This Milwaukee-born firm proves it’s the cream of the crop in the Dairy State and beyond.
TO celebrate its 175th birthday, Foley went wild in typical law-firm style... and merged with Texan firm Gardere Wynne Sewell. The two firms had a history of working together, and the move opens up Foley's access to Texas, as well as a base in Mexico, bringing a stream of Latin American opportunities. The firm is a leader in its native Wisconsin, but now has 21offices across the US and three international bases. Its Badger State practice picks up the most acclaim in Chambers USA;its corporate, IP, litigation, real estate and banking & finance practices all get top marks. Foley also gets significant mentions in Massachusetts, Illinois and DC for practice areas including healthcare, patent prosecution and insurance. Associates told us: “I wanted to be at a large firm with lots of resources and good training, and when I summered here the people made it a no-brainer.”
Associates are split between three main practice areas: litigation, intellectual property and business law. At the time of our research the majority of the group were pretty evenly split between litigation and business law (transactional), but the IP practice housed a fair number too. Most interviewees told us that work assignment was mostly done on a free-market basis, although some in transactional groups had help from a coordinator to manage work flow. “When I first started I was borderline harassing people asking for projects," recounted one source. "But now I don’t think I’ve had to ask for work for two years.”
Those in litigation felt that “cases are very leanly staffed. Usually it’s just me, a mid-level associate and a partner, and often it’s just me and a partner so you get a lot of real work very quickly.” We heard about a wide variety of work including insurance litigation, trade secrets cases and administrative appeals. Our sources also described work with pharmaceutical companies relating to Medicare and Medicaid as well as the False Claims Act. Juniors went on: “Often I’ll be managing the baseline things such as drafting motions, attending hearings and management conferences and coordinating with local counsel.” Others said: “There have been a handful of cases where I’ve worked under a more senior associate writing discrete motions and editing briefs; mostly it’s legal writing and research. You’re not stuck doing document review for 30 hours a week.”
"You’re not stuck doing document review for 30 hours a week."
One business lawyer told us: “Here in Milwaukee the biggest thing our group is known for is Midwest manufacturers and public companies. If you named a large company I would be surprised if we didn’t represent them in some capacity.” Associates told us: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the level of autonomy I’ve had. On a couple of the smaller deals I got to take the first crack at a purchase agreement and felt very lucky to have those opportunities.” There’s work on both the buyer and lender side, and on the latter juniors can expect to “draft ancillary documents, officer certificates, resolutions and scheduling documents.” Others told us: “40% of my work is based around securitizations, and they’re pretty easy because the deals are often similar. The rest of my work is mostly managing and making sure everything is signed off on time, so in that sense it’s often more management than legal skills.” They added: “I feel like Foley gives a good amount of responsibility. I get the feeling that my peers at other firms are more micromanaged than I am.”
The IP department is split into IP litigators, IP transactional and patent prosecutors. Prosecutors are split into chemical, biotech & pharma, mechanical & electromechanical technology, or electronics. We heard: “There’s a lot of emphasis on IP here. A lot of the attorneys I work for are in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee so there’s a bit of flexibility.” Litigators told us: “Mostly you’ll be doing onboarding, document reviews, complaint drafting and a bit of work involving interference and PTO work.” On the prosecution side, associates told us: “From a tech perspective we have everything from bathroom fixtures to automotive clients, alternative energy and defense contractors. We also have relationships with universities and inventors looking for attorneys to partner up with.” They continued: “In terms of work you’ll be doing preparation and prosecution applications, due diligence and patentability agreements. It’s a real mix.” Some IP litigation cases can get gloriously technical, such as one this year on behalf of Rockwell Automation regarding motion-control technology.
Most interviewees praised the firm’s inherently Midwestern culture, saying: “It doesn’t feel as buttoned up here as you would expect a law firm to be.” On that subject, something interviewees were also keen to flag was the firm’s “casual dress code. It’s nice not to have to wear a suit every day.” Others added: “People here are very down to earth. When I first walked in here it didn’t feel stiff or sterile, and I felt like people enjoy each other’s company.” Some, however, told us: “Because of the firm’s Midwestern values it can feel a little more conservative in terms of running a business, which can be frustrating at times.” They reasoned, however: “I think in general people are willing to tolerate those things because we know the financials of the firm are focused on its long-term health so we don’t have to worry about job stability.”
"When I first walked in here it didn’t feel stiff or sterile."
Plenty of interviewees mentioned the all-attorney retreat that takes place every other year. “It had a really positive vibe. They put a lot of resources into doing it and it really showed. There was some programming but outside of that it was a lot of fun; it didn’t feel like a work event.” Back at the office associates told us: “We have lunches every Friday which are well attended, as well as a softball league and happy hours.”
Training & Development
Associates all get a short orientation period where they’re taught about the technical aspects of office life. Following this there is more specific training on a regular basis, including CLEs which are often included in investment hours and also feature a free lunch, according to interviewees.
“Often it’s hard to get immediate feedback on your own work," sources told us. "But there’s a substantive performance review every six months which is very helpful.” Others added: “The firm tries to push the mentor thing but I’m not how sure how much of that is lip service as I haven’t seen mine much.” If you ask for feedback you'll get it, most agreed, and they all appreciated the transparency of “an associate committee which gives feedback upward.”
The firm has 21 offices in the US, as well as bases in Brussels, Mexico City and Tokyo. Most associates are based in Milwaukee, Boston, Chicago and DC. In Milwaukee juniors told us: “We’re in a US bank building and it’s the tallest in the city. There’s a new gym in the basement and they’ve made significant improvements on the food court in the past two years.” Others said: “They’re not as sleek as DC or New York, but they’re still perfectly nice.” Some, meanwhile, were less enthused: “The offices are severely outdated. They’ve been talking for years about getting a new layout and new furniture but it’s looking like it won’t be until 2021.”
"I’ve been told it looks like a hotel here."
Those in Boston said: “I’ve been told it looks like a hotel here. It has very warm, welcoming decor and it’s in Back Bay near where the marathon finishes.” DC, as previously mentioned, boasts the most modern offices and is decked out in glass and white interiors. Associates told us: “We’re told it’s mandatory to work with other offices, which is definitely a good thing. The more people you work with the better a lawyer you become.”
“I would say the success rate here hasn’t been as high as we would like when it comes to diversity, but it’s not for lack of effort,” one junior told us. “Management unveiled a Diversity and Inclusion plan a couple of months ago. It needs a bit of fleshing out to be meaningful but it’s good that the message is there.” Another added: “The CEO Jay Rothman is enthusiastic about diversity, and partners are very vocal and are doing more in concrete ways.” We heard about LGBT, African American and Hispanic-American affinity groups (the membership of the African-American group has doubled of late), as well as efforts to improve diversity in recruiting. Associates added: “Based on my class and the two or three classes since there has been a better ratio of male to female and non-Caucasians, but in general it’s still majority white males, especially in certain groups.”
The firm awards 100 hours of pro bono to go toward billables, and associates told us that most requests for extensions were approved. “It’s very rewarding to spend my professional time working on a case I feel personally invested in and get billable credit for it. I basically got to run a case by myself with only nominal supervision.” A Business Law junior told us: “I assumed I’d have no pro bono opportunities but I’ve hit around 100 hours both years. I’ve worked on a couple of nonprofit cases and the firm’s been really supportive.” Others added: “There’s more freedom to pick up the phone and interact on pro bono because there’s no bills to worry about so there’s less red tape.” We also heard: “Any time I’ve gotten into a jam, partners and senior associates are always willing to take the time to help me figure it out. I’m also starting to be able to delegate which is a new and exciting skill.”
"It’s very rewarding to spend my professional time working on a case I feel personally invested in."
Those on litigation told us that there were occasions where they ran up hours unexpectedly and struggled to get approval if they went significantly over their 100 hours: “There could be a little more transparency when things get blown out of proportion on a case.” Examples of pro bono work we heard about included asylum and discrimination cases, as well as those in IP working with inventors to get patents approved. “There’s an understanding that if you haven’t done 20 hours a senior attorney will come and knock on your door and ask you if there’s anything they can interest you in doing.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 45,778.1
- Average per US attorney: 55
Hours & Compensation
Associates told us that the firm’s billable requirement was raised from 1,850 to 1,900 in 2016 to coordinate with a salary increase. They added: “There’s also a 150-hour investment time requirement so your total commitment is at least 2,050. I try to bill eight hours a day but that only gets me to 2,000.”
"There are times when something will come up at the eleventh hour."
Business law juniors on the transactional side told us: “The hours can be unpredictable. There are times when something will come up at the eleventh hour and you’ll have to stay well past midnight, but that’s what we’re paid to do.” Meanwhile, on the finance side we heard: “I feel like my schedule is more balanced than some of my peers. I enjoy having the regular 9am-6pm working day.” Juniors in IP told us: “There isn’t a typical day. There’s a lot of seesawing in terms of workload. If you’re with someone on a deadline you’ll be here until midnight but if things are slow there’s no need for you to be in the office.” While some said that it was fine to work from home, others told us: “There are partners who want you to be there physically, it depends on the person.” Finally, when asked about vacation interviewees told us: “If you go away you definitely need to be available. You’re expected to answer emails and know what’s going on.”
Strategy & Future
“Every year CEO Jay Rothman holds a town hall meeting and gives an annual summary on things like earnings, budgets and projections, and answers questions.” Associates added: “When issues arise there’s an associate committee, so you can speak to a representative and the committee will present it to management.” Others said: “The process can be a little slow and murky, but it doesn’t lurch from one thing to another so even if change is slow you have stability.” Finally, associates said: “When things have been passed up it seems like it’s received pretty well. I’d say they do a fairly good job of keeping things transparent.”
When we asked what it takes to get hired at Foley, associates told us: “You have to be a team player and be sociable. You can be the best associate on the planet but if you can’t get along with people you’re not going to do well.” Others added: “I think you have to be well balanced. Everybody works hard but they also want to leave the office in the evening and get back to their home lives.” As a result of the firm’s lean staffing model, juniors said: “We really don’t want someone who’s going to shy away from responsibility or be another face in the crowd.”
When it comes to interviews, we heard: “A huge turn-off is someone who doesn’t know about the firm. You need to be able to tell us what it is about our practice or overall culture that made you want to interview here.” They added: “We don’t ask any trick questions. We just want to get to know people and make sure they don’t take themselves too seriously. When we ask questions about the law it’s just to see whether someone can get excited about a topic or an assignment. It’s always better to work with someone who actually enjoys their work.” Others added, “I would say prepare but not so much that you sound scripted. You want to be able to segue into something more lighthearted as well as showing your skill set.”
When we asked if associates had any other words of wisdom they said: “When I was looking at firms there was always a lot of emphasis on prestige. If I was talking to myself back then I’d say it’s funny how little the rank matters when you’re in the daily grind.” They added: “The name of the firm won’t make you want to come into work every day. I’m very fortunate to like the things I’m doing and the people I work with.” Others added: “It’s important to be honest with yourself and the way you work. If you don’t want to work somewhere with a huge face-time requirement, don’t do it. You’ll only make yourself miserable otherwise because everything is magnified when you’re working somewhere every day.” Finally, we heard: “Talk to people in the practice area you’re interested in and find out what a practice lawyer actually does. Before I started I had no idea what was really involved. Being flexible is also key.”
Interview with Jay Rothman, CEO at Foley & Lardner
Chambers Associate: Have there been any developments or work highlights over the last 12 months that our readers should know about?
Jay Rothman: All of our practices have had another good year. We’ve seen an uptick in transactional work, as well as in IP and litigation. We’ve continued to execute our strategic plan, which is focused on being client-driven and innovative. We are also investing in our people. We’re increasingly working more holistically with clients, which is something we’ve always done but we’re putting more of an emphasis on how we approach clients.
On the people side we’ve implemented a robust leadership training program for professional staff and lawyers, including a session at Harvard Law School for new partners. With regard to innovation we’re looking at how we can leverage different models and technology to improve efficiency while staying as close as possible to the cutting edge, particularly relating to artificial intelligence. I firmly believe AI will be a part of our future, and we have to be open and adapt to use it effectively.
We have a burgeoning cyber-security practice that continues to grow in leaps and bounds, and we’re constantly looking for what clients will need two or three years down the line. We are also making investments in key practice areas. For example, our corporate group is focusing on the upper midmarket where we know we can add value by performing meaningful work for our clients. We’ve also been involved in high stakes litigation, class action defense and securities enforcement, so our attorneys really run the gamut. We continue to invest in our healthcare practice, particularly on the transactional side, and of course in our technology practices.
We’ve recently implemented a new diversity and inclusion strategic plan. We’ve always taken this very seriously but we’re focusing more on inclusion in the areas of mentoring and professional development. We’re absolutely committed to providing equal opportunities and being cognizant of making sure we choose people who view the world differently. We’re working really hard to develop skills like relationship management and business development. Our attorneys and staff have seen the firm’s commitment, and it has resulted in real achievements this year.
CA: We wrote last year that there were rumors of a possible merger – is this still a possibility?
JR: In April, Foley formally combined with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. Our newly combined firm now has over 1,100 lawyers in 24 offices across the United States and in Mexico, Europe and Japan. We are very excited about all the opportunities this combination creates.
CA: Where do you see the firm in five years' time?
JR: Our focus is continuing to expand our platform in the US and make it as strong as we can. It’s still the strongest legal market in the world. We are continuing our efforts to look outside the US and maintain the level of relevance with our clients that we want in a world that continues to globalize. We’ve got some great alliances and relationships worldwide but over time we would like to make those tighter and go beyond some of our current referral relationships. We’re prepared to grow as long as it makes business sense and as long as there’s a strong cultural fit.
CA: How would you describe the ideal Foley lawyer?
JR: Somebody who is intelligent, intellectually curious and creative. We want people who are willing to expand their horizons and who are committed to providing great client service. We take great pride in developing people, and that commitment is our greatest attribute. When we talk to our recruits coming in we tell them that we want this to be great for their career, whether it’s four or 40 years.
CA: What are the opportunities for associates that are unique to Foley?
JR: When I look back on my personal experience, I remember when I came here and people mentored me and really looked out for me. While our focus on the business side has grown, we are always committed to maintaining our culture and the emphasis on professional development. You’re not a cog in the machine here, you’re a professional and we want to invest in you and make you successful. That’s really the holy grail in professional services; if you ever lose sight of the fact it’s about the people, then you’ve lost sight of what’s important.
Interview with Director of Legal Recruiting, Rebecca Bradley, and Hiring Partner Bob Scher
Chambers Associate: Have there been any changes to your recruiting drive or summer program over the last 12 months that our readers should know about?
Rebecca Bradley: Our numbers this year are going to be roughly the same as las year: about 65 summer associates with approximately 50 from the 2L class and 15 1Ls. In particular, we have significant opportunities for students with advanced degrees in technical fields to join our summer program in one of our many IP practice areas. Something you might not have heard about yet is a really innovative health law fellowship with Mayo Clinic. Last year’s associate in the program had a great 1L summer at Mayo, and will be joining the Boston office as a 2L summer associate in 2018. We intend to recruit another Mayo-Foley Fellow from the 1L class in 2018 and will have hired that person by the time this interview is published. We’ve also partnered with Google on their intellectual property summer institute. This is a diversity-based educational leadership program which also recruits 1Ls and we’ve committed to hiring a summer associate in partnership with Google. The student will spend three weeks in one of our offices and then spend their fourth week at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Bob Scher: While associates spend most of their time working in their individual offices, we do get all of the associates together for three days, usually in Chicago, for a firmwide summer associate retreat. The event is a mix of substantive training, introductions to firm leadership, and fun, team-building events and dinners. We have some exciting new elements to the retreat in 2018 and believe it will continue to be a highlight of the summer program. The large majority of our summer class will become our incoming new associate class the following year, and will continue to get together over the course of their careers at various retreats and professional development programs.
CA: What is the firm doing to encourage diversity?
RB: The firm has been through a robust diversity and inclusion strategic planning process over the last 12 months, culminating in a D&I Strategic Plan of which we are very proud. As far as recruiting, the largest part of that initiative is about retention. We have a new program that uses metrics to take a closer look at the quality and quantity of work assigned to our first-year associates with an eye toward making sure everyone starts on an even playing field. There are project coordinators and mentors who ensure people aren’t just reflexively choosing associates who sit near them to work with.
BS: I’m proud to say that over the past several years the diversity among our incoming and summer associate classes has been exceptional. We aim to attract candidates with diverse backgrounds, and we make a concerted effort to do so. We have offered a Diversity Fellowship Program for many years. All rising second-year law students who receive an offer to join our summer program for their 2L summer are invited to apply for the Fellowship. We award a total of $20,000 to each of our Diversity Fellows, assuming they complete our summer program and join our firm as a new associate following graduation from law school.
CA: How would you describe the ideal Foley lawyer?
RB: We want people with an entrepreneurial spirit; we like to think of innovative ways to serve clients from day one. Leadership experience in an educational setting or previous work experience tends to make associates feel more comfortable with client interaction. The ratio of partners to associates is one to one, so associates have to be ready to roll their sleeves up. Sometimes we’ll hear summer associates asking how often they’ll get to work with a partner, if at all, but at Foley this is something they’ll experience in their first week. You’ll often hear the firm’s leadership talking about our core value of stewardship and leaving the firm a better place than we found it. We know not everyone’s going to stay here forever, but we want everyone to embrace the network and relationships they build and know it’s going to stick around. This past year Foley celebrated its 175th anniversary, and the firm is confidently thinking about our next 175 years and how we will create an even stronger law firm for the future.
BS: Beyond excellent academics, because we have a great culture we look for people who are going to be interesting and fun to work with. We integrate junior associates into very small teams and we want them to contribute at a very early stage. We find that people who have had unique life experiences and aren’t just bookworms bring a fresh perspective.
CA: Is there anything you’d like to add?
RB: I’ve just attended a meeting for recruiting professionals in Milwaukee, and one trend that came out was that firms are becoming more specific in what we’re looking for in terms of practice areas. For example, I’ll usually know how many healthcare lawyers we’re trying to recruit in a given year, or how many litigators. We definitely have some flexibility and we try to keep changes in work flow in mind throughout the recruiting cycle, but sometimes students are at a disadvantage when they’re top performers but are uneducated or unsure about which practice area they’d like to go into. In their first year of law school, students should take a critical look at their preferred style of learning and working and aim to understand in what settings they excel. It’s imperative to research different practice areas and make the most of networking opportunities to connect with practicing lawyers. Students don’t necessarily need to know they want to go into project finance, but it’s wise to distinguish between litigation and corporate, for example, and target something you enjoy from an early stage in your career.
BS: I’m sure there’s not a single person who doesn’t say their firm has a nice culture, but it’s really true here. I don’t want to be hokey and say our firm is like a family, but there is a family-like culture and that’s what’s kept me here. Everyone works hard and works on serious cases, but the people are a real highlight of working here and that’s what we’re trying to get across.
Foley & Lardner LLP
777 East Wisconsin Avenue,
- Head Office: Milwaukee, WI
- Number of domestic offices: 21
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $830 million
- Partners (US): 482
- Associates (US): 402
- Of/Special Counsel (US): 153
- Main recruitment contact: Rebecca S Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring Partner: Bob Scher
- Recruitment detailsDiversity officer: Eileen Ridley
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 53
- Clerking policy: Bonus and advanced standing provided for federal clerkships and clerkships with the highest court in any state
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 21, 2Ls: 60
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Boston: 9, Chicago: 11, Dallas: 6, Detroit: 2, Houston: 4, Jacksonville: 4, Los Angeles: 5, Madison: 2, Miami:1, Milwaukee: 19, New York: 1, Orlando: 2, San Diego: 4, San Francisco: 1, Silicon Valley: 1, Tampa: 1, Washington DC: 8
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $2,700-$3,500 2Ls: $2,700-$3,500
- Split summers offered? Case by case.
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Law Schools: Baylor University, Boston College, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Florida State, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Marquette, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, SMU, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Houston, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, UCLA, University of Miami, University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, Yale
Job Fairs: Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Lavender Law Conference Job Fair, Loyola Patent Law Interview Program, SFIPLA, Sunbelt Minority Job Fair, Southern Legal Interview Program, University of Oklahoma Job Fair (Dallas & Houston)
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We fill the majority of our hiring needs through OCI but always consider all other applicants who apply to the positions posted to our online career center at www.foleyrecruiting.com. Specific needs outside of OCI are posted to that same online career center.
Summer associate profile:
Foley is looking for summer associates with an entrepreneurial spirit who bring diverse life and work experiences. Key attributes also include intellect, academic achievement, judgement and leadership abilities and excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
Summer program components:
We aim to introduce our summer associates to life as a Foley associate. Making significant contributions from day one, our summer associates are immersed in real world, practical experiences. Work is assigned on a project basis, which allows summer associates to experience a variety of practice areas and choose projects that match their interests. Summer associates receive a dedicated mentor and our Foley Academy training programs highlight Foley’s culture, practice areas and strategic goals while developing and strengthening professional skills. To round out the experience, our summer associates participate in entertaining social events, including a firmwide retreat, where summer associates hear directly from firm leadership, participate in interactive workshops and training programs and build and strengthen relationships with our attorneys and other members of their class.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- IT & Outsourcing: Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Reinsurance (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 5)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Franchising Recognised Practitioner
- Franchising (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)