Associates are braced for changes in global energy at this Texas firm, which also has sector focuses on finance and technology.
2020 showed us many things, not least the importance of adapting. Yet for the folks at Bracewell – a firm that has long been known for its oil and gas expertise – adapting to the times isn’t new. “The firm is aware of what’s going on in the world,” one junior commented, “and there’s been a big push to get into more of the renewables space. They’re not just stuck in their ways.” Managing partner Greg Bopp explains: “We are very focused on the energy transition. Energy transition is a broad area that cuts across multiple practices, including renewable energy, carbon capture, energy storage and environmental, social and governance, or ESG. All of this is in our sweet spot, and the client interest in these areas is booming. The energy transition will produce a tremendous amount of opportunities for us in 2021 and beyond. We’re in the right place at the right time.” Notably, the firm hired nine lateral hires into its energy team across London, Dubai and the US in 2020.
“The energy transition will produce a tremendous amount of opportunities for us in 2021 and beyond.”
Alongside its energy expertise, Bracewell focuses its efforts on the finance and technology sectors. “Our managing partner has done a great job of carving out those special industries we’re known for,” said one junior. The firm’s Chambers USA nationwide rankings certainly reflect Bracewell’s prowess in the oil & gas and electricity energy sectors, while the firm’s projects work highlights its renewables expertise. Bracewell picks up the rest of its domestic rankings in its home state of Texas, where it shines for banking & finance, environment and labor & employment work especially. Beyond accolades, our sources uniformly praised the firm. “It’s a firm in BigLaw that just doesn’t have that BigLaw feel,” one found. “It’s just a really pleasant place to work; they don’t make the job harder than it already is.” Most associates at the time of our calls had found a home in the Houston HQ, but New York and DC also took on a fair number, while Dallas and Austin had just a few incomers each.
Strategy & Future
"We continue to see a high volume of work in the renewables space, but all of our practices areas are very active," says managing partner Greg Bopp. "On the transactional side, our M&A, bank finance, public finance, restructuring and capital markets practices are off the charts busy. On the litigation side, we are seeing an unprecedented amount of bankruptcy litigation, government enforcement and investigations, and labor and employment work." Read more from Bopp by clicking on the 'Get Hired' tab above.
The business and regulation section (BRS) absorbed most of the juniors on our list. The section is split into various subgroups including corporate & securities, projects, finance and energy regulatory. Bracewell’s trial practice took on the next biggest group of juniors, while just a couple had joined the firm’s IP practice. First-years in DC are placed in a ‘pool’ system to enable them to pick up work from the different subgroups. In New York, juniors are typically assigned to a practice area from the get-go. Other offices hire straight into specific BRS groups. Work allocation across the firm is a pretty informal affair. Some groups had assignment coordinators and some didn’t, but on the whole it was mostly a case of juniors forming good working relationships and getting repeat work from seniors. “They reach out to me and I reach out to them,” said a Houston-based source. “You become somebody’s go-to person.”
In the BRS sphere, DC was dubbed the “go-to place for any regulatory matters” by one source, as the office’s lawyers deal with clients who are “interfacing with the energy regulatory commission.” DC gets pulled in “for any regulatory aspect of a transaction – colleagues will ask us about any federal energy or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, and we’ll review those matters.” Deals in the projects group tend to involve either equity or asset purchases in the energy sphere, with work split between oil and gas and renewables. “You start doing both and then shift to one later down the line,” said one junior here. On the finance side, the firm mostly represent lenders in transactions, with the “majority of those deals being revolving syndicated loans.” Previously, “we were exclusively working with oil and gas companies, but we’re now seeing energy companies in the renewable and hydraulic space coming through.” Juniors across the groups were happy with their responsibility levels: writing first drafts of documents, liaising with clients, and coordinating international due diligence with local counsel were all mentioned as key responsibilities by our interviewees.
BRS clients: TC Energy Corporation, Phillips 66, Kinder Morgan. Acted as US counsel for Equinor as it sold to BP its 50% interest in two wind projects off the US East Coast for $1.1 billion.
The trial group also encompasses labor and finance restructuring subgroups. Bracewell does “a good mix of creditor and debtor” work on the restructuring side, which sees its lawyers “representing banks and institutional clients.” Beyond this, we were told about cases related to construction disputes, hostile takeovers, sexual abuse allegations, internal investigations, securities matters, patent issues and arbitrations. Yes, there’s the inevitable doc review for juniors, but this source found that “it’s how I’ve learnt about cases – people give it a hard time!” There were also plenty more advanced tasks to keep associates busy, including “leading reviews on plans of organization or disclosure statements”; “helping to draft substantive memorandums”; “drafting motions for summary judgment”; and, in one case with over 50 claimants, “drafting 52 complaints – that filled my entire summer!”
Litigation clients: Apache Corporation, City of Houston, Wells Fargo (as administrative agent). The firm recently defended the City of Houston in a class action that alleged violations of the US Constitution by the Houston Police Department.
There’s reportedly “a huge emphasis on attorney development.” As all good lawyers do, our sources supported their claims with evidence. First, they flagged the benefits of attending BRS and litigation-oriented bootcamps across their first two years at the firm. “That bootcamp grounded me,” explained one, “it allowed me to see the long term and bigger picture.” Second, they told us how the firm has produced a list of core competencies that associates should be meeting at every stage of their career. “You know exactly what the firm expects of you going up the ranks,” this junior enthused. Third, talk of a whole host of development opportunities – like “constant CLEs,” Excel trainings and external conferences – further supported associates’ claims. “There’s a constant commitment to learning new skills,” one concluded. In addition to formal and informal mentorship structures, associates also typically meet with the head of professional development twice a year.
“You know exactly what the firm expects of you going up the ranks.”
Differing opinions emerged regarding long-term prospects. For some, the core competencies provided a sturdy track for the future: “They help lay out the guideline for those wanting to become partner.” Another was less sure and felt that “there’s not a lot of transparency about getting to partnership level. You can look at the core competencies all you want but there could be more transparency there.” Generally, sources did feel that the firm was “keen to retain talent,” with this junior explaining that “those who want to make partner stick around and tend to do so, while those who don’t become counsel or move in-house. If you’re not on the partner track the firm will help to place you in-house.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 requirement
Bracewell juniors aim to bill 2,000 hours (100 of which can be formed from pro bono and D&I activities) for a market rate bonus. Is that a realistic aim? “Everyone will have a different answer to that because of the market in 2020,” this wise source replied. Those in areas like projects and finance agreed that “this year has been relatively slow, with things only getting back to normal in recent months,” while litigators tended to find reaching 2,000 hours more “manageable – some associates won’t hit it, but that’s because of the pandemic and working from home as the courts went virtual.”
All our interviewees championed Bracewell’s approach to work/life balance. “Our managing partner has really encouraged people to have balance and is especially cognizant of mental health,” one junior commented. This doesn’t mean that a career at Bracewell won’t come with those long BigLaw hours. “It’s not going to be that amazing 8am to 6pm working life,” said a projects junior. “A lot of deal lawyers say that some months are crazy with 250 hours billed.” Bankruptcy sources said that “it can be feast or famine,” while litigators highlighted that “sometimes you’re working from 9am until 9pm or later, but the idea of finding balance when you do have the time makes it better.” Interviewees were grateful to their practice group leaders for “making sure that you get recharge time if you’ve been slammed.” We were also told that in the Texas market, “weekends are considered a little bit sacred, so it’s understood that it’s a big ask for you to work then.”
“I think it’s taken seriously,” one source mused, concluding: “There’s a good emphasis on it, but we could do a little more.” Associates can count up to 100 pro bono hours toward their billing target, which “incentivizes you to do the work, especially if you’re slower, which isn’t maybe the right approach.” We heard of associates taking on veterans' cases and “a lot of juvenile record sealings,” as well as partnering up with organizations like Her Justice and Houston Volunteer Lawyers. “We have a program in place,” a junior commented, “but I wouldn’t say it’s the leading fire flame.” Another added: “They’re not going to discourage it or look at you poorly for doing it, so long as you’re managing your deadlines. At the same time no one will say anything if you haven’t done any pro bono.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys across all US offices: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: 29
“Our office is unique in that we have stronger bonds than just colleagues,” said one New York source. However, this very social and close-knit vibe was picked up on across locations. For example, DC has “always been a place where people come in, talk around the coffee machine, go to their office, then go back to the coffee machine – it's a very social place where you say hi and talk to people. It’s not a ‘heads down’ place.” Houston also has a “very friendly office environment: it’s open door and I can go directly to my supervisor, plus people set up lunches together and talk in the breakrooms.” Overall, “the firm does a great job of bringing attorneys together” – not just within the offices, but between them too. There’s a firmwide Monday morning call with all attorneys in all offices: “We’re all brought together across the firm to discuss cases, successes, and it’s a nice way to be together, from Seattle to Dubai!” An annual summer associate retreat, which is typically held in Texas, also helps to foster early connections, which go some way to creating a culture where you’re “never on a conference call where you just get straight to business – it’s always checking in and catching up.”
“...it’s a nice way to be together, from Seattle to Dubai!”
So do you need to be an extrovert to thrive at Bracewell? “If you’re more of an introvert it could be a challenging place as there’s a big emphasis on socializing,” this Houston junior suggested. “You don’t have to be an extrovert, but the benefit of being here is attending the events and making those relationships, as these things help you to progress. You show that you’re committed to your work and capable of bringing in a book of business in the future.” This New York source agreed that “there’s some degree of extroversion here, but no one will mind one way or the other. I don’t think it’s an introversion/extroversion thing – it's about having an entrepreneurial nature and putting yourself out there. Just don’t be a jerk about it!”
Diversity & Inclusion
This source got to the heart of the matter: “More work needs to be done on retention, which is a widespread issue in the legal industry. The firm intentionally brings in diverse candidates, and my summer class was pretty diverse, but retention is the bigger issue.” Another junior felt that there was more to be done on the recruitment front as well as on retention. At the moment, “we’re pretty good with gender,” but with regard to “race, we’re really lacking,” summarized one interviewee. Recommendations for improvements including hosting “more organic diversity events outside of recruitment,” “recruiting at historically black colleges and universities,” implementing “support systems to help diverse associates during practice,” and hiring a new diversity coordinator: “We did have a D&I coordinator who was creating events and CLEs, but she left and we haven’t hired anyone in the last few years.” The firm is in the process of recruiting a new diversity manager.
Sources did highlight the existence of a firmwide diversity committee and commended the firm for “taking more steps in the right direction: during our firmwide Monday morning meetings we will address noteworthy things in the news, including Black Lives Matter developments.” Juniors also told us that D&I is “at the top of the mind of the partnership” and that the firm as a whole is “actively working on improving things.” We also heard that alongside pro bono, associates can bill D&I hours in with their 100-hour allowance for the billable target.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 397
Interviewees outside OCI: 80 (write-in candidates and job fair participants)
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 our 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
Applicants invited to second stage: 167
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: 36 (excludes returning 2Ls who had spent the previous summer at the firm)
Acceptances: 9 (excludes returning 2Ls who had spent the previous summer at the firm)
Bracewell’s eight to ten-week summer program held in 4 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. While that event was not held in 2020, the firm provided opportunities for each summer associate to connect virtually with other 90 lawyers around the firm.
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 Bracewell's managing partner Greg Bopp
Chambers Associate:How did last year go for the firm? How would you describe the firm's current market position?
Greg Bopp: We had an outstanding year. We stayed connected with each other, provided excellent client service, and recruited top talent at the partner and associate level. As always, we continued to focus on our vision – to be widely known and admired for our commitment to excellence, as a destination firm for talent and as a firm of choice for clients.
We are very pleased with our current market position. We are universally recognized for our excellence in the energy, infrastructure, finance and technology sectors and in our large strategic practice areas, including litigation and regulatory. We are a well-balanced and diversified firm – half the firm is transaction focused, and the other half is focused on our market-leading litigation, regulatory and government practices. Our robust mix of practices allows us to be a firm of choice across a number of high demand practice areas.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well? You mentioned last year that the “renewables practice is growing at a rapid pace,” is that still the case?
GB: We continue to see a high volume of work in the renewables space, but all of our practices areas are very active. On the transactional side, our M&A, bank finance, public finance, restructuring and capital markets practices are off the charts busy. On the litigation side, we are seeing an unprecedented amount of bankruptcy litigation, government enforcement and investigations, and labor and employment work.
CA: How has the pandemic impacted practice at Bracewell? Are you making adjustments to bolster certain practices going forward?
GB: The pandemic has emphasised and highlighted the importance of culture, and Bracewell’s strong culture was a critical component of our success over the past year. Culture is an incredibly powerful asset that certainly can’t be manufactured in a crisis. At Bracewell, our culture is built on a foundation of personal relationships, collaboration, compassion, genuineness and excellence in everything we do.
As for how the pandemic impacted life at Bracewell, we essentially continued doing the things we’ve always done to stay connected with each other. We’ve always had a weekly meeting of all attorneys and senior staff – we call it the Monday Morning Meeting. As a result, we didn’t have to create a method of communication in response to the pandemic – we’ve been doing it for the past 75 years. It served us very well in 2020 to have a long-standing tradition of weekly communication. Honestly, our culture is as strong today as it’s ever been.
CA: Are there any other practices you’ve earmarked for growth over the next year?
GB: Yes, as I mentioned previously, we are very focused on our strengths in the energy, infrastructure, finance and technology sectors and in our large strategic practice areas, including litigation and regulatory. We expect growth in all of those areas.
CA: Are there any broader trends (whether political, economic, technological, sector-specific) that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm's practices?
GB: We have long been known as one of the world’s leading firms across the entire energy spectrum. We have unmatched depth in the oil and gas and power and renewables sectors. When you combine that with our large corporate finance and public finance practices, we are clearly one of the world’s leading energy and infrastructure firms.
We are very focused on the energy transition. Energy transition is a broad area that cuts across multiple practices, including renewable energy, carbon capture, energy storage and environmental, social and governance, or ESG. All of this is in our sweet spot, and the client interest in these areas is booming. The energy transition will produce a tremendous amount of opportunities for us in 2021 and beyond. We’re in the right place at the right time.
CA: As the world pivots towards more sustainable forms of energy use, do you anticipate traditional oil and gas work might phase out?
GB: I do not anticipate that traditional oil and gas work will phase out. However, I do anticipate that many traditional oil and gas companies will dedicate more resources toward renewables, carbon capture and sustainability initiatives. This will certainly create interesting opportunities for us across a variety of practice areas.
CA: Will the recent presidential election have an impact on life at the firm or the work Bracewell does?
GB: Yes, it will. We have a large and highly regarded Washington, DC-based federal regulatory and policy practices. Any time there’s a change in administration, you can be certain that new legislation and regulations will follow. Our government and regulatory practices are exceptionally busy advising clients on legislative and policy changes implemented by the Biden administration.
CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about? I know you mentioned the launch of BWell in 2019, how is that performing?
GB: We continue to focus on the Power Three Initiatives: professional development, BWell, and diversity and inclusion. BWell has been a fantastically successful initiative at the firm. Our team has created a thorough and active resource portal filled with lots of wellness resources our employees have made use of. Each quarter, we focus on a different element of well-being – mental, physical, financial, and community well-being – by having a featured speaker talking to all lawyers and staff about that quarter’s theme. Professional development for our lawyers continues to be a focus that includes both substantive and professional skills. On the diversity and inclusion front, we developed a new pipeline initiative to help ensure that we have more diverse lawyers beginning their careers with us and are developing internal programming to create a more inclusive culture.
We have also been very busy on the recruiting front. Since the beginning of 2020, we have added 17 lateral partners and 27 associates. We look forward to welcoming 33 summer associates for our 2021 summer associate program.
711 Louisiana Street,
- Head Office: Houston, TX
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $300,000,000
- Partners (US): 174
- Associates (US): 123
- Counsel: 29
- Main recruitment contact:
- Jennifer Queen, Chief Talent Officer
- Hiring partners:
- Austin: Tim Wilkins
- Dallas: Rob Collins
- Houston: Molly Butkus and Charles Still
- New York: Josh Klein
- Washington, DC: Kirk Morgan and Britt Steckman
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 19
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 14 and 2Ls: 19
- Summer salary 2021: 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
• Employee Benefits/ERISA
• Environmental Strategies
• ESG • Finance
• Financial Institutions
• Financial Restructuring
• Government Contracts
• Government Enforcement & Investigations
• Government Relations
• Healthcare & Life Sciences
• Incident Prevention & Response
• Infrastructure & Development
• Insurance Recovery
• Intellectual Property
• International Practice
• Labor & Employment
• Private Equity
• Public Finance
• Real Estate & Projects
• Renewable Energy & Sustainability
• Strategic Communications
Bracewell LLP is a leading law and government relations firm primarily serving the energy, infrastructure, 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 2021:
Baylor, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Northwestern, NYU, 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
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume collects at law schools across the nation and accept write-in candidates via 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 selfmotivated. Given the firm’s collaborative culture, we value individuals who are team players and want to work collaboratively to provide innovative and sophisticated solutions to challenging legal issues.
Summer program components:
The firm offers summer associate programs in four 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, 2021
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: Appellate (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
Texas: Houston & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Climate Change (Band 3)
- Energy: Electricity (Finance) (Band 1)
- 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 3)
- Government Relations (Band 3)
- Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
- Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
- Projects: PPP (Band 4)