Dykema Gossett PLLC - The Inside View

Dykema has long been a big player in the Wolverine State, but the mighty Michiganian has clout across the country.

WHAT do Michigan and Texas have in common? Not a whole lot, to be honest. But you could make a pretty nice tour out of both states just by hopping from Dykema office to Dykema office. First up: Michigan. The firm was founded here in 1920s Detroit, which is today the largest of five bases in the Wolverine State – their combined headcount reaches around 160. The biggest individual office, however, is down in San Antonio. The Lone Star State is a key location for Dykema – roughly 100 lawyers are spread between four bases here. The firm also has offices in Chicago, LA, DC and Minneapolis.

Across offices, junior associates were drawn to Dykema’s “sophisticated level of work.” Along with the usual suspects of BigLaw practices – corporate finance, litigation, real estate – there are some curveballs to be found. The firm’s history is closely tied to the automotive industry for example, so there’s a group dedicated to clients in that space. Interviewees also told us about the dental services organization practice, which works with “entities that provide nonclinical services to dental practices, like the management of employees.” The cannabis law practice is “growing rapidly” – recreational cannabis was legalized in Michigan in 2018. In Michigan, the firm gets high praise from Chambers USA in corporate/M&A, commercial litigation, and real estate. It also picks up nods for work elsewhere: bankruptcy in Texas, real estate in Illinois, and insurance in the District of Columbia.

The Work



Juniors are hired into eight of the firm’s 13 offices, and it’s worth noting that different offices have different scopes of practice, from private equity work in LA to banking and finance in Chicago. “There’s a lot of product liability work and healthcare litigation in Detroit and Bloomfield Hills,” according to juniors. At the time of our calls, half of them were in one of the firm’s litigation groups, and about half of the litigators were based in Michigan. The rest were split between corporate finance, real estate, and government policy (a focus in the Lansing office). Work allocation was fairly informal: “Someone stops by your office and says ‘hey, we have this assignment, would you be interested?’” Juniors liked getting to work for different partners this way: “We can figure out their different working styles.”

“A large price fixing suit against various chicken producers.”

Litigators can get work in a variety of areas including business and commercial, real estate, intellectual property, financial services and class action cases. Some juniors work exclusively within “focused” teams like financial services litigation and labor and employment litigation, but most fell under the “pretty fluid” commercial litigation banner. Our interviewees had worked on a wide range of cases, from “breach of contract cases involving healthcare companies” in Texas to antitrust work on “a large price fixing suit against various chicken producers” in Michigan. Junior litigators saw themselves researching and keeping track of defendants and plaintiffs. “I’ve not had much client contact,” a Bloomfield Hills source reflected, but “it’s not just doc review!” A Texas-based associate told us: “I’ve routinely handled discoveries on my own and traveled out of state with partners for depositions,” Juniors also got drafting experience in the shape of depositions, agreements and responses to pleadings. One junior told us: “I drafted the first round of answers to about 15 complaints, which was daunting – it was a 500-page allegation!”

Litigation clients: Honeywell, Ford, Great Lakes Water Authority, City of San Antonio. Represented automobile manufacturer FCA in a breach of contract case with an Angolan auto dealer.

Corporate finance juniors worked on a lot of private M&A, with deal values typically in the tens of millions of dollars. “It could involve advising on acquisition funding for clients buying a company, or advising on a leveraged buyout,” associates explained. “We help with structuring credit agreements for the financing of acquisitions and figuring out the financing.” Less orthodoxly for a corporate practice, the firm’s growth in the cannabis law space provided work for juniors. Dykema guides clients through the licensing and regulatory processes connected to the Medical Marihuana Act that was passed in Michigan back in 2008. Sources liked seeing an “interesting kind of intersection of regulatory, corporate and finance work” in this area. But whether it’s an M&A deal or a cannabis law matter, a corporate junior’s day is likely to start by “assessing the tasks in the task management system and then working on pressing items throughout the day. There isn’t a day that goes entirely as expected.” Incoming juniors start off “primarily drafting reviews and doing a lot of diligence.”

Corporate finance clients: Ford Mobility, KLX Energy, recycling center PGM of Texas, Waterpark Management. Represented Stoneridge in the sale of $40 million assets to Standard Motor Products.

Real estate juniors were kept busy with “a diverse book of work.” The team covers real estate financing, project construction issues, restructuring and liquidations, affordable housing and land, and project and infrastructure development – to name a few. “I was pleasantly surprised to be a point of contact for the clients and have the chance to handle some of the smaller assignments on my own,” beamed one junior. Interviewees got drafting experience on commercial leases and purchase contracts. Other tasks included “working on title and survey reviews and occasionally reviewing closing documents.”

Real estate clients: LaSalle Investment Management, William Beaumont Hospital, Invest Detroit Foundation. Represented McDonald’s in the $40 million sale of its global headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Career Development, Strategy & Future



Associates reported “a visible focus on our professional development.” All first years undergo the ‘new associates program,’ which kicks off with “a day and a half conference – hours and hours to get adjusted to the practice of law!” From there, “there are numerous trainings ranging from listening in on communications between associates and clients, to learning how to formulate a transaction.” Dallas interviewees attended a training lunch on “how to speak to clients and negotiate.” The firm also has various mentoring programs – a San Antonio source happily told us: “I meet with mine regularly.” Those gunning for partnership have numbers on their side: partners outnumber associates by more than two to one. To learn about the firm's future plans, check out our interview with chair and CEO Peter Kellett on the Bonus Features tab above.

Culture



“It’s no startup with flip flops and shorts, but we’re not buttoned up either,” associates reflected. “It’s pretty relaxed throughout the offices.” Let’s start with Michigan.A Detroit junior felt the fact that “a lot of the admin staff have been here for 20 years” was testament to the “team-oriented” atmosphere. Half an hour’s drive away in the smaller Bloomfield Hills base, “we have an ‘Oval Office’-type briefing every morning to discuss what’s going on, what we need to accomplish for the day, and the difficulties we may face. It’s super encouraging.” Associates here divulged that “there’s a running joke in the office about printing. The older partners love to print everything, so their offices are just mounds of paper – they’re impressed when we know how to put a PDF together.”

“A rodeo-style breakfast with lots of yummy bacon.”

Down south in Texas, “there’s a lot of pressure” in San Antonio, but associates described themselves as an “easygoing” bunch who “celebrate each other when we do well.” On the social side,associates mark the city’s annual rodeo “with a rodeo-style breakfast with lots of yummy bacon, thick ranch, biscuits and gravy.” Everyone in the “family-oriented”  Dallas office is encouraged to take part in the Texas tradition of a chilli cook-off. They’re very active down here too: “A lot of us just like hanging out and going for a 5K together.” Yikes.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,850 target

Dykema has a merit-based bonus system with various bands in each class year; bonuses are determined by factors including hours, quality of work and non-billables including pro bono hours. An average working day among litigators was roughly 8:30am to 6pm. Over in the “more irregular” transactional practices, “we sometimes have deals on a 24-hour clock and we’re extremely busy during the fourth quarter of the year.” Rest assured, there’s some respite January through to spring, just before deal cycles pick up again.

“At least I’m not on a floor of yellers – I’m happy for what I bank.”

Sources revealed that “associates in Chicago, DC, LAand Texasare paid more than those in Michiganand Minneapolis." We should note that there are firms that pay higher than Dykema in most markets, but juniors in San Antonio felt they enjoyed “lifestyle tradeoffs. At least I’m not on a floor of yellers – I’m happy for what I bank.” Associates across the firm agreed there was “incredible support from partners” in achieving a work/life balance. “You’ll never feel pressured to stay late in exchange for your health.”

Diversity & Inclusion



At the time of our calls, we heard a mental health initiative was in the middle of “touring around the offices"; Dykema has signed up to the ABA Wellness Pledge. The firm continues to run its diversity scholarship program for the Universities of Michigan and Illinois through the Wolverine Bar Association. “Our incoming class last summer was 100% women, and the new corporate associate pool for the past two years has also been 100% women,” a San Antonio associate informed us. “I just hope this translates into more women partners as it tends to get less diverse at each level.” Juniors pointed to the firm’s women’s business initiative, which organizes business development and networking events.

Pro Bono



How’s this for a forfeit? Associates who don’t bill 30 hours of pro bono a year “have to donate $500 to a local legal aid.” Our interviewees couldn’t recall ever seeing this happen though, explaining that associates “tend to be overbooked on pro bono.” Weekly emails showcase new matters ranging from human trafficking and asylum cases, to landlord/tenant issues and work with GENESIS, a women’s shelter. One highlight was “securing the release of an asylum client” while working with RAICES, a nonprofit in Texas. In San Antonio, “we work with the State Bar of Texas to hold monthly veteran clinics at one of the local hospitals.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys: 9,956
  • Average per attorney: 25.6

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 225

Interviewees outside OCI: 6

Hiring partner Lisa Brown tells us that Dykema currently recruits at six schools in the Midwest and five in Texas, as well as at the Cook County Bar Association Job Fair, the Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium Job Fair and the Loyola IP Job Fair. Dykema also “actively reviews all write-in candidates from schools where we do not recruit on-campus, but we do not do resume drops.” Brown tells us the firm is interested in “fleshing out candidates' resumes” and that candidates should “show us that you have done your research on the firm when you ask questions. Ask about the lawyer’s practice and how they chose it, saying that to you this seems like such a huge decision.” Associates agreed: “You might end up spending more time here than with your family, so the best thing to do is be yourself and understand the interview process is a two way street. You need to think about whether your personality will work well with the people you meet.”

Top tips for this stage:

"Be ready to provide examples when you talk about your strengths and any challenges you have faced.  Show us that you have done your research on the firm when you ask questions.  Demonstrate that you are proactive, willing to work hard, and are a team player. Be yourself.  That is who we are interested in getting to know." – Hiring partner Lisa Brown.

 

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 54

“Dykema’s call backs generally include six to eight interviewers including a series of half-hour interviews, and a lunch with two associates,” Brown explains. Again, she highlights the importance of doing some research: “Be sure to look up your interviewers and have at least one question personal to them.  For example: What brought you here from Denver? I see you presented recently on cannabis law and that your firm is developing a niche in that area. What kind of assignments could I expect as a summer associate or associate?” And on a practical note: “Eye contact is important.  Make it. You don’t have to stare at your interviewer.  Just be sure to look them directly in the eye, particularly when asking or answering questions.”

Top tips for this stage:

"Be prepared for questions off your resume. What do you like to do when you have free time? Tell me about something surprising that happened to you recently; it could have been at school, when traveling or at a family gathering, for example." – Hiring partner Lisa Brown.

 

Summer program

Offers: 14

Acceptances: 13

Brown tells us that work on the summer program is assigned in three ways: “We have a firm-wide online assignment system where lawyers post assignments.  Lawyers also give work directly to the summer associates, and the summer coordinators in each office often hand out assignments for lawyers not available to give them directly.” Summers do not formally rotate between groups, although Brown explains: “We want everyone to do some assignments that generate written work product.” Summer associates are also invited to attend professional development programs in a variety of areas. Brown adds: “We have a summer associate retreat each summer in one of our offices that includes a social gathering one evening followed by a writing workshop the next day.  This allows the summers from all offices to meet each other and, since most join us as associates after graduation, allows them to start building relationships that we hope will last throughout their careers.” Her advice to summer associates? “Be open and flexible, take advantage of opportunities to try different work, meet different people, experience new things. Be a sponge. The summer program is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Try everything.”

Top tips for this stage:

"Take the initiative! Don’t just do what you are told on an assignment, think about what might be needed next and ask if you can assist.  Don’t sit in your office and wait for others to come to you.  Ask lawyers to lunch.  Then ask them questions during lunch." – Hiring partner Lisa Brown.

And finally…

Associates reflected: “The ideal candidates have the type of personalities that are very collaborative and are seeking a close environment. There’s a culture of trying to empower associates early on and be your own attorney.”

"Exhibit at least a general understanding of the type, size, and focus of our firm and be able to explain why this fits you and your goals. We seek smart, enthusiastic lawyers who not only want to work at Dykema for the summer, but who want to build long-term relationships with our people and clients.  We look for students who plan for a career with Dykema." – Hiring partner Lisa Brown.

 

Interview with chairman and CEO Peter Kellett



Chambers Associate: How would you describe Dykema’s current market position?

Peter Kellett:We’re a middle-market firm with a full-service, national platform in a number of practice areas.

CA: Are there any broader trends that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm's practices?

PK: The low-interest rate environment and the generally strong economy we were experiencing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a lot of positive opportunity in the manufacturing and tech sectors and the transactional space for us generally, both with corporate and real estate transactional work. So, that has been a trend that has affected our practices in a positive way.

CA: How are new technological developments affecting the firm?

PK: We certainly studied what’s developing in the artificial intelligence arena generally; the automation of certain processes is something we are looking at. I think there is still a lot to be developed in this area that will come in the next three to five years, but I don’t think there are a lot of widespread opportunities for us to be using AI right now. Certainly, there is a lot of gearing up and preparation for that, but it is still in its early stages.

CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about? 

PK: We’ve added a robust insurance practice in our DC office with the acquisition of the Chambers rated Loss, Judge and Ward firm. We hosted the largest general service industry conference of its kind in Dallas, Texas last year and we also estimate that we have led more transactions in the dental space than anyone else this year. We’ve had a number of significant wins for clients in contested matters. For example, Dykema earned several significant victories through recent Automotive Industry litigation, including a defense verdict of a product liability case involving a wrongful death claim and an appellate reversal involving nationwide class action settlement approval, as well as several other product liability and personal injury lawsuits. 

CA: What kind of person really thrives at Dykema?

PK: Hardworking, good team player and a person who is very focused on serving the needs of the client first.

CA: What’s your long-term vision for Dykema? What do you hope the firm will look like in five years’ time?

PK: We will continue to look for opportunities to maintain our prominence and traditional stronghold here in the Midwest, but we also think Texas and California are places in which we will grow. We have opportunities in the mix that we are pursuing now which are going to help us strengthen our presence in those places. I expect the firm will continue to look for strategic growth opportunities through combination.

Dykema Gossett PLLC

400 Renaissance Center,
Detroit,
MI 48243
Website www.dykema.com

  • Head Office: Detroit, MI
  • Number of domestic offices: 13
  • Worldwide revenue: $214,000,000
  • Partners (US): 266
  • Associates (US): 108
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Sarah K Staup (sstaup@dykema.com)
  • Hiring partner: Lisa A Brown
  • Diversity officer: Sherrie L Farrell
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 13
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020:
  • 1Ls: 2; 2Ls: 10; 3Ls: 0 
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Chicago: 3; Dallas: 2; Detroit: 3; Bloomfield Hills: 1; San Antonio: 3
  • Summer salary 2020: 1Ls: $2,300-2,900 2Ls: $2,300-2,900
  • Split summers offered? No

Main areas of work
Dykema provides counsel to business entities worldwide on a wide range of business issues. Our practices include business, commercial, financial services, product liability and appellate litigation; automotive; corporate finance; energy; real estate; dental; government policy; IP and IP litigation; bankruptcy; labor and employment; health care; tax; environmental and insurance.

Firm profile
With nearly 400 attorneys and professionals in 13 offices across the country, Dykema delivers the highest quality counsel and exceptional client service from a work environment that thrives on collaboration, diversity and inclusion. Associates have autonomy and are given responsibility and client access early. Dykema provides an extensive professional development program including abundant legal skills and business development training. Given the firm’s culture of collegiality and teamwork, many have made Dykema their home since the start of their careers.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
Baylor, Detroit Mercy, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, Southern Methodist (SMU), Texas Tech, U of T–Austin, Wayne State

Recruitment outside OCIs: Dykema has a long tradition of hiring from schools outside OCIs. Our current firm-wide hiring partner was such a candidate. We also attend job fairs for diversity and geographic outreach.

Summer associate profile: A successful summer associate shows initiative, excellent analytical skills and strong writing ability. We look for associates who are willing to work hard, have demonstrated leadership potential and enjoy working in a team environment. We urge our associates to take advantage of all the firm offers to help them learn our practice and our culture. Advisors, practice area activities, professional development training and social events combine to accomplish this goal.

Summer program components: Dykema’s summer program offers challenging assignments and a real life law practice experience with opportunities to participate in client, court and other formal settings. A firm-wide summer retreat is held in early June. A key component is a writing workshop with a professional writing instructor. This retreat, along with our advisor program, training, substantive practice experience, and social events have greatly contributed to the success of Dykema’s summer program.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.dykema.com
Linkedin: dykema-gossett-pllc
Twitter: @dykema
Facebook: DykemaGossett1

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 5)
    • Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)

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