Philly born and raised Duane Morris maintains its strapping litigation practice and a stronghold across the US.
"I wanted to know: is this gonna be the place I want to come and work every day?" asked our sources when weighing up firm options. The firm's big footprint and breadth of practices were persuasive draws, but associates overwhelmingly chose this firm for the emphasis it places on culture. Associates held the firm in high esteem for its considerate culture, and spoke up about how supported women are at the firm: “Duane Morris is up there in terms of how it treats women, and that’s represented in the good number of female partners.”
Having planted roots in Philadelphia in 1904, Duane Morris has extended its network across 21 locations across the US. The firm’s smaller offices do not feel siloed as cross-office and cross-practice collaboration is highly encouraged. Naturally, Philly houses around a third of the entire cohort of new associates, followed by New York. The remainder are split between San Diego, San Francisco and DC. In Pennsylvania the firm gathers a range of rankings for its core practices like corporate, litigation and healthcare, but the firm is also something of a pioneer in cannabis law. DM’s cannabis practice is smoking hot at the moment, representing big names like New Maple Holdings and being the partner to the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp. The team advises on everything from licensing for cultivation and M&A, through healthcare and research, to processing and dispensing. The firm’s other locations are praised for the more niche areas of immigration, healthcare and insurance.
At the time of our research, the firm’s trial group housed over half of the juniors, while the rest were spread across the corporate, IP, real estate, and private client departments. At the summer end, juniors are asked for their top three picks out of the eight department options and are then placed accordingly. “You won’t always get your top pick but the firm tries to abide by it.” To some extent, “you’re able to steer your ship” within the practice groups. The type of work allocated also depends on the relationships you build within and between practices. One associate noted how within the trial group, “the general leaning is commercial litigation, but associates could also work on matters dealing with antitrust, IP litigation, white-collar investigations and toxic torts.”
First-year trial juniors tend to be placed in general litigation to begin with; “for the first six months, I was doing work for just about every partner that had work.” After this, juniors organically move into specialized departments. The formalized assignment process kicked off earlier this year specifically within the trial group. “All the assignments for junior associates are sent out through one of our practice heads in an effort to get people working at the same level, with the same amount of work and getting experience of different types of matters,” explained one newbie.
Philly associates described the commercial, securities and antitrust litigation (CSAL) practice as “the biggest sub-area of the trial department. We focus on antitrust and the commercial side of pharmaceutical companies as well as general commercial litigation.” Juniors in the pharmaceutical practice explained how the dangers of cannabis products within the US has “paved opportunities for the products group to keep moving.”The second biggest groupis the “products liability and then our toxic torts practice.” Toxic torts work is the litigation of toxic substances such as asbestos. Trial juniors, overall, stated: “Our inclination is that we get more exposure to everyday case management than you would at any other firm.”
Litigation clients: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Cisco Systems, Aurobindo Pharma USA. Defending Otto Bock Healthcare North America, a German prosthetics company, against the $80 million litigation by the US Federal Trade Commission.
DM’s corporate practice houses M&A, capital markets, tax, life sciences, bond financing, and private equity practices. General corporate associates get their hands dirty on everything from “standard M&A deals to advising companies with rolling commercial negotiations.” New York tax juniors work with partners directly “to come up with more efficient corporate structures or investment structures for clients. We also focus on local tax issues as real estate in New York is a big sector in terms of investment, so we work a lot with the New York freeway and real estate transport tax.” We heard that collaboration between groups is common: “For example, we look into trust issues and work with national clients who have investments in the US, on how to structure and establish statute tax efficiently.” One interviewee beamed: “It’s very fulfilling to get on the front line and deal with clients' issues directly. By working with partners, I get to see the big picture of what I’m doing and the background of why I’m doing certain things.”
The 2007 merger of Duane Morris and a boutique firm specializing in construction “established the New York office as a construction powerhouse.” Associates in the niche construction group represent owners and developers as opposed to contractors. “We do contract work, negotiating agreements, working on energy procurement and construction (EPC) agreements and even as juniors we act as a primary contact with clients.”
Corporate clients: Psyadon Pharmaceuticals, Mid-Atlantic Dental Partners, JPMorgan. Advised JPMorgan as a lender on its $285 million debt restructuring and equity transfer of the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City.
The labor and employment practice covers four main areas: employment, labor, benefits, and immigration. Within these sectors, the firm focuses on areas ranging from employment litigation, ERISA and wage and hour disputes to immigration and regulatory compliance, as well as providing workshops on the prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination. Duane Morris is described as “a one-stop shop. Clients will come into the trial group but discover they also have an employment issue which pops up. So we definitely share clients among the groups.” Employment juniors in Philadelphia expressed how the larger size of the group, compared with the employment group in New York, lends itself to a “more centralized assignment system, where we provide our weekly availability to the partner who then disperses assignments.” New York “has no structure whatsoever. I get whatever comes my way,” grumbled one associate. Either way, juniors felt as though the work comes in waves: “I wish there was a ramp-up in between. I feel the responsibility goes from 0 to 100.” Some, however, felt as though it can be difficult to hit the 1,950 billable hours target: “If there is a non-billable item, such as research, it will probably go to the first years.”
Employment clients: Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System, Lincoln Investment Planning, Firmenich. Represented Air Products in the annuitization of $180 million in benefit liabilities under its salary pension plan and the hourly pension plan.
The majority of our interviewees expressed their goal of staying at the firm long term and how this prospect pulled them toward the firm to begin with. “I didn’t want to go to a firm where there’s a high turnover and there’d be no guarantee if I would be there after two years; that’s not the case at Duane.” As we've found in previous years, partnership sure is an attainable target. Formal and informal mentorship is in place to help juniors with work progression but also non-billable career development. We heard that “in trial, we have a litigation skills matrix sheet which is essentially an Excel sheet with different milestones or achievements you can attain as a trial lawyer. It can be as minor as drafting an agreement or attending a deposition.” A year-long boot camp training session is also in place to teach the practicalities of trial such as how to draft a deposition or complaint. Corporate associates attend monthly training, exploring a different theme every time: “We’ve had sessions on IPOs, registration requirements and one which explored the steps of how to do legal fund-raising.”
"The firm-wide BD sessions span an individual’s whole career, becoming more advanced as you progress through the ranks,” explained one source. Associates praised the personal touch toward development, with partners “making sure to expose us to the front line and give us the primary responsibility in contacting clients.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 required
We detected a pretty healthy approach to hours culture at Duane Morris. A typical working day for associates is 9am to 7pm with the odd exceptions of “staying up till 2am working on assignments, but the physical cut-off is 9pm in the office.” Remote working definitely seems to be a norm at the firm: “There have been times when I’ve had to leave early to go to a wedding and I’ll end up working in the car, or there’s certain work that I can do from home, so I’ve never experienced push-back from the firm. We’re trusted to get our work done, wherever we are.”
“We’re trusted to get our work done, wherever we are.”
A bonus-eligible, 1,950-hour billable target across the firm includes up to 100 pro bono hours. Associates in the trial group believed this was an achievable target; those in the other departments were less in agreement. One corporate associate in New York informed us: “It isn’t easy to hit the target as we have some slow periods, but sometimes it gets crazy. Even one or two months of a slow period will kill your chances of hitting the target.” Not all hope is lost, folks: “If you’re interested in being bonus-eligible and hit the target, great, but it’s not like you’ll get fired if you miss it,” reassured one junior. Duane associates have accepted the fact that the salary is “definitely below market,” but agree that the “emphasis put on maintaining a work/life balance justifies the drop.”
“Pro bono is definitely a big thing at the firm, across all offices.” Associates in the Philadelphia HQ informed of the pro bono coordinator who oversees the program and is involved in the day-to-day allocation of opportunities. “There are a few different umbrellas which we sort pro bono into. We do a lot of work with military veterans, representing clients in civil litigation, and we do work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project as well.” Pennsylvania recently passed a criminal justice freedom act which allowed a large number of people to have their criminal record erased, “so there’s been a big focus within the firm to help those who have been wrongfully convicted.”
The New York base deals with organizations like GEMS, a girls’ charity, as well as working on construction pro bono. “We’ve done about five construction contracts for a nonprofit in New York, as well as working on template agreements.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 36,840.5
- Average per US attorney: 58.1
“An hour on the banana boat or playing a golf tournament.” These are just two out of the ten leisure activities on offer at the annual firm-wide retreat. “The firm will fly all attorneys out to Boca, Florida for the weekend and half of it is formal meetings, with the other half focusing on the social networking aspect; everyone makes a point out of it.”
“An hour on the banana boat or playing a golf tournament.”
The more low-key events range from softball tournaments and bowling, to the ‘social hour’ about which associates believe: “A few bottles of wine and some quesadillas is a more apt description of the evening.”
Back in the offices, “collaboration and cooperation” is highly encouraged. We’re told that “everyone seamlessly transitions between teams and practice groups. For example, in litigation, if we have a corporate question pop up, we liaise with our private client services and other relevant departments. We have a huge resource under our belt and it’s something we use on a daily basis.”
Diversity & Inclusion
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” This is what Duane’s partners preach across the firm. “We’re not perfect but at least we have the understanding and feel supported when we need to take time off work or go on a vacation without being disturbed,” expressed one associate. On the inclusivity side, our interviewees recognized the firm’s efforts, yet agreed how the legal field is still “far behind in comparison to the finance and real estate sectors who are making leaps.”
The annual diversity getaway gives “all diverse attorneys an opportunity to get together in Philly and discuss the hard topics and ways in which to improve the diversity issue.” We also heard that there are specific diversity mentors who are essentially partners from all kinds of diverse backgrounds “with whom diverse associates can relate to and be inspired from their stories of success, in an industry which is not used to being diverse.” The firm’s ‘wine and cheese’ night has also been changed to ‘social hour’ to make sure there’s an event that “isn’t just about drinking, which is a very purposeful initiative.” Although efforts are being made, some sources voiced how “one formal diversity retreat a year and a random invite isn’t doing enough to promote inclusivity.” The firm told us it does run other diversity events, including monthly learning sessions.
Strategy & Future
Find out what's in store at Duane Morris: go to the Bonus Features tab for our full interview with chair and CEO Matthew Taylor.
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.”
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.” Withtraining 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."
Interview with Matthew A. Taylor, chairman and CEO at Duane Morris
Chambers Associate: What would you say are Duane Morris’ core practices?
Matthew Taylor: The largest practice group is the trial department, and we also have a very strong corporate group with a mid to upper-middle market concentration. We also have one of the largest, standalone IP practices of any AmLaw 100 firm of 100 lawyers, so that bodes well for us. But really, I would say our strength is our industry focus, with about 90% of our revenue coming in from five industry sectors. These are: financial institutions; health and life sciences; infrastructure; tech; and consumer and safety products. We are really capitalizing on our success in these industry sectors.
CA: What is the common culture that connects Duane Morris’ international network?
MT: I think collaboration starts with good communication. I visit all offices around two or three times a year and we have retreats twice a year. We also have an Asian lawyers’ retreat which I attend with several members of firm leadership. We’ve also integrated our international lawyers involved in firm management and that has been a key element for us. We have our London office head on on our executive committee and we have many of our Asia lawyers as part of the leadership on industry teams. So, in my view, the most important thing is good communication throughout the offices and collaboration, but it’s something you must work at.
CA: What’s your long-term vision for Duane Morris? What do you hope the firm will look like in five years’ time?
MT: Our strategic plan is in line to develop a higher performing culture and focus strategically on our growth. We are looking to grow in Chicago, New York, northern California and Texas. That’s not to say we won’t grow our other offices but we’re being very much opportunistic with our growth. This year, we added groups in Boston, DC and Miami, including our recent acquisition of Satterlee Stephens LLP, a mid-sized firm, which increased our headcount by over 60% in New York City. This recent growth around the firm has really enhanced our depth and breadth across the firm’s many practice areas. We also have an international growth focus in Singapore and London. We’ve added four partners this year in the London office and it’s a great example of how we’ve grown the employment and corporate finance teams. Our Singapore office is central to our growth plan in Asia as Singapore is one of the world leading financial and transportation hubs.
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?
MT: I would personally encourage young people to enter the legal industry because I’ve always said that being a lawyer is the most noble of professions, if done properly. It’s important though to keep in mind that just because you’re a lawyer, you should never lose your entrepreneurial spirit.
Duane Morris LLP
30 South 17th Street,
- Head office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 21
- Number of international offices: 8
- Partners (US): 461
- Associates (US): 313
- Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Davis, Manager of Legal Recruitment and Personnel
- Hiring partner: Sean S Zabaneh, Esquire (Chair) and Kate Heitzenrater, Esquire (Co-Chair)
- Diversity officer: Joseph K West, Esquire
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 13
- Clerking policy: Yes (federal only)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020:15(1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 14)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Philadelphia: 8, Baltimore: 1, New York: 2, Cherry Hill: 1, Chicago: 1, Miami: 1, San Diego: 1
- Summer salary 2020:
- 1Ls: $2,981/wk (Phila)
- 2Ls: $3,462/wk (Phila/Chicago/New York/Baltimore)
- $2,981/wk (Cherry Hill/Miami)
- $3,173/wk (San Diego)
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case
Main areas of work
Cornell Law School, 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, 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, 2020
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- Immigration (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- Cannabis Law (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)