Katten has enough entrepreneurial spirit for nine lives.
ESTABLISHED in Chicago in 1974, Katten Muchin is a spring chicken compared to some of its peers, and it's this relative youth that informs a persistent mantra of ingenuity and independence. According to chairman Roger Furey, "this works for associates because we offer them opportunities to work in new areas of the law that weren't around a few years ago. In addition to the traditional corporate and litigation practices, we have developed expertise in areas such as quantitative algorithmic trading, food safety outbreak law, sports law and cybersecurity." This adventurous approach appears to be working: Katten now has overseas bases in London and Shanghai, as well as 12 domestic offices (its latest addition to the network – a corporate-focused Dallas pad – opened in early 2018); its ever-rising profile in the legal world means that Katten is very much on the prowl for associates who can embody the qualities that have won the firm such riches. “Cases are staffed leanly so we want people who can take the initiative and take on responsibility rather than just hiding and waiting for the phone to ring.”
According to Chambers USA, the firm's best practices are real estate and white-collar crime in its home-state, Chicago. Beyond that, the firm gets an approving nod for real estate elsewhere, plus banking and finance, capital markets and sports law nationwide, media litigation in California, and healthcare and more general litigation in Chicago.
At the time of our research, a third of associates were on the firm’s litigation team, while another third were evenly split between real estate and corporate. The remaining juniors were scattered throughout the various finance and tax groups. In Chicago, a staffing coordinator is sometimes used to assign work, but most interviewees gained their work by developing ongoing relationships with partners: “In some ways it’s on you to make sure you have a good caseload, but it gives you more control over what you’re doing.”
"In some ways it’s like being a private investigator."
Litigation subgroups include white-collar defense, financial services, construction, healthcare and commercial litigation. Associates described “a really interesting mix” of work, including criminal and environmental litigation, and workplace and federal agency investigations. Sources found that “because teams are staffed leanly you see the arc of the case and get more substantive assignments.” That delivered a workload where “on an investigation you’ll be looking at primary documents and data and trying to put together pieces of the puzzle. In some ways it’s like being a private investigator. That takes up half the time; the other half is traditional work like drafting motions and helping with briefs.” One third-year told us: “I’ve been doing a lot of reviewing reports and internal audits. Next year I’ll be able to visit corporate offices to interview executives and personnel.”
The corporate team has a particular focus on private equity M&A: “We operate on both the buy side and sell side,” juniors told us. “There’s a lot of diligence involved but there’s an effort to include drafting so that we see progression as an associate.” Another continued: “On the one hand you’re definitely in charge of as much as you can handle, but on the other there’s a lot of junior work that isn’t super advanced, so a lot of hours go toward that. I think that’s just the nature of the work rather than associates being kept down.” Sources particularly praised the amount of client contact: “Because private equity firms are structured like law firms it makes sense to have associates talk to associates on the other side. It expedites the process and eases some of the anxiety.” But corporate associates beyond Chicago felt “the smaller teams contribute to the fact that corporate is a bit feast or famine. Sometimes there’s no work and then there are crazy times because there isn’t a huge support system.”
Real estate is the only practice where the firm gets a top Chambers USA ranking. “We’re a full service group,” associates told us. “We do debt and equity work, and on the debt side we represent both lenders and borrowers.” Larger deals have juniors working on titles and surveys and handling deal logistics: managing checklists, deliverables and closing binders. “On smaller deals you’re able to take on an active role drafting ancillary documents, compiling closing documents and helping with opinions.” Taking the two together, one associate told us: “The group approaches responsibility in a really positive way; I like to be involved and help run deals but at the same time I recognize that I’m still learning so I need that balance.” As with corporate, “there’s a push for associates to meet people on the client side who are of a similar age and experience: the thought behind this is that the firm can grow with the client.”
Culture & Hours
This approach to client contact is indicative of how the firm's insistent independence trickles down. “I know this is in all the marketing but I really feel that it is entrepreneurial here. If you’re motivated and you want to make your mark you can take it as far as you want. If you try to take the lead, nobody’s going to say you’re too junior.” But is there anything else to the culture? One associate told us: “The reason I chose Katten was because they really advertize themselves as being a nice place to work, while other firms focus on prestige or bonuses.” Given its youth, the firm's bound to differentiate itself in this way, but associates felt that the firm lived up to this image. While a couple did mention “a lack of interaction between practice groups,” interviewees agreed: “Generally people are kind, respectful of your time and not overly demanding.”
"If you’re motivated and you want to make your mark you can take it as far as you want.”
The billing target for associates in all offices except Charlotte is 2,000 hours (this can include up to 100 hours of firm-approved non-chargeable work, which covers activities devoted to pro bono, diversity & inclusion and practice content development). Juniors found this to be a reasonable target and some of our sources had cleared it easily. Associates clocked an average day of roughly 8am to 7pm, but that wasn't the full story. As one would expect, “in transactional it varies” – and that did mean leaving past 10 or 11pm on occasion. But this workload didn't seem to be overly pervasive. “One of the things I like about working here is that I’ve been able to take vacations without being bothered by work.”
There's time for a little socializing too, though it's far from work hard, play hard. Associates in Chicago told us: “We’ve recently started an associate committee, but mostly the social scene’s a little more informal.” In the smaller DC office “there’s a weekly happy hour at 5.30pm which makes it easier for people with kids to attend.” We also heard about holiday parties, team lunches and a firm-wide basketball team. “One thing I will say is that associates are genuinely close friends.”
"It’s right on the waterfront next to the Swedish embassy."
Just under half of associates were based in Chicago, with ten in New York and around five in Charlotte, LA and DC. The firm’s Windy City headquarters were described as being “not the most modern,” but we did hear that “the firm’s about to roll out new laptops, and the tech helpdesk is always on call.” In DC juniors declared: “I love the office here. It’s right on the waterfront next to the Swedish embassy, and it’s very light and modern. It’s also right next to a creek and a bike trail. It’s nice to be able to look out and see trees.”
Training & Development
Outside a yearly review, associates felt that “feedback varies between groups.” One had found that “the best feedback has been what I’ve asked for. It’s up to the associate to take the initiative. If you ask for feedback on a project, people are very happy to provide it.”
As for training, juniors in litigation were most keen to tell us about a mock trial. “You come in for the weekend and go through as a participant. You get to cross-examine a witness and see a closing argument, which is a really valuable experience.” There's department-specific training outside litigation, plus optional CLEs and webinars: “There’s always a lunchtime session you can go to; you get emails constantly.”
Associates were certain that diversity was “something the firm is pushing to do more of,” while also being certain that there was a recognizable problem, with its diversity figures closely matching the BigLaw average. “They do a lot for women here which has been really great,” said one associate. “There’s women’s mentoring and a group called the Women’s Leadership Forum which organizes happy hours and lunches which anyone can attend. Both women and men do attend.” To the firm's further credit, we heard about a new LGBT and minority committee that offers sponsored mentorship and annual conferences. And on the hiring side, interviewees involved in recruiting assured us: “Diversity is always a priority during on-campus interviews.”
Associates can bill up to 100 hours of pro bono work “no questions asked.If you go above that you can get more credit: you just have to ask and usually they’re willing if you’re doing legitimate work.” We did hear of some associates missing out on pro bono during their entire first year; but nevertheless, another Chicago junior could report that: “I’ve worked with the domestic violence legal clinic on immigration cases and for non-profit companies.” There's also a mock trial put on in a local school and another associate told us: “One thing they’re particularly proud of here is the Jose de Diego Elementary School Clinic, which offers legal aid to people in the neighborhood.” Finally, juniors added: “You can tell in emails that the firm takes it seriously and that it’s not just for marketing.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 14,853
- Average per US attorney: 67.5
Strategy & Future
While the firm makes a lot of noise about pushing into new areas, a more existential test for firms over the coming years is the challenge of becoming more cost-efficient and staving off competition from all quarters, BigLaw or not. Promisingly, chairman Roger Furey is making all the right noises on this front too: “We are doubling down on new ways to provide our service, like AI and analytics.” Adding ballast to the firm's claims of rampant entrepreneurship, he said that “we are giving our clients options outside of the hourly rate, thinking about how we can more creatively staff our engagements, and providing more visibility on the way we handle, manage and price our clients' services.”
“We want someone who has demonstrated confidence in class or in their work experience and who is mature enough to handle the responsibility of being on a smaller team,” associates told us. Working in a smaller team also requires the ability to not cause friction. “I think there is an emphasis on making sure the people we hire are the kinds of people you want to grab a drink with,” said one associate, while another added: “We don’t want people who are overly competitive or will do anything to take away from the team attitude.”
The focus on chemistry is therefore reflected in the firm's interview style. Those associates involved in interviewing told us: “Our interviews are very traditional. We want to find out what sort of person we’re dealing with: it’s more of an invitation to have a conversation than us firing 50 questions at someone.” As such, your preparation for interview should focus on “talking to as many recent summer students and alumni as you can. With all the marketing materials out there, law firms can start to sound the same, so it’s invaluable to talk to people and get a sense of whether they like their job and their environment.”
Other than demonstrating teamwork, having interests outside of the law also came up as a desirable quality: “Having a genuine passion beyond law school makes you stand out from the crowd.”
And finally, it's worth noting the feedback we got from associates in the firm’s smaller practice areas. “The thing that has made the most difference is casting a wider net and finding a place that matches my interests.”
Interview with Katten’s Chairman Roger Furey
Chambers Associate: Have there been any developments over the last 12 months that our readers should know about?
Roger Furey: I think one thing that stands out is our strategic plan around women’s issues. We’ve created a women’s leadership forum this year, as well as an international mentor panel. It’s a great development and it’s been very successful in helping women with their career already.
Another thing that stood out for us in 2017 was our work with the community. One of our more recent efforts was in connection with a fundraising gala event co-chaired by our healthcare partner, Laura Keidan Martin, in Chicago for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. The event raised nearly to four million dollars. Another thing I’m very proud of is what the firm did in Houston after the hurricane and flooding, which devastated the Houston community. The firm provided a lot of support for our neighbors in Houston, including raising a good amount of money from our people around the country and a very successful book drive to replace school books damaged in the floods. We also worked with Air Link – one of our pro bono clients – who provide planes to get supplies, medicine and personnel into areas struck by disasters. We’re also very proud of our work in the past year helping refugees and immigrant families who faced unusually difficult challenges and hardships this year. It’s something our associates (and other attorneys) found to be of great importance to their communities and it’s a tangible way of making a difference in the lives of the people who can least afford to pay for the help they need.
On the legal side of things, a big accomplishment that new associates might find interesting is that we were picked for two court-appointed “monitorships” this part year. Two of our partners, former federal prosecutors who are now part of our white-collar criminal practice group, were appointed by the courts to help monitor compliance with consent decrees that came out of criminal proceedings. One of these involved a global pharmaceutical company that was the subject of an FCPA criminal enforcement matter, and the other was a global cruise line company that was involved in a criminal matter brought pursuant to the federal environmental laws. These monitorships usually last three-to-five years and will require our attorneys to be involved in compliance activities that take them around the world to fulfill their responsibilities. In these cases you’re not really working for the company or the government — you are effectively an arm of the court, which is very interesting. These cases give our associates great experience in white-collar matters.
We’ve also developed a new financial services practice where attorneys counsel proprietary trading clients on legal issues relating to quantitative analytics in connection with the trading of securities. Lance Zinman and other partners here are heading that up, and I think this provides a good example of how our Financial Services group gets involved with some interesting and cutting-edge matters in their practice.
CA: We’ve heard the word ‘entrepreneurial’ a lot in our research; what is it specifically about working at Katten that fosters entrepreneurialism in associates and the work they do?
RF: I think we're that way because of how we grew up. I think we are the second youngest AmLaw100 firm in the country. We started in the mid-70s, and when we began we needed to distinguish ourselves from our entrenched peers. We did that by being more innovative. We've always had a culture of “forget the way it’s always been done — let’s figure out the best way to do it.” This mantra calls for our attorneys to consider new ways to help clients, and this works for associates because we offer them opportunities to work in new areas of the law that weren't around a few years ago. In addition to the traditional corporate and litigation practices, we have developed expertise in areas such as quantitative algorithmic trading, food safety outbreak law, sports law and cybersecurity. Giving associates opportunities to work with our partners in some of those areas is enjoyable for all concerned.
CA: What is Katten’s strategy for the future? Where do you see the firm in five years’ time?
RF: I guess one thing I’ll say is that, staying with the theme of being innovative, we are doubling down on new ways to provide our service, like AI and analytics. We have people dedicated to working on researching and developing those ideas and bringing them to firm management to consider using in our business, and we have begun to implement some of them.
We're making sure we stay consistent with our history of looking around the corner. We are giving our clients options outside of the hourly rate, thinking about how we can more creatively staff our engagements, and providing more visibility on the way we handle, manage and price our clients' services.
In terms of growth, we have just opened an office in Dallas, which we are excited about given the tremendous growth that is happening in north Texas. A number of our clients and prospective clients have moved to or grown their operations in Texas, and we hope to grow along with them. We are not in the camp that believes it is helpful to grow for growth’s sake. We want to grow in a healthy way and continue to make the firm stronger by bringing in our kind of people. Acquiring or combining with another firm might be something we would consider, but it's not something we feel necessary to our success or to providing the kind of service our clients expect from us.
CA: How would you describe the ideal Katten lawyer?
RF: The ideal Katten lawyer likes working with other people: partners, associates, clients. They're not simply book-smart. They should be able to think as counselors, and as business partners, on top of being good lawyers. And we want people who are collegial, because we spend a lot of time with each other!
Interview with Hiring Partner Kristin Achterhof
Chambers Associate: Have there been any changes to your recruiting drive or summer program over the last 12 months?
Kristin Achterhof: There haven’t been any major changes. We just had another spectacular summer program. We’re committed to diversity and bringing in great students from different backgrounds: this year’s class was 58% female and 67% diverse nationally. We recruited from 24 different law schools nationally and had our most diverse class ever.
CA: What are some distinctive features of your summer/training program?
KA: We have an amazing training program for litigation associates in deposition and trial. All associates are flown to Chicago and put up in a hotel after having been placed in trial teams to go through shortened but realistic trials. We have ten partners who participate as judges and we have professional actors playing witnesses and court reporters so that students and associates get to experience seeing their words in print in transcripts. This year we even had professional courtroom artists drawing associates while they were doing their presentations or cross-examining witnesses. It’s a great way to learn trial skills from the partners. We also have a similar negotiation program for transactional associates, which is abbreviated for summers. It’s great for associates to meet people from other offices and departments – we even fly associates in from our London office.
Once associates begin there’s continuous training across all disciplines. This includes writing programs, training from former Supreme Court clerks, client service development and ethical responsibility. There’s also training targeted at diverse associates which includes meetings and summits, in which all diverse attorneys from across Katten’s many offices (along with returning diverse 2L summer associates) meet for workshops on networking, branding and business development, as well as meetings with firm leaders and other opportunities. In addition, this year, as part of our Women's Leadership Group, we brought a number of women from across the firm, including London, to Chicago for negotiation training, and that was a great way for them to meet each other and network.
CA: How would you describe the ideal Katten Muchin lawyer?
KA: Here we really focus on collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit, and we want clients to see that in our personalities and in our brand. Associates and partners need to be able to work together on creative strategies for our clients. This is also important for effectively optimizing the different personalities and cultural backgrounds in our ranks. At Katten we are focused on providing associates with hands-on opportunities with clients and, to that end, we staff cases very leanly. Associates are encouraged to own their careers; if they want to take a year or two for a federal clerkship, a stint at the U.S. Attorney’s office, or spend a period of time working in-house for a client, Katten encourages them to follow their own paths and, ultimately, return to the firm with that great experience. We want associates to look at Katten as not just a starter job but as somewhere they can build their careers. Another unique thing about Katten is that we’re a truly unified firm. We’re very collaborative across offices, and have department heads spread across the country.
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
525 West Monroe Street,
- Head Office: Chicago, IL
- Number of domestic offices: 12
- Number of international offices: 2
- Partners (US): 393
- Associates (US): 263
- Recruitment website: For recruitment information and contacts, please visit: www.kattenlaw.com/careers
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 23
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 35 (2Ls: 23, 1Ls: 10)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Charlotte: 5, Chicago: 16, Los Angeles: 5, New York: 6, Washington, DC: 3
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,461 2Ls: $3,461
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- 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
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- 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 3)
- 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 Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Startups & Emerging Companies Recognised Practitioner
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 4)