This Detroit dynamo has expanded across the states, offering a deluge of work for budding litigators and deal-doers alike.
MICHIGAN-born Dykema was founded in Detroit way back in the roaring twenties. The firm’s history is closely tied to the automotive industry, and that’s still a significant source of work for the firm – particularly in its native Michigan – although it now practices in a wide variety of areas. Chambers USA awards the firm high rankings in Michigan for its corporate/M&A, commercial litigation and real estate work, as well as in Texas for its bankruptcy work, while its real estate practice in Illinois also gets recognition. Budding associates were drawn to the firm’s reputation for “high-quality advocacy” and “complex and captivating litigation.” While five of the firm's offices can be found in the Wolverine State, it also has a further eight spread across Texas, California, DC, Illinois and Minnesota. Sources described the firm as “a national firm with a Michigan center.” Each region offers different specialties, from private equity work in LA to banking and finance in Chicago.
Strategy & Future
Managing partner Peter Kellett tells us: “We want to continue to strategically expand in areas our clients can benefit from, and our recent expansion in Texas and California complements our Midwest presence.” Practice-wise, he flags data privacy and cybersecurity as a recent area of expansion, adding: “Self-driving vehicles are another area of growth given our strong automotive background.” In Michigan we hear: “The recent deregulation of cannabis has generated considerable activity and we have a dedicated group working on that.” He adds: “Our public finance practice is as busy as ever, and public service projects continue to appear on the horizon. I’m also excited about the insurance sector, where we’ll continue to add new practitioners in our existing geographies.” Culturally, associates explained: “When we had our associate meeting the emphasis was on expanding while looking to keep the small-firm culture that we have here.”
“…our recent expansion in Texas and California complements our Midwest presence.”
Just over half of this years’ interviewees were in one of the firm’s litigation practice groups, while the rest were split between real estate, corporate, intellectual property and government policy, which is a focus in the Lansing office. Summer associates are invited to sample a range of practices, before ranking their top choices at the end.
“I’ve been able to talk to opposing counsel and settle a case, which is incredible for a second-year.”
Litigators can work in a variety of areas including business and commercial; real estate; intellectual property; financial services and class action cases. Assignment operates predominantly on a free market system, with work mostly coming from partners, although some juniors told us: “Younger associates end up suggesting other juniors that might be interested and pulling each other onto cases.” Clients include national banks and commercial companies, with cases ranging from “representing OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] in cost recovery matters all the way down to representing individual shareholders in corporate shareholder litigation.” Detroit and Bloomfield Hills juniors explained: “There’s a lot of product liability work involved, as well as a lot of supply chain issues because of the focus on the automotive industry here.” Associate tasks included “drafting dispositive motions, responding to discovery requests and document review.” Those involved in financial services litigation explained: “I’ve been able to work on more discrete cases which are my own. I’ve been able to talk to opposing counsel and settle a case, which is incredible for a second-year.”
Litigation clients: Auto-Owners Insurance, ASR Health Benefits and Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. Obtained an appellate victory for Ford Motors over a class member who hadn't opted out of the Navistar 6.0L class action which led to a nationwide settlement.
“There’s some truth to the phrase ‘drinking water from a fire hose,’ but it’s been a great experience.”
Corporate associates explained: “You’re encouraged to branch out and get an idea of different partners and styles of work. When you start out you treat the partners as clients to promote yourself within the firm.” Juniors described a range of work, “from private M&A to private equity platform acquisitions.” A Bloomfield Hills junior described “working with private acquisition lending groups, mezzanine financing groups or syndicated credit facilities to secure transactions and map out what collateral is available.” Associates had worked with multiple offices including those in Europe, with a variety of clients “from midmarket to upper-middle market, on traditional M&A to credit lending.” Finally we heard: “It’s quite amazing when I reflect on how much responsibility I’ve been trusted with. There’s some truth to the phrase ‘drinking water from a fire hose,’ but it’s been a great experience.”
Corporate clients: Perceptron, Plum Dental and MyLocker. Represented Canadian company NRT Technologies in its acquisition of Las Vegas-based gaming company Visualimits.
Real estate associates told us: “We’re a full-service real estate practice. We cover mortgages, loans, purchases, sales and zoning work.” A Texas junior told us: “Partners have been so great about introducing me to partners in different offices from Dallas to Detroit and I’ve been given the opportunity to take a prominent role with clients.” Tasks include “anything from doing initial drafts of condemnation work to things like due diligence and reviewing zoning ordinance.” Others added: “I’ve been directly involved in leasing work as well as assisting with title and survey reviews.”
“We have an excellent mentor program here,” we heard. “The firm basically tailors your partner mentor to your interests, and they give you the tools you need to do the work yourself.” Others agreed: “It’s kind of cool to see that partners know it’s a major transition from law school and give you that support while you’re still growing, even when they can’t bill for that time.” There’s also a program called PDPs, which are “internal training programs set up by partners” that often include many offices across the firm’s network. A Bloomfield Hills junior told us: “They’re really good at listening to associate feedback and putting on training based on that.” Others added: “Everyone’s been so transparent and forthright about my long-term career, especially when it comes to getting involved in things like the local bar association and young attorney groups.”
While some interviewees enjoyed the fact that “a lot of partners started out as summers here,” some felt: “There’s an old guard here which leads to a little more inertia here than I’d like when it comes to things like flexible working.” This seemed to vary between locations, however, which we’ll focus more on shortly. Most agreed that “you work hard to create an excellent product here, but you also have a life. I feel like the firm cares about more than how many billable hours I stack up.” Juniors described quarterly associate events as well as local charitable events “for less privileged families in the area.” Michigan juniors agreed: “They do a really good job of encouraging networking across the state, but there’s not so much connection with the Texas offices.” Over in the Lone Star State we heard: “The offices in Texas are very similar in culture and I’ve personally visited the Chicago and Detroit offices. We’re encouraged to work out of other locations when we can.”
“I feel like the firm cares about more than how many billable hours I stack up.”
Hours & Compensation
Associates have a 1,950 billable target, and juniors agreed: “As a first year you’re going to have a hard time making those hours because of the nature of work assignment. It’s relationship-driven, which means it’s harder to build up, but generally after your first quarter it gets easier.” Corporate associates felt: “It’s more stressful being slow than busy. You have to be able to self-regulate so you don’t take on more than you can handle.” Litigators said: “It’s been a bit slower recently but it’s hard to gauge because litigation can be very feast or famine.” Most of our sources described an average working day of 8am to 6pm, with “some all-nighters and busier weeks” for litigators, and most logging on from home in the evenings. A corporate junior told us: “I recently worked with the London office and that meant I was on a 24-hour schedule for a while.”
Interviewees described a “holistic” approach to bonus allocation, explaining: “It’s determined by a black box compensation commission. I think the firm likes it because it allows them to reward people.” Others added: “I think the firm could be more transparent on salary because it varies between locations. Michigan people are a bit peeved because the cost of living doesn’t always reflect the salary.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Dykema runs a diversity scholarship program for the Universities of Michigan and Illinois through the Wolverine Bar Association. Associates told us: “Retention seems to be the difficult thing here – you still see management is mainly represented by non-minority people.” Juniors mentioned the firm’s Women’s Business Initiative which consists of networking and business development events, and told us: “You’re encouraged to move up as a woman even if you want a family. I’ve personally really appreciated how many female partners there are.”
Dykema has a “pay or play” pro bono system – meaning all lawyers have to hit 40 hours of pro bono work or pay the money to a charity. “Our pro bono coordinator is very active. Often they’ll post a pro bono case to see if anyone wants to help out and it’ll be filled within five minutes.” Juniors had sampled a wide array of work including human trafficking and asylum cases, landlord/tenant work and work with various associations including a veteran’s clinic in San Antonio and Equip for Equality in Chicago, which ensures handicapped people are able to vote during election time by checking locations for accessibility. One Detroit junior described working on a prisoner’s rights trial: “I got to go to federal court and cross-examine a witness, and I also helped draft an amicus brief for Michigan Supreme Court.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 11,532
- Average per attorney: 32
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 416
Interviewees outside OCI: 6
Hiring partner Lisa Brown tells us that Dykema currently recruits at seven 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.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 50
“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.
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.
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: Which areas have been performing especially well recently?
Peter Kellett: We’ve been doing more work in the data privacy and cyber-security area. EU regulations have driven work, and self-driving vehicles are another area of growth given our strong automotive background. In Michigan in particular the recent deregulation of cannabis has generated considerable activity and we have a dedicated group working on that. There’s also the ongoing consolidation of traditionally fragmented sectors like the dental industry and retail more generally. Our focus is very much on the middle market, and for the most part we’re striving to be a full-service firm across a national platform.
CA: Where do you see the firm in five years’ time?
PK: We want to continue to strategically expand in areas our clients can benefit from, and our recent expansion in Texas and California complements our Midwest presence. Our public finance practice is as busy as ever, and public service projects continue to appear on the horizon. I’m also excited about the insurance sector, where we’ll continue to add new practitioners in our existing geographies.
CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate in the future?
PK: I certainly think that the consolidation of clients between fewer and fewer firms is a challenge. You see organizational changes in firms because clients are looking for firms that they can check more boxes with in more areas. This means law firms such as ours need to grow to provide opportunities. Another issue is that there’s no end to nontraditional competitors; accounting firms in particular in the EU and internationally are looking to compete more, and eventually we’ll see this in the States.
CA: What makes the ideal Dykema lawyer?
PK: Commitment to excellent client service which encompasses high quality legal work, and a predisposition towards collaboration with colleagues. We work in teams as opposed to silos here and a part of that is creating a respectful environment
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?
PK: I would say without reservation that clients must be items one through ten on the list of the top ten things to look after as a young lawyer. Relentlessly excellent client service is what drives success as a lawyer. Young attorneys should look to hitch their wagon to a star that can help take them on a road to success and look for mentors who will help them take risks, even fail at times. It’s through risks and failure that we learn the most. That’s no different today than when I started.
Dykema Gossett PLLC
400 Renaissance Center,
- Head Office: Detroit, MI
- Number of domestic offices: 13
- Worldwide revenue: $207,000,000
- Partners (US): 251
- Associates (US): 121
- Main recruitment contact: Sarah K Staup (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Lisa A Brown
- Diversity officer: Sherrie L Farrell
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 16
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1Ls: 4; 2Ls: 14; 3Ls: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Chicago: 4; Dallas: 3; Detroit: 1; Bloomfield Hills: 4; Lansing: 2; San Antonio: 4
- Summer salary 2019: 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.
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.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Baylor, Detroit Mercy, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, OSU, 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.
Recruitment website: www.dykema.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- Product Liability & Mass Torts Recognised Practitioner