There's a mix of traditional BigLaw practices and specialist niches at this go-getting firm.
"FROM its founding the firm has been entrepreneurial and trying to crack into the old firm market," one Katten junior observed. That has led this 45-year-old firm to focus on some niche and unusual practice areas: alongside corporate transactions and litigation, Katten handles matters related to sports law, quantitative trading, cybersecurity, entertainment law, and food safety. While not all of these are areas juniors commonly work in, we did hear from corporate and litigation sources involved in sports and entertainment matters. More on that below.
Katten may be relatively young and do some niche work but it's not small: it has close to 700 attorneys in 12 US offices and two international ones, the most recent new outpost being an office in Dallas which opened in 2018. The firm wins its highest Chambers USA rankings in Illinois, where it's recognized for core areas like real estate, corporate M&A, and litigation. The firm's also ranked in four other states and DC, plus nationwide for capital markets, real estate, sports law, and transportation finance.
At the time of our research just under half of juniors were based in Chicago, with the next biggest clutch in New York, and the remainder in Charlotte, Los Angeles, Dallas, and DC. Litigation and real estate had most juniors when we conducted our calls (they were home to around a fifth of juniors each), closely followed by corporate and commercial finance. Structured finance, financial services, insolvency, and intellectual property all have just a handful of juniors.
Most offices officially have a work allocation system where an assignment coordinator hands out tasks, but we heard that in practice that happens "less than half the time. The more common occurrence is that a partner who wants to work with you will clear things with the assignment coordinator and reach out to you directly." As time goes on the formal system drops away, and work comes from relationships with partners, so "the onus is on you to tell partners that you are too busy and that's not always an easy thing to do."
"Efficiency is key, and you try to get through things as quickly as possible."
Katten's litigation practice has several subgroups, including white-collar, financial institutions, healthcare, and general commercial. LA also does entertainment work. Tasks depend on how large a case is: large matters see juniors spend more time on doc review, while smaller cases have rookies "drafting motions, appearing in court, interviewing the client or potential witnesses, and preparing deposition outlines and binders." As a result work can "sometimes be a fast-paced checklist of tasks where there isn't a lot of intellectual strain but just a lot of things that need to get done." On the flipside you might also get an assignment "analyzing a legal issue or interpreting recent court decisions and how they might impact future litigation." While having both types of work at the same time "can be overwhelming, it can be nice once you are exhausted with the fast-paced and more mundane tasks to get a more strategic task that can provide a break from that routine."
Litigation clients: Royal Bank of Canada, marketing firm MaxPoint, and Trent Reznor. Defended Robert Rodriguez, director of Spy Kids and Machete, against claims he interfered with a contract actor Danny Trejo had to film a competitor Machete-like movie.
Real estate handles matters for banks and investors, with lawyers drafting and negotiating leases and amendments for everything from office spaces to ATMs. Juniors "make sure everything is in place, keeping track of different documents and items going around. Efficiency is key, and you try to get through things as quickly as possible." There's also some drafting, notably more so in the firm's smaller offices, and interviewees said work on things like property covenants and condo leases "can get pretty intellectually stimulating," because lawyers have to figure out "how to draft documents that protect lenders' interests."
Real estate clients: AIG, Bank of America, and real estate investor CIM. Helped the Obama Foundation negotiate with the City of Chicago to develop the Barack Obama Presidential Center.
The corporate practice's focus is on private equity sales and acquisitions, but this is also where juniors can get involved in sports law work, with one putting the split at "60% private equity and 30% sports, startup and venture capital work." Sources said sports clients frequently need to be taken through commercial deals step by step, while it's "easier to explain things to private equity clients, although they can be more demanding." Juniors start on the usual administrative tasks when they first arrive, but by their third year associates "basically take the lead on all the documents and ancillaries, as well as working with clients directly."
Corporate clients: Sterling Partners, Monster Beverage Corporation, and the Sacramento Kings. Negotiated an expansion agreement with the National Hockey League for a new team in Seattle.
The fact associates receive most of their work by developing informal relationships seems to have an effect on the firm's culture: especially in the smaller offices, "you get to know everyone and your reputation proceeds you." We heard that as a result senior lawyers "check in regularly to make sure you're doing alright, so there's never a shortage of wisdom being imparted on you about career development or your workload." Juniors also felt that the development of these relationships leads to a healthy work/life balance. For example, one interviewee recalled that when planning a vacation "the head partner told me to let them know if they could take any of my work files away so my vacation was as good as possible." The firm also recently started mindfulness classes to help juniors cope with the stresses of the job. On which note: we heard that some offices are more laid-back than others. "We work with our Chicago and New York counterparts and it feels like they're always online!" revealed one LA insider. "Here people tend to wrap up their day around dinner time."
Hours & Compensation
Speaking of hours: we heard that most juniors get in at 8:30am or 9:30am and head out at 6:30pm or 7:30pm on a typical day (though a few early birds get in earlier). There is some weekend working too, and when things get busy "all bets are off and you might be working 8am to 11pm or midnight, though that's for no more than three or four days in a row."
"8am to 11pm... for no more than three or four days in a row."
Associates have a billable target of 2,000 hours, with sources finding mixed difficulty in hitting it. One real estate junior reported that "at least in our group you're a little bit at the mercy of the practice area and what the deal flow is like," while a finance source said they had "not had any issue meeting the target as the group is extremely busy."
Base pay is lockstep and transparent, which gave our interviewees some peace of mind. Bonuses are dependent on hitting the hours target, though we heard there are exceptions – "they take into consideration certain situations like having an illness."
Most of our interviewees were eyeing up partner roles with the expectation they could nab one in about eight years' time. Like at any firm, there is attrition here, but Katten has very low leverage and makes a decent number of partner promotions each year. "I think there has only been one associate leave and he left to be close to his parents," one insider observed. "The goal of every associate here is to stay as long as possible and that seems to be what happens." Eventually achieving the highest ranks means doing well in mid-year and end-of-year reviews where "there are always discussions about what responsibilities you can take on," so it's important to seek out opportunities to stand out "and show the partnership you are capable."
Diversity & Inclusion
"There's always room for improvement," said one junior when we asked about diversity. To help make such improvements, Katten has signed up to the Mansfield Rule, has a diversity scholarship, and has a parental leave policy for primary caregivers that consists of: 20 consecutive weeks of paid leave, plus an optional six further weeks of unpaid leave, plus a three-month transition period back into the firm where primary caregivers can work on a reduced schedule. Secondary caregivers can take four weeks of paid leave.
"There's always room for improvement."
Some sources did worry that, particularly when it comes to work allocation, implicit bias may undermine more official diversity improvement attempts. One wished "there was a way for the firm to track how work is being allocated. Because it's organic that comes with its own slew of problems which could result in fewer women being promoted." In 2017 four of 11 new partners were women in 2018 three of nine were.
Up to 100 hours of pro bono can be counted toward the billable target, though juniors can submit a request to have the cap increased. We heard of associates doing up to 200 hours of pro bono and getting to count it toward their target (although the firm tells us that it would approve more than that!). That said, pro bono cases do have to fit around billable work – "it's not that one should be put above the other but that equal attention should be paid to both."
"Assist an artist who might not have the funding to prevent someone stealing their patent or trademark."
The work itself comes from around 35 pro bono organizations across the nation. For example juniors might work with the National Immigration Justice Center, "helping people apply for asylum either for violent or religious persecution," or with the Legal Aid Fund, "Chicago's largest provider of legal aid, usually on housing and domestic violence." Lawyers also partner with Lawyers for the Creative Arts "to assist an artist who might not have the funding to prevent someone stealing their patent or trademark."
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 24,167
- Average per US attorney: 35
Strategy & Future
In 2018 Katten grew quite a bit, managing partner Roger Furey informs us. "We expanded our Dallas office from the seven attorneys who launched it just eight short months ago to more than 30 attorneys in the corporate, tax, litigation white collar and healthcare practices. On the lateral recruitment front, we’ve brought in more than 38 new partners so far this year." On the topic of laterals, Furey continues: "In many cases, the new attorneys came in teams. Their history together allowed them to hit the ground running at Katten. They included high-profile groups specializing, for instance, in insolvency and restructuring and in patent litigation." Overall, Furey feels that "this has been a great year for Katten, for instance, in adding new attorneys, providing more services and focusing on professional development."
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 448
Interviewees outside OCI: 39
In 2018 Katten attended OCIs at 18 schools and participated in four job fairs and recruiting programs, including Lavender Law Career Fair and the Bay Area Diversity Fair. OCI locations include a mix of top schools such as Harvard, Columbia and NYU, as well as regional schools such as University of Texas School of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law, and Loyola Law School.
Partner/associate pairs typically conduct interviews, and the firm sees roughly 20 students at each campus, although that number increases to more than 40 for the University of Michigan Law School, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and The University of Chicago Law School. According to hiring sources at the firm, questions are open-ended and allow the interviewers “to assess, among other things, each candidate’s interpersonal skills, motivation, applied intelligence, and entrepreneurial qualities.”
Top tips for this stage:
“We hire outgoing people because it means they are likely to build business at some point. I do think that the firm does tend to look for people who can have a normal conversations.” – a third-year junior associate
“I would advise students to prepare, but not be over-rehearsed, as we appreciate authenticity. It is beneficial to present yourself honestly to the interviewer, in a way that communicates enthusiasm for legal studies/the practice of law, motivation to achieve success, and a strong intellect.”
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 186
Four interviews with a mixture of partners and associates await those who get to the callback stage, though this can vary by office. According to hiring sources at the firm, “our interviewers tend to ask more behavioral questions than we ask at the OCI stage. Interviewers will continue to assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills, motivation, applied intelligence and entrepreneurial qualities. Additionally, interviewers will try to determine the candidate’s interest in the firm and the particular office.” Those we spoke to didn't find the experience too taxing: “For the most part you just have a conversation – they’re thinking about you would work with this person or this group.”
Top tips for this stage:
“I would advise candidates to research the firm, our practice areas, and the attorneys that they will meet, and candidates should be prepared to discuss why they are particularly interested in Katten.”
In most offices the summer program lasts ten weeks. Summer associates can try work assignments in different practice areas, and an assignment coordinator is on hand to help them with the assignment process. Summers are also assigned mentors as an extra layer of support. Hiring sources at the firm encourage summers to “work on assignments with a variety of partners and associates across various practice areas, particularly during the first half of the summer,” as this gives them a chance to “experience the various practice areas at the firm and then hone in on what truly interests them for the latter part of the program.”
Depending on who summers end up working with, they may get to tag along to client meetings, closings or court hearings. The firm also provides a writing training program, professional skills training and a negotiation workshop. “Almost all of our summers return as junior associates,” the firm tells us. “When a summer associate receives an offer to return as a first-year associate, the offer typically is for a specific department, based on his/her department preferences and the hiring needs of our departments.”
Notable summer events: a day trip to Disneyland, a boat cruise and karaoke nights.
Top tips for this stage:
“If you show great communication and organisational skills, that goes a long way. Bring all the documents you need for a call and keep up to date with all the calendar invites. Those small things are the main things that will impress.” - a third year junior associate
The firm encourages interested students to connect with Katten attorneys at events hosted through their law schools and by the firm: “They should also follow up with students who participated in our summer program. Our recruiting staff and attorneys are happy to speak with law students to share information on Katten.”
Interview with chairman Roger Furey
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
525 West Monroe Street,
- Head Office: Chicago, IL
- Number of domestic offices: 12
- Number of international offices: 2
- Partners (US): 337
- Associates (US): 361
- Recruitment website: For recruitment information and contacts, please visit: www.kattenlaw.com/careers
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 21
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 43 (2Ls: 35, 1Ls: 8)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Charlotte: 4, Chicago: 20, Los Angeles: 5, New York: 7, Washington, DC: 3
- Summer salary 2019:1Ls: $3,653.85 2Ls: $3,653.85
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Chicago-Kent College of Law, Columbia Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Harvard Law School, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, New York University School of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, The University of Chicago Law School, University of Illinois College of Law, University of Michigan Law School, University of North Carolina School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law
Recruitment outside OCIs:
In addition to OCI, the firm participates in the Lavender Law Career Fair, the Cook County Bar Association Minority Law Student Job Fair and the Chicago On-Tour Interviewing Program.
Summer associate profile:
Katten’s summer associate classes are comprised of a diverse group of individuals, who have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership experience and oncampus involvement. The firm seeks candidates who are motivated, entrepreneurial, and possess a high level of critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Katten looks for candidates who are reflective of our culture and values, which includes exhibiting professionalism, commitment to client service and team work.
Summer program components:
Our Summer associate program offers participants a realistic idea of what it is like to be a first year associate. With our diverse client base, summer associates have the opportunity to work in each of our practice areas on a broad spectrum of assignments. We provide programs designed specifically for summer associates, including legal writing, negotiation and professional skills workshops, in addition to presentations introducing the firm’s different areas of practice. Summer associates have the opportunity to work directly with our attorneys and interact with clients as part of their training experience. We also encourage our summer associates to participate in all of the attorney training and development programs presented by the firm and our various departments.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Startups & Emerging Companies Recognised Practitioner
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 4)