Duane Morris LLP - The Inside View

Its eye may be on new opportunities both at home and abroad, but strong Philly roots keep this expanding firm grounded.

DUANE Morris is so rooted in Philadelphia that one of its founders, Russell Duane, was a descendant of Benjamin Franklin. This rich heritage in the City of Brotherly Love still shapes the firm today: “They funnel a lot out of the Philly HQ, and that sets the tone for the culture at large.” But while Philadelphia plays an important role, it's important to flag this firm's capacious dimensions: it has 21 domestic offices covering legal hotspots across the country, as well as eight international offices, which are mostly concentrated in Asia but include bases in London and Oman. The firm's most recent openings include a post in Taiwan and one in the 'Silicon Hills' of Austin: “It's a hi-tech community, and we want the office to function as an extension of our IP, transactional and litigation practices,” chairman emeritus John Soroko tells us.

With a broad spread of offices comes a wide array of practices. “They span everything from Wall Street to Main Street!” Soroko explains. “Our four largest practice groups are – in descending order – trial, corporate, IP and employment.” In Chambers USA, the firm picks up its heftiest clutch of rankings on its home turf of Pennsylvania, but on a broader level particular strengths include healthcare, construction, insurance, IP and immigration.

Strategy & Future

Alongside new offices, the other big news coming out of DM is a change in leadership. After ten years at the top, Soroko passed the chairman torch to Matthew Taylor in January 2018. Reflecting on his tenure, Soroko is proud to have strengthened the firm's presence in emerging markets: “It's an excellent strategy given where the world is heading. We started in locations like Myanmar and Vietnam, and more recently established alliances in Sri Lanka and Mexico.”

“Success in today's legal climate requires a great deal of flexibility and innovation.”

So what does the future hold under Taylor's stewardship? “Our core practices, values and culture will remain very much in place,” Soroko affirms. However, that doesn't mean that DM is reluctant to change in other respects: “We continue to understand that success in today's legal climate requires a great deal of flexibility and innovation, so we're constantly looking for new opportunities.”


At the time of our calls, Philadelphia housed the most second and third-year juniors (11), while New York claimed six and San Diego three. A further seven were split between Chicago, Baltimore, DC, Boston and Miami. Despite DM's geographic diversity, associates highlighted how familiar each office across the network feels: “They're all absolutely identical! You walk into Philly, you walk into DC, and you won't feel like you're in a different office.It's like you're in an extension of where you do most of your work!” The similarities extend to “the color scheme, the same really nice paintings and even great views.” Soroko tells us this uniformity “sends a message to all of our lawyers that our offices outside of Philadelphia are not just 'satellite' or 'branch' offices, but core offices with core legal teams.”


Associates agreed that this decorative tactic helps to maintain a “one-firm, 'we're all in this together' environment. We're one team.” But this isn't the only unifying trick up DM's sleeve: every associate we spoke to was keen to mention the firm's annual fall conference, which brings together every lawyer from across the entire network. Its location alternates between Philadelphia and Boca Raton, and “for new associates this gathering is, like, the greatest thing EVER!” Weekend activities include “a tennis tournament, golf, a spa day and a beach visit,” while serious business covers “firm-wide meetings, practice group dinners and team building exercises.”

“They say 'if you're not happy, we can change something.'”

Back in their respective offices, associates pretty much unanimously agreed that the partners promote a positive atmosphere. “They say 'if you're not happy, we can change something, just let us know!'” A healthy dollop of socializing helps to keep work relationships strong; in New York, for example, juniors told of happy hours where “the managing partner and the partners who have kids and other commitments show up – the partner/associate divide isn't that strong.” Meanwhile in Philly much of the socializing comes with food-based perks, courtesy of a top local chef: “We have wine and cheese nights, as well as a monthly associate lunch. Yesterday we had pork tender loin, sage chicken and rum and banana bread pudding. I'm thrilled I ended up working here!”

The Work

Of course, associates do have to fit in work around all of these tasty treats. The majority of the juniors on our list (14) had joined DM's trial group, while corporate took six and IP three; lone associates could be found in the firm's employment, business reorganization and financial restructuring, real estate, and wealth planning groups. Assignment across the board is fairly free market and associates are given a few years to find their niche within their group.

“The trial group generally handles EVERYTHING,” litigators emphasized. Indeed it does: cases cover the likes of antitrust law, professional liability, insurance, construction, aviation, securities and much more. Our sources had encountered “complex mortgage foreclosures, class actions, banking disputes, white-collar defense matters and some government investigations.” Sources appreciated the opportunity to sample, and one had “worked with 17 different people. You get to see a lot of different styles of lawyering.” At the junior level, “it's about laying the groundwork: we're conducting legal research, getting guidance from partners on what to argue, reviewing facts in documents and having a first crack of drafting everything – pleadings, motions etc…”

“Everything from Wall Street to Main Street!”

DM's corporate practice is similarly broad, with areas of expertise including M&A, private equity, investment funds, capital markets and tax. Juniors here tend to find their niche quicker than their counterparts in trial. One who'd developed a tax focus told us: “My favorite thing about it is research, but I also review contracts and recently drafted a highly complex partnership agreement, which was really cool.” Another interviewee explained that M&A work involves “a fair amount of responsibility; I'm coordinating the delivery of documents with clients, reviewing those documents and researching certain markets. I haven't drafted any of the larger documents, but I have done the ancillaries, which is appropriate for my degree of knowledge.”

IP associates told us the work is split between “securing new patents or trademarks and handling disputes over existing ones.” The former strand gave juniors a chance to “meet and interview inventors, and then spend a week or so writing up a patent application.” The litigation side, on the other hand, “is different because of the amount of money at stake in the case. I'm given scope to figure out what needs to be done, but I'm more directly managed and it's more of a team effort.”

Hours & Compensation

Salaries vary depending on location, but all of them fall below the prevailing benchmark that is the 'Cravath scale.' Not that this bothered our interviewees: “Whatever the difference is between a Cravath and a Duane salary it is so worth your sanity!”

“It is so worth your sanity!”

A superior work-life balance spurred on these positive comments. “I've only worked until the early hours of the morning twice since being here, and they were both extraordinary circumstances – that's almost unheard of for any associate at the firm that I know and talk to.” On the whole, juniors “still put in the hours.” Trial associatestypically worked from 9am until 7:30/8pm (“with the occasional dreaded 11:30pm filing”), while corporate sources clocked up nine-hour days on average, but could “rack up 14 hours if we're approaching a closing.” A firm-wide billable target of 1,950 hours was deemed reasonable. 

Pro Bono

Juniors can count up to 100 hours toward their annual billing target. “It's encouraged and you get credit for it, so you know it's not just lip service,” associates happily reported. The firm hosts “pro bono appreciation events; we invite pro bono clients to celebrate the work that's been done – it shows we have a genuine interest in the community.”

Our sources had worked on trademark requests, veteran healthcare matters, “an appeal for a juvenile sentenced to life without parole,” and an asylum case “on behalf of a transgender woman seeking to stay in the US; it's quite something to switch gears from a corporate bank case to one where you're helping to save someone's life.” Sources had no trouble securing work: “There are local pro bono coordinators – from the day I started they put me on cases!”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 36,797
  • Average per US attorney: 49.2

Training & Development

First, all new recruits get sent to Philly for “two days of really extensive training on all the IT systems and firm programs.” Next comes a first-year professional development program that sees newbies attend monthly sessions on the likes of “public speaking, business development and marketing, how to get work, how to prepare for your first review, etc…” Monthly CLEs are “open to everyone and hosted by both people from the firm and outside consultants: DM is good at providing these opportunities and you don't have to go searching!”

Many praised the partner support they'd received: “At reviews they ask if you're happy, how morale is and what work you want to be doing.” One associate added: “I’m very lucky to work with talented partners – they want you to get better as an attorney.”


Location tended to govern views on diversity. New Yorkers, for example, gave positive accounts: “The partner I work for was praised by the chairman for always assembling a diverse team – I think it's the New York state of mind.” In a smaller office, however, one source was less impressed: “There are a lot of white males.”

National initiatives include an annual diversity and inclusion retreat “where diverse lawyers attend meetings and have discussions with the firm's leadership.” Local inclusion committees also exist, and we heard especially good things about the one in Baltimore: “They plan monthly happy hours and discussions, and these aren't just limited to lawyers – everyone's included, so staff, legal assistants, etc…” 

Get Hired

For a firm with a broad spread of national offices and attorneys, DM takes on a relatively small number of summers. Hiring partner Kelly Eckel explains: “We want to encourage people to work together. Keeping the summer class small makes it more conducive to collaboration among summer associates, so they don't feel like they're in The Paper Chase movie!”

When asked what type of person would fit in at the firm, Eckel replies: “I'm not sure that there is a Duane Morris 'type' – and that's a good thing! There's something here for everyone. It's a large law firm and there are people from all walks of life, with different approaches to the law.”

Eckel adds that “the standout summer associates are those who are eager to learn new things and use their time to explore the opportunities here. In addition, those who can demonstrate that they have the skills to take ownership of a project will do well.”

The format of the summer program is unlikely to change, Eckel tells us: “I'm not anticipating any changes this year in terms of training opportunities for summer associates. I think it's one of the things that historically we've done well and scored high marks for.”

The program aims to be “as realistic as possible” and includes everything from CLE presentations to attending formal events with associates and partners. “We've found the right mixture of work assignments and exposure to the firm and its culture,” chairman emeritus John Soroko explains. “That combination makes summering with us a success as it gives students an accurate experience of associate life.”

For potential summers, Soroko offers this nugget of wisdom: “Bring with you a real sense of curiosity about the practice of law, about how law firms operate and about how the legal industry works at large – and above all, ask questions. I'd be very pleased if anyone thinking about Duane Morris as a place to work contacted me directly with any questions they have about it!”

OCI applicants interviewed: 326

Interviewees outside OCI: 87

Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 166

Offers: 44

Acceptances: 20

Notable summer events: Museum tour, professional baseball game, partner dinner hosted at residence, firm-wide zoo event, concert




Duane Morris LLP

30 South 17th Street,
PA 19103-4196
Website www.duanemorris.com

  • Head office: Philadelphia, PA
  • Number of domestic offices: 21
  • Number of international offices: 8
  • Partners (US): 398
  • Associates (US): 355
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Davis, Manager of Legal Recruitment and Personnel
  • Hiring partner: Kelly D Eckel, Esquire
  • Diversity officer: Joseph K West, Esquire
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 15
  • Clerking policy: Yes (federal only)
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 20
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Philadelphia: 13, Cherry Hill, NJ: 1, Miami: 1, New York: 4, San Diego: 1, Chicago: 1
  • Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $2,788/wk (Phila) 2Ls: $3,173/wk (Phila/NY/Chicago) $2,692/wk (Cherry Hill/Miami) $2,884/wk (San Diego)
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case

Main areas of work

  Business reorganization and financial restructuring; corporate; employment, labor, benefits and immigration; energy, environment and resources; private client services, health law, intellectual property, litigation and real estate.

Firm profile

  Duane Morris LLP, a global law firm with more than 800 attorneys in offices across the United States and around the world, is asked by a broad array of clients to provide innovative solutions to today’s legal and business challenges.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
Boston College, Boston University, University of Chicago, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, University of Michigan, Northwestern, Penn, Temple, University of Virginia, Villanova, among others.

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. The firm’s summer associates rated the firm’s program #1 nationally in The American Lawyer’s 2017 Summer Associates Survey and a #1 ranking in the Philadelphia City ranking for 2017.

Duane Morris offers interesting challenges to law students who participate in our summer program. The program offers a realistic picture of our practice to aspiring attorneys who have an interest in sharing our goals and serving our clients. The 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.

Social media

Recruitment website:www.duanemorris.com/site/careers.html

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Cannabis Law (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)