You’ll never walk alone at Lone Star State firm Jackson Walker, where “partners trust you and push you out of your comfort zone."
If this ain’t your first rodeo then you’ll know that Jackson Walker is a big ol’ bronco in the Lone Star State. The firm recruits from all over the nation, but associates found common ground in their love of all things Texas – “it’s strange for someone with no ties to Texas to be at JW.” With its HQ in Dallas, and offices in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Texarkana, associates should be ready and rarin' to get stuck into the trademark “Southern, familial culture.” However, make no mistake: although Jackson Walker’s roots may be firmly planted in Texas, the fruits of the firm’s labor can be tasted across the nation and worldwide, with attorneys having represented clients in over 85 countries and territories.
“Southern, familial culture.”
Chambers USAranks Jackson Walker in its home state in over a dozen areas, some of which include litigation, corporate and commercial technology, energy, and healthcare. Most notably, the firm’s real estate expertise is recognized as among the very best in Texas, leaving interviewees feeling that a junior associate role at JW was certainly hot property. Sources also felt that JW provided “better opportunities to get hands-on work compared to other big firms,” while one particular associate was drawn to the fact that the firm was “regional, but with the resources of a national firm.”
Strategy & Future
On the growth front, JW is fully focused on further developing its existing offices in all practice areas. In particular, managing partner Wade Cooper highlights: “We want to get more young lawyers in all areas but especially transactional.” There is a strong sense that JW recognizes their associates as the future of the firm and is proactive in equipping them for a successful career. As such, "I think Jackson Walker invests more in training young associates than anyone else in Texas,” according to Cooper. “It’s important to instill the right values and habits early on and get the next generations up and running. We want to be a place where young associates can have their best career.” These sentiments resonated with our associate sources who attested to the fact that JW is “fully invested in developing its associates.” One associate explained: “Partners trust you and push you out of your comfort zone. You learn a lot and feel nurtured along the way.”
Beyond the standard formal attorney development program at the firm, sources felt the informal career development – experienced through close contact with partners – was the most helpful. One first-year associate reminisced about their past year at the firm: “I’m shocked at how much my responsibility has progressed over the course of a year! Partners really push you out of the nest. I am now able to be in control of my practice to a certain extent.”
"There are lots of partners who started here from day one.”
Our interviewees also felt partnership was achievable and the path to getting there was pretty clear. Multiple sources also stated that they would not leave JW to join another big law firm, and although some noticed there had been some associate departures between third and fifth year (largely to go in-house), others noted “there are lots of partners who started here from day one.” For example, one highlighted “my supervisor started their career here, and has stayed for 40 years!”
Over half of juniors were situated in the HQ office in Dallas, with the rest spread between Austin, Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Litigation stood out as the most popular practice destination among associates, while other destinations included corporate, real estate and land use groups. Summer associates will have a work coordinator, but once you level up and become an associate, work assignments generally adopt a free market style where “the work picks you!” One associate described the organic nature of work assignment: “Someone will be walking down the hall and say ‘Hey, I’ve got a project. Do you want to work on it?’ You hit it off with certain people and then get repeat business!” Emphasis is therefore placed on building relationships with partners as they are often the main sources of work. Associates shared the opinion that “partners look out for you” and “will take a peek at your hours to avoid overburdening you.”
JW’s litigation group frequents courthouses across Texas. JW represents clients ranging from individuals to Fortune 500 companies, allowing associates to get a feel for the type of work they prefer. The team works on cases ranging from construction to aviation (including airline personal injury claims) as well as matters involving areas like oil and gas and antitrust. JW also boasts a range of subgroups that juniors can dip in and out of, including patent litigation, patent infringement, First Amendment, and entertainment. Luckily for juniors, they can sample this whole range: “I prefer that you don’t have to have a niche and can get involved in all kinds of work.” Another elaborated: “The benefit of regional law is the small associate pool. In smaller matters I get to take the lead; I often get to be the primary contact with the client and argue hearings. The experience in larger cases is more meaningful; I got to draft portions of a Fifth Circuit brief, as well as motions for judgment.”
Litigation clients: EnVen Energy Corporation, Sanderson Farms, and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Represented the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) in a dispute regarding an overriding royalty interest in an oil and gas lease.
On the corporate front, associates spend a lot of time on M&A matters, as well as private equity investments, venture financing, and corporate governance. The practice has notable experience in telecommunications, energy, healthcare, and technology industries, which are highlighted in the Chambers USA guides. Associates can also get the opportunity to work with investment funds and take part in cross-border deals. Sources described a “certain learning curve” to the practice, particularly on larger M&A deals, but also appreciated that they could get stuck into areas like venture financing – “something that excites me!” Due diligence was a key part of juniors’ responsibilities, but other tasks included drafting purchase agreements, general deal management, and handling client relationships.
Corporate clients: NuStar Energy, Goldman Sachs, and Kendra Scott. Represented Design Space Modular Buildings in its $260 million sale to McGrath RentCorp.
Although the intake of junior associates into the firm's real estate practice may be smaller in comparison to corporate and litigation, the practice is still a force to be reckoned with in Texas. Typically, the team advises clients on everything from acquisitions and leasings, through to financings of commercial real estate portfolios. Junior had also dabbled in a fair bit of the latter, in particular on “the lending side, dealing with giving loans for buying land or construction/development loans for large real estate projects.”
Real estate clients: American Airlines, Forestar Group, and Blackstone. Represented The University of Texas at Austin in negotiations of a ground lease by The 2033 Higher Education Development Foundation of two blocks in Central Health’s Downtown Brackenridge District in Austin.
Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
Associates are encouraged to complete 50 non-billable hours, known as ‘firm citizenship hours’, which covers things like training, and business development. 50 hours of pro bono can now be included in the 1,950 target. It is particularly encouraged among junior associates as it provides an “opportunity to speak to clients” and gain “early hands-on experience with far more responsibility.” The firm has a range of opportunities available, including several eviction cases, Covid-related matters, and cases working with women in prison.
Complete both your billable and non-billable hours and you’re in for a treat. Associates who reach (or exceed) the 2,000-hour annual target move up in the ‘salary matrix’. For first and second years, bonuses are based solely on hours, whereas from third year onwards there are more discretionary elements such as firm revenue, quality of work, and dedication to the firm. When asked to describe a good week, one interviewee reckoned they would work approximately 50 hours, while a heavier week would be upwards of 70.
"People care about helping others succeed.”
At the time of our interviews, all attorneys were back in the office. Hybrid work is available, though there is no official policy - associates can discuss where they need to be with their practice group leaders. “As long as you’re doing your work and meeting deadlines, office time is flexible.” Moving forward, the general understanding among our associate interviewees was that the firm wanted to return to the office as soon as safely possible. This was in line with a comment from Wade Cooper: “At JW, we believe in being together as much as possible, but individual circumstances take priority.”
Pro bono hours
- For all offices: 5,858
- Average per attorney: 15
Now, less about the working hours, and more about the happy hours. Multiple interviewees spoke about weekly happy hours, held on different days depending on office location. “Everyone makes a point to go. We have a really tight-knit community,” recounted one associate. More informally, one source noted “we hang out and go to lunch constantly!” Many put this feeling of ease around one another down to the firm’s southern, familial culture. “Peers aren’t competing against each other – it’s small class sizes on purpose. It’s super collaborative, and people care about helping others succeed.” One Dallas associate spoke fondly of their in-person call-back interview: “I immediately noticed the atmosphere was different than other big law firms. People generally seemed happy; morale was high and people enjoyed working together.” Similarly, down in Austin, an associate explained that it “wasn’t a chop-shop. Lots of big national firms wouldn't know your name, but at JW you’re not just a number.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“We want our team of lawyers to look like our communities. We’ve made good strides, but as Texas is evolving, there’s still a lot of work to do,” explains Wade Cooper. And according to Cooper, currently more than 20% of associates are from diverse backgrounds. Most sources agreed that the firm does well at hiring women and minorities at the junior end, though noted that more could be done to improve retention of both. One effort to address this was the recent establishment of a Diversity & Inclusion committee. There is also a once-a-month event called ‘Together We Dine’ where current events surrounding race issues are discussed and awareness is raised.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 38
Interviewees outside OCI: 29
“Since Jackson Walker is a Texas firm, we focus on Texas law schools and participate in OCIs at UT, Baylor, UH, South Texas, Texas Southern, SMU, and St. Mary’s," Jackson Walker's statewide hiring partner Jonathan Neerman told us. You’ll notice there are a lot of non-OCI applicants in the data above. The firm attends four Texas-based interview programs: Notre Dame Dallas Interview Program, Southern Legal Interview Program (SLIP), Texas on Tour (for Dallas and Houston), and the WashU Texas Interview Program. It also recruits from diversity job fairs and resume drops.
OCIs are conducted by hiring partners and attorneys from local recruiting committees. During the OCI interview, JW interviewers ask questions to “learn more about the candidate’s background and experience” to figure out whether what they are looking for in a firm “is consistent with what JW offers.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The interviewer and I really hit it off. It was already a laid back and relaxed atmosphere.” – a junior associate
“Learn about our firm and the interviewers in advance of the interview so you can ask informed questions that demonstrate your interest in our firm.” – Jonathan Neerman, hiring partner
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 28
Candidates that impress at OCI get invited back for an interview with partners and associates from the recruiting committee. This usually includes six-to-eight attorneys from the practice areas that the candidate has expressed an interest. During callback, the questioning is to “to see whether the candidate possesses the core qualities that JW finds lead to success at our firm.” These qualities include “a strong work ethic, leadership capabilities, a strong academic record and self-motivation.” Candidates should again arrive “prepared to ask questions and provide answers that show particular interest in the firm and the interviewers,” with a focus on career longevity
Top tips for this stage:
“I have high hopes for Jackson Walker. I don’t anticipate leaving or making a move; I’d like to stay here my whole career.”– a junior associate
“The candidate should exhibit self-confidence without arrogance.” – Neerman
Jackson Walker’s summer program lasts nine weeks. Summers get work from assignment coordinators, who take into account each summer’s work preferences. The program involves professional development training including CLEs, in-house education programs and a mentorship program. “In addition to substantive work assignments, summer associates will have the opportunity to participate in a mock trial or hearing based on an active case, or a mediation seminar," we heard.
During the summer program, the firm is aware of which practice groups want to hire a first-year attorney. The summer associates who have expressed an interest in those practice areas will get work assignments from those practice areas: “At the end of the summer, those practice areas will give a practice group specific offer to 2L summer associates.” Neerman advises summers to “produce excellent work product and take a genuine interest in coming to know as many attorneys in the office as possible.”
Notable summer events: volunteer events, client visits, partner events, associates night out, cooking classes, fitness activities, sporting events and informal gatherings.
Top tips for this stage:
“Be confident, engage with the attorneys and staff, express genuine interest in the firm and produce excellent work.” – Neerman
“They also have a lot of meetings to generate feedback about different summers and interactions they’ve had. Those are taken seriously in terms of if someone is a good culture fit for the firm – they really do look at that. If someone has good grades and good work but we thought they didn’t fit in culturally, we’d be hesitant about hiring that person.” – a junior associate
Jackson Walker LLP
2323 Ross Avenue,
- Head Office: Dallas, TX
- Number of domestic offices: 7
- Worldwide revenue: $305,454,000
- Partners (US): 282
- Associates (US): 169 (includes staff attorneys, of counsel and senior counsel
- Main recruitment contact: Meghan Pier
- Hiring partner: Jonathan Neerman
- Diversity officer: Suzan Kedron
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 15
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 22, 2Ls: 17
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Austin: 8, Dallas: 12, Fort Worth: 3, Houston: 12, San Antonio: 4
- Summer salary 2022: 1Ls and 2Ls: $3,653/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, business immigration.
Jackson Walker is a Texas-based law firm with a national presence and global reach. With more than 450 attorneys and more than 135 years of experience, we’re one of the largest and most knowledgeable firms in the state. Our confident, yet approachable lawyers help companies of all sizes navigate today’s increasingly complex, interconnected legal landscape. Our corporate clients include some of the biggest names in business, but we also represent family-owned businesses, local and regional government agencies, individuals, and nonprofits.
• We represent 6 of the Fortune 10, 17 of the Fortune 50, 35 of the Fortune 100, and 134 of the Fortune 500.
• Our attorneys have represented clients in more than 85 countries and territories.
• We are currently ranked nationally in 27 practice areas in the U.S. News “Best Law Firms” rankings and we have nine Chambers-ranked practice groups. Jackson Walker has a high partner-to-associate ratio, and we take pride in staffing clients’ matters efficiently. Our associates are expected to take on responsibility right from the start. With a broad client base, our associates handle a wide variety of quality work and deal directly with clients early in their careers.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022: Baylor, University of Houston, St Mary’s, Southern Methodist University, South Texas, Texas Southern, University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
Recruitment outside OCIs: We participate in the following Texas based interview programs: Notre Dame Dallas Interview Program, Southern Legal Interview Program (SLIP), Texas on Tour Interview Program (UVA, Georgetown and Northwestern), Duke, Penn Law Regional Program, Vanderbilt Job Fair and the WashU Texas Interview Program. JW focuses on diversity and participates in the following diversity job fairs: Sunbelt Minority Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Southwest Black Law Student Job Fair and Lavender Law Career Fair. We also recruit students attending out of state law schools who have previously lived in Texas and who apply online or submit their resumes through resume drops.
Summer associate profile: Candidates with leadership capabilities, academic excellence, self-motivation, strong interpersonal skills, community involvement and dedicated to practicing over the long term.
Summer program components: The JW summer program lasts nine weeks. Summer associates are placed in a practice area with their preferences taken into account and receives both a partner and associate mentor. In addition to substantive work assignments, summer associates will have the opportunity to participate in a mock trial/hearing based on an active case, or a mediation seminar. We also include social events each week that highlight each city. These include statewide summer associate event, volunteer events, client visits, partner events, associates night out, cooking classes, fitness activities, sporting events and any number of informal gatherings.
Recruitment website: www.jw.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Electricity) (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
- Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 3)
Texas: Austin & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
Texas: Dallas, Fort Worth & Surrounds
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
Texas: San Antonio & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- First Amendment Litigation (Band 2)
Watch: Why Jackson Walker?
A glimpse of Jackson Walker's culture:
Jackson Walker's women's initiative:
Careers and attorney development at Jackson Walker: