Duane Morris LLP - The Inside View

If working for a national firm with a reputation for its strong litigation group and inclusive culture is for you, then you should slide into this DM.

From Philly to ph-illing out offices all over the US (and globally!) Duane Morris sits firmly amongst the largest 100 firms around the world. For larger firms, it can be tricky to maintain a consistent culture, but for newbies joining DM's ranks, it was the universal backbone of support that was the deal clincher- just call it Duane ‘The Rock’ Morris!

“Lawyers are like onions, as you progress here you get layers and layers!”

With 24 offices across the country and flagpoles in key locations in Asia, this heavyweight has been recognized by Chambers USA in over 30 areas, adding impressive titles in insurance, construction, healthcare, IP, labor & employment, and litigation to its championship belt. With such a strong resume and a bustling collection of enthusiastic lawyers, it’s no wonder associates are starry-eyed for DM: “It’s not just fluff, it’s not just words!” One interviewee even went as far as to invoke the wisdom of a certain ogre when discussing progression at the firm: “Lawyers are like onions – as you progress here, you get layers and layers!”

Strategy & Future



To discuss the future of the firm, CEO and chairman Matt Taylor caught up with us while on the recruiting trail in London: “Laterals are a big focus for us right now.” Taylor adds, “we’re being very strategic in hiring laterals and being opportunistic to grow our 30 offices. But in particular, we’re looking to grow London and Singapore.” Taylor highlights growth as a key factor in the firm’s continuing success: “We’re now over 900 lawyers. We’re consistently growing top line in growth revenue, and we have very strong, healthy growth in the profitability and revenue per lawyer, which shows a great picture of strength to the market.”

Sources spoke highly of Taylor, telling us that he takes an inclusive approach when it comes to keeping his associates up to date on firm maneuvers. One interviewee shared that he is “very proactive and involves everyone. He speaks with you, not to you, and wants your voice to be heard. It’s great that he keeps you appraised of what’s going on.” Taylor humbly agrees, “Anyone can give me a call - the world is much more transparent than it ever has been, and I think that’s a great thing. Everyone should have information about the finances and capital structure of their law firm.”

The Work



Most associates we spoke with were found in the trial, corporate, and employment, labor, benefits, and immigration groups, which are themselves broken down into different subgroups. Outside of that, we also spoke to juniors in private client, intellectual property, and health law. Interviewees across groups detailed getting work from a committee of senior partners within their respective practice groups who, one source added, “know us very well and function as unofficial mentors. It’s a new system since the pandemic, but I think it’s an immensely successful way to do it.”

“I’ve almost gone to trial a few times, but we keep settling before then – which is obviously a good thing!”

By quite a wide margin, the trial group was the practice with the highest number of juniors on our list, with one source telling us that the group makes up for around “43%” of the firm. Within such a sizable group comes a variety of work in areas such as transport, white-collar, education, commercial litigation, and IP, and it’s encouraged that you “expose yourself to as many groups as possible to see what works for you. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to engage in meaningful work.” One associate in the education group raved about getting to go out and procure their clients themselves, saying, “I’m a little more on the front lines, because we have a lobbying practice. We go out and meet people!”

Daily tasks vary as you move up the ranks, as this junior litigator explained: “I’ve been drafting substantive motions, attending mediations – I attended the equivalent of a mock trial. In second year, I focused on writing, being able to convey the story to a judge. Next year, I want to focus more on taking depositions.” When asked if they’d had any in-trial experience, this source joked, “I’ve almost gone to trial a few times, but we keep settling before then! That’s obviously a good thing, though.”

Trial clients: Amgen, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank. Represented the Central Bucks School District when it came to an internal investigation concerning allegations of discrimination and retaliation by the US Department of Education.

For the corporate group, associates mentioned M&A practice, public company, finance, securities, emerging company, and venture capitalist matters as areas of interest. Philadelphia houses the biggest corporate group, but even when speaking to sources in smaller offices like San Diego, the corporate workflow remained steady: “In our office, it’s a smaller group, so we have a lot of cross office work,” one Californian junior shared, “It’s at a good, fair pace and it’s all about communication.” In M&A, interviewees spoke about “getting pulled in on a deal when there’s a lot of diligence to be done – looking at contracts, managing disclosure on the buyer/seller side of things,” and typical associate tasks were listed as corporate counseling, maintenance, draft filings, research questions, revising docs, ancillary docs, and memos.

Corporate clients: Stonemor, ARKO Corp, Adhezion Biomedical. Represented Hill International, a construction project management company, in its sale to Global Infrastructure Inc. in a deal worth $207 million.

Those we spoke to in the employment, labor, benefits and immigration (ELBI) group were quick to point out the differences between their practice and others at the firm. “We’re a little unique in that we work with a lot of unions,” one said, and the enthusiasm for that kind of work was palpable: “There’s a real human element in the disputes – they often feel wronged by another person. What gets me going are stories that start with people making mistakes at work and getting to the bottom of who’s at fault, figuring out how I can help.” When it comes to day-to-day activities, associates can expect to work on single plaintiff discrimination matters and class actions with memo work while interviewing, as well as assisting with depositions. We also heard that the group itself is growing! “There are around 900 lawyers at the firm, and over 100 are in this practice group,” one shared, “Since I’ve joined, we’ve expanded massively.”

Employment, labor, benefits, and immigration clients: Berkadia, Papa John’s International, Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Represented Google in a high-profile whistleblower retaliation case concerning AI research.

Career Development



With the assignment of associate and partner mentors to new starters upon starting at the firm, “it’s a great avenue for growth but for me, the informal mentorship has had a bigger impact,” explained one associate when asked about the amount of guidance available to them. These layers of mentorship demonstrate that when you’re hired at Duane Morris, it comes with the expectation that this could be your career, as we heard from this source: “If you commit yourself to this firm, then there’s every reason to believe you’ll get elevated.”

“They’ll throw you in the deep end, but they’ll give you some floaties!”

The firm speaks broadly about a path to partnership with its juniors, but this wasn’t front of mind for many of our interviewees due to their focus on being the best lawyers they can be. Even with the various mentors, none of our sources disputed the challenges of the work, but one was keen to point out that “they’ll throw you in the deep end, but they’ll give you some floaties!”

Hours and Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

Most associates felt the target was “attainable, depending on the practice group,” as certain departments are just naturally busier than others. That being said, no one we spoke with expressed any concerns about the target itself. How much do you need to work to hit a 1,950 target, you may ask? Survey respondents reported anywhere from 40 to 60-hour weeks, with interviewees working an average of three hours extra on the weekend. Of course, a tight deadline or big deal can limit any weekend free time, but we heard that partners tend to shoulder “the brunt of the work, as that’s something they feel they should do in that scenario.” Hybrid working is still alive and well at Duane Morris too - three days in-office is expected, but this isn’t a hard rule: “I don’t feel a great deal of pressure to be here, but I know some teams like to be in five days a week. It’s whatever works for you and your team.”

As for compensation, the starting salary for the firm has recently been upped to $210,000, which still falls just shy of the market rate. After your second year, a black box system is implemented, which admittedly proved to be a sticking point for some: “I think it would put people’s minds at ease if compensation was more streamlined. Associates talk, and it can feel weird if you’re making less than the person you’re talking to.” Despite this, insiders pointed out that this is a tradeoff so that “in return, you get more of a work-life balance.”

Pro Bono



“…you’re engaging with legal matters outside of your strengths; it’s also great networking!”

At Duane Morris, 100 hours of pro bono are counted towards your billable target, and we heard that associates are encouraged to take full advantage of this! Pro bono matters are plentiful too, including work with veterans, asylum applications, and helping individuals acquire green cards. Multiple sources spoke of receiving work from the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund that often funnels work to the firm: “I’ve worked on name changes for several clients. Pro bono matters vary and are very diverse, but it’s always highly rewarding work.” Another added that pro bono is “super beneficial for us, as you’re engaging with legal matters outside of your strengths; it’s also great networking!” The latter point refers to the opportunities galore to work with other associates and partners in the firm.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 33,172
  • Average per US attorney: 42

Culture



“I think there’s an emphasis on interpersonal decency,” one junior commented when asked what the most notable aspect of the firm’s culture is, because “although it’s a big firm, it’s very much managed like a small firm. You get to know a lot of the people, and there’s not too much bureaucracy here.” This idea that DM treats its associates like one, tight-knit group was reinforced when we heard about its lawyers’ two annual retreats – one that will be in Boca Raton for the next three years, and another for diverse employees in Philadelphia (more on that in a second), both of which are hugely popular amongst associates: “Attendance at both of these is phenomenal – around 85% of attorneys worldwide attend!”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



The firm prides itself on its DEI retreat (see, we told you we’d get to it in a second!) which was highly praised by our interviewees, with one pointing out that “it’s a great way to build connections and network with diverse people. We have a thorough and robust DEI network.” In terms of other initiatives, there are diversity mentors that have proved incredibly beneficial for associates: “My diversity mentor has been very much in contact and serves as a comfort who doesn’t judge. You need a safe space to go to, and they are that for me.” With 27% of the firm’s partners being women, insiders spoke highly of the number of women in senior positions at the firm, citing the Women’s Impact Network for Success (WINS) initiative that fosters an inclusive environment for women at the firm: “I can see it with my own eyes. I work under three women partners!” one junior enthused.

“Every diverse associate is on a top 10 matter in their group.”

That said, Duane Morris is also battling against the same systemic issues as all Big Law firms; interviewees did share concerns about the lack of racial diversity at the partner level, but sources did highlight training on unconscious bias and efforts to make the firm more inclusive for diverse associates. One shared: “Every diverse associate is on a top 10 matter in their group. This is a conscious shift away from systems where people were getting work from individual partners, because research showed that minorities were getting less high priority assignments.”

Get Hired 



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 462 

Interviewees outside OCI: 51 

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 Notre Dame, UCLA, Washington University in St. Louis, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Duke and more, the firm has an eye cast over a wide net. From 1,299 applications in 2023, the firm interviewed 462 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 and The LGBT Bar Association - Lavender Law 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   

Callbacks 

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 182 

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. 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.”   

Summer program

Offers: 44 

Acceptances: 27 (anticipated 2024)   

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,
Philadelphia,
PA 19103-4196
Website www.duanemorris.com

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.

Firm profile
Duane Morris LLP, a global law firm with more than 900 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.

Recruitment

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
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, University of Chicago Law School, University of Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, University of Illinois College of Law, University of Florida Levin College of Law, New York University School of Law, Fordham  University School of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law, Cornell Law School, The University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Texas A&M University School of Law, Florida Agricultural And Mechanical University - College of Law, Florida International University College of Law, University of Kansas School of Law, University of Miami 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. According to The American Lawyer’s annual Summer Associate Satisfaction Survey, Duane Morris is consistently ranked among the top firms in the nation for summer associate satisfaction. Our summer associates rated the firm’s program #3 nationally in The American Lawyer’s 2023 Summer Associates Survey and a #2 ranking in the Philadelphia City ranking for 2023. 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.

Social media
Recruitment website:
www.duanemorris.com/site/careers.html
LinkedIn: duane-morris-llp
Twitter: @DuaneMorrisLLP
Facebook: DuaneMorrisLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • 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 2)
    • Immigration (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • 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)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Cannabis Law (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Gaming & Licensing (Band 2)
    • Immigration (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)