Foley Hoag LLP - The Inside View

In Boston circles, Foley Hoag is known for being “a very academic firm.”

YOU never want to go into an interview mispronouncing a firm's name, so let’s clear this up right away. 'Foley' rhymes with ‘holy’ and 'Hoag' has two syllables.  But if you know your cod from your scrod and your beans from your bulkies, you probably already knew that, because in Massachusetts Foley Hoag is known as “a big Boston firm.” There’s also a DC office – which houses most of the firm's international arbitration and healthcare attorneys – and a New York office opened in 2015, which does IP, international disputes and corporate.

The firm has one office abroad, in Paris, a global center for international arbitration. Indeed the firm is ranked by Chambers Global for international arbitration in the US and Latin America, and at a global-wide level for public international law and human rights. However, do note that in the 2016 associate class just one junior was sat in the DC arbitration practice and in the 2017 class none were. So international arbitration is not something the typical Foley junior (in Boston) will get much exposure to.

But Foley does have other practice areas to offer its Boston juniors. In Massachusetts Chambers USA ranks the firm's corporate, litigation, labor & employment, environment and insurance practices in its top two tiers. The DC office does also occasionally hire juniors based on need. Most rookies enter either the litigation or business (corporate) groups, and a handful split their practice with other areas, such as labor & employment or healthcare for litigators, or tax and licensing for business juniors.

The Work

Both the litigation and corporate groups have a formal staffing coordinator who oversees juniors’ workload. At annual reviews, “you’re invited to share your interests so the coordinator can ensure that type of work flows to you.”

In litigation, juniors might get to work on general commercial cases, white-collar investigations, IP, labor & employment matters, or professional services issues like malpractice claims. “40% of my work has been patent litigation because we’ve got a lot of work in that area right now,” one associate told us, but sources also insisted: “You’re empowered to choose what you want to do.” So juniors might work on white-collar matters “helping to counsel a company that's receiving inquiries from the Attorney General,” or work on “an internal investigation by a nonprofit following concerns about fraudulent conduct by an employee.”

“The sole associate on many cases.”

Day-to-day tasks include “requesting and reviewing documents, conducting interviews, and preparing interview memoranda.” Juniors said they were often “the sole associate on many cases,” which leads to high levels of responsibility: “I wrote a motion for summary judgment with very little guidance. Afterwards the partner made a few small suggestions, and that was that!” Juniors told us they had also defended depositions and appeared in court. “I haven’t done an extensive oral argument, but I’ve appeared and spoken,” one junior said. As an added bonus, they added: “I hardly ever do doc review!”

Litigation clients: the government of Peru, mobile network Orange, and seafood supplier National Fish & Seafood. Represented manufacturer Cornell Dubilier Electronics in an insurance recovery action related to environmental liabilities worth over $200 million.

Foley’s business department “advises companies and nonprofits on a whole host of business needs.” Juniors work on startup deals, licensing matters, securities issues, IPOs, debt finance, M&A and private equity. While there's some space to choose your own work, designated partner mentors for first-years also have a hand in shaping workload. “If you have an M&A mentor, you’re gonna do a lot of M&A,” one source pointed out. Fortunately, who becomes your mentor is “pre-planned based on your interests” during the summer program. 

No two days are the same,” for juniors, although the first-year workload “focuses a lot around due diligence.” On one large deal, a source recalled working on “a gigantic diligence project which we had to get through in a month. People did try to give me an insight into the deal along the way.” Juniors also draft ancillary documents and “portions of longer agreements,” review and mark up contracts, and conduct research into things like “new developments in federal securities law” and “corporate laws in different states.” Juniors can expect to be “emailing clients from day one,” though one interviewee pointed out this can be tricky to manage: “You come in thinking you want client contact, but it’s difficult when you’re expected to be the expert!”

Business clients: Dell, Sensata Technologies, Skullcandy. Represented software startup Body Labs during its acquisition by Amazon. 

Strategy & Future

Traditionally Foley is known as a firm for startups,” one business associate revealed. “I think we're trying to expand beyond that and work on larger M&A deals and hopefully break into the private equity space a bit more.” Associates also thought “the firm should emphasize growing its non-international practice areas” in DC. Several interviewees were attracted to the firm’s perceived stability. “We’re never going to go on a hiring binge,” one said. “That’s one reason why we’re so busy right now. It feels like the firm is humming along nicely.”

Hours & Compensation

Some juniors had been lucky enough to enjoy two salary bumps since joining in 2016. For the first three years, Foley’s compensation is lockstep and matches the new Milbank scale set in 2018. After that it’s merit-based, and the firm “shares yearly reports on the mean, median, and mode of each class's salaries and bonuses.”

Business juniors thought it was “fairly unusual” for first-years to hit the firmwide 1,850 billing target, but one said: “It was never a worry of mine. People told me not to worry, and that was reiterated in my review.” One associate reckoned: “If you bill 100 under you might still get a bonus if you’re a strong performer.” Rumor also has it that “there are bigger bonuses if you pass 2,000 hours.”

“When deals are active I don’t spend much time outside the office!”

That should be good news for litigation associates, who “blew past the target with a month and a half left in the billing year.” One junior litigator who had recently been very busy reported that “on average I'm in office from around 8:30am to 8pm, and probably bill 8.5 hours a day. This past year I've definitely worked more weekends than on my previous case.” From a business junior we heard: “An average day is probably 9am to 7pm, but when deals are active I don’t spend much time outside the office! During deal signings and closings things get a little crazy. I'm seldom here later than midnight, but there have certainly been times I've not made it home till 11pm.”

Pro bono

Associates can count all their pro bono hours toward their annual target, and one felt “very comfortable dedicating a substantial amount of time to pro bono. I did over 250 hours last year.” Pro bono is “definitely emphasized,” associates agreed, and “to some extent there is pressure to take on matters.”

“I’m involved in about 15 immigration matters.”

Pro bono work is heavily shaped by what partners do. One junior had “worked with partners who provide advice to new businesses via Harvard Business School and MIT.” Another source reported: “I’m involved in about 15 immigration matters because one of the partners I work for really likes taking on pro bono.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 22,024
  • Average per US attorney: 97

Career Development

To associates, partnership prospects felt “infinitely better than at bigger firms. Friends at other firms are in classes of up to 60 where maybe a small handful will make partner.” Whereas at Foley classes are relatively small – the firm had 19 summers in 2019 which compares well with the eight attorneys it promoted to partner. Of course “it’s still a long and difficult road” to the top, but one associate said: “If the firm is aware that you're interested, it shepherds you along and lets you know if there are bumps along the way.” Year by year, the “very clear” annual review system “gets a little more thorough and begins to include discussions about which track you’re on.” If that track isn’t the partner one, “it doesn’t feel like an up-or-out model. There are associates here who’ve been associates for a long time.”

“It shepherds you along and lets you know if there are bumps along the way.”

Boston hosts professional development workshops for associates, which DC and New York attorneys can join by flying up or via videoconferencing. All juniors must also do one-on-one training with a communications coach, “who records you and helps you improve your oral communication.”


People who work at Foley Hoag are really passionate about teaching and learning,” said one associate, and “intellectual curiosity about the law is really fostered.” In Boston, Foley's “reputation for being a very academic firm holds true. I’m often in the hallways chatting about some legal issue and anyone might stop by and continue the discussion.”

“I’m often in the hallways chatting about some legal issue.”

Boston associates described an office with a relatively informal look and feel. “It’s not uncommon to see people in sweaters and more comfortable attire,” one said. Similarly in DC, “on Fridays everyone dresses down in jeans.” What’s more, “we’re not judged for working remotely when it’s necessary.” But this is still a BigLaw firm, “so don’t think we’re safe from stressful drawbacks. Billable hours can drive you a little crazy.”

It’s good to have a friendly network in stressful times. “My class tries to get together once every couple of months for a pot luck dinner,” one junior reported. “And the class above us is always doing happy hours.” Juniors thought this close-knit feel filtered down from years above, as seen at the firm’s recent 75th anniversary party, where “swarms of people were thrilled to come back and see old colleagues.” One source said: “I’d give the social life an A!” For instance, at the time of our calls, the firm had just screened the documentary RBG in both Boston and DC.

Diversity & Inclusion

Associates appreciated seeing “a lot more women coming up into the partnership,” but some affinity group events “unfortunately aren’t well attended, simply because there aren’t a ton of minorities!” Things are a bit different in DC, where because of the international arbitration practice “a lot of the attorneys come from other countries – minorities are the majority here!”

In Boston, associates said: “We don’t have a large African-American presence, but it’s something the firm is consciously making an effort to improve.” On the hiring front, the diversity committee recently suggested the firm implement “a systematic way of identifying individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 385

Interviewees outside OCI:  undisclosed

Foley Hoag recruits predominantly via OCIs but does consider direct applications. In 2019 the firm expected to interview at 17 schools and job fairs. It also hires law clerks.

OCIs are conducted by attorneys (usually members of the firm’s hiring committee or alumni of the particular school). Hiring partner Meredith Haviland says: “While academic achievement is perhaps more relevant at the OCI stage, it is only one of many factors that are considered.” Interviewers will also aim to assess candidates’ motivation and teamwork skills. They are also interested in candidates’ practice area interests as well as interests outside the law.

Top tips for this stage:

“Students should come ready to engage in a conversation with the interviewer, rather than expecting a strict Q&A session led by the interviewer.” – hiring partner Meredith Haviland



Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed

Candidates undertake four 30-minute interviews with four different attorneys. Haviland tells us “the questions are not significantly different from those at the OCI stage, but the interviewers have more time to delve deeper into each candidate’s experience and interests.” Candidates are also asked to submit a writing sample. Haviland tells us that “as part of our ongoing efforts to make the interview process as fair and free of unconscious bias as possible, we remove GPAs from the resumes seen by our interviewers.”

Top tips for this stage:

“We are particularly impressed with students who have done their research and understand why our firm is of special interest to them.” hiring partner Meredith Haviland


Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: 18

Foley Hoag’s ten-week summer program allows summer associates to choose a variety of assignments or to focus on a particular area of interest via an online system. In addition to a mentor, summers are given ‘buddies’ (usually first-year associates) who they can ask questions – “silly types, like where’s the printer?”

As well as lunches, social events and trainings throughout the program, summers meet with the firm’s executive committee to hear about the firm’s strategic plans for the future, and to get advice on succeeding as a summer. On that front, Haviland says: “We have found that a key component of success for students in the summer program is good communication – whether this is around assignments, including communication related to timelines and the status of assignments, or around areas of interest.”

Following successful completion of the program, summers are asked to rank their practice area preferences. The firm then matches them to departments based on those choices and business need.

Top tips for this stage:

“Try everything you can! It’s perhaps the last time for at least a couple of years that you’ll have the opportunity to try such a diverse cross section of different areas of law.” a first-year junior associate

“We also encourage summer associates to make use of our lunch program to invite attorneys out to lunch to learn more about their practice areas, careers, and life at the firm.” hiring partner Meredith Haviland

Interview with co-managing partner Ken Leonetti

CA: How would you describe the firm's current market position to our student readers?

Ken Leonetti: We’re very much a midsize law firm. We’re about 280 lawyers across four offices in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Paris. Boston is the headquarters of the firm, but we really operate as one firm across all four offices. Our focus is to be really strong in about half a dozen or so key industry sectors across all four offices. The sectors are life sciences and intellectual property; technology and emerging company venture capital work; international litigation, arbitration and sovereign government representation; healthcare; professional services; energy (which is working with clean technology and energy providers rather than the raw materials and oil and gas); and finally private funds, which is a broad way of describing hedge funds and private equity funds. Those areas are our industry verticals and our goal is to be really strong in all of those, and to be a top player recognized in every single one of those verticals.

These industry sectors go across our practices, so for example life sciences goes across four of our departments. Professional services tends to be a focus in one or two departments. It depends on the industry, but our goal really is to be strong across the board and provide the legal expertise necessary for clients.

CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?

KL: IP litigation and patent prosecution have been very strong over the last two years. M&A has been very strong – I have a feeling that’s true at a number of firms. Venture capital and emerging companies work has been very strong as well. White collar and government enforcement, healthcare and regulatory and clean technology too. Those six areas have really been booming in the last 18 months to two years.

CA: Associates commented on a focus on private equity. Could you provide any detail on that?

KL: That’s very much in the M&A space. We’ve always done fund formation and compliance work for private equity clients, as well as early stage private equity work, but there is very much a focus on building out the later-stage private equity side of the practice. We have had some clients over the years, but we’ve brought in a few laterals. A partner joined from Weil, Gotshal & Manges about four years ago, and another just joined from Ropes & Gray. Both of them are very strong in the private equity space, as well as M&A and debt financing. So that’s part of our effort to build out that practice.

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

KL: The economic growth going on in the US economy over the past year has been fueled by tax cuts. My perception is that this has led to an increase in M&A activity and generally in investment activity. I think another trend that’s really impacted us is the growth of the healthcare industry. All the healthcare changes in the US – not just Obamacare – but also the general increase in healthcare costs and regulation has really caused a boom in the regulatory healthcare practice. The last trend is globalization, which has helped our sovereign government practice. One of the real market-leading practices for us is representing sovereign governments in cross-border disputes and also the commercial instrumentalities of those governments, for example, a state-owned mining company. So the increase in globalization has led to an increase in disputes, which in turn has led to growth in that practice.

CA: Which areas will be a focus for growth over the next year and why?

KL: We mentioned private equity – that certainly is one area, both generally and also with M&A-type activity stemming from private equity funds. There’s also IP litigation and patent prosecution and our government regulation enforcement practices, which we’ve earmarked for growth over the next 12 months. In Washington we just brought in two young partners who joined from the DOJ, so we’re looking to grow those areas both in New York and DC. Finally, I expect the healthcare and life sciences practice to grow; we’ve been investing heavily in those areas as well.

CA: What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?

KL: Our view is that we are independent and we want to remain so. We are not interested in merging with another firm or becoming part of a 2,000 or 3,000 lawyer global behemoth. Our goal is to maintain our culture and stay independent. Foley Hoag is a very collegial place. Partners get along very well, and hopefully your interviews with our associates brought out that they like it here and that they get good training and mentorship. So our goal, for lack of a better term, is smart growth: to continue to focus on the industry verticals I mentioned and on the markets in which we’re located, and to continue to grow organically. We have 280 lawyers, so five years from now there may be 350 lawyers at the firm, but really we’re focused on growing these verticals.

One thing I’m looking forward to continuing in the next five years is that as a firm we’re becoming more diverse. It’s been a major focus for us strategically, and it’s something I’m proud of. When you look back over the last few classes of partners over three or four years, those have been about 50% women, and 25% from historically underrepresented groups. It’s something we’ve been focusing on as a firm, and we’re looking forward to the firm getting more diverse, and being a more inclusive place to work at.

CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?

KL: Certainly things move a lot faster than they used to. I was driving my daughter to school today talking about what life was like when I was her age and what it’s like now. I said a lot of it is similar –  people still get to school in cars, the same way as when I was a kid, and people still fly places, nothing fancy. But I did say to her that everything in her generation is moving a lot faster, and I think that’s true for lawyers too – the rapidity of communications. You have clients who need answers immediately, because their competition is moving quickly. Deals go much faster. Even litigation, which is my practice, tends to move a lot faster with a rise in arbitrations. So the biggest change is that the pace of work is moving much more quickly.

Another significant change is that young lawyers are expected to master skills that are far beyond just pure legal skills. When I graduated it was like, OK, go to the library, do research, write a memo or brief, help think about the cases. Lawyers are expected to be much more now – they need to be tech-savvy, they are expected to have deep knowledge of our clients’ industries, they are expected to specialize earlier in their careers.

CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate in the future? Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?

KL: We have to master technology in all aspects; that’s certainly a challenge lawyers have to focus on. There’s also a pressure to be more efficient and to deliver superior results in a shorter period of time.

I’d love to know what students and young lawyers have to say about why it’s an appealing profession. When people ask me, it’s the same reason it always has been: it’s a very rewarding career if you enjoy using your intellect, thinking deeply and being a problem solver. If you enjoy taking a problem and figuring a way out of it, whether you’re presented with a particularly thorny litigation, or you’re on a transaction and there are difficulties in how to structure it or there are tax or regulatory implications, lawyers ultimately are problem solvers, and problem solving in the most intellectual way that requires a ton of brain power.

CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?

KL: There’s an older story and a newer story. The older story is that when I was a kid growing up, I argued with my parents all the time, and they used to say, ‘You should go be a lawyer – if you’re going to argue you should go get paid for it.’ I was either annoying them or maybe I was persuading them.

And the newer story is again the intellectual challenge. When I graduated I worked as a management consultant because I wanted industry experience. I liked the problem solving aspect, but I was ultimately more attracted to the intellectualism of law . The real deep thinking required in law spoke to me and that’s why I keep doing it.

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? What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?

KL: It’s true for any job and any industry, but the advice I tend to give when our new associates show up is that you get out of your career what you put into it. It’s a truism for any profession but if you’re curious, if you’re open to new ideas and thoughts, if you work hard, if you think about what you’re doing and why and how fits into the bigger picture, if you focus on building skills and doing excellent work, then you’ll do well  as a lawyer. One of my partners always said it was called the practice of law for a reason – you’re always practicing. You’re always getting better. I think it’s true that if you put more into this career, and if you truly want to learn and understand, you will be a great lawyer and get satisfaction from it.

Foley Hoag LLP

Seaport West,
155 Seaport Boulevard,
MA 02210-2600

  • Head Office: Boston
  • Number of domestic offices: 3 Number of international offices: 1
  • Worldwide revenue: $208,144,000
  • Partners (US): 122
  • Associates (US): 128
  • Main Recruitment Contact: Dina M Wreede, Director of Legal Recruiting
  • Hiring Partner: Meredith A. Haviland
  • Recruitment website: http://recruiting.
  • Diversity Officer: Kenneth S. Leonetti, Co-Managing Partner
  • Summer Salary 2019: 1Ls: $3,654 per week
  • 2Ls: $3,654 per week
  • Post 3Ls: $3,654 per week
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
  • Summers 2019: 19
  • Offers/acceptances 2018: 11 offers, 10 acceptances

Main areas of work
Business crimes and government investigations; corporate finance and securities; corporate social responsibility; energy, technology and renewables; environmental litigation; government strategies; insurance recovery; international litigation and arbitration; fund formation; labor and employment; licensing and strategic alliances; life sciences and health care; mergers and acquisitions; patent litigation; patent prosecution; professional liability litigation; tax; trademark, copyright and unfair competition.

Firm profile
For more than seven decades, Foley Hoag has represented public and private clients in a wide range of disputes and transactions around the world. We have established a lengthy record of success in industries such as life sciences, health care, technology, energy/renewables, investment management, and professional services. We deeply understand our clients’ businesses, priorities, strategies and industries. We are connected to the entrepreneurial community and detect emerging trends that will affect clients down the road. We have a reputation for an intellectual approach to case analysis and efficiently developing creative, compelling legal strategies. Foley Hoag lawyers are innovative, energetic and entrepreneurial, and we seek new lawyers who possess these same traits.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 9
• Number of 2nd year associates: 8
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $190,000
• 2nd year: $200,000
• Clerking policy: Foley Hoag provides salary and tenure credit, as well as a judicial clerkship bonus, to associates who join the firm upon completion of a federal district or circuit court clerkship or a state supreme court clerkship

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Boston College, Boston University, Chicago, Columbia, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard, New York University, Northeastern, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, and Yale. Summer details

Summer associate profile:
We hire lawyers who have excelled academically, who are intellectually curious, and whose intelligence, character and creativity will inspire the confidence of clients and colleagues. We seek lawyers who take initiative, who strive for and achieve excellence, and who are motivated by a desire to make a difference – not only in their profession, but in their community as well.

Summer program components:
We work hard to build a summer associate program that provides a realistic look at life at Foley Hoag. Summer associates have the opportunity to choose their own assignments, experiencing as many or as few practice areas as they’d like. They work on real matters for real clients. They participate in team strategy meetings, go to court, attend negotiations, and assist in contract drafting. They receive on-the-job training, advice and feedback from seasoned partners and associates, and take part in seminars aimed at transforming their law school knowledge into real world skills.


This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences Recognised Practitioner