Cutting-edge life sciences help this Boston bastion keep its practice mint-fresh.
THE Bay State is recognized globally as a hub for life sciences and biotechnology, and the investment agency Massachusetts' Life Sciences Center is currently driving a $1 billion state investment in the sector. Luckily, Boston legal stronghold Mintz Levin loves all things life-sciencey: “The market is very strong right now and we have a very strong practice,” managing member Bob Bodian tells us. “Our corporate department in particular has seen a lot of life sciences activity recently.” 2015 saw a massive 17.7% revenue jump, followed by 2.5% growth the following year.
In its home state, the firm picks up strong Chambers USA rankings for areas including corporate, healthcare, public finance and commercial litigation, complemented by healthcare accolades in New York and DC. Associates we spoke to recognized “it is among the top firms in Boston, but the important thing is that people seem to commit to one another,” agreeing that “the culture is the biggest draw.”
Sources characterized Mintz as “pretty collaborative – people hang out in the lobby and check in on each other. There's an open door policy and people can swing by and run questions by each other. I haven't seen any divas!” An evident lack of face time culture was popular, with “the opportunity to work remotely if we need to, providing time to spend with our families we might not get otherwise.” Despite the generally relaxed mood, some detected a change in the winds. “When I was interviewing it felt very laid back compared to other firms. Now it has a bigger financial footprint, people are more worried about their billing and there's a bit more pressure.”
“I haven't seen any divas!”
This also had an effect on socializing, something “we could be stronger in. Admittedly, lots of people have families and we are trying to do more.” Friday happy hours are “a very good opportunity to meet people,” though some reported sparse attendance. Red Sox fandom brings attorneys in the Boston office together, for both firm-run football TV nights on Mondays and weekend trips to games. Little things like “an email letting everybody know somebody had a healthy baby” go a long way for associate morale.
Managing member Bob Bodian was dubbed “a straight shooter” by associates: “If you ask questions he really does try to be transparent. I think management understands the value of transparency.” In the main, partners came in for praise for “treating everybody on the same level. It's more of a horizontal landscape than a strict hierarchy when it comes to work. It feels like a team, and I like that.”
Splitting pretty evenly between the litigation and corporate departments (plus a few in IP, public finance, and employment law), almost every newcomer heads to Boston. Departments are overseen by a practice manager who “gets you assignments when you first start, divvying out work based on reports you give.” That's how it works “in a perfect world – when you start you're dependent on the practice manager, but in the end you have to do things yourself.” Interviewees happily shifted to receiving work directly from partners once they'd got settled, bypassing the formal system. “It's tricky to balance, but getting tasks through informal channels represents a vote of confidence.”
Litigators worked with clients “ranging from big businesses to insurance companies and high net worth individuals,” often with a leaning toward life sciences and biotech. Associates were “generally doing research to plug in to a brief. I often have to research a discrete issue, and have gotten to write briefs and motions.” Less glamorously, there is “a fair amount of doc review, but less than I had anticipated after friends told me it's all you do in first year. There's a healthy balance between drudgery and substantive work.” Litigation tends to be high stakes rather than commoditized, commanding higher rates. Six months from starting, one junior “got staffed as a semi-lead associate on a case, dealing with document production and management.” White collar litigation was in notably high demand, several associates hoping to get a slice of that (Boston cream) pie.
“I haven't been thrown to the dogs too often.”
Mintz's corporate and securities group predominantly works with clients in the tech, biotech, health and life sciences industries. Interviewees' responsibilities had included “a lot of drafting ancillary documents, engagement letters, everything required for approval. On smaller cases there's more drafting of major documents like purchasing agreements.” Bigger M&A deals required more basic due diligence. Although some suggested “the first couple of years you're completely under water all the time with the workload,” they recognized “the experience is designed to make you a thorough attorney, and however great you think you are, you have to go through that.”
Other practice areas saw work ebb and flow. One junior diagnosed “a problem with Mintz that it's a big firm with BigLaw expectations but there are times when things are not very busy.” Most were nonetheless pleased with the responsibility afforded them. “Mintz tries to staff cases leanly, which provides lots of client contact opportunities, especially once you get comfortable and more competent.” Another associate reasoned that they “haven't been thrown to the dogs too often, but it's not super-easy-boring things all the time either.”
Offices & Diversity
Situated “conveniently right next to South Station in Boston,” Mintz's HQ offers a room with a view for everybody. “Some people complain the décor is dated, which is probably true,” according to associates, but most “really don't mind.” The firm's Big Apple base is set out in a helpful circle, while in San Diego “we have one of the best offices in the city with an ocean view. The only downside is we're not downtown.”
“You can't fault the firm for not trying” to correct typical BigLaw diversity imbalances, including that “the East Coast is more diverse than the West.” A yearly diversity retreat in New York (“people from all the offices gather for it”) was appreciated, as was the firm's annual Richard Mintz diversity scholarship. Policies allowing attorneys with children to work more from home while still being on the partner track were also highlighted as a strong positive.
Training & Development
An initial Base Camp program gets juniors acquainted, schooling them on firm logistics and practicalities of work outlined in “binders of information you can refer back to.” This is followed by “various trainings throughout the year; they bring in really good people to do lectures, and if you find a useful CLE they make it very clear you can go for it.”
“You know when you're doing a good job.”
Newcomers get a check-in meeting soon after starting, and everybody receives two formal annual evaluations. Some suggested the system “needs improvement: anybody who's worked with you more than 20 hours evaluates you, but you don't get to see your full review before meeting the practice manager and section head, you only get a summary. It's very silly.” Contrastingly, others felt “they do a great job of compiling comments into a short narrative.” There were similarly mixed reports on everyday feedback, the consensus being that “you typically know when you're doing a good job,” one way or another.
Part of the training for newcomers is a schooling in pro bono and how it is delegated. Interviewees were united in a strong commitment to community work, though “it is hard to do things outside of client billables. Balancing the work is on you.” The firm's Domestic Violence Project is a pro bono staple, as are things like social security, immigration and asylum cases. A source of disappointment for some was that “when we interviewed, pro bono counts toward billables, but now it doesn't [until 1,850 billables are attained]. It's a culture change as Mintz is known for its pro bono, and that's something which is slowly being chipped away, which is sad.” Others were less discouraged by the change. “They really encourage younger associates to do pro bono, and it gives you the opportunity to draft motions and go before a judge. I wouldn't have had those chances in my billables.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 14,715.8
- Average per US attorney: 30.66
Hours & Compensation
Associates aim for a client billable target of 1,850 hours, affording them an automatic bonus. Once they've hit this any training, pro bono and special projects count toward the hours-based bonus. Newcomers had some worries about hitting targets, but suggested “everybody's aware of the slower times, and people are really understanding.” Most saw 1,850 as “very achievable, I'm not concerned about it. There's a ton of work depending on the section you're in.” Corporate juniors were particularly confident, and all thought “if you hit your hours nobody will bug you” for taking vacation.
“It was a big relief when we found out.”
There were “a lot of mixed feelings” about the slowness in confirming associate salary rises to match the Cravath scale, but most associates we spoke to “had no problem with it. Some were definitely criticizing the firm for not confirming it earlier.” The firm put this down to its fiscal year starting in October rather than June. One source summarized: “It was frustrating at first that the decision took a long time and updates would have been helpful, but it was a big relief when we found out and I appreciated why the firm took so long.” Managing member Bob Bodian clarifies that management “took our time to evaluate everything, so when the increase was announced there was no mystery or doubt.”
Strategy & Future
After a record-busting 2015, Mintz did even better in 2016. Managing member Bob Bodian chalks this success up to lucrative lateral hires, as well as “the firm becoming more collaborative. Three years ago, 20% of our clients used three or more of our practice areas – last year it was 35%.” There's no rush to push the envelope, though. “We're not looking to create new offices, but we're definitely looking to grow on both coasts, and are recruiting to that effect.”
"We're definitely looking to grow on both coasts."
Interview with managing member Bob Bodian
Chambers Associate: The firm's revenue made a massive jump in 2015. To what do you credit the success?
Bob Bodian: A combination of factors, both internal and in a broader market sense. In terms of economics generally, we have a very strong life sciences practice, and that market was very strong last year. Our corporate department in particular has seen a lot of activity there. Internally there are a couple of important factors. First, we grew through lateral hires of attorneys, primarily in life sciences but more broadly as well. So part of the revenue increase was due to the increased number of lawyers. We also increased revenue per lawyer because the firm generally was busier. It wasn't just adding people but adding lawyers who are very collaborative and synergistic to what we're doing.
The firm is continuing to become more collaborative. We're becoming more part of the life of some of our big clients, so what we're doing with them tends to be broader every year. We do client surveys every two years where an outside company surveys a lot of our clients, and then compares results. One of the major developments is that three years ago, 20% of our clients used three or more practice areas – last year it was 35%. Where previously 60% of clients only used one practice area, that dropped to 30%. That means we're doing a lot more for our clients and are a lot more involved with them, to the benefit of both them and us.
CA: Previously, we've noted that Mintz attracts a lot of laterals. What do you think makes the firm so appealing to them?
BB: A lot of it is self-selective. The firm is a good place to work and that generally appeals to laterals. Importantly, those who have joined us have noted that they're very pleased by the level of service and expertise they get from Mintz. That comes with a culture that's embracing and nimble rather than bureaucratic. In terms of substance, both the firm and laterals are self-selecting. While we of course look at the level of business, the most important piece of the puzzle is the potential to collaborate and grow the business in our environment.
CA: Are there any plans for further national expansion in the future?
BB: We're not looking to create new offices, we like our footprint, it works well for us and our clients. But we're definitely looking to grow on both coasts, and are recruiting to that effect. California is definitely a place where we could grow a lot, but we're always looking for people in New York, DC and Boston as well. Since I last spoke to Chambers Associate we have a new office head in Los Angeles, and that office is poised to grow.
CA: The firm's one overseas office is in London, what role does it play in the Mintz operation?
BB: It's a minor role. We have a very good corporate partner there, we do privacy work as it relates to Europe, and the head of our insurance practice spends a lot of time out there.
CA: How does the firm encourage one culture that branches all its offices?
BB: We're very open and communicative. The firm's record in how we do compensation and everything is an open book. People feel like they're part of the process. I'm available all the time to partners, associates and staff – transparency starts at the top, and that helps the culture because everyone feels like they have a voice and can be heard. A good example of being open is the state of the firm address, where we go to each office and talk about revenues and profits, who our clients are and what we're doing. We talk about culture and collaboration, and want to make it easy to be a part of the firm. That is attended by all employees in all offices.
Also, we have a program for lateral integration, which is very beneficial for us. When lateral partners come in, a business development professional accompanies them to meetings across the firm, to find opportunities for collaboration. When someone joins us they can hit the ground running and feel like they're part of something, rather than being left to their own devices, and that helps the culture a lot. We also have annual retreats that run a full weekend, where spouses and significant others join us. Those are extremely useful, well attended and enjoyed.
CA: Mintz was among the later firms to raise associate salaries this year, but almost everybody we spoke to was happy with how the firm handled the process. How did you keep people appraised of what was going on?
BB: That's consistent with how we do things here. I reached out personally to a number of associates to get their views, and we discussed it several times at our policy committee. We were very straightforward and transparent, and avoided being disingenuous in any way. I decided that for our firm I wanted to be very unambiguous about giving out the raises and not leave anybody in doubt. We took our time to evaluate everything, so when the compensation increase was announced there was no mystery or doubt about who would get it. I met with the associates and allowed them to ask any questions.
We always look at our bonus structure, and every year wiggle it around a little bit as we deem appropriate. I put a one year moratorium on looking at the bonus structure so there could be no perception that we were giving with one hand and taking with the other. We did it all as clearly and cleanly as possible.
CA: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
BB: We had our best year ever in fiscal 2016, and we're on target in fiscal 2017 to do better than that. At the mid-point mark we're ahead on all the metrics, and it looks like we're going to have another very strong year. The associate compensation increase has kicked in. About a year ago I started a committee on associate life, with both partners and associates, a group dedicated to looking at nothing other than associate life from 360 degrees and see how we can improve things.
Several years ago we brought in transition training: as you transition along the path of being an associate we have training dedicated to your level. That includes business development training, based on the theory that it's never too early to give lawyers a sense of what's involved. We've also been focused on diversity – our Boston class next summer will be more than half-diverse and almost all women. That's something we have our eye on all the time. Everything's good, really – our associates are fantastic, and everyone's very pleased with them.
Interview with director of legal recruiting Shannon Davis
Chambers Associate: Do you pre-screen those who have bid on your firm?
Shannon Davis: It depends on the school; some will send us resumes in advance while others are a lottery. Regardless of the screening process, we conduct a lot of outreach in advance of students bidding on campus so hopefully we're able to meet a few of them before interviews.
CA: Roughly how many students do you see at each campus?
SD: It varies, but generally we see between 10 and 25 students per campus. We tend to do a full schedule at most campuses although some ask that we try to see more students. On average we'll bring back about 30% of our on campus interviewees for a second interview in our Boston, New York and San Diego offices. Each tends to run their own recruiting process so the numbers vary office to office.
CA: Roughly how many associates do you take on as summer associates each year?
SD: We increased our numbers to around 20 last year, as we offered larger programs in New York and San Diego than before. When we only hosted the program in Boston, we took on around 12 or 13 summer associates but there was such demand to recruit entry level associates that we were also looking at 3Ls or people coming out of clerkships.
CA: Will you continue with recruiting entry level associates from both your summer programs and other routes or start to focus on just the summer program?
SD: It's going to continue to be a mix, as we think that is a healthier process; summer associate recruiting is not a science, it's an art and it can vary wildly from year to year depending on practice area demands. While we count on the summer associates to form the nucleus of our incoming class, we can't always predict what numbers we'll need in every area two years in advance, and we likely will need to hire from beyond our summer classes. It's healthy to have a core group of summer associates who we know will be entering the firm and then hire 3Ls, post clerkships, externships or junior lateral hires as and when we need them.
We're continuing to look at other, creative ways of hiring junior attorneys, such as partnering with a client and sharing capacity. We have to think about the industry differently and bring people through in a variety of methods.
CA: Who conducts OCI and callback interviews?
SD: We try to listen to feedback from students when structuring our interviews. Some students love getting time with the partners and seeing investment from the higher levels. Others say they feel the best intel on what the associate experience is like comes from junior associates. We try to really create a mix and have a ton of buy-in from senior partners, especially with their alma maters, but a lot of the process is driven by associates and junior partners as they'll be the ones working more closely with summer students.
CA: What questions do you ask during OCIs and callback interviews?
SD: We ask a lot of practical questions to get people to think on their toes and discover ways they would act in various situations. One of my favorite questions is by one of our associates; he describes a real life scenario of a client situation which took a left turn and asks interviewees to explain how they would have dealt with it. After they answer he'll tell them how he actually handled it. It goes over really well as it makes the interview feel more like a conversation.
We also try to focus on people's previous experiences and what drives people as this is a profession that requires a lot of motivation; we need to make sure the people we're choosing share our core values.
CA: What makes someone stand out at interview?
SD: When they seem to be legitimately interested in the firm and can articulate what they know about Mintz Levin, or a practice. The more genuine their interest is, the more they stand out. Frankly there is so much information about firms available to students that they're inundated. You can find that they know nothing about us or they read something just five minutes before. It's a competitive environment, and students stand out if they read the blogs, learn about their interviewer in advance or speak about something in particular, like a client we've represented or a matter we've been involved in.
CA: What are you looking for in a candidate?
SD: We try to keep an open mind in order to have a team with different backgrounds and personality types. We don't want folks who are going to be disruptive or aren't going to be team players. We want to see people who are competitive in a healthy, collaborative and team-oriented way. I like to see people who are driven to be successful and problem solvers who will achieve client goals. How those qualities manifest in individuals should be different. Our clients are incredibly diverse and we need a wide variety of people to be able to service them; some clients want an attorney who is incredibly brainy or very outgoing or to be a hand-holding counselor. Not all people can be all things all the time, so we need to have all of those personalities to serve the clients.
CA: What can students do in their 1L summer to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications and at interview?
SD: I love when students reach out to us or engage with us; it can be something like following us on Twitter or reaching out to current summer associates to learn about what the experience is like. A lot of students keep in touch with us after our outreach activities and let us know what they're doing. When people go above and beyond it shows me they're interested.
CA: Can you very briefly outline your summer program?
SD: We maintain a relatively small summer program compared to our peers so students get a lot of attention and can connect closely. They're given associate and partner mentors and participate in training with our professional development attorneys and within individual practices. They also participate in a mock trial and our IP summers can undertake an IP summer academy. Work assignments are generated on a student's interests and we can largely tailor those to what they want to do. The benefit of being part of a smaller program is that we're able to provide that variety. And, of course, we are in a position to make offers of employment to everyone in the class, if deserving.
CA: How can someone really stand out as a summer associate?
SD: Those who are engaged in what they're doing, go out of their way to take it seriously and want to make the most of the summer stand out. People who actively seek out assignments and feedback, and ask a lot of questions tend to be the students who we feel are taking assignments seriously. It starts to feel like they're part of the firm.
CA: Finally, what does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?
SD: We have the Richard Mintz Diversity Scholarship, named after a former partner of the firm. It provides a student with $10,000 towards their third year law school tuition and we offer them a place on our summer program. We hire 1Ls through the San Diego County Bar Association and Association of Corporate Counsel Diversity Fellowship program, the New York City Bar Diversity Fellowship program and the Boston Lawyers Group 1L Diversity Clerkship. We're part of a diversity pipeline program and attend a number of diversity recruiting fairs such as the Boston Lawyers Group Careers Fair and the Lavender Law Career Fair. We also work with university affinity groups, as well as with local and nationwide organizations like the National Bar Association and Hispanic National Bar Association, conducting outreach into the community.
Many of the associates we spoke to graduated from Boston College law school, and thought local ties “probably play a role” when it comes to recruitment at Mintz. “They like local law students, and people who graduate here often want to work in Boston. It's something the firm considers when they're making offers.” Juniors were however keen to stress that being Boston born-and-bred is not a requirement. One “local guy” worked with associates “hired from DC, New York, California, it's not all local colleges. It would be most accurate to say that the firm wants people who want to work here.”
While “a strong academic record is important,” personality was seen as the key deciding factor in interviews. “They were very interested in why I wanted to work at Mintz, and want to know how the person sees themselves fitting in. A personality fit is really important to them, so they ask about your interests as well as your legal experience.” Discussion in interviews varied from “what sticks out from your resume” to “talking about sports,” but the overall trend was a focus beyond academics. “They know what's on your resume, they want to see if you're sociable and a team player.”
To that end, associates advised being “conversational in interviews, not just robotically spouting case names,” though they also suggested “it's good to research specific practice groups you're interested in so you know what deals may have settled or gone to trial.” Don't be afraid to utilize connections: “It surprised me how much of it is word of mouth, if you know juniors at the firm then reach out to them.”
One particularly insightful source concluded, “the best piece of advice I've been given is that Mintz works with a lot of entrepreneurs, and you see how they live and breathe it. That's how you have to think about your practice, as an attorney you should be thinking in the same way, and treat your work in the same way that an entrepreneur treats their business. Build yourself and build your business so that you're valuable.”
More on Mintz Levin's offices
The firm sprang into life in Boston in 1933 when two Jewish lawyers Benjamin Levin and Haskell Cohen decided to found a firm which would offer a welcoming environment to any lawyer from any background. Although initially set up to serve New England banks and private companies, the growing abundance of universities and tech companies in the Boston area shaped the office's industry focuses toward life sciences, tech and healthcare. Boston's still a full service office though so you'll also find lawyers here in areas like employment, real estate, environment and immigration.
DC was launched in 1979 to focus on federal regulation and litigation within the communications, environmental, healthcare, antitrust and banking spheres. DC's healthcare practice is highly regarded by Chambers USA and represents healthcare providers like DaVita, to pharmacies and laboratories. The firm's communications practice – also recognized by Chambers USA – operates predominantly out of DC (though you'll also find communication lawyers in Boston), advising clients like Vevo, T-Mobile and ADT.
At the turn of the century Mintz opened offices in New York and Stamford. Corporate is the big offering in the former with deals often involving the firm's 'twenty-first century practice' clients like Hitachi, biotech firm Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals and electronic component manufacturers AVX Corporation.
In 2001 the firm made the jump from East to West Coast and opened up in LA. Being close to all those Silicon Valley clients proved a success as only five years later offices in Palo Alto (which moved to San Francisco six years later) and San Diego were added to the firm's roster. California's going to be a focal point for growth over the coming years. We're told San Francisco's real estate team is on the up and the recent addition of former Assistant United States Attorney Randy K. Jones to San Diego adds a white collar defence practice to the firm's West Coast offering.
Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC
One Financial Center,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $372.5m
- Partners (US): 255
- Associates (US): 190
- Summer Salary 2017
- 1Ls: $3,077
- 2Ls: $3,077
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2017: 18
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 9 Offers Extended/8 Offers Accepted
Main areas of work
Antitrust; bankruptcy, restructuring and commercial law; communications; consumer product safety, corporate and securities; corporate compliance and investigations; crisis response, risk management and executive protection; employment, labor and benefits; environmental law; health law; immigration; intellectual property; international; litigation; privacy and security; private client; private equity; product risk management and response; project development and finance; public finance; real estate; start-ups; tax; venture capital and emerging companies; white collar defense; government investigations and enforcement.
Firm profileMintz Levin is a multidisciplinary firm, characterized by innovation and an entrepreneurial drive that attracts interesting clients, from startups to large public companies, universities, non-profits and family-run businesses. Mintz Levin is dedicated to the continued professional growth of its attorneys at all levels. Incoming associates benefit from a formal orientation program that acclimates them to the Firm. New associates participate in an intensive three-day “base camp” to learn the substantive law of the area of practice in which they will be concentrating. This is followed by a curriculum designed to meet the professional development needs of each attorney at every step of his/her career.
Mintz Levin is proud of its formal mentoring programs that complement the collegiality of our Firm. The Firm has an extensive associate mentoring program run by a Firm-wide mentoring coordinator and on-site mentoring coordinators in each office.
• Number of 1st year associates: 15
• Number of 2nd year associates: 15
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes (but it depends on the situation)
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law, Columbia Law School, Fordham School of Law, Georgetown Law School, Harvard Law School, New York University, Northeastern University School of Law, University of California Los Angeles School of Law, niversity of San Diego School of Law, University of California Berkeley School of Law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Summer associate profile
Summer associates are encouraged to work on assignments from a variety of practice areas. They attend trials, depositions and negotiations. They participate in legal writing workshops, a transactional case study, and a mock trial. Each summer associate is assigned an associate mentor, a member mentor and a writing mentor. Mentors are available for questions, and they facilitate informal feedback on work projects. Through work assignments and social events, our attorneys strive to provide each summer associate with an opportunity to get to know what a career at Mintz has to offer.