You Wynne some, and then you Wynne some: Foley’s merger is the gift that keeps giving as this well-equipped national outfit looks to round out its international capabilities.
IT’S now been just over two years since Milwaukee-born Foley & Lardner and Texas-hailing Gardere Wynne Sewell joined forces – enough time to prove to the world the advantages of a well-matched union. Early figures boded well: a year in and the firm showed that it had recorded $10 million in merger-related new work and posted a very healthy 22% increase in revenue – allowing it to rise six places to 48th in the Am Law 100 for gross revenues. This year the firm posted another healthy 9.7% increase, pushing it ever closer to the billion-dollar mark.
Reflecting on the merger, one savvy source told us: “The Texan market is very difficult to break into, so the merger has been great for creating new opportunities for the firm in the energy sector.” While the combination has boosted revenue streams and fresh strands of work, it “hasn’t had too much of an effect on day-to-day life,” with interviewees agreeing that “the integration process has been pretty seamless.”
Foley’s appetite for increasing its market share hasn’t been sated just yet though: in December 2019 Foley announced its participation in a new international network of firms (spanning Mexico, Canada, Brazil, the UK and Norway) that assists clients with a host of cross-border investigations and government enforcement actions. On its home turf, however, juniors were quick to praise Foley’s domestic status: “We have a strong national presence with strong specialty areas – our market is more focused on those upper to mid-tier clients.” Foley is repeatedly ranked on a state-wide level for its healthcare, litigation, insurance and IP work, but it is in its stronghold of Wisconsin that the firm performs best, picking up a raft of top-tier rankings for its know-how in banking & finance, corporate/M&A, IP, litigation, natural resources/environment, and real estate.
The juniors on our list were based in 16 out of the firm’s 21 domestic offices. The highest number could be found in the Milwaukee HQ, but other offices with a significant number included Boston, Chicago, Dallas, DC and LA. Sources reasoned that Foley’s culture is partly dependent on each base’s local codes and customs. There were, however, some crossover themes that juniors identified. Firstly, a Boston source noted that there was a real emphasis on “professional development through personal relationships. They want people to be involved in social and networking events in the firm. For example, there was a day of service, which all attorneys were highly encouraged to spend their time at to give back to the community and to foster relationships with other attorneys and more experienced partners.”
“...they are mindful of giving you personal space and time.”
Over in Tampa a source picked up on a current of junior empowerment at the firm: “Foley is very trusting of young attorneys and empowers junior associates to take the lead on stuff. They’ll let you run with as much you want, and that’s helped me learn very quickly.” At the same time, “they are mindful of giving you personal space and time” – a characteristic picked up in Milwaukee, where a junior commented: “While I wouldn’t necessarily say that Foley’s a family-oriented firm, most people that I work with have kids and so there is that recognition that family is a large piece of people’s lives.” This Dallas interviewee wove all these facets together when they voiced how “it’s a ‘take care of each other’-type culture. Everybody cares about you, at a work level and a personal level, and that goes from associates up to partners. In October when people hit their hours, they then jumped in to help others.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900 target (1,950 from fourth year onward)
Up until their fourth year, juniors are expected to hit 1,900 hours each year. After that, they are expected to reach 1,950. “That hurts us locally,” a Milwaukee interviewee commented, explaining that it appeared to be a higher number compared to the regional market and could put off students. However, they pointed out that it seems “high on paper” but in practice is manageable. Associates are also expected to rack up 150 ‘investment time hours’ that “bring value to the firm.” This can include any time spent networking, attending internal events, completing CLEs and firm citizenship activities. “They’re easy to get – I hit mine within six months,” assured one diligent source.
“...the cost of living is inexpensive – we can buy beer here for $3!”
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. While “some frustration around communication” of the bonus policy was reported, as well as an acknowledgment that payouts can be higher elsewhere, most were content with the system, especially in Milwaukee, where “the cost of living is inexpensive – we can buy beer here for $3!”
The juniors on our list were split between a hefty 20 practice groups, which fall under three main umbrella departments: business law, litigation and IP. Practice grouping-wise, the business litigation & dispute resolution (we’ll refer to it as BLDR) group took on the highest number of associates (approaching a third), followed by the transactions department (almost a fifth). Other groups with a higher concentration were real estate; IP litigation; and tax, benefits and estate planning. The remaining associates were sparsely spread between a wide range of practices, encompassing everything from electronics to government enforcement.
Many interviewees received work assignments by knocking on doors and building relationships organically, but there are varying degrees of structural support depending on practice and location. In BLDR, for example, one office has “a very structured system where every two weeks you provide, on a mathematical scale, an account of how busy you foresee yourself being, and based on that partners decide how to staff.” On the whole, juniors tended to agree that “there’s a nice balance” when it came to assignment and workload: “They don’t let anybody get too overwhelmed.”
BLDR falls under the larger litigation department, but its remit is extensive, as this source explained: “As a general commercial litigator I’ve worked on environmental damages cases, product liability matters, standard breaches of contracts and antitrust disputes issues – it really covers anything!” Within the general practice there are specific subgroups dedicated to the likes of government investigations, healthcare, securities, and antitrust matters, which juniors can “commit to” as they choose. Specialties vary by office, so Boston is particularly known for its healthcare, private equity and life sciences work, while DC is the hub for government cases. Size of matter can determine the junior role, with sources highlighting their more strategic contributions to briefings and depositions on smaller commercial disputes “between two competitors” compared with “more filing roles and discrete research and review” tasks on larger reinsurance cases, for instance.
BLDR clients: Machinery parts supplier Grede, US healthcare company CVS Health, financial services tech provider Fiserv. Recently secured court-ordered immunity for a high-level exec at a global pharma company who was urged to testify by the Department of Justice.
Within the broader umbrella of the business law department you'll find the transactions practice. Life here is equally “all over the board” – in a good way. Our interviewees were “jacks of all trades” as they navigated the likes of venture capital, private equity, M&A, capital markets and securities matters. “I’ve primarily done private equity and M&A transactions, the majority of which have been smaller, mid-sized deals for private portfolio platforms,” one junior explained, adding: “As a junior you’re supposed to know what’s happening at any point in the deal. If a partner walks into a room, you need to know what documents we have and what needs signing.” One source also pointed out the advantage of working on “deals where less money is at stake. It means there is a little more leash for junior associates to take the lead.” True enough, our interviewees also reported “acting as the primary point of contact for clients, marking up contribution agreements, and summarizing purchase agreements,” the last of which “is great practice for helping you to get ready for more senior roles.” For one junior, sell-side auction cases were a particular highlight: “They tend to be slower in process, and it’s interesting to see ten different players negotiate and mark up the same agreement ten times – it’s great experience.”
Transactions clients: UBS Securities, private investment company Redwood Capital, tech developer Advanced Energy Industries. Represented the last of these during its $400 million acquisition of Artesyn Embedded Power from Pontus Holdings.
Interviewees hadn’t noticed much attrition in the junior ranks and were generally quite optimistic about career progression at Foley. “I’ve seen a real concerted effort made by partners to give associates more responsibility and develop their skill set as they move up the ladder,” one commented, while another added: “Within my evaluations and my individual interactions with partners there’s been a focus on the skills I need to build to stay on the partner track.”
“...there’s been a focus on the skills I need to build to stay on the partner track.”
If lawyers do leave, interviewees noted that it tends to happen “around the fifth year” and that “the majority will go in-house – typically a client of the firm.” For those who want to stay and not be considered for partnership, Foley appointed a chief legal talent officer in August 2019 to “help with lawyers’ development and explore other paths.”
Associates can count 100 hours toward their billable hour requirements. For litigators, this number was felt to be “quite limiting, especially when you get staffed on some cases.” Approval for an extension can be secured, but we heard mixed views on the ease of getting this granted. In Milwaukee, the feedback was that “it’s difficult to get that time accepted, as the firm is conscious of too much time being spent on it,” whereas in Boston a source relayed how their “partner put in a request to raise the limit and it was approved that day.” We did hear of associates reaching 200 hours and working on substantial prisoners’ civil rights cases, as well as juniors devoting time to asylum matters, legal clinics and real estate transactions. “Generally they’ll give you the extension, but it’s more likely if you’re working on a bigger project – maybe not if you’re answering legal questions online, for example.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 42,296
- Average per US attorney: 40.4
Diversity & Inclusion
An interviewee in Milwaukee felt that the office was “pretty whitewashed despite the diversity of the city.” The view from Chicago was also that racial diversity was “lacking” but an area that the firm “has been pushing over the last few years” to improve. Sources here also spoke of the appointment of “a diversity specialist [in Boston] and a firm-wide diversity director [in Chicago]. Now there’s more of a team around diversity and it’s their job to improve these numbers and focus on retention” (and promotion).
“It wasn’t tokenistic and they breathed new life into it.”
In Boston, “it’s been expressed as a real priority to improve diversity.” A source here did observe “the huge efforts” made by “LGBT+ and African American lawyers to develop personal mentoring relationships between diverse attorneys across the offices to make sure there are support systems.” Flexible working has reportedly “become more commonplace and accepted – I know a lot of women with kids do that, but it can still be difficult.” Meanwhile, one of the firm’s regional women’s retreats was most recently held in Dallas and was well reviewed: “It was two days’ networking and getting to know about the different practices. It wasn’t tokenistic and they breathed new life into it.”
Strategy & Future
"Our vision is to be the best upper mid-market corporate firm in the country," says Foley chair and CEO Jay Rothman. "From a practice perspective, we remain committed to growing our core corporate, high-stakes litigation, technology, private equity, hedge and investment fund, and healthcare practices." Rothman anticipates that the following areas will keep Foley's lawyers busy: "Navigating a post-Covid-19 environment; addressing emerging cybersecurity, privacy and data concerns; the complexities of ongoing compliance issues; adapting to an evolving legislative landscape; navigating increasingly complex trade policies; and the impact technological disruptors will continue to have on business." For more from Rothman, go the Bonus Features tab.
- Foley & Lardner's 2020 summer program will be fully remote for six weeks (reduced from ten).
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,219
Interviewees outside OCI: 10
Given Foley has more than 20 offices across the US, it's no surprise to hear the firm visits more than 35 law schools across 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.”
“In offices like Milwaukee especially the firm is cognizant of where people come from and whether they're truly interested in living and working here.”
Applicants invited to second stage: 345
Successful applicants will spend enough time at 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 if you know nothing it won't go down well...”
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 intranet 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 muck 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: theater, 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 on projects from departments even if you don't think you're interested in them, and remember everyone's willing to go out for lunch!”
Interview with Foley chair and CEO Jay Rothman
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s position within the US legal market?
Jay Rothman: We’ve been very pleased with the firm’s position in the marketplace in our first full fiscal year following the 2018 combination with Gardere Wynne Sewell. Our litigation department in particular saw a significant increase in demand in 2019, and our transactional and technology practices remained strong. Of course, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has created substantial uncertainty in the economy in 2020. As we have done for our 178-year history, we are we focused on assisting our clients through the challenges they are facing in these unprecedented times. We are finding innovative and creative solutions for our clients and helping them look around the next corner.
I have no doubt that we will emerge from our current circumstances as a stronger firm. Consistent with our core values, we are committed to being there for both our clients and our people. In times of crisis, the true character of people and of law firms inevitably comes to the surface. I am proud of how we have reacted to our current challenges and maintained our commitment to the values that define us. I am equally confident that we will arrive at the other side of the mountain well positioned for the future.
CA: What is the firm’s strategy for the new decade?
JR: The primary driver behind firm strategy is maintaining and ensuring alignment with the needs of our clients. Because our clients’ industries are constantly evolving, so do their needs and challenges, which makes projecting a decade out difficult. Our vision is to be the best upper mid-market corporate firm in the country. From a practice perspective, we remain committed to growing our core corporate, high-stakes litigation, technology, private equity, hedge and investment fund, and healthcare practices. Within those areas of focus, and based on countless conversations with our clients, we expect the following challenges to drive our positioning for the immediate future: navigating a post-Covid-19 environment; addressing emerging cybersecurity, privacy and data concerns; the complexities of ongoing compliance issues; adapting to an evolving legislative landscape; navigating increasingly complex trade policies; and the impact technological disruptors will continue to have on business.
Of course, a strategy without the right team to see it through is inconsequential, which is why we will continue to be laser-focused on attracting the right talent to Foley. We’re simultaneously focused on providing our existing team with the resources, training and support to help promote meaningful and satisfying career paths for everyone. To support this effort, in September we created the position of Chief Legal Talent Officer through the addition of Jen Patton. Jen is responsible for overseeing the firm’s legal talent development structure and leading all attorney recruitment, development and retention efforts, as well as all coaching and diversity and inclusion initiatives. She brings a unique point of view to the role through her experience as both an attorney and law firm administrator. We believe that our relentless commitment and approach to talent development is a true differentiator for Foley. Our lawyers routinely cite the firm’s collegial culture, exceptional approach to client service and unique balance of collaboration with autonomy as distinct attributes. We’re extremely proud of being recognized as such.
CA: Have any practice areas been flagged for particular growth?
JR: Foley hit on every one of its three departmental 'cylinders' in 2019 – litigation, intellectual property and business law – as we experienced strong growth in all three areas. In particular, the litigation department stood out, and we expect this to continue as clients continue to turn to Foley to manage their most important and complex legal matters. Our longstanding commitment to deeply understanding and orienting toward the specific industries our clients operate within will be especially important as businesses navigate increased volatility and uncertainty in the coming months. We expect our experience in automotive, energy, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and retail, among others, to be in high demand as the global economy recovers from the economic impact of Covid-19.
CA: What ambitions does the firm have internationally?
JR: We are very pleased with the performance of our 24 offices across the US, Mexico, Europe and Asia. However, we certainly realize the benefits of continuing to expand our international presence, whether through formal combinations or affiliations, and are looking to do so assuming we find the right partner and opportunity. Our recent combination with Gardere Wynne Sewell taught us that one of our greatest assets is the strength and flexibility of our culture. This gives us a high level of confidence in our ability to continue to pursue growth through combinations and affiliations.
Our presence in Mexico City, established through the combination in 2018, has been a tremendous benefit for clients who are increasingly looking to Mexico for expansion and support. We expect our work in Mexico to grow even further with the passage of USMCA. Do I see us following a similar path and continuing expansion internationally? With the right cultural and economic fit, I don’t see why we wouldn’t consider it.
Over in real estate, sources found that they were mostly doing work “for clients who have real estate across the country and internationally. We do everything apart from residential real estate.” A junior went on to distill the content of their work into two main types of deal: “The first would be a larger due diligence project that’s related to a larger investment, like a solar or wind turbine parks. My role is a little more junior on these projects as I’m reviewing the documents, so it’s a bit more of a grind. On the flipside I have matters where I’m the main point of contact for the client, where I’ll do the construction contracts – it can sometimes be stressful when you have multiple client requests but it’s a good mix overall.”
Real estate clients: Harley-Davidson, real estate solutions provider Bear Development, American football team Green Bay Packers. Helped developer Mandel Group to complete a $30+ million multifamily development by utilizing an opportunity zone fund structure.
Assigned associate and partner mentors were utilized by some, but the preference for “seeking out the people I like and am interested in” was also raised as a potentially more worthwhile alternative for guidance.
Hours & Compensation
Across our interviewee pool, baseline office hours were pretty consistent. Starting times typically fell between 8am and 9am, and sources reported leaving between 6pm and 7pm. The frequency of logging back on when home varied between interviewees and practices, as did weekend work: a real estate source told us that “it’s very rare that someone will say you have to work on a weekend,” while a counterpart in litigation said “weekends are expected, but only when required – I’ve worked on the weekend probably 15, 20 times over the course of the year.”
Foley & Lardner LLP
777 East Wisconsin Avenue,
- Head Office: Milwaukee, WI
- Number of domestic offices: 21
- Number of international offices: 3
- Worldwide revenue: $837 million
- Partners (US): 488
- Associates (US): 429
- Of/Special Counsel (US): 145
- Main recruitment contact: Rebecca S Bradley (email@example.com)
- Hiring Partner: Bob Scher
- Diversity officer: Eileen Ridley
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 56
- Clerking policy: Bonus and advanced standing provided for federal clerkships and clerkships with the highest court in any state
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020:Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 65 Boston: 4, Chicago: 9, Dallas: 7, Detroit: 2, Houston: 4, Jacksonville: 1, Los Angeles: 5, Madison: 3, Miami: 2, Milwaukee: 19, New York: 3, Orlando: 1, San Diego: 8, San Francisco: 1, Tampa: 4, Washington DC: 6
- Summer salary 2020: 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 foreign offices, Foley’s market-leading platform includes business law, government and public policy, international, intellectual property and litigation. Adding depth to our bench strength, we address and anticipate client needs across more than 30 core practice areas and ten 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, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Florida State, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Marquette, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, SMU, Stanford, Texas A&M, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Houston, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, UCLA, University of Miami, University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, Yale
Job Fairs: Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Lavender Law Conference Job Fair, Loyola Patent Law Interview Program, SFIPLA, Texas Interview Program, Southeastern Minority Job Fair (SEMJF)
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, 2020
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- IT & Outsourcing: Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 2)
Florida: North & Central
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Reinsurance (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 5)
- Insurance (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Franchising (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Sports Law (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)