Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP - The Inside View

With a “magnetic leader” in the form of firm chair Jami McKeon, associates felt this Philly-founded juggernaut would continue to expand for all the right reasons.

“IT was a no-brainer,” said associates when asked why they opted to launch their careers at Morgan Lewis. “It has that neat mix of great brand recognition, interesting front page work, prestigious clients, cool assignments for associates and an entrepreneurial spirit – we're not resting on our laurels; we have the hunger to keep getting better.” The onboarding of hundreds of ex-Bingham McCutchen lawyers in 2014 saw ML's headcount swell enough to see it become the largest firm in the US, but juniors assured us that “we're not gobbling up firms for the sake of growth – we're making acquisitions in a strategic way, when there's a specialty required.” Recent additions have strengthened ML's healthcare practice in Houston, its tax group in Chicago, its funds clout in Hong Kong, its sports expertise in California, and its IP prowess in Shanghai. Across the globe, ML has 30 offices planted in North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Those “prestigious clients” include Coca-Cola, Google, Gap, JPMorgan Chase, Toyota and (the firm's most famous client right now) President Trump, who the firm has advised since its combination with Bingham. When it comes to the expertise that draws in these big names, tax is certainly a strength for ML; its practice is rated by Chambers USA as one of the best in the country. Among its reams of rankings, other nationwide highlights include capital markets, corporate/M&A, ERISA litigation, labor & employment and immigration.

Much of this year's praise was centered on firm chair Jami McKeon: “She’s a trailblazer. There’s an amazing amount of momentum behind her. Most associates and partners feel the firm is taking steps to be the go-to firm in the 21st century, in large part because of Jami and her team.” McKeon is “traveling a lot but resident in the Philly HQ – sometimes I run into her in the cafeteria and she's just like any other partner I could approach.” Juniors also felt that ML's decision to keep Philly as its flagship base (instead of New York) sends out the message “that we're a big firm with a more sustainable approach, which makes a lot of people stay for their entire careers.”

Diversity & Strategy



A diversity and inclusion committee is led by a “full-time director who's based in New York. It meets regularly and launches different initiatives and programs.” Each office also comes up with its own initiatives, as this San Francisco junior revealed: “Our office recently hosted one of the firm's mock interview programs with diverse law school students – they came in, did the interview and received feedback.” There's also ML Women, which is led by the firm's chair, Jami McKeon. “They recently organized an event where senior female attorneys came to our office to give us advice – it's a strong initiative,” one female source commented.

“It’s incredibly empowering and exciting to have a woman chair.”

Other female interviewees told us that “it’s incredibly empowering and exciting to have a woman chair. We’re really lucky to have Jami.” Explaining her vision for the firm, McKeon tells us: “Over the years some firms have really narrowed their focus to chase after only the most profitable work – we, in contrast, have maintained our focus on being a relationship firm, so local and global clients can come to us with any issue or matter that needs a resolution anywhere around the world.”

The Work



We have pretty much every type of practice group but I’d say the three primary categories are litigation, corporate business transactions, and labor & employment,” juniors explained.Of these, ML’s litigation group is the biggest. As with all groups, there’s an assignment coordinator on hand to dole work out, but overall it’s “afairly fluid, open system – the coordinator keeps an eye on everyone's hours, but you can also get work more organically from partners who have seen your skills or your bio online and give you a direct call.”

Litigators enjoyed being exposed to a variety of different cases: “When you come in the door you could be working on white-collar, antitrust, general commercial, regulatory, financial services or IP matters. If you develop an interest then you can delve deeper into that area.” On large mortgage-backed securities cases sources were working in “pretty defined teams – I was on the offensive discovery team, focusing on those issues and helping the team take depositions.” Breach of contract cases were quite common, “as they come up in almost every industry, from insurance to healthcare.” Those who'd taken on white-collar work found themselves on “small investigations where you're the one going through the docs and preparing how we're going to represent witnesses. This week I'm heading to the DOJ and attending government meetings – it's a much more strategic role.”

The corporate business transaction group (CBT) is structured slightly differently office to office, but broadly covers M&A, securities, real estate, energy, outsourcing, finance and investment management work. Juniors in the larger offices sample various areas for a couple of years and then formally join a subgroup. Those initial years therefore come with a broad sweep of work: “On bond offerings I helped with the logistics of audit committee presentations; on real estate deals I helped to draft a lease; on investment management matters I was assisting with the sale of fund interests; and on M&A transactions I was doing due diligence to look out for potential restrictions.” As juniors enter their third year, “you become more focused on specific types of deals. You're expected to have a deeper knowledge of them and make judgment calls on how documents should look and work – it's challenging but exciting.” 

Juniors had a lot of pride in the strength of the labor and employment group: “It’s able to maintain a separate identity, whereas in other firms it’s often subsumed under larger litigation or corporate departments.” Its subgroups include labor/management relations; individual employee litigation & arbitration; immigration; and occupational safety and health administration (OSHA).

Training & Development



Reviews come thick and fast at ML: summers receive two, “both of which were substantive, with written feedback.” First years also get two (midyear and end of year), and are assigned “a rating of either 'adequate' or 'inadequate': it's always good to hear that you're doing good, get an official rating and have a sense of what the partnership is looking for in an associate.” Beyond this stage, subsequent annual reviews follow this format: “In November the partners you've worked with fill out questionnaires about you and your work, then meet to discuss the feedback. Then in January you sit down with two partners you usually work with, and they summarize the consensus and give you the chance to voice any concerns or grievances.” We also heard that the firm is putting more of an emphasis on formulating professional development plans with its associates going forward.

Formal training varies by practice group. There are “monthly sessions in litigation, which cover things like direct examination and arbitration – things you're likely to encounter." As litigators get more senior they attend the firm's trial skills and trial academy programs – during the latter they receive "deposition training with a mock client, which is very cool.” Over in CBT juniors attend “weekly sessions, which are mandatory for first years. The firm also runs an M&A Academy throughout the year for all attorneys, which provides a more in-depth review of all aspects of M&A.” Every junior is also assigned a partner and an associate mentor, and praise was bestowed on ML's overall culture of “mentoring, coaching and teaching. Partners take you under their wing. They don’t want to get me out of their office as quickly as possible. They want to teach me why things need to be done a certain way.”

Culture & Offices



ML has a whopping 17 domestic offices and a further 13 overseas. The juniors on our list were spread over 13 of the US bases, from LA to Houston to Chicago to New York; the last of these housed the largest group (about a fifth of second and third years), while ML's Philadelphia HQ and DC office followed closely behind. As you might expect from such a large firm, sources reported some differences in atmosphere depending on the office. “It’s not formal or stuffy,” a DC source stated, “but at the same time it’s certainly not casual and laid back – there are no jeans and polo shirts. It's a bit like a judge's chambers.” You may well find some jeans and polo shirts in San Francisco though, “as we're a little more casual,” while New Yorkers told us: “Those negative connotations that Manhattan firms suffer from aren't present here. There are a lot of associates from different backgrounds and we're very welcoming. It's a respectful, professional place, and people will stop and ask you what you're up to and how that deal went – we're not looking to get away from each other!”

“You won’t get ahead by standing up and saying ‘me, me, me, I did this!’”

In the Philadelphia HQ, associates felt “the tandem package of ML and Philly is a really easy sell.” They drove home the “tangible benefits of a city that’s not New York, which has an insane cost of living! I feel able to work on my student debt, and potentially buy a house in the city within a couple of years of working.” The design of the office “reflects the trust the firm gives us – we have actual walls and doors as opposed to those cool glass and steel structures, where everyone knows if you're not in your office.” With a more “family-oriented” workforce, younger associates did find the social scene here to be a little lacking, but “there’s a focus on creating a sense of community, so every other Wednesday there’s an office-wide snack time – a chance for people to mix and mingle with colleagues you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.”

Across office lines associates agreed that there's an overall “culture of sharing credit. You won’t get ahead by standing up and saying ‘me, me, me, I did this.’ It’s clear the firm is geared around helping each other out, and we're very focused on producing an excellent product as a team.”

Hours & Compensation



ML doesn't have a billing requirement, but reaching 1,900 hours generates a bonus if associates are in good standing. However, given that this number was often described as “very achievable,” our sources had racked up more than this amount: “My issue has been keeping below 2,200!” exclaimed one corporate junior. The fact that all pro bono hours count as billable is “really helpful for first years, as you can get yourself busy very quickly and let the regular client billable work build up more organically.” Juniors also told us that outside of the official parameters the extent of billing pressure can vary by office, as this DC-based source revealed: “If you don't get 2,000 hours they're like 'why not?'”

“My issue has been keeping below 2,200!”

Inevitably this means some tough schedules. Some litigators reported working consistent 12-hour days in the office (“as I'd rather stick it out and then get out of here until morning”), while a corporate junior highlighted that “deal flow has been higher than it's ever been, which translates into long hours for everyone. I find solace in the fact that when I'm up late so is the client! The client has as much motivation to get it done.”

With this in mind, sources emphasized that ML “realizes that it's an issue and works with us to make sure work-life balance is respected.” One “really nice feature” is a “formal remote working program, where the firm helps you to set up a home office and allows you to spend two days each week working remotely.” Juniors must wait until their third year to sign up to the program, and we heard mixed responses from those who had: one praised it for being “very flexible – at this moment I'm speaking to you from my home,” while others felt that in practice “it really just equates to one day working remotely.”

Pro Bono



Every full-time attorney is 'challenged' to rack up a minimum of 20 pro bono hours. “If you don't you're not eligible for a full bonus, but everyone meets the challenge anyway and most do far more than that.” At the junior level, there were those who hadn't “had time to invest much, but still cleared about 50 hours,” while others had billed “hundreds of hours – it's all counted the same as regular billables, so there's no reason not to do it.” The San Francisco office does “a lot of guardianship and asylum cases, as well eviction defense work. We're also involved with Swords to Plowshares, which works with veterans to secure benefits.” In Philly, litigators were “extensively involved” in their pro bono matters, “defending depositions and writing complaints and motions.” New Yorkers, meanwhile, had picked up matters through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 101,870.8
  • Average per US attorney: 62

Get Hired



Associates told us that at Morgan Lewis “people aspire to be partner someday – we’re not just going to hire a bunch of bodies to do doc review.” Therefore ML's recruiters want to see “people who are looking for something a little bit more than just the transactional relationship of a big paycheck in return for working hard.”

An ideal ML candidate “should want to get involved with the firm's committees, like our one devoted to pro bono, or our veterans' initiative or our women’s group.” One associate summed up the ML type as “people who are essentially joiners that actively participate – the kind of person who, when they walk into the coffee room and see a spill on the table, takes ten seconds to wipe it up because they view it as their home too.”

As ever, researching the firm thoroughly is essential. Our associate sources told us of candidates that had made this (very avoidable) mistake in interviews: “It sounds silly when people come in and express an interest in something we don’t do. If you’re interested in a specific type of work, make sure we handle it. Know our strengths and weaknesses.” Another elaborated: “When I was interviewing I made sure I knew why I wanted to work here, which practice area I was interested in and which partners I wanted to be associated and involved with.” Following that approach should serve aspiring candidates well in the future.

Interview with chair Jami Wintz McKeon



Chambers Associate: Which highlights from the past year would you like our readers to know about?

Jami Wintz McKeon: There have been a few really exciting highlights. In September 2016 we opened in Shanghai and in February 2017 we opened in Hong Kong; we now have a very robust Asia practice that spans Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Beijing. It's sizable, doing very well, and exciting for the entire firm.

Over the past year we've also put a huge focus on our associate experience. We have both a global committee for associates and an associate talent team. We also have a remote working program, which is unique among almost all law firms in that it allows associates from their third year and above to work from home for two days a week. The firm provides the equipment to enable them to do this. We now have almost 200 associates taking advantage of the program. A third of the people who do it are men. Not everyone has kids – the majority do – but there are even people who want to be at home with their dog one day a week. The feedback we've received from associates on it has been uniformly positive. Surveys have shown no loss of productivity, and clients like it. It’s had a huge benefit for the firm and our lawyers, and we’re really proud to have spearheaded this program.

We’ve also launched a 'ramp-up' program to recognize the fact that our men and women who have taken extended leave will always need some time to get back into things when they return to the firm. We credit associates with 25% of their hours during the first six months that they're back with us, so they work 75% of their normal schedule and don’t feel that anxiety to jump back into things. I think that’s been a positive thing.

CA: As juniors progress at Morgan Lewis, what can they expect from the firm's training programs?

JWM: We recently expanded our associate academy programs. We’ve long had a summer associate academy which brings new summers together from everywhere around the firm for a kickoff. We also have the new attorney orientation program for every associate who’s joined us in the past year – they all come together for an orientation. But we’ve added a midlevel associate academy and a senior associate academy, which bring together lawyers from the relevant stages for three days. Those days involve training programs, and we’ve also provided midlevels with financial planning sessions. That's part of our focus on financial well-being; someone came and spoke to them, then at the firm’s expense they could go get their potential expenses done.

In addition, this year everyone at Morgan Lewis – including associates, partners and staff – got trained on our exceptional client service program.

CA: Can you tell us about Morgan Lewis's approach to pro bono?

JWM: I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve made pro bono a very important part of the firm. Over the last year we contributed more than 115,000 pro bono hours, and 97% of our lawyers met our target of 20 hours. We’ve won a number of awards, which is great, but that’s not why we do it – we really believe in it.

CA: Have there been any developments when it comes to diversity?

JWM: We immediately signed up for the Mansfield Rule, which requires at least 30% of candidates going for a leadership position to be diverse and/or female. We do that anyway but we are happy to be able to support that new development. Other firms are following suit because clients are expecting their firms to become more diverse.

CA:What’s the general strategy going forward?

JWM: I think from our perspective we’ve been doing exactly what we set out to do when I became chair: to really focus on being a truly global firm that delivers exceptional client service in every aspect of its practice; to have a very integrated global program; and to focus on promoting and maintaining a 'one firm' vision. Our practice is global and we have a common commitment to client service.

Clients want to know that they can go to a single firm and count on all of their needs being satisfied and integrated. I think one of the things that's unique about Morgan Lewis is that over the years some firms have really narrowed their focus to chase after only the most profitable work – we, in contrast, have maintained our focus on being a relationship firm, so local and global clients can come to us with any issue or matter that needs a resolution anywhere around the world. We have a completely coordinated program and a single focus as a firm. That’s why we bring all of our associates together around the world, and that’s why we’ve been able to attract some of the incredible talent we have.

We’re continuing to make strategic investments in talent. What we’ve done in Asia over the last two years has been pretty remarkable in terms of expansion. We’ve continued to hire associates and partners across the firm in key areas, such as corporate, tax, asset management, healthcare and IP. We’ve focused very much on what clients need.

We also have an increased industry focus; we've been bringing together different practices to serve clients in key sectors. In September we brought in Jeff Moorad to co-lead our global sports initiative, for example. That industry is so much larger than people think: it involves everything from investment and retail to tax and employment and antitrust. It’s another exciting sector that's evolving and moving forward.

CA:How has the firm changed since you joined?

JWM: Obviously we’ve grown exponentially over time, but there are two significant changes that spring to mind. The first is that we're operating in a much more competitive legal industry. When I was an associate, attorneys were very loyal – they went to one firm, maybe two. I didn’t know a single in-house lawyer; now you have very sophisticated in-house lawyers. If a corporate client has a basic legal question, they’re not going to talk to an outside firm. The result is that clients are bringing in firms to answer much more complicated questions and to draw on the variety of experience and knowledge that they offer. So there's a lot more competition between firms to resolve sophisticated clients' most complex problems.

The second change is technology. I’m really dating myself here, but I used to bring a typewriter into my office! Now everything is 24/7, and that obviously puts pressure on people and fuels this concern about work-life balance, but on the other hand it really allows people a lot more freedom in some ways. There were times when my older kid was little when I couldn’t be out of office. My younger children are still in high school and now I can attend almost anything because I’m always reachable. So it’s just changed the way things work. I used to put my kids to bed and go back to the office, now I have dual monitors at home so I can work seamlessly from home as if I was in the office. It makes life easier in some respects, but it also means people are working much harder. It’s both a blessing and a curse in a way, but one we’ve turned into an advantage for our lawyers by saying, ‘We see what technology can do for you and you don’t have to sit in the office to be supervised.’ We know we can do the work somewhere else without losing communication with each other.

CA:Anything to add?

JWM: It’s a really exciting time for law firms. I know people talk about firm applications going down and people not wanting to be lawyers as much. I still believe this is a fantastic job for young professionals. You have the ability to work closely with one another and with clients. There is so much intellectual stimulation, so many ways to use technology to help make the practice of law easy and more interesting. I think that if you can couple all of those things with the ability to give back – to support pro bono and people’s efforts in the community – then you can have a job with great meaning. I’m always excited to talk to people about what we’re doing and what students should be looking for. It really is a great profession.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

1701 Market Street,
Philadelphia,
PA 19103-2921
Website www.morganlewis.com

  • Head Office:  Philadelphia, PA 
  • Number of domestic offices: 17
  • Number of international offices: 13
  • Partners (US): 633
  • Associates (US): 762
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Noelani Walser (noelani.walser@morganlewis.com)
  • Hiring partner: Christina Edling Melendi
  • Diversity officer: MaLora McCullough
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 56
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 11, 2Ls: 76
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Boston: 8; Chicago: 3; Houston: 5; Los Angeles: 5; New York: 19; Philadelphia: 17; San Francisco: 7; Silicon Valley: 8; Washington, DC: 15
  • Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,500/week
  • 2Ls: $3,500/week
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work



 At Morgan Lewis, we work around the world and around the clock to respond to the needs of our clients. We provide comprehensive corporate, transactional, litigation and regula­tory services that address and anticipate challenges across rapidly changing landscapes. Our international team of lawyers and other specialists support clients across a wide range of industries, including financial services, energy and environmental, healthcare and life sciences, retail, and technology.

Firm profile



 From our 30 offices in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, we work across all major industries with clients that range from established, global Fortune 100 companies to enterprising startups. Our team comprises more than 2,000 legal professionals including lawyers, patent agents, employee benefits advisors, regulatory scientists, and other specialists. We focus on immediate concerns and long-term goals, harnessing our resources from strategic hubs of commerce, law, and government around the world. Founded in 1873, we stand on the shoulders of more than 140 years of excellence. 

Recruitment



  Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
American, BC, Berkeley, BU, Catholic, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Davis, Duke, Ford-ham, GW, Georgetown, Harvard, Hastings, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Irvine, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, Pennsylvania, Rutgers, Santa Clara, Stanford, Temple, Texas, UCLA, USC, USF, UVA, Vanderbilt, and Villanova

Recruitment outside OCIs:
The firm participates in a number of diversity and practice-related job fairs.

Summer associate profile:
Highly motivated individuals from diverse backgrounds who have a record of outstanding academic achievement; superior writing and analytical skills; a commitment to client service; demonstrate initiative; and an ability to succeed in a challenging, collaborative workplace.

Summer program components:
Our program provides insight into Morgan Lewis, its practices and culture through professional and social experiences. The summer program launches with a multiday kickoff that brings summer associates from all offices together with firm leaders, other partners, and associates. Summer associates have the unique opportunity to tailor their summer experiences with the option of either spending the entire summer at the firm or spending a portion of the summer working on-site with a public interest organization. While at the firm, summer associates work on matters typically assigned to first-year associates and participate in a generous mix of training opportunities to hone skills such as legal writing and presentation style. After joining the firm fulltime, associates are offered Student Loan Repayment services, an innovative Remote Working Program and a Ramp-Up Programs, including a reduced-hours expectation for six months, for associates returning from an extended leave of absence.

Social media



Recruitment website:www.morganlewis.com
Linkedin:Morgan Lewis
Twitter:@MorganLewisLaw@mlrecruit
Facebook:Morgan Lewis
Instagram: @mlrecruit

This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity Recognised Practitioner
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
    • Insurance (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Latin American Investment (Band 5)
    • Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 3)
    • Tax Recognised Practitioner
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Environment Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Latin American Investment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
    • Energy: Nuclear (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 1)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts Recognised Practitioner
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 4)
    • Projects: Power (Band 4)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 2)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 4)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)