Crowell & Moring LLP - The Inside View

Crowell & Moring offers top-notch government-facing work and complementary practices to boot. (Oh, and ducks. Lots of ducks).

AS the saying goes, 40 isn't old if you're a tree – or a law firm. 2019 sees DC-headquartered Crowell & Moring hit the big 4-0, but despite its relative youth, sources pointed to a consistency of approach that bestows an engrained – and unique – sense of heritage. “We have some cultural quirks –there are elements of the firm's history that have carried forward and encourage that quirkiness,” one interviewee in DC told us. That's indeed true: we couldn't write about Crowell without tipping our hats to the firm's aquatic mascot, the duck, which was adopted after a Crowell employee placed a single rubber duck in the firm's fountain. Forty years later, they can be found on nearly everyone's desks. Sources went on to give us some more context: “A lot of the founders broke away from Jones Day to establish a different type of firm, and we try to stay true to that mission.” Tying this into the work, our interviewees felt that “it boils down to creativity and a willingness to listen to different ideas on how to handle or approach matters.”

This “reputation for personality” was a massive factor that drew our interviewees to the firm. “I wanted to work with a group of people I could relate to, but still do important, cutting-edge legal work.” The firm stands out for its top-tier government contracts practice, but Chambers USA also ranks Crowell's climate change, insurance, international trade, healthcare and general commercial litigation practices among others. When choosing Crowell, juniors were especially looking for “evidence that younger associates would be able to participate in matters and do real work relatively early on.” Another important factor to many was “evidence that pro bono was valued and that nonbillable work was still viewed as valuable.” But more on this later... 

The Work

Prior to joining, associates rank their preferred practice areas; the firm then assigns each associate up to two groups to draw work from based on those preferences, as well as firm need. Some associates eventually choose to specialize, while others' practices “sit at the intersection between areas like government contracts and healthcare, for example.” At the time of our research, the vast majority of juniors on our list could be found in the DC headquarters, while New York, San Fran, LA, and Orange County only housed a couple of juniors each. Once they'd settled into their practice, juniors acquired work through staffing coordinators, who came in for praise: “The staffing partner has been really helpful with connecting me with great work related to what I want to do.”

A fair portion of Crowell's government contracts lawyers can be found in DC (near the White House, naturally). Matters begin with the firm's lawyers typically advising companies on how to actually obtain government contracts; they can then progress to cover elements like bid protests, internal investigations for companies, disputes and compliance counseling. Sources here found that they “enjoyed the investigations work and fact-investigating stages of litigation because of the client interaction you get; you get to interview various employees or even opposing parties.” Typically, juniors found themselves “writing various memos for clients, researching and analyzing issues and writing motions.” Some had even argued said motions.

“They encourage you to build relationships with the clients.”

Government contracts clients: AT&T, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin. Acted for private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners and CoVant Management during their acquisition of LinQuest Corp., which provides space technology solutions for the US federal government.

Most international trade juniors were in DC, though New York held a number of more senior lawyers in this practice. The wider group is loosely split between three areas: customs, export control, and trade remedies and policies. The latter field has recently “been swamped with the new tariffs imposed by Trump,” which has required Crowell's attorneys to “help clients navigate their way through them and develop the right courses of action.” Juniors had got into both investigations and general counseling on compliance and the implications of sanctions. On investigations, juniors reported “collating facts, assembling final submissions, and filing them with the government.” On the compliance side especially, juniors had “direct engagement with clients – they encourage you to build relationships with the clients so if they need something, they call you instead of the partners.”

International trade clients: Duracell, Teva Pharmaceuticals North America and oilfield services company Schlumberger. Secured a dismissal for Canadian textile manufacturer Tricots after the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) brought a $4.5 million penalty case against it in the US Court of International Trade (CIT).

Antitrust and litigation often go hand-in-hand, and a few juniors on our list were working between these practices. Alongside DC, a small number of juniors from this group could be found honing their skills in Orange County. On the pure litigation side, juniors explained: “We do all types and sizes of commercial litigation, from the smallest arbitrations about contractual disputes, up to large-scale class action defenses.” Juniors reported “talking through case strategy, drafting briefs and figuring out who we wanted to serve discovery on – then going out and doing it.” Sources went on to describe being “on the front line, serving the subpoena and conferring with opposing counsel,” while also getting the opportunity to “argue motions.”

Litigation clients: General Motors, Hyatt Hotels and health insurance specialists Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies. Acted for General Motors after a putative class action lawsuit was brought against it and two other automotive manufacturers alleging that certain vehicles are vulnerable to hacking.

Strategy & Future

“We continue to enjoy a leading position with government contracts,” firm chair Phil Inglima tells us. However, he adds that “we've very excited about starting to build out in some other practices that have gained us national attention and where we have a strong client hold. One of them is antitrust: it's no secret that we've been one of the key and leading counselors to AT&T in its major acquisition of Time Warner. Then, on a different front, healthcare has been a focus of growth for us. We already have a highly regarded practice, but we have succeeded in extending it to most of our national footprint.” On that note, Crowell’s “principal areas of growth have been our New York and California offices – that will continue to be true, but it still means there will be attention to growth here in DC and in our European offices at the same time.” For more from Inglima, clcik the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Pro Bono

The firm’s attorneys are tasked with meeting a 50-hour pro bono requirement, but “people go above and beyond that” as all pro bono hours technically count toward billables (within reason!). Those that exceed 50 hours are put on the DC 'Pro Bono Honor Roll' and according to sources “most of our lawyers make that, including partners.” Crowell was also the first DC-based firm to have its own public service partner, Susan Hoffman. Those outside of DC highlighted that Hoffman “is the point of contact for most questions on pro bono.”

Hoffman is also the president elect of the DC Bar, meaning “she's very well connected. She's been doing this for years, so knows all the good organizations to work with.” Such organizations include the Legal Aid Society, Human Rights First, Kids in Need of Defense and Whitman-Walker Health, but juniors can also get involved in anything that takes their interest.

Pro bono

  • For all US attorneys: 43,962
  • Average per US attorney: 88

Diversity & Inclusion

Crowell is one of the 65 law firms participating in the second roll-out of the Mansfield Rule program, which measures whether participating firms have considered at least 30% women, LGBTQ and minority lawyers for leadership positions. “It's overdue for all firms to do,” juniors in DC expressed, “and it's a serious commitment.” Other highlights included a monthly diversity speaker series and a sponsorship program that addresses career progression by “pairing senior partners with diverse up-and-coming associates, so they can advocate on the associate's behalf.”New Yorkers felt their office wasn't doing quite as well at partner level: “We only have three women partners, and we have about 20 partners overall, so it’s not great. At the junior level they are doing a great job though.” Over in San Francisco, “I would say until recently that there were definitely more female associates than male associates, although some recent departures have brought that number closer.”


As mentioned earlier, juniors were drawn to Crowell by the numerous positive things they'd heard about the firm, especially its “reputation for personality, work/life balance and diversity.” The approach to work confirmed our interviewees’ initial impressions: “Attorneys are respectful of each other's time, and recognize that people have families and other commitments outside of work.” Another source elaborated: “Even in the situations where I've had to work weekends, it's the way people go about asking you that has had a huge impact. Partners will say, ‘I hate to bother you,’ or ask if you don't have other plans. It makes all the difference.” When the working day does end on Thursdays there's a “drinks night where there's usually wine, beer and snacks. It's a nice opportunity to unwind.” Outside of organized events, juniors highlighted that “you get really close-knit with your class, so there's lots of unofficial socializing.”

“There's no 'one size fits all' model here for career progression.”

Many sources agreed that the culture does differ slightly across offices: “The culture is probably more buttoned-up in DC. The three West Coast offices are relatively similar; I’d describe San Francisco as nerdy but friendly. DC is bigger and feels more like a bigger firm, plus that location tends to be a bit more formal than other cities overall.”New Yorkers reckoned their office felt “very liberal and transparent, and we have a lot of autonomy.”

Career Development

“I'm always struck by the number of home-grown partners we have,” a DC-based junior commented. So what is it that keeps associates around? “There's no 'one size fits all' model here for career progression,” an antitrust litigator responded. “We're all on different paths. There's no expectation that you will make counsel by this year and partner by this year, and that if you don't you're doing something wrong. We set our own goals and are evaluated on them.” To facilitate this, Crowell has a mentorship program that pairs associates with a partner to “meet with and talk about goals and objectives.”

Other programs designed with career development in mind include various training bootcamps throughout the year (“I did an investigations bootcamp earlier this year”) and a one-week 'trial academy’ that “culminates in a mock trial.”  There’s also practice group-specific training, and government contracts sources in DC felt that their department did “a great job of providing training periodically.” Sources also felt invested in thanks to “a lot of events internally and externally where partners get junior associates interacting with clients – that’s very important.”

Hours & Compensation

Attorneys face a 2,000-hour billing target each year, which technically includes an unlimited number of pro bono hours. Day-to-day, some sources (like antitrust litigators in DC) reported working pretty regular 8:30am to 6:30pm days, while others (like international trade associates in the same location) worked 9am to 5pm with a few hours spent logged on at home after dinner. This government contracts source in the capital concluded: “The hours are probably what I expected. There are times when I'm in the office longer, but if I have a slow day I can leave early. It's unpredictable but generally what I expected.”

Although Crowell matched the initial market salary increase back in 2016, the firm elected not to match the latest raises that occurred over the summer of 2018. Sources explained: “They gave us a presentation to let us know they wouldn't be increasing salaries. I think the way they handled the decision was very transparent – there was an open forum where we could ask direct questions and management answered them.” Most of our interviewees weren't perturbed by the decision. Bonuses are split 70/30 – associates earn 70% of it for hitting their hours target, while the remaining 30% is determined on a discretionary basis, from considerations such as client and professional development efforts and other nonbillable contributions.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed:541

Interviewees outside OCI:  13

Crowell conducts OCIs at a mix of schools across the country, as well as schools local to its offices. At each school, the firm sees about 15 to 20 students, though hiring partner Ryan Tisch notes “we see an increasing number of write-in candidates, and we always ask our OCI interviewers to fit in additional candidates at lunch and before and after scheduled interviews. I don’t want to miss a “true fit” because he or she didn’t make it through the school’s OCI lottery and onto our schedule.”

The interviews are usually conducted by a team of two attorneys. "We like to send a team of two, and we try to pick people who are dissimilar to one another," says Ryan Tisch. "That means partners with associates, different practice groups, and people with diverse perspectives in lots of other ways. That way our candidates can get a range of questions answered, and a range of answers to their questions. " Interviewers will try to gauge why candidates want to work in law, as well as what their goals and working style are like, and how they see themselves interacting with clients and fellow attorneys.

Top tips for this stage:

“We love candidates who can talk concretely through specific examples from their educational, personal, or working lives and tie those experiences to their expectations for a career at Crowell & Moring.” – hiring partner, Ryan Tisch


Applicants invited to second stage interviews: 140

Those invited to callbacks usually start with a tour of the offices, followed by four one-on-one interviews with a “diverse and relevant” range of lawyers. At this stage, interviewers are looking to hear about “specific formative experiences.” For example, Ryan Tisch often “asks interviewees to talk me through a thorny problem they have worked through, and ask follow-up questions about how they might do things the same or differently given things they have learned since then.” In addition, interviewers look for people who can relate to the person in the room. On the firm's side, “we try to identify interviewers who are great at connecting, and who naturally ask questions that enrich a conversation.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions – we are most impressed when these are well-informed and based on some insights into the legal profession, our firm or our client base.” – hiring partner, Ryan Tisch

Summer Program

Offers: 54

Acceptances: 25

During the summer, "there is no rotation," Ryan Tisch explains, "and we ask our summers to work with us to design a summer experience that helps them 'get' the firm and decide what areas, groups, and colleagues they might be interested in getting to know better.  It’s a very self-directed process." There are workmanagers available who "work with our summers to identify and staff assignments to hit designated practice areas and build individual relationships."  There’s also a full training program, which Tisch tells us is “designed to hit the high points of practice from a young lawyer’s perspective.”

Top tips for this stage:

“The best summers and associates talk to other lawyers whose practices interest them and invite themselves to take part. We love that.” – hiring partner, Ryan Tisch

Interview with firm chair Phil Inglima

Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm's current market position?

Phil Inglima: We feel very good about our market position. I would say that we have a set of really preeminent practices – largely government-facing. Then, over the years, we have built up several complementary practices to those. They're not necessarily at the same level of national prominence, but to our clients they are an excellent resource. We provide a suite of services that highlight us as a government-facing firm with strong transactional and strong litigation skills.

CA: Which particular practices have been performing especially well recently?

PI: We continue to enjoy a leading position with government contracts. The role of government contractors has only expanded and become more varied over time. As a result, we have been in a prime position to guide companies dealing with the complexity of relationships with the federal government and, increasingly, state governments. We're in a leading position with respect to the defense industry, the aerospace industry, and IT systems, all of which are important in helping governments achieve their missions. It's an exciting time to have a practice of that quality, with the span of impact it has.

We've very excited about starting to build out in some other practices that have gained us national attention and where we have a strong client hold. One of them is antitrust: it's no secret that we've been one of the key and leading counselors to AT&T in its major acquisition of Time Warner. We also were lead counsel for UTC's M&A activity, most recently with their Rockwell Collins transaction. Then, on a different front, healthcare has been a focus of growth for us. We already have a highly-regarded practice, but we have succeeded in extending it to most of our national footprint.

CA: Short term, which practices/sector focuses/offices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why?

PI: It's a strategic priority to grow the firm across all of our foundations. We've given some areas principal attention: first is our talent depth and reach. We’ve grown by a total of 40 partners and senior counsel across all offices and practices since January 2017. That is going to be a trend we continue. We intend to continue securing great ability to meet client demand across a host of areas. Principal areas of growth have been our New York and California offices – that will continue to be true, but it still means there will be attention to growth here in DC and in our European offices at the same time. It's our 40th anniversary year right now. In that time we've gone from 53 to 530 lawyers. We are driving towards increasing the scale of the firm. We hope to achieve this by integrating practices and boutiques, or even individual practitioners, as well as internal development and promotions. We're not out in the merger market – we don't see that as the best path given the unique character and history of our firm.

In terms of practices, I would highlight government contracts, antitrust, corporate, healthcare, and cyber-security & privacy. I would also add international trade, especially with respect to both the seemingly daily changes in the landscape of customs and tariffs practice, but also the sanctions practice which has become one of the cornerstones of our trade group. It intersects with our investigations/white collar group which has grown substantially over the last ten years.

CA: Long-term, what do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?

PI: I think you'll see our footprint continue to grow modestly – not in leaps and bounds, but in a way that is intelligent and aligned with the character of this place. Our talent ranks continue to deepen. We've managed generational change successfully within the firm – some of our founders are still closely associated with the firm, though few are still practicing attorneys. Throughout our history we've embraced the importance of developing the next generation of talent. We've got a mix of home-grown and laterally secured talent here who have all subscribed to the cultural ethos of this firm – an attention to excellence, as well as embracing of a community where we try to put the individual members ahead of considerations of a purely economical orientation. We want to make sure everyone is prospering and growing in the community, at the same time as attracting the best work. In five years' time, I think we'll look very much like we currently do, but a bit bigger and more extensive.

CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate in the future?

PI: There are two things that come to mind: the first is that our clients have been through some wrenching years with economic upturn and downturn, with more challenges ahead. It's not always going to be smooth-sailing. I think being in a position to really understand and help clients adapt and evolve both in business and in legal functions as the economy rolls and roils will be a big challenge for law firms. Back between 2007 and 2010, we all got a lot of instruction about needing to be adaptive and supportive to clients. The second thing is understanding talent development in the context of the 21st century economy. There are opportunities and interests that attract younger talent that we need to be sensitive to. The fact is that many people explore many iterations of their career in the first ten years. We're trying to retain talent through that period of wonder and curiosity, and provide opportunities for people to feel they can be evolving or changing their focus within the firm.

CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?

PI: I was born into a law-family. My father was a lawyer and we all worked in the family business. As a teenager and in college it caused me to think about being a lawyer, but I also wanted to consider other things. I got into law school but deferred it to explore other areas. I finally came around at 23 or 24 to the conviction that it was the best path for me, even if I wasn't sure if the entire career would be in private law practice. I had a curiosity about criminal practice and always envisioned a career in government service, too. I had a great opportunity at an exciting boutique which held my interest for several years, before I served as a federal prosecutor for a couple of years.

I think about how the legal profession has changed over the course of my career. It was my 30th  law school reunion this past year – I went to Georgetown which has always had a pretty diverse student body. It was about 50% women and 30% diverse attorneys. Those numbers increased at Georgetown but not in the wider legal industry, which was shocking and disappointing. Those of us in leadership positions at law firms have really got to embrace the challenge and opportunity presented to us. I feel we've done that here. In five years, I hope to see significant progress, even above the past few years. We've raised the percentage and level of promotion of women and diverse attorneys, but we need to keep moving forward.  We see Mansfield 2.0 as a challenge to ourselves. We're talking to clients about how to partner with them to identify the best talent and create teams that truly reflect diversity. We're trying to make sure we're composing, advancing, and fostering diverse teams and talents.

CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?

PI: That it is important for lawyers, who are often looked to by clients, courts and the external community as experts or people of responsibility and authority, to have a dose of humility and a willingness to identify what you know and what you don't. We can't afford to lead folks in the wrong direction. We're at our best when we're collaborating and seeking out those who can bring different perspectives or things we lack. Never lose humility, whether on a case or within a firm or within a client relationship.

CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?

PI: Firstly, there's such a desire to focus on specializations right now, which is understandable, but it should not be at the expense of rounding out their education. The well-informed and well-rounded lawyer is always in a strong position. Secondly, nothing is more important than to develop truly excellent communication skills – both oral and written. As I taught at our trial academy and as a practice group leader I always tried to pay close attention to those skills in our junior talent. And lastly, no matter what path new lawyers choose, they have to view themselves as having a duty of giving back. It's baked into our code of ethics, and part of the mission statement of this firm. It's our public duty because we're in a privileged and powerful position in the legal profession to make a change in the community, or reach out to those who don't have the means. It's our duty and our obligation.

Crowell & Moring LLP

1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 5
  • Number of international offices: 2
  • Worldwide revenue: $401.1 million
  • Partners (US): 188
  • Associates (US): 148
  • Counsel/Sr Counsel (US): 155
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Don Smith, Senior Director, Talent and Inclusion, Attorney Development
  • Hiring partner: Chahira Solh
  • Diversity officer: Don Smith
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 16
  • Clerking policy: We encourage clerkship opportunities.
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 
  • 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 25
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Washington, DC: 16, New York: 2, Los Angeles: 3, Orange County, CA: 2, San Francisco: 3
  • Summer salary 2019: 
  • 1Ls: $3,462/week 2Ls: $3,462/week
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Advertising and media, antitrust, aviation, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, C&M international, digital transformation, e-discovery and information management, environment and natural resources, energy, financial services, government affairs, government contracts, healthcare, insurance/reinsurance, intellectual property, international dispute resolution, international trade, investigations, labor and employment, litigation and trial, plaintiff ’s recovery, privacy and cybersecurity, tax, mass tort, product and consumer litigation, trade associations, trade secrets, transaction and corporate/securities, and white collar and regulatory enforcement.

Firm profile
Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with nearly 550 lawyers representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory, and transactional matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes litigation, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro bono service and diversity. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, London, and Brussels.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Berkeley, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Maryland, Michigan, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, University of Virginia Recruitment outside OCIs: We participate in the following job fairs: Lavender Job Fair, On Tour Interview Program (in LA), Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Loyola Patent Law Career Fair

Summer associate profile:
The firm looks for highly qualified, entrepreneurial candidates with diverse backgrounds. We prefer candidates with law review, journal or moot court experience and/or strong relevant legal employment experience, including judicial clerkships; as well as demonstrated leadership capabilities.

Summer program components:
The diversity in our summer program reflects the diversity of our firm at large. We want summer associates who take the practice of law and client service more seriously than they take themselves, who will contribute to the life of the firm, and who share our sense of responsibility to the community.

Most of our junior associates come from our Summer Associate Program. We want you to go back to law school knowing who we are, what we do, and how we do it. Work for summer associates includes mostly short-term projects that will allow you to experience as many practice areas and as many lawyers as possible.

Summer associates have the opportunity to participate in workshops and seminars on such topics as ‘The Law Firm as a Business’ and ‘Oral Advocacy Training’. In addition, the firm offers summer associates opportunities to accompany Crowell & Moring attorneys to ‘Live Events’, which are real-world activities such as court hearings, client meetings, depositions, presentations and negotiations, to observe our lawyers in action.

Social media:
Linkedin: crowell-&-moring-llp
Twitter: @Crowell_Moring

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Tax Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
    • Climate Change (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Customs (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 4)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts Recognised Practitioner