Duane Morris was built on rock-solid Philadelphia foundations, but it is by no means an East Coast island.
Duane Morris laid its foundations in Philadelphia over a century ago, and for many years there it stood, solid as a rock. Duane ‘The Rock’ Morris, perhaps? As staple to Philly as the Philly Cheesesteak and the Liberty Bell. Its first modest venture beyond the Keystone State came in 1985 with the opening of a base in Wilmington, Delaware. Then the 90s came, and with it, a boom in growth for the firm. It opened eight domestic offices over the decade, and come the millennium, it had ventured overseas with the opening of its first international office in London.
But enough of the history lesson – the firm as it stands today has 22 offices nationwide, and a further seven overseas. It’s still got a rock-solid rep in its home state of Pennsylvania, garnering impressive rankings from Chambers USA in areas including healthcare, commercial litigation, corporate/M&A and private equity, banking and finance, tax, and bankruptcy. The firm has more regional rankings across California, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, and nationally it’s blazing the way in the burgeoning area of cannabis law.
Strategy & Future
Just before everything went a bit ‘pandemicky,’ Duane Morris merged with Satterlee Stephens, a New York-based firm, in January 2020. The move upped its New York headcount by 60%, further consolidating the Big Apple as the firm’s second-largest base after Philly. Junior associates felt that “the firm is transparent about its plans,” noting in particular that “they’ve talked about some target cities where we’re trying to hire more partners and associates and grow.” The firm opened up an office in Dallas in February 2021.
The largest group of juniors (by quite a margin) was located in the firm’s Philadelphia HQ. New York took the second highest number of juniors, then one or two were located in each of the firm’s other offices, including San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, BocaRaton, Cherry Hill, Miami, DC and San Francisco.
Most juniors join the firm’s trial and corporate groups, while smaller numbers go into the intellectual property, employment, benefits and immigration, business reorganization and financial restructuring, real estate, and health groups. Most practices don’t have a formal system in place for work assignment, which sources found beneficial in their first year as “a great way to get on board and work with different people.” Over time, “work starts coming to you more naturally,” often through previous relationships and assignments.
“Philly has a big life sciences and healthcare industry, so a lot of trial and litigation work has been healthcare-related.”
The trial group is split into informal subgroups, which include commercial, securities and antitrust, white-collar, IP, and finance. However, the subgroups didn’t limit juniors to just one area – “you can really work where you want.” One interviewee in Philadelphia noted that “Philly has a big life sciences and healthcare industry, so a lot of trial and litigation work has been healthcare-related.” In New York, juniors had worked on cases within the white-collar sphere, and also dabbled in some bankruptcy-related work. Across each area, juniors’ day-to-day tasks were pretty consistent: “Generally it’s a lot of research and helping with drafting.” One source estimated they’d worked on “15 to 20 motions to dismiss, because we’re usually trying to kick these cases out early!” Juniors also typically work on doc review, discovery requests and responses, and letter drafting. “I didn’t think I would be given as much responsibility as I have been, but it’s been very beneficial for professional development and growth.”
Trial clients: Wright Medical Group, PeroxyChem, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Speedmark Transportation. Recently defended Aurobindo Pharma USA against allegations of conspiring to fix drug prices.
The firm’s corporate offering is quite diverse, housing M&A, capital markets, tax, life sciences, bond financing, and private equity. Our sources had dabbled in M&A deals, securities matters, commercial finance, and some general corporate advisory work among other matters. It largely “focuses on middle-market companies,” and our interviewees noted that they’d come across particular industries, such as healthcare finance. “A lot of times, healthcare companies take loans from our clients to either buy real estate or open a working capital line of credit,” a junior explained. “It involves specific issues like properly securing collateral, as well as extra regulations and licensing.” In their everyday tasks, juniors reckoned “the firm has done a good job of giving me relative amounts of independence on things like commercial contracts.” Naturally, “the more complex the matter, the more oversight” from seniors, but in these matters, they were still entrusted with tasks like “running the diligence process” and “engaging with specialists around the firm.” Associates also appreciated being “involved in deals from start to finish, which helps with continuity and makes it easier to learn.”
Corporate clients: Service Electric Cable TV-NJ, cloud communications provider Vonage, and biotech company Immunome. Recently advised medical device company Avisa Pharma in a reverse merger with Canadian-headquartered Panorama Capital.
Culture & Career Development
In pre-pandemic times, “I would have described Duane Morris as a place where it feels good to walk into the office every day,” one junior reflected. But in spite of the move to remote working, associates found that the fundamental values of the firm remained the same: “A core component of the culture is that everyone is owed respect.” Others agreed that “it is one of the least competitive places – people would drop almost anything to help someone.”
“Partners are very committed to helping you achieve whatever it is you want.”
This level of support was found throughout the ranks, and associates were keen to highlight informal mentorship at the senior end of the firm. “Partners are very committed to helping you achieve whatever it is you want,” said one. “They look out for you and mentor you.” Another felt “senior associates have shown they want you to grow and learn, not only for the sake of helping them out, but for your own development.” And most importantly for many, sources felt “they understand work/life balance – as long as the work gets done, they don’t look over your shoulder.” One source recalled “I was encouraged by the head of my practice to go home, have dinner with my kids, then log back on – but to make sure to take that time.”
These happy sentiments also extended to conversations around juniors’ wider career progression. For example, “When giving feedback, people have said, ‘You should think about this so you can build relationships you can keep when you’re a partner.’” Of course, the partnership track isn’t a walk in the park; juniors recognized that “it’s hard work” to make partner but overall thought “it seems possible” for those who’ve got the appetite. Another source suggested “the firm offers more opportunities than just equity partner,” whether that be special counsel or potential exit routes like going in-house with clients.
The firm has a number of formal programs to address attorney development such as “monthly professional skills trainings that different practice groups organize,” and quarterly business development sessions. The firm also has events throughout the year “focused on improving networking, or ways to make connections with clients.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
Attorneys have to hit the billing target to be bonus-eligible. In most circumstances, sources found this number achievable, although with the impact of COVID-19 some reckoned the firm “is going to be more flexible about it – I think they’re going to factor in other contributions and nonbillable stuff like blogging, drafting client alerts, and things that will help your professional career.”
Duane Morris juniors’ days kicked off a bit earlier than those of juniors we speak to at many other BigLaw firms – starting somewhere between 8am and 9am and aiming to wrap up between 6pm and 7pm. When matters pick up, interviewees caveated that they would do “whatever hours are necessary,” and during hectic periods this sometimes meant “logging off at 2am!” One source added “it’s very dependent on what you’re working on. Right now, I’m a bit slow, but no one minds.”
On compensation, interviewees reckoned “we get compensated a bit lower than other firms that are the same level, but the trade-off is that we’re not expected to work 12-hour days.”Philadelphia and New York, for example, pay first-years $180,000, making them the firm’s highest paying offices, while those in San Diego start out on $165,000.
“You can do something you actually connect with, not something random that isn’t personally meaningful.”
The firm allows attorneys to count 100 pro bono hours toward their billables, though many found they exceeded this number, especially during the pandemic. “I think pretty much everyone does pro bono,” one interviewee reflected. Associates were encouraged that pro bono opportunities were “very readily available,” and covered a wide variety of subjects and issues – “you can do something you actually connect with, not something random that isn’t personally meaningful.” So far juniors had got stuck into immigration matters, prisoner civil rights cases, work for the Center on Wrongful Convictions, guardianship cases, and military discharge upgrades. Some also mentioned participating in expungement clinics, homeless clinics, and veterans’ clinics.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
Diversity & Inclusion
As is the case across the legal industry, diversity was an area that juniors considered a “work in progress” at Duane Morris. “I know they’re trying to make progress, but it’s not as fast as a lot of us would like.” Many agreed that the firm was trying to cultivate an inclusive environment, but felt that “as far as retention goes, it could do better.” Interviewees did flag that the firm has “made a significant effort in the past year or so to make sure D&I is seen as a cornerstone of the firm,” and were encouraged to see the firm being vocal “about issues brought to the forefront of society by the killing of George Floyd. It’s nice that the firm isn’t staying silent.” Along with regular speaker series hosted by the D&I department plus an annual diversity retreat in Philadelphia, sources happily reported that the firm has a dedicated chief diversity and inclusion officer (Joseph K. West) and various affinity groups. We were also told that the firm has a wellness program in place.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 231
Interviewees outside OCI: 46
Duane Morris conducts interviews across the breadth of the country, with OCI locations ranging from Pennsylvania through Illinois, to Texas, and far beyond. Coupled with this, the firm also collects resumes from a similarly varied offering: be it Harvard, University of Michigan, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Drexel and more, the firm has an eye cast over a wide net. From 885 applications in 2019, the firm interviewed 231 students, and averaged around 20 students a day at each school (although this naturally varies depending on the school). The firm also attends diversity job fairs such as Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, The LGBT Bar Association - Lavender Law Career Fair, The Mid-Atlantic Black Law Students Association Career Fair. Much to be expected, the firm utilizes the OCIs to get a reading on each candidate. Academic achievement, an array of school and extracurricular activities, plus relevant and beneficial work experience are all sought after by the attorneys – predominantly alumni from the respective schools – who conduct the interviews.
Top tips for this stage:
“Research the firm, provide specific examples of your abilities and accomplishments, and explain your connection to the city where you hope to spend the summer.” – a member of the hiring committee
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 110
With OCIs under the proverbial belt, callbacks are the next stage for successful candidates who will meet with four attorneys in half-hour time slots. Attorneys – usually members from the Recruitment and Retention Committee – ask a series of behavioral interview questions focusing on a number of things: judgment, analytical ability, motivation/work ethic and teamwork, communication skills, professionalism, time management and leadership potential. So not asking much, then. Alongside this, Duane Morris stresses the importance of flexibility. “Be able to think on your feet,” notes the firm, “and provide specific examples personal to you, as opposed to offering generic responses.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Demonstrate polished and coherent oral communication skills, appropriate interview attire, critical thinking and problem solving.”
Acceptances: 12 (anticipated 2021)
Duane’s summer program gives students a chance to “embrace opportunities and to demonstrate an ability to succeed.” Opportunity-wise, there are many experiences to be gained in “assisting lawyers in matters of importance to the firm, clients and the community.” Be it observing depositions, hearings, trials, client and board of directors’ meetings, or negotiating sessions and closings, the program asks summer associates to “demonstrate genuine curiosity to learn about the firm and the different practice areas,” as well as showcasing “a desire to grow professionally by embracing new challenges.” With training in abundance – orientation programs, courses on legal theory skills, writing and negotiation workshops, and more – summers are encouraged to throw themselves into it all. Coupled with this, the social side of the program is also a good opportunity to demonstrate one’s character. Whether at a sporting event, a museum visit, a bowling night, or a dinner hosted by a member of firm management, the firm and associates alike stress the importance of being committed to it all. Offers of employment aren’t department-specific.
Top tips for this stage:
"Duane Morris is a vibrant firm with a great history, and we look forward to bringing in stellar candidates from diverse backgrounds who can contribute from day one," the firm told us. "While a high percentage of summers return as entry-level associates, offers are made based on the performance over the course of the program."
Duane Morris LLP
30 South 17th Street,
- Head office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 21
- Number of international offices: 8
- Partners (US): 474
- Associates (US): 307
- Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Davis, Manager of Legal Recruitment and Personnel
- Hiring partners: Sean S. Zabaneh, Esquire (Chair) and Kate Heitzenrater, Esquire (Vice -Chair)
- Diversity officer: Joseph K. West, Esquire
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 15
- Clerking policy: Yes (federal only)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 13 (1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 11)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Philadelphia: 9, New York: 2, San Diego: 1; Washington, D.C.: 1
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $2,981/wk (Phila) 1Ls: $2,981/wk (Washington, D.C.) 2Ls: $3,654/wk (Phila/New York/Baltimore/Chicago/DC) $3,365/wk (San Diego, Cherry Hill and New Jersey offices) $3,173/wk (Miami)
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case
Main areas of work
Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, Tulane University Law School, University of Chicago Law School, University of Illinois College of Law, University of Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
Summer associate profile: Duane Morris strives to attract the best law students and to offer the ideal environment for lawyers at the beginning of their professional lives. We endeavor to improve our Summer Associates Program each year to make Duane Morris a meaningful and valuable destination for summer associates. Our summer associates rated the firm’s program #1 nationally in The American Lawyer’s 2019 Summer Associates Survey and a #1 ranking in the Philadelphia City ranking for 2019. Duane Morris offers interesting challenges to law students who participate in our summer program. We believe the program offers a realistic picture of our practice to aspiring attorneys who have an interest in sharing our goals and serving our clients. Our program balances challenging work assignments with constructive feedback, work-related activities outside the office and enjoyable social events.
Summer program components: The growth and development of each Duane Morris attorney furthers the central goals of the firm to provide the best legal services possible, to develop and build client relationships, and to ensure the stature and reputation of the firm with its clients. Duane Morris’ Attorney Professional Development Program provides its summer associates and associates with comprehensive training and mentoring to support development of individual knowledge, skills and abilities in three broad categories: legal skills and substantive law, best business practices for the firm and practice development. Aside from these specific responsibilities, the mentors help introduce the summer associates to other lawyers in the firm and provide general guidance on any matter, whether or not related to particular work assignments.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- Immigration (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 2)
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Surrounds
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Insurance: Regulatory (Band 1)
Texas: Austin & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Cannabis Law (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Immigration (Band 4)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)