Aspiring lawyers, start your engines! A career at this national firm could be fueled by Dykema’s automotive strengths in Motor City or its litigious might in the Lone Star State.
“Reputation, reputation, reputation,” chanted associates when we asked about what they found so attractive about this Midwestern stalwart. Yes, this Detroit-founded firm set its engine revving in the 1920s, and today is most widely praised in Chambers USA for its work in Michigan, where five of its 13 offices are based. Here, the firm’s corporate/M&A, litigation, real estate and employee benefits/exec comp practices are rated highly, but it is Dykema’s product liability work in the automotive sector that gains the most kudos. The firm’s roots in the Motor City have made it one of the premier firms in the nation for handling the likes of consumer class actions in this sector.
There’s plenty of work going on beyond the Midwest, however. Texas is a key location for the firm: San Antonio is Dykema’s largest office, which excels at litigation in particular. The firm also has Texas bases in Dallas, Austin and McAllen, as well as lawyers working out of key national markets including LA, DC and Chicago. Across offices, juniors were also drawn to the friendly culture: “It was clear to me as a summer associate that everyone there was doing interesting, challenging work while leading balanced lives.” They also went on to detail the areas of Dykema’s reputation that appealed most: “They had an awesome market reputation in areas such as litigation, and the government policy practice group had a unique and diverse practice that was of interest.” We should also highlight that the firm is highly regarded in Chambers High Net Worth for its private wealth expertise in Michigan.
At the time of our calls, Dykema’s San Antonio, Detroit and Chicago offices housed the majority of juniors on our list, while the remainder were split (in descending order) between Lansing, Dallas, Bloomfield Hills and Ann Arbor. The various litigation groups were the most popular destination for newbies, followed by the corporate finance, real estate and government policy practices. Work assignment flowed quite informally throughout most groups: “It’s pretty much just like, ‘Do you have capacity and do you want to work on this?’ I love how varied it is,” one source neatly summed up. Juniors in corporate finance, however, had experienced a more hybrid structure, as this interviewee explained: “The team are awesome at linking you up with deals and connecting you with people. We have a weekly meeting where we discuss availability. Outside of this, we also have this great system in place where we log our hours and we either get a red, yellow or green light indication about our availability, and other members in the team can look at it.”
Litigators can get work in a variety of areas including business and commercial, real estate, intellectual property and class action matters. Some juniors can work within the more “specialized” teams like labor and employment, financial services and oil and gas, but most operate within the wider commercial litigation banner. Our interviewees had worked on an extensive range of cases, including “construction disputes, breach of contract matters, class actions with insurance issues, shareholder derivative suits, and even a few immigration appeal cases.” Sources over in the product liability subgroup told us how the “majority of the work focuses on automotive matters with pre-trial and trial-level work,” but they’d also worked on more “commercial product liability cases. Alongside automotive, construction is also a big focus.” Those in business litigation mentioned having worked on “a lot of labor and employment federal lawsuits, consumer finance deals and closures for bankruptcies. There’s really no limit on which clients we advise and where these clients are located. I’ve been involved in cases with clients based everywhere from Seattle all the way to Dublin,” said one junior in Chicago. Juniors throughout the department can expect to get some “substantive experience, but it depends on the nature of the matter. On some of the smaller cases, I’ve been doing a lot more running of the case and its strategy, which means getting client contact,” explained one interviewee. Other tasks included drafting depositions, agreements and responses to pleadings.
Litigation clients: U-Haul, Metaldyne, Michigan Homeowners Association. Represented KIA Motors America in an automotive product liability defense matter worth over $87 million in damages.
Dykema’s corporate finance team handles “a ton of M&A activity” in the middle-market, as well as “a lot of securities work for big clients.” The department has also carved out a niche for itself in the burgeoning area of cannabis law. Many of the matters our sources had come across involved advising clients on acquisition funding arrangements or leveraged buyouts. “We help with the purchase agreements and structure credit agreements for the financing of acquisitions,” an associate helpfully explained. Another described how juniors “get involved in the general entity formation and client management process. We’ll help clients out in meetings, get their filings ready and work on their annual Form 10-K report for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).” The more baseline tasks include drafting reviews and conducting due diligence. We heard there’s a lot of overlap between offices and different departments at the firm: “We work a lot with Dallas and Austin, and the team itself works closely with the real estate and tax departments,” one San Antonio junior highlighted. “The group is so great at taking the time to teach juniors,” another source beamed. “They’re super patient and they allow you to hash out the learning experience.”
Corporate finance clients: Seminole Groups, Veoneer, Ford Mobility. Represented Perceptron in an all-cash sale of $68.9 million to Sweden-based Atlas Copco, a provider of sustainable productivity solutions.
The real estate team covers financing, construction, restructuring, affordable housing and infrastructure development matters – to name a few. “I would say the focus of the team is definitely more on the Midwest, with a spread of attorneys across Illinois and Michigan,” a source clarified for us. Another junior added: “The client base includes general retail clients, but the industrial commercial clients are the bread and butter of the practice.” Juniors had been able to get drafting experience on commercial leases and purchase contracts but had also filled their time with title and survey reviews. “The tasks are more junior-level,” one junior summarized, “but there are certain smaller transactions where you’re trusted more to spearhead the matter on your own, as long as you touch base with the partner.”
Real estate clients: McDonald’s Corporation, Invesco Real Estate, Barings LLC. Represented LaSalle Investment Management during its acquisition of The Overlook at Bernardo Heights in San Diego.
As a newbie, your career path begins “with a trip to the main office in Detroit. It’s pretty much a foundation kick-off where you learn all about the firm and what it looks like to be an associate,” an interviewee informed us. Weekly training sessions and mentorship programs go some way to support associates as they progress, we heard. Partners serve as mentors for juniors, which one found “super helpful, as you stay connected and have someone in your corner to help you see the big picture long-term. There’s definitely a ton of investment in getting us connected early on.”
“...it’s very much that they want you to become partner.”
On the topic of making partner, our associates said they felt reassured by the firm’s support. One source explained how “on some firm websites, you’ll see a lot of different roles advertised such as counsel, but Dykema emphasizes associates, senior associates and partners. It’s not that you can’t have a different position, but it’s very much that they want you to become partner.” Another appreciated the firm’s proactive approach to shaping future leaders: “When discussing corrections, partners will invite us to talk about it and explain why changes were made and the importance of the correction. They’re very hands-on in raising the next gen of partners.”
“I would have a difficult time leaving the firm because of the culture,” declared one source before explaining their devotion to the firm: “It’s rare to find a group of people where every single person is so talented, but there’s no competitive, cutthroat culture.” Juniors also felt that there’s an emphasis on ensuring that there’s time for family life: “A lot of people, from junior associates to senior partners, have children and are actively involved in their kids' lives. Everyone seems to value balance and treats each other with respect. One partner, for example, always leaves at 3:30pm to get to their kid’s volleyball game and logs back on later if needed.” Another mentioned how “no one bats an eyelid” if you want to take vacation: “It’s common not to check your emails.” Other sources put this down to a “people first mentality” at the firm, which creates “a very accepting culture: you work hard, but no one makes you do anything unreasonable. It’s not hardcore!”
“Everyone seems to value balance and treats each other with respect.”
Dykema kept an active social life alive during the pandemic with “water cooler calls for partners and associates to check in on a personal level, and virtual happy hours too.” When life is more normal, juniors longed for the return of “happy hours at bars or the office – any time someone new joined or retired we’d have one. We’d also get everyone on the floor together for ice cream if it was someone’s birthday, and we’d do a lot of holiday-related things, like making potluck dinners for everyone.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,850 target
Dykema reduced its billing target to 1,850 hours in 2020. Juniors took us through various reasons for the reduction, which included the “firm’s cultural dynamic” as well as consideration for associates “who weren’t making it [the previous target] – it’s in the best interests of the associates.” Like many other firms, Dykema did introduce a temporary salary reduction due to the impact of COVID-19, “but reinstated full pay – it wasn’t as big a drop as I saw elsewhere and there was a level of transparency. They did have a video call with everyone and explained everything, so we knew it was coming.” Fortunately, the firm also reimbursed associates for the temporary cut. However, we did hear comments in interviews calling for Dykema to have “greater transparency” about compensation in general. We were also told that “there’s been a lot of interest from associates for having a 401(k) matching program put in place and the firm is hearing a proposal on this.” The firm confirmed to us that it is currently reviewing the possibility of a 401(k) matching program.
Those who hit the target are eligible to be considered for a merit-based bonus. “Hitting the billable number doesn’t guarantee a bonus,” an associate explained, “there’s also an evaluation process” which covers the likes of quality of work and involvement in pro bono. Associates can count up to 100 approved pro bono hours toward their billing target, and those who go over that threshold can seek approval for the additional hours. An average working day among litigators began at 8:30am and ended at 6pm, “but of course there are nights where you stay until 8pm, and sometimes until midnight if a brief is due or something.” Those in real estate can finish “anywhere between 6pm and 10pm” depending on how busy they are, while over in corporate finance a junior told us that people tend to keep their own hours in line with the demands of deals: “I stay on average until 7pm, but some people get in super early and leave at 4pm. There’s been very few of those ‘oh my goodness I need to get this done by tomorrow!’ and working until midnight scenarios.”
Diversity & Inclusion
This junior was pleased to see diversity in the recruitment process when interviewing with Dykema: “With other firms, I did not feel comfortable or any connection with anyone I interviewed with, which was the opposite of how I felt when I interviewed at Dykema. Elsewhere, I saw only older white attorneys, hardly any associates, and I think one person of color.” On the whole, the most amount of praise went to Dykema’s efforts to retain and promote women, with this source in San Antonio highlighting that “we have a great women’s business initiative in place and it’s a chance for all female attorneys to get together and host discussions and presentations.” In Detroit, however, one associate commented that “there are many women at the junior end, but hardly any in the middle,” leading to some retention concerns there. While the need to increase racial and ethnic diversity across the firm was noted, a junior in Chicago felt that representation in their office was “very low.” However, all sources did credit the firm for its efforts, with this interviewee explaining that “the firm is trying to improve on this situation. There were already affinity groups in place, but after the growth of BLM, Dykema expanded the number of groups to increase awareness and support throughout the firm.”
Dykema has signed up to the American Bar Association (ABA) Wellness Pledge and interviewees noted how the firm has been “great at actively taking it on rather than just having it on paper.” The wellness committee (which launched just before the pandemic), for example, puts together a weekly newsletter that contains recommendations, tips and resources on how to improve mental health and wellbeing: “Every newsletter has a theme such as ‘back to school’ for the kids and their parents, or one dedicated to those who may be stuck at home alone.”
Most associates surpass the required 30 hours of pro bono each year – those who don’t donate $500 to a local legal aid organization of their choice. Weekly emails from the firm’s pro bono director highlight new matters that range from human trafficking and asylum cases to landlord/tenant issues and work with Genesis, a women’s shelter. We also heard of associates working with RAICES, a nonprofit agency that provides educational and legal services for immigrant families and refugees. Also on the agenda for our interviewees were prisoner rights cases (covering civil rights and expungement issues) and financial exploitation matters, as well as transactional advice for nonprofits that, for example, offer food distribution services to low-income communities. “You know what though?” an interviewee said as we rounded up discussing pro bono, “you can work on pretty much anything.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 9,328
- Average per attorney: 26.3
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 76
Hiring partner, Lisa Brown, tells us that Dykema currently recruits at six schools in the Midwest, five schools in Texas, as well as at the Cook County Bar Association Job Fair. Dykema also “actively reviews all write-in candidates from schools where we do not recruit on-campus.” Brown tells us the firm is interested in “fleshing out candidates' resumes and learning about the individual, their experiences, and their skills, including how all of these may translate to practicing at the firm.” Brown suggests that candidates should “demonstrate that they have researched the firm when they ask questions. It is helpful for candidates to ask about the interviewer’s practice, how they chose it, and to demonstrate why the candidate is interested in Dykema.” 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.
Dykema’s callbacks typically involve six to eight interviewers in a series of 30-minute interviews, and lunch with a couple of associates. Brown again highlights the importance of doing some research: “Be sure to look up your interviewers and have at least one question personal to them or their role at the firm. 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 and show you are engaged.”
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. Provide an example of one of the most challenging assignments or matters you handled at school or in your position this past summer/prior to law school." – 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. For 2021, we are planning a virtual summer associate retreat.” 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 (or these days, ask them for a short virtual meeting over coffee). Then ask them questions during these lunches/meetings about their practice, how to succeed at the firm, and any other questions to learn about the firm and practice of law." – 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 to 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.
Dykema Gossett PLLC
400 Renaissance Center,
- Head Office: Detroit, MI
- Number of domestic offices: 13
- Worldwide revenue: $201,000,000
- Partners (US): 266
- Associates (US): 108
- 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 2021: 11
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 2; 2Ls: 6; 3Ls: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Chicago: 2; Dallas: 2; Detroit: 2; San Antonio: 2
- Summer salary 2021: 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 375 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 2021: Baylor, Illinois, Michigan, 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 summer 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, 2021
District of Columbia
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- 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 4)
Texas: San Antonio & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Cannabis Law (Band 3)
- Product Liability: Automobile Spotlight Table
- Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)