Combining mentorship with plenty of pro bono opportunities, Philly native Duane Morris and ambitious associates go together like cream cheese and bagels.
What do Duane Morris and aged cheese have in common? Well, not a lot admittedly, but there are a couple of key similarities: number one, maturity. Duane Morris was founded by just four attorneys over a century ago. These days, it’s one of the 100 biggest firms in the world, which brings us to similarity number two: expert coagulation. Just three months before COVID-19 hit, Duane Morris merged with New York’s Satterlee Stephens, more than doubling its headcount in the Big Apple. And while many firms hit the pause button at the outset of the pandemic – Duane Morris went ahead and opened a new office in Dallas in February 2021.
The firm has a total of 30 offices – 22 domestic and eight internationals – making it a viable option for associates beyond the traditional BigLaw markets. Our interviewees often cited location as a motivating factor when deciding to join this firm. The junior associate cohort was spread across just seven of them at the time of our calls: the Philadelphia HQ was the most populated destination, followed by New York and Chicago. The San Diego, Miamiand San Francisco offices took a couple of juniors each, while just one associate was based in Cherry Hill.
"Texas is a very important financial center and financial institutions is our largest sector."
Reputation was another popular reason for choosing Duane Morris: the firm has been awarded no fewer than 25 rankings in our sister publication, Chambers USA. It’s recognized as the crème de la crème for healthcare in Pennsylvania, and insurance in California and Texas. It’s one of only four firms to have a top-tier nationwide ranking for cannabis law. It scoops additional high (sorry) regional rankings for litigation in the Austin area, immigration in DC, and construction in New York and Pennsylvania. In its home state, it also has particular strength in bankruptcy, banking and finance, and tax.
Strategy & Future
Giving us more insight into the firm’s Texas practice, chairman and CEO Matthew Taylor tells us: "We've had a strong Houston office for over 20 years so we thought, okay let’s expand in Texas. We opened an Austin base four years ago which went from two to 20 lawyers very quickly. With our success in Houston and Austin, we thought Dallas was the next logical move." He adds that "it's a very important financial center and financial institutions is our largest sector, so it was a natural fit strategically. I can’t say too much at the moment, but we’ll have some more exciting news about our Texas growth strategy soon!”
Associates try out every group during the summer program, then rank their preferred departments ahead of joining the firm full time. It’s worth noting that most first-years (around 20 of 22 this year) join Duane Morris via the summer program. If newbies are interested in more than one group, associates told us that the firm will try to place them in both groups to aid their professional development.
Around a third of juniors joined the trial group, with corporate proving the second most common destination. The rest were spread across healthcare, real estate, private client, IP, business reorganization and financial restructuring and employment, labor, benefits and immigration.
Practice heads assign work when associates first arrive at the firm to make sure everyone has enough to be getting on with. Several groups have a work assignment system in place, and the larger groups typically stick to this more closely. Newbies also end up getting work organically once they’ve built up relationships with their senior colleagues.
“Like every first-year, I do a bit of doc review here and there, but I spend a lot of time reviewing different companies’ policies to make sure they’re compliant with state regulations."
The trial group is split into informal subgroups, which include white-collar, securities and antitrust, product liability, appellate, IP, and privacy, but newbies can work across a number of groups if they want to. Irrespective of the practice area, associates’ roles are pretty much the same: “Like every first-year, I do a bit of doc review here and there, but I spend a lot of time reviewing different companies’ policies to make sure they’re compliant with state regulations. If they’re not, I change them." Others had been involved in big, multidistrict litigations: “I do a lot of work around discovery: if there’s an issue, like the other side’s discovery is deficient, then I’ll draft a briefing on it. It’s nice not to just be on the backend.” Incidentally, associates scored this group very highly for awarding them responsibility: we heard one second-year was even preparing to take their own deposition when we came calling. Like most litigious groups, client contact is mainly reserved for more senior attorneys, although sources had attended client meetings. Overall, “No two days are the same, which is why I love this practice area.”
Trial clients: Aramark, Aids Healthcare Foundation, Chevron, FlintCo. Defended LEGO and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment against a $36 million patent infringement claim relating to a videogame system.
“I’m usually involved in the analysis of cases and litigation strategy.”
Interviewees in the employment, labor, benefits and immigration group typically worked on the contentious side of the practice: “I commonly work on Title VII and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act cases.” For the uninitiated, those amendments prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. “A lot of my cases concern wrongful termination,” one told us, “but my role is basically the same on any type of case.” Juniors were given responsibility for the first draft of documents – be it discovery requests or briefings - and take part in witness interviews: “I’m usually involved in the analysis of cases and litigation strategy. It’s an immersive experience.” Interviewees pointed out that “this is a really relevant area of law at the moment given the increased focus on differential treatment in society since the #MeToo movement.”
Employment clients: Tait, Weller & Baker LLP; Henkel Corporation; Philadelphia Zoo; Savencia Cheese USA. Represented the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in arbitration with Teamsters Union concerning the PTC’s decision to lay off 500 toll collectors and operate on an electronic-only basis.
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, giving the department top marks for awarding plenty of client contact and interaction with partners. “There is good exposure to quality clients and interesting work,” associates praised, “although the nature of this practice area is that hours depend on client needs, which have been very demanding for the past year.” This has been true in corporate practices across law firms.
Corporate clients: Pharmaceutical company Catalent,DuPont,asset management company Cohen & Company. Advised food safety company CMS Technologies (Prevenio) in its $170 million sale to JBT Corporation, a global food processing machinery and airport equipment company.
Hours and Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
Those who joined the firm remotely due to the pandemic found it difficult to know when to start and finish, “but now I’m going into the office more so it’s easier to plan my day.” In a show of appreciation for their hard work during the pandemic, Duane Morris was among the firms that dished out a special mid-year bonus – provided associates were on track to hit the billing target – alongside its usual year-end bonus. It’s worth noting that base compensation in smaller markets like San Diego is slightly lower than peer firms, but one interviewee was satisfied, reasoning that “I get to do the type of work I want and the people here are really great.”
Putting in roughly 54 hours a week, associates’ working hours are bang on the market average, meaning the billing target is more than achievable. There are, of course, fluctuations depending on workload: “Some days I’ll work for 15 hours but other times I’m struggling to do eight hours because there isn’t much junior-level work.” When those situations arise, associates fill their time by writing articles and doing pro bono: “We have a lot of those projects, thankfully.”
All attorneys are encouraged to pick up a pro bono matter when they join the firm, and to have one project running at all times. Associates can count 100 hours toward the billing target, “but most people go over 100 and it’s never been a problem.” Presumably it’s for these reasons that associates scored Duane Morris so highly for its commitment to pro bono in our survey.
“I drafted an amicus brief for a prison inmate arguing for their release.”
Interviewees reckoned it’s a good way to meet people outside their practice group, and to work in a practice area they’re not ordinarily exposed to, as this interviewee explained: “I drafted an amicus brief for a prison inmate arguing for their release – I’d never worked on a criminal matter before.” Others had put together parole applications for foreign citizens: “The firm has loads of its own opportunities, but it has also allowed me to stay involved in my own community projects.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 29,900
- Average per US attorney: 41
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Duane Morris puts on dedicated mental health talks during associates’ first week at the firm: “Someone came in to talk to us on recognizing signs of stress and how to deal with it.” Outside of formal training, sources were relieved to find that “partners always say we can reach out to them if we feel overwhelmed. They know mental health comes first.”
The firm's percentage of women partners is above market average, but figures aren’t as strong in terms of ethnic minorities, and sources were disappointed with the firm’s efforts to retain and promote a diverse group of attorneys. Nonetheless, our interviewees agreed the firm is trying to improve this by heightening its efforts to recruit diverse lawyers. “The firm recognizes that an important aspect of being able to do our job well is to have different life experiences contribute to the decision-making process,” one associated commented. “I think they value that as much as the work product itself.” The firm’s D&I group runs monthly events to keep the dialogue running, including virtual seminars with external speakers about how to balance work with childcare during the pandemic. Duane Morris was also awarded Mansfield Certification Plus in 2021.
Associates were particularly pleased with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mentorship program, which allows juniors to put down preferences for who they want to mentor them. They then have monthly meetings to talk about their personal experiences and goals. “I chose somebody in a different office because I already get lots of facetime with people here,” one mentee shared. “I’ve found it super helpful.”
Career Development and Culture
Outside of the DEI mentorship program, associates also get both a partner and associate mentor. “They’re my go-to people,” revealed one source. Despite the pandemic, our interviewees were still able to get advice from their colleagues: “Lots of people set up virtual coffee dates and associate lunches so we could talk candidly and develop deeper relationships than we would on a normal phone call.” Another source was keen to tell us: “I would feel comfortable talking to a number of high-ups if I experienced anything inappropriate. Everyone here believes in accountability.”
“Partners take an interest in helping me become the best attorney I can be.”
Duane Morris does have a professional development department, but as we often hear, most newbies thought their progress came about organically. According to one junior, “partners take an interest in helping me become the best attorney I can be by staffing me on cases that give me the experience I need. I’m grateful for that.”
Those who joined the firm remotely praised their colleagues for continually touching base: “Obviously it was a weird time for everyone but they elongated the onboarding process and arranged new-hire-only events to make us feel welcome.” It won’t come as a surprise, then, that Duane Morris ranks higher than the average firm for associate camaraderie in our survey.
With just under a third of first and second-years intending to make partner at the firm, Duane Morris achieved significantly higher scores than the other firms in our guide. “I do NOT plan to leave my firm,” one emphasized. “The career prospects here are great and I feel like I’m part of a team. People consistently go out of their way to help me develop, so although I’d be sad to leave, it would feel a little disloyal too.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 451
Interviewees outside OCI: 79
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 1146 applications in 2021, the firm interviewed 451 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: 209
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: 15 (anticipated 2022)
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."
Interview with Matthew A. Taylor, Chairman and CEO
Chambers Associate: What is the firm’s approach to the current associate salary war?
Matthew Taylor: The word I like to use is ‘responsive.’ I think our associates have appreciated our responsiveness but at the same time we need to be responsible and consider our clients. These salary wars come and go, but we won’t match each elevation every single time. Often, these raises concern the AmLaw 25 firms rather than AmLaw 50 to 100 firms - we’ve always understood our place in the market.
CA: How would you describe the firm’s current market position?
MT: We may have 900 lawyers here, but we’re still entrepreneurial. I love our trajectory in terms of our size and the sophistication of matters we handle. We’re a very strong mid to upper mid-market corporate shop; plus, our litigators do some of the best bet-the-company cases in the world. This trajectory will take us to good heights!
CA: The firm recently recorded double digit revenue growth. What do you attribute that success to?
MT: We executed our strategic plan really well. Part of that plan was to focus our go-to-market strategy on the industries we’re well known for such as: technology, media and telecommunications, banking and finance, private equity, insurance/reinsurance, fintech and life sciences and medical technologies. We saw revenue in each of those buckets grow substantially both in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, revenue grew by almost 14%. That was during a time when, although litigation was getting stronger post-pandemic, we still weren’t totally out of the COVID-19 doldrums. We were thrilled!
CA: Are there highlights from the past year or so that you think our readers should be aware about?
MT: We merged with Satterlee Stephens, a boutique New York firm, smack bang in the middle of the pandemic. Their 70 lawyers joined us lock, stock and barrel which has been a game changer. It provided us with a lot more muscle in New York. In just under two years, we’ve utilized 200 legacy Duane Morris lawyers which is incredible in terms of integration! The merger drove a lot of revenue and has really been a grand slam for us, so we’re very proud!
CA: Tell us about the new Dallas office
MT: We opened that office in February 2021 – again, squarely in the middle of the pandemic, but that office has still doubled in numbers. We’ve had a strong Houston office for over 20 years so we thought, ok let’s expand in Texas: we opened an Austin base four years ago which went from two to 20 lawyers very quickly. With our success in Houston and Austin, we thought Dallas was the next logical move. It’s a very important financial center and financial institutions is our largest sector, so it was a natural fit strategically. I can’t say too much at the moment, but we’ll have some more exciting news about our Texas growth strategy soon!
CA: How problematic was the pandemic for integration in Dallas?
MT: It’samazing how smoothly the merger went and how well the Dallas lawyers jumped on to our platform. I have to give credit to the people that joined us: they’re all can-do, hard-charging people that fit in with our collaborative culture beautifully.
Of course we couldn’t be together as much as we wanted. I was able to get to Dallas often but we would have preferred to have had more mixers. Luckily technology is amazing so we could have Zoom mixers – technology really saved the day in that respect!
CA: How has the rise in legal technology affected the firm?
MT: We invest a lot of money in technology because we want to have the best technology possible. AI, for example, is an evolving world for firms: although it’s creeping its way into firm operations, like using AI for litigation support, we don’t consider the tail to be wagging the dog, so to speak. We monitor and stay on top of these developments, but don’t think they have negatively affected our operations or the top line.
CA: Does the firm have any set targets with regards to diversity? What policies are in place/what new policies are the firm implementing to ensure that the firm meets these targets?
MT: We have a very strong DEI function here led by Joe West, our chief diversity equity and inclusion officer, in combination with our 70-lawyer-strong DEI committee. Joe and the committee are front and centre, at the table with me.
We’re really proud to have the Mansfield Certification Plus: Diversity Lab is very stringent in its requirements so it’s not an easy certification to get. The fact we have it shows we are providing meaningful leadership opportunities to our diverse attorneys. It’s amazing how including DEI in firm strategy can change the makeup of the firm and make it a more diverse place: we increased our number of female associates by 2% in the past year.
CA: Do you have any advice for those about to enter the legal industry?
MT: Being a lawyer is a very noble profession and I personally am very proud of being a lawyer. When done properly, law can be a very powerful thing that does a lot of good both for individuals and companies. That said, you have to be passionate about law, you can’t go into it just to make money.
I’d also say that the legal profession is very strong right now. There are great opportunities out there at all levels, whether it’s BigLaw, a boutique or government service, so it’s a great time to go into law!
Duane Morris LLP
30 South 17th Street,
- Head office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 22
- Number of international offices: 8 Partners (US): 475 Associates (US): 320
- Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Davis, Manager of Legal Recruitment and Personnel
- Hiring partners: Sean S. Zabaneh, Esquire (Chair) and Kate Heitzenrater, Esquire (Co -Chair)
- Diversity officer: Joseph K. West, Esquire
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 14
- Clerking policy: Yes (federal only)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 15 (1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 13)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Philadelphia: 9, New York: 2, San Diego: 1; Washington, D.C.: 2; San Francisco: 1
- Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $ 3,173/wk (Phila/Washington, D.C.) 2Ls: $3,654/wk (Phila/New York/Washington, D.C) $3,365/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; private client services, health law, intellectual property, litigation and real estate.
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 2022:
Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, Tulane University Law School, University of Chicago Law School, 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.
Recruitment website: www.duanemorris.com/site/careers.html
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Communications (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 2)
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Surrounds
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Insurance: Regulatory (Band 1)
Texas: Austin & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Cannabis Law (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Immigration (Band 4)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)