It’s always sunny in Philadelphia-born Cozen O’Connor, offering a full-service BigLaw experience with one of the best work/life balances in the market.
Blockbuster Rocky and law firm Cozen O’Connor have more in common than you might think. Both were created in the 70s and quickly made a name for themselves on the streets of Philadelphia and beyond, and both pack a mean punch against their opponents. OK, you won’t be seeing Cozen in the boxing ring anytime soon, but this legal heavyweight is a knockout in the BigLaw arena for work/life balance. But much more than that, Cozen’s solid reputation nationwide was built upon its litigation and insurance work in its early days. Today, it is a full-service firm with practices spanning commercial litigation, corporate securities and M&A, government relations, real estate, labor & employment and IP. The firm has 27 offices across the country (plus bases in Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, and London), nabbing top-tier rankings from Chambers USA for labor and employment in California and Pennsylvania, IP in Florida, energy in New Jersey, and real estate in Philadelphia. In the firm’s native state, it also excels in construction, healthcare, white-collar crime and investigations, real estate and tax.
Most junior associates are hired into the firm’s key bases in Philadelphia, Washington DC, and NewYork, but a small number can be found in offices across the country, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Dallas.
Strategy & Future
Managing partner Vince McGuinness tells us the firm is “still in growth mode; profit and headcount is growing. Our most significant expansion is in Canada where we added 15 lawyers in Toronto and Vancouver, and one in Montréal too.” In terms of practice areas, the firm recently opened a litigation practice in Boston and added government relations professionals in Washington DC, New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. Looking ahead, McGuinness reveals that the firm is hoping to expand its offices in LA and Houston to full-service offerings. Moreover, the firm is looking to expand some of its more niche practice areas, such as life insurance and state attorneys general (for which it’s top-ranked nationally in Chambers USA).
“At the end of the summer program, they get you to rank different practice groups and they also rank who will fit into the practices,” sources revealed. “Based on that, they pair you up with your department.” The bulk of Cozen’s juniors fall into the litigation, real estate and corporate practices but there are niche departments that associates can end up dabbling in, covering cannabis law, startups and maritime work. One source enthused that “if you have an affinity or strong interest in something, they try to encourage you to do it, even if it means straddling the line between two practices.”
“We work all over the country from New York to California and all the states in between.”
One source in the business litigation group (part of the commercial litigation) felt that “they make a legitimate effort for you to get work to the extent that you want it.”In terms of what’s on offer, litigators told us that “it is a bit of everything. We do some third-party defense work and corporate disputes. Then, there is the insurance stuff we do where we see more tort-related work.” Clients include corporations and occasionally individuals, and while our interviewees had seen some cases with an international slant, “the bulk of the work is national.” The tasks you can expect to do at this level include “a lot of researching and drafting,” including “lots of drafting pre-litigation letters and litigation docs in support of appeal.”Associates in this area were very satisfied with this overall. “I thought it would be straight document review,” one told us, “and though it is like that sometimes, it’s a lot less of what I've been doing, and instead it’s more like the prep work.”
Key clients: Lindsay Transportation Solutions, EB-5 Investors, GeoInvesting. Represented Bangladesh Bank after it had $81 million stolen in a cyber-attack.
The real estate group is split into four different areas: purchase and sales; leasing; loan financing; and joint ventures. Typical tasks for a junior can include title and survey work, negotiating sale agreements and loan documents, and doing document reviews. Like litigation, the work is national in nature: “We work all over the country from New York to California and all the states in between. We do some internationally, though it’s not too common.”When it comes to the typical customers, we discovered that “clients are a lot of banks and investment firms. On the finance side we do both lender and borrower work,” so associates enjoyed getting to see both sides of a transaction. “The work I'm doing is not grunt work,” one praised. “It's very substantive, real and client-facing.”
Key clients: The Arden Group, City National Bank, United Bank. Cozen represented the University of the District of Columbia in the development of a ten-year campus plan.
Though corporate is on the smaller side compared to litigation, associates here enjoyed plenty of variety. For example, we spoke to one junior who told us that “I get to work with cannabis clients, which is a unique cross-border space,” whileanother source was busy working on venture capital startups. The firm acts for companies at different life stages, “from corporations to something that’s a brand-new idea – they’re not even a company yet and we are advising them to get set up.” As one junior reflected, “it's nice to work with sophisticated clients who know what they are doing, and those where you're basically playing a part in setting up their business and livelihood.”Associates in this department were very happy with the level of responsibility given to them by partners. “Questions are encouraged, and they want you to communicate with as many seniors as necessary and take on more responsibility as months go by.”Sounds ideal!
Key clients: J&J Snack Foods, Shank’s Extracts, fitness company The Beachbody Company. Cozen O’Connor advised the owners of HEYDUDE, a Hong Kong-based shoe company, in its $2.5 billion sale to Crocs.
Culture, Hours & Compensation
Thrill seekers would approve of the firm’s recent all-attorney retreat to Florida, during which the firm hired out areas of Universal Studios after dark (including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). “I was going on rides next to partners that we work with,” one shared. “They wanted to get us to have fun and get to know people at the firm.” If that wasn’t enough excitement, other annual events at the firm include March Madness, which most recently featured “a big party during the day with the games broadcast, and an arcade where you could shoot baskets.” Summer associates get a taste of the firm’s social scene during the summer program, where “there’s no lack of events” across different offices, such as boat trips, baseball games and improv shows.
“If I'm working with a parent-age attorney or partner, I'm expecting them to say, ‘I'm off,’ at 4pm to go to their kid’s soccer practice.”
Outside of the big events, “we eat lunch together every day and we know what we are all up to on weekends. It’s not a place where you have to have lunch at your desk.” Interviewees agreed that “the firm is a place where people really enjoy working, and who they work with.” One highlighted: “I've found that everyone is very helpful. There's always someone you can go to, to ask how you do something.”
Cozen is one of the firms in our guide that’s better known for its work/life balance: our survey data shows that associates here felt that the expectation to be available outside office hours is substantially lower than it is in the rest of the market. As one put it,“I don’t work past 7pm unless there's something that needs to get past the door.”
Billable hours: varies by office and department
An average day at Cozen depends on the department. Those in business litigation expect to work eight or nine billable hours a day, real estate tends to do six to eight hours and corporate associates bill around eight. While Cozen isn’t immune to the ebbs and flows of client demand, associates were quick to highlight that it never really gets too crazy at the firm. “It’s less hours than I expected,” one interviewee admitted, “I do see older associates work more hours, but even from what I see with them, they’re not working crazy hours.” And another jovially told us that “if I'm working with a parent-age attorney or partner, I'm expecting them to say, ‘I'm off,’ at 4pm to go to their kid’s soccer practice.”
When it comes to bonuses, there are two different types up for grabs. The first is lockstep, provided the firm has had a strong financial year. The other is a merit-based bonus: the billable target for this varies depending on department and office, and can range from 1,750 to 1,850. Associates stressed that there are no other consequences for falling short of this target – you just miss out on the bonus. They also felt this system was fair and achievable: “If you say yes to the majority of things on your desk, then you're going to hit it.”
Associates were pretty content with the training at the firm. A Philadelphia associate told us that “there’s a good mix between official and unofficial training, and the more you seek opportunities for training and mentorship, the more you will get. Everyone I've dealt with is happy to help if you reach out.” Juniors praised the level of mentorship they’d received from senior colleagues: “For example, having a partner walk you through things, and show you how they’ve done work for this client in the past.” Another felt that “they’re very invested in my growth, and I’ve been able to take on a lot more than I thought I’d be able to at this point.”
“They want their associates to stay, become partners and continue their careers at the firm.”
They must be doing something right, as another source revealed that “Cozen has a very light turnover and they want their associates to stay, become partners and continue their careers at the firm.” Partnership was felt to be achievable at the firm, and according to our latest survey, it is a goal for many. “The general path to partnership is clear as I saw it in the orientation,” one recalled, “and I know many people stay and progress this way. But the specifics or rubrics of what they're looking for are less clear.”
At Cozen, every attorney is encouraged to do 20 hours of pro bono each year, but up to 75 hours count toward billables (“and you can get more approved”). All the associates we talked to spoke highly of the pro bono coordinator at the firm: “They send out lots of emails with pro bono opportunities and visit each office and each attorney individually to see what you're interested in and help facilitate it.” Another associate enthused that “I’ve done a good amount of pro bono work which I've enjoyed, working on asylum cases for applicants fleeing from different kinds of harms in Latin American countries and other places as well.” We heard there’s a “huge focus on veterans' work; I know lots of people who do that.” Other big case matters we heard about included working on transgender name change applications and voter rights issues.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 17,759
- Average per (US) attorney: 22.1
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Associates had plenty of praise for the women’s initiative: “It’s the biggest and most funded affinity group,” said one, citing “well-attended” lunches and speaker events.However, associates felt that these successes weren’t replicated in other facets of DE&I, with one junior lamenting that “on the racial and ethnic minority side it has been a little slower.” The firm does have affinity groups for Asian, Black and Hispanic/Latino attorneys, butone suggested “there aren't enough emails to publicize these groups to let people know they exist.”There are also networks in place for attorneys with disabilities and LGBTQ+ people.
Overall, associates were keen to note that they felt positive about the direction DE&I has taken at Cozen: “Though there is a long way to go and progress to be made, they're having the conversations.” The firm achieved Mansfield 5.0 certification and has put itself in the ring for the 6.0 iteration.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 314
Interviewees outside OCI: 48
Cozen O’Connor attends OCIs at schools in the regions of its offices that run a summer program. It also conducts interviews at top law schools with students who want to practice in any of Cozen’s office locations that have a summer program. The firm interviews about 20 candidates at each school. In addition to this, the firm attends job fairs including, the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair and the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Fellows Program. Hiring sources at the firm tell us “we are constantly evaluating the breadth of our recruitment drive to ensure that we are engaging the best talent for our firm.”
OCIs are conducted by two attorneys (normally partners) from the regional office, which tends to draw the most interest from students at a particular campus. “For example, we will have two attorneys from the firm’s Washington DC office conduct interviews at Georgetown,” hiring sources at the firm explain. In the interview, “we seek students who demonstrate sharp analytical thinking skills, leadership characteristics, and inquisitiveness about the career upon which they are embarking.” However, the most recent OCI recruiting season was conducted 100% virtually due to COVID-19.
Top tips for this stage: “You should always know who is interviewing you and what they do. Once you know the basic background of your interviewers, it will be much easier to ask them more meaningful questions about their practice and the firm.” – hiring sources at the firm
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 115
he format of call-backs differs by office, but the firm assures us candidates are given all the details they need ahead of their interview. In Philadelphia, for example, “we conduct two two-partner panel interviews followed by a shorter interview with two associates.” Interviewers assess candidates on the same criteria as the OCI stage, but in much more detail. Hiring sources advise that “a big part of interviewing is listening to what the interviewer says and making appropriate connections to your own background and experiences.”
Top tips for this stage: “Candidates stand out when they show a strong interest in the firm.”– hiring sources at the firm
Summers indicate their top three practice areas of interest. Attorneys across the firm can request assistance from a summer associate via an assignment portal. Each office also has an assignment coordinator who will get a sense of what summer associates are particularly interested in. “They will make best efforts to assign them work that aligns with their interests,” hiring sources tell us, “but we also believe it is very important that our summer associates take assignments from diverse practice areas and from as many different attorneys as possible to develop a strong sense as to what the firm does.” Every summer is also assigned two mentors – a partner writing mentor and an associate mentor. There are social events scattered throughout the program and weekly training sessions. The firm says most summers return as junior associates (sometimes after completing a judicial clerkship). Associates who focused more on the transactional side during the summer may start at the firm in a specific practice area, while those who were focused on the litigation side return to the firm’s litigation general pool before joining a specific group after one year.
Top tips for this stage: “When you’re given an opportunity to observe an attorney at court, in a deposition, conduct a client meeting, or participate in a call with the client or opposing counsel, take it!” – hiring sources at the firm
It may seem obvious, but “never ask questions that a cursory review of the firm’s website would have revealed the answers.” The firm sees hundreds of candidates, so “the less times we have to answer ‘tell me about your summer program,’ the better. With those questions out of the way, we can get to know you better as a candidate and as a person.”
One Liberty Place,
1650 Market Street,
Main areas of work
Business/corporate, commercial litigation, construction, government and regulatory, health law, insurance coverage, institutional response, intellectual property, labor and employment, life insurance and annuities, real estate, private client services, subrogation and recovery, state attorneys general, transportation and trade, utility, environmental and energy, white collar defense and investigations.
Ranked among the top 100 law firms in the country, Cozen O’Connor has 825+ attorneys in 30 cities across two continents. We are a full-service firm with nationally recognized practices in litigation, business law, and government relations, and our attorneys have experience operating in all sectors of the economy. Our diverse client list includes global Fortune 500 companies, middle-market firms poised for growth, ambitious startups, and high-profile individuals.
In an industry built on talk, Cozen O’Connor has made its name by doing. We have built our firm one case, one victory at a time. Our attorneys have impeccable academic credentials and are able to combine intellectual rigor with practicality and efficiency. We provide sophisticated, business-minded advice aimed at one simple goal: getting the right result for our clients. No matter how complex, contentious, or critical the undertaking, we persevere until the job is done.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
Brooklyn, Fordham, Hofstra, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, Vanderbilt, Penn, Rutgers- Camden, Temple, University of Virginia, and Villanova.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We anticipate collecting resumes at a number of schools and participating in the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair and the Loyola Patent Law Interview Program. For students at non-OCI schools who wish to apply outside of these programs, please submit application materials at https://www.cozen.com/careers.
Summer associate profile:
We seek summer associates who embody the best characteristics of our attorneys. These are candidates who have distinguished themselves from their peers in academics, legal writing ability and oral advocacy skills. Our summer associates have diverse backgrounds including, but not limited to, prior work experience, military service and a demonstrated commitment to serving their communities through volunteerism.
Summer program components:
We provide our summer associates with a realistic experience of the responsibilities and high level of performance expected of our associates. They take part in an extensive firm orientation and weekly training programs, such as a negotiations workshop where they learn to strategically solve problems while advocating for their “client.” We assign writing mentors and associate mentors to provide advice and guidance. Summer associates are invited to practice group meetings and to attend hearings, depositions, or client meetings with attorneys. Social events and teambuilding activities are scattered throughout the program to help each summer associate become better acquainted with each other and the firm’s attorneys.
Recruitment website: www.cozen.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Construction (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution (Band 3)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 2)
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Surrounds
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Insurance (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Cannabis Law (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 5)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- State Attorneys General (Band 1)
- Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 2)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)