Bracewell’s swell Southern culture and nuclear reputation for all things energy means “you’re hard pressed to find any juniors who’ve left in the past three years.”
SO why did newbies adopt the Brace position? It comes down to PPP (not public-private partnerships, though the firm handles a fair few of those). Associates were actually attracted to the people, prestige and practice groups. Enamored interviewees reminisced about the beginning of their Bracewell love story: “They were so encouraging even though I was a student and really took an interest in me as a person,” and “they came across as real people who can have a good time and not spend every waking moment on every working detail.” Others were fueled by the Bracewell name, especially in the energy sector: “We’re associated with the upper echelon of oil and gas companies.” Bracewell’s generated a host of high-class rankings in Chambers USA, from power and renewables to oil & gas regulation, litigation and transactions. Bracewell’s nabbed 22 lateral partners in only 18 months, spread across several of the firm's offices.
That’s not to say Bracewell is a one-trick pony; the firm is also home to a top-ranked finance group, which just hired two new public finance partners in Dallas. More than half the second and third years on our list could be found in BRS – not the Boston Red Sox, unfortunately, but the Business and Regulatory Section, which is the umbrella group for all things transactional, ranging from corporate & securities and tax to oil & gas and finance. Litigation was the second most popular destination, while technology and financial restructuring were home to only three associates between them at the time of our calls.
BRS newbies in New York and DC are put in a pooling system when they first arrive: “You work with as many attorneys as possible in your first year, across the whole section,” with the intention associates will eventually gravitate toward a more specific group. In practice, juniors end up working “with two or three partners 90% of the time.” Other offices use different group-based systems; we heard "the majority of work comes from people stopping by your office.”
“Attorneys refer to their deals as sexy, and mine was about as good as it gets.”
Given Bracewell’s Texan roots, BRS is centered on the energy space firm-wide; “Bracewell’s specialty is energy, and renewables is a growing practice here in Houston.” This translates as representing the big-name energy producers like Shell and BP in upstream, midstream and downstream work: you'll get used to these industry terms, which represent the stages of the energy supply chain from oil exploration through to usage in gas pumps and light bulbs. Within their first couple of months, one junior was staffed on an offshore acquisition worth hundreds of millions: “Attorneys refer to their deals as sexy, and mine was about as good as it gets.”
It’s not all about oil, though. Even in Houston“a lot of the deal work happens here because it’s the biggest office.” These folks handle “anything involving public law, like real estate work for nonprofits,” as well as various other flavors of work. Interviewees were pleased to report: “We work with people down the street from us, which makes the work more real.”There’s frequent cross-office coordination with Dallas on financing deals: “You have your hands in everything on big deals and work closely with the client, which is fun.”DCcollaborates occasionally with Austin on environmental matters, but being based in the capital, most folks busy themselves with state and federal regulations: “The work is cyclical with elections – a big part of what we do is advising on the implications of changes in the administration and getting a handle on policy changes.”
Corporate clients: Apache, Phillips 66, Société Générale. Represented Kinder Morgan in the construction, operation and ownership arrangements for a natural gas pipeline which will run from Texas to the Gulf.
Litigation work is “pretty broad – we have clients all over the place, which I like because there’s always something new to learn.” That said, there’s a lot going on with drilling operators, pipeline constructors and petrochemical companies, so it seems the client base is still pretty energy-centric. In any case, juniors are expected to “take ownership by knowing the facts and bringing theories to the partner.” The jury’s out on how enjoyable litigation is given the erratic nature of workflow: “I was slow for long stretches in my first year, doing doc review for months on end. I didn’t even get to prepare basic motions, which I’d been expecting to.” Another was concerned: “My practice revolves around really mundane discovery disputes which is draining and unfulfilling.” More positive reviews highlighted Bracewell’s robust white-collar practice: “The special master of the Mueller investigation is here in NY, which opened the door to lots of other work,” like the investigation into the Archdiocese of New York’s personnel files.
Litigation clients: HTC, Baker Hughes, Credit Suisse. Defended Houston City against allegations its police department violated the Constitution by delaying compulsory post-arrest hearings.
… is something that’s “really been emphasized in the past quarter,” following the appointment of new firm-wide coordinators in 2018. Leaders in DC “want us to be more involved in Veterans’ cases so organizations come in and do lunch-and-learns with us.” Like the majority of New York firms, Bracewell partners with Her Justice, a nonprofit which works with disadvantaged women: “You really get to take the reins in those cases.”Houston partners with the local Bar Association, and every month a few attorneys go to call-in clinics “to solve people’s short-term problems.” It’s a popular option for transactional juniors who can be disadvantaged “just because typically a lot of pro bono involves litigation.” Attorneys can credit 100 pro bono hours total, and if nothing on Bracewell’s list tickles your fancy, it’s “pretty easy” to bring in your own matters: “You need a partner to sponsor it, and as long as Bracewell is familiar with the organization they’re very willing to let you pursue it.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys across all US offices: 9,360
- Average per US attorney: 30
Hours and Compensation
BRS as a whole “deals with institutional clients in different time zones,” which averages out to a 9am-7pm working day. Hours can vary depending on which subgroup associates are in; the finance team “reacts to the government schedule,” so are on an earlier 8am-5pm timetable. Ten-hour days are the norm over in litigation: “You’re supposed to be responsive at all times, including weekends.” Associates are expected to be in the office most days, which disappointed some given that “other Cravath-scale firms let you work from home at least once a month.” The trade-off is “I can work out or see friends every night.”
Billable hours: 2,000 requirement
There isn’t a “concrete” billing target, but attorneys aim to hit around 2,000 hours, which is compulsory to get market bonus. The more you bill, the higher your bonus will be, though there isn’t a definitive policy on the exact increase. Some sources felt “2,000 isn’t really achievable,” which was more of a concern for litigators “because there isn’t always enough work to go around – it sucks when you don’t have enough to do and have to sit around.” The firm told us that associates can work their schedule as they choose. It’s possible to boost hours by doing pro bono, and “Bracewell sponsors diversity events at law schools so if you attend you can credit those hours,” though interviewees weren’t sure how many hours actually count.
“I can work out or see friends every night.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Interviewees were disappointed with the number of partners of color at the firm. Increasing diversity via recruitment in the city “is really difficult because there are so many firms that associates can join.” Over in Houston, the firm sponsors tables at minority ethnic Bar Association events, and sources were pleased that “Bracewell lets associates lead those, rather than handling from the top down.”
Representation is slightly better on the gender front; the majority of the recent partnership class were women, although “there aren’t as many female partners as I would like.” Despite the stereotype that the energy industry is male-dominated, “we have several really cool young female partners and we host events specific to women in the energy industry.”
We heard there’s been “significantly more awareness about mental health in the past year,” which interviewees appreciated following recent tragedies across the legal industry. Sources praised the firm “for doing everything in its power to support those affected,” including the launch of the BWell initiative in 2019. There are now quarterly well-being seminars centered on mental, physical, financial and community well-being. Sources enthused “there’s now a broad dialogue which is really neat; every partner I work with, partners on the committee and admin staff were all at the first seminar,” hosted by well-known attorney and counselor Patrick Krill.
Culture & Career Development
“The people are the best thing about working here,” declared one associate. “Because Bracewell was founded in Houston there’s a Southern culture – loyalty is respected, so we're not just doing lateral hiring.” This source pointed out it’s common for many firms to grow by acquiring entire groups from rival firms, “which means people don’t know each other so well so they just bounce,” but at Bracewell, “lots of the partners have been here since they were summers which means there’s a cohesive, fraternal culture.” This doesn’t mean it’s an old boys’ club: “I’m never hesitant to suggest ideas to partners because I’ll know they’ll listen to me; they don’t have egos and they’re not yellers.” This is bolstered by the Associate Committee – a direct channel between associates and partners: “We’re the sounding board when they’re rolling out new tech and they’re incredibly receptive to us because they know we have to work with it the most.”
“We've got a good thing going and we know it."
Associates benefit from the unusually low partner-to-associate ratio: “From day one the firm is really good about touching base on career development; lots of people started as associates and built nice careers.” Rookies participate in either a litigation or BRS bootcamp when they first arrive, followed by monthly CLEs presented by partners and senior associates. Formal business development training begins around third year, but there are annual associate-only business development events “where we invite contacts that are on our level, like a junior banker, and the idea is we grow through the profession together.”
On the social side, “there aren’t any compulsory activities, which I appreciate. People are really understanding of your life outside work.” The NY office’s managing partner hosts an annual picnic for all staff and attorneys at his home “which everyone looks forward to – it’s fun getting to know everyone’s family.” The social calendar really ramps up during the summer program – last year’s highlights include a city-wide scavenger hunt, baseball games and a design-your-own-Converse event. Between associates, “the relationship is honestly incredible, we go for lunch together several times a week,” so when it comes to attrition, “you’re hard pressed to find any juniors who’ve left in the past three years. We’ve got a good thing going and we know it.”
Strategy & Future
A number of interviewees were disappointed that “a lot of firm policies and procedures aren’t written down anywhere, either due to a lack of organization or lack of transparency"; the firm told us that its policy manual is available on an online portal. "We’re growing really fast but it’s confusing and unsettling because it sometimes takes a few months for new arrivals to become settled,” one junior said. We got the sense that the level of transparency depends on which office you’re based in. New Yorkers told us there’s an annual lunch series across the firm's offices for associates and managing partner Greg Bopp, “with a presentation about how the firm did financially."As they're in the HQ, Houstoners don't get the presentation; sources there said they “have no idea how we’re doing this year versus last year,” but were confident they’d get “a gradual peak behind the veil.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 407
Interviewees outside OCI: 25
Bracewell recruits through OCIs and regional job fairs across the country. It also accepts written applications. Some of the Texas offices also hire 1Ls. Candidates meet with a mix of partners and associates from different practices and backgrounds during the interview process.
If you want to take it up that extra notch to impress at the OCIs, brush up on your research about the firm and ask specific questions to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Hiring sources tell us “the firm looks for law students and lawyers who wish to be part of a team and will appreciate regular interaction with senior associates and partners.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Enjoy the process for what it is and look around and see what makes the firm stand out. Notice how the attorneys are interacting with each other and remember how you felt when you were leaving the interview.” – a third-year junior associate
Applicants invited to second stage: 148
Successful candidates are invited back to meet with six to eight lawyers as well as a member of the firm’s recruiting team. They’ll spend 30 minutes finding out about the candidate’s experience, their career goals and how they would fit within Bracewell’s culture. At this stage, hiring sources say “it’s time to demonstrate your knowledge about the specific office in which you are interviewing.” Candidates also get the opportunity to walk around the offices and to get a real feel for what the office is like.
Top tips for this stage:
“What got me the position was being transparent about who I was and what I can bring to the table, and I was willing to express that.” – a junior associate
“Be sure to familiarize yourself with the major practice groups in the office, any alumni from your law school, and be prepared to discuss both your connection to the market, specific interest and experience in a particular area (if known), and information you’d like to share that doesn’t come through your application materials.” – hiring source at the firm
Bracewell’s eight to ten-week summer program consists of a “combination of rotations, specific section assignments and a pool approach to work assignments.” Summer associates will receive rolling informal feedback as well as midpoint and end-of-program reviews. The social side of the program includes an annual retreat in Austin, Texas and events ranging from concerts to local sporting events.
Top tips for this stage:
“We want our summer associates to connect with as many of us as possible – whether socially or through work experience – to get the fullest sense of our firm and the real experience of our junior associates.” – hiring source at the firm
“I became enamored with Bracewell after my OCI. When I returned to the firm to begin working as an associate, I felt like I was coming home to a familiar place.” – a second-year junior associate
Interview with managing partner Greg Bopp
Chambers Associate:Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
Greg Bopp: In 2019, we launched BWell, a firm-wide wellness initiative that helps lawyers and staff make choices for a healthy and fulfilling life, both personally and professionally. Each quarter we focus on a theme — such as mental well-being, physical well-being, financial well-being and community — and develop programming that explores the theme in greater detail. This includes guest speakers, group discussions and individual goal-setting. In addition, each of our offices hosts 'talk into action' activities to keep the conversation going and provide additional resources and trainings.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?
GB: Our core practices — M&A, finance, private equity, litigation and regulatory — are continuing to grow. Much of that can be attributed to the amount of capital being invested in energy and infrastructure projects in the United States, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Our renewables practice is also growing at a rapid pace, as companies and investors look for ways to take advantage of the clean energy revolution. We’ve been involved in many market-leading transactions over the past year for leading financial institutions and energy companies, such as Kinder Morgan, Crédit Agricole and Citibank, to name but a few. The demand for infrastructure has fueled our lateral recruitment which will continue in 2020. In 2019, we promoted seven associates and senior counsel to partner across practices and offices, both in the US and overseas. We also hired around 40 associates and ten lateral partners. I’m very proud that lawyers can join us straight out of school and spend their entire career with the firm.
CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?
GB: Without a doubt, the relationship between clients and lawyers will always be the foundation of our profession. The biggest change we’ve experienced is the growing importance of technology. We’re always looking for ways to use new technologies to promote efficiencies and productivity. In some instances, we also help our clients find technology solutions to problems facing their organizations. For example, we were engaged by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York to review its policies and procedures to respond to accusations of sexual abuse. Bracewell attorneys, along with Bracewell’s IT professionals, recommended that the Archdiocese introduce new electronic systems to more efficiently track complaints and digitize personnel files.
CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
GB: I became a lawyer because I have always enjoyed solving complex issues. I also wanted an opportunity to give back to others through pro bono work. I worked in an accounting firm before going to law school. Because I had a professional services background, making the transition to law was a natural step.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry based on the lessons you’ve learned?
GB: Be excited about your chosen profession. Take advantage of the opportunity to work on a variety of deals or cases and learn as much as you can by working with different lawyers and clients. Practicing law is something that you can do for a long time and that can be continually rewarding.
711 Louisiana Street,
- Head Office: Houston, TX
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $300,000,000
- Partners (US): 154
- Associates (US): 19
- Counsel: 40
- Main recruitment contact:
- Jennifer Queen, Chief Talent Officer
- Hiring partners:
- Austin: Victoria Ozimek
- Dallas: Rob Collins
- Houston: Cle Dade and Chris Dodson
- New York: Joshua Klein and Erin Hennessy
- Washington, DC: Kirk Morgan and Britt Steckman
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 26
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 1Ls: 15, 2Ls: 19
- Summer salary 2020:
- 1Ls: $3,653.84/week
- 2Ls: $3,653.84/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
• Corporate & Securities
• Environmental Strategies
• Financial Institutions
• Financial Restructuring
• Intellectual Property
• International Practice
• Labor & Employment
• Private Investment Funds
• Public Finance
• Real Estate & Projects
• Strategic Communications
• White Collar Defense, Internal Investigations & Regulatory Enforcement
Bracewell LLP is a leading law and government relations firm primarily serving the energy, finance and technology industries throughout the world. Bracewell’s industry focus results in comprehensive, state-of-the-art knowledge of the commercial, legal and governmental challenges faced by its clients and enables Bracewell to provide innovative solutions to facilitate transactions and resolve disputes.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
Baylor, Columbia, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, MCGC Houston, Northwestern,NYU, On Tour Interview Program, SMU, South Texas College of Law, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Sunbelt Minority Job Fair, SWBLSA, , Thurgood Marshall, Tulane, University of Houston, The University of Texas, UVA, Vanderbilt Houston Job Fair, Vanderbilt
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume collects at law schools across the nation and accept write-in candidatesvia our website.
Summer associate profile:
We look for candidates who have distinguished themselves academically and actively participate in law school and professional legal organizations. Successful candidates possess a strong work ethic and are self-motivated. Given the firm’s collaborative culture, we also look for individuals who are team players.
Summer program components:
The firm offers summer associate programs in 4 US offices. These program lengths typically range from eight to ten weeks. During this time, summer associates have the opportunity to explore different areas of the law by working on actual matters. Summer associates attend hearings, depositions, trials, negotiations and client meetings. They also hone legal writing skills by helping research and draft agreements, briefs, articles and blog posts. In addition, summer associates are encouraged to explore the local community and attend attorney dinners, summer associate lunches and a summer associate retreat.
Recruitment website: www.bracewell.com/careers
Linkedin: Bracewell LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: Appellate (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Climate Change (Band 3)
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 3)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 1)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)