This Cream City native is cream of the crop when it comes to “BigLaw with a work/life balance and Midwestern values.”
With roots in both the ‘Coolest City in the Midwest’ (according to Vogue) and a state with ‘Friendship’ as its motto (Texas, thanks to its 2018 merger with Gardere Wynne Sewell), Milwaukee-born Foley & Lardner is a delightful oddity among the US legal elite. “Foley is also an anomaly because it’s a top firm that’s not at all sharp-elbowed,” associates told us. “This isn’t a place where you’re worked to the bone, and nobody says no if you need a day off for family stuff.” Though Milwaukee remains the firm’s largest office, there were junior associates to be found in 19 of its 21 US bases when we came calling (Chicagoand Boston rounded out the podium of largest recruiters).
“I feel really fortunate to be with this firm and this group of people.”
After a short spell operating as ‘Foley Gardere’ in the Austin, Dallas and Houston offices, the firm reverted to Foley & Lardner nationwide in 2020. Former Gardere juniors who ended up at Foley after the merger were “worried the culture might change, but the transition was seamless and we still have the Texan quality of life. That means when people say their doors are always open, they actually mean it.” Sources in the HQ were equally proud of their locale, arguing that Foley is “by far and away the best firm in Wisconsin.” With a sextet of top-tier Chambers USA rankings in its home state covering banking, corporate/M&A, IP, litigation, environment and real estate, it’s hard to argue against them. The firm also earns accolades in seven other states and six nationwide plaudits.
Foley is a good performer across all areas of our annual research. They made the US top 25 in career development in 2021>
Our list of juniors split into 17 groups, the most popular of which included litigation and dispute resolution and transactions. Work assignment varies by practice area, with some more structured than others – in a classic case of ‘the grass is always greener’, associates with direct assignment routes wanted more say over their work opportunities, whereas juniors in free-market groups described them as the firm’s weak spot. “Though work is technically spread among offices, it can be hard to get away from the folks in Milwaukee,” a source there said. Typically starting as generalists in their department, associates “drill down” into a more specific practice over time. The firm told us it "is in the process of developing and piloting work allocation mechanisms to ensure equal work opportunities and experiences for all associates."
Foley’s IP squad advises a spread of manufacturing, e-commerce, communications and green energy clients among other types, but the typical tasks for juniors were consistent regardless of industry: their primary role was writing patent applications. “Some partners have you do more junior-level things, but others take the position that if you’re listed as a particular client’s attorney then you’ll do all the work for them regardless of level,” interviewees suggested. The process of a matter involves meetings with patented product inventors, drafting applications and reviewing them for potential rejection points. Sources told us they “enjoy the challenge of characterizing new inventions and trying to convince the Office the product is patentable – anything where you get to argue a bit.” IP offers regular client contact and cross-border collaboration: “About 25% of my work is outside the US. It’s mainly with the UK, but we have clients with a presence in China and India.” In such instances, juniors will “draft the application then send it to a local attorney who deals with the patent office in that jurisdiction.”
IP clients: S.C. Johnson & Son, Mastercard, Citigroup. Developed a patent portfolio for the Bank of Montreal in the US and Canada, filing dozens of applications within the space of a year.
Within the broader umbrella of ‘business law’ you'll find the firm’s transactions practice. Juniors here are kept busy with a mix of M&A, private equity, capital markets, venture capital and securities. The client base varies by office – for example, in Texas the team has built a reputation for advising family-owned businesses. Juniors staffed on M&A deals typically track signature pages, draft ancillary documents and handle due diligence, which usually involves conference calls with the client and the other side; on securities matters, they’re more likely to be focused on compliance checks. Our sources praised their supervisors for letting them try new things and were pleased with the amount of responsibility they had, though noted that client contact is comparatively limited in the securities practice. Work slowed as the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted but has picked up more recently: “There’s never an issue getting work reassigned if you start feeling overwhelmed,” we heard.
Transactional clients: Amarex, Steve Madden, Vision Growth Partners. Represented Advanced Energy Industries in its $400 million acquisition of the Artesyn Embedded Power business from Platinum Equity and Emerson Electric.
Junior in the business litigation and dispute resolution group begin as generalists before specializing, but each office comes with a different menu of work: Boston is particularly known for healthcare, private equity and life sciences, while DC is the hub for government cases. Sources in Texas described a buffet of trade secrets, shareholder disputes and “super fun” environment and energy cases; across the US, there’s been an uptick in bankruptcy and restructuring work as a result of COVID-19 and lockdowns. Juniors remained busy with pre-trial procedural tasks including corresponding with opposing counsel, drafting and document review. There can also be a fair amount of back and forth with clients to avoid litigation proceedings: “Instead of handling lawsuits I’ll help clients form a business resolution that has an eye toward the law.”
“…we have a very close working relationship with partners.”
Interviewees described menial tasks as “tedious but a necessary evil,” though lean staffing means they can often get more heavily involved on a smaller number of cases. “It means we have a very close working relationship with partners. I’m challenged day in, day out.” Some found the generalist scope of the group difficult to get to grips with and wished for more guidance from partners in the early going: “It can be hard to find work in the beginning.” Others were more positive, and one was full of good words to say about a senior associatewho “spent over an hour – which they couldn’t bill for – walking me through everything I needed. They never made me feel like I was wasting their time.”
BLDR clients: Kraft Heinz, Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Harley-Davidson. Defended Great Lakes, one of the US Department of Education’s four student loan services, in a class action alleging regulation violations that seeks in excess of $100 million in damages.
Newbies connect with associate and partner mentors when they first join and there’s an in-house coach available too, though the effectiveness of mentorship at Foley received mixed reviews overall. There were some grumblings that assigned mentors were difficult to get a hold of or had the left the firm and not been replaced. Juniors did appreciate having mentors on hand “if something happens in your life that other attorneys might not know about. They can then advocate for you.” In some cases, our sources made their own mentorship links outside of the firm-run system.
“The partners want to get the work done but they’re not dictators. You can speak to them like human beings.”
Some teams hosted biweekly check-ins when 2020’s lockdown began: “We’d just chat as a group rather than focusing on the business.” Interviewees were disappointed not to receive more ongoing training and some sought “more opportunities for growth and leadership.” They were however largely pleased with their supervisors’ attitudes: “The partners want to get the work done but they’re not dictators. You can speak to them like human beings.”
Picture the Foley & Lardner culture as a playground teeter-totter: at one end sits a “Midwestern” atmosphere, which shone through in all of the firm's many offices. “People are warmer and more willing to help you out” than attorneys at other firms, according to folks at Foley. “I’ve never felt intimidated asking for assistance.” At the other end sits the expectations that come with the firm’s market position, and some reckoned “there’s definitely a BigLaw edge. Some have expectations that people are always available, even later at night and on the weekends.” We heard from Chicago that Foley “is essentially one firm but there are local differences. There isn’t a constant sense of urgency in this office, unlike in Milwaukee where Foley is a bigger deal and there’s a more serious feel.” Insiders in Dallas described “a more energetic environment. The friendliness and appreciation of work/life balance here is the reason I chose the firm.”
“…very encouraging to see how much time the attorneys spent with each other outside of work.”
Weighing up their options during interviews, one future Foley-er found it “very encouraging to see how much time the attorneys spent with each other outside of work.” Naturally there was more socialising in years prior to 2020, including cross-office cocktail hours. We heard the firm “made an effort to maintain a close-knit group” during lockdown, establishing weekly practice group conference calls and remote training. The folks in Milwaukee even enjoyed some communal use of the local beer gardens (while observing social distancing, of course), leading to one’s conclusion: “It feels like I’m working with friends rather than colleagues.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Evaluating a lack of ethnic diversity at their firm, Foley juniors suggested “it’s difficult to recruit diverse people to a firm that isn’t already diverse.” In 2020, the firm announced it would expand its recruitment net to different law schools in an effort to diversify its candidate pool, and take other steps including expanding the Diversity Fellowship Program. We heard more positive associate feedback about gender diversity: each office has a women’s committee “that’s kinda like a support group.” Regular events include book clubs and happy hours; at the time of our calls there was a panel discussion about Ruth Bader Ginsberg coming up. “Some Foley attorneys knew her personally so we’re discussing her impact on the legal profession,” insiders revealed.
“The firm’s message is to take care of yourself because if you don’t feel good you won’t be out there being the best version of yourself.”
Associates are permitted to take unlimited vacation including mental health days. Foley also runs webinars and communicates about “practicing happiness. The firm’s message is to take care of yourself because if you don’t feel good you won’t be out there being the best version of yourself.” For an inside view of D&I at Foley, check out The Path & The Practice podcast: Director of Diversity and Inclusion Alexis Robertson interviews attorneys of all levels about their background and route to the firm. “It’s a great tool not just for us to get to know each other, but for students and clients too,” juniors declared.
Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation
“Pro bono is pretty huge here,” a source in Chicago declared. It’s not just a Windy City story – associates mentioned the firm’s work with the nationwide Patent Pro Bono Program, whichacts as a resource for inventors who are below a certain income threshold. “A former Foley attorney is their director and one of the current partners is on the board, so a lot of us do patent application work for them.” Others worked with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts or helped tenants who’d been evicted from their homes following financial struggles caused by the pandemic. In July 2020, the firm launched a dedicated Racial Justice and Equity Practice Group. Attorneys can bill 100 pro bono hours annually, but some went far above and beyond: “I’m almost double that this year and the firm’s still letting me count all of them,” one said. We heard that those who aren’t billing pro bono get a kick up the butt to take on more.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 44,476
- Average per US attorney: 44
Billable hours: 1,900 target (1,950 from fourth year onward)
Most associates we surveyed bill around eight hours a day, setting them up nicely for the 1,900 target. “Funky hours” are inevitable when dealing with international time zones and “patent attorneys have a harder time getting hours in because a lot of the work is billed as flat fee,” we heard. Those who’d experienced slow periods felt encouraged to enjoy their downtime and get involved in training. Bonus eligibility begins at 1,950 hours, where a source flagged the possibility of being paid up to 40% of their salary. More concretely, 10% of a base salary is guaranteed at 2,000 and 20% at 2,200. Associates also have a 150-hour ‘investment time’ target which includes CLEs, classes and (we’re very glad to hear) interviews with Chambers Associate.
Strategy & Future
Even with the challenges presented by COVID-19, associates were reassured to see the firm “still doing really well financially.” Chairman and CEO Jay Rothman explains: “We’re looking at growing our footprint and increasing our depth in key practice areas. We added a great corporate group in Northern California at the end of February. It’s such a great place for technology, M&A and emerging company work so we’re really excited.” Foley & Lardner continued its rise up the Am Law 100 rankings in the latest list, ascending another two spots following a 10% revenue increase within just 12 months – can anything stop them?
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1126
Interviewees outside OCI: 15
Given Foley has more than 20 offices across the US, it's no surprise to hear the firm visits more than 40 law schools throughout the OCI season and takes resume drops at others. Interviewing one or multiple schedules of students depending on the school, Foley collates a cross-section of attorneys from firm leaders to associates as interviewers.
There's no template for the firm's interviews so the content will vary, but each interviewer will be looking for entrepreneurial drive, team spirit and examples of leadership. As with all interviews, don't try and put across anything other than your genuine self.
Top tips for this stage:
“Do your research and know what our practices are – understand also that we work across the firm and you'll be in contact with everyone.”
“Our interviewers will ask about your interest or connection to the city to which you are applying. We want to make sure that you’re truly interested in living and working there.”
Applicants invited to second stage: 326
Successful applicants will spend enough time with the firm to attend between four and six interviews including some more informal meet ups in certain offices. Again, the seniority of interviewers will vary. Foley encourages candidates to ask their own questions here, while also demonstrating watertight knowledge of their resume.
Top tips for this stage:
“It's obvious when someone's done their research. You don't need to know our whole history but we see your familiarity with the firm as a good indicator of your interest.”
The firm sorts summer associates into particular practice groups, but it's not frowned upon to sample work from others if you're interested. An online assignment system gives summers an idea of how long tasks will take and gives them some autonomy over what they pick up, and Foley prefers them to get a varied experience across the program.
A roughly 1:1 partner to associate ratio means it's more difficult to hide in the crowd than at some other firms, and Foley expects everybody to pitch in. That said, they also want summer associates to use the resources and attorneys around them – the majority of each entry-level class comes from the program so it's an ideal opportunity to get to know the folks at Foley.
Notable summer events: theatre, ball games and boat rides.
Top tips for this stage:
“I definitely encourage summers to literally tell senior associates and partners you'd like to work with them, sometimes they don't realize it's okay to approach people here like that.”
“Take advantage of your mentor and Summer Program Coordinators as you navigate the summer program, they’re eager to help you and can be a tremendous resource!”
Foley & Lardner LLP
777 East Wisconsin Avenue,
- Head Office: Milwaukee, WI
- Number of domestic offices: 21
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $922 million
- Partners (US): 491
- Associates (US): 429
- Of/Special Counsel (US): 128
- Main recruitment contact: Amy B. Moynihan (email@example.com)
- Hiring partner: Bob Scher
- Diversity officer: Eileen Ridley
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 54
- Clerking policy: Bonus and advanced standing provided for federal clerkships and clerkships with the highest court in any state
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 9, 2Ls: 58
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Boston: 6, Chicago: 9, Dallas: 5, Denver: 1,Detroit: 3, Houston: 3, Jacksonville: 1 Los Angeles: 5, Madison: 4, Milwaukee: 10 New York: 3, Orlando: 1, San Francisco: 2 Tallahassee: 1, Tampa: 2, Washington: 11
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $2,700-$3,650 2Ls: $2,700-$3,650
- Split summers offered? Case by case.
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
With more than 1000 attorneys spread across 21 domestic offices and three international offices, Foley’s market-leading platform includes business law, government and public policy, inter-national, intellectual property and litigation. Adding depth to our bench strength, we address and anticipate client needs across more than 60 core practice areas and 11 cross-disciplinary industry teams.
Foley provides award-winning business and legal insight to clients across the country and around the world. Creating legal strategies that help meet our clients’ needs today — and anticipate their challenges tomorrow — Foley is continually recognized by our clients and the legal industry for our exceptional client service, thought-leadership, value and innovative strategy.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
Law Schools: Baylor Law School, Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law, Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, Duke University School of Law, Florida State University College of Law, Fordham University School of Law, George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, Marquette University Law School, New York University School of Law, Northeastern University School of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Notre Dame Law School, SMU Dedman School of Law (Dallas), South Texas College of Law, Houston, Stanford Law School, Texas Tech Law School, Tulane University School of Law, UCLA School of Law, UIC John Marshall Law School, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, University of Colorado Law School, University of Florida Levin College of Law, University of Houston Law Center, University of Illinois Law School, University of Iowa College of Law, University of Miami Law School, University of Michigan Law School, University of Minnesota Law School , University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School , University of San Diego School of Law, University of Southern California Law School , University of Texas School of Law , University of Virginia School of Law , University of Wisconsin Law School , Vanderbilt University Law School, Yale Law School
Job Fairs: Cook County Bar Association Job Fair, Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Lavender Law Conference Job Fair, Loyola Patent Law Interview Program, San Francisco IP Law Association Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We fill the majority of our hiring needs through OCI but always consider all other applicants who apply to the positions posted to our online career center at www.foleyrecruiting.com. Specific needs outside of OCI are posted to that same online career center.
Summer associate profile:
Foley is looking for summer associates with an entrepreneurial spirit who bring diverse life and work experiences. Key attributes also include intellect, academic achievement, judgement and leadership abilities and excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
Summer program components:
We aim to introduce our summer associates to life as a Foley associate. Making significant contributions from day one, our summer associates are immersed in real world, practical experiences. Work is assigned on a project basis, which allows summer associates to experience a variety of practice areas and choose projects that match their interests. Summer associates receive dedicated associate and partner mentors and our Foley Academy training programs highlight Foley’s culture, practice areas and strategic goals while developing and strengthening professional skills. To round out the experience, our summer associates participate in entertaining social events, including a firmwide retreat, where summer associates hear directly from firm leadership, participate in interactive workshops and training programs and build and strengthen relationships with our attorneys and other members of their class.
Recruitment website: www.foleyrecruiting.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Technology: Outsourcing (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 5)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Insurance (Band 3)
Florida: North & Central
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 1)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Reinsurance (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 5)
- Insurance (Band 4)
- Insurance: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- Cannabis Law (Band 3)
- Franchising (Band 3)
- Healthcare: The Elite (Band 3)
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
- Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)