Perkins Coie LLP - The Inside View

Powering up the industry titans of tomorrow, Seattle’s finest is consolidating its position as a leading national firm.

Sleepless in Seattle? Why not take a stroll and quiz the locals about the local legal scene? “If you ask around the city, people know the name Perkins Coie,” associates there reckoned. “In Seattle, we’re number one.” Some even went as far as to label Perkins Coie the top dog “in the entire Pacific Northwest,” an assertion that’s largely supported by the rankings of Chambers USA. The firm scores nine top accolades in the state of Washington including gold stars for its corporate, commercial litigation, employment, IP and bankruptcy practices – that is indeed more than any other firm.

TOP LISTEN: Tune in to our podcast with Perkins Coie partner Aria Branch, who reveals how she got into political law and shares her thoughts on the legacy of the 2020 presidential election.

"Our home office in Seattle is where the firm was founded," says firmwide managing partner William Malley. "We have a long history of representing clients in the technology sector." But while the firm's roots are in Seattle, Malley explains the firm has "built on our West Coast origins and strength to expand our presence in New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Texas." In February 2020, Perkins Coie opened a new office in Austin,"a market that is rapidly growing, and where there is a lot of work with emerging companies and for intellectual property lawyers." This newest base in the Texas capital brings PC’s nationwide office count to 18, each earning state-specific rankings. Nationwide the firm is recognized by Chambers USA for its expertise in 12 distinct areas including data security, environment, IP, retail and emerging companies.

“If you ask around the city, people know the name.”

Perkins Coie also scores a top spot for its DC-led political law team, which Malley tells us “was very busy last year representing Democratic party organizations and candidates in connection with voting rights and the election, and we expect that work to continue in the coming years." Between its tech-leaning practice, West Coast origins and famously liberal culture, it would be fair to slot this firm on the progressive end of the BigLaw spectrum.

Strategy & Future



William Malley suggests “the firms that will perform strongest” in the wake of COVID-19 “are those that will seize the transformative potential of remote working. It’s not just a case of getting through the pandemic but emerging competitively out of it." Looking ahead, Malley asserts that "we and other law firms are going to find ourselves with a workforce that is much more geographically dispersed. However, I think it remains difficult to enter a market without physically being there and I believe there will always be a need for a physical presence to facilitate personal connections."

Beyond the firm's US operations, Malley says "having a strong presence in Asia is also very important to us as it allows us to represent and advise companies across the continent of Asia with respect to US legal matters." 

The Work



Most new arrivals at the firm join the broad commercial litigation, intellectual property or business law team; at the time of our research, others had started in political law, labor, real estate, personal planning and product liability. Seattle welcomes the majority of newcomers, followed by DC, Chicago and Palo Alto. One junior in Denver emphasized that “the firm very much operates as a single unit” in bases small and large. “For example, I’ve been staffed on projects with people in Phoenix, Seattle, San Diego and New York.” Perkins Coie also takes a flexible approach to work assignment. Associates receive a few introductory assignments; they’re then encouraged to directly approach partners they’re interested in working with.

TOP READ: Becoming a data security lawyer: Data is the great commodity of our age. It's a hot, controversial topic that needs good lawyers to handle its complexities. Step forward, Perkins Coie.

Within the broad disputes practice, “most associates start out as generalists doing work in a couple of areas" for the first couple of years. More than 50% of Perkins’ junior litigators end up in business litigation; other options include privacy and data security, white-collar investigations, criminal investigation, securities, and energy and environmental litigation. “Partners push you to organically specialize more in one area by your fourth year,” according to our insiders. One was keen to emphasize that “deals aren’t staffed like totem poles – often it’s just one associate and one partner. You have to fend for yourself a bit, in a good way!” That was the case for a junior in Chicago: “On some cases, I was playing the part of the first, third and fifth-year associate, doing things way above my pay grade and getting a ton of experience off the bat.” Another of our sources (this one in DC)told a similar tale: “I drafted the final work product on many cases; interviewed clients; and put together presentations for the government and DOJ. It was all great experience.”

Litigation clients: adidas America, The Boeing Company, Microsoft. Retained by The Ohio State University to lead an independent investigation into sexual misconduct allegations raised against a doctor formerly employed by the university.

Subgroups in the ‘business law’ transactional practice include M&A, emerging companies and venture capital, corporate and securities, investment management, restructuring, and technology transactions. Startup clients are a Perkins mainstay: “We’re representing companies through their entire life cycle,” a junior in the Palo Alto office explained. They continued: “While I have taken companies through to exit, most of my work has revolved around the early-stage financing.” Other sources emphasized that “even as a first year, you’ll be interacting with clients right away. It can be intimidating and sometimes you may not feel ready, but it’s an effective way to learn quickly!” Revealing they have “a portfolio of around 60 clients to manage,” one of our associate interviewees clarified that “of course they’re not all active at once! Many of the clients I helped form in the first few years are now moving into the mid-stage financing and even M&A phase of their life.” The firm also represents well-established companies and blue-chip enterprises.

Business clients: Amazon, Costco, Idaho Power Company. Acted for Seattle-based online real estate marketplace Zillow in its $1.173 billion convertible note offering.

Based in the US tech capital, juniors in Palo Alto told us “the firm’s IP practice functions as one national team.” The group separates into three distinct teams: patent litigation; patent prosecution; and trademark, copyright, internet and advertising. There’s further division within that, exemplified by the workload of a Denver source: “Most of my work has come from two buckets. On the IP enforcement side, I’ve been monitoring infringements online and coming up with enforcement strategies that typically involve sending cease and desist or takedown notices.” From the other bucket came “bread and butter litigation – drafting the pleadings, going through discoveries and prepping for depositions.” Helping to develop expert reports was a common task for our junior interviewees. “I’ve worked with a variety of clients – from Fortune 500 companies on bigger litigation matters, to smaller, more local clients,” one explained. “Industry-wise it’s mostly technology work, but I’ve also seen cases in the consumer products, retail and groceries spaces.”

IP clients: Hulu, HTC, Gates Corporation. Defended tech giant Cisco in patent litigation brought by NetFuel, a dispute surrounding two patents linked to a large number of switches and routers.

Culture, Hours & Compensation



Interviewees identified ‘transparency’ and ‘flexibility’ as the twin pillars holding Perkins Coie steady. Addressing the first, managing partner William Malley tells us: “We believe in having an open flow of information and we have worked hard to keep everyone informed about how the business is doing in real time." Reinforcing his comments, one associate told us Perkins Coie “feels very democratic,” to the extent that a large law firm can be. “Going to associate quarterly meetings, I will always receive a packet with the firm’s financials including its balance sheet – having that information makes you feel valued.”

“Even before the pandemic, there was a very relaxed work from home policy.”

COVID-19 has made working from home a necessity rather than a luxury for lawyers, but Perkins Coie was ahead of the curve according to our associate interviewees. “Even before the pandemic, there was a very relaxed work from home policy where you could work at the office as much or as little as you like,” they explained. Some described the approach as “very autonomous,” though others felt working from home was in practice “dependent on your team and supervisor.” Giving a perspective from the top, Malley says: “We want to make sure we have a workplace that is well adapted to the widely different circumstances and backgrounds of all our personnel."

The setup was especially attractive to lawyers with families. “I have two small children and had no intention of entering BigLaw as I didn’t believe it would be conducive to having a family,” one grateful interviewee began. “While most firms touted the same nonsense about ‘work/life balance’, Perkins felt different – many people, including partners, typically leave the office at 5pm to be with their children.” That doesn’t mean you need kids to appreciate the PC culture, a junior in Seattle clarified:In my experience as a young associate, I’ve found plenty of people to go out with on a Friday evening after work. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize if you’re looking for them.”

Billable hours: 1,850–1,950 target (varies by location)

Associates based in major legal markets shoot for 1,950 hours, at which point they're eligible for a bonus. That's the case for around half of the firm's offices. In the other half, "we take a hybrid approach" whereby the standard target is 1,850 but associates can choose to aim for 1,950 and the corresponding compensation. Associates in these offices (which include Seattle,Denver and Portland) took it as another example of the firm’s flexibility. “It means that you can make partner without having to put in 80-hour work weeks,” one junior explained, adding that “I think that definitely helps with attrition.” However, despite this flexibility and sources’ references to a more “laid-back East Coast culture,” they still stressed that “there isn’t a magic unicorn in the office that makes everything feel completely chill. I’m approaching 2,100 hours, which does feel like a lot.” BigLaw is BigLaw, and no mythical creature can stop that!

TOP READ: How to Make a Strategic Lateral Move: If you’re a qualified associate who's thinking about changing firms, make sure you're strategic about it.

Career Development



“In my experience, people come here and stay here,” a source in Seattle told us. They and others described PC as a “lifetime firm. When people do leave it’s usually to an in-house position with one of the clients we service – which the firm views positively as an extension of the Perkins family.” In hand with that, “many associates stay and progress to partner, a track which feels open to everyone.” A junior in California anecdotally told us they’d seen “women who’ve had children, moved to reduced hours and still made partner while on maternity leave.”On the flip side, attrition is more common in some other offices; sources in Chicago had the impression “you’d have to go back many classes to find someone who had made it all the way” to the top.

“In my experience, people come here and stay here.”

Perkins Coie is a consistently solid performer in our annual research. In 2021, the firm made the top 25 for Career Development>

Pro Bono



“The firm’s commitment to pro bono is excellent,” interviewees agreed, adding that “there’s no limit to what you can do, and every hour counts toward your billable hours target.” Perkins Coie regularly places among the top firms in Chambers Associate for average hours per attorney. “Through the firm’s pro bono program, I’ve had the chance to develop skills I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to, such as leading witness interviews and standing up in court,” one junior told us. It wasn’t only litigators getting in on the fun: “I don’t feel like I’ve been limited as a transactional lawyer,” an interviewee said. “Recently I’ve been able to attend a lot of clinics and cases related to domestic violence.” The firm has a number of partnerships with external organizations: lawyers in Seattle work with KIND on asylum cases, while the Anchorage base recently teamed up with the Alaska Legal Services Corporation to help small businesses utilize relief programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 79,586
  • Average per (US) attorney: 74

Diversity & Inclusion



With a view to boosting numbers and improving the retention of diverse attorneys, the firm's strategic diversity committee created a new D&I plan that Malley tells us the firm has since adopted. "The plan covers the four major parts of the firm including: recruitment, retention, business development, and evaluation," Malley expands. "It ensures that we take the subject of diversity into account when making every single one of our decisions as a business." One associate we spoke to “attended the presentation of the plan and was impressed with how sophisticated it was. Time will tell how it will manifest but it’s good to have strong, concrete goals.” While agreeing that Perkins “adheres to the right message,” associates in smaller offices felt the firm could do “a lot better for both partners and associates.”

“It’s good to have strong, concrete goals.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,492

Candidates outside OCI: 1,620

Perkins Coie conducts OCIs at over 40 law schools across the US, including the top 20 law schools as well as regional schools in the same area as the firm’s offices. At larger schools, firm partners typically interview 70 to 80 students. Perkins Coie also attends a number of job fairs, and regularly hires judicial clerks who apply to the firm during their clerkship.

In most cases OCIs are conducted by partners, but Mike Gotham, the firm's director of recruiting and retention, adds that if possible “we like to send attorneys who are alums of that school.” Interviewers use behavioral interviewing techniques to focus on candidates’ past behavior, so they should be ready with examples of, for example, a time when they “took on additional responsibility for a major task at work or in school.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Candidates should be prepared for a conversation that will help us get a good idea of their interests, goals, skills and personality” – Mike Gotham, director of recruiting and retention

Callbacks

The callback process differs office to office at Perkins Coie, but candidates are typically invited to spend a half-day at the office and undergo four to six interviews with a mix of associates and partners. Some offices now host ‘super recruiting’ events, at which up to 15 students participate in ‘round robin’ one-to-one interviews. Questions are unsurprisingly more in-depth than those at OCIs, and Gotham advises “while not every law student has definitively settled on a practice area by the beginning of their second year, every candidate should be able to provide a thoughtful explanation of what interests them and why.” The interview is often followed by a lunch with associates or an informal networking event. A Portland associate remembered “we went to a juice bar of course – it’s Portland!”

Top tips for this stage:

“You’re definitely assessing them too, so don’t disregard that part!” – first-year associate

“Do your homework on the firm and your interviewers and come prepared to ask detailed questions about the firm, the summer program and the practice of law at Perkins Coie” – Mike Gotham, director of recruiting and retention

Summer program

Offers: 92

Acceptances: 80

Like callbacks, Perkins’ summer program can differ between offices. In some, summers are hired for a specific practice group, while in others they can take assignments from different groups. At the end of the program, summers can express interest in a specific group or broad areas i.e. transactional or dispute-related. Offers are made based on business need but Gotham says, “the summer associate’s interests are key to their assignment” as well.

Gotham advises future summers to “be social – get to know your fellow summer associates and the firm’s attorneys, but don’t be so social that it interferes with your work.” All summers attend a two-day summer associate retreat at a resort outside Seattle which incorporates training with “outdoor fun.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Meet all deadlines or, if you know you cannot meet a deadline, notify your supervisors.” – Mike Gotham, director of recruiting and retention

And finally….

“Perkins is a national firm, but it’s very much a local firm too and wants to be involved in the community,” said one associate. “I had to think about how to showcase that I wanted to be part of both sides during my interview."

Perkins Coie LLP

1201 Third Avenue,
Suite 4900,
Seattle,
WA 98101-3099
Website www.perkinscoie.com

  • Head Office: Seattle, WA
  • Number of domestic offices: 17
  • Number of international offices: 3
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,001,418,385 
  • Partners (US): 562
  • Associates (US): 526 (134 counsel)
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Michael Gotham, Senior Director of Legal Talent (mgotham@perkinscoie.com)
  • Diversity officer: Genhi Bailey
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 60
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021:
  • 1Ls: 36; 2Ls: 65
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office:
  • Chicago: 7; Dallas: 4; Los Angeles: 4; Madison: 3; New York: 5; Palo Alto: 13; Phoenix: 6; Portland; 6; San Diego: 6; San Francisco: 9; Seattle: 25; Washington, DC: 13
  • Summer salary 2021
  • 1Ls: $2,885—$3,462 (depending on location)
  • 2Ls: $ $2,885—$3,462 (depending on location)
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Perkins Coie’s practice areas include:
• Intellectual Property
• Commercial Litigation
• Business (M&A, Emerging Companies, Corporate & Securities)
• Environmental Law
• Political Law
• Real Estate & Land Use
• Labor Law
• Privacy & Data Security

Firm profile
With more than 1,100 lawyers in 20 offices across the United States and Asia, Perkins Coie LLP represents companies across a wide range of industries and stages of growth— from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. In 2020, 358 of the firm’s attorneys were listed among the ‘Best Lawyers in America’ and the firm was named ‘Law Firm of the Year’ in both environmental law and patent law. Perkins Coie is very proud to have been named one of Fortune magazine’s‘Best Companies to Work for’ for 19 consecutive years.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
Arizona State, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, GWU, Gonzaga, Harvard, Howard, Lewis & Clark, Loyola (LA), Northwestern, NYU, Santa Clara, Seattle U., SMU, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, Univ. of Arizona, Univ. of Chicago, Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Illinois, Univ. of Michigan, Univ. of Oregon, U Penn, USD, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Washington, Univ. of Wisconsin, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Wash U (St. Louis), Willamette, Yale

Recruitment outside OCIs: Each year Perkins Coie attends a number of interview or job fairs including the Patent Law Interview Program (PLIP); Lavender Law, the Northwest Minority Job Fair, the Bay Area Diversity Fair and the Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair.

Summer associate profile: Perkins Coie seeks self-starters who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership in and service to the community, and dedication to excellence in the legal profession.

Summer program components: Perkins Coie’s summer associate program provides varied work opportunities and social events designed to promote interaction among summer associates, attorneys and staff. Summer associates work on a wide range of challenging legal assignments similar to those given to new associates which typically include legal research, analysis and drafting. Summer associates are invited to attend depositions, mediations, deal closings, client meetings, trials and other professional activities and events. They are welcome and encouraged to work on pro bono projects.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.perkinscoie.com/en/about-us/careers/entry-level/overview.html
Linkedin: PerkinsCoieLLP
Twitter: @PerkinsCoieLLP
Facebook: Perkins Coie LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 2)
    • Venture Capital (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/Commercial (Band 1)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 5)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Native American Law: Non-Tribal Counsel (Band 1)
    • Political Law (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 2)