With 25 offices and counting, from Philadelphia to Moscow, this genuine pro bono lover offers its associates an “adventure.”
FOUNDED in Philadelphia in March 1873 by a Civil War veteran (Mr Morgan) and a cotton merchant's son (Mr Lewis), Morgan Lewis & Bockius is today one of the nation's biggest BigLaw firms (Mr Bockius joined in 1883, in case you were wondering). Recently, this firm has represented such business giants as HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, American Airlines and Shell. In fact, it counts as clients over half of the Fortune 100 companies, including nine of the top ten and 16 of the top 20. In summer 2013, Morgan Lewis hit the mainstream news when it took over TV chef Paula Deen's defense against racial slur allegations.
Morgan Lewis holds top-tier Chambers USA rankings in areas including labor & employment (for which it is particularly well known), litigation, immigration, energy and corporate/M&A. Most of the firm's almost 1,300 attorneys are based at home along the Eastern Seaboard, but hefty chunks (around 440 in total) are also in California, Texas, Illinois and Florida. Internationally, Morgan Lewis is on the ground in China, Central Asia, Russia, Japan, the UAE, mainland Europe and the UK.
Most juniors were based in the litigation, business & finance and labor & employment groups. There were also some in IP, investment management, personal law, tax controversy, FDA, real estate and energy. Litigators in the Philly office often see clients with a focus on healthcare and pharmaceuticals, among them AstraZeneca and Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen. Work can include corporate/government investigations and class actions, and sometimes "international cases where you take on a junior role. There's also a lot of national work." As well as the big cases, litigators may represent individuals, for example in white-collar cases. "It's a full-scale shop," one reported. "We do pretty much everything except divorces." New York and DC, meanwhile, attract financial clients including Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase, although there's a varied amount of work from other industries too. Interviewees liked getting early responsibility: “Within my first year I was doing depositions potentially on my own," said one. That word "potentially" suggests a reassuring backup safety net, if required. "The cases wouldn't be thrilling, but the fact that I could do it in my first year made it an unparalleled experience.”
The labor & employment department acts for some big-business clients, including American Airlines, Toyota, Dell and Philips, usually defending them against class actions and smaller plaintiff cases (like whistle-blowers). New York has more of a financial focus, with Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citigroup among those on the firm's Rolodex. "I haven’t had any international work," sources revealed. "Clients are all over the country. The work is usually regional and national. I really enjoy working in smaller groups because on a massive team you can get lost in the shuffle." Another savored one "high-profile" case in particular: "It wasn't so much the case itself, it was more that I got to be involved on a substantive and strategic level."
Business & finance juniors are subdivided into corporate, finance & restructuring and energy transactions subgroups, with the vast majority doing corporate work. A corporate junior helpfully explained: "We work on securities, M&A and startup companies, and I've gotten a good bit of experience on all three." Work-wise, "it's definitely regional, as you can imagine, but the clients we have are all over the country."
All but the smallest practices have their work officially divvied out with the help of a workload coordinator; associates generally rank their availability each week. However, sources stressed that with experience they tended to get work “much more organically,” and "if you work with another associate, usually they will come back to you. Everyone here is pretty open, so you can say when you are too busy to take on more work."
Training & Development
Feedback on training tended to vary, with juniors in larger groups like litigation and labor & employment reporting more in-depth and formalized training, and smaller ones describing a less rigid, informal process. A litigator spoke warmly of their experience: “I think the firm is really good with offering training to young and midlevel associates, often more than people need.” Another said it “ranges from deposition training to skills-based training like conducting internal investigations. If you want it, it's there!” All interviewees reported that they're often given more general administration-based training, before receiving more practice group-specific instructions.
Across the board, associates reported being provided with both a senior associate (known as a “buddy”) and partner mentors, with most saying that this resource was “make what you want of it.” One expressed this candidly: “Was I in over my head? Probably. Did I feel like it? No. I feel like I get enough support.”
The firm's Philadelphia head office at 17th and Market has the largest collection of junior associates in litigation, business & finance (corporate) and labor & employment. While “not the most esthetically pleasing,” the Philly office does fill an entire building which “spans the length of the block,” associates said. The HQ also boasts particularly convenient transport links, with a subway station below.
Elsewhere, the DC base has “glassy, modern” interiors with juniors focusing more on litigation and labor & employment, and the Miami office has “beautiful” sea-view panoramas. Meanwhile, the views from the San Fran office are are so incredible that “you get distracted during deposition interviews because of how stunning they are.” In total, Morgan Lewis has 25 offices – nine of which are overseas. We heard there's a great deal of collaboration between many of them, with sources reporting that they “often get cases originating from other offices.” Chair Fran Milone confirms: “Collaboration is an important part of our culture.”
Associates described a relatively “casual” atmosphere: “You don't see a lot of suits and ties and you find that people use their first names.” One commented: “I thought the people were a bit more relaxed than in other firms but they had every reason to be pompous because they do cutting-edge work and are a big firm.” Happy hours, cocktail nights and staff lunches are common, and apparently an ice cream cart makes weekly rounds of the DC office.
However, “I think the firm is spartan in terms of perks,” several said. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though: “In the grand scheme of things, I'd like a firm that's financially conservative – there have been no attorney layoffs that aren't related to performance, and I feel safe in my job.” Others agreed: “I feel confident they are forward-thinking and financially conservative. Everyone hears about the law firms that implode, and our firm takes the time to study those. Long-term, I feel confident.”
Hours & Compensation
While there's no billable hours requirement at Morgan Lewis, sources generally felt they should bill around the 2,000-hour mark, but this figure wasn't something they had to hit “or else.” Hours vary, with one litigator reporting: “It tends to depend on the cases, but occasionally there are what I like to call 'self-created fire drills' where it's your fault for not planning in advance.” Juniors said there's an okay work/life balance in the main, but like any client-driven business sometimes deadlines are tight: “The issue is that with a lot of clients there are Monday morning deadlines, so although I'm not billing 3,000 hours per year, I wouldn't go home on a weekend without bringing my computer.”
Once associates in Pennsylvania breach the 2,000-hour mark, they become eligible for the “standard” bonus, and after that they can get a “discretionary” bonus based on their performance. Elsewhere, the bonus is purely discretionary. Some sources complained that bonuses were delivered late in comparison to other firms and that sometimes they were unsure about how they were allocated: “It's frustrating and confusing.” Despite this, one associate pointed out that, “even though there is a mystery about how the bonuses are given out, they tend to be generous and above market rate, and people tend to be satisfied.”
“Pro bono is one of the biggest things at this firm,” said multiple sources. “I know every firm says it pushes for it – but this firm is unique.” And while “unique” might be too strong a word, Morgan Lewis is certainly committed. According to one associate, “all of our hours here factor into our billable hours, 100%, no questions asked.” The firm is “nothing but enthusiastic. They'll send out details via e-mail, and you can choose your own adventure!” Junior associates are encouraged to take on pro bono cases as a way of gaining more experience: “It's a way to get a lot of experience very early.” The rationale is, as one source asserted, that “on the bigger cases our clients will want the best – someone with experience. For less senior associates, the way to get that experience is through pro bono.”
Pro bono hours
For all attorneys across all US offices: 64,702
Average per US attorney: 51
Morgan Lewis's newly elected female chair, Jami Wintz McKeon, will take the reins from Fran Milone in October 2014. One source said the firm is “certainly more diverse than other firms I've been around, at least at the BigLaw firms.” Generally women were reported to be pretty well represented – especially at associate level where the split is roughly 50/50. “Gender diversity is definitely there.” One source in one particular group in one particular office stated that: “We have substantially more female than male associates, but it's kind of the reverse for partners.” Another said: “The firm is looking for ways to encourage women to make them move from associate to partnership level, while also balancing the demands of a family and having children if they choose to.”
Morgan Lewis typically hires through summer programs and OCIs. Firmwide hiring partner Rahul Kapoor says: “The majority of our entry-level associates joins the firm through the summer program, but at times when there is an immediate need we will interview the 3L graduating class.” Between 55 to 65 students are admitted into the summer program each year. The firm attends around 28 law schools for OCIs, but encourages those who can't make it to send them a written application. Kapoor says: “This year we saw around 3,800 applications, and approximately 1,500 of those were from OCIs. The vast majority of callback interviews are from OCIs and approximately 25% of these students get called back for a full round of interviews. The callback rate for write-in applications is less than 5%.” According to Kapoor, the firm uses behavioral interview techniques, “so questions are tailored to each student's resume and attempt to delve into their past experiences in order to determine if it will indicate similar future success at the firm.”
What's the ideal candidate? “We are looking for future leaders of the firm. Ideal candidates possess outstanding academic achievement, clear communication skills, good analytical abilities, a strong commitment to client service, and the ability to succeed in a collaborative environment. We are looking for individuals who take ownership of a project and follow it through to the end.”
Strategy & Future
Morgan Lewis has further growth on the horizon, with a focus on international expansion. The opening of new offices in Almaty and Moscow in 2012 and Dubai in 2013 has set a precedent for such advancement. Fran Milone says: “We will continue to expand our capacity and footprint outside of the US.”
On the firm's practice areas, Milone says: “The litigation practice – and that entails IP, commercial litigation, financial services litigation, securities, white-collar, products and employment – continues to be very strong and successful. That being said, our energy practice continues to thrive and finance is also growing rapidly – the new Moscow and Dubai offices focus on these areas. As we expand, finance will inevitably play a bigger part, as will energy and corporate.”
Recent Work Highlights
Recent Work Highlights
Training & Development
Feedback is formally delivered through a smaller six-month review in a new associate's first year, followed by a regular annual review. Informally, though, feedback was described as “tough to get.” One source offered their opinion: “I think it's because if you do a good job, the partners won't pat you on the back – they will reward you with more work.”
According to HP Rahul Kapoor, the firm uses behavioral interview techniques, “so questions are tailored to each student's resume and attempt to delve into their past experiences in order to determine if it will indicate similar future success at the firm.”
The firm has a very strong focus on client service, shown through its new Summer Experience Program which offers summer associates three options. They can spend the entire ten weeks with the firm or participate in the traditional PICS [public interest and community service] program, which includes six weeks with the firm and four weeks in a public interest position. The third option provides the summer with the chance to spend six weeks with the firm and four weeks with a client.
Kapoor says: “We believe our Client Experience Program (CEP) is unique in the country and provides our summer associates with an opportunity to understand and appreciate the challenges of a client’s business at an early stage in their legal career. Interactions with firm clients through the CEP provides our summers with an additional tool in maximizing their professional development.”
Morgan Lewis and the Public Good
In 2013, Morgan Lewis lawyers contributed over 71,000 hours to pro bono representations, valued at tens of millions of dollars. The firm is also a signatory of the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, and over the last year it pledged to spend at least 3% of its billable hours on pro bono matters – at Morgan Lewis, all pro bono hours count toward billables.
Cases at Morgan Lewis have ranged from the more local provision of assistance to the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina to the rescue of those in need a little further afield. From Honduras – issuing an asylum petition for a minor who survived being shot eight times by gang members – to Cameroon – petitioning on behalf of a woman who was in danger of female genital mutilation – the firm is involved in pro bono work across the globe.
Morgan Lewis also offers pro bono work to their most junior lawyers – the summer associates. Through the Community Experience for summer associates, they can choose to forgo the traditional full-summer experience; they can trade it for the opportunity to work alongside the seasoned Morgan Lewis lawyers for the first half, and take part in a full-time assignment with a non-profit organization for the second.
One interesting pro bono case we came across involved the Special Court for Sierra Leone and brutal Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. The firm acted as an independent assistant to the UN war crimes tribunal – which was judging whether an investigator for Charles Taylor had interfered with witnesses against the former president.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Morgan Lewis has won a variety of awards for its activities in this sphere.
Hollywood too has taken an interest; Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are set to star as Morgan Lewis partners Michael Banks and Gordon Cooney in a movie about their pro bono work in overturning a death penalty murder conviction. These two lawyers spent a total of 14 years representing John Thompson, a man from New Orleans who had been convicted in 1984 of the shooting death of a local hotel executive.
Weeks before Thompson was due to be executed, a private detective uncovered prosecutorial misconduct which resulted in the judge abandoning the death penalty. Following a retrial, Thompson was found not guilty and has since been released.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
1701 Market Street,
- Head Office: Philadelphia
- Number of domestic offices: 16
- Number of international offices: 9
- Partners (US): 446
- Associates (US): 703
- Summer Salary 2014
- 1Ls: $2,900-$3,080/week
- 2Ls: $2,900-$3,080/week
- 1Ls hired? Case by case
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2014: 62
- Offers/acceptances 2013: 50 offers, 49 acceptances
Main areas of work
Morgan Lewis provides comprehensive litigation, transactional, regulatory, intellectual property, and labor and employment services to clients of all sizes – from globally established industry leaders to just-conceived startups. Our international team of lawyers and other specialists support clients across a wide range of industries, including financial services, energy, defense, healthcare, life sciences, retail, and technology.
Founded in 1873, Morgan Lewis has over 1,600 legal professionals in 25 offi ces across the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The fi rm’s client list includes nearly half of the Global 25, some two-thirds of the Fortune 100, and many top emerging businesses.
Number of 1st year associates: 69
Number of 2nd year associates: 74
Associate salaries: 1st year: $145,000 - $160,000
2nd year: $150,000 - $170,000
Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2014:
Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Davis, Duke, Florida, Fordham, GW, Georgetown, Harvard, Hastings, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Miami, Michigan, NYU, Northwestern, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Santa Clara, Stanford, Southern Methodist, Temple, Texas, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, USF, UVA, Villanova.
Summer associate profile:
Highly motivated individuals from diverse backgrounds who have a record of outstanding academic achievement, as well as superior writing and analytical skills, a commitment to client service, 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 multi-day 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 “ML Summer Experience” with the option of either spending the entire summer at the firm or spending a portion of the summer working on-site with a firm client or with a public interest organization. The client experience facilitates professional development by providing a deeper understanding of the operations and issues handled by in house legal departments. 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, as well as learn about substantive practice areas. Summer associates also participate in a variety of office social events to learn more about the firm and our lawyers.