Covington & Burling LLP - The Inside View

If you’ve set your sights on Capitol Hill, this Coveted outfit offers market-leading government contracts and regulatory practices.

One of the first things you’ll notice when speaking with the attorneys at Covington is an emphasis on getting into the minds of policymakers. Indeed, on Covington’s website, the firm states from the off that it ‘understands government from the inside out.’ Covington has been active in DC for more than 100 years, and the firm’s deep connection to the capital helps its attorneys get an insight into a policy landscape that is ever-changing. With vast connections to people who’ve served (and are currently serving) in government, the firm claims to know ‘the substance, the process, and the people behind the policy.’

Unsurprisingly, Covington’s regulatory practices are among its strengths, with top-tier Chambers USA accolades awarded for its regulatory expertise in sectors like financial services, life sciences/pharma, media, and food & beverages. The firm is also deemed one of the best in the country for government relations and government contracts work. Regulatory clout is just one aspect of Covington’s offering however: the firm receives plenty of kudos for its litigation and transactional work, and bags as many as 34 nationwide rankings in total. Areas that consistently come in for praise across the firm’s state Chambers USA rankings include corporate/M&A, insurance, IP, technology, and white-collar crime & government investigations.

“If you have a menu of different practice groups you want to try during the summer, they will facilitate that.”

The firm’s DCHQ housed the most associates on our list, but the New York office also took on a significant number. The rest were split between Covington’s Cali bases in LA, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. Covington’s litigious practice groups absorbed the highest number of juniors, but other popular destinations included the regulatory, corporate, tech transactions, government contracts, food, drug & device, and communications & media departments.

The Work



“If you have a menu of different practice groups you want to try during the summer, they will facilitate that,” an associate explained.Incoming juniors do ultimately indicate at least one practice preference prior to joining the firm. We were also told that in smaller offices such as Palo Alto, associates are more likely to join a general litigation or corporate practice. One source elaborated: “They sent out a survey looking for what we were interested in, and what we wanted to avoid.”  When juniors start, work assignment at the firm tends to follow a formal structure like this one: “We have two partners in our group who are assignment chairs, and they help facilitate workflow,” an interviewee told us. “We submit a workload report to them each week, so we are able to indicate if we are busy.” Eventually, more freedom is granted to associates to find work on their own: “If you start working with particular clients or particular partners, this can lead to you getting more work. In my experience, after the first year or so you are expected to get your own assignments.”

As you might expect, junior associates in Covington’s litigation group are likely to work on cases across highly regulated sectors. “Generally speaking, we are separated into groups,” an associate explained; “we’ve got insurance litigation, general commercial litigation, and then white-collar.” Among Covington’s specialist litigation practices is its life sciences group, which works closely with the firm’s food, drug and device regulatory practice on lawsuits involving pharmaceuticals and medical devices. “At the moment our group is very heavily focused on opioid litigation against distributors,” a junior told us, adding: “On a matter right now we are in the discovery phase, so it could involve researching what’s known about opponents publicly so we have a sense of what they might say, or checking the docket to see if any motions have been filed.”

Litigation clients: Meta, Amazon, Microsoft. Represented Major League Baseball and all thirty of the league’s teams in a lawsuit filed in the California State Court against multiple insurers. The lawsuit sought insurance coverage for the sport’s losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covington’s regulatory practice is split into financial regulation, privacy, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and healthcare groups. The group also tackles a lot of work relating to medical devices and diagnostics. “As a part of our healthcare work, we work with clients on anything from drug pricing matters to fraud and abuse claims,” a source told us; “often, it’s a case of helping companies to set out their marketing strategy so as not to fall foul of regulation.” Since the start of the pandemic, the need for advice on healthcare regulation has been front and center for clients, with pharmaceutical companies looking to secure emergency use authorization for vaccines; a big part of the regulatory work at Covington revolves around advising clients on FDA guidance, be it in the food, drug, or devices spaces. Interviewees in the department explained that as a general rule, the smaller regulatory teams give associates more autonomy. “It’s more or less up to me to structure my day,” one junior remarked, “to balance my projects with different partners and ensure that I draft my work product to deadlines.”

Regulatory clients: Tesla, American Airlines, Moderna. Advised oil giant BP on the regulatory aspects of net zero goals, and the companies developing climate policies around renewables.

“I’ve heard government contracts described as the last refuge of the generalist,” one source told us, “simply because the work can take on so many forms.” Associates in the government contracts group are likely to get a taste of almost anything. “There are areas of litigation, where we are representing companies that have bid on government work,and there’s a version of M&A, where clients buy large government contractors, and there are different levels of government approval that occur there,” an associate explained.There’s also work advising contractors on reporting requirements tied to data breaches, as well as a dedicated life sciences practice. “I operate largely as a regulatory lawyer,” said one source, “so I’m writing a lot of emails explaining what the requirements are to clients. On other days I might be speaking with clients and establishing what sort of information they want to protect and writing up a memo in support of the redactions that we want to make.”

Government contracts clients: Advised private equity firm Veritas on the government contracts aspects of its $3 billion acquisition of Cubic with co-investor Evergreen Coast Capital.

Covington benefits from a strong reputation across its transactional practices, with a particular focus on the life sciences and tech industries. Junior associates interested in the firm’s corporate work can find themselves in subgroups ranging from M&A and private equity to securities & capital markets, tech & IP transactions, and venture capital & emerging companies. Indeed, the firm bags a strong nationwide Chambers USA ranking in corporate M&A, as well as state rankings in New York, DC, and California.

“The attorneys at Covington are by far the smartest people I’ve encountered."

Culture



Interviewees frequently described the environment at Covington as an intellectual one: “The attorneys at Covington are by far the smartest people I’ve encountered,” one told us; “it feels a lot more academic than I thought it would, but I like that sort of thing.” This intellectual bent was felt to encourage a more inquisitive than competitive culture: “I haven’t encountered the BigLaw stereotypes here, no one yells at you, no one is demeaning to associates. People are generally receptive to chatting!”

While we were told that “each office has its own unique feel to it,” sources from every location agreed that the firm places a strong emphasis on socializing outside of office hours. For attorneys in NYC, think invitations to Broadway theater evenings and art museums; in San Francisco, wine-tasting trips to Sonoma and Napa Valley are not unheard of; and in DC, weekly softball games with the “Hurling Burlings” are reportedly very popular. The affinity groups at Covington were also praised for scheduling events. However, don’t get carried away with visions of constant socializing: “I don’t think people have a huge desire to spend every afternoon together – we get lunch together, but at the end of the day when the work is done, people want to go home to be with their families and friends,” said one source. Another agreed and emphasized that “people are friendly, but they are focused on work and tend to stick to the task at hand.”

Career Development



Juniors can access formal training programs in their early years of practice to master the basics like legal writing, virtual communication skills, and practice area-specific tasks. The training continues well beyond that period, however, with this source explaining that “over the next few weeks there will be a series of sessions on mid-level development and the kind of skills we will need as we become senior attorneys at the firm.”

Interviewees were generally positive about their sense of progression at Covington. “Over the next few years, I think the firm is really going to focus on developing home-grown talent,” said one source, who added: “I do get the sense that there’s a clear trajectory and that they try to make the partnership process as transparent as possible. Plus, there are several partners here who started as summers.” Others mentioned that “by your fifth year they want to know whether you are going for the partner track or not – they are realistic in the sense that they know not everyone is going to make partner.”

“[It’s what] made me decide to go into private practice at all!”

Pro Bono



Pro bono is reportedly a part of the DNA at Covington. So much so, that one associate told us that it was the firm’s pro bono practice that “made me decide to go into private practice at all!” With more pro bono hours per attorney than almost 99% of the firms we survey, Covington has been ranked the number one pro bono practice in the US by The American Lawyer on eleven occasions. For associates at the firm, there’s no cap on the number of hours they can spend on pro bono work, and it all counts toward their billable target. In addition, “Covington offers two six-month placements a year at various non-profits in the DC area like the Children’s Law Center and the Neighborhood Legal Services Program,” one associate explained. “At the Children’s Law Center you take on your own cases for clients that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford representation on things like adoption matters or disputed custody cases.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 191,217
  • Average per (US) attorney: 189

There are pro bono coordinators at the firm who are responsible – among other things – for linking up associates with matters that interest them: “Sometimes they will reach out to you directly with something, like ‘Here are a few opportunities in criminal defense.’” The pro bono work at Covington covers issues ranging across equality & discrimination, environment, refugees & immigrants, gun violence, criminal justice system reform, human rights, civil justice, and veterans matters. Providing they are up to date on client billable matters, associates have autonomy over how many hours they dedicate to pro bono. One insider told us: “I’ve heard from senior associates who have been able to dedicate hundreds of hours a year to pro bono without it being a problem.”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

“There’s no hard and fast ‘You have to hit this number’ rule,” one associate remarked, “but to be eligible for a bonus at the end of the year you have to hit the 1,950 target, which includes unlimited pro bono and 50 hours of DE&I work.” We were told that associates who have done a significant amount of non-billable work, such as working on the summer program committee, and have missed the target may still be eligible for a bonus. Incoming associates will also be pleased to know that the firm matched the market in the latest round of salary hikes.

Survey respondents estimated that they had worked an average of 55 hours in the preceding week, only slightly higher than the market average that we’ve recorded. A typical week for many associates involved billing somewhere between 45 and 55 hours, while “a bad week would be 65 and over, but that’s pretty rare!” Juniors were glad to receive tech reimbursements to help set up their home offices, but, one moaned, “the reimbursements didn’t extend to rugs or artwork!”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



“The firm is definitely prioritizing diversity when it comes to recruitment and retention,” a source commented, “and I’ve been called into recruitment efforts to help draw in diverse candidates.” Another noted: “I don’t get so much of an insight into our initiatives, but I know from a personal perspective that my teams are very diverse.”

"As a woman I feel very comfortable that there are other attorneys around that I can share experiences with. I will frequently be on matters where it’s all women.”

Covington has a higher percentage of female partners than almost 84% of the firms we survey. “I would say the representation of women is right up there,” an associate told us, “and as a woman I feel very comfortable that there are other attorneys around that I can share experiences with. I will frequently be on matters where it’s all women.” However, “there are metrics that we are struggling with,” and many of our interviewees felt that racial and ethnic diversity at the firm was still below where it should be. “All law firms can do more,” a junior concluded, “and Covington is very committed to doing that work.” In early 2022, the firm added 50 hours of DE&I activities to associates’ billable activities.

Strategy & Future



The firm hosts townhall meetings once a quarter. During the meetings, attorneys are able to post anonymous questions to the firm’s leadership: “People often ask why we don’t have an office in Boston – or something similar – and the vibe I get is that Covington isn’t looking to put an office everywhere on the globe,” one source speculated, “they are looking for strategic business reasons to open offices, and that makes sense.” That’s not to say the firm isn’t growing, however. In 2021 alone, Covington made 38 lateral hires across the firm’s offices in California, DC, and New York, with a particular focus on the latter. This approach is working too, with the firm recording double-digit revenue growth in the last 12 months.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1810

Covington participates in just over 30 OCI programs and job fairs/consortiums. Come spring, prospective candidates can submit a resume, law school transcript, writing sample, and a list of two to three professional references, including a 1L summer employer reference, in addition to the firm’s OCI process.

Students will meet with a range of attorneys, both partners and associates, from the offices in which they are applying. For those the firm interview outside of the OCI process, there will also be a meeting with one of the firm’s attorneys as a part of an initial screening interview. At this stage, the folks at Covington are looking at candidates’ background and strengths to assess their suitability for summer associate positions. According to Anthony Catanzaro, senior coordinator of diversity legal recruiting, this includes (but isn’t limited to) academic distinction in law school and undergraduate education: “We also look for students with strong motivation and initiative, the ability to take on responsibility, and enthusiasm for private law practice. The firm has long been committed to the highest standards of the profession and public service, and we look actively for new lawyers to continue in that tradition.” As a general rule, Covington will inform candidates of their decision within 48 hours of the initial interview.

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second-stage interviews: Undisclosed

Students submit an online questionnaire indicating their practice areas and affinity group interests when scheduling a callback interview. Candidates then meet with 4-5 attorneys, including a mix of partners, counsel, and associates, during one-to-one interviews that last around 30 minutes each. When possible, students also get to know a junior associate on a more informal basis over lunch or a coffee.

In 2021, the recruiting season was virtual, but in a typical year, Covington looks to conduct callbacks in-person at their US offices.

Summer program

Offers: 342

Acceptances: 143 (135 students in the program) – “Eight will be splitting their summer between two Covington offices. We anticipate making full-time offers to all 135 students.” – Catanzaro.

“Our interactive and individualized assignment system is the foundation of our program,” Catanzaro adds, “We actively solicit input from summer associates on desired assignments and encourage them to try projects in multiple practice areas.” Covington’s summer training programs include depositions, advocacy writing, communication skills, and transaction and settlement negotiations. Summer associates are also invited to participate in client and internal strategy meetings and court hearings. The firm also looks for any opportunity to ensure that summer associates get to know Covington’s lawyers, which includes activities ranging from sporting events, concerts, wine tastings, and hiking. Virtual events in 2021 included paint night and trivia. All summer associates are assigned both a senior and a junior mentor who facilitate their introduction to the firm, advise on work assignments, and provide insight into life at Covington. “We pride ourselves on providing summer associates with constructive feedback on their work throughout the summer. We also help summer associates develop their writing, research, and advocacy skills as the summer progresses.”

Covington & Burling LLP

One CityCenter, 850 Tenth Street,
NW,
Washington, DC,
20001-4956
Website www.cov.com

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 5
  • Number of international offices: 8
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,501,130,000
  • Partners (US): 276
  • Associates (US): 665
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Karema Page, Director of Legal Recruiting, legal.recruiting@cov.com
  • Hiring partner: DC: Ben Block and Ranga Sudarshan; Los Angeles: Neema Sahni and Ashley Simonsen; NY: Jack Bodner, Arlo Devlin- Brown, Clea Liquard, Micaela McMurrough, Jenna Wallace, and Amy Wollensack; Palo Alto: Suzanne Bell and Kurt Calia; San Francisco: Denny Kwon, Cort Lannin, Ingrid Rechtin, and Doug Sprague
  • Recruitment website: https://www.cov.com/en/careers/lawyers
  • Diversity officer: Marlene Aquino, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 142
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 136, (SEO Interns: 4)
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: California: 32; New York: 41; Washington, DC: 87 (Numbers here do not include SEO interns)
  • Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $4,134 2Ls: $4,134
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Corporate:
Mergers and acquisitions; private equity; capital markets; life sciences; financial services; technology and outsourcing transactions; international energy sector
Litigation & Investigations: White collar defense and investigations and cultural reviews; international arbitration; product liability; appellate
Regulatory & Public Policy: International trade; life sciences; data privacy and cybersecurity; CFIUS; government contracts

Firm profile
In an increasingly regulated world, the attorneys of Covington & Burling LLP have an exceptional ability to navigate clients through their most complex business problems, deals and disputes. Our distinctively collaborative culture allows us to be truly one team globally, drawing on the diverse experience of lawyers and advisors across the firm by seamlessly sharing insight and expertise. What sets us apart is our ability to combine the tremendous strength in our litigation, investigations, and corporate practices with deep knowledge of policy and policymakers, and one of the world’s leading regulatory practices. This enables us to create novel solutions to our clients’ toughest problems, successfully try their toughest cases and deliver commercially practical advice of the highest quality.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:

American University Washington College of Law; Berkeley Law; Columbia Law School; Cornell Law School; Duke University School of Law; Fordham University School of Law; George Washington University Law School; Georgetown University Law Center; Harvard Law School; Howard University School of Law; Northwestern Law; NYU Law; Stanford Law School; UC Davis School of Law; UCLA School of Law; University of Chicago Law School; University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; University of Michigan Law School; University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of Virginia School of Law; Vanderbilt Law School; Washington and Lee University School of Law; Washington University School of Law; William & Mary Law School; Yale Law School Lavender Law; Loyola IP Job Fair; National Law School Consortium; The Law Consortium; The Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We seek outstanding candidates from a wide variety of law schools throughout the country as summer associates. In addition to interviewing students at many law schools and job fairs, the firm also considers write in applications.

Summer associate profile:
We seek talented and motivated individuals who share our well-known commitment to excellence. We assess candidates for summer associate positions based on an overall evaluation of their background and strengths. We look for students with strong motivation and initiative, the ability to take on responsibility, and enthusiasm for private law practice. The firm has long been committed to the highest standards of the profession and public service, and we look actively for new lawyers to continue in that tradition.

Summer program components:
Our interactive and individualized assignment system is the foundation of our program. We actively solicit input from summer associates on desired assignments and encourage them to try projects in multiple practice areas. Our substantive summer training programs include depositions, advocacy writing, communication skills, and transaction and settlement negotiations. Summer associates are also invited to participate in client and internal strategy meetings and court hearings. Finally, we ensure that our summer associates get to know our lawyers outside of the office through a variety of social events. We provide the opportunity for summer associates to take advantage of many of the cultural activities that our cities have to offer. Events include baseball games, concerts, wine tasting, and hiking.

Social Media
Website:
https://www.cov.com/en/careers/lawyers
Twitter: @covingtonllp
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/covington-&-burling
Facebook: Covington-Burling-LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Technology: Transactions (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • False Claims Act (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 4)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 1)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Government Relations (Band 1)
    • Government Relations: Congressional Investigations (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 3)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: The Elite (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: Regulatory/Compliance (Band 1)
    • Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Political Law (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Healthcare Spotlight Table
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 4)
    • Sports Law (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 5)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Technology (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Rail (for Railroads) (Band 2)