Cooley LLP - The Inside View

From innovative startups to global giants, Cooley’s clientele is a who’s who of tech.

Let’s talk about the Zoom boom of 2020. Within a few weeks, the video communications company was a household name and had been promoted to verb status in the English lexicon – “Shall we Zoom?” And when the world changed for Zoom, it turned to Cooley. “A lot of the big players in the tech world” are clients of the firm – Google, Facebook and Twitter are three more. As well as these well-known names, the firm acts for “off-the-beaten-path companies” and startups like “the company down the street working on the COVID vaccine.”

“The firm is at the zenith of venture capital and emerging company work!”

Cooley has ten offices in the US, including bases in New York, DC and LA. But headquarters are to be found in Palo Alto, signaling the firm’s tight connection to the Silicon Valley region. “People’s eyes light up whenever I talk to someone about the firm in California,” one associate noted. “Within the venture capital and startup community, Cooley is extremely respected and well known.” Another went further: “The firm is at the zenith of venture capital and emerging company work!” But don’t just take their word for it: Chambers USA bestows top-tier national rankings for Cooley’s venture capital, life sciences, startup and emerging companies work. It has additional strong rankings in capital markets and securities litigation in California, corporate/M&A in Massachusetts, and media & entertainment regulatory work in DC.

Strategy & Future

Cooley’s most recent office openings were in Brussels in 2019 and Singapore in 2020, upping the total number of overseas bases to six. Sources said the firm was focusing on building its “global brand in Asia,” while the US, they described a desire to grow in New York and develop its relationships with investment banking clients. “We’re a leader in the venture capital and emerging companies space,” one Big Apple junior said, “and firm management wants to grow the public company, capital markets, and M&A reputation in the city.”

The Work

The firm recruits juniors into all ten US bases, although most call Palo Alto or New York home. Geography naturally shapes the types of work that each office does, with DC overseeing more regulatory matters compared to those in Palo Alto,which shines on the venture capital and emerging company stage. Most incomers fall under the firm’s ‘business’ umbrella, joining transactional practices such as corporate, fund formation, and capital markets. Most of Cooley’s junior litigators joined the business litigation group. Other litigation subgroups include IP litigation and data privacy.

Work assignment differs slightly across practices. Corporate juniors are expected to get “a good amount of experience” in capital markets, M&A, and emerging companies/venture capital. “We send updates on which deals we’ve worked on and the areas we’d like to move forward in,” one source in New York shared. There are assigning partners to oversee workloads and juniors can get staffed on matters through informal networking too.

“Everything has a tech slant.”

Juniors under the business umbrella found work in the general corporate subgroup, capital markets, fund formation, M&A, technology transactions, and more. “Everything has a tech slant,” one mused. “I’ve worked with edtech companies, a pharmaceutical company, retail technology, fintech, and healthcare-related companies.” When working with emerging companies, associates handle work across a company’s lifecycle: “Everything from forming the company, to advice for employee stock grants, to bringing in advisers, and then financing, negotiating term sheets and working with venture capital firms on the investment.” Juniors also got experience on seed investment rounds for emerging companies in different industries. They happily explained that because of the size of these kinds of companies “they don’t want to pay high fees, so lots of responsibility is thrown to you if you can handle it.” On M&A deals generally, interviewees said the fast pace often meant “juniors end up doing menial tasks because it's 2am and has to be done immediately.” Capital markets juniors are based mostly in New York. They got involved in ATM offerings and IPOs “for both companies and underwriters.” In the technology transactions group, sources described handling “day-to-day contract negotiating and issues for technology companies.” Others got involved in negotiating with software suppliers and handling the due diligence of merger agreements. In fund formation work, the team acts as pseudo “outside counsel for these funds, helping during financing deals and then throughout the life of the fund.”

Corporate clients: Zoom, Snapchat, Levi’s, Kim Kardashian, Girlboss. Advised immuno-oncology company Forty Seven on its $4.9 billion sale to Gilead.

“I’ve worked on insurance cases, trade secrets cases, and investigations.”

Juniors described the business litigation practice as “so diverse.” As one detailed, “I’ve worked on insurance cases, trade secrets cases, and investigations.” We also heard of juniors working on cases in the data privacy arena. Juniors in the IP litigation group encountered interesting businesses ranging from medical device companies to dating apps. Associates described a busy practice with small teams, “so there’s too much work not to get substantive exposure” to different tasks.Whether taking the lead on drafting briefs, getting a bit of client contact, or “helping direct the case when partners ask questions to help inform their decision,” associates agreed “this group is fantastic at giving substantive work to juniors.” But to be clear, they had their “fair share of document review” as well.

Litigation clients: Facebook, PayPal, Twitter, insurance company Cigna. Defended Google in a class action brought by advertisers in connection with Google’s online advertising program.

Career Development

To start with, all newbies attend Cooley College, a five-day training week in New York. “It’s great,” one enthused. “You get together to go through different aspects of law and to get a lay of the land.” After that initial week, associates receive formal training every week for six months. Our interviewees had a strong sense that the firm was invested in their professional development: “They care about what type of experience I’m getting,” one praised. “And people are willing to take time and explain ‘the why’.” Sources also praised the formalized review process, where senior figures “talk about your potential, what kind of things you want to be doing in the future, and how they can get you there.”

Looking ahead, sources were less sure about the partnership track. “There’s not much visibility there if I’m honest,” one felt. Another source did point to the latest promotion round of 16 partners (14 of whom were in the US) as evidence of the track being possible for some.Only one in six of the associates we surveyed said they intended to make partner; quite a few more had in-house ambitions and fancied their “future potential outside the firm” with Cooley stamped on their resume.

Pro Bono

One of our interviewees was pleasantly surprised when they got to take a deposition and draft a “huge portion of a motion summary judgment” thanks to a pro bono matter. “It’s something the firm really pushes,” they said. “I’ve been really impressed that they mean it.” Some of the other highlights that juniors got to work on included suing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of immigrant detainees; “pursuing action on the hate groups” linked to the James Field Charlottesville car attack in 2017; cases with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts; as well as work with the US track team, helping athletes train during the pandemic by reviewing the CARES Act.

Pro bono hours are uncapped, allowing juniors to take on as much as they choose – “no one’s ever told me I do too much!” Cooley's attorneys can also bill seven hours to go to protests or community events.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 81,408
  • Average per (US) attorney: 86.8

Cooley sits in the top 20 law firms for total pro bono hours billed in 2020>

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 1,950 target

Associates have to bill 1,950 hours to be eligible for a bonus, although “most bill above that.” Capital markets and M&A work could be “pretty all-consuming,” with one source saying, “I got an email pulling me onto a deal late Friday night, which totally wrecked my weekend.” Thankfully, we heard “everyone’s working hard, so it’s not just the juniors getting screwed.”

“They want to incentivize people to give it their all.”

To mitigate the burden, Cooley offers associates a reduced hours option, much to this source’s delight: “It helps to create a place where I can see myself in the long run.” There’s a corresponding pay cut obviously, so associates working to 80% of the 1,950 billable target will be paid 80% of the base salary (which is New York market rate across offices). A ramp up/down period also allows expecting caregivers time to adjust their commitments before they go on leave and after they return to work. This year juniors were grateful to receive a ‘special bonus’ from the firm in light of the pandemic. “It was thoughtful and humanizing,” one source reflected. The standard annual bonuses are individualized, so “high performers will get more.”


As evidenced in that individualized bonus system, associates said “they want to incentivize people to give it their all. People are accommodating but it’s fast-paced.” There’s often an assumption that Cali-headquartered firms are more laidback than their peers on the East Coast. Several of our interviewees did describe it as such, but we reckon this associate’s description sums it up best: “People are friendly, and yes, I can wear jeans, but it’s not laidback.” This is BigLaw, and “it can be a stressful environment.”

“People are friendly, and yes, I can wear jeans, but it’s not laidback.”

With that out of the way, our interviewees were quick to tell us they infinitely preferred the “jeans and sweaters” attire to traditional office gear.In part, sources found this dress code mirrors that of the firm’s techy clientele. “Whether the clients are young or not, they’re very progressive and expect certain behavior from us,” one found. “If we came in wearing suits we might intimidate some clients!”

And while no law firm is really laidback, associates felt Cooley’s Californian ties “are part of the brand.” Even in the East Coast offices, sources spoke to the Californian influence. “I’m a New Yorker through and through but I’ve bought into that Californian vibe.” Similarly in DC, “I think because of the market here, we’re known as the techy, eclectic firm.” Collectively, sources championed Cooley’s overriding culture: “Everyone has a high EQ and is fun to hang out with.”

While associates said “it’s not social like the way Skadden or Kirkland might be,” they clarified that “this is not a nerdy firm where people just stick to themselves.” Cooley associates enjoyed “occasional” happy hours or wine and cheese events, “where people can chat for an hour or so, then go home to family and friends.” Down in DC, they’re all about organized fun: “Impromptu after-work drinks aren’t typical; happy hours are planned in advance.” Associates liked that “there’s not an expectation to stay out until 2am to bond,” but reckoned “there is an expectation that you will engage with everyone in the office and contribute in nonbillable ways.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Something that stood out to one interviewee when they joined Cooley was “the willingness of the firm to address cultural concerns” like the BLM movement. As evidence of forward momentum, sources mentioned weekly practice-wide calls to discuss diversity issues; billable hours being allocated for diversity efforts (like planning and going to talks); and widely attended affinity groups for varying strands of diversity stands. “To know that leadership gets it and is trying to work on diversity is huge,” one shared. “As a minority, the effort is great.” As is true across BigLaw, sourced noted that there’s “a long way to go” with numbers.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,230 

Interviewees outside OCI: 88

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 a lot of it is evaluating 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: 514 

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: 224  

Acceptances: 115 

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. They also each get a 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: “Distant Social” to Meet Firm Leaders Via Zoom, Truffle Cooking Class with Guest Appearance from Cast Members of Hamilton, Ukulele-Making, Flower-Arranging, Terrarium-Making, and/or S’mores-Making (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: $1.55 billion
  • 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 and Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 100
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 18, 2Ls: 128, SEO: 1
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Boston: 17, Colorado: 4, Los Angeles: 4, New York: 29, Palo Alto: 42, Reston: 3, San Diego: 9, San Francisco: 20, Seattle: 2, Washington DC: 17
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,942/week 2Ls: $3,942/week
  • Split summers offered? Case by Case
  • Cansummers 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 2021:

Please refer to the Events portion of our website for a list of the job fairs and campuses we will visit during the 2021 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, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • 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)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (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: Patent Prosecution (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 4)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 2)
    • Technology (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 5)
    • 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 2)