Foley & Lardner LLP - The Inside View

Holy Foley! The Dairy State's big legal cheese now benefits from a tasty Tex-Mex mix.

WE do love a legal tie-up, and in March 2018, it was Milwaukee-born Foley & Lardner and Texas firm Gardere Wynne Sewell driving off into the sunset, tin-cans bouncing happily behind them. The ink is still wet on this union, but the potential is clear. Foley & Lardner gained three Texas offices (where the firm now operates as Foley Gardere) meaning it gets a slice of the booming Texas corporate and energy market that drove a number of other mergers and office openings there in 2018. It also swings open the gate to the lucrative Latin American market through a base in Mexico City. Chairman and CEO Jay Rothman tells us the firm's in most of the regions we want to be in, but we want to grow depth in some offices."

Though its best Chambers USA rankings are in its home state – top for banking, corporate, IP, litigation, environment and real estate – it would be wrong to dwell on Foley's Wisconsin roots. The firm's 21 US bases include strongholds in Boston (where its healthcare practice is ranked highest); Chicago (where insurance is ranked highest), DC (where IP comes out top) and Florida (where, again, insurance is highest ranked). All of these offices, and more, take associates. “Foley has a strong reputation as a Midwest firm but its name recognition goes beyond that,” one such junior confirmed.

The Work

Litigation and business (transactional) law take the most new arrivals, but IP houses a fair number too. Most offices, like Boston,interview candidates for specific departments, whereas in some (including Milwaukee) summers can try different areas before picking a group. Most interviewees found that work assignment was done on a free-market basis, though some larger groups had a coordinator to manage their workflow. “The best way to describe it is entrepreneurial,” we heard; “you have to be a go-getter if you have particular interests.”

Litigators got plenty of options – newbies start as generalists and breach of contract, product liability, antitrust, healthcare, environmental litigation and government investigations are all on offer. “There's more government work in DCbut juniors in the capital aren't pigeonholed: “Some people branch into different things, perhaps with partners in other offices.” Cross-office work does occur,but “teams are small” as a general rule at Foley. “I wanted to immediately take a significant role in cases,” said one source, “and I've only been on one that involved lots of document review. So I've been very happy.” Doc review was common during the discovery phase, but sources who got onto projects early enjoyed “drafting lots of correspondence and calls with opposing counsel or the government.”

Litigation clients: CVS Health, J.P. Morgan, Sun Life. Secured dismissal on behalf of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team in two spectator injury 'foul ball' cases.

“I see it as a positive that I'm thrown in the lion's den early.”

In business too “Foley staffs leanly. I see it as a positive that I'm thrown in the lion's den early because I'm learning faster.” The corporate 'transactions' sub-team takes almost half the juniors here, the rest mostly splitting between finance, healthcare, real estate and tax. Each office comes with its own flavor: Detroit “does a lot of automotive work,”Florida lawyers are hot on securities offerings, while Milwaukee represents a lot of local clients. “In energy there's a lot of solar and wind financing, but we've helped on traditional fossil fuel matters that have come from the new Texas offices.” In California, Florida and Boston, healthcare is a strength. Juniors dined on due diligence, disclosure schedules and drafting ancillary documents, with more writing opportunities on offer from year three.

Business clients: Harley-Davidson, Pentair, Fiserv. Represented BP in its $10.5 billion acquisition of BHP's American onshore oil and gas assets.

IP is home to litigators, transactional attorneys and patent prosecutors who split between chemical, biotechnology and pharma, electronics and mechanical/electromechanical technology. “The firm really encourages associates to reach out to partners in other offices if yours doesn't have work you're interested in” – biotech hub San Diego was a popular pitstop. Associates of all types took the fast lane to “substantive assignments,” be they drafting patent applications or reviewing agreements. “That we're encouraged to ask questions in client meetings speaks highly for the respect partners afford us, though some are more hands-on than others.” Less glamorous diligence also reared its head here, albeit mostly on an ad-hoc basis.

IP clients: Major League Baseball, S.C. Johnson, Toshiba. Successfully acted for power solutions firm Cummins in a turbocharger patent dispute with JM Turbo Technology Corporation, securing an admission of patent infringement by JM Turbo.

Pro Bono

Interviewees could happily build skills on pro bono matters too, agreeing that “the firm encourages it because it's good for our development.” Foley automatically awards 100 hours of pro bono to go toward billables. Associates who go beyond that can apply for an extension. While some suggested “the process is a little time-consuming and I feel less comfortable going beyond 100,” we still found some who had ended up billing more than 200 hours.Lawyers in DC had done “predominantly asylum work,” juniors in Milwaukee worked on behalf of the Milwaukee Justice Center, and San Diego worked with a nearby shelter. Corporate sources helped out on charity formations and IP-ers helped inventors obtain patents on a pro bono basis. The firm has also worked with the National Immigrant Justice Center, Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR) and OneWorld Health.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 44,667
  • Average per US attorney: 44

Get Hired

“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.” Find out how else you can impress Foley's recruiters by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Career Development

“Even as summer associates, the message was conveyed that one day we could all be partners at Foley.” Big words, but the firm backs it up with action – juniors each get an associate and partner mentor who “provide comprehensive criteria for the skills we're expected to develop at each level.” Ongoing training – including practice group retreats – helps build those skills. “I've found that partners who aren't formal mentors are happy to discuss where your career is going,” an insider said. It's not partnership or bust, and those who do leave “tend to go between fifth and seventh year. That's after compensation diverges from lockstep.” Many go in-house “and reach back out to Foley for use as outside counsel. It's all strategic.” The firm's so welcome to such moves that many offices host parties for departing attorneys.


How many party invites you'll get depends on where you're working. Boston is a particularly sociable spot, where “everyone gets their coffee together. We've got great sports teams and every time one wins a championship we'll go for food.” Other offices may not have Red Sox and Patriots to cheer on, but in Milwaukee“there's plenty of encouragement to network” and different practice groups plan semi-regular events. Smaller offices like Detroit “are a bit different as more people live in the suburbs and would rather go home to their kids than out for drinks. That said, there's a new wave of younger associates and we go out for lunch together.” An all-attorney retreat unites the whole firm every other year.

“A partner changed the due date of a briefing because I had plans at the weekend.”

“Each office has a slightly different culture but the management in Milwaukee seems pretty involved in every office,” associates said. Many mentioned Foley's Midwestern roots as the key difference between it and East Coast-founded firms. “We've all got pretty strong relationships outside work,” one Boston insider explained, “we'll celebrate our children's birthdays and watch them grow up together.” Bringing together firm and family isn't mandatory though “and people are understanding if you have a big life event. A partner changed the due date of a briefing because I had plans at the weekend.” Some noticed a sea change as “Foley tries to move away from the idea it's a lifestyle firm and the connotations that come with that. We're slowly trending to be more billing-heavy though you can still keep a semblance of work/life balance.”

Hours & Compensation

An average finish time of 6pm certainly suggests that's the case, and interviewees told us: “There have been very few instances I've had to stay past that. Foley does a good job of providing resources to work remotely.” As a measuring stick, a couple of associates noted they'd only been in the office three times past midnight in their first two years – a far cry from the monthly or even weekly hauls elsewhere. “Most attorneys in Chicago are gone by 6pm unless there's an urgent project,” a source there said; “we have to be available by email but face time isn't as bad as at some other firms.”

Foley's compensation system is a bit complicated, so get comfortable: there's a minimum hours target of 1,900 for juniors in their first three years (rising to 1,950 after that); bonus eligibility begins at 1,950 hours for everyone. There's a minimum 10% bonus for associates who hit 2,000, which becomes 20% at 2,200 hours. Past third year, however, associates move up to 'tier two' where compensation becomes more discretionary.

Diversity and Inclusion

Partner compensation at Foley varies based on the diversity of their teams, which associates took as “evidence that they want to address the issue and it's not just lip service.” It's an innovative step, and our interviewees had all noticed consequences of the firm's 2017 Diversity and Inclusion strategic plan. So although interviewees were “not super impressed about our diversity generally, I do think they're trying. The firm provides unconscious bias training, which I think helps.” There's also an option to customize working hours without impairing career progression, which insiders noticed was true in practice. Furthermore, associates in certain offices saw grass-roots action, rather than anything firmwide, making a greater difference. In Chicago we heard: “The intent is there but much of the effort put into advancing women is made by senior female attorneys who take it upon themselves.”

“The intent is there but much of the effort is made by senior female attorneys.”

Strategy & Future

Addressing the firm's future, Chairman and CEO Jay Rothman suggests that “longer-term we'll need to build a greater international presence, whether that's through affiliations or formal combinations.” This fits a trend for multi-site US firms – and Foley has long held similar intentions. Back in 2016 the firm briefly held merger talks with a British firm. Shifting his attention to the internal, Rothman reveals that “Foley is focusing more on mentoring for lawyers and spending more time teaching softer skills.” For the full interview, click on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,055

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 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: 290

Successful applicants will spend enough time at the firm to attend between three and five interviews plus 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:

“We're often billing above the hour minimums so we're looking for someone who's up for a challenge here.”

“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...”


Summer program

Offers: 81

Acceptances: 44

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 new juniors come 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 CEO and chairman Jay Rothman

Chambers Associate: Following its merger with Gardere Wynne Sewell last year, how would you describe the firm's current market position?

Jay Rothman: We're pleased where we are in the marketplace following the combination, which gave us access to Texas and into Mexico City and solidified our U.S. footprint in all the regions we want to be in. We've got most of the major markets covered and Texas and Mexico City were areas we'd been looking at for a number of years. Beyond geographic coverage, we've been looking to grow in corporate, litigation, technology, healthcare, energy and fund representation, and the tie-up with Gardere added depth in those practices as well as breadth.

CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?

JR: All of our practices continued to have strong years. The M&A side has been especially strong, but we've seen strength across the three major groups of business law, IP, and litigation over the last 18 months. It's been a good time for Foley and a good time to expand our geographic reach and depth.

CA: Looking to the future, do you see further office openings or mergers? Do you see more international expansion?

JR: I think the answer is that if we're looking at the US, we're in most of the regions we want to be in, but we want to grow depth in some offices. We're continuing to look for opportunities, as the US remains a very good legal market. Longer term, we know we'll need to build a greater international presence, whether that's through affiliations or formal combinations. That comes down to finding the right partners: We've got great relationships already in the US, Europe, and Central and South America. Over time do we look at something formal? Ideally long term we'd like to do something with a combination partner where we can find the right cultural and economic fit, but achieving that is more difficult on an international scale.

CA: How, if at all, have the changes implemented by the Republican administration affected the firm's practice?

JR: We've seen growth in the economy and the tax reforms that have been implemented have had some impact, but change has resulted not so much from any one government action as from the health of the economy. We've gone from the recession, where growth was slow and there was a traumatic shock, to a stronger economy, which has helped our transactional practices. In most downturns we benefit from having a diverse practice, as when the transactional market isn't as strong there's more litigation or bankruptcy activity.

CA: The firm implemented a new diversity and inclusion plan – how has that come along?

JR: We're continuing to make progress. It's an area which we've focused a lot of resources on. Our goal is being conscious of including diverse people in all that we do, and that's where we're focusing our efforts. For our newest lawyers in particular we're making sure everyone gets the same challenges. They need the opportunity to show what they can deliver and we're being very disciplined in encouraging that approach. We owe that to them and it's in our best interests too.

We're also focusing more on mentoring for lawyers across the board, and spending more time teaching softer skills. How do you relate to clients, and how do you build relationships to become trusted advisers? We're spending time teaching people how to do that, which is more challenging when decisions are being made much faster and we are all operating digitally. Attorneys today don't necessarily spend time building relationships and we've devoted a lot of time to that by focusing more on client service teams. We're constantly asking ourselves, ‘Have we invested time visiting our clients and understanding the challenges they face?’ It's non-billable time, but it helps us be better trusted advisers.

CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?

JR: Law continues to be an amazing profession. Every day we're tackling new problems and if you're interested in learning new things, it's fantastic. No one problem or area of law is alike. The impact technology has had over the last 10 or 15 years has changed the world so drastically and the sophistication of tech means the law has to change. New practice areas will be created and if you love to be in a dynamic world with intellectual challenges, I can't imagine a better place to be.

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

JR: Growing up, I didn't have exposure to the type of firm I now practice in, but problem-solving was always very interesting to me. I was looking for an area I could take that desire and passion and apply it in a professional environment. It became clearer while studying that law was a potential avenue for that, but I didn't have anything figured out at age 20 and I didn't know what practicing law really meant. If it was dumb luck, so be it, as I've gotten into the practice and, having been mentored by some great lawyers, it was a pretty special experience. Through my career, I kept growing and getting new opportunities and challenges and continued to rise to those challenges. There was never any epiphany for me; getting into law was an evolutionary process and I'm grateful that was the case.

CA: What achievement are you most proud of?

JR: If I've played a small role in the success of some of the lawyers I've worked with through the years, that's my biggest achievement.

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?

JR: I'd tell them I hope they have a passion for the work, for client service, and problem-solving. It's a fairly lucrative profession, but money is the wrong reason to join, as the law demands a lot of time and you need to be there for clients when they need you. This profession can put a lot of pressure on your private life and money will never make up for that.

Foley & Lardner LLP

777 East Wisconsin Avenue,
WI 53202-5306

  • 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
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Rebecca S Bradley (
  • Hiring Partner: Bob Scher
  • Diversity officer: Eileen Ridley
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 56
  • Clerking policy: Bonus and advanced standing provided for federal clerkships and clerkships with the highest court in any state
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019:Summers joining/anticipated 2019 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 2019: 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.

Firm profile
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 2019:
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 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.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: foley-&-lardner-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • IT & Outsourcing: Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Reinsurance (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Insurance (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Franchising (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • 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)