Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP - The Inside View

Curiosity certainly didn't kill this fearless young Kat.

“WE'RE one of the newest firms in the Am Law 100,” Katten's new chairman Roger Furey points out to us. “We were created on the foundation of being innovative and unafraid to do things differently.” Since its foundation in Chicago in 1974, Katten has prided itself on having an inquisitive, go-getting culture, which is reflected in the type of hires it makes. “We want those with a desire to be innovative and entrepreneurial,” Furey explains, “but we're doing it as teams. Collaboration is the mantra right now.” You can read our full interview with the chairman in Katten's Bonus Features, where he talks about some of the ways lawyers are currently innovating. “We recognize the legal world is changing, and we want to be on the front wave of being that entrepreneurial law firm that reflects our beginnings” he adds.

“We recognize the legal world is changing."

The firm has 11 domestic offices spanning the East and West Coasts, Texas, and the Midwest, plus two overseas (London and Shanghai). Chambers USA ranks lots of practice areas including including capital markets, climate change, real estate, sports law, and wealth management – all on a nationwide level. Regionally, the firm weighs in with good rankings in healthcare, banking & finance, corporate/M&A, and different types of litigation, among others. 

The Work



Over a third of juniors on our interviewee list were in litigation, which has various sub-groups. Corporate and real estate had the next most associates, followed by the finance, IP, tax, and trusts & estates groups. Work assignment varies across offices: larger groups in Chicago have “an assigned partner that's sparingly used, only right at the beginning when you start,” while DC juniors experienced a “hybrid of assignment methods.” In LA “partners know your workflow better, so assignment is more ad hoc.”

Litigation sub-groups include white collar defense, financial services, construction, and commercial litigation. A Chicago litigator noted that “white collar defense is probably the most popular, and it can be hard to get staffed on those cases – but I've been lucky and got to do a lot of that work.” The group tends to represent individuals whose companies are under investigation, and financial services firms. There's “a lot of writing – drafting briefs and motions, working on discovery, witness prep, and meeting with clients to help get them ready for depositions.” On the commercial side, the group represents larger commercial developers, and in DC “some relatively big names in the real estate game.” As a junior there's “so much discovery to do because I'm the cheapest,” but also general research and drafting. “I'd like more challenging and involved tasks,” one noted, “but a lot of it is a learning process. Sometimes higher level work gets pushed down depending on workload, but much comes with time.” 

“It's sink or swim, which is kind of intimidating, but a great way to get skills.”

On the transactional side, corporate M&A juniors often “help private equity firms acquire companies for their portfolios, to then sell off in a few years.” Tasks include due diligence, preparing memos, reviewing files on companies, and “pulling people together.” Other offices are also on hand if specialist knowledge is needed. Deals are generally leanly staffed: one source said “it's sink or swim, which is kind of intimidating, but a great way to get skills.” Another explained “it's a fast learning curve. They give you as much responsibility as you want, but at any point if it gets too much, the partners are mindful of pulling back a bit.” Although leanly staffed, some sources were “eager to get more drafting experience.They let me draft a license agreement, so I'm getting pieces slowly. I think they're ramping me up toward more.” On the commercial finance side, there's a lot of acquisition work, with some financing. Juniors enjoyed “being able to do both sides. It's cool to get to see the full cycle.” Work volume is “manageable if it's one deal at a time, but if it's multiple with two trying to close at the same time, it might be a bit insane! But even when it's insane, there's an end in sight.”

“I'll be the first or second person the client calls, which is pretty unique.”

Real estate juniors do “all things – a mix of acquisitions, financing, and a fair bit of joint venture work.” A Chicago source noted “a good mix of deals. Some smaller deals have less oversight, especially once the purchase agreement is negotiated. I can run with it on my own.” Other tasks include due diligence, organizing the time lines for closings, and “becoming an expert on the properties in question.” Juniors in this group should also be ready for direct client contact from the get-go: “I'll be the first or second person the client calls, which is pretty unique.”

Offices



The firm's modern HQ is in Windy City, although chairman Roger Furey works out of the DC office. DC's smaller size means juniors felt “you have the benefit of being a big firm, but it feels medium-sized.” The Chicago office is “well located for social activities.” The only grumble was parking, which “can be kind of a disaster.” Juniors in LA move interchangeably between downtown and Century City, although “downtown feels like more of a satellite office.” Some of the smaller offices have more specific focuses: Austin serves clients in the energy and chemical sectors, while fellow Texas base Houston tackles environmental compliance and workplace safety matters. Environmental clients can also be found in San Francisco, while Charlotte focuses heavily on real estate and litigation.

Training & Development



Each department has its own formal training sessions, which some juniors “haven't found to be the most beneficial experience, but that's something I think they're trying to work on.” This included some lunch programs, as well as web cast training via video conferences. Many found learning on the job to be the most effective training. Litigators participated in trial advocacy training in Chicago, as well as “incredibly useful” deposition training. “The firm hired actors and set up depositions like it was actually happening. It was really useful, especially getting the feedback from the partners.”

The review process currently occurs twice a year, although word on the street is that juniors expect one to become more focused on career development and career goals. The biannual reviews held no surprises for juniors, who felt that “generally partners are good at giving feedback as you go and telling you if you're doing something wrong.”

Pro Bono



“The opportunities are definitely there: it's on the associate whether they'll take advantage of them” a DC junior explained. Attorneys can bill up to 100 hours of pro bono, but can request more. Katten has a full-time pro bono partner who regularly emails out opportunities, which have included asylum cases, work with non-profit organizations, transfers of property, and a rising number of adoptions. The latter “are obviously non-adversarial, so everyone is happy, which is nice.”

“I billed 170 hours of pro bono last year.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 25,919
  • Average per US attorney: 40

Culture



“In the grand scheme of BigLaw, it's pretty casual and informal,” juniors felt. Katten makes it a habit to “look for people we want to be around all day. It's a personality fit thing.” As a result, the partners are approachable, and “my best friends are the people I work with. There's a real affection towardsmy co-workers.” The “social aspect is alive and well” despite not necessarily being firm-initiated. But juniors emphasized that “it goes back to the quality of the people here – everyone is nice and people feel included.”

“Katten is thoughtful about expansion.”

Culture can differ across groups and offices, and many felt “siloed” within their departments. But “within the group, we feel close to everyone.” On the younger end, juniors “socialize frequently after work” but there's also “a big contingent of people who have kids, so it's a good mix.” Juniors considered the firm conservative in terms of its growth: “Katten is thoughtful about expansion – they're not rushing into mergers left and right which is good to see.” With the arrival of President Trump, some juniors believed that “everyone in BigLaw is generally curious to see where things are going. The outlook feels very unsure right now.”

Hours & Compensation



“I don't feel the need to be in the office for like 12 hours – I can work from home if need be.” The average working day for juniors was around 9am and 7pm, but “depending on what's going on with a case, the hours are flexible enough to make billable time and work your personal life around that.” Happily, if work isn't pressing, “they really try not to infringe on your weekend.”

Katten has a 2,000 hour billable target to get a bonus of some sort, but 2,100 hours for the market rate. A finance source noted that “generally people bill over this, as a byproduct of the workflow.” Another explained “the bonus at 2,000 doesn't match the Cravath scale, and that annoys people. But at the same time, it jumps up for every 100 hours more. If you bill 2,400 hours you might make more than an associate in New York.” Juniors praised the firm's quick reaction the market rise in salaries and the “transparent discussions” around it, but felt “the firm isn't transparent about the hours bonus, and it can vary from year to year. If you do the extra hours it could be big, or it could be negligible.”

Diversity



“Leaders are asking 'what can we do better?' They're definitely listening.” Opinions on diversity varied, but the general feeling was that “the firm might not have the answers yet, but it's making concerted efforts to address these issues.” Katten has a 1L diversity program aimed at recruiting more diverse candidates, and offers a diversity scholarship of $15,000. The firm also held a diversity summit in Chicago, in which diverse partners spoke, addressing “career development, mentoring, and things like that.” There's an active women's leadership forum to address retaining women, which has “a new partner in charge who is fantastic!” A DC junior noted: “As far as female attorneys are concerned, there's a refreshing number of female partners and practice group leaders. Although when you get to partner level, you start to feel like there's not as many ethnically diverse people. That would be nice to see improved.” Juniors acknowledged the problem in recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys, but noted “it's not uniquely problematic at Katten.”

Strategy & Future



Chairman Roger Furey explains that Katten's entrepreneurial history guides its future. “We want to be on the front wave of being an entrepreneurial law firm that reflects our beginnings.” So what will tomorrow bring? “We intend to invest time and resources in data intelligence and AI, and find out where it makes sense to roll those into serving our clients,” he says.

“We have a strategic plan with a number of objectives. One is to focus and grow stronger in our core strengths... in private equity, in finance – commercial finance and structured finance are two of the most successful areas – and in the area of environment and workplace safety. High stakes litigation is also a focus. We have a great practice in financial services litigation as well as white collar, and we're getting stronger in IP too.”

Get Hired



Juniors who had participated in the hiring process explained they “try to get a sense of who the candidate it. We're trying to get the person to open up as they're often super-nervous.” Other than that, the candidates that stand out are those “who have done their research. People who have given the sense that Katten isn't just another firm they're interviewing with.” Others asked “questions geared towards how they would interact with other associates at the firm. There's a big focus on fit.”

Hiring partner Howard Rubin tells us that “we'll often ask a student to tell us about a time when he or she had to work closely with a team mate whose personality was different to theirs, and explain how they overcame that difference to accomplish that task.” The reason behind this, he explains, is “to get a sense of their entrepreneurial spirit – the core quality of a Katten attorney.” Rubin also highlights “being able to articulate a particular interest in a practice area or department, and tying prior work experiences to that” as helpful to standing out at interviews. And if you fit the bill and get a spot on the firm's summer program, Rubin says “top quality work and attention to detail” will go a long way with impressing the bosses. On top of that, he explains “we place premium on summer associates with a terrific attitude, who show real excitement for the firm. There are a lot of smart students and lawyers, but we're looking for the ones that can be team players.”

Interview with firm chair Roger Furey



What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in the firm?

We received a very prestigious national award for pro bono from the American Bar Association which is something we're very proud of. We put in place the first legal clinic in a public school in Chicago, and by doing so we've been able to help many parents of disadvantaged children and others with their legal needs. It's been a great thing to have lawyers team up with schools. Another thing is the firm's recognition in the area of diversity – one of the most important areas of our focus. We won an award from Chevron, a client, for being one of their firms of the year for advancing diversity in the legal industry. We're very involved in the LCLD [Leadership Council on Legal Diversity] which we've been supporting since the beginning of the organization. Through a number programs at the firm, we're able to give jobs to diverse students from diverse backgrounds. To further enhance our recruitment efforts, we offer a Minority Scholarship Program, which awards $15,000 scholarships to two minority law school students who have completed their first year of law school and who are participants in the firm's summer associate program. We're a big believer that a law firm needs to be mostly about it's people – the people are the most valuable assets. One thing we've seen through the shake out after the economic crisis is that good law firms have to have more than just money holding them together. We're trying hard to strengthen the glue between attorneys, and build a commitment that will hold though tough times. I think diversity and pro bono are ways to strengthen that, and it mirrors what clients want as well.

What's your long-term vision for Katten? What do you want it to look like in 5, 10 years time?

We have a strategic plan with a number of objectives. One is to focus and grow stronger in our core strengths – the areas where we can invest the most so we can continue to get reputation-enhancing work. We want to continue over the next several years to get stronger in private equity, in finance – commercial finance and structured finance are two of the most successful areas – and in the area of environment and workplace safety. High stakes litigation is also a focus. We have a great practice in financial services litigation as well as white collar, and we're getting stronger in IP too. We want to enhance these to serve as an umbrella for the rest of the firm and help in building our brand. Another way I see us going forward, which isn't practice specific, involves the fact that we recognize the legal world is changing, and we want to be on the front wave of being that entrepreneurial law firm that reflects our beginnings. We're one of the newest firms in the Am Law 100. We were created on the foundation of being innovative and unafraid to do things differently. We're going to be looking at technology, and different ways of staffing teams for clients. We want to be able to give attorneys all the tools they need to be on that front edge: we intend to invest time and resources in data intelligence and AI, and find out where it makes sense to roll those in to serving our clients. We're going to get stronger in how we deliver our services to clients. I don't want to lose the old school aspect of being trusted counselors of our clients – that's the part of law I've always enjoyed – but we have to team that up with the new side of things.

How do you think the coming Trump presidency will affect the legal market?

With any kind of change, there's always more legal business. There's certainly a lot of uncertainty; things are going to change, so that's when clients need good counsel to first identify where the changes are coming from and how, then to adapt their business model to new ways of doing business. It's an exciting time business-wise and law firm-wise. It's always a challenge to deal with something that wasn't expected. It's an interesting challenge we look forward to tackling.

Where will the firm be investing? Any plans to open new offices?

We currently don't have any plans to expand our global footprint; we intentionally selected London and Shanghai because those two geographies were important to our core practice areas. There are no current plans to expand overseas or within the US unless it's within our efforts to build our core practice areas. Our investment will continue to be in people. We're investing now in our attorney development department so we can provide attorneys, especially associates and younger partners, with more training and tools so they can traverse the new world coming to us.

What are the hot practice areas right now?

The areas that have seen growth include environmental & workplace safety, commercial finance, and structured finance has come back after a slow down in the '08 era. It's much more robust now than it was before. Real estate has also come back strong since the recession.

Can you define the firm's culture?

Entrepreneurial. It was our origin, and continues to be the culture that exists across the firm. This shouldn't mean that people are lone wolves – we foster a culture of collaboration. We want those with the desire to be innovative and entrepreneurial, but we're doing it as a team. Collaboration is the mantra right now.

What was Katten like when you joined and how has it changed?

I joined in 2001, and some things are very much the same as when I joined. I joined for a couple of reasons: one, I was incentivized by the cross marketing and cross building – it was somewhere I could take my clients and expand by working with other people. This firm incentivizes that through its compensation process, and allowed me to grow my practice in ways I wouldn't have been able to at other firms. The firm was run well on the business side of things, and that continues to be the case. We've enjoyed stability though turbulent times, which is important to all attorneys  - people want to join a firm with a solid foundation. In the last 15 years some great people have joined the firm, and some new practices have joined. We've greatly expanded, adding the healthcare practice, and expanding the workplace safety practice. There's a sense of freshness at the firm, having had so many new people join us. There are a lot of younger partners that have joined us too, for the opportunity to grow like I grew when I joined the firm. It's a fresher place, and a very vibrant place to work.

Any advice or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?

I'd tell them to read some books about the profession, in particular, Richard Susskind's Tomorrow's Lawyers. I read it a few years ago – it talks about things that I think are going to happen in our industry, and that can either be scary or exciting for attorneys, depending on their personality. I think kids in law school should pick up that book when they have time and see what possibilities are out there. If they start thinking like that now, they can come into a firm with a fresh perspective, share that with others, and rise through the ranks of the law firm.

 

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

525 West Monroe Street,
Suite 1900,
Chicago,
IL 60661-3693
Website www.kattenlaw.com

  • Head Office: Chicago, IL 
  • Number of domestic offices: 11
  • Number of International offices: 2
  • Partners (US): 309
  • Associates (US): 256
  • Summer Salary 2017 
  • Chicago/ Los Angeles/ New York/ Washington, DC:1Ls/2Ls: $3,461
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • Charlotte: 1Ls/2Ls: $2,981
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered: Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
  • Summers 2017: 40 (32 2Ls, 8 1Ls)
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 34 offers, 26 acceptances

Main areas of work
Corporate, financial services, litigation, real estate, environmental, commercial finance, intellectual property and trusts and estates.

Firm profile
Katten is a full-service law firm with approximately 650 attorneys in locations across the United States and in London and Shanghai. Clients seeking sophisticated, highvalue legal services turn to us for counsel locally, nationally and internationally.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 24
• Number of 2nd year associates: 31
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000 (Charlotte: $155,000)
• 2nd Year: $190,000 (Charlotte: $160,000)
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
Chicago-Kent College of Law, Columbia, Fordham University, Harvard, Howard University, Loyola Law School Los Angeles, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, New York University, Northwestern University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall, The University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California Gould, University of Virginia, Wake Forest University

Summer details
Summer associate profile:
Our Summer Associate Program is our most important recruiting activity. The program offers participants a realistic idea of what life is like for 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.

Summer program components:
We provide programs designed specifically for summer associates, including legal writing, negotiation, drafting and trial skills workshops, in addition to presentations introducing the firm’s different areas of practice. Summer associates have the opportunity to directly observe lawyers and interact with clients as part of their training experience. We also encourage—and expect—our summer associates to participate in all of the attorney training and development programs presented by the firm and our various departments.