Its head may be in DC but its heart's in Baltimore; Venable offers quality work, a warm atmosphere and a rooftop paradise for bocce enthusiasts.
“THERE is just something about this city,” Venable's Baltimore-based juniors told us. For one it was the winning mix of “modern city living with a more homely, small-town feel,” while for another it was the city's“egalitarianism – it's a place where you don't have to be from an established family to make a difference.” It's the city where Venable was founded over a hundred years ago, and its ties to it are still strong: “We're a huge presence in the city – not just as a law firm but as an active member of the community,” sources told us. Indeed, one of the firm's partners, Kenneth Thompson, was recently appointed by a federal judge to help oversee a series of reforms being made to the city's police force.
Our sources were pleased to report that the Baltimore spirit has “percolated through to our offices across the network.” These include the firm's DC HQ, as well as growing bases in LA, San Francisco, New York and Delaware.
For our sources, it was clear that Venable “had the resources to attract high-quality work while promoting a more amiable atmosphere.” An inspection of the firm's Chambers USA rankings confirms this: on a nationwide level Venable is recognized in a range of areas, especially when it comes to advertising, real estate investment trusts (REITs), privacy and data security, and government-related work. On a more local level, the DC office shines for its IP capabilities, while in its home state of Maryland the firm's healthcare, corporate/M&A and commercial litigation practices are particularly noteworthy.
Culture & Offices
Venable juniors were quick to distance themselves from the “boisterous, out there for their own gain” types that can be found in the profession. “Here we have a very low a-hole quota,” one DC insider candidly explained, while a Baltimore-based source added: “Everyone is interested in getting to know you personally and my first week involved a series of partners and associates asking me how was I doing. The partners even know my dog's and my boyfriend's names, while I know the names of all their children!” This level of acquaintance is aided by a reportedly even ratio of partners to associates – close to “one to one” – “which allows us to get to know them more directly.”
“The partners even know my dog's and my boyfriend's names.”
Almost half of the associates on our list were based in Venable's DC HQ, which recently moved to “new, sleek and modern” digs at 600 Massachusetts Avenue. Complete with “glass walls everywhere, a beautiful rooftop and lots of common spaces for coffee breaks and catch-ups, it's a setup for success!” That rooftop comes in handy for a “grand unifying event” each summer – a ten-week bocce tournament of course! What's bocce, we hear you ask? It's like the French game of boules, where players compete to throw their ball closest to the jack (a smaller ball). “Everyone from the librarians to the facility staff to the summer associates are encouraged to participate,” insiders explained. “It strengthens a culture where people like each other – I think people outside the firm are jealous of our bocce court!” Venable's Baltimore office was home to roughly a quarter of the juniors on our list, while a handful could be found spread between the LA, New York and Tysons offices.
The practice groups that drew in the most juniors were commercial litigation, regulatory, corporate, and tax and wealth planning. The odd one or two were beavering away in groups like bankruptcy, real estate, IP, labor & employment and government contracts. When it comes to getting work, “associates don't need to be overly 'entrepreneurial,'” relieved juniors told us. “You have a practice group leader who helps to coordinate the work and from there partners approach you directly. It avoids the potential for a lot of the awkwardness that comes with a total free-market system.”
“...writing drafts and doing meaningful research from day one.”
The firm's “meritocratic approach” means that “crazy levels of responsibility” are available for those who feel up to the challenge. “At first I was drafting supporting documents and conducting research into securities,” one commercial litigator told us, “but now I coordinate directly with the partner, anticipate what needs to be done and supervise those at a more junior level.” We even heard of one associate playing a substantial role in Taylor Swift's case against former radio DJ David Mueller. Other junior litigators reported drafting disclosures and motions to compel, as well as preparing experts and attending depositions across a range of areas including white-collar, employment, fraud and contract law. “They pile on substantive work early on,” juniors reiterated. “Doc review is part of our world when it has to be, but I've been writing drafts and doing meaningful research from day one.”
“The regulatory group is a sort of holding company for many different subgroups.” Associates here can dip into teams focused on the likes of food and drugs, politics, nonprofit organizations, telecom, finance and advertising. “As a first year you're softly 'assigned' to a particular group, but you can still get work from the other groups – as you become more senior you tend to specialize more.” Juniors in the nonprofit group reported working on “everything from the formation to dissolution of organizations, which has included drafting applications for tax exemption.” Those who'd dabbled in the politics group described a “research-heavy” environment: “One thing I do is manage lobbying queries for several clients who are engaged in multiple states. For example, sometimes they reach out with questions about giving a gift in a particular state.”
Hours & Compensation
First-year associates aim to bill 1,800 hours, but their target rises to 1,900 from their second year onward. 'Overall they like us to rack up around 2,200 hours, but that includes volunteering work, pro bono, business development and other non-billable tasks.” Bonuses kick in when associates hit 1,950 hours; 50 hours of pro bono can count toward this total, and the bonus amount rises for every additional 50 hours associates bill.
With a base salary that matches the Cravath scale for the first three years, juniors were grateful for the “more relaxed hours” at Venable, though we did hear of “a plan to increase the hours expectations to reflect the rate of the pay we receive – it's not meant to change by a life-altering amount, however.” Co-managing partner Dan Moylan tells us he anticipates that “the increase will be somewhere in the magnitude of 2% across the board, and we're considering implementing that in 2018.” For now, juniors in the Baltimore office were in sync with the city's early bird culture, with most getting into the office by 8:30am and leaving around the 7pm mark; those in the DC office maintained a slightly later schedule, and typically left by 8pm. “Super-busy periods where you're working 60-hour weeks are fortunately sporadic” across the groups, and on the whole juniors found the firm respectful of “family and vacation time.” Another praised the flexibility they'd encountered: “As long as you are accessible you can also come in later, leave later or work from home.”
Juniors in the Baltimore office emphasized the strength of “Venable's relationships with multiple nonprofits which continually feed the firm work, like House of Ruth, which is a domestic abuse charity. Equally, if you have any ideas of your own, all you have to do is find a partner to supervise you and you're off to the races.”
“I get the sense that the Baltimore office has more longstanding connections than we do,” one DC associate suggested.Still, the Gerry Treanor Pro Bono Fellowship gives associates from both offices the chance to complete a six-month stint at either Bread for the City (a charity for vulnerable DC residents) or Maryland Legal Aid in Baltimore. Overall, we heard of associates across the board tackling domestic abuse, immigration, elderly assistance, veteran and landlord/tenant cases. “A lot of people at Venable also end up being judges or running for office,” including former managing partner Karl Racine, who currently serves as the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 29,833
- Average per attorney: 43
Training & Development
Juniors again cited the more balanced partner to associate ratio here as “it means you're able to work closely with them and learn from them.” This setup worked well for those who favored “direct learning over formal sessions that are funneled through a hierarchical system.” However, for others the firm's “more hands-on and feedback-based” approach to learningdidn't compensate for “the lack of formalized training,” though Venable has been making improvements on this front. Litigators told us of an “upcoming and division-wide formal training that will last for three days,” while those in corporate explained that “what started off as an initial writing tips session has now started to morph into a more regular CLE program that gives a detailed breakdown of every stage of a transaction.”
“It's getting better,” hopeful juniors told us on the subject of diversity. They were most positive about efforts to boost gender diversity: “The gender split in the associate ranks is 50:50 if not higher on the female side. There's room to improve at the partner level, but women are continuing to rise through the ranks.” Venable's WAVE (Women at Venable) group was credited for “giving young female attorneys the tools and abilities to progress in their group and make partner. We have monthly meetings where the paths to the partnership are explained, but we also discuss how we can increase collaboration and involve more people in pitch meetings.”
Strategy & Future
Associates described the firm's management style as “conservative,” which they felt “ensures constant growth – even through recession.” Co-managing partner Dan Moylan confirms: “We will continue to grow but do so in a very particular way. We value our culture – we will make sure that the Venable of tomorrow is the same as the Venable of ten years ago in terms of culture.” He emphasizes that the firm has always favored “strategic” over “opportunistic” growth: “In San Francisco, for example, we have looked at where growth and expansion could compliment our existing strengths in tax, corporate and real estate. You're are not going see any mega-mergers or anything like that.”
Students interested in Venable are able to express their interest in the firm way before the OCI. Firm hiring partner Bob Bolger explains: “A number of schools have mock interview programs for first years, where they ask local law firms to come in and interview students to give them a sense of what the process will be like. We participate in those programs, and we are always interested in those who are eager to keep in touch with us over the subsequent summer. We also have a rising 2L event in several of our offices which involves a happy hour with local students in town for the summer – it gives us a chance to get a handle on who we think is impressive based on their interactions. By the time it comes to the OCIs we have already identified many of our potential candidates, which makes it easier.”
Bolger estimates that the firm typically recruits from around 37 schools and job fairs across the country, including a number for “primarily diverse candidates” such as the Southeastern Minority Fair. Bolger adds: “We tend to give our interviewees a target for how many people we want to bring back from each school.”
As far as the interviews go, associates felt that they're “all about the right fit – it was not a quiz on how much I knew about the law. For a lot of it, it was me talking about why I wanted to be in Baltimore.” Sources also identified Venable as a firm that “places a lot of emphasis on whether people have built up relevant work experience.” As one junior confirmed: “I was coming from two clerkships and they respected that.”
Those fortunate enough to grab a place on the firm's summer program – which took on around 35 candidates in 2017 – can expect to do “real first-year associate work. Summers work directly with partners and midlevel associates so they get an exact idea of what it's like to be a junior associate,” Bolger explains. “By the time they come back, it ensures that they are already acclimated to the process.” Summers source work from an online database “where associates post projects that they need help with. It encourages summers to try different practice areas and the great upside to that is that they get direct feedback on every project they complete, as our attorneys are required to provide that.” The pressure to impress is offset by weekly events outside of work designed to help summers get to know the firm in a more informal setting. Events vary by office and have included cooking classes, performances at the John F. Kennedy Center, rock climbing excursions and trivia nights.
Interview with Dan Moylan, Venable's co-managing partner
Chambers Associate: How has the firm performed in 2017?
Dan Moylan: We have seen strength in a range of our practice areas. In no particular order: we've seen our products group continue to hit it out of the park; our government and regulatory group continues to do well; and our general litigation group in DC has had a number of key victories. To the public, the most well known of those has been the Taylor Swift case, but we've handled a number of other successful matters. Over the last year we've also seen our tax and wealth planning group grow tremendously, as has our New York office generally. For the first time in our history we are over 700 lawyers.
CA:How did the move to the new DC office go?
DM: The move has been fantastic. The office space has been a hit, not just aesthetically but in terms of the impact it's had on our attorneys and staff. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of the effect architects could have on professional and social cohesion, but I’m old fashioned and happy to have been proven wrong! With the glass interior and more social spaces, we have seen so many more people spending time interacting and doing more business. It really is a space that has made all of our staff happier, more productive and more communicative with each other – it's a tremendous achievement.
CA:What's the firm's strategy for the next five years?
DM: We will continue to grow but do so in a very particular way. We value our culture – we will make sure that the Venable of tomorrow is the same as the Venable of ten years ago in terms of culture. I think we have been extremely successful in maintaining that culture for a very long time, despite our growth. In every instance, we are looking to leverage our existing strengths without comprising on that culture – we want to avoid high levels of attrition. I think there are two types of growth: opportunistic growth and strategic growth, and ours is very much strategic. In San Francisco, for example, we have looked at where growth and expansion could complement our existing strengths in tax, corporate and real estate. You're are not going see any mega-mergers or anything like that.
CA:What's unique about the firm's culture? How does bocce exemplify that culture?
DM: The bocce tournament is exemplary of our inclusive culture in that it is played by all of our staff, both legal and non-legal. It's always very well attended by spectators and it is played as much for fun as competition. It also exemplifies the reason why the firm is successful. We are a large law firm that does amazing work but we are not overly leveraged – our partner to associate ratio is low. I believe that where you have a higher leverage ratio, you see more stratification, but at Venable you'll find that all of our lawyers and staff know each other, which leads to work being conducted more efficiently.
CA:Is Venable looking to increase its hours target?
DM: We are looking at that now, although it's still being worked out. I anticipate that the increase will be somewhere in the magnitude of 2% across the board, and we're considering implementing that in 2018. The reason that you heard about it during your interviews is because we are being transparent with our colleagues – that is one of the strengths of the firm. We didn't want to announce something that we were going to suddenly spring on everybody. We are still consulting with lawyers inside and outside of the firm.
We have also had a discussion with all of our associates and counsel about the path to partnership; we've been walking them through the expectations and the criteria for promotions at every level. The changes we have made have been designed to shift the emphasis away from rigid metrics to allow our lawyers to focus more on quality, even more than we do currently. The whole process has been very transparent and has been met with universal acceptance.
CA:Why does the firm place such a large emphasis on pro bono work?
DM:Pro bono is a question of each firm's commitment to the communities that they operate in. If you look at the pro bono work we're doing and the number of lawyers we have on board, then you'll know how important it is to the firm. We also have the Venable Foundation, which is equally important to us and is funded by mandatory donations from our equity partnership. Each of our offices has a slice of the fund to give out to different community organizations every year. In Baltimore, we have supported healthcare for homeless people, and in DC we have a longstanding commitment to an organization that delivers food to the poor. Each office does tend to have its own core philosophy in terms of how it makes its grants.
CA: Is diversity something that is important to the firm?
DM:It is very important to us. We want to be a firm that reflects our surrounding societies and our client base. It's an area where we have made great strides over the last five years. Our view of the world is that we don’t want to be thinking about diversity only when making promotion decisions, as that means you're just looking at lawyers at that moment. We believe in making a commitment to early planning, to looking at what’s down the pipeline and discerning which candidates are making an impact, so we can begin planning for their long-term success.
All you need to know about bocce
Perhaps bocce doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of the world's great team sports. But don't be too quick to dismiss this satisfying game, which has ancient roots and a huge following, even today… Bocce can be traced all the way back to the Egyptians, who first used polished stones in order to play. We have visual proof to confirm this, as graphic representations of people throwing stones at a fixed target were discovered in an Egyptian tomb – telling us that the Egyptians went nuts for a bit of bocce, even as far back as 5200 BC.
Then the Greeks got on board around 800 BC, before passing the game on to the Romans, who, surprisingly enough, would use coconuts they'd sourced from Africa. Thankfully, the Romans had enough ingenuity to later carve the bocce balls out of olive wood, saving themselves the trouble of crossing the water to Africa every time they were in the mood for a good game of bocce.
Despite its immense rise in popularity, bocce didn't make everyone happy throughout the ages. In fact, it made rather a lot of people quite anxious. The problem was that bocce became just a bit too popular, creating fears over – of all things – national security: in 1319, those of 'lower nobility' were actually banned from playing the game, as it detracted from efforts to defend the borders. They should have been, of course, directing their energies toward more useful activities, like practicing archery or sharpening their military skills.
Later, in 1576, the Republic of Venice imposed imprisonment and fines for those caught indulging, while eventually even the Catholic Church became riled by the sport, and banned clergymen from playing, as it was seen to facilitate an inevitable degree of gambling. However, famous folk like Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake still loved a fierce game of bocce, and in England the sport eventually became known as 'bowls'.
The Brits decided to ditch the unsightly strip of stone dust, and replaced it with the far more aesthetically pleasing stretch of closely cropped grass. This was the form in which bocce initially traveled across the pond, when, in the 18th century, the very first playing field was set up on the southern tip of Manhattan.
Back in continental Europe, a bocce renaissance was enjoyed in the 19th century, thanks to the efforts of Italian mastermind Giuseppe Garibaldi, who, among other things, helped to unify Italy (no big deal) during the 1860s. Garibaldi was also an intimidatingly good bocce player, and his enthusiasm for the game was contagious. By 1896, the first 'Bocce Olympiad' was held in Athens, sealing the game's fate to become an increasing part of the international sporting arena.
When a flurry of Italian immigrants made their way to the US during the early 20th century, they brought with them their love of bocce, displacing the grassy British version of the game, which heretofore had ruled that southern tip of Manhattan. Bocce soon became a regular part of life in the towns and cities where Italians settled, but it wasn't until 1989 that things really heated up on the bocce courts, when, for some unknown reason, bocce became a craze across sunny California. Yes, those deliriously happy and sun-drenched Californians took to it like ducks to water, preempting a more national wave of adoration.
The best thing about bocce is that you don't exactly need a solid rack of rock-hard abs or to be in the most pristine of physical conditions in order to play. So, without further ado, let's look at how you play this physically undemanding but emotionally gratifying game…
A game can be played between two people, or two teams of two, three or four people.
- Each player is given two 'boccia'/balls
- One team tosses a 'pallino'/small ball onto the court
- Each team attempts to throw their boccia closest to the pallino
- The boccia that lands closest to the pallino receives the most points
- The skill level is ramped up by the attempt to simultaneously pitch your boccia closest to the pallino while displacing your opponent's already tossed boccia further away from it
- The length of the game can vary between seven and 13 points
And there you have it, nice and simple, in a nutshell. Sounds easy doesn't it? For those of you who harbor more serious bocce aspirations and want to thoroughly show off on the court, we thoroughly recommend taking a peek at the United States Bocce Federation website (www.usbf.us/training-tips.html), which delivers handy pointers on four-step runs, varying speed limits and how to hone that all-important underarm technique.
600 Massachusetts Avenue,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 9
- Worldwide revenue: $540.5 million
- Partners (US): 306
- Associates (US): 272
- Main recruitment contact: Kera Wise, Senior Director of Legal Personnel & Attorney Recruiting, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Bob Bolger
- Diversity officers: Nora Garrote, Kathleen Hardway
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 32
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
- 1L LCLD Scholars: 4
- 2Ls: 38, 3Ls: N/A
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- DC: 15; BA: 8; NY: 5; LA: 5; TY: 3; SF: 2
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1L LCLD Scholars: $3,460 (for the first 5 weeks at Venable)
- 2Ls: $3,460
- Split summers offered? Determined on a case-by-case basis; must spend the first 8 weeks of the summer with Venable
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Summer associate profile:
We typically fill our entry-level class with hires from our summer associate program.
We give careful attention to all aspects of a candidate’s experience and abilities and like to see the following:
■ Demonstrated record of academic achievement with an emphasis on strong undergrad and 1L performance
■ Participation in various extracurricular activities highlighting leadership skills, commitment, and time management
■ Excellent written and oral communication skills
■ Ability to work well with others and independently
■ We look particularly favorably on law journal and moot court participation. Previous job experience is a plus
Summer program components:
Summer associates receive real work assignments on behalf of real clients — the same type of assignments our junior associates receive throughout the year, ranging from research and memos to presentations for a client. We strive to maintain a balance between work and social events for the duration of the summer program. Informal dinners, lunches, happy hours, and city-specific events are some of the best ways for our summers to get to know the firm. Leadership Council on Legal Divesity Scholarship Program: Venable’s 2018 1L LCLD Scholars Program, available in our Washington, Baltimore, New York and Los Angeles offices, offers diverse law students who will have completed their first year of law school by May 2018 the opportunity to spend a summer working side-by-side with attorneys from LCLD Member Organizations. Our 1L LCLD scholars split their time between Venable and a corporate partner in each of our offices. Scholars pull from the same project pool as our 2L summers and participate in an assortment of professional development and social programming. Applications can be submitted through: www.venable.com/careers/laterals/positions/.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
District of Columbia
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- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- Advertising: Litigation (Band 2)
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- Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
- Government: Government Contracts (Band 4)
- Government: Political Law (Band 3)
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- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 3)
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- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)