Cooley LLP - The Inside View

Cool as you like: this tech and life sciences powerhouse keeps associates on their toes from coast to coast.

As far as law firm names go, Cooley does a great job of being one of the most self-descriptive. As the firm that formed the first venture capital partnership on the West Coast, and took Qualcomm public, the firm still leads the way in emerging companies and tech work -  pretty cool right? Well, as one junior put it: “it’s fun to help clients that are building something cool, some cool IP they’ve created maybe some drug that’s going to save the world, it’s cool to learn about these companies and be involved at an early stage.” It’s this fact that made Cooley such a no-brainer for most of our interviewees, another insider added that they joined “because of their tech client base – I thought that’d make the work more interesting!”Or should we say,  cool-er?

“It’s a great fit for people who are entrepreneurial and self-starters.”

Cooley consistently lives up to the reputation in the rankings too. Our colleagues at Chambers USA  give Cooley top nationwide scores for startups & emerging companies, alongside product liability: regulatory, corporate/M&A, international arbitration, and privacy & data security. Cooley also holds a good number of top regional rankings in New York, Massachusetts and California, where the firm gets honors for its life sciences, litigation and venture capital practices. And it’s not just the work that appears to live up to its namesake: “everyone here is really cool!” one source beamed. Clearly, working on these early-stage corporate matters has rubbed off, as associates told us that “the startup culture is pretty apparent.” We heard that “the people are really approachable and willing to answer questions,” but what really stood out was associate’s enthusiasm for the firm as “a great fit for people who are entrepreneurial and self-starters themselves… it’s not a place that spoon feeds work!”

Cooley is recognized as The Elite for Associate Satisfaction and quality of life in our 2024 survey.

Strategy & Future  

Cooley is looking forward, but with a strategy keenly set to build on the practices core strengths. For the firm, improving the culture, internal and client service processes, and catalyzing their work with high-growth companies are all central to this. Cooley is looking to expand their work with both public and private companies and to improve in their regulatory, cyber, and fintech practices. To support this, the firm has increased their geographical presence, opening in downtown LA and Miami, growing the new Chicago office, and adding talent across Asia and Europe over the last couple of years. Of course, juniors did mention the firm’s recent “reduction in force” from 2022. “Some people might see as a stain on the record, and that’s valid,” noted one junior,but added that “it’s something they’ve learnt from.” The firm has recently undergone new leadership with CEO Rachel Proffit succeeding chairman Joe Conroy as the firm’s new leader this year.

The Work  

Many of the associates we spoke with brought up the positive experience they had as a summer, highlighting the firm’s flexibility and activeness in introducing them to a variety of projects. “We had a summer coordinator and a summer associate portal where attorneys put assignments,” one junior explained, and “they would match you up with assignments you’d indicated an interest in.”

The corporate side of the firm generally focuses on M&A, capital markets and emerging companies. “There are opportunities to rotate between public companies and M&A,” one junior outlined. Newbies work as generalists for the first three years, meaning “you have to do a lot of coat switching,” but the variety of work also means “you get a lot of opportunity to develop.” Of course, “deal flow is low” so “market activity has caused some issues with getting work,” but one junior did counter that “there’s no shortage of emerging company, venture capital work.” So with the ability to switch between practices, juniors can take advantage of that to an extent. Associates working cross-office is emblematic of this, which we heard is common practice for associates, partly because different offices tend to specialise on different matters. “Boston and California do a lot of private companies work and New York is pretty mixed,” one junior mused, “but DC is more government regulation, specialist work.”

“I pretty much work the full life cycle of companies,” noted another associate: “I’ve worked on over 125 different matters across 85 clients so yeah, it’s crazy!” Associates told us they’re doing everything from working with founders “founding LLCs or corporations, corporate clean up for people getting serious about venture capital, on general board consents for electing or removing officers, setting up subsidiaries for M&A transactions,” and series financings. On the advisory side associates are generally making sure SEC rules and regulations are followed with transactions, offerings and disclosures. The “day-to-day” of public company work involves your typical drafting of things like board consents, granting options and attending board meetings, but it was the private company work that really enthused our interviewees. “I love working with founders!” one junior grinned; “they’re super chaotic and it can be stressful because the money’s tight, but you’re building something – rather than like, a fire sale in an M&A deal where everyone’s getting fired aside from the founder.” Associates told us they’re often “helping clients build something cool, some cool IP they’ve created, maybe some drug that’s going to help save the world or something! It’s cool to learn about those companies and be involved at an early stage.”

Corporate clients: Morgan Stanley, Zoom, NVIDIA and Uber. Advised Netflix on its acquisition of the gaming studio, Spry Fox.

General business litigation covers mainly commercial litigation. Similar to corporate, juniors can work on matters across the breadth of the practice, and we also heard of associates working on some business group matters alongside antitrust. The latter of those, antitrust, “is new, but it’s a high priority for the firm, so it’s rapidly growing.” Here, “we’re very strong in privacy class action lawsuits, individual antitrust lawsuits against clients, and investigations matters with antitrust elements.” Across litigation, newbies were subject to shouldering a fair amount of doc review which, “nobody likes if you get too much of it… but it can be interesting.” Responsibility evolves quickly for those who demonstrate their competence though, from “writing a lot of memos and legal research” to “helping deposition prep and defence” in the third year. “It’s been a level up,” one junior admitted, “I’m drafting motions to stay, motions to dismiss, and on investigations while there is doc review it’s to uncover crimes – so you get to do more of the playing detective!” As associates approach mid-level, they’re also expected to take on management roles and delegate work to juniors.

Litigation clients: Sony Electronics, the University of Southern California and Horizon Medicines. Defended Google in a case alleging that some Fitbit trackers were causing injuries to users due to defects causing overheating.

Career Development  

“They’ll invite you to dinner with clients.”

Cooley takes both the typical informal approach to training, as well as a more structured approach via what they call ‘Cooley College.' This is formed of programs giving first years insight into processes of certain matters, followed by weeks of more specific training. For example, the firm offers deposition workshops which support associates with professional and practical skills. Cooley also has a pool of online resources associates can dip into. Although they offer training throughout the year, some noted that it “might be a little more practice dependent – there are some partners who are definitely invested in my personal and professional growth; some seniors have become mentors for me, asking me things like how I’m feeling about specializing.” Juniors also told us they had opportunities to get involved in business development, helping with putting pitches together and meeting with clients: “They’ll invite you to dinner with clients,” one insider outlined.

Cooley is recognized as The Elite for career development and associate retention in our 2024 survey.


“Cooley is BigLaw,” one insider quipped, “so nothing is going to change the fact that sometimes you need to work on weekends, the hours are long. But what makes a huge difference is if the people are nice to you.” Those we spoke with were brimming with praise for their interactions and relationships formed with fellow associates, staff and partners. Not only are class years “very close, very open and very resourceful,” with juniors looking to their peers to answer questions, but we also heard of associates joking with partners – a symptom of Cooley’s "coolCali vibe.” A couple of juniors did point out the New York office as being a “a bit more formal because of the laterals, they can be a little more intense… but not super intense.”

At Cooley, there is an emphasis placed on collaboration, and the firm is trying to encourage associates to go into the office more frequently, because juniors feel “more comfortable” asking questions in person. “New first years were told that the firm would appreciate them coming in every day,” but in reality, there is a three day in-office expectation; though, associates told us that partners can be flexible with this if needed. “Much of the work is cross office, so I rarely work in person anyway,” was a sentiment shared by a number of our interviewees, so “that flexibility has worked really well; working at home in the morning can be the difference between a 25-minute commute or an hourlong commute! - It’s been incredibly helpful.”  To encourage associates to come in, the firm holds a “magnet Wednesday, where we get free lunch.” As well as this, Cooley holdshappy hours and there is an associate committee in every office to help put on events.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  

“I know a lot of women who are taking advantage of reduced time schedules without problems from the firm.”

We were told that DEI is also important to the firm’s culture, in that “it’s a large component of associate development.” As such, “they’re very active. You see it from recruitment to pro bono and to the clientele.” We heard that affinity groups are integral to this too and are active in putting on events and integrating members. Those groups include: the Asian Pacific Islander; Black; Latinx, LGBTQ+; women attorneys; and caregivers and veterans groups. “Cooley is fantastic for women,” one junior highlighted: “I know a lot of women who are taking advantage of reduced time schedules without problems from the firm, and I frequently work on case teams where the other litigators are women, including senior associates and partners.”

Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 1,950 target  

All pro bono hours can go towards associates' billables and while there isn’t a required amount, juniors are encouraged to do at least 20. Insiders had mixed feelings on the firm’s approach to pro bono, one explained that “while I feel the policy is great, there haven’t been as many opportunities as I’d like.” Though there is a pro bono partner and team who help coordinate pro bono across offices, in offices like San Francisco “it was easy to walk by and ask them what was around, but in DC I’m not sure if it’s as clear.” Nevertheless, juniors can work on “a lot of one offs, setting aside time to help people in the community through things like mobile legal clinics, immigration clinics,” as well as sentencing reform and advice for small businesses. Juniors did also raise concerns about bringing pro bono matters to the firm as, though one associate did tell us “I’ve heard of people doing it,” they weren’t aware of the process and another junior noted not being able to bill a pro bono matter they brought to the firm. On the whole though, insiders did generally reflect the sentiment, “pro bono has been a big part of my experience, so Cooley is very supportive of it.”

“Pro bono has been a big part of my experience.”

Billable pro bono can also be helpful when it comes to meeting billable targets, which falls at 1,950 hours for Cooley associates. Like a lot of corporate practices, associates noted that “last year it was hard to reach hours” across the firm which was, for some, “stressful.” But for the most part, associates didn’t get the impression that missing out on hours held any repercussions, aside from missing out on the bonus. Things have improved over the last half year though, with most people being on track to reach the target. On the subject of bonuses, juniors did “wish there was more transparency early on," and insiders also wished there was a little more clarity about if there were any extra bonuses for going over 1,950 hours. But overall, juniors were satisfied with the market-level compensation.

Cooley is recognized as The Elite for pro bono and DEI in our 2024 survey.

Pro bono hours   

  • For all (US) attorneys: 68,772
  • Average per (US) attorney: 62.3

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI applicants interviewed: 1004

Interviewees outside OCI: 77

Cooley casts a wide net for its OCIs: the over 30 law schools it visits annually include both top-tier institutions and schools local to the firm's offices. It also takes a more personal approach to recruitment via practice-specific resume collections from certain schools. Plus, the firm hires promising 1Ls through their 1L Diversity Fellowship and Patent Law programs.  

Interviews aren't 'office specific'. For example, the firm says: “A student in San Francisco may meet with a partner from New York – all our interviewers are well versed in the unique qualities of each of our offices.” The criteria at this stage are a genuine interest in and understanding of Cooley's culture and practice. Interviews will focus on the competencies of the candidate, who must be honest about their own goals and interests and genuinely enthusiastic about joining Cooley.  

Top tips:  

“They make no secret that it's behavioral interviewing, and they also evaluate whether they can socialize with the person professionally and whether the candidate is presentable and potentially easy-going with a client.” – a junior associate   

“I think having a good understanding of the tech ecosystem, especially in New York, would help. Being actively interested and up to date on startup ties into the larger theme of showing interest in the type of work we do.” –a junior associate  


Applicants invited to second stage:  315

The firm's legal talent team greets callback interviewees prior to their meetings with five to seven lawyers total; there's also (where possible) a coffee or lunch with two junior associates. Interviewers will vary in seniority and practice area, based on the candidate's stated interests – the firm “always asks if there are specific types of individuals you'd like to meet during your visit.”  

Competencies remain central to this interview stage. Cooley follows behavioral interviewing techniques, “assigning each interviewer a specific topic to establish if the candidate possesses the traits that we find work best for Cooley teams.” Impressing at this stage requires research into the firm's practice, asking candid questions and making sure you know your goals and that they align with those of the firm.  

Top tips:  

“Compared to other firms people have to be very practical and have a certain maturity: we work with a lot of smaller companies who don't want a memo  they want practical advice.” –a junior associate   

“Cooley tries to find people who are people and not just lawyers. It's about finding out whether or not you're a well-rounded person with interests outside academics.” –a junior associate  

Summer program 

Offers:  72 2L offers

Acceptances:  61 2L acceptances (59)/pending (2)

Eschewing a formal rotation system, Cooley has its assignment coordinators meet regularly with summer associates to ensure they're getting a taste of everything they're interested in within their practice group. They also each get an associate and partner mentor, and 'comprehensive' training sessions including mini 'Cooley College' sessions throughout the summer. Cooley also gives formal feedback to its summer associates once they’ve completed each assignment and via mid and end-of-summer sessions.  

“An entrepreneurial mindset” will serve summer associates well, as those who seize the chance to guide their experience will thrive. Cooley is looking for summers “to take ownership and inspire confidence,” as the majority will return to the firm as juniors and will have decided on their area of practice by that stage.  

Notable summer events: Assortment of cooking classes from pizza and dumpling making to key lime pie making.  Volunteer opportunities, pickle ball, a spray paint workshop and Mobsters and Lobsters tour along with a variety of happy hours and other opportunities for summer associates to meet informally with our lawyers. (Office Dependent)  

Top tips: 

“The best way to approach the summer is to try and figure out if you're interested in certain things, if there's someone you really want to work with to get a taste of that and just meet people. Figuring out if you like the people and would be happy to spend late nights with them in the office is most important.” – a junior associate  

And finally...  

At interview “it shines through when you are genuine and enthusiastic about where you see yourself and why, and it provides for genuine conversation.” –the firm 


Cooley LLP

3175 Hanover Street,
Palo Alto,
CA 94304-1130

Main areas of work
Antitrust, appellate, artificial intelligence, blockchain, business litigation, business restructuring and reorganization, capital markets, class actions, communications, compensation and benefits, corporate, , cyber/data/privacy, debt finance, education, employment and labor, ESG and sustainability advisory, financial services, fintech, fund formation, intellectual property, international arbitration, international trade and government contracts, investment funds, life sciences and healthcare regulatory,, M&A, patent counseling and prosecution, patent litigation, private companies, private equity, product compliance and product liability, public companies, real estate, securities litigation, shareholder activism, tax, technology transactions, trade secrets, trademark and copyright, venture capital, virtual and augmented reality, white collar defense and investigations.

Firm profile
Cooley’s lawyers solve legal issues for entrepreneurs, investors, financial institutions and established companies with a significant emphasis on technology, life sciences and other high growth industries. Clients partner with Cooley on transformative deals, complex IP and regulatory matters and bet-the-company litigation, where innovation meets the law. Cooley goes to great lengths to maintain the culture of teamwork, collaboration, respect and excellence upon which it was established in 1920. We strive to maintain an environment of diversity and inclusiveness and to create opportunities for professional growth.

Our people-first philosophy, trademark cooperative spirit and firmwide commitment to inclusion and wellness are central to our success. We consider our commitment to the communities in which we operate to be one of our highest priorities and perform thousands of hours of pro bono legal services and other forms of community service.

From career stage-specific academies and conferences for both associates and partners, to on-demand training resources, Cooley has designed our learning environment to meet the development needs of our lawyers, enabling them to build a fulfilling career and provide great client service.

OCI Law Schools & Job Fairs attending in 2024:
Boston College, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington University, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, NYU, Santa Clara, Stanford, University of Chicago, U. of Colorado, U. of Denver, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, University of San Diego, University of Virginia, University of Washington, Vanderbilt, Washington University-St. Louis, William & Mary, Yale, Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Loyola Patent Job Fair, Lavender Law Fair. 

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Beginning on May 15th, interested students are encouraged to apply directly. Please visit:

Summer associate profile:
Successful summer associates are highly motivated, independent thinkers, with a collaborative spirit and an entrepreneurial mindset. They have excelled both in and beyond the classroom. They recognize that the greatest successes are those achieved by a diverse team. They take ownership, inspire confidence and are motivated by a shared sense of purpose. 

Summer program components:
Cooley’s summer program is designed to give participants an unfiltered introduction to life and practice at the firm. It enables them to experience Cooley’s commitment to providing extraordinary legal services in a professional and collaborative environment. Our program provides opportunities for our summer associates to interact with each other locally and firmwide as a class, which creates bonds that go beyond the summer program. Constructive feedback is shared at the conclusion of each assignment, and during both mid- and end-of-summer feedback sessions. Assigned mentors ensure that each summer associate is integrated into the firm throughout the program.

Work assignments relate to ongoing client matters, offer practical exposure to the firm’s client base and practice, and are representative of the work they would receive as an associate.

With real assignments, hands-on skills training, participation in practice group meetings, and feedback from Cooley lawyers, summer associates can expect to get a real sense of what it means not only to practice at Cooley, but also to “Be Cooley.”

Social media:
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: Cooley LLP
Instagram: @cooley_llp
Twitter: @cooleycareers
Facebook: @CooleyLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Technology: Transactions (Band 2)
    • Venture Capital (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)
    • Technology (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Convertible Debt (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 5)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
    • Product Liability: Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 4)
    • SPACs (Band 3)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 5)
    • Technology (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)

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