Dorsey & Whitney LLP - The Inside View

‘On your mark, get set, grow’, reads Dorsey’s website; and juniors at this 19-office international firm were keen to do just that.

You can call Dorsey the Prince of law firms: it may never have changed its name to a ridiculous symbol, but it was born in Minneapolis and is proficient in many instruments (legal instruments, that is). Dorsey’s been plying its craft since 1912 and has spent its time since then advising many of the Fortune 500 companies that call Minnesota home, including Best Buy and United Health Group. “The firm’s clients are interesting and innovative,” juniors declared, “and they have a fantastic reputation in various practices.”

TOP READ: Spotlight on Minneapolis: Partner Kirsten Schubert gives us an introduction to this bustling legal market.

According to Chambers USA, Minneapolis remains the jewel in Dorsey’s domestic crown – the firm earns top rankings in its home state for antitrust, commercial litigation, corporate M&A, white-collar investigations and real estate. Other standouts include market-leading corporate practices in Missoula and Salt Lake City, as well as a top-ranking IP group in the latter city. The firm also merits a seat at Chambers USA’s nationwide spotlight table for its transactional work in mining and metals. Practices aside, Dorsey’s “unparalleled commitment to associate development, diversity, inclusion and retention” convinced junior associates that this was the firm for them.

The Work

At the time of our research, just over half of the juniors on the list were housed in Minneapolis, with Seattle and Salt Lake City taking sizable cohorts too. Dallas, Denver, Des Moines and New York had very small numbers each. Corporate is the most common practice area destination followed by trial, finance, IP, labor and employment, and tax, trusts and estates. Most Dorsey departments run a “free market” work allocation system: “You do receive a lot of support and there’s also a lot of emphasis put on helping you reach out to other offices,” sources noted. “There’s never been any concern about not getting enough work.” Associates in the trial group get work from an advocacy director. “A lot of the matters I work on have been given to me by a partner or another senior associate, so I would say the structure is to fill in gaps for those who aren’t as busy,” one told us.

The corporate and trial groups are both umbrella groups housing a number of different practices. We heard juniors in both of these groups declare their ‘majorin fourth year, “and then you work primarily in that group. The firm encourages associates to have two to three interests" in addition to their major and to stay active in those areas, "so that we aren’t pigeonholed.”

“Got to wear a number of hats within the corporate group.”

Healthcare, retail and tech clients come to Dorsey’s corporate group for advice on deals. Each office has signature practices: the team in Minneapolis is well known for its banking focus, alongside private placements and debt and equity financing deals. Interviewees told us they “got to wear a number of hats within the corporate group.” Seattle is a good bet for capital markets work, as well as cross-border M&A between US and Canada; juniors here may be able to get involved with the office’s growing cannabis practice too. As for Salt Lake City, capital markets as well as venture capital and emerging companies work is all up for grabs. A normal day for a Dorsey corporate junior involves “reviewing clients’ annual reports, ensuring 10-K compliance, making sure proper disclosures have been made and working on a few New York Stock Exchange and over-the-counter listings.” As at many firms, due diligence and drafting simple ancillary documents are also common tasks.

Corporate clients: Nu Skin, Clipwire Games, Pelion Venture Partners. Advised payments platform Galileo Financial Technologies in its $1.2 billion sale to Social Financial.

Dorsey’s trial practice involves litigation with primarily finance and healthcare companies; juniors who’d worked on the latter described “time-consuming prescription drug class actions, price gouging allegations involving generic drugs, and opioid over-subscription cases.” Other typical cases include shareholder derivatives suits and, in DC especially, government investigations. Juniors told us senior associates “really do act as advocates for juniors taking a broad role on cases, trusting enough that we will follow through.” Common early tasks include legal research, drafting briefs, deposition outlines and motions and liaising with opposing counsel.

Litigation clients: Mayo Clinic, Wells Fargo, Prime Therapeutics. Defended Canada-based Klondex Mines in a suit brought by a putative class of shareholders following the company’s merger with Hecla.


Big-ticket cases for high-end clients may be pouring through the doors each day, but cool heads prevail at a firm that’s consistently scored good reviews for its culture. “While professionalism is high, Dorsey has a relatively relaxed vibe. I didn’t feel the same sense of intensity and anxiety that I felt while interviewing with or summering for other firms,” one junior declared. Despite the offices being spread across the nation, support for juniors is a firmwide trend: “There’s an emphasis on finding people who are in it to help everyone,” we heard. “They aren’t driven by themselves and know how to work in and be part of a group.”

“While professionalism is high, Dorsey has a relatively relaxed vibe.”

Regular social events help to “foster connections between attorneys and firm staff. We’ve had firmwide happy hours which aren’t tied to alcohol: they’re just social hours where the firm comes together and divides into breakout groups of people you may have not met before.” Sources told us these involve “different activities for each group”; there have been some very different socials in recent years including an axe-throwing event, “which was great fun!” Juniors were also happy to tell us “partners are intentionally developing associates into future leaders and great lawyers.”

“There’s no copy-paste culture. Partners want us to really grow as lawyers.”

Career Development

“There’s no copy-paste culture,” associates declared. “Partners want us to really grow as lawyers.” Mentorship schemes have been on the rise: insiders in Seattle suggested the office has really made strides recently. “We’ve put a lot into getting it up and running and the support you receive as an associate from partner mentors is tremendous,” we heard. “They very rarely say ‘do this’ or ‘correct this’ – they explain why and take their time to help you understand.” With plenty of resources at their collective fingertips, several juniors we interviewed had partnership in mind as a future goal. “The opportunity is definitely there,” one declared. “If you want it and you put in the work, people are there to help you make connections and support you the whole way.” As for those with different plans, in-house roles are the most common Dorsey exit strategy.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: Dorsey has three partnership-tracks: 1600 hours, 1750 hours and 1900 hours

Most associates start their day between 8:30 and 9am and log off by 6 or 7pm, with occasional stretches until 11pm. “The firm has taken measures to offer flexibility during the pandemic,” we heard. “They don’t expect all associates to meet their billable hour requirements and they’ve opened up different avenues for work, such as allowing associates to get tasks from other practice groups which have been busier than theirs.” Our sources agreed the “communication has been very strong from firm leadership in understanding the challenges which have been presented and allowing everything from a flexible day to taking time off.”

“…allowing associates to get tasks from other practice groups which have been busier than theirs.”

The typical billing requirement is 1,850 hours including allowance for 100 pro bono hours and 50 dedicated to diversity efforts. Interviewees were “mostly satisfied with the compensation,” with base salaries varying by office and market. Dallas first-years start on the New York scale (and in turn have a higher hours target); Minneapolis runs lower, but we heard from juniors there that after some earlier grievances “the firm gave us great end of year bonuses.” How are they determined? “The transparent message from leadership was that bonuses would be allocated on a discretionary basis,” associates said. “Primarily these had been driven by hours worked, but they’re now specific productivity bonuses.”

Pro Bono

Most of our junior interviewees were close to the 100 pro bono hour billables allotment. “I recall billing around 350 hours last year,” one said. “It’s great that I have complete control over how much pro bono work I want to do.” We heard of associates having worked on immigration cases, domestic violence, temporary restraining orders, housing issues and First Amendment rights issues. “The firm also works with a local Indian law nonprofit on issues of child custody specific to tribes in Minnesota,” sources there said. “We’ve done a lot of work for clinics which are designed to serve the indigenous population. The volume and variety of work is great.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 31,023
  • Average per US attorney: 61

Diversity & Inclusion

Associates commended Dorsey for allowing 50 hours of D&I efforts toward their billable goal, a concrete initiative that few firms match. “There’s a very strong representation of women in the offices,” some said. “Dorsey is known for having great policies which support women who decide to have children and their families,” Juniors also suggested that the firm has “a good reputation for supporting diverse attorneys,” balancing that with the fact that “overall representation is lacking, which is not unique to this firm.”

“They want you to realize that you’re valued as a person and not just a tool.”

The firm has a number of groups in place to help improve the recruitment and retention of diverse attorneys including networks for women, LGBTQ+ and lawyers of color, as well as a dedicated group for women with children. There's also a staff of color group for non-lawyers, and in the wake of the BLM movement the firm set up an allyship group. These and other outlets, alongside more informal efforts, comprise the firm’s program for mental health and wellbeing. “People ask you how you’re doing, and they want you to realize that you’re valued as a person and not just a tool,” sources explained.

Strategy & Future

2020 may have posed challenges for all of us, but Dorsey & Whitney rose to the occasion with gusto and posted significant revenue growth, reaching a new high of $414.1million (up 7% on the previous year). The firm’s also made lateral hires, including Carlos Méndez-Peñate as new cochair of the Latin America and Caribbean practice group and a key strategic addition to the growing New York team. Associates generally reported “a very open culture” when it comes to communicating updates from senior management.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 213 

Interviewees outside OCI: 18 

In late 2020 and early 2021 Dorsey visited more than 15 law schools for OCIs on top of a handful of job fairs including the Lavender Law Career Fair, the Loyola Patent Interview Program, and the Minnesota Minority Recruitment Conference. 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:  

“I’d say there’s a big spread of people here who have had careers before. Though in the summer class, there’s quite a few summers who went straight from college to law school to here. Also, there’s people who had plenty of work experience prior to law school. Dorsey has no preference and welcomes everyone!” – a third-year associate 



Applicants invited to second stage: 59 

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 a more informal interview with a couple of associates 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. 


Summer program 

Offers: 24 

Acceptances: 11

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: cooking classes; escape rooms; cocktail/mocktail classes; baseball games; and a meet and greet with former Vice President of the United States Walter Mondale. 

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. 

Dorsey & Whitney LLP

50 South Sixth Street,
Suite 1500,
MN 55402-1498

300 Crescent Court,
Suite 400,
TX 75201

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

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

Columbia Center,
701 Fifth Ave,
WA 98104-7043

  • Head Office: Minneapolis, MN
  • Number of domestic offices: 13
  • Number of international offices: 6
  • Worldwide revenue: $414,095,856
  • Partners (US): 275
  • Associates (US): 161
  • Other Attorneys: 71
  • Contacts:  
  • Main recruitment contact: Melissa Gregory, Director of Lawyer Recruiting
  • Hiring partner: Kirsten Schubert
  • Diversity & Inclusion contact: Joan Oyaas, Chief Legal Talent Officer
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 25
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 8, 2Ls: 15, 3Ls: 1
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Denver: 3, Minneapolis: 16, Salt Lake City: 2, Seattle: 3 Summer salary 2020: Denver: $2,900/week Minneapolis: $2,700/week Salt Lake City: $2,600/week Seattle: $3,200/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.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:

Brigham Young University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Howard University, Mitchell Hamline, Northwestern, Seattle University, Southern Methodist University, Stanford University, University of Alabama, 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, Vanderbilt University, 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:
tributes 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:
LinkedIn: Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Twitter: @DorseyWhitney
Facebook: Dorsey & Whitney LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Immigration (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Cannabis Law (Band 3)
    • Energy: Mining & Metals (Transactional) (Band 1)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
    • Native American Law (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)