If energy is your game, Bracewell is the name. This full-service Texan gives juniors a real shot at making partner “and the ability to have a life outside of the office.”
Energy is on everyone’s mind: a combination of the climate crisis; the efficacy of renewables; soaring costs for consumers; and supply chain issues caused by the invasion of Ukraine have made energy one of the most pressing topics of our time. Lawyers are playing a crucial part in the functioning of the energy sector and Bracewell is one of those firms that is synonymous with the market; the firm collects a clutch of nationwide Chambers USA ratings for areas such as oil and gas, electricity, and renewables.
However, energy is just one part of Bracewell’s operations. “We’re known as a powerhouse firm with tremendous depth and knowledge in particular sectors such as energy, finance, tech and infrastructure. That’s the big four at Bracewell,” managing partner Greg Bopp tells us. “Our firm is pretty equally balanced,” he adds. “We’re about half transactional and half litigation and regulatory focused. I expect that to continue to be the case.” Texas is Bracewell’s home turf and where it still collects the most accolades from Chambers USA, including nods for its banking & finance, capital markets, corporate M&A, and labor & employment expertise. Its DC base gets recognition for its environment know-how, while New York scoops up praise for the firm’s white-collar crime & government investigations practice.
“...there was an emphasis on people, connections, and mentoring.”
Most juniors on our list called the Houston HQ home, followed by a handful spread across New York, DC, and Dallas. (In previous years we’ve noted juniors in Austin and the firm tells us all its US offices are available for interested lawyers.) Several of our sources had grown up in Texas or had attended law school in the state, with this interviewee speaking for others when they explained: “I wanted to find a firm that did work in the energy industry but wasn’t huge. During the summer program I got to know everyone and there was an emphasis on people, connections, and mentoring. They treated us like they wanted us to come and stay!”
Strategy & Future
“It’ll continue to be a stronger version of its current identity,” says Greg Bopp when commenting on Bracewell’s future. “We have one of the largest and most prominent finance practices – particularly in projects – but there are sectors that are becoming more prominent for us, like healthcare and real estate. Those have been tremendous areas of growth for us, and we expect those to continue growing.” On the energy front, Bopp tells us that “in the next five years, you’re going to see more of a focus on clean energy technologies. You see a lot of the traditional energy providers focusing on cleaner energy projects, which brings the energy and tech sectors together.”
Bracewell’s trial group was home to the largest chunk of associates on our list, followed by transactional areas like corporate & securities, projects, and finance. While assignment pool systems were said to operate across groups, the extent to which they were used varied. In projects, for example, "it’s more free market. When I first started, I was reaching out to partners, which can be intimidating, but it’s something you can power through and is helpful for your career.” In the Houston trial group, however, the pool system was very much in force: “We’re in it for about four years and the manager distributes the work evenly. Once you’re a mid-level, you get more independence and freedom to specialize.” We were also told that the DC office in particular uses a pool assignment system.
“...you do get more independence when it comes to motion practice.”
“A lot of our clients are energy companies,” a trial source told us, “but we also work on different litigation issues for a range of mid-sized to larger companies, as well as for some wealthy individuals.” There is “a lot of doc review!” a junior laughed, before explaining that “you do get more independence when it comes to motion practice: I do the first drafts of motions and then learn from how they develop into the finished product. Our cases tend to involve higher stakes, so it’s harder to get deposition experience in the first year, but we do get pro bono matters where we can do that.” Others commented that there’s appellate and white-collar crime and government investigations work available, too.
Litigation clients: BMC Software, Foro Energy, Hardeman Family Joint Venture. Obtained a $1.6 billion win for BMC Software in a dispute against IBM over a licensing agreement.
In corporate & securities, there are M&A deals and capital markets assignments for juniors to sample. “Oil and gas entities make up the lion’s share of our clients, but we now do more renewable energy and energy transition work.” Working on these deals involves “a lot of project management and organization: as a junior you’re typically in charge of the checklist and are taking care of who’s got what and when it needs to be signed. There’s also some drafting, which I cherish! I’ve drafted a lot of board resolutions, as well as amendments, mostly on ancillary documents.” The projects department, meanwhile, is split into oil & gas and renewables groups, and “it’s mainly about representing buyers and sellers on asset transfers.” Junior work included “scrubbing documents, where you read through a partner’s draft to make sure the mechanics make sense – after you’ve scrubbed a few, you’ll get asked to have a go at drafting sections.” This source concluded that “every deal has been unique and an interesting way to learn.”
“I’ve been able to experience a lot more responsibility than my law school friends!”
Projects clients: Invenergy, Standard Solar, Rockland Capital. Represented Invenergy and its partner energyRE as they formed a consortium of investors to secure a winning bid for an offshore wind lease.
Finance associates told us that they’d had the chance to work on both lender and borrower-side deals, as well as both secured and unsecured transactions. “Some transactions are related to multiple banks and syndicated loans, and I’ve been able to do all of that!” an interviewee enthused. As you might expect, “we do quite a lot of energy-related finance work, but you do get exposed to lots of different types of financial transactions.” One junior had been able to “draft the main documents, like a credit agreement, and the partners assessed how I’m doing. I’ve been able to experience a lot more responsibility than my law school friends who are at the same level!”
Finance clients: JPMorgan Chase Bank, Phillips 66, Apache Corporation. Advised Phillips 66 on its new credit agreement with Mizuho Bank worth $5 billion.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
Associates can count up to 100 hours of pro bono and/or DE&I work toward their billable target. “There’s a way of getting to the 2,000 hours and not burning out,” a projects source told us. “Most first-years are going to be slow, but I was told that if you’re doing good work and looking for work when you’re not busy, don’t worry.” A corporate and securities interviewee also highlighted that they didn’t “feel any pressure – if you get to the target that’s fantastic, but if not, you can’t manufacture work. As long as you’re saying yes to new assignments, there’s not much more you can do.” Bonuses are lockstep for those who hit 2,000 hours, but there’s more in the discretionary pot for those who bill over 2,200 hours.
“The firm is accommodating, and they want you to be happy and excited at work.”
Most associates agreed that the work/life balance at Bracewell was good. “I don’t typically leave until after 6.30pm,” a source noted. “At times I will then go home to do more work and occasionally I have weekend work, but I'm not stressed or sleep-deprived.” A litigator estimated that they were spending about ten hours a day in the office and commended the firm for “listening to associates, which has given us more leeway to work from home or remotely for a couple weeks so you can, for example, visit family. The firm is accommodating, and they want you to be happy and excited at work.” On the finance side, an interviewee estimated that they were putting in about 60 hours of work a week on average.
The firm’s sensible approach to hours was seen to form part of its culture of care. To facilitate that, interviewees told us that Bracewell has a physical and mental wellbeing program called BWell. However, this emphasis on care went beyond formal programs and played out in everyday “natural interactions, which are more meaningful,” we heard. “I’m in the thick of it at the moment,” another junior commented, “and I had a partner reach out on Friday evening to tell me: ‘Put your phone up, get some rest, enjoy some time away.’ I know he was working, but he realized I needed time away.”
“...the idea is that new people become a part of Bracewell and ideally retire here.”
This New York associate noted the firm “has a Texas feel and that might not work for everyone, but I like it. It's very family-oriented and there’s longevity – lots of the partners on my team have been here for a long time.” Houstonites felt the same way, with one explaining that “the idea is that new people become a part of Bracewell and ideally retire here – it's not just about those 2,000 billable hours!” The Texas bunch also felt there was a “good social scene: my associate class are all very close and good friends – we meet up every now and again to get margaritas!” Another praised the firm for “pulling together associates who will coalesce together. We do lunches, dinners, and drinks. I look at my friends at other Houston firms and it’s not like that. I recognize that I have something good here.”
With a partner-to-associate ratio of over one-and-a-half partners to every associate, our survey respondents were confident about their development prospects, with nearly two-thirds indicating that they felt partnership was achievable and over half stating their intention to make partner. We heard that “the firm does a great job of having partners spend time with juniors,” and this interviewee explained that “if you’ve summered at the firm then they’re looking for you to make partner and develop you – by your fourth or fifth year they’re looking to see how you can assist clients.”
“...they do a good job of staying in touch and making sure you get the type of work you want.”
Juniors are assigned an associate and a partner mentor to help guide them through their early career. “I’ve had a good relationship with both,” one source commented. “You might not be working directly with them, but they do a good job of staying in touch and making sure you get the type of work you want.” Another said that they had “a great relationship with my partner mentor, but I’ve also sought out mentorship from other partners.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“It could definitely be better,” one associate in Houston summarized, “but I commend the firm for trying to do better. They just held a diversity retreat, which I thought was productive and helpful.” An associate in New York also highlighted the retreat and was happy that “all diverse associates could meet together and with the firm.” Comments for improvement were honed on the partnership: “Year after year the partnership classes are still pretty homogenous.” Another added that “at the partnership level there aren’t a lot of people of color or LGBTQ+ individuals.” However, at the junior end “the most recent summer class had more people of color and LGBTQ+ people than before, and the firm is striving to do better in that department and is starting to see returns. Over half of my summer class were women and the firm did make more female partners recently.” Five out of the eight most recent partnership promotions were awarded to women lawyers at the firm.
The amount of pro bono our sources had completed varied, with some using their full 100 billable hour allowance (and then some), while others hadn’t been able to fit as much in. Bracewell has a dedicated pro bono partner who sends out emails with opportunities and attends firm events to raise awareness of what associates can get involved in. We heard that guardianship cases were common and “good to cut your teeth on, because you get to experience a hearing in front of a judge, which is educational.” Corporate pro bono matters, meanwhile, are “great for getting some drafting experience.” Other interviewees told us about their time spent on asylum applications and disputes where they were able to “negotiate a compromise so my client wouldn’t have to pay anything further, which was really interesting.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 9,558
- Average per (US) attorney: 32.7
OCI applicants interviewed: 102
Bracewell recruits through OCIs and regional job fairs across the country. It also accepts write-in applications. The firm does 1L hiring as well, primarily in its Texas offices. Candidates meet with a mix of partners and associates from different practices and backgrounds during the interview process.
If you want to help ensure your success at OCI, 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
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 understanding how candidates 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.” In the most recent recruiting season, all interviews were held virtually, but in a typical year, candidates also get the opportunity to walk around the offices, see attorneys interacting with each other 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
Offers: 15 (excludes returning 2Ls who had spent the previous summer at the firm)
Acceptances: 4 (excludes returning 2Ls who had spent the previous summer at the firm)
Bracewell’s eight to ten-week summer program held in four offices 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 before offers are given at the end of the program. One of the goals of the summer program is to have the summers meet as many lawyers as they can to see if Bracewell is the place they want to start their careers. To that end, one of the highlights of the program is the annual retreat in Austin, Texas.
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
Main areas of work
• Banking & Finance
• Carbon Capture Utilization & Storage
• Corporate & Securities
• Data Security & Privacy
• Economic Development Incentives
• Employee Benefits/ERISA
• Environment, Land & Resources
• Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG)
• Financial Institutions
• Financial Restructuring
• Government Contracts
• Government Enforcement & Investigations
• Government Relations
• Healthcare & Life Sciences
• Incident Prevention & Response
• Infrastructure Development
• Insurance Recovery
• Intellectual Property
• International Arbitration
• Labor & Employment
• Pipeline Safety
• Private Equity
• Project Finance
• Public Finance
• Public Lands & Resources
• Real Estate & Finance
• Renewable Energy & Sustainability
• Strategic Communications
At Bracewell, leading lawyers and advocates work creatively and efficiently so our clients can achieve exceptional success.
For over 75 years, Bracewell has focused on delivering superb service and sophisticated insight. We excel where collaboration and deep sector knowledge provide the edge, particularly in energy, infrastructure, finance and technology. Our award-winning teams lead the market in transactions and litigation, regulatory matters and government relations. Bracewell’s strengths have made it the firm of choice for many of the world’s most successful companies, financial institutions, private funds and municipal entities.
We are proud of our spirit and our reputation for excellence. Bracewell’s success is anchored by four pillars: an authentic culture based on personal relationships, collaboration and a shared passion for the firm and its clients, our distinction as a destination firm for talent, blue-chip clients and our devotion to excellence.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, The George Washington University Law School, The University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Tulane University School of Law, University of Houston Law Center, University of Virginia School of Law and Vanderbilt Law School.
We participate in resume collects at Duke University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Howard University School of Law, South Texas College of Law and University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume collects at law schools across the nation and encourage accept write-in candidates to reach out to us via the application on our website.
Summer associate profile:
We look for candidates who have distinguished themselves academically and actively participate in law school. Successful candidates possess a strong work ethic and are self-motivated. Given the firm’s collaborative culture, we value individuals who are team players and want to work cohesively to provide innovative and sophisticated solutions to challenging legal issues.
Summer program components:
The firm offers summer associate programs in Houston, Dallas and Washington, DC. These programs typically run nine 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 and presentation skills by researching and drafting agreements, briefs, articles, blog posts and podcast episodes. In addition, summer associates are encouraged to explore the local community, participate in summer associate lunches and events and attend the annual summer associate retreat in Austin, Texas.
Recruitment website: www.bracewell.com/careers
LinkedIn: Bracewell LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: Appellate (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
Texas: Houston & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Climate Change (Band 2)
- Energy Transition (Band 2)
- Energy: Electricity (Finance) (Band 2)
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 1)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Government Relations: Federal (Band 3)
- Offshore Energy (Band 1)
- Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
- Projects: PPP (Band 4)
- Public Finance (Band 2)