With a strong presence in Philadelphia and a robust litigation group, Duane Morris is an established feature of the legal landscape.
FROM the signing of the Constitution, to being constantly sunny, to finally winning the Super Bowl in 2018, Philadelphia really has seen it all. But as well as being the birthplace of the United States, Philly was in 1904 also the birthplace of Duane Morris. The firm is still based in the city but now has a network of 21 offices across the US. “There's not one of those offices that feels like a satellite,” one junior asserted. “We're one Duane Morris and this reverberates across the whole firm.” The Philly office takes in most juniors (around a third of the entire cohort), closely followed by New York. The remaining third are split between the smaller offices, like San Diego, San Francisco and DC.
“There's not one of those offices that feels like a satellite.”
A recent change in leadership saw Matthew Taylor take over the reins as chairman. “The current state of the firm is one of growth and excitement,” he told us enthusiastically, “but I have a very easy job because of all the hard work done before.” In recent years the firm has opened offices in locations as diverse as Austin and Taipei and most recently launched a seven-lawyer intellectual property team in New York and DC. Most of the firm's Chambers USA rankings come in Pennsylvania, where it picks up ten rankings for various areas including core practices like corporate and litigation; in other locations the firm wins one or two Chambers rankings, mostly for niche areas like immigration, healthcare and insurance.
Just over half of juniors work in the substantial trial group, with the rest scattered fairly evenly between corporate, IP, real estate, and private client. A short ramp-up period sees work directly allocated to new starters, before associates enter an informal “coordinated free market,” whereby assignments land on desks from previously established working relationships. “There's a lot of emphasis on associates being entrepreneurial, being self-starters and finding their own work,” one source reported. We also heard talk of plans for “a new formalized assignment process” in which a committee would “look at workloads to make sure everything's getting distributed equally and everyone's getting a breadth of experience.”
“I've taken depositions in a workers' compensation case.”
The large trial group has several subgroups – “the biggest is commercial litigation, but we also have appellate, construction, insurance, product liability, toxic tort, and white-collar teams.” Across the board, associates told us they had “taken depositions in a workers' compensation case,” “drafted memoranda and worked on some major federal constitutional issues,” and “independently been to court, securing a judgment lien in relation to a client's property.” One interviewee beamed: “Going to trial with another attorney on one of my cases was great. I wasn't second chair, but I was there to really help out the partners.”
Litigation clients: Wright Medical Technology, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, food services company Aramark. Represented software firm SAP in two $60 and $80 million false claims proceedings related to contracts to provide services to the city of San Diego.
The corporate practice covers M&A, capital markets, tax, life sciences, bond financing, and private equity. “I worked directly with a partner for a mutual fund family which was being launched,” a junior told us. “The opportunity was really cool and allowed me to do more than the typical grunt work.” One associate who'd gained experience on tax matters told us of their experience: “We come up with structures to reduce clients' tax liability, as well as dealing with tax disputes and resolving issues with the IRS.” We heard that collaboration between groups is also common. “Our real estate team handle a lot of work that relates to investment issues and procedural requirements, so we do a lot of research on compliance for them.”
Corporate clients: Red Lion Hotel Corporation, construction consultant Hill International, NYX Gaming Group. Advised Donegal Mutual Insurance on the $85 million sale of its financial services and banking subsidiaries.
An IP associate told us: “My work started out heavy on research, as well as drafting motions and sections of briefs. After a while, I was given part of the partner's patent portfolio and pretty much told to 'have at it' with a paralegal to work on the management of the prosecution.” IP juniors get exposure to both trademark litigation and patent prosecution, as well as “general business advice and analysis, communicating with clients about trademark issues.”
IP clients: Verizon Wireless, Cisco Systems, AT&T. Represented Texas-based drones and spacecraft manufacturer Intuitive Machines in a dispute with Moon Express over the ownership and value of two contracts for space vehicles and related software.
Beyond initial training covering things like billing and business development, a junior litigator was keen to praise “the new 'anatomy of a civil case' program,” which shows associates “how to prepare a case, conduct discovery, and stay up to date on issues as the legal market changes.” We heard informal on-the-job development is most common (with sources mentioning a “learn on the fly” experience in many cases). “People will stand beside you to make sure you do well, checking the stuff you don't know and the stuff you don't know you don't know!” one associate shared.
“People will stand beside you to make sure you do well.”
Each recruit is also assigned an associate and partner mentor. We heard that one associate was so impressed they “even turned down external recruiters because the partner mentoring here is so robust.” Speaking of the partnership, Duane Morris has about half as many summers each year as it makes up partners, which gives you an idea of attrition rates. Our sources felt partnership is “definitely attainable, but realistically more difficult than it used to be.”
Hours & Compensation
Daily working hours varied among our interviewees, but a 9am to 7pm day in the office is fairly typical for juniors. “When I'm slammed it's 8am till 8pm,” one source told us, while another shared: “Sometimes I leave at 6pm, but for the past two weeks I have been here until 10 or 10:30pm.” In other words: when things are busy the hours are long – but they aren't busy all the time. “I'm usually done by 6:30pm and rarely work on weekends,” one junior reported. We heard that “you can always work from home, as long as you're responsible with what you've got on your plate.”
“When I'm slammed it's 8am till 8pm.”
Duane Morris did not match the top-of-the-market salary increases in summer 2018, which was a slight bone of contention for some. “I'm concerned that we didn't match,” a New York associate told us, “but the culture and family orientation here somewhat justifies the sacrifice in salary.” An associate from Philly offered a similarly measured view: “As a firm, we have zero debt and are fiscally conservative. I would like us to compete, but not overreach.” The firm did raise its base salaries in January 2019; at the top end, incoming juniors are paid $175,000 in Philly, New York, Chicago and Houston.
Across the board, a uniform 1,950-hour billing target is in place for associates. For those in the trial group it's an attainable marker, though that's less the case elsewhere. Failing to hit the target is not a deal-breaker. “I've never been penalized for not meeting target,” one source said. The 100 hours of pro bono that can count as billable help some get closer to their targets when work is slower.
Our interviewees were pleased to report that “pro bono is one of the best things about the firm.” Across all the offices everyone is “encouraged to seek out pro bono that matters to you; anyone can work on any type of matter.” The firm works with organizations as varied as girls' charity GEMS in New York and the Innocence Project in California. An associate in Philadelphia spoke to us candidly about the impact that working in a poorer community in the city had had on them: “It's crazy, being in the same city but feeling like you're in a different universe; the work really makes you realize what the world is actually like.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 33,197
- Average per US attorney: 52
“I'm sitting in Philly, but I can see the country at my fingertips,” one associate mused, referring to the healthy interplay between DM's offices, both socially and work-wise. In part, associates put this down to the annual firmwide retreat. “It makes sure everyone gets together,” one source said, while another explained: “One year it might be held in Florida and the next in Philly. It sees all attorneys from across the country show up and meet each other. We play golf and poker; we sit in meetings; we get to network and introduce ourselves to our colleagues.”
“We get to network and introduce ourselves to our colleagues.”
“Right off the bat I knew I could walk into partners' offices and ask questions,” one associate said, describing the day-to-day atmosphere in the office. “I've never had a bad experience, been yelled at or been disrespected.” We heard that the Philadelphia office “is more conservative in terms of dress code, as it doesn't have a 'jeans Friday,'” compared to say New York,where associates saw their office as “quite laid-back in comparison.” A junior in a smaller office felt: “New York and Philly are a little more buttoned up. Our relationships here are more casual.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Alongside the firmwide retreat, DM also has a specific diversity getaway. “It's an exercise in listening to each other,” one source told us. “It's about having hard conversations and advancing consciousness surrounding inclusion. It's three days long and kind of feels like a positive liberal artsy affair, which is remarkable given the corporate setting.” The firm also has a diversity mentoring initiative that allows diverse attorneys to “develop a mentor-type relationship with someone similar to you.” Formal programs aside, “associates take the lead on promoting inclusion day to day at an informal level; everyone is really patient and cares about accommodating differences.”
Strategy & Future
With DM's new chair Matthew Taylor nearly a year into his tenure, associates felt confident about his renewed vision. “Matt's shaking things up, which is encouraging to see,” one source shared. “He's just brought in consultants to help develop strategic decisions for the future.” So it's possible the game plan may shift in the future – for example with more of a focus on the transactional practices – but for now what we heard from associates and from Taylor was a similar formula to what DM has told us in the past. “The firm has expanded significantly in recent years,” an associate said, “but partners who've been here a while say it's the same firm as it was before; we do want to expand, but in this similar vein.” Matthew Taylor himself confirms: “We're focusing on building the growth areas in our newer offices, and looking at strategic growth in new areas across the US.”
Duane Morris LLP
30 South 17th Street,
- Head office: Philadelphia, PA
- Number of domestic offices: 21
- Number of international offices: 8
- Partners (US): 418
- Associates (US): 284
- Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Davis, Manager of Legal Recruitment and Personnel
- Hiring partner: Kelly D Eckel, Esquire (Chair) and Sean S. Zabaneh, Esquire (Co-Chair)
- Diversity officer: Joseph K West, Esquire
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 20
- Clerking policy: Yes (federal only)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:12(1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 12)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Philadelphia: 8, Atlanta: 1, Miami: 1, San Diego: 1, Chicago: 1
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1Ls: $2,980/wk (Phila)
- 2Ls: $3,365/wk (Phila/Chicago)
- $2,884/wk (Miami)
- $3,076/wk (San Diego)
- $3,173/wk (Atlanta)
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case by case
Main areas of work
Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, University of Illinois, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, University of Maryland, 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. 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Immigration (Band 2)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- 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)
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)
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)