Dorsey & Whitney LLP - The Inside View

There's nothing mini about this Minneapolis-headquartered firm, which has a presence in markets across the country and the world, and an intention to expand in cities like Seattle, Dallas and Denver.

A MINNESOTA Supreme Court judge and the director of First National Bank of Minneapolis founded the firm now known as Dorsey & Whitney more than a century ago. Flash forward to today and Minneapolis remains Dorsey’s largest base of operations, and First National's operators US Bank is still a client.

Of course, Dorsey's come on leaps and bounds since its inception. It's now got 19 offices worldwide including six outside of the US (in China, England and Canada). On its home soil, Dorsey’s Salt Lake City offering became its second-largest office after its headcount doubled within 18 months. The Denver, Dallas and New York offices also stand out among the firm’s larger bases. Having taken the helm at the start of 2019, new managing partner Bill Stoeri tells us “there's potential for more growth in future; it’s been a great year and we want to keep up that momentum.”

At the moment, Dorsey works “within all the practice areas you'd expect,” Stoeri adds. “Our principal industries include banking and finance, development and infrastructure, energy and natural resources, food, beverage and agribusiness, tech, and healthcare.” The firm's earned top Chambers USA corporate accolades in Utah, Montana, Minnesota and Alaska, plus litigation prizes in the latter two states and a top nationwide Native American law ranking.

Strategy & Future



Salt Lake City has become a focus for businesses and we've become the place to be in that city,” Stoeri says, commenting on the firm's recent success there. “It's an interesting market where some of the more expensive California tech work has gone because it is less pricey.” The next step, he adds, is repeating the trick in other cities: “I'd like to emulate what we did in Salt Lake in other locations, such as Seattle, Denver, or Dallas.” There's more from Stoeri on the future of Dorsey in our full interview with him, which can be found by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

The Work



In Minneapolis summer associates at Dorsey pick three practice areas to rotate through, then rank their preferences before joining the firm full-time. Most newcomers slot into one of the broad corporate or trial groups; there are more junior litigators in Minneapolis, while in Salt Lake City corporate is king. Overall, there's “not really a formal process” to work assignment, which tends to happen “with a knock on your door from partners.” Over time, the onus shifts to the associates to get involved with what they're interested in. Some sought “more structure, especially because as a newcomer it's hard to forge relationships,” but the firm does have workflow coordinators as a fall-back plus a traffic light system that allows juniors to let partners know how full their plates are. “It's good to have partner-level attention on that, plus the coordinators can manage any issues regarding time management.”

“As a second-year I know what's going on at all times; I get lots of client contact.”

Dorsey’s corporate sources had experienced M&A (primarily sell-side) and capital markets matters, plus some securities work and exposure to more niche areas like software licensing. “Having been here for 18 months, my role has evolved,” a junior said. “I started with a lot of diligence and writing up disclosure schedules, but now I'm delegating more and drafting stock purchase agreements.” They and others found that “responsibility increases organically,” while this source weighed in: “As a second-year I know what's going on at all times; I get lots of client contact. There could be some more supervision, but the level varies by partner.” Each office has its own local client base to complement “a national scope. It's really varied sector-wise, so there's not one kind of client we focus on.” The gold medal practice, ironically enough, is gold-related work: Dorsey has a strong reputation in mining law.

Corporate clients: organizational training providers FranklinCovey, marketing and skincare company Nu Skin Enterprises and real estate investment firm Peak Capital Partners. Acted for comfort tech specialist Purple Innovation during its $500 million 'reverse merger' with Global Partners Acquisition Corp.

In litigation the firm's “explicit intention is that we don't specialize too quickly, as they want us to get a sense of various groups.” Juniors commit themselves to one subgroup by the end of their third year – until then they're free to sample the likes of financial services, construction, healthcare, Native American law, and patent infringement litigation. Most litigators “almost always have some general commercial cases on the go” as well. Task-wise, “we're doing the document review that's typical for larger firms, but we also help to write discovery motions and take depositions.” Minneapolis “probably gets the most variety of cases” as other bases are more specialist in nature: Denver is primarily IP-oriented, for instance. “It's very partner-heavy in most groups here,” we heard, “which means that as a junior you need to know all the underlying facts to a case.” Even on bigger projects with a hierarchy of associates, interviewees still got to “argue motions and travel.” This source concluded: “Dorsey has pushed me to take on more responsibility, and I've found it's been at an appropriate level.”

Litigation clients: Ford, Citibank and metals manufacturer Allegheny Technologies. Earned the dismissal of a class action that alleged US Bancorp – among others – was responsible for more than $1 billion of losses.

Career Development



The firm's approach to training “definitely leans more toward learning on the job” but there's a 'Dorsey U' program to help associates get clued up. The more practical approach did go down well with our sources though: “One of the advantages I've found at this firm is that we get a lot of varied experience within our practice area, which makes us more marketable.”

Dorsey's not opposed to associates venturing outside the firm for experience either: the Minneapolis office has a program where third or fourth-year litigators can spend three months at the City Attorney's Office. In addition, we heard that some litigators do go on to pursue in-house exit opportunities. However, most of our interviewees felt that “if I want to be a partner here it's totally possible,” and that the firm is “really trying to do better on informal mentoring. They're implementing new programs to help you learn earlier whether partnership is achievable for you.” Associates become eligible for the partnership after their seventh year, and around that point are encouraged to visit other offices and network to get their name out.

Culture



“The culture often depends on specific offices and practice groups,” associates pointed out. In Minneapolis, for example, associates suggested that the firm's roots in the city were central to producing “a small-firm culture built by good people who want to get to know you on a personal level. You see in the way people treat support staff that everyone's respectful of each other here.” Nobody actually used the 'flat hierarchy' cliché, but they suggested they'd “feel absolutely comfortable asking the managing partner about a recent trip he'd taken or even a hockey game.” Salt Lake is “really collaborative – everyone goes out for lunch together,” while attorneys in Denver reported that the office is “very chill and laid-back; we're all on one floor and I sit next to people from all different practice areas.” Throughout Dorsey we heard “people are really fun and normal. It's the kind of place people enjoy talking about the Great British Bake Off!”

“You see in the way people treat support staff that everyone's respectful of each other here.”

Firm socials were more beer and bowling than tea and cake, however: “We probably do socialize more than other firms by comparison. In Dallas we just had an all-associate get together at a bowling alley and bar with great food.” The Minneapolis crew has an associate council that “throws happy hours four times a year. They do a good job with holiday parties and it really fosters camaraderie.” Hitting the bar on a Friday night isn't for everyone, especially as “around 75% of attorneys here have families so they want time to themselves. I never feel bad leaving at 5:30pm.”

Hours & Compensation



A day at Dorsey sounded more forgiving than those at many big firms. Various interviewees left by 6pm and found that “everyone is really flexible. Sometimes there are longer days in the office but they're the exception.” Billing targets vary by office: 1,850 is the goal in Minneapolis, Denver, and Salt Lake, and juniors shoot for 2,000 in Dallas. Associates there reckoned “it's definitely achievable but the question is whether you think it's worth it,” as “there's not as much of an emphasis on hitting the goal as you might expect.”

The firm recently introduced a new bonus structure: associates get a higher percentage of their base compensation for every 50 hours they bill above their office's target. “It's become clearly tiered to make it more transparent,” a source summarized. There is, however, “a discretionary component that's more muddy,” interviewees also pointed out. Base salaries differ by office (based on the local cost of living), and some grumbles about “the yearly increases not matching expectations” aside, most were happy with their lot.

Pro Bono



100 hours of pro bono can count toward an associate's billing target. “Dorsey's just changed the policy so you don't have to reach the minimum before the pro bono hours kick in. You can also petition for more billable credit for particularly relevant experience obtained from pro bono work.” Even more welcome than billable credit was “the nice program that places a ribbon on our door for every 50 hours of pro bono we complete.” Insiders had earned their ribbons on the likes of asylum, veteran, nonprofit trademark and prisoners’ rights cases. Minneapolis has close ties to the Minnesota Innocence Project, and in Dallas there's an “amazing way to plug in and get hours” by participating in Texas Legal Answers – an online forum for low-income citizens with legal queries.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 35,322
  • Average per US attorney: 66

Diversity & Inclusion



With pro bono in mind, Dorsey has also boosted its diversity profile: we heard that the firm's brought in “lots of Spanish-speaking lawyers to work for Latin American asylum clients.” Elsewhere, “Dorsey's got a really effective women's affinity group, and its members are big on mentorship. In addition, female and minority associates get mentors in the summer and subsequently when they join, so there’s a growing mentorship pool.” The Dorsey Ahead program brings in speakers for various history months and for the women's and LGBT groups. “I think there's a path to partnership for women and minorities, but the social things we do [as part of committees and affinity groups] can hamper your billable work,” one associate pointed out. To help address these and other concerns, Dorsey's adopted the Mansfield Rule: at least a third of candidates interviewed for every senior position will be female and/or diverse.

“It's not just a numbers thing.”

Get Hired



“If someone shows up and acts like the last Coca-Cola in the desert I won't be impressed!” Learn more about what does impress Dorsey's recruiters by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 239Interviewees outside OCI: 33

In 2018 Dorsey visited more than 20 law schools for OCIs on top of a handful of job fairs including the Loyola Patent Interview Program, the Minnesota Minority Recruitment Conference, the Lavender Law Career Fair, and the Rocky Mountain Diversity Legal Career Fair. Alumni are a common choice to conduct the interviews; when not possible they're typically handled by recruiting committee members.

The candidate's interests form the subject matter for initial interviews, including their general view on the legal profession; Dorsey as a firm; and the office location. “We may ask about the candidate's experience in law school and try to get a sense of the practice areas they think they're most interested in.” Anything that can help an applicant stand out from the crowd is factored in, including but not limited to background, interests and breadth of academic and work experience. Law review, journal and moot court experience all count positively here.

Top tips: “If someone shows up and acts like the last Coca-Cola in the desert I won't be impressed. Law is a people business so if we can't get on, you can't work here.”

“My background was quite to different to others and with some firms I wondered if I should play that down, but at Dorsey it was really appreciated and everyone was interested to learn more.”

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage: 83

At this stage each candidate meets six or seven interviewers to talk about their own interest in the firm, their practice areas of interest and working in the relevant city. Dorsey favors a mix of one-on-one, two-on-one and more informal lunch interviews to see how applicants perform in different situations.

The firm's advice here is similar to that for the OCI stage, with the addendum that callbacks are more personal and are a good stage for the applicant to get to know the firm and their interviewers better. Some prior preparation is essential here, as being knowledgeable about the interviewers' practice is a great conversation starter and tells them you have a genuine interest in working alongside them.

Top tips: “What stands out is coming across as willing to work with different people. Prepare some good questions and be inquisitive about the different things Dorsey does.”

“The process is there to help the student as much as it is the firm, so have a good understanding of what you're looking for.”

Summer program

Offers: 42Acceptances: 12

Each office conducts its summer slightly differently, but most aim to give their summer associates a breadth of work from multiple practice areas including some client contact. Minneapolis rotates its visiting applicants through three groups. Pro bono work is also on offer during the summer period. Along with 'real' work, summers also attend Dorsey U training seminars plus in-house writing workshops.

Dorsey encourages summer associates to make personal connections with attorneys so they're ready to hit the ground running when they return to the firm proper. Each candidate submits practice area preferences at the close of the program – spots are given out based on these and department need.

Notable summer events: boat cruises; baseball games; lunch with former Vice President of the United States Walter Mondale.

Top tips: “Get to know as many people as possible, as the chances are you'll get a full-time offer so take the time to get to know the firm.”

“Make sure you allocate the right time for tasks and don't try to take too much on being a summer is hard because you have to balance the work product with all the social events!”

And finally...

Examples of Dorsey U sessions that summer associates attend include Hot Topics in Employment and Benefits Law; Addressing Antitrust Risk in M&A Transactions; the Art of a Closing Argument; and How Appellate Courts Do Their Work.

Interview with managing partner Bill Stoeri



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

Bill Stoeri: We're on the cusp of AmLaw 100, going in and out over time. Dorsey originated in Minneapolis over 100 years ago to service a client that is still our largest – US Bank. We now have 19 offices around the world. Minneapolis is still our largest office but we are growing everywhere. We doubled in size in Salt Lake City over the last 18 months, so it's now our second-largest office. Denver, Dallas, New York, and Seattle are also sizable offices.

We work within all the practice areas you would expect; our principal industries include banking and finance, development and infrastructure, energy and natural resources, food, beverage and agribusiness, tech, and healthcare.

CA: What's prompted the firm's growth in Salt Lake City in particular?

BS: It is an interesting market. We started small there but it is an area where I think some of the more expensive California tech work has gone because it is less pricey. Salt Lake has become a focus for businesses, and for us the growth there was opportunistic. Groups have joined us from other firms to be part of our corporate, litigation and patent prosecution practices. We have built some momentum and now Dorsey is the place to be in Salt Lake.

CA: Which of the firm's practice areas have done particularly well recently?

BS: The strong economy has helped our banking and financial institutions practice. Infrastructure is an area we continue to see growing, especially if Congress approves an infrastructure bill. In food, beverage, and agribusiness we have done a lot particularly in the co-operative segment of the market, while in healthcare we represent one of the largest insurance payers, many providers and a broad range of med-tech clients. Tech law is our most recent focus. It is relatively new to our structure and we are interested to see where that goes.

CA: You've just taken over as managing partner – what are your goals for the near future?

BS: Looking across Dorsey, I see potential for more growth. It’s been a great year, and we want to keep up that momentum. I would like to emulate what we did in Salt Lake City in some other locations, such as Seattle, Denver, or Dallas. On the coasts and internationally we can strategically build in areas to support our different industry groups.

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

BS: Obviously, law firms like other businesses face the general challenge of a downturn in the economy. In law specifically there are constant price pressure issues and a move towards alternative fee arrangements, working out how to charge for work in a way that benefits both us and our clients. Law firms are seeing a lot of work going in-house; that is a big change since I came out of law school. We have also seen technology developments like e-discovery. We used to have first and second years do things they no longer handle because we have software and more efficient processes to handle e-discovery, like Dorsey’s Legal Mine business. We are constantly considering what the associates of today need to become the partners of tomorrow, and at same time what we need to do to provide necessary services to our clients on the most cost-efficient basis possible. Striking that balance will be a really interesting challenge, and we want to continue to stay ahead of the curve.

CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?

BS: You won't find another field with the breadth of opportunity in terms of personality fit and intellectual interest. There are factual scenarios that are fascinating and the law is changing constantly. Different areas of law suit different personalities: trial lawyers like to be in the limelight and enjoy crossing swords with someone.  Others who like to work toward consensus often go into corporate practice.  I encourage people to consider how many areas of law there are to sample and pursue because there will be something to interest almost anyone.

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

BS: I had thought about it a bit as an undergrad, and after graduating I was studying in Germany as the start for a history PhD. When I got down to it I was not as thrilled as I expected and having already taken the LSAT, I applied to law school from overseas. I thought law would give me more flexibility than an academic degree and a greater variety of options. Unlike many friends who decided as undergrads that they wanted to be lawyers, I did not think it was likely – but here we are!

CA: What achievement are you most proud of?

BS: I do not think there is a particular achievement. The things I have enjoyed most and that have been most rewarding have been working with individuals in specific cases. For example, when doctors are charged with malpractice and you go through a trial with them, you make some really rewarding personal connections.

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?

BS: My main advice is stay open minded. There is such breadth, so try a variety of areas of practice. Do not close your mind by thinking you have already figured out what want to do. Take the chance to see all these different areas, be open minded and you will find something challenging and fulfilling.

CA: Is there anything else our readers should know about Dorsey?

BS: The culture of the firm is really important. That helps draw people to us. It is something that is harder to define than the practice itself. But ultimately it is the people and culture that draw and keep our attorneys here.

Dorsey & Whitney LLP

50 South Sixth Street,
Suite 1500,
Minneapolis,
MN 55402-1498
Website www.dorsey.com

300 Crescent Court,
Suite 400,
Dallas,
TX 75201

Suite 400,
1400 Wewatta St.,
Denver,
CO 80202-5549

111 S. Main Street, 21st Floor ,
Salt Lake City,
UT 84111-2176

Columbia Center,
701 Fifth Ave,
Seattle,
WA 98104-7043

  • Head Office: Minneapolis, MN
  • Number of domestic offices: 13
  • Number of international offices: 6
  • Worldwide revenue: $368,316,000
  • Partners (US): 283
  • Associates (US): 164
  • Contacts:  
  • Main recruitment contact: Harry Poulos, Director of Lawyer Recruiting
  • Hiring partner: Bryan Keane
  • Diversity & Inclusion contact: Joan Oyaas, Diversity & Inclusion and Lawyer Development Director
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 18
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 18, 3Ls: 1
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Dallas: 3, Denver: 2, Minneapolis: 16, Salt Lake City: 1, Seattle: 3
  • Summer salary 2019: 
  • Dallas: $3,500/week
  • Denver: $2,700/week
  • Minneapolis: $2,700/week
  • Salt Lake City: $2,400/week
  • Seattle: $3,000/week
  • Split summers offered? Case by case

Main areas of work
Dorsey is a full-service law firm with an integrated network of practices that routinely work with one another. It has more than 60 practice areas including: benefits and compensation; corporate; finance and restructuring; health transactions and regulations; labor and employment; patent, public finance; real estate; regulatory affairs; tax, trusts and estates; trademark; and trial.

Firm profile
Dorsey provides an integrated, proactive approach to its clients’ legal and business needs around the globe, with locations across the United States and in Canada, Europe and Asia. Industry leaders and successful companies turn to Dorsey for the edge they need to succeed in a highly competitive world. It serves clients in nearly all industries, but focuses on six key industries — banking and financial institutions; development and infrastructure; energy and natural resources; food, beverage and agribusiness; healthcare, and technology — in which the firm has great depth and a history of achieving client success.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:

Brigham Young University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Howard University, Mitchell Hamline, Northwestern, Seattle University, Southern Methodist University, Stanford University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Colorado, University of Denver, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, University of Texas, University of Utah, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, Washington University, Yale University

Recruitment outside OCIs:
The firm participates in a number of job fairs, accepts online applications, and partners with local diversity hiring programs.

Summer associate profile:
Dorsey values the strength that comes from a diverse and inclusive work environment. It contributes to the success of its people and clients and enriches their experience. It seeks students who have strong interpersonal skills, ambition, and diverse perspectives, experiences, and interests. It prefers students with a record of strong academic achievement and law review, journal, or moot court experience.

Summer program components:
The firm’s summer associates have the opportunity to work on substantive projects from different practice areas, and get to know its attorneys through those work opportunities and a variety of social events. Summer associates work on challenging client matters; represent pro bono clients; and have the opportunity to attend client meetings, depositions, closings, and court appearances.

Dorsey values the growth and development of its summer associates. It recognizes the importance of feedback throughout the process, therefore summer associates are assigned mentors and receive personalized feedback from Dorsey’s Recruiting Committee in the middle and at the end of the summer. Dorsey’s summer associates also participate in numerous seminars and training events hosted by Dorsey U, their in-house professional development group.

Social Media:
Recruitment website: www.dorsey.com/careers
LinkedIn: Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Twitter: @DorseyWhitney
Facebook: Dorsey & Whitney LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded Recognised Practitioner
    • Energy: Mining & Metals (Transactional) Spotlight Table
    • Native American Law (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment, Natural Resources & Regulated Industries (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Corporate/Commercial (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)