Vedder Price - The Inside View

They’re soaring, flying – there’s not a deal in transportation that Vedder can’t reach, but that's not the only talent covered in this Chicagoan's fleet.

CHICAGO-born Vedder Price is “known throughout the world” for its transportation finance practice, especially in aviation. Associates in this practice were thrilled to be “working at an industry leader: the people I'm surrounded by are the masters of what they do! Very few people come into transportation finance with some sort of background in it, and it's not an area that gets much press or publicity in the mainstream. I've managed to learn so much about the industry and how it affects the economy – there's never been a dull moment!”

Though it earned its wings in aviation, Vedder is soaring in more ways than one. The firm offers “a full-service suite” that spans a host of practices within its corporate, litigation and labor & employment departments, as well as many sectors beyond transportation: insurance, healthcare and biotechnology to name a few. In addition to its first-class nationwide ranking in aviation finance, Vedder maintains Chambers USA nods in areas such as white-collar crime, corporate/M&A & private equity, banking & finance, and employee benefits & executive compensation.

As well as being attracted to its reputation and more navigable size, the associates we spoke to were excited about the prospect of staying at Vedder for the long haul: “I landed at a place where the goal is to make everyone a shareholder one day. It makes you want to come to work every day when the firm is rooting for you to succeed and become a shareholder.”

Strategy & Future



“The firm is managed conservatively,” associates told us. “Vedder's not trying to take over the world or move into every market. We're focusing on continuing our good work in the spaces we already focus on.” Operating shareholder Doug Hambleton echoes these sentiments: “One of our strategies is to keep up our edge in the aviation practice by focusing on incremental growth. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” With our readership in mind, Hambleton tells us that Vedder can offer students “something increasingly rare among law firms – a very vibrant, sophisticated midsized platform.”

"It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Offices



Vedder's 187-lawyer Chicago HQ is flanked by four other domestic offices – two on the East Coast in New York and DC, and two on the West Coast in LA and San Francisco. The majority of associates, however, end up in the Chicago office (only two on our list of second and third years were based in New York, while one resided in DC). All associates get their own office from day one, but some do have to wait for a few years until they're upgraded to an office with a window. Chicagoans are based in “the perfect location: right downtown by the river in the 'Loop,' which is easy to get to and has lots of restaurants nearby.” The offices here are currently being remodeled: “Things are becoming more modern, with white walls and brighter spaces replacing the dark wood. They're also in the process of creating more windowed offices for associates.”

The Work



Two-thirds of the juniors on our list were assigned to its corporate department, which contains a range of subgroups: capital markets & securities; finance & transactions; global transportation finance (GTF); healthcare; and investment services. The rest of our sample were split between Vedder's labor & employment, litigation and IP practices. All groups run a free-market system of assignment: “It's pretty organic. There's no central hub for getting work, which has pluses and minuses, but it gives you more agency to choose what you want to do.”

Under the umbrella of corporate, the GTF and finance & transactions subgroups housed the most juniors. “Our group is definitely a niche for sure,” said juniors in GTF. The group works with many a high-flying name in the finance and transportation sectors, including Air Canada, Macquarie Bank and Citibank. “Working for big clients is pretty exciting,” sources added, “as you get to have one-on-one interaction with the directors of these major corporations.” As well as getting this “significant client contact early on,” associates can expect to delve into tasks such as drafting credit and security agreements and managing deal closings: “When matters close it's your role to coordinate with local counsel in various jurisdictions. In any given day I'll be working with people in Egypt, Ireland, London – wherever the aircraft is!”

Within finance & transactions there are further subgroups: “M&A; corporate finance; and healthcare & regulatory compliance. It's very specialized, but as a junior you get to work across all three areas – you're a jack of all trades, but master of none – mastering takes time.” On the M&A side there's a lot of private equity work that sees juniors “crawling before we walk: doing diligence is necessary to understand how corporate formation works. You get to see what the implications are of different structures like LLPs, for example.” Other tasks included drafting agreements, making and monitoring checklists, and managing the signature documents during closings.

“I'll be working with people in Egypt, Ireland, London – wherever the aircraft is!”

There's some freedom of movement between the litigation and labor & employment groups at Vedder. On the litigation side, “we do a bit of everything – there's some real estate/construction work, a lot of contracts disputes – especially over restrictive covenants – and recently we've been getting into the data privacy area as well.” Juniors admitted that they do “a lot of doc review,” but much more besides: “Matters here are staffed pretty leanly, so I've drafted briefs and motions from scratch, taken a couple depositions and second-chaired a trial after just six months of being here!” Those who'd sampled labor & employment work had encountered discrimination and harassment cases, and hosted employment counseling sessions for clients.

Pro Bono



Vedder increased its number of billable pro bono hours from 30 to 60 in 2016. Associates appreciated the increase but noted that “it’s still a pretty small number.” One associate told us: “For one case I billed 150 hours. There are a lot of people in my community that require pro bono assistance but I have to limit it. There's a chance they'll up it again in the future but for now it’s a frustrating shortcoming.”

“There's a little bit of everything.”

“The amount of credit you get is not liberal but the opportunities you get are,” juniors insisted. “We have a pro bono committee and the chair of that committee sends out regular lists of available cases. There's a little bit of everything: prisoners' rights cases, employment discrimination matters, interesting ABA projects…”

Training & Feedback



The first week or so is all about “getting acclimated to all the different departments and the resources you have at your disposal – it's crucial to understand the software you're using!” After this settling-in period,associates can expect “pretty frequent in-house CLE sessions” that give them a “detailed understanding” of topics related to their practice area and the current market: “They might be on things like how to evaluate an insurance certificate, or how to better understand our clients. We recently had one on cryptocurrency asit’s taking over and everyone’s talking about it!”

A lot of praise was also bestowed on mentors, both formal and informal. On the formal side, juniors are appointed a senior associate mentor:“It's definitely helpful to have someone you can pose questions to and help you figure out how things work.” Informally, we heard that seniors often go out of their way to take associates under their wing: “I had a shareholder reach out to work with me on a monthly basis and orient me in this world of big regulatory issues.”

Hours & Compensation



After bumping up associate salaries to match the Cravath scale, Vedder raised its bonus eligibility threshold from 1,850 to 2,000 hours in 2017. Following their first year of trying to hit the new target, junior responses were mixed. Those in corporate subgroups like investment services and GTF told us: “No one hurts for hours and most associates can hit 2,000 without a problem,” whileothers revealed that “the general consensus for litigation and employment is that it's a lot harder to hit your hours – I'm just barely squeaking into bonus territory this year!” Keeping up with colleagues was advised, and associates receive “anonymous hours reports each month” to give them a clear sense of what the average in their group is.

“No one's expecting you to stay at your desk all night.”

Associates are typically in the office between 9am and 7pm each day, and top that up with a couple more hours at home most nights. Vedder buys dinner for anyone staying after 7pm, but many associates told us they'd “never used it because no one’s expecting you to stay at your desk all night. There's no reason to be in the office until 11pm unless a transaction or filing needs to be tied up.” Those in litigation, labor & employment and even some corporate subgroups like investment services flagged the consistency of their hours, “which makes for a nicer lifestyle.”

Culture



“The Midwest has a colder feel in general, but Vedder is a friendly and warm place,” said our cheery sources. This level of perkiness was buoyed by the fact that “everyone’s close – there's no competitive edge to the culture here.” To exemplify this, interviewees told us that “there’s a class of attorneys here who started as summers together and now they’re shareholders together. It’s nice to see that they were able to cultivate relationships and not compete against each other, but support each other instead.” At the same time, an entrepreneurial approach is encouraged: “You can make your practice what you want it to be. If you have an idea about something you can make your case and they'll support it.”

“You can come in, do your work, go home and have your life.”

Associates also noted that Vedder’s “a firm where you can come in, do your work, go home and have your life. It's not a firm that tries to monopolize your time. It's very businesslike in that way, which I appreciate.”

Diversity



The firm does have an overarching diversity committee that implements and monitors initiatives, and the one our sources highlighted the most was 'WAVES' – Vedder's women's initiative, which stands for 'Women at Vedder Empowering Success.' “It's a good program as it's led by senior female shareholders. There's an event every other month, whether it's a book group discussion of 'Lean In' or a meeting on how women have furthered their careers at the firm. It provides informal mentorship and a good opportunity to ask questions.” On the recruitment side, Vedder recently extended its diversity scholarship to cover a summer position in its New York office, on top of the one it already offered in Chicago.

Get Hired



Everybody knows that during law school “you have to attain certain grades to get interviews with firms.” However, Vedder additionally values candidates with relevant work experience on their resumes.Hiring partner Michael Waters explains why it's important: “Because we hire by practice area, we like candidates who can demonstrate knowledge and experience in that area. If you’re interested in labor and employment work and you've worked at an employment law firm or in a company’s human resources department last summer, that might set you apart.”Most importantly, students should research Vedder thoroughly beforehand: “They value people who know about the firm and have a clear idea about which group they want to be in – there’s no rotation program for summers, so you need to know straight away.”

 

Vedder Price

222 North LaSalle Street,
Chicago,
IL 60601
Website www.vedderprice.com

  • Head Office: Chicago, IL
  • Number of domestic offices: 5
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $252 million
  • Shareholders (US): 160
  • Associates (US): 126
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contacts: Amanda Brummel (abrummel@vedderprice.com), Elise Rippe (erippe@vedderprice.com) Managers of Legal Recruiting
  • Hiring shareholder: Michael J. Waters
  • Diversity officer: Jeanah Park, Shareholder
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 12
  • Clerking policy: No
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
  • 1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 11
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
  • CH: 9, NY: 4
  • Summer salary 2018:
  • 1Ls: $3,462/wk
  • 2Ls: $3,462/wk
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work



 Corporate, labor and employment, litigation.

Firm profile



 Vedder Price is a business-focused law firm with a global reach and a proud tradition of maintaining long-term client relationships. With approximately 300 attorneys and growing, Vedder Price serves clients of all sizes and in virtually all industries from offices in Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Singapore.

Recruitment



Law schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
■ Brooklyn
■ Chicago-Kent
■ Cornell
■ Fordham
■ George Washington
■ Georgetown
■ Loyola
■ Northwestern
■ Notre Dame
■ University of Chicago
■ University of Illinois
■ University of Michigan
■ Washington University in St. Louis

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Participation in Cook County Minority Job Fair and Loyola Patent Law Program; 2L write-in applications accepted after July 15th.

Summer associate profile:
Vedder Price recruits candidates with strong academic credentials, excellent verbal and written communication skills, initiative and enthusiasm. Ideal candidates have a demonstrated interest in the practice area they are applying for, as evidenced by relevant course work and/or prior work experience. As summer associates will interact immediately with senior shareholders and clients, executive presence and maturity are valued.

Summer program components:
Summer associates are integrated quickly into the practice area they are joining, through substantive work assignments, observation opportunities and training sessions. Summer associates will work with an assigned associate advisor to receive practical advice and guidance. A firm-wide summer program orientation is hosted in Chicago during the first week of the program for the full summer class to meet each other and engage with firm management. There are two formal review sessions, one at mid-summer and the other at the completion of the program, incorporating written attorney feedback regarding each completed project. Social events are frequent, both office-wide and in small groups, to ensure summer associates enjoy the collegiality of the firm.

Social Media



Recruitment website: www.vedderprice.com/careers
Twitter: @vedderlaw
Facebook: VedderLaw
Linkedin: vedder-price-pc and vedder-price-pc/jobs

This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation Recognised Practitioner
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 2)