Having made its mark in the Keystone State, this Philly firm is set on expansion across the nation and beyond.
COZEN O’Connor may sound like a distant relative you only see at Thanksgiving, but it’s actually a Philadelphia-born law firm with 28 offices across the US, the UK and Canada. In 2018, the firm reported revenue growth in the double digits (a cool 10.6% increase), and scooped up a 14-lawyer group from Drinker Biddle to add to its commercial litigation clout. 2018 also saw the opening of a brand new office in Las Vegas, which is tipped to have a focus on the region’s technology and education sectors. Despite the firm’s appetite for expansion, associate sources told us: “There’s an emphasis on maintaining our culture of inclusivity while growing in a way that’s healthy.” Cozen picks up the broadest array of its Chambers USA rankings in its home state of Pennsylvania, where its real estate and labor & employment expertise really shine. On a nationwide scale, however, it’s the firm’s transportation, insurance and government relations work that especially stands out.
Strategy & Future
A number of sources flagged the firm’s labor & employment group as an area marked for growth, particularly in Chicago, where sources told us: “The office has been completely renovated in an effort to echo the Philadelphia office.” Others agreed: “Cozen is working toward becoming a national full-service firm, which means filling out transactional areas like labor & employment, tax and corporate.” Juniors in Philly also told us that cannabis law is “an area we’ll be pushing into in the future, despite the fact that it’s a legally murky area right now.” Sources were decidedly chipper about the firm’s future: “I’m happy they’re having this growth spurt. It’ll be a challenge to keep our small-firm feel but management is very connected and the attorneys here are genuinely phenomenal, so I think growing the firm will only help that.”
“Cozen is working toward becoming a national full-service firm."
The majority of this year’s associates were based in Philadelphia, with the remainder scattered around eight other US offices, including DC, Pittsburgh and New York. Cozen’s commercial litigation group took around a third of the associates on our list, followed by the business law group. Sources in the transactional groups described a “free-flowing” work assignment system that saw them reporting to numerous partners. Those in the ‘litigation pool’ operate within a more formalized assignment system before joining a litigation subgroup after around a year.
Juniors in the litigation pool can sample insurance, environmental, labor & employment and general commercial work. Those who’d got a taste of the insurance practice – which grew significantly thanks to the addition of the Drinker Biddle team – told us: “Every day was different. There’s a lot of research, as well as supporting brief writing, document management and trial preparation.” Another insider reported being able to “help draft a brief opposing a petition for writ in the Supreme Court, which I was allowed to have my name on. I’ve also done an entire round of expert briefings.” General litigators described a workload consisting of “a lot of face time with clients and witnesses for breach of contract investigations, for example. A highlight is being able to work with product liability experts.”
"As a second-year I was able to second-chair a trial in federal court."
Those within the business litigation subgroup recalled getting “a lot of substantive work on the writing of motions, as well as the chance to meet with clients. As a second-year I was able to second-chair a trial in federal court.” Juniors in the firm’s smaller offices told us: “Getting regional experience means I can have small caseloads of my own where I’m the primary point of contact.” They added that “working at a firm with such a large central office could make you feel excluded, but you work across different offices all the time as part of the litigation pool, so you feel like you’re part of the wider team rather than a satellite.”
Litigation clients: Marriott International, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Energy Transfer Partners. Cozen currently chairs the Executive Committee for Commercial Claims with regards to multidistrict litigation arising from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Under the broad umbrella of the business law department, juniors can find themselves allocated to practices like corporate; real estate; tax; and utility, environmental & energy. One source was pleased to report that their responsibility levels had “increased; it takes about two years to handle everything that an attorney will handle in my practice. I’m a specialist, so I’m frequently asked to research specific questions about the law and its application. There are a lot of situations where I’m working with attorneys in the other business law practices to get provisions that the other side has asked for during a deal.” Others commented that they’d been involved in “everything from billion-dollar projects to $100,000 claims” thanks to a mix of regulatory/contentious work and transactional matters. “For the smaller acquisitions I’m given a lot of encouragement to run with it and make it my own. I have one matter that I’m working on where I’m taking the lead.” We also heard that cross-staffing between areas like corporate, real estate and tax was common, as well as working across offices.
Real estate clients: The City of Philadelphia, Liberty Property Trust and Equus Capital Partners. Currently representing Penn Real Estate Group with regards to the development of a project to revitalize two communities that are situated on the western edge of the city of Philadelphia.
“I have one matter that I’m working on where I’m taking the lead.”
Cozen’s 5:2 partner to associate ratio proved a draw to many of our associates, who explained: “The comparatively low number of associates means that there are a lot of mentoring opportunities from senior lawyers.” Others praised “how generous partners are with associates. They seem to view juniors as the future of the firm rather than an asset to be used up. There’s an expectation that people will stay and succeed here – we rarely get departure emails.” Sources also told us that the firm has “identified technology as a resource to improve profitability, so there are a lot of training opportunities on things like OneNote and AI briefing tools.”
“There’s an expectation that people will stay and succeed here."
Associates are all assigned a mentor, and there’s formal training too: litigators have specific training programs called CODEP (the Cozen O'Connor Deposition Program) and COTA (the Cozen O'Connor Trial Academy). As well as practice-specific CLEs “on various topics like recent Supreme Court decisions and the handling of depositions,” juniors also reported enjoying the benefits of “an investment in associates making marketing contacts. There are regular mixers where we’ll invite industry clients to meet associates and network in an effort to cultivate future firm leaders.” Day to day, sources told us that “although I’ve had more responsibility than I expected there’s always been a safety net in the form of partners who are very open to questions and taking the time to guide me through things.”
“It feels like the firm as a whole is trying to appeal to the millennial generation.”
Insiders at Cozen regularly spoke of a “solid culture of camaraderie that starts from the top.” They praised CEO Michael Heller and president Vincent McGuinness, who “frequently rotate between offices and spend meaningful time getting to know people. They know all the associates’ names; you never feel like you’re a lowly junior.” Others told us: “Cozen has a reputation for being the cool kids, and I like to think that’s true. Everyone’s down to earth and likes to have fun. We had an all-attorney summit in Orlando recently and went to Universal Studios, but also attended more formal training and development sessions!” Another highlight for associates was “the technical benefits the firm offers. You’re able to choose your own laptop and there are various screen options, as well as standing desks in the offices. It feels like the firm as a whole is trying to appeal to the millennial generation.”
Hours & Compensation
The number of billable hours that each associate aims for depends on their practice group. The average number of hours billed per associate in 2018 was 1,669. Those in the business law department had experienced perhaps the most variation in their schedules, “because some of the subgroups are split between transactional and litigation work. The hours really range; sometimes it’ll be really intense and other times I’ll be able to leave early most evenings.” Most agreed, however, that “there’s a real emphasis on having a work/life balance. Most days I’ll get into the office around 8:30am and leave by 6:30pm.” We also heard about an “unofficial work from home policy” that gives associates some flexibility on certain days, although juniors agreed that face time requirements are largely dependent on partners and practice groups. While the salaries don’t match the heights set by the Milbanks of this world, juniors felt that the compensation “balances out with the number of hours you put in.”
Diversity & Inclusion
When asked about the firm’s diversity efforts, sources candidly told us: “This is where the firm falls short.” A look at Cozen’s top-heavy partnership reveals that 25%are women, and less than 10% are nonwhite. In an effort to address the issue, the firm has adopted the Mansfield Rule, which means that at least 30% of the candidates it considers for leadership and governance roles must be diverse. In 2018, the firm also appointed a chief diversity officer who leads the firm’s efforts, which include a number of affinity groups. We also heard about quarterly meetings to discuss D&I at the firm, and an upcoming diversity retreat in Philadelphia. “A lot of people brought it up last year, and it seems like the firm is taking it seriously which is encouraging,” associates reported.
“The firm is adamant that all attorneys should do at least 25 hours of pro bono,” we heard. Pro bono director Melinda deLisle received firmwide praise for the second year running for doing “an excellent job of finding the right matters for people and helping them with time constraints. It’s sort of like a buffet – there are so many opportunities to choose from.” Attorneys get automatic billable credit for up to 75 hours, and they can submit a request to count hours above that. We spoke to juniors who had worked on prisoners’ rights litigation, immigration cases and transgender name change matters. Sources also flagged the firm’s work with organizations like Tangled Title, a service dealing with homeownership issues in Philadelphia, and Protection from Abuse (PFA) in Pittsburgh.
"It’s sort of like a buffet – there are so many opportunities to choose from."
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 26,189
- Average per US attorney: 36.6
"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." To find out more useful recruitment advice from the firm, click the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 318
Interviewees outside OCI: 33
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 Law Consortium Walk-Around in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, and the Northwest Minority Job Fair. 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 office 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.”
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: 124
The format of callbacks 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 coffee or lunch interview with two associates.” Over in New York, the office “conducts a 45-minute long four-partner panel interview. Other offices may conduct a series of one-on-one interviews with partner and associate interviewers.” 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 and an appreciation for the interviewers’ time.” – 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.”
Interview with president and managing partner Vincent McGuinness
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s current market position?
Vincent McGuinness: We’re in a very good place in the market. Our performance metrics are used in the industry to judge the law firm’s health and performance. Our revenue overall increased by just under 14%, and just under 5% for lawyers. Our headcount as also increased by just under 10%. Over the past decade or so we’ve continued our growth trajectory across a number of sectors. We’re still a strong middle market firm, and we’re continuing to grow in many specialty areas.
CA: Are there any broader trends that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm’s practices?
VM: I think in the firm’s core areas – corporate, real estate, labor and employment and commercial litigation – we’re seeing growth across the board. The industry continues to be tapped by GC’s to represent them in complex matters whether that’s in-house staffing or non-lawyers turning to firms like us for guidance. The other areas we’re excelling in are specialties like government and regulatory and our State Attorneys General practice. Others include our Title 9 practice and our life insurance and annuity groups, where our service and value meet clients’ needs and demands.
CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
VM: Sticking with the theme of growing our specialty areas, we’ve always had a strong insurance practice, but life insurance is a new addition for the firm. We’ve also formed our data security and privacy area which has been very busy, as well as our cyber security consultancy practice with which we can provide regular assessments, protection, training and support for clients.
CA: Which practices/sector focuses/offices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why?
VM: I think we’ll see growth in our government affairs and regulatory practices, whether that’s lobbying, or our State Attorneys General practice, or in government affairs. I expect we’ll see growth in our DC office, as well as in New York and Los Angeles. The second area of growth is in our core practice areas, followed by healthy growth in our subsidiaries like e-discovery, national subrogation, cyber security and our new family office business.
CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?
VM: One factor would be the introduction of technology to our practice and how it’s impacted what we do and how we do it. Technology and the improvements its provided have added an exceptional value to our clients, and that will continue to be a driving force in how we practice and what our clients expect from us.
CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate/adapt to in the future?
VM: Providing the right value for clients has always been a challenge and will continue to be. It’s important to ensure we provide the right level of expertise and give clients the best value possible. We’re in the business of recruiting and retaining talent, and we recognize it’s important to be creative, entrepreneurial and embrace legal excellence. The complexities of our business community demand those kinds of qualities and characteristics.
CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?
VM: I’ve been a lifer at this firm and I’m very fortunate to enjoy what I do; it’s challenging, unique and presents daily intellectual challenges. I love the law and I wanted to give back to my community by helping folks who need representation. You hear people in the media and so on saying that law school is too challenging, but I think it’s a terrific profession to join.
CA: What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career?
VM: The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to embrace the challenges I face. I’ve embraced innovation and always fancied myself as an entrepreneurial lawyer. Every day brings with it a new challenge and that’s what makes my job wonderful. I hope every young lawyer can experience coming into the office and not knowing what you’re going to do.
One Liberty Place,
1650 Market Street,
- Head Office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 27
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $473 million
- Partners (US): 452
- Associates (US): 178
- Main recruitment contacts: Lauren Carella (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mindy Herczfeld (email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Calli Padilla Diversity officer: Lynne Espy-Williams
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 21
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 5, 2Ls: 15
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Miami: 1, New York: 3, Philadelphia: 9, Pittsburgh: 2, Seattle: 2, Washington DC: 3
- Summer salary 2019: 1Ls: $2492-3069/wk, varies by ofﬁce 2Ls: $2692-3269/wk, varies by ofﬁce
- Split summers offered? Case-by-case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
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.
Established in 1970, Cozen O’Connor delivers legal services on an integrated and global basis. As a first-generation law firm, we have not forgotten our entrepreneurial roots and continue to provide top-notch client service at unparalleled value as we have grown to one of the top law firms in the country. Our business and litigation practices serve clients in the most effective and efficient manner, with professionals across disciplines working collaboratively to resolve any matter.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, NYU, Penn, Penn State, Seattle University, Temple, UVA, University of Washington, Villanova, GW, Fordham, University of Miami
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We anticipate participating in the walk-around program, The Law Consortium – Philadelphia and three job fairs, The Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, the Northwest Minority 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 www.cozen.com/careers/law_students beginning in July.
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 trial skills workshop where they learn to prepare and present an opening statement. 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, 2019
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
District of Columbia
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Government Relations: State Attorneys General (Band 1)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
- Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 2)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 3)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)