Perkins Coie LLP - The Inside View

Tech-driven growth is one factor powering Perkins Coie into its status as a leading national outfit.

“The market for legal services is increasingly national,” managing partner Bill Malley tell us, speaking of a reality that Perkins Coie is well placed to capitalize on with its 17 nationwide offices. The firm’s headquarters and roots are in the Pacific Northwest where its status as one of the region’s leading firms is supported by a score of top rankings from Chambers USA rankings in everything from corporate M&A and construction, to IP and commercial litigation. Our interviewees certainly had no doubts about the firm’s reputation as “one of the most well-known and well-respected firms inSeattle.”

“…one of the most well-known and well-respected firms in Seattle.”

Malley also draws our attention to the firm’s “strong presence on the East Coast where our New York and Washington, DC offices are continuing to grow to support a strong and expanding client base.” The firm's newest office is in Austin, which opened in the summer of 2020, and focuses on work in the technology, healthcare, and IP sectors. Associates may be spread far and wide across the country, but “at Perkins Coie, you are part of a single, national firm with broad networks,” Malley emphasizes. “From the standpoint of someone joining the firm, it means a breadth of opportunities in both workflow and mentoring.” Groovy.

Nationwide, the firm is recognized by Chambers USA for its expertise in 12 distinct areas including data security, environment, IP, retail and product liability. The firm’s political law team is also considered top-notch, although it underwent a shake-up last summer when a squad of 11 partners and 3 counsel separated from the firm to form the independent firm, Elias Law Group. We were told that “the side that advises clients on compliance issues around campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics law has remained at Perkins.”

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.

The Work

Juniors at Perkins benefit from a flexible approach to work allocation, in which associates are not left to fend for themselves but have the opportunity to reach out when they feel ready. “You have assignments that are funneled to you at the beginning, but at a certain point you are free to reach out and find the partners who are supportive of the kind of work you want to do,” sources explained.

With the exception of those with a specific background or work history, most junior associates interested in litigation enter the firm as generalists. Sources told us that consequently “most junior associates that want to be litigators join commercial litigation and then move into a more specialized subgroup as time goes on.”

"Cases are frequently staffed cross-office."

The commercial litigation group represents a range of clients from fortune-500 companies to mid-size and emerging companies. Associates can work in subgroups ranging from business and consumer products, to environment and data security. In keeping with its nationalized approach to client service, "cases are frequently staffed cross-office," however there are a number of regional specialities. For example, the firm’s Wisconsin office is known for its insurance litigation, New York for commercial and financial services disputes, while the firm’s white-collar litigation team is spread across Chicago, DC, Denver, Seattle, and Phoenix. We spoke to juniors in DC who had also “done a lot of government contracts work, counseling government contractors on a variety of issues like regulatory compliance and export control law.” Another source in LA gave us a breakdown of their average day-to-day schedule: “A third of my time is spent writing assignments or document work; a third on research (and communicating that research); and a third interacting with clients and internal stakeholders.”

There are also dedicated patent litigation and patent prosecution teams as a part of Perkins’ IP practice, which offer bread and butter litigation work for associates with an interest in tech. Perkins bags Chambers state rankings in California for both, as well as general IP rankings in Colorado, DC, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and nationwide. 

Litigation clients: Microsoft, University of Illinois, ICAP. Acted in defense of food product development company, Griffith Foods International, in over 200 lawsuits relating to allegations that emissions of ethylene oxide from a sterilization facility caused various health issues.

The firm’s environment, energy & natural resources group incorporates a mix of litigation and transactional work, as well as regulatory issues in the form of “counseling clients on compliance with state, federal, or local environmental laws.” We were told that “there are partners in the group who do a lot of energy work, particularly in DC and Madison, whereas if you are interested in something like mining, you could be put in contact with those in the Boise office or Anchorage office.”  According to our interviewees, all junior associates will do at least some project development work, such as advising corporate entities on the construction of a new wind farm. “You might inform them of all relevant regulations, how they might be impacted, and recommend comments that they could submit in opposition to the regulations,” one junior in DC explained. Another associate in Seattle told us: “I’ve been involved in some complex enforcement matters, helping to advise clients who have received a warning letter from environmental enforcement agencies about violating a statute or permit.”

Environment clients: Amazon, Costco, Chevron, Puget Sound Energy. Represented the Boeing company in its efforts to recover remediation costs from other responsible parties in relation to several contaminated sites.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Malley also highlights the success of the firm’s transactional practices: “We represented Microsoft and other market leaders in major transactions throughout the last year, with the pickup starting in the fourth quarter of 2020 and activity sustaining into 2021.” Advising startups is a main focus of the group, particularly for those on the West Coast, but we spoke to associates who tackled a range of different transactions spanning M&A, private equity, investment management and restructuring. Many of our survey respondents expressed a strong desire to carve out a career in the firm's business law wing. 

Business clients: Orion Systems Integrators, Pueblo Mechanical & Controls, Huron Capital. Represented Orion Systems Integrators, LLC in its acquisition of Tellence Technologies, an information technology company in Romania.

Strategy & Future

Perkins is now the 12th largest law firm in the US by headcount, and Malley makes clear he has no intention of taking the foot off the pedal: “We will continue to focus on growth, particularly in those practice areas that are linked to our tech market base, including IP, telecommunications, and tech transactions.” Indeed, the firm has maintained a consistent lateral hiring pace in these areas, something that Malley hopes to continue. Perkins’ work in the technology sector has also motivated the firm to integrate legal technology into its own practices: “We are increasingly using AI tools to assist us in reviewing contracts and documents. "Our culture at Perkins Coie involves embracing tech in the way we work both internally and encouraging our clients to do the same.” 

“Everyone’s mindset has begun to evolve from ‘how do we get through this?’ to realizing that it’s a real opportunity to be taken advantage of.”

For Malley, one of the challenges posed by the pandemic was how to build strong working relationships that can thrive in a remote setting, something that he found the staff at Perkins willing to embrace: “There is actually a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for it. Everyone’s mindset has begun to evolve from ‘how do we get through this?’ to realizing that it’s a real opportunity to be taken advantage of.”

Career Development

Our interviewees were eager to highlight the willingness of those around them to initiate conversations about developing their careers. As one associate in the firm's environmental practice told us: “In my experience, both the formal and informal mentoring, as well as people's willingness to have conversations about your career development, has been fantastic.” Associates were particularly impressed by the level of engagement from partners: “They are genuinely interested in what kind of practice you want develop, the different types of law you're passionate about, and the type of activities you're interested in.”

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.

“This is a longevity firm. I look around and I can see that even in a small office, there are people who had been at Perkins since they were a summer associate 30 years ago.”

For the firm’s current crop of associates, this creates the feeling that the firm is invested in you for the long haul. As one junior in California told us: “This is a longevity firm. I look around and I can see that even in a small office there are people who had been at Perkins since they were a summer associate 30 years ago.” Indeed, nearly 60% of our survey respondents intended to stay with the firm for another five years, comfortably above the market average.

Find out more about lateral recruitment with Perkins Coie here.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

As with many of the larger law firms, there are struggles with representation at the highest level. Yet one source in the firm’s LA office highlighted that there were at least two female partners in their office who had worked their way up through the ranks, “one of which is on a reduced FTE structure with a young family.” By our own analysis, Perkins falls in the 86th percentile of all the firms in our guidefor its percentage of women at partnership level. Its representation of ethnic minorities at the partnership is also above the market average but sources noted that remained clear room for improvement. 

For many of our interviewees, the feeling that Perkins is a ‘longevity firm’ was a cause for optimism: “The more the firm retains people, and they make people feel wanted, the better the representation is going to be, sooner rather than later.” The firm is making efforts in recruitment too. As a part of the firm’s 2022 summer program, Perkins Coie is offering a $25,000 fellowship to historically underrepresented 2L students.

Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation 

The associates we spoke to had mixed feelings about changes to the firm’s pro bono structure introduced in 2021. In order for associates to now be eligible for a bonus, there is a requirement of 1800 billable hours: “But alongside this, the firm has just moved to a 1950-hour requirement across the board, which essentially places a 150-hour cap on pro bono.” To balance this, the firm has outlined that the changes will only apply to third-year associates and above, and there are exceptions for those working on large litigious pro bono cases. “However, we are yet to see how generous the firm will be with those exceptions.”

The trade-off has been Perkins’ response to salary increases in the US in 2021. “The firm was very proactive at monitoring salary increases at other firms and matching them,” sources agreed, adding that “with the effort to become a truly national firm, Perkins has sought to bring the offices in line with one another." However, we were told that compensation still varies by office. In addition to the base compensation, the firm rolled out a $500 reimbursement to all non-partner employees in order to make their home offices more comfortable during the pandemic. “It seems they are doing everything they can to show associates that they value you and want you here for the long haul,” one source reflected.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 66,723
  • Average per (US) attorney: 59.2


Our interviewees felt that the relaxed culture of the Pacific Northwest was clearly evident in the firm, but not at the expense of the quality of work. As one associate put it: “At Perkins, there is the high-scope, front page of the Wall Street Journal type of work, but in a more humane environment.” In fact, some sources felt the environment of the firm made people work even harder: “People are more motivated to do a better job because they really value the culture.

"It is refreshing to work with colleagues and partners who would rather be doing something else on the weekend."

Our interviewees also appreciated that the firm was making the effort to meet its staff where they were at, and was steering clear of the mandatory office work policies of other firms. “There's no set rule but I get the sense that the minimum expectation is one or two times a month, but you are free to come in as much as you want, and that gives really awesome flexibility for those that need it for family reasons, or want it because they work really well from home.” We even heard rumors of a fully remote option in the near future subject to individual approval.While certainly not work-shy, the consensus was that "people here have interests outside of the firm," with one source adding: "It is refreshing to work with colleagues and partners who would rather be doing something else on the weekend."

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 2,051

Perkins Coie conducts OCIs at over 45 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 senior director of legal talent, 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


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

Summer program

Offers for 2022: 32 1Ls and 80 2Ls

Like callbacks, Perkins’ summer program can differ between offices. In some offices, 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 four-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

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,
WA 98101-3099

  • 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 (
  • 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.

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:
Linkedin: PerkinsCoieLLP
Twitter: @PerkinsCoieLLP
Facebook: Perkins Coie LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • 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 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • 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 3)
    • 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 3)
    • Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (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 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Registered Funds (Band 4)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (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)