm reported revenue growth in the double digits (a cool 10.6% increase), and scooped up a 14-lawyer group from Drinker Biddle to add to its commercial litigation clout. 2018 also saw the opening of a brand new office in Las Vegas, which is tipped to have a focus on the region’s technology and education sectors. Despite the firm’s appetite for expansion, associate sources told us: “There’s an emphasis on maintaining our culture of inclusivity while growing in a way that’s healthy.” Cozen picks up the broadest array of its Chambers USA rankings in its home state of Pennsylvania, where its real estate and labor & employment expertise really shine. On a nationwide scale, however, it’s the firm’s transportation, insurance and government relations work that especially stands out.

Strategy & Future

A number of sources flagged the firm’s labor & employment group as an area marked for growth, particularly in Chicago, where sources told us: “The office has been completely renovated in an effort to echo the Philadelphia office.” Others agreed: “Cozen is working toward becoming a national full-service firm, which means filling out transactional areas like labor & employment, tax and corporate.” Juniors in Philly also told us that cannabis law is “an area we’ll be pushing into in the future, despite the fact that it’s a legally murky area right now.” Sources were decidedly chipper about the firm’s future: “I’m happy they’re having this growth spurt. It’ll be a challenge to keep our small-firm feel but management is very connected and the attorneys here are genuinely phenomenal, so I think growing the firm will only help that.”

“Cozen is working toward becoming a national full-service firm."

The Work 

The majority of this year’s associates were based in Philadelphia, with the remainder scattered around eight other US offices, including DC, Pittsburgh and New York. Cozen’s commercial litigation group took around a third of the associates on our list, followed by the business law group. Sources in the transactional groups described a “free-flowing” work assignment system that saw them reporting to numerous partners. Those in the ‘litigation pool’ operate within a more formalized assignment system before joining a litigation subgroup after around a year.

Juniors in the litigation pool can sample insurance, environmental, labor & employment and general commercial work. Those who’d got a taste of the insurance practice – which grew significantly thanks to the addition of the Drinker Biddle team – told us: “Every day was different. There’s a lot of research, as well as supporting brief writing, document management and trial preparation.” Another insider reported being able to “help draft a brief opposing a petition for writ in the Supreme Court, which I was allowed to have my name on. I’ve also done an entire round of expert briefings.” General litigators described a workload consisting of “a lot of face time with clients and witnesses for breach of contract investigations, for example. A highlight is being able to work with product liability experts.”

"As a second-year I was able to second-chair a trial in federal court."

Those within the business litigation subgroup recalled getting “a lot of substantive work on the writing of motions, as well as the chance to meet with clients. As a second-year I was able to second-chair a trial in federal court.” Juniors in the firm’s smaller offices told us: “Getting regional experience means I can have small caseloads of my own where I’m the primary point of contact.” They added that “working at a firm with such a large central office could make you feel excluded, but you work across different offices all the time as part of the litigation pool, so you feel like you’re part of the wider team rather than a satellite.”

Litigation clients: Marriott International, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Energy Transfer Partners. Cozen currently chairs the Executive Committee for Commercial Claims with regards to multidistrict litigation arising from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Under the broad umbrella of the business law department, juniors can find themselves allocated to practices like corporate; real estate; tax; and utility, environmental & energy. One source was pleased to report that their responsibility levels had “increased; it takes about two years to handle everything that an attorney will handle in my practice. I’m a specialist, so I’m frequently asked to research specific questions about the law and its application. There are a lot of situations where I’m working with attorneys in the other business law practices to get provisions that the other side has asked for during a deal.” Others commented that they’d been involved in “everything from billion-dollar projects to $100,000 claims” thanks to a mix of regulatory/contentious work and transactional matters. “For the smaller acquisitions I’m given a lot of encouragement to run with it and make it my own. I have one matter that I’m working on where I’m taking the lead.” We also heard that cross-staffing between areas like corporate, real estate and tax was common, as well as working across offices.

Real estate clients: The City of Philadelphia, Liberty Property Trust and Equus Capital Partners. Currently representing Penn Real Estate Group with regards to the development of a project to revitalize two communities that are situated on the western edge of the city of Philadelphia.

“I have one matter that I’m working on where I’m taking the lead.”

Career Development

Cozen’s 5:2 partner to associate ratio proved a draw to many of our associates, who explained: “The comparatively low number of associates means that there are a lot of mentoring opportunities from senior lawyers.” Others praised “how generous partners are with associates. They seem to view juniors as the future of the firm rather than an asset to be used up. There’s an expectation that people will stay and succeed here – we rarely get departure emails.” Sources also told us that the firm has “identified technology as a resource to improve profitability, so there are a lot of training opportunities on things like OneNote and AI briefing tools.”

“There’s an expectation that people will stay and succeed here."

Associates are all assigned a mentor, and there’s formal training too: litigators have specific training programs called CODEP (the Cozen O'Connor Deposition Program) and COTA (the Cozen O'Connor Trial Academy). As well as practice-specific CLEs “on various topics like recent Supreme Court decisions and the handling of depositions,” juniors also reported enjoying the benefits of “an investment in associates making marketing contacts. There are regular mixers where we’ll invite industry clients to meet associates and network in an effort to cultivate future firm leaders.” Day to day, sources told us that “although I’ve had more responsibility than I expected there’s always been a safety net in the form of partners who are very open to questions and taking the time to guide me through things.”


“It feels like the firm as a whole is trying to appeal to the millennial generation.”

Insiders at Cozen regularly spoke of a “solid culture of camaraderie that starts from the top.” They praised CEO Michael Heller and president Vincent McGuinness, who “frequently rotate between offices and spend meaningful time getting to know people. They know all the associates’ names; you never feel like you’re a lowly junior.” Others told us: “Cozen has a reputation for being the cool kids, and I like to think that’s true. Everyone’s down to earth and likes to have fun. We had an all-attorney summit in Orlando recently and went to Universal Studios, but also attended more formal training and development sessions!” Another highlight for associates was “the technical benefits the firm offers. You’re able to choose your own laptop and there are various screen options, as well as standing desks in the offices. It feels like the firm as a whole is trying to appeal to the millennial generation.”

Hours & Compensation

The number of billable hours that each associate aims for depends on their practice group. The average number of hours billed per associate in 2018 was 1,669. Those in the business law department had experienced perhaps the most variation in their schedules, “because some of the subgroups are split between transactional and litigation work. The hours really range; sometimes it’ll be really intense and other times I’ll be able to leave early most evenings.” Most agreed, however, that “there’s a real emphasis on having a work/life balance. Most days I’ll get into the office around 8:30am and leave by 6:30pm.” We also heard about an “unofficial work from home policy” that gives associates some flexibility  on certain days, although juniors agreed that face time requirements are largely dependent on partners and practice groups. While the salaries don’t match the heights set by the Milbanks of this world, juniors felt that the compensation “balances out with the number of hours you put in.”

Diversity & Inclusion

When asked about the firm’s diversity efforts, sources candidly told us: “This is where the firm falls short.” A look at Cozen’s top-heavy partnership reveals that 25%are women, and less than 10% are nonwhite. In an effort to address the issue, the firm has adopted the Mansfield Rule, which means that at least 30% of the candidates it considers for leadership and governance roles must be diverse. In 2018, the firm also appointed a chief diversity officer who leads the firm’s efforts, which include a number of affinity groups. We also heard about quarterly meetings to discuss D&I at the firm, and an upcoming diversity retreat in Philadelphia. “A lot of people brought it up last year, and it seems like the firm is taking it seriously which is encouraging,” associates reported. 

Pro Bono

The firm is adamant that all attorneys should do at least 25 hours of pro bono,” we heard. Pro bono director Melinda deLisle received firmwide praise for the second year running for doing “an excellent job of finding the right matters for people and helping them with time constraints. It’s sort of like a buffet – there are so many opportunities to choose from.” Attorneys get automatic billable credit for up to 75 hours, and they can submit a request to count hours above that. We spoke to juniors who had worked on prisoners’ rights litigation, immigration cases and transgender name change matters. Sources also flagged the firm’s work with organizations like Tangled Title, a service dealing with homeownership issues in Philadelphia, and Protection from Abuse (PFA) in Pittsburgh

"It’s sort of like a buffet – there are so many opportunities to choose from."

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 26,189
  • Average per US attorney: 36.6

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Cozen O'Connor

One Liberty Place,
1650 Market Street,
PA 19103

  • Head Office: Philadelphia, PA
  • Number of domestic offices: 27
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $473 million
  • Partners (US): 452
  • Associates (US): 178
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contacts: Lauren Carella ( Mindy Herczfeld (
  • Hiring partners: Calli Padilla Diversity officer: Lynne Espy-Williams
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 21
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 5, 2Ls: 15
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Miami: 1, New York: 3, Philadelphia: 9, Pittsburgh: 2, Seattle: 2, Washington DC: 3
  • Summer salary 2019: 1Ls: $2492-3069/wk, varies by office 2Ls: $2692-3269/wk, 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.

Firm profile
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 2019:

Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, NYU, Penn, Penn State, Seattle University, Temple, UVA, University of Washington, Villanova, GW, Fordham, University of Miami

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We anticipate participating in the walk-around program, The Law Consortium – Philadelphia and three job fairs, The Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, the Northwest Minority 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 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 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.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: cozen-o’connor
Twitter: @cozen_oconnor
Facebook: CozenOConnor
Instagram: @cozenoconnor

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Government Relations: State Attorneys General (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)