Venable LLP - The Inside View

Venable takes the slow and steady approach to growth upon a strong foundation of domestic clout.

Picture a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles: one labeled with a solid domestic network, the second with headquarters in DC, and the third with roots in Baltimore, Maryland. In the middle, you’ll find Venable. It’s a Venable diagram, if you will. For 120 years, the Baltimore-founded firm has grown steadily, casting a shrewd eye on expansion and eschewing a sprawling international presence for a solid domestic network straddling both the East and West Coasts. “We’re not constantly expanding and buying other firms and becoming an international behemoth,” explained one associate. “We grow slowly, incrementally, and strategically.” One such “smart, strategic step” did take place in 2018 when the firm acquired esteemed IP outfit Fitzpatrick, beckoning in over 100 IP practitioners, further bolstering Venable’s IP offering. One interviewee noted the move has had a “profound effect” on the work the firm now offers nationwide.

“We grow slowly, incrementally, and strategically.”

Four broad divisions characterize the work the firm does: business, regulatory, litigation, and IP. Associates are spread across more than 20 practice areas across these areas, with commercial litigation accounting for a fifth of juniors on our list. Corporate, IP litigation and tax were also common destinations.

Chambers USA accordingly recognizes the firm for this wide spread of practices, with top rankings going to Venable’s REITs practice, and more nationwide accolades in advertising, privacy and data security, and product liability. The firm also has regulatory and litigious expertise in energy and the food and beverages industry. In Maryland – where Venable has offices in Baltimore and Towson – the firm gets top-tier rankings in corporate/M&A and employee benefits & executive compensation. DC alsoscoops notable awards for its IP and real estate work.

Strategy & Future



Sticking with the theme of slow, strategic growth, sources note the firm is in “good financial shape” and, pandemic notwithstanding, “will be looking to expand” potentiallyinto long-discussed bases. This plan resulted in the firm opening a new office in Chicago in December 2020. One source summed up the firm’s approach: “Like we did in New York and LA[which both opened in the mid-noughties], we take an already established office, acquire it, and make them into Venable attorneys.”

The Work



The firm’s HQ in DC housed most juniors at the time of our interviews, followed by New York, Baltimore, and LA. Just two or three associates were based in San Francisco and Tysons, Northern Virginia. And while broadly similar, work differs slightly across the bases. We heard Baltimore described as a “products liability hub,” whereas DC is known for its regulatory purview, covering subdivisions like energy, environmental, and government contract work. Unsurprisingly, the LA office sees a lot of entertainment and high net worth clients, while New York provides a broad IP and securities offering.

Before joining, incoming associates rank their preferred practice group destinations from one to three. “You’re not guaranteed that preference,” sources cautioned, “but almost everyone gets theirs.” Across the groups and offices, work assignment differs slightly. Commercial litigation associates said there’s “no real formal assignment process – it requires you to take the lead.” We heard the corporate group recently introduced staffing partners in each office to allocate work and “make sure there’s fairer distribution.”

“They don’t just plug you into one subgroup.”

“What I like about the corporate group is that they don’t just plug you into one subgroup,” one source reflected. “So you’re not just doing IPOs or securities. They want the first three years to be about exposure.” This allowed juniors a chance to get their hands on anything falling under the corporate banner, whether that was M&A, corporate governance, or REITs. Juniors spoke of a “nice blend of national and localized clientele. I’ve been on M&A deals with local dental practices being sold, for example, but they’re the exception not the rule.” Examples of the types of nationwide clients the firm works with include real estate developers and technology companies. Juniors got their teeth stuck into writing advice for boards of directors and conducting due diligence on opinions for potential acquisitions. The latter type of task – “data room diligence and disclosure schedules” – is typical for junior associates on deals but we also heard of interviewees happily “helping draft proxy and research securities statements.”

Corporate clients: GenRock Capital Management, Trade Point Atlantic, Blackstone Mortgage Trust. Venable represented Wayside Technology Group on its $22 million acquisitions of the American and Canadian affiliates of Interwork Technologies and UK-based CDF Group.

The commercial litigationgroup covers a similarly wide range. In New York, the group focuses on financial disputes, consumer protection cases, and civil litigation cases for nonprofit organizations. Those based in LA focus more on disputes from clients in the media and entertainment space. For junior interviewees, “standard breach of contract cases, tortious interference, and business tort cases” colored the quotidian. Our sources characterized their day to day in the group as “standard junior tasks alongside legal research and substantive drafting experience.” Among those junior tasks, discovery issues and document review took center stage; while the more hands-on work also included deposition prep, helping to draft cross-examinations of opposing counsel’s witnesses, and assisting with editing expert witness testimonies for summary judgment briefings. “I second-chaired a deposition as a first-year,” one pleased respondent said. “I also got to draft a substantial portion of a motion to dismiss.”

“I second-chaired a deposition as a first-year.”

Litigation clients: Morgan Stanley, Marriott International, Brooklyn Public Library. The firm represented the estate of artist Robert Indiana in two litigations and an arbitration related to disputes over the rights to reproduce his work.

The IP litigationgroup handles disputes covering patents, trademarks, trade secrets, domain name disputes, unfair competition, and copyright. Alongside the strength of its patent practice, sources in this group highlighted Venable’s life sciences practice and pharmaceutical clients as a big draw. For juniors, work tends to be either patent prosecution or litigation. “Some partners do both,” a source said, “and while there’s a little bit of crossover with IPRs [intellectual property rights], you’re usually doing one or the other.” Client-wise, the firm advises a lot of pharmaceutical names “working with vaccines and oral drugs,” as well as companies producing more general products, like tire manufacturers.

IP litigation clients: Car company FCA US, telecommunications company Verizon, medical device manufacturer Arthrex. The firm defended Schaeffler against allegations of patent infringement from a competitor company.

The firm’s regulatory remit straddles a wide berth with subgroups in energy, international trade, and governmental work. Under the last of these, government contracts, cybersecurity, and data privacy matters kept our interviewees busy. Those in government contracts had worked with “contractors who manufacture body armor, weapon systems, IT and other services.” Sources described getting to grips with “all aspects” of contractual work: “We help review bid proposals to be compliant, protest unsuccessful contract applications, and handle disputes when contracts break down or are unfulfilled.” Lobbyist compliance and financial disclosure rules for government candidates were also common for the group.

Regulatory clients: BP Products, United Airlines, Association of National Advertisers. Venable recently advised media company Comscore on compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act.   

Career Development



Our sources collectively praised the firm’s professional development resources. “It’s been one of the most striking aspects since joining,” a lateral hire told us. Another felt "they really take the time to develop junior associates. If I have a question with answers A, B, or C, a partner could just say ‘it’s C,’ but they explain why and show their reasoning.” More formally, associates praised the efforts of the firm’s professional development team in “helping realize professional goals,” as well as the training sessions on offer, such as lectures on writing. Sources pointed out that these kinds of formal training programs occur in first year only – it all becomes more informal from then on. “It’s kind of up to you at that point to seek out advice for improvement,” one noted.

Despite all of this praise, criticism did emerge around the topic of the partnership track. “There could be more clarity,” one source felt. “I’m hoping to make partner but there’s not much insight into the process.” Sources roughly estimated they needed to put in eight years of hard work before making counsel, then there’s “generally a two-year purgatory before being promoted to non-equity partner.”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,900 requirement (1,800 first year; 1,950 to be bonus-eligible)

The COVID-19 crisis impacted compensation at several firms. At Venable, associates did have a salary cut but were subsequently reimbursed and had the previous full salary reinstated. “The bonus isn’t market rate,” we heard from various sources, “so the firm has to attract talent through other means – the work/life balance is the draw.”

“As long as you’re meeting deadlines, people aren’t expecting you to be glued in 24 hours a day.”

And it was a fair trade as far as some were concerned. “I’m not working the hours that friends are at other firms,” said one. Another pointed out that “as long as you’re meeting deadlines, people aren’t expecting you to be glued in 24 hours a day.” Others however were finding themselves busier than usual in light of COVID-19. “I have billed more during the pandemic,” a litigator shared. “If it’s quiet, it’s the calm before the storm.” Our survey showed associates worked an average of 49 hours in a week. In the constant tussle for talent in the legal industry, some wondered if this was to Venable’s detriment: “It gets to the point that if you’re billing the same as a friend at another firm who gets $30,000 more, you might consider switching.”

Pro Bono



Associates can count 50 pro bono hours toward their billing target (we heard in some “high interest projects” this can stretch to 100 hours). Opportunities are sent out weekly from a coordinator based in DC, which reportedly does a lot of work with landlord/tenant and consumer clinics. The associates we spoke to had also gotten involved in projects with Catholic relief services, expungement cases in Baltimore, and “work with developing companies without startup capital.” There were also general criminal cases that aren’t “specific to any industry,” and a significant amount of immigration work.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 30,416
  • Average per (US) attorney: 38.12

Culture



"Rather than just seeing you as meat for the grinder, they really do seem to care about you as a person,” according to one thankful junior.Whether in the office or working from home, sources highlighted the firm’s “collaborative approach,” noting the open-door policy that characterizes life across the offices. But as one realist wanted to highlight, “just because you aren’t yelled at daily doesn’t mean it isn’t overly stressful!” However “for the most part, the place is full of real and genuine people who also have lives outside the firm.”

“Attorneys of color read children’s books over Zoom about racial justice to other attorney’s children.”

Prior to the pandemic, we heard these lives included each other, with a source highlighting that there “are people at the firm who I will grab lunch or drinks with in a non-office setting.” Happy hours, practice group dinners, or event-based socializing (like whiskey tasting) kept associates bonding in previous years. Sports teams are also part of the equation, with the famed bocce tournament described as a summer highlight for many – DC and Baltimore even have their own courts! During the crisis, sources commended the firm for keeping an open dialogue through town-hall meetings, weekly Zoom calls among certain practice groups, and remote happy hours, “just to stay in touch.”

Diversity & Inclusion



While sources acknowledged Venable has greater female representation among associates, they noticed “the firm lacks a lot of diversity in partnership.” Our stats show 91% of partners are white. "We could always do better with recruiting,” one source noted. That said, sources did champion the firm’s response to the civil unrest witnessed across the US in 2020, with focus groups, discussion panels, and initiatives centered around diversity. This included a reading program, which was “organized so that attorneys of color read children’s books over Zoom about racial justice to other attorney’s children.” Associates also commended Venable’sgender-neutral bathrooms, the firmwide recognition of Pride week, and unconscious bias training.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 893

Interviewees outside OCI: 32

Hiring partner Ellen Berge tells us: “While there is an emphasis on recruiting from local schools in each of our markets, we make a conscientious effort to review write-in candidates and candidates coming through resume drops in real-time.” She adds: “Typically, we like for students to be in the top of the class, but we’re not restricted to recruiting from the T14.  Most of our entry-level class is filled by former summer associates, but we do go to the market for clerks on occasion.”

Associates revealed: “Particularly in Baltimore the number one thing we’re looking for is a commitment to the region. We want to make sure people won’t leave after a couple of years.” Berge adds: “During OCI, we’re looking for folks who are comfortable, poised, and able to articulate their interest in the firm and in BigLaw generally. It is important that candidates demonstrate a good academic record, but also be well-rounded and focused.”

Top tips for this stage:

"It sounds obvious, but be ready to explain your path to law school, prior work experience, extracurricular involvement, and interest in the firm." —hiring partner Ellen Berge.

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 317

Berge explains: “We have two options for callback interviews. The first is an interview event where candidates individually meet with four attorneys and one member of the recruiting team in our office. Events generally conclude with either a luncheon reception or a cocktail reception. These events allow students to meet more attorneys at the firm, observe how our attorneys interact with one another, and get to know potential summer classmates and peers.” The second option is a traditional interview, structured the same way, but without the social gathering afterwards.

When it comes to the interview questions themselves Berge tells us: “At this stage they tend to be more open-ended and may focus on a candidate’s particular practice group interests and assessing whether they’re the type of candidate who will thrive in Venable’s environment. For example, candidates may be asked to describe an instance where they had competing deliverable deadlines or a time when they disagreed with a peer on the approach to a group project and how they navigated that collaboration.” Associates said: “It’s important to be upfront about which practice areas you’re interested in so that you can meet individuals and get a feel for the teamWhen I know people are interested in certain areas I’ll channel them towards the right people in happy hours and so on.”

Top tips for this stage:

"Do your homework. Research the firm’s practice areas and be able to articulate why you are interested in Venable specifically and why you’re interested in the market in which you’re interviewing (if it’s not obvious from your resume). Be genuine, candid, and don’t hesitate to ask questions." —hiring partner Ellen Berge.

Summer program

Offers: 103

Acceptances: 46

Our program is designed to give summer associates a realistic depiction of what everyday life is like as a junior associate. In each of our offices, summer associates are given the opportunity to work on assignments across practice groups,” Berge summarizes. “Summer associates receive real work assignments on behalf of real clients — the same type of assignments our junior associates receive throughout the year.” She adds: “Building professional relationships is another essential part of the summer associate program. Informal dinners, happy hours, and lunches are some of the best ways for the summer associates to get to know our attorneys.

Top tips for this stage:

"Ten weeks goes by quickly, so take every opportunity to get to know your peers and attorneys! Even if you have a particular practice group focus, we encourage summers to try a little bit of everything. Taking work from different groups not only gives summers a wider social network when they return to the firm as first years, but gives the Hiring Committee a full portfolio on which the summer can be evaluated." —hiring partner Ellen Berge.

And finally…

When I was a student – and this goes for all law firms – I didn’t realize that they keep track of who attends open-house events or the hospitality suite or table at an OCI event. Soft networking all counts and firms do take note.” – a second year associate.

 

Venable LLP

600 Massachusetts Avenue,
Washington, DC,
20001
Website www.venable.com

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 9
  • Worldwide revenue: $681.9M
  • Partners (US): 360
  • Associates (US): 302
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Melissa Meyer, Director of Associate Recruiting mnmeyer@venable.com
  • Hiring partner: Robert Bolger, Jr.
  • Diversity officers: Nora Garrote, Milo Cividanes, Lisa Tavares
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 62
  • Clerking policy: Yes Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 52
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: DC:17, TY: 3, BA:9, NY:13, LA:6, SF:4
  • Summer salary 2021: $3,650 per week
  • Split summers offered? Determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work




Our clients rely on Venable’s proven capabilities in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property, and regulatory and government affairs.

Firm profile




With over 800 attorneys in nine offices across the country, we are strategically positioned to advance our clients’ business objectives in the United States and abroad. Clients choose Venable for the skill, dedication, creativity, and superior service that our legal and professional staff provide. Attracting and retaining the best talent isn’t just essential to the successes of our clients and our firm—it’s central to elevating the legal profession through continuous learning, improvement, and innovation.

Recruitment



Law schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
American University, Washington College of Law; Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; Columbia University School of Law; Cornell Law School, Duke University School of Law; Fordham University School of Law; George Mason University School of Law; George Washington University Law School; Georgetown University Law Center; Harvard Law School; Howard Law School, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; New York University School of Law; New York Law School, Stanford Law School; T. C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond; University of Southern California, Gould School of Law; University of Baltimore School of Law; UC at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law; UC Hastings College of the Law; UC Irvine School of Law; UC Los Angeles School of Law; University of Maryland School of Law; University of Michigan—Ann Arbor Law School; University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of San Francisco; University of Virginia School of Law; Vanderbilt Law School, Villanova University School of Law; William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law. We will also attend the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Mid-Atlantic BLSA, Western Region BLSA Job Fair, Northeastern BLSA Job Fair, and Lavender Law Job Fair.

Summer associate profile:
Successful candidates display high academic achievement in their law school and undergraduate education. We look for motivated candidates who combine intellectual ability with enthusiasm and a collaborative approach. In addition, we give careful attention to all aspects of a candidate’s experience and abilities and like to see the following: participation in extracurricular activities highlighting leadership skills, commitment, and time management; excellent written and oral communication skills; ability to work well with others and independently; Law Journal and Moot Court participation preferred; prior work experience is a plus.

Summer program components:
Summer associates are assigned to active matters in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property, and regulatory and government affairs. At the beginning of our program, we bring the entire summer class together for a robust orientation in our Washington, D.C. office. In addition to providing the opportunity to network with peers, the orientation kickoff allows summer associates to build relationships with firm leadership and to learn about our culture and values. We firmly believe that a talented and diverse legal team delivers the best results for our clients, and we are committed to inclusion, openness, and support for all employees. To meet these standards, we welcome summer associates from all backgrounds.

Leadership Council on Legal Divesity Scholarship Program:
Venable’s 2022 1L LCLD Scholars Program, available in our Washington, Baltimore, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, offers diverse law students who will have completed their first year of law school by May 2022 the opportunity to spend a summer working side-by-side with attorneys from LCLD Member Organizations. In certain offices, our 1L LCLD scholars split their time between Venable and a corporate client. Scholars are included in the same project pool as our 2L summer associates and participate in an assortment of professional development and social programming. Applications can be submitted through: www.venable.com/careers

Social Media



Recruitment website: www.venable.com

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Advertising: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
    • Political Law (Band 4)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 3)
    • REITs: Maryland Counsel (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)