Cooley LLP - The Inside View

Cooley's cool cats and kittens play with some of the world's most innovative tech companies and startups.  

“We came up as a tech and biotech firm,” Cooley’s chairman, Joe Conroy, tells us. “We are uniquely positioned,” he adds, referencing the firm’s robust services for clients in these spaces. “We have built more depth in our practice and now represent a broader set of clients. We talk about ourselves as advisers to the most dynamic companies in the world.” As you can imagine, this was quite a pull factor for our associate interviewees. “I liked how they worked with startups and tech companies,” said one, “as you don’t get that scope at most other BigLaw firms.” Indeed, the words ‘venture capital’ and ‘emerging companies’ were frequently uttered as primary reasons for joining Cooley’s ranks. The other perk of working in these areas? “You don’t have to wear a suit for work.”

The office attire may be more casual, but there’s nothing laid back about Cooley’s accolades in Chambers USA. Yes, Cooley definitely means business, as evidenced by the firm’s premier nationwide placement in the life sciencesand startups & emerging companies categories. Among many other strengths, Cooley shines when it comes to IP,tech transactions, capital markets, privacy & data security, venture capital, corporate/M&A, litigation, and international arbitration matters. With such an array of highly regarded practices, it’s no surprise to find the likes of Google, Facebook and Zoom on Cooley’s client books.

Sources also pointed to an appropriately “chill culture” across Cooley’s network of 17 offices across the globe. The juniors on our list were spread across all 11 of Cooley’s domestic bases, but the Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, DC, and Bostonoffices had the highest concentration of associates.

Strategy & Future 

“It’s been another historic year for us,” says Conroy, reflecting on 2021. The big news is that Cooley opened an office in Chicago in May 2021: “It’s an amazing market for talent and the number of life sciences and venture capital deals taking place within it has exploded. It was the last major hub for commerce in the US that we didn’t have a presence in, so it was on our checklist for a while.” 

Conroy also tells us that Cooley has been expanding in Asia and securing work on a range of IPOs occurring within markets in that region. “On the litigation side,” he continues, “we’ve added lawyers in the white-collar and investigations space and it’s been a really strong year for us in that respect.” Maintaining Cooley’s culture as the firm grows is another key component of the strategy: “Our culture starts with excellence – we want the best lawyers out there, who are competitive externally but not competitive internally at the firm.”

The Work 

Just over half of the associates on our list were assigned to Cooley’s general corporate practice, where they could pick up work across teams like M&A, fund formation, venture capital, capital markets, and technology transactions. Business litigation absorbed the next largest cohort of associates, while the firm’s designated IP litigation group also held a significant number. In general corporate, we heard that work assignment is “generally free market, but there’s a weekly ‘check-in’ email system where you can state if you’re really busy and need any help. The group leaders really do take these emails into consideration.” A similar system operates in business litigation, where sources told us that “you indicate what your expected hours are each week and can indicate if you need more work, but you can also reach out directly to people!” Litigators did highlight that there was a lot of work going around, so they were sometimes pulled on cases that weren’t high up on their interest list: “The downside is that sometimes I don’t feel like I have the opportunity to really explore my interests.”

“Taking tech companies public and then helping them navigate the obligations of being a public company."

“I’m doing everything!” declared a general corporate associate. Clients from sectors like tech, life sciences and media are represented here, and interviewees found that there was plenty to keep them occupied. “The great thing about Cooley is that M&A can be public, private, sell-side, or buy-side, while our capital markets group has a really big underwriters practice – you can do anything you want to do!” The capital markets work “is more siloed: the teams are bigger, so you’re handling the due diligence process and responsible for keeping an IPO on course, for instance.” Work with emerging companies was felt to provide the most opportunities for juniors: “On those deals I’m looking at the financing documents, helping with IP stuff, drafting ancillaries, engaging directly with opposing counsel and sitting on calls with the CEO to discuss business points.” Interviewees also liked getting involved with “taking tech companies public and then helping them navigate the obligations of being a public company – it’s marketable work.”

Corporate clients: Dropbox, Datadog, TiVo. Advised Uber on its $1.1 billion agreement to acquire on-demand alcohol delivery platform Drizly.

In business litigation“we cover any matters that don’t fall under the remit of cybersecurity, data or trademark work – so we do general commercial, securities, white-collar, investigations, and civil litigation.” Who are the clients? “You name it,” said one interviewee, emphasizing companies that fall within the Fortune 500, but this source highlighted that “we have a huge tech focus on innovator-type companies, some of which are a bit more mature now, but we don’t really represent institutional clients.” White-collar matters tended to involve more doc review and organizing chronologies, while arbitrations were seen to offer more hands-on work: “It was just me and a mid-year running everything. It was a really great experience to take the lead on discovery and to do the first draft of motions – I was so terrified but was like ‘yes!’ when they asked me if I wanted to do it.” Work with startups is “substantive and high stakes – you can really feel the energy flowing through the team.” Alongside conducting legal research and preparing presentations, sources had also been exposed to strategizing sessions: “It’ very detail-oriented, like ‘Do you think we should do this?’, ‘If we did this then…’ I’m learning a ton!”

Litigation clients: Facebook, Google, Zoom. Secured a dismissal of a nationwide class action complaint over the transmission of data on behalf of Google. 

Career Development 

When starting out, all newbies attend Cooley College, a three-week virtual training program. One general corporate source explained that “it’s like an introduction to the firm on how to be a junior associate; the week covers the main documents, the deal process and just general things to help us familiarize ourselves.” After that initial week, associates receive weekly formal training for six months and ongoing practice area sessions: “We have sessions over lunch, typically around forty-five minutes long. They’ll give you an overview of what’s happening in the market and we just had a session on a new transaction management tool.” If an associate is still stumped, they can access Cooley’s vast online library that’s filled with useful documents and articles: “There’s a bunch of articles on how to go about a due diligence project and a doc generator that will give you drafts of all the docs you’ll need, which is a real time saver.” 

“Partnership wasn’t on my radar to start with..."

“The firm has really prioritized professional development and has a dedicated team you can reach out to if you want to work on a specific skill – they’ll give you a plan,” a source commented. Another enthused: “I feel like I can share anything with the professional development team – there’s one person on it who’s an angel!” Around a quarter of the associates we surveyed intended to make partner – with a two partnership process starting in the eighth year, “Partnership wasn’t on my radar to start with,” a source expressed, “but it’s become much more appealing since being at such a pleasant firm!” 

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,950 target 

Associates have to bill 1,950 hours to be eligible for a bonus, but the firm also offers a reduced hours track that comes with a corresponding pay cut. We were told the associates can go as low as 50%. “The salary is top of the market,” beamed one source, “and we’ve done two rounds of special appreciation bonuses.”

Our interviewees were also glad that “the firm understands that the job is not your entire life.” That doesn’t mean that Cooley’s associates aren’t putting in the hours: our survey respondents logged an estimated average of 53 hours for the preceding week, but can work beyond that number. “Unfortunately, it all depends on what I’m doing,” noted a general corporate interviewee. “A lot of the time work is consistently busy, but it’s not like I’m up until 2am working every day.” A litigator told us that working until midnight was common if cases were especially active, but on average they worked between 9am and 6-7.30pm. “I usually work around two to three hours on the weekend voluntarily – there’s not enough time in the week to get all the work done!” Survey respondents had averaged nine days of vacation in the last 12 months.

“Cooley is a startup in itself when you look at how the firm was founded."


Associates couldn’t stop applauding Cooley’s cool culture, which they felt was hugely influenced by its innovative, techy client base. An interviewee summarized: “The firm has a real start-up mindset to it – it's forward-thinking, modern and cutting edge.” Another explained that “Cooley is a startup in itself when you look at how the firm was founded, and this really carries over into the culture – the firm is extremely un-hierarchical. No one is too big to do due-diligence!” This laid-back culture manifests itself in the firm’s casual dress code: “The fact we’re allowed to dress as we please makes a huge difference, most people just rock up in jeans; it's very casual.” We heard that Cooley’s lawyers keep in mind the more egalitarian edge in the small details, too: “I find red to be quite abrasive, so I often write ‘see my comments in hot pink or turquoise’ – it’s more me!” 

Social butterflies are very much welcome at Cooley: “People here are extremely social individuals who just happen to be extraordinarily intelligent and talented at what they do.” Still, we’re not trying to paint the firm as one big, sweet, mushy marshmallow, asCooley's cats know when to put their work hats on: “Although people are super friendly, they’re also ambitious and driven.” One slight point of concern for sources was the maintenance of Cooley’s culture in light of recent and anticipated growth: “Given the lateral market at the moment, the culture has started to shift.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

“Gender diversity is truly top-notch at Cooley,” an associate commented(an assertion confirmed by our own data),“but racial diversity could use some improvement.” Another felt that “Cooley is much more transparent than other firms about where it has fallen short historically, and is taking meaningful steps to rectify these shortcomings…a lot of the issues are a question of numbers and will take time to fix as diverse attorneys stay and move up.”

"Cooley clients are more innovative and new, and push boundaries."

Cooley’s substantial startup client base was again highlighted as a factor that keeps the firm at the forefront of DE&I developments: “At least Cooley clients are more innovative and new, and push boundaries, which is good.” The smaller, everyday details were also felt to be important here: “The little things matter, like the instructions for professional photos was very open – you could wear your hair as you wish, makeup and accessories as you wish, and there was no suit requirement. Cooley does those little things, but it’s an uphill battle.” Another junior felt that the “diversity events have been really good and have required us to have uncomfortable conversations – which is a good thing.” Cooley was also one of the first firms to allocate 50 hours billable credit for DE&I activities, which did not go unnoticed by our interviewees.

Pro Bono 

“Cooley has gone above and beyond many Biglaw firms in terms of activism and making the world a better place. It is meaningfully different here compared to other firms,” a source enthused.Another echoed this praise and told us that “pro bono is top-notch and I can't say enough about it. We get good, meaningful work that we can take as much of as we want. Partners genuinely understand the professional, personal, and moral value of the practice.”  

With no cap on billable pro bono hours, one associate noted that “there have been whole months where I have billed 250 hours to pro bono and done nothing else, and the firm has never expressed anything but gratitude for that.” Cooley’s lawyers give a helping hand to a wide variety of causes tied to LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, homelessness, domestic violence, disability, and family matters. Juniors also flagged the firm’s work on the litigation tied to the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in 2017: “We helped to bring a lawsuit against the organizers of the rally, which included conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence.”

Pro bono hours  

  • For all (US) attorneys: 78,608
  • Average per (US) attorney: 72

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,369 

Interviewees outside OCI: 86

Cooley casts a wide net for its OCIs: the over 40 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: 636 

The firm's legal talent team virtually greets callback interviewees prior to their meetings with five to seven lawyers total; there's also (where possible) a virtual 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: 271  

Acceptances: 135 

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 the “Truffle Shuffle” to chocolate making and cheese tastings, a mixology class, a murder mystery, a floral arrangement class and 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

  • Head Office: Palo Alto, CA
  • Number of domestic offices: 11
  • Number of international offices: 6
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.9 billion (FY2021)
  • Partners (US): 350
  • Associates (US): 850
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Carrie Wagner, Chief Legal Talent Officer (
  • Diversity officers: TJ Graham, Partner Amie Santos, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 129
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 23, 2Ls: 149, SEO: 4
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Boston: 14, Chicago: 8, Colorado: 6, Los Angeles: 6, New York: 39, Palo Alto: 41, Reston: 3, San Diego: 11, San Francisco: 26, Seattle: 2, Washington DC: 20
  • Summer salary 2022: $215,000 annualized, paid semi-monthly (approximately $4,134/week)
  • Split summers offered? Case by Case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Advertising, antitrust and competition, appellate, artificial intelligence, asset recovery, blockchain, capital markets, class actions, commercial litigation, communications, compensation and benefits, copyright, corporate, corporate restructuring and bankruptcy, cyber/data/privacy, debt finance, education, emerging companies, employment and labor, estate planning, financial services, fintech, fund formation, government contracts, healthcare, insurance, intellectual property, international anti-corruption/FCPA, international arbitration, investment funds, life sciences, M&A, patent counseling and prosecution, patent litigation, private equity, product compliance and product liability, public companies, real estate, regulatory, securities and governance, securities litigation, shareholder activism, social enterprise and impact investing, tax, technology transactions, trade secrets, trademark, 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. Cooley strives to maintain an environment of diversity and inclusiveness and to create opportunities for professional growth. Cooley considers its commitment to the communities in which it operates to be one of its highest priorities and each year performs thousands of hours of pro bono legal services and other forms of community service. 

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:

Please refer to the Events portion of our website for a list of the job fairs and campuses we will visit during the 2022 OCI season.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Interested students are also welcome to send in their applications outside of the OCI process. For a list of legal talent career contacts by office, 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 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. Comprehensive training opportunities are provided through ‘Cooley College’. Constructive feedback is provided at the conclusion of each assignment and in formal mid- and end-of-summer feedback sessions. Assigned mentors ensure that each summer associate is integrated into the firm over the course of the program.

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

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

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)