This long-standing Texas outfit is committed to the Lone Star state but also able to draw in work from far beyond its borders.
THE Texas legal market has really heated up in recent years, with big name firms setting up bases and local outfits merging to consolidate and strengthen their presences. But amid all of this activity Jackson Walker has stood resolute. This firm is Texan through and through, and from its seven bases rooted across the state it radiates a definitive message: “We’re anti-merger and want to stay local to Texas,” junior associates proudly told us, with one highlighting that they chose JW for its “uniqueness and outlook – I see it as the last real Texas firm.” Its history in the state stretches back over 130 years, and in that time JW has carved out a robust reputation, especially for real estate work; Chambers USA ranks JW’s practice in this area as one of the very best in Texas, but also rates the firm in areas like energy, corporate/M&A, healthcare, labor & employment and general commercial litigation.
“I see it as the last real Texas firm.”
For our associate sources, it was clear from the outset what JW could offer them: “I wanted a regional firm but not a small firm. At JW there are clients of all sizes so as a junior you get to do work that allows you to engage with them and use your brain!” said an interviewee in Dallas, echoing the opinions of those we interviewed across the firm. Many of the associates we spoke to either had roots in Texas or had attended school in the state (or had both) and were keen to stick around. Most of the juniors on our list were based in the firm’s Dallas HQ, but a fair number were also working out of JW’s Austin and Houston offices.
Strategy & Future
Staying physically rooted in Texas doesn’t mean that JW has a narrow vision when it comes to clientele, as this junior revealed: “We’re thinking broadly and moving beyond just Texas. How can we establish ourselves on a more national and international level? We’ve done a good job with certain practice groups, and we’re looking at which ones will be able to bring in talent that will enhance an open-minded worldview and scope. We’ve had laterals coming in from big reputable firms, and that gives me a good feeling for the future.”
JW’s litigation department housed most of the juniors on our list, but the firm’s real estate and corporate and securities practices followed closely behind; the remaining associates were spread thinly between groups like energy, wealth planning, finance and bankruptcy. “The firm as a whole is free market” when it comes to work assignment, but in practice each associate’s interaction with the free market varies depending on how quickly they build up good working relationships with partners.
On the litigation side, JW is especially recognized in Chambers USA for its work in the aviation, energy and media sectors. In Dallas, sources commented on the range of clients, which cover “very large corporates down to individuals.” Those in Houston added that responsibility levels vary in line with the size of the client: “I’m useful for the small clients, but a case for a large client will limit the odds of getting substantive work – the partner with the giant clients will cut you off a smaller piece of the pie!” At the same time, interviewees did praise their overall responsibilities, both in terms of task and case variety, as this Dallas resident explained: “I’ve done a wide array of things, from representing media clients and contributing to defamation work, to getting involved with property disputes, IP stuff, employment matters and general commercial breach of contract issues. You’re given the pen quite early on; there’s a lot of research and writing, and even as a first and second-year associate you’re interacting with clients and arguing some motions in court.”
Litigation clients: Google, JPMorgan Chase and Texas-headquartered chemicals company Celanese. Recently defended The Dallas Morning News against a defamation lawsuit that was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court of Texas.
“You’re given the pen quite early on.”
“We don’t just represent Texan clients – most of my work is all over the place!” exclaimed a junior in the real estate group. In Austin, sources highlighted the scope of the acquisitions and disposals work they’d been doing for private equity clients: “They’ll be buying hundreds of assets all over the country, so as a junior associate I’ll be reviewing the documents but also taking a first crack at leases and sale and purchase agreements.” There’s also renewable energy work up for grabs, which involves “a large amount of due diligence and figuring out where the wind turbines are going to be, so you’re assisting on agreements with landowners.”
Real estate clients: American Airlines, investment business Blackstone Real Estate Partners and homebuilding company D.R. Horton. Recently served as co-counsel to Blackstone Real Estate Partners as it acquired over 15 multi-state property portfolios with assets valued at more than $30 billion.
Corporate and securities juniors are likely to encounter clients in the tech, telecoms and healthcare spheres. JW is known for its mid-market transactions on behalf of investment funds, and sources who’d sampled this work told us: “On fund foundations I’m doing the first drafts of documents and side letters – it’s truly time to get pen to paper! The teams are quite lean, so most of what I do is advanced.” M&A deals are also common, and on these one of our interviewees was “brought in from day one and included on almost every call with the client and the opposing counsel; the partner did most of the negotiating but I was involved in the arguments so I got a real sense of the big picture.”
Corporate and securities clients: construction equipment supplier HOLT CAT, energy investment firm IOG Capital and health management software provider Medecision. Represented investment advisory firm Zimmer Partners as it made a $850 million equity investment in Ohio-headquartered electric utility company FirstEnergy's common stock.
Hours & Compensation
Juniors across the offices were quite clear about the basic set-up when it came to hours targets: “You need 1,950 to get the full pay-bump in your salary and 2,000 to be bonus eligible.” However, there was some confusion about JW's stance on 'citizenship hours', which can consist of time devoted to “pro bono, client development, summer recruiting efforts and professional organizations outside of the firm.” JW previously required its attorneys to rack up 100 of these hours each year on top of annual billing targets, but recently revised this figure down to 50 and made it a target instead of a requirement.
“You know exactly what you'll get if you hit the target or go above it.”
JW matched the salary increase announced over the summer of 2018 for its first-years, “which helps to keep us competitive,” associates happily declared. Sources were also pleased with the lockstep compensation system: “It's not a black box, and you know exactly what you'll get if you hit the target or go above it.” However, if a junior fails to meet their 1,950 target, or if their 'effective rate' falls below 85%, then their compensation may not be lockstep.On the note of hitting targets, juniors receive higher bonuses if they hit thresholds of 2,150 and 2,300 hours. While “one of the perks of working here is that people don't care so much about face-time,” there are times when the hours can be demanding: litigators spoke of completing 13-hour days while corporate associates explained that they sometimes eat dinner in the office and work until late at night when matters really take off.
“We're local to Texas, and that really does create a closer culture,” one Houston-based source suggested, adding: “The offices are close enough for people to know each other, which means that the culture is contained and controlled, as is quality.” But what about the qualities of this consistent culture? “We're not very hierarchical,” an Austin junior highlighted. “Screw the bureaucracy! I have lunch informally with the partners and there's a blurring of the 'us and them' mentality.” Those in Dallas added that “the hierarchy is still there to some degree, but it's not shoved in your face!”
“Screw the bureaucracy!”
Overall, “this isn't a turn up, shut your door, crank out work and leave” kind of place. “People catch up in the hallways and talk about their lives. There's an open dialogue that's invaluable. It's just nice to spend a day here!” The humility of “Texan values” was also detected, especially when it came to setting the tone and direction, as this Houston interviewee made clear: “We're not aspiring to be a white-shoe firm. We're not trying to be anything other than us. There's no pretension and none of that crazy ostentatious stuff!”
In Dallas, litigators were positive about “small group sessions that are staggered and build nuance upon nuance until you get the complete picture. We attend mock hearings, which are nerve-racking but people are friendly and super approachable.” Their colleagues in corporate, meanwhile, were eager to tell us about the formal “'Life cycle of a Deal' training; it has 14 parts, and sometimes we'll focus in on something as narrow as a clause in an agreement.”
“They find you mentors who are a good fit with you.”
Real estate juniors in Austin, however, were quick to highlight the benefits of informal training via “partners who invest and sit next to you on the roller coaster, as the learning curve is steep.” Mentorship was a key element of career development for Houstonites, who explained that “we get assigned both an associate and a partner mentor – that program works pretty well as they find you mentors who are a good fit with you. A lot of them take a great interest.” Looking ahead, “if you get past the third to fifth-year bump then you stay for a very long time.” The track for “becoming an income partner is pretty clear,” as internal benchmarks are accessible via “the associate portal page, so you can have a look and see if you've had the right exposure to things and get a sense of where you're at.”
“They want people to stay long-term, and are conscious of that when recruiting.” Find out more about securing an associate position at Jackson Walker by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Diversity & Inclusion
“Times are changing!” one Houstonian declared, optimistically highlighting that “the summer class this year was diverse and the younger partners are more diverse too.” Another resident here told us that despite “the majority of white male partners in the equity class, if the firm keeps doing everything that it's doing now, that make-up will change. We're on the right track and we haven't been discouraged from ruffling the diversity feathers.”
In Austin interviewees bemoaned the recent loss of “two women equity partners when they moved to another firm,” but praised JW for “being mindful of trying to grow the number of women in the partnership.” A female source in Dallas pointed to the efforts made by the firm's JW2 women's initiative and felt confident that “the firm's tying to have less attrition tied to pregnancy.” On the subject of inclusion, those in Austin were particularly enthusiastic: “We've had presentations on unconscious bias and we're being far more intentional about the actions we take.”
Litigators in Dallas especially saw the value in taking on pro bono assignments: “It's a great opportunity for us to get into the courtroom, and the firm supports it. We've got a lot going on right now with the courts asking for people to handle prisoners' rights cases.” Across the offices interviewees agreed that pro bono “is encouraged, but not mandated,” with those in Austin explaining that the firm “will support you but it's incumbent on you. You can blaze your own trail. There is a coordinator who sends out a weekly email about transactional pro bono opportunities for local companies, but it's your responsibility to contact them.” Associates can devote all 50 of their citizenship hours to pro bono work.
Pro bono hours
- For all offices: 6,951
- Average per attorney: 18.5
Jackson Walker LLP
2323 Ross Avenue,
- Head Office: Dallas, TX
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Worldwide revenue: $292,900
- Partners (US): 263 (includes senior partners)
- Associates (US): 145 (includes staff attorneys, of counsel and senior counsel
- Main recruitment contact: Bridgette Stahlman
- Hiring partner: Jim Ryan
- Diversity officer: Bruce Ruzinsky
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 13
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 18
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Austin: 11, Dallas: 11, Houston: 7, San Antonio: 2, Fort Worth: 1
- Summer salary 2019: 1Ls and 2Ls: $3,461/week
- Split summers offered? Yes|
Main areas of work
Corporate and securities; litigation; real estate; bankruptcy; energy; ERISA; environmental, regulatory and legislative; finance; healthcare; intellectual property; labor and employment; land use; tax; wealth planning.
Jackson Walker is a Texas-based law firm with a national presence and global reach. With more than 400 attorneys, we’re one of the largest firms in the state and we provide comprehensive services in a broad range of practice areas. Our practice now spans the globe and our corporate clients include some of the biggest names in business. We represent approximately 237 of the Fortune 500 companies and 69 of the Fortune 100. But we’re also a good fit for smaller companies and our clients include family-owned businesses, local and regional government agencies, individuals and nonprofit groups.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Baylor, Chicago, University of Houston, St Mary’s, Southern Methodist University, University of Pennsylvania, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Southern Legal Interview Program, Texas A&M University School of Law, South Texas, Texas Southern, University of Texas, University of Virginia, Texas on Tour Interview Program (Duke, Georgetown and Northwestern Universities), SUNBELT Minority Job Fair, Vanderbilt Job Fair, Notre Dame Texas Interview Program, Washington University in St. Louis.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We collect resumes from the following law schools’ career services offices: Louisiana State University and Texas Tech University.
Summer associate profile:
Candidates with leadership capabilities, academic excellence, strong interpersonal skills, community involvement and dedicated to practicing over the long term.
Summer program components:
We have a first half of summer program. Summers typically are placed in a practice group and work on two or three projects at a time. Feedback is provided from the assigning attorney on each project and each summer has both a partner and associate mentor. Summers have the opportunity to attend client meetings, closings, negotiations, depositions, trials and courtroom hearings.
Recruitment website: www.jw.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Electricity) (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Technology: Corporate & Commercial Recognised Practitioner