If it’s quintessential BigLaw you’re looking for, move along. Government contracts powerhouse Crowell & Moring is BigLaw with a difference.
Shortly after Crowell & Moring moved into its current office HQ in Washington DC back in the 80s, a rubber duck was found floating in the lobby fountain. “Supposedly it originates with one of the founders who thought the fountain was pretentious,” sources revealed. Soon, “everyone started doing it.” Whatever really happened, the story neatly sums up the firm’s attitude and culture: “The underlying idea is a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.”
“The Yankees of government contracts.”
Despite the gentle self-deprecation, Crowell & Moring isn’t ducking around. This is one of the country’s premier government contracts firms, or as one associate put it: “The Yankees of government contracts.” Over the course of the four decades it’s been around, Crowell has established “a preeminent position in regulatory work,” says managing partner Phil Inglima. Chambers USA has bestowed the firm with the highest possible ranking for government contracts work for the past 14 years (longer than any of the four other highest-ranked firms in this area). Crowell also gets high national rankings for its work in climate change, insurance dispute resolution and international trade, while its environment, healthcare and insurance practices are all highly ranked in the DC market as well.
Beyond the DC HQ, Crowell has four more US offices in NewYork, SanFrancisco, LA, and OrangeCounty, plus international outposts in Brussels, London, Shanghai, and most recently Doha (the firm also has an affiliation in Singapore). All the US offices take in a few junior associates, but most are based in DC, where the “bread and butter is government contracts.”LA has “a strong regulatory practice, with a lot of commercial litigators,” while New York is “pretty interdisciplinary,” with “an excellent white-collar practice.”
Strategy & Future
For those seeking sustainability in troubled times, Crowell looks like a safe bet: “We’re unwinding spending and compensation changes we made initially to weather the storm [of the pandemic] and we’re actually bullish about this year,” says Phil Inglima. In 2020 the firm added bodies to litigation, infrastructure, IP, antitrust and labor & employment in Washington. Internationally, an international trade team joined in Brussels.
“We continue to grow our false claims, financial services, and government contracts practices,” Inglima adds. Internationally, the firm opened in Doha, Qatar with a team of infrastructure lawyers: "The team includes three partners and one counsel in DC, plus one partner and eight counsel and associates in Doha. They are handling corporate/commercial in Qatar as well as international infrastructure work." In the Far East, Inglima highlights that “the Shanghai team recently gained its full legal license, and our trade practice in Singapore is likely to grow.”
Before starting, incoming associates rank their preferences from a list of available practice groups, “and you typically get assigned to two groups,” which don’t have to be related. Sources felt the two-group system acknowledges that not everyone knows what they want to specialize in straight after law school. “Once you start, you can narrow it down to one,” sources said.
“Every group has their mechanism for work allocation” – one associate in a smaller group described their system as “a matter of who I’ve built a relationship with.” In the larger government contracts group, two partners act as staffing partnersto begin with: “They take requests and reach out to associates to find out who’s got capacity.” Sources liked that “if you’re overworked or don’t have enough work, there’s a point person to go to.” Staffing partners were also on hand to mitigate incompatible relationships with partners, which a couple of sources mentioned.
Compatibility is important because teams at Crowell are leanly staffed, with juniors “taking on the tasks of senior associates” in some groups. Associates across departments mentioned “doing first drafts of nearly everything,” such as “initial responses to strategy memos.” While juniors do a bit of doc review, “there are specialized discovery attorneys” in some teams.
“My own arguments have been used for motions.”
The firm’s government contracts practice is “basically a full suite of services to government contractors” and companies doing business with government. That suite includes handling bid protests, investigations related to government procurement, disputes, compliance, and advising companies on how to obtain government contracts. Work often comes from sectors such as healthcare, private equity, and defense and aerospace. “The people I work with here are making creative arguments and trying to shape the law,” associates praised. And what do those at the junior end do? Our sources reported getting to have a go at “first drafts of major motions,” with one interviewee telling us: “My own arguments have been used for motions.” What enamored interviewees most about this practice was the intellectual aspect of the work. “You get to dig into facts and explore theories for the case,” said one. “I feel like I’m doing legal work, rather than evidentiary truffles while doing doc review.”
Government contracts clients: Amazon Web Services, AT&T, Accenture Federal Service, Cardinal Health. The firm recently acted for several insurers seeking $13 billion damages from the United States for its failure to pay health insurers under the Affordable Care Act.
Other groups taking a healthy amount of associates include international trade (where attorneys tackle customs, export control, and trade remedies and policies), antitrust, IP and healthcare. The team “represents a lot of healthcare insurers and providers,” as well as pharmaceutical companies, research centers and startups in a whole host of capacities: “Regulatory, litigation, investigations, and also fraud and abuse counseling to make sure clients are in compliance with regulations.” Sources added: “Transactional has grown in this area, and some deals like healthcare contracting are growing too.” We also heard there’s a “growing digital healthcare practice.” Interviewees in this group said the team is “good about giving opportunities” to associates – so much so that “sometimes I felt I got more responsibility than I felt I was ready for!” On the plus side, “if I did the work, the partner will give me credit with the client.”
Healthcare clients: UnitedHealth Group, Magellan Behavioral Health, Encompass, the University of California. The firm advised health insurance company Humana on its acquisition of Enclara Healthcare from Consonance Capital Partners.
“Take what you think you know about a stereotypical law firm and throw it out,” one associate instructed us. We’ve already talked about the ducks. What else? Well, for starters, sources liked that “there’s no emphasis on traditional hierarchy.” One elaborated that “as a relative junior, I can speak up on calls, even with extremely senior partners.” Another appreciated the fact that they’d “been asked for my opinion by executive counsel while on client calls.”
Sources also felt the firm “has a commitment to being kind,” with one saying that the pandemic really highlighted for them “how much of a family we are.” Associates also pointed out that “if you want to start at 5am and leave early, or come in at 11am and leave later, you can, so long as you’re meeting your obligations.” But, warned sources, “it’s still a large law firm and sometimes the hours are ridiculous.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
The billing target translated to around 50 hours a week among our interviewees. Vacation is unlimited, so associates can take as many days out as they choose. Of those surveyed, around 12 days a year was the average, with most reporting they had “no issue” with taking time away from work – just one reported that “a partner requested I complete an assignment when he knew I was away.”
Bonuses are 100% discretionary at Crowell. There were some “grumbles about the discretionary process” among some interviewees, while others were satisfied. Crowell does pay slightly below the Milbank mark. “It’s something that smells a little bit,” said one interviewee. “As a top firm, it should show in how we compensate associates.” For many though, the existing salary was still “an absurd amount of money,” with one reckoning “I would rather earn $10,000 less here than earn it at a firm with a horrible reputation.”
Diversity & Inclusion
The firm’s diversity figures are about par for the industry. Encouragingly, the firm received its Mansfield 3.0 certification in 2020.In addition, Crowell has a Women's Leadership Initiative affinity group, which focuses on every aspect of development, retention and advancement across all seniority levels.
“A commitment to employees’ wellbeing.”
Associates also described “a commitment to employees’ wellbeing,” elaborating that the firm’s focus on mental health ramped up as COVID-19 took hold.Juniors said that “when the pandemic happened, everyone was worried: ‘Will I still have a job? Is this 2008 again?’ Right away, leaders had conferences on Zoom, explaining, ‘We want to make sure everyone keeps their job.’” Perhaps most encouragingly, the juniors we spoke to felt “comfortable” being themselves at work,irrespective of gender, sexuality or ethnicity.
“Everyone has a mentor,” sources explained, but like much at Crowell, career development goes “beyond formal mentorship.” All juniors are also assigned a professional development adviser, who is a partner. One insider said “the partners I’ve worked with are really looking for ways to give me responsibility and training, and are smart and thoughtful about balancing the needs of the case and clients’ wishes with career development.”
Associates pointed out the firm “doesn’t hire that many first-years” – typically fewer than 24 each year – “because the hope is to have people stay. It’s not a place where people leave after a few years.” And indeed, the overwhelming majority of juniors surveyed had no intention of leaving anytime soon and were encouraged by their prospects: “At Crowell, people go from associate to counsel,” as long as “you show you can handle it.”
Interviewees described “a real emphasis on pro bono” at Crowell. Everyone is expected to do at least 50 hours, and there’s no upper limit to the number of hours you can do, with all of it counting toward the billable hours target. Of course, “it is a business. I think if you hit your target by doing 200+ hours of pro bono and you hadn’t had a conversation to justify that… well, that could be frowned on.” The firm is involved in a range of pro bono matters, from real estate and landlord/tenant cases, to veterans’ advocacy work and wrongful convictions.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 39,877
- Average per (US) attorney: 74
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed 2021: 352
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
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.” – former recruiting chair, Ryan Tisch.
Applicants invited to second stage interviews (2020): 83
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.” – former recruiting chair, Ryan Tisch.
Offers 2021: 20
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 work managers 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.” – former recruiting chair, Ryan Tisch
Interview with managing partner Phil Inglima
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s market position? Which firms would you identify as your biggest competition?
Crowell has for more than four decades occupied a preeminent position in regulatory work. At the moment, we’re sharpening our litigation and transactional practices to offer more to our existing and new clients.
When we think about our competition, we typically begin with DC firms, but we also compete with a lot of national US firms. When we’re talking internationally, we don’t have the same depth as some firms, but in a given area we’re able to compete with the very best. It depends on the matter. When it comes to the quality of service, we genuinely find we’re able to compete with and beat those firms.
CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally?
The market has changed so much in the last 20 years. The advent of the internet has changed the way that businesses and service firms work. The pandemic has illustrated the necessity of virtual work and firms with sufficient depth can compete in a boundary-less way. The challenge is going to be about how people group their legal services moving forward. There are a lot of alternative legal services providers coming into the market, while the pandemic has caused in-house capacity to sink.
Before the pandemic, many firms were trying to scale up their in-house teams, using outside firms as surgeons. Many of them have quite sophisticated in-house teams. Now we’re all experiencing disruption from the global economy.
Over the next ten years, the challenge will be how many firms can remain viable and competitive when the legal behemoths are growing and gobbling up regional capacity. The challenge for firms like us – that aren’t similarly sized – is whether we need to specialize or still offer a full service. At the moment, we’re pretty nearly a general service firm and so moving forward that’s going to be something we need to consider.
CA: Are there other developments in the firm’s immediate future you think our readers should be aware about?
We’ve been consummating the onboarding of the Doha office. They’re all infrastructure lawyers, both transactional and contentious. The team includes three partners and one counsel in D.C. plus one partner and eight counsel and associates in Doha. They are handling corporate/commercial in Qatar as well as international infrastructure work.
A number of our practices, like government contracts, are looking to scale up infrastructure development. The group converges those elements across four continents. It’s an excellent development. We’re continuing to build in Brussels with international trade, adding a leading international trade team there this fall. The Shanghai team recently gained its full legal license, and our trade practice in Singapore is likely to grow. We are very happy to be on the ground there because of travel restrictions.
Growth has been broad. We continue to grow our false claims, financial services, and government contracts practices.
CA: How has the firm weathered the pandemic? Has the pandemic affected the firm’s long-term strategy?
Cash flow for the firm was the paramount concern. We’re fiscally conservative. We don’t go into debt if we can help it. We’re unwinding spending and compensation changes we made initially to weather the storm and we’re actually bullish about this year. We will have a quite excellent year. A lot of it is attributable to repurposing. We had practices where things stopped or slowed down dramatically, and people shifted around. And we’ve adapted well to working from home.
CA: Which sectors/practice areas have been most affected? How has the firm responded to meet the demands of this?
There was increased demand in government contracts, labor and employment, and international trade (which was incidental, it was already gearing up). Litigation was the most immediately negatively affected. But that effect now has been reversed. Matters have ramped up. Some courts have insisted on virtual proceedings and resumption has been fairly strong in the last couple of months.
CA: What cultural changes have come about at the firm as a result of the pandemic?
The firm prizes our sense of community and it’s been a challenge to replicate that remotely. But I think we’ve largely succeeded. Our people have said they’re not fans of Zoom and Skype, but we have adapted. It’s strange that last year we had an all-attorney retreat, and six months later we couldn’t even get into the office together. But those retreats sustain and reinforce the fabric of the firm and we will still see that happening in the future, even though we know that there will be a lot more working from home in the future. The challenge will be to keep best practice with regards to team development. It will have to be remote for a while longer, but it has to be frequent and dynamic. The summer program was still a program even though, candidly, there wasless that the summers could do to add value with an all-remote format. But we were committed to having a program, since they need to keep learning and understand how the community pulls together to deliver excellent client services under any challenge.
Crowell & Moring LLP
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 5
- Number of international offices: 4
- Worldwide revenue: $514.3 million
- Partners (US): 208
- Associates (US): 141
- Counsel/Sr Counsel (US): 163
- Main recruitment contact: Hiring partner: Diversity officer: Katie Mastaler Director of Attorney Recruiting firstname.lastname@example.orgTom LorenzenDon Smith
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: Clerking policy: Summers joining/anticipated 2021: Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Washington, DC: 2, New York, NY: 3, Los Angeles, CA: Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: Split summers offered? Can summers spend time in an overseas office? office?16 We encourage clerkship opportunities. 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 202, Orange County, CA: 2, San Francisco, CA: 2 $3,462/week 2Ls: $3,462/week Case by case 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.
Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with approximately 560 lawyers representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory and policy, 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, equity, and inclusion.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
Berkeley, Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Advertising: Litigation (Band 3)
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Climate Change (Band 2)
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
- Healthcare: The Elite (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight Table
- International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- International Trade: Customs (Band 2)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 4)
- Privacy & Data Security: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
Visit Crowell & Moring's careers page for more information.