Texas-born Jackson Walker will not only pledge loyalty to its Lone Star State, but also to its home-grown associates.
'Don't mess with Texas,' so the slogan goes, but if you're in a Texas courtroom, we'd say 'don't mess with Jackson Walker.' No firm in our research is as synonymous with the Texas legal market as JW. “We offer the most comprehensive coverage for businesses operating in the state of Texas, both geographically and by practice area. We also have a number of practice areas that have national prominence,” explains managing partner Wade Cooper. With Chambers USA recognizing the firm’s real estate practice as one of the very best in Texas, and also rating JW highly in areas like energy, environment, corporate/M&A, healthcare, labor & employment, and general commercial litigation, Cooper has a point.
"It’s certainly somewhere I can see myself spending my whole career.”
Across this seven-office network, our associate sources spoke highly of the “interesting work and a great culture of community and mentorship.” It goes without saying that a commitment to Texas was a must among associates. The firm rewards that commitment with fast career progression; Jackson Walker is one of the stronger performers in our career development ranking. Associates explained: “A lot of responsibility is pushed down to the lower levels, which is great since we get the opportunity to have real experience. It’s certainly somewhere I can see myself spending my whole career.”
Strategy & Future
Cooper elaborates on the firm’s state loyalty: “Our strategy is to grow within our existing footprint. We have a number of practices nationally, but our bricks and mortar are in Texas. Even in terms of the wins, we’ve had a handful of our lawyers involved in representing the seller of the land for the new Tesla plant in Austin. Another headline has been our workload in the bankruptcy practice. In this pandemic, we’ve played a very prominent role in this area, and part of it is that Houston has become a preferred venue for bankruptcy filings,” explains Cooper.
“We do big ones and we do fast ones.”
“So, we have two ends of the business spectrum with helping companies come to Texas from other states, which has become very popular, as well as those restructuring. We do big ones and we do fast ones.” Associates were on the same wavelength, commenting that the firm is “content with its current place in the market. Staying inside of Texas is our niche.”
At the time of our research, just under half of the associates were in Dallas, with the rest spread across Austin, Houston and one in Fort Worth. JW’s corporate and securities groups are the most common destinations for new arrivals; groups including environment, wealth planning, finance, and real estate take juniors too. Work assignment across the firm is based on “the associate-partner relationship, which in essence is the spirit of the firm,” according to one corporate junior. We heard “there’s no central management of work flow – the onus is on the individual. Sure, it can be tough at first, but as a first and second-year you get to work with a really broad spectrum of partners, and as time goes on, the natural evolution is to work with a more select number.”
In corporate and securities, associates tend to work on traditional M&A matters, investor-side hedge fund or private equity investments, corporate governance and securities, as well as seeing some fund formation deals. “We certainly specialize in the healthcare industry on M&A transactions,” stated one junior. Other sectors include energy, education, technology, manufacturing, construction, biomedical, financial, and “a lot of real estate.” When it comes to the day-to-day running of the department, “no two days are the same” for our interviewees… aside from the due diligence of course. “Responsibilities have gone beyond what is standard for first and second-years." For example, "we handle the client relationship management, but at the same time, there aren’t many people junior or immediately senior to our class, and so we handle the basics in addition,” explained a source. Tasks include drafting management, purchase and employment agreements, “and on the business side, we get things ready for the transaction to take place.” Cross-office work across Austin, Dallas and Houston is commonplace for corporate associates.
Corporate and securities clients: Whataburger, Acelity, Accord Capital Partners. Represented NuStar Energy, a liquids terminal and pipeline operator, on the $250 million sale of its storage terminal in the Caribbean to Prostar Capital.
"I’m now at a point where I can run the discovery process to some extent and draft complaints and petitions.”
On the litigation front, JW is a dominant force across Texas, with courthouse presence ranging from Dallas, Houston and Austin to the Rio Grande Valley and the Gulf Coast. Chambers USA recognizes the department particularly for its work in the energy sector and general commercial. “Dallas is the O.G. when it comes to litigation – we have a very robust practice here. It’s pretty general here, but we do have attorneys that specialise in IP,” explained one junior. Austin leads the way in pipeline eminent domain work; San Antonio takes on a lot of foreign trade cases; and Fort Worth is the place to be for commercial disputes including title litigation. Associate responsibilities follow a natural progression: “Having just wrapped up my first year, I’ve worked on and drafted a deposition motion, and a summary motion, liaised with the third-party vendor, and handled the production and reviewing of documents. I’m now at a point where I can run the discovery process to some extent and draft complaints and petitions,” reminisced one litigator. Juniors can also get a taste of the courtroom life by attending mediations and depositions.
Litigation clients: Google, ABC, Lone Star Transmission. Acts as counsel to publicly traded company Era Group in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against SpaceX.
The environmental regulatory and legislative practice may house fewer associates in comparison to corporate and litigation, but it’s on a par when it comes to the vast array of practices it encompasses. The team works on deals, contentious matters and regulation with a focus on renewable energy, water infrastructure and quality, air quality, power and Superfund litigation. Houston is the energy hub, and Austin takes a bigger cut of the regulatory work including public utility commissions and permits. Associates see “a pretty good split between litigation and transactional work, and the close-knit, leanly staffed nature of the group leads to getting substantive and engaging experience.” Juniors can expect to draft pleadings and motions, prepare and listen in on depositions and communicate directly with clients. One associate mentioned taking on “large CERCLA cases, as well as taking point on environmental diligence in the bankruptcy context.”
Environmental clients: Chevron, Novartis, ExxonMobil. Represented Longview Power in negotiations with state and federal regulators on the implementation of a carbon dioxide emission rate at a power plant under the Affordable Clean Energy Rule.
The light-hearted Texan culture can be found in every corner of JW. “There’s certainly a difference in culture and personality depending on the city, but overall, people don’t take themselves too seriously. We’re laid back but our work product is a priority for us all,” explained associates. Those in Houston took particular note of “the familial vibe” and stated how “it’s probably the most diverse office out of all JW offices.”
“It was as advertised. The people care about us personally, and not just the hours we log.”
On the work front, interviewees appreciated how “it’s not one of those firms that uses associates as billable hour generators and grinds us to dust. They don’t want us to be miserable.” Another added: “It was as advertised. The people care about us personally, and not just the hours we log.”
The remote working era has certainly affected this extroverted bunch: “We do a lot of happy hours, almost every Thursday. On the first weekend of the summer, we typically go to a partner's house in the morning and have breakfast tacos and then get on a boat. Summer nights would then go on till midnight on some weekdays,” recounted a source.
"Half of the newly elected partners are women."
Diversity & Inclusion
“In most recent years, our summer classes have represented women and minorities well, and I know this year, half of the newly elected partners are women. The JW² women’s initiative also holds meetings and I feel confident in saying that the firm has embraced diversity in this regard,” said associates. On the ethnic minority front, “there’s still work to be done.” Reflecting on the BLM movements of 2020, interviewees assured us that “in light of the cultural and social injustices, a lot of discussions have taken place internally, which I think is great.” The firm hosts weekly lunch-and-learn sessions, some of which are centered around discussions of race and injustice. “We also have a book club in which we tackled readings directed at race and the US.”
“I feel confident in saying that the firm has embraced diversity in this regard.”
The firm also encourages “an open dialogue surrounding mental health and stress, and they’ve done a great job of staying connected.” Juniors get assigned two mentors, one being a partner and another a younger associate, allowing more informal conversations.
We found it rather adorable that some associates described JW as their 'foreverfirm', which echoes our research in previous years. “The fact that the current partners have been here for 30-plus years, and the investment in young associates, is what attracted me,” said a junior. “Alongside a pretty rigid associate development program with annual benchmarks, there’s a path to partnership track for midlevel and senior associates. There’s also a great emphasis on improving in business development.”
“There’s not a whole lot of firm-jumping from JW.”
Departmental-wide training is also routine: “We’ve had negotiation courses, M&A training, and financial statements training for transactional finance,” explained corporate associates. If people decide to carve another path, sources quoted clerkships and going to work with the government – “there’s not a whole lot of firm jumping from JW.”
The firm encourages associates to complete 50 ‘firm citizenship hours’ each year, which covers pro bono as well as recruiting and business development. Projects are solicited through a pro bono coordinator in each office, and they send out constant updates. “There’s a pretty broad range of opportunities available. We’ve been answering legal lines during the pandemic, as well as helping to set up nonprofit organizations with their governance documents.” The firm has also partnered with the University of Houston to have attorneys working on the “overflow of cases of juvenile records, which have been automatically sealed.”
Pro bono hours
- For all offices: 5,845
- Average per attorney: 31
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
That's the requirement for associates to get their annual salary increase; 2,000 and above bags them a tiered bonus. “It’s pretty manageable. The bonuses are also tightly tied to the number of hours that you bill above the minimum hour requirement,” one junior told us. Associates were a little critical that, although “the salary scale is generous, it doesn’t match Cravath all the way to the top.” Some associates suggested “lowering the billable hour requirement” in response to this.
Interviewees’ regular hours were 8:30–9am to 7pm on average, “and if there are any major projects, it could extend potentially past midnight, but this isn’t a back-to-back case.” Those in the corporate group mentioned that “the partners value face-to-face interaction, so the current remote setting pains them. I guess it’s a personality thing, as they’re extroverted. Hopefully the ability to stay remote will continue post-COVID-19.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus for Summer 2021
OCI applicants interviewed: 51
Interviewees outside OCI: 177
“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 Jim Ryan 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 JW 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.” – hiring partner Jim Ryan
Callbacks for Summer 2021
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 61
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.” – hiring partner Jim Ryan
Upcoming 2021 Summer program
1L & 2L Offers: 51
Summer Associate Acceptances: 25
Summer salary 2022: 1Ls and 2Ls: $3,846/week
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.” Ryan 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.” – hiring partner Jim Ryan
“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): 260
- Associates (US): 162 (includes staff attorneys, of counsel and senior counsel
- Main recruitment contact: Meghan Pier
- Hiring partner: Jim Ryan
- Diversity officer: Suzan Kedron
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 14
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 12, 2Ls: 15
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Austin: 8, Dallas: 9, Fort Worth: 1, Houston: 8, San Antonio: 1
- Summer salary 2021: 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.
Jackson Walker is a Texas-based law firm with a national presence and global reach. With more than 400 attorneys and more than 130 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, we have nine Chambers-ranked practice groups, and we’ve been recognized in the BTI Client Service A-Team List multiple times 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 2021: Baylor, University of Houston, St Mary’s, Southern Methodist University, South Texas, Texas Southern, University of Texas.
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), Penn Law Regional Program, Vanderbilt Job Fair and the WashU Texas Interview Program. JW focuses on diversity and participates in the following di¬versity 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, 2021
- 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 4)
- 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: San Antonio & Surrounds
- 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: