Jackson Walker LLP - The Inside View

On the hunt for a full-service firm where partnership ain’t out of reach? This Texan has got the whole Range(r). 

You don’t get more Texas than Jackson Walker; it’s a firm that’s been dedicated to the Lone Star state for over 135 years, firmly cementing itself as a Texan household name. It’s BigLaw with a Southern twang: “As a law student, I had no intention of joining BigLaw because I wanted to have time for my family. Then my law school professor introduced me to Jackson Walker.” And the rest is history.

That’s right: “The people who work at JW live a balanced life,” multiple associates echoed. Similarly, “there’s no revolving door attitude,” another told us. So, if you’re looking to be a lifer at a law firm, you may just be reading the right Inside View. Of the associates we surveyed, a whopping 92% had partnership aspirations and felt that it was a realistic achievement at JW.

“There’s no revolving door attitude.”

JW’s staying true to its one-state model, with offices across Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, San Angelo and Fort Worth. The firm’s loyalty to the state sees it pick up high praise from Chambers USA for its top-tier regional real estate know-how and is recognized as the cream of the crop in San Antonio for its corporate/M&A and general commercial litigation expertise. But let’s get one thing straight: JW’s no regional rookie. “We do work all over the nation,” an interviewee made clear. Case in point: on a national level, the firm picks up several accolades from our sister guide for its first amendment litigation and transportation (aviation litigation) prowess.

Jackson Walker is recognized as The Elite for Associate Satisfaction and three other categories in our 2024 survey.

Strategy & Future



“We continue to grow and feel like we’re still the one-stop shop for folks looking to do business in Texas,” managing partner Wade Cooper tells us. Part of this growth and comprehensive offering includes the recent addition of a public finance group in the firm’s Houston office; the firm added five partners from Orrick to build out the practice. Cooper explains: “Given all the other areas we do business in across the state, having a public finance group was a natural add.” The firm’s also bolstered its litigation offering in Houston with the addition of a duo of trial attorneys from Winston & Strawn. “Otherwise,” Cooper says, “it’s business as usual!”

Read more from Wade Cooper under the 'Get Hired' tab.

The Work



Just about half of the second- to third- year associates on our list were based in the firm’s Dallas HQ. An almost even number were spread between Houston and Austin, with just one based in Fort Worth.Just under a third practice in the firm’s litigation group (its biggest department), with the corporate, real estate, finance, and trusts & estates departments also taking on a handful of juniors each. The remainder was spread across bankruptcy, energy, ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), and land use. As for work allocation, JW’s as free market as they come. “It’s a very entrepreneurial firm,” interviewees explained. “Associates are expected to go out there, build their own careers, and make a name for themselves.” Simply ask and you shall receive: “Everything I’ve ever asked to do the firm lets me do!” one associate enthused. In general, our sources were big fans of the system as it allowed them to “trial working with different partners and build relationships,” though a few cautioned “it can be hard to navigate when you’re brand-new – just don’t let yourself go with the current completely!”

The firm’s litigation department spans a number of industries, from aviation, to oil and gas, to construction. “I’m so impressed and surprised by how much I’ve worked on and how different it’s all been,” one first-year raved. Our sources had the opportunity to get involved in matters relating to antitrust, securities, product liability and IP litigation, media defamation, and bankruptcy adversaries. As far as involvement goes, “there’s a good bit of everything!” From writing motions, pleadings, and responses to deposition prep, research, writing, and doc review, our interviewees had done it all. “There have been instances where I’ve stepped up to do something that maybe a second or third year would do, but the partner trusted that I could get it done,” a newbie gushed.

Litigation clients: ExxonMobil Group, Constellation Energy, Veritex Community Bank. Acted in a multi-district litigation on behalf of several defendants impacted by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.

“It was a trial by fire that didn’t flame out thankfully!”

The firm’s corporate practice is well versed in M&A work, with the recent rise in bankruptcy work juniors found themselves able to dabble in those cases, too. “I went from having no M&A experience to working through 13 deals! It was like a crash course,” one first-year told us, adding rather thankfully: “Through all that, partners and senior associates were happy to answer any questions I had.” The group works with clients across pretty much any industry, from financial services, to healthcare, to real estate, and, of course, energy. Juniors’ responsibilities vary depending on the size of the case team: “When I’m working with senior associates, they’ll delegate down to me as needed,” a source explained. But responsibility can also ramp up: “There was one point on a case where a few of the senior associates were on vacation and I found myself in a managerial role,” they added. “It was a trial by fire that didn’t flame out thankfully!”

Corporate clients: Digital Turbine, Novaria Holdings, Healthtronics. Advised Ilumno Holdings, a strategic growth partner for higher education institutions, in debt restructuring and new investments across Bermuda, Columbia, Panama, and Brazil.

“A lot of partners in our group have a variety of really established clients, like Fortune 100s and REITs (real estate investment trusts),” a real estate associate explained. “You could be working on luxury hotels, or multi-family apartment complex developments,” they explained. “You could be selling constructed properties or even overseeing the full life cycle by helping a client buy raw land, develop property, and then sell it off.” Matters in the department include acquisitions, dispositions, and “almost every type of real estate work you could think of.” Right off the bat juniors are fully immersed in a number of transactions. “I’m running two closings this week; I never thought I’d have this experience as a first-year,” we heard. “You’re definitely not left in the background doing diligence.”

Real estate clients: Blackstone, Braemar Hotels & Resorts, Granite Properties. Represented MD Anderson and UT Health (connected to the University of Texas) in relation to the development of a research campus set to bring $5.2 billion into Houston’s economy.

Career Development



“The assumption is everyone is on the partner track!” a first-year told us with confidence. “As soon as you accept the job, they talk to you about the eight-year plan to making partner.” The process involves a list of opportunities associates need to check off depending on their class year, as well as mid-year check-ins and end-of-year evaluations. Formal training opportunities are also plentiful depending on class year and area of practice, and business development is strongly encouraged from the get-go. For example, the firm has a Pathway to Partnership program and an in-house attorney development department. Newbies are also assigned a partner mentor and an associate mentor, though plenty of informal mentors are collected along the way, too.

“It’s a good gig!”

There was one sentiment that rang true among our sources: “As long as I’m at a law firm, it would be Jackson Walker. It’s a good gig! Being a private practice attorney is a demanding job, but JW is one of the more balanced options out there.”

Pro Bono



Associates can count up to 50 hours of pro bono towards their billable hours, though beyond that “you’re allowed to do as much as you want.” With that in mind, we heard a few grumbles over the number of billable hours allocated to pro bono: “If I had to pick an area to be most critical about, this would be it,” one associate explained. “Some pro bono matters can take more than 50 hours! It would be nice if we could get more billable credit.”

As for getting involved, juniors told us “Pro bono opportunities are as free market as anything else. There are always people working on things that you can ask to help out on.” Examples here include work for Houston Volunteer Lawyers and various other non-profits. Juniors are also able to pitch their own pro bono opportunities to the pro bono committee.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 6,335
  • Average per US attorney: 30

Culture



Culture was revered among our associate sources as being one of the firm’s strong points. “I’ve yet to witness an argument!” one associate made clear. “Associates, partners and paralegals get lunch together multiple times a week which helps foster those relationships that are crucial to building a practice,” we heard. On a macro-level, “a lot of people here are JW lifers; there are partners in leadership who grew up together.”

“The office hosts a Halloween party for the staff where the attorneys are the waiters.”

Though there’s currently no formal requirement to be in the office, this lot choose to be in-person pretty much every day. This means there’s generally a lot going on by way of social events, whether it’s in-office gatherings (“There’s always something going on in a conference room involving food…”) or weekly happy hours which, it seems, are taken very seriously. “There’s an associate tasked with sending out firmwide emails about happy hours,” we heard. “They always add a meme or two at the end and it sets off a chain of emails! It’s always a nice read on a Thursday afternoon ahead of happy hour.” It’s also a place where people can have fun at firm parties: “Every year the office hosts a Halloween party for the staff where the attorneys are the waiters. Similarly, there’s a Christmas party for our clients where the attorneys are the elves,” a Houston-based associate laughed.

Jackson Walker is recognized as an Excellent Performer in quality of life in our 2024 survey.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

Associates have a billable target of 1,950 hours in order to get a full-salary raise, with a benchmark of 2,000 hours to unlock bonuses, though there’s the understanding that first years are unlikely to hit said targets particularly with the current economic downturn. “As first years you’re told not to stress out over your billables,” one associate told us: “As long as you’re saying yes to things and doing the work you have, you’re not going to get fired!” Of course, 50 hours of the 1,950 target can be dedicated towards pro bono; however there is no billable credit available for other activities which was a slight point of contention among our interviewees. “I wish there was some degree of billable credit for firm citizenship things like recruitment and mentoring,” one associate suggested.

Regardless, our sources were appreciative of the fact that “JW’s not a firm where you’re expected to be logged on until 11pm at night.” An average day sees associates plugged in until around 6.30pm before heading off home for dinner and logging on a bit later in the evening to finish off a few tasks. “There are some nights where I don’t need to log back on at all!” one thankful associate told us.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



“I feel like the representation of women here is great,” an interviewee declared. “There are a lot of women in higher ranking positions, and we’re well represented on the management and compensation committees.” A case in point:the firm currently has 26% of women partners compared to the market average of 24.2%. There’s also a women’s initiative, called JW2 (Jackson Walker Women), which focuses on promoting and retaining women attorneys.

In terms of ethnic diversity, “it’s not the worst, but it’s also not the best,” we heard, “But since joining, I can tell they’re trying to be intentional with their hiring practices.” There are also a number of affinity groups aimed at supporting diverse lawyers and bringing issues to the forefront of peoples’ minds. Additionally, the firm hosts monthly DEI luncheons with outside speakers.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

2L OCI applicants interviewed:  72

2L Interviewees outside OCI:  32 

“Since Jackson Walker is the largest firm in Texas, we focus our recruiting on top law students who are interested in practicing in the Texas market," Jackson Walker's firm-wide hiring partner Jonathan Neerman told us. “We participate in OCIs for law schools in Texas and outside of Texas, diversity job fairs and resume drops.

OCIs are conducted by attorneys in practice areas that have a summer associate hiring need. 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, firm-wide hiring partner.

Callbacks  

2L Applicants invited to second stage interview:  41 44 

Candidates that impress at OCI get invited back for an interview with partners and associates in the office. This usually includes six-to-eight attorneys from the practice areas that the candidate has expressed an interest in. During callback, the questioning is “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:  

“The candidate should exhibit self-confidence without arrogance.”  Neerman  

Summer program  

2L Offers:  31

2L Acceptances:  23 

Jackson Walker’s summer program lasts nine weeks. Summers get work from assignment coordinators, who take into account each summer’s work preferences and the firm’s hiring needs. 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.

“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

Interview with Wade Cooper, managing partner



Commercial strategy, market position and trends

Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market? What differentiates your firm from your peer firms in Texas?

We’re clearly the largest firm in the state now; we have the broadest practice and a lot of familiarity with the state. We continue to grow and feel like we’re still the one-stop shop for folks looking to do business in Texas. We also have a number of practice areas where our practices are nationwide.

CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you’d like law students to know about?

Cooper: There are two things that stand out. Firstly, we added a public finance group with five lawyers from Orrick. Given all the other areas we do business in across the state, having a public finance group was a natural add. We also added prominent litigators from Winston & Strawn in our Houston office. Otherwise, it’s business as usual and continuing to grow with people we’re proud to call partners.

CA: With the trend of firms from out of state moving into the Texas market, what’s Jackson Walker doing to remain competitive and attract the best talent?

I don’t think anyone has the breadth of practice that we have in the state. Half the AmLaw 200 have offices in Texas now, but there are very few with the broad comprehensive ability to solve client problems. For example, we recently represented a manufacturing entity in a sizeable investment, and we were able to work on all their concerns, from environmental aspects to real estate, tax, electrical power and water procurement. We have a wrap-around suite of services that’s unique as a result of 135 years of practice in the state.

We’re also defined by our investment in the local communities. If you need contacts, we have established relationships which have been built over a long period of time.

What differentiates us is our people centric-culture and the reputation we have in the state. Folks have fun here and enjoy life! The practice of law is strenuous, so we don’t need to add to that. Jackson Walker is a place where associates can pursue a work-life balance all the way through to partnership.

CA: As a full-service firm with an array of practices you’re well set up to face economic headwinds where certain practices may be down while others are particularly busy. Which practices are currently thriving at the firm given current economic trends?

It’s an interesting time period. It’s the first time in a long time we’ve seen transactional slow down. Early in my career it’s something we saw every six to eight years. Conversely, our litigation practice and some of our other practices – energy, bankruptcy, trusts and estates, healthcare, and immigration – are very busy.

Inside the Firm

CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers?

It’s about training and preparation. We don’t hire people as cannon fodder; we don’t hire more than we need. We’re very intentional about making sure everyone has a pathway that leads them towards success.

We recognize that people cannot be in the office every day; we’re finding ways to balance the transfer of intellectual and social capital. Partners train folks in every aspect of their job. We’re intentional about getting associates the experiences that they need and the training that they need. We show them how to go get clients, how to help clients and endear yourselves to them. We spend a lot of time talking about how to be a good manager and good leaders.

It’s a place where you’re likely to find your best friends, too.

CA: What’s the firm’s approach to bolstering diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Our intention is to look like our state and our clients. Recruiting diverse lawyers at the law schools is not terribly difficult; but there’s a lot of great competition. But training people and putting them in a position to succeed is where we spend more time and differentiate ourselves. I don’t think there are many other firms that spend as much time training lawyers as we do. We don’t expect people to show up here and know how to be good lawyers or leaders. We hope to support our associates in their journey to become partners by giving them the skills and the opportunities to succeed – technical skills, but also business development and leadership skills – and then continuing to support them in their development all the way to partnership and beyond. We want to ensure that everyone feels like they belong at the firm, no matter what they look like or who they love. We want people to feel like they’re at home.

One of the fun things we do is diversity luncheons with different speakers. We also have different affinity groups which are open to everyone, but focused on recognizing unique circumstances that people have. We’re preparing people to be successful, and it’s not an easy time for diverse folks. We want people to know the firm has got their back as best we can.

The Legal Profession

CA: How do you predict the legal profession will change in the next five years? Are there any particular challenges the industry is facing?

We’re in a very interesting and unique time. COVID taught us we can have different relationships with the office, and that we can maintain our culture while spending some time working away from the office. Geography is becoming less and less important in terms of client relationships with firms. The focus is more on expertise and depth of experience. We have a lot of clients for whom we do work who are not just focused on Texas. Our bricks and mortar are in Texas, but a lot of our work is outside the state. The industry is stratifying around experience and skill rather than geography. That said, local experience is still very important in some circumstances, but it’s not the only factor now. Other law firms are increasingly becoming some of our best clients and we’re building good relationships with firms across the country. Having the ability to align ourselves with other great firms to serve mutual clients has been an interesting and welcome experience over the last few years.

The Fun Bit

CA: Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self starting out your career?

A few things! I’m on a health-kick now; I’ve gotten into rucking. I’d tell my younger self to take better care.

Second thing, I think, at an earlier age, I would’ve focused more on what I wanted to do and become an expert.

I also would’ve told myself to be optimistic and buy real estate because everything’s going to be ok!

CA: Is there a movie/TV show/books about lawyers or the legal profession that you particularly enjoy? And how accurate would you say it is?

I love Boston Legal! It’s not at all accurate but I enjoy the camaraderie piece. It also had a managing partner I could identify with. The Verdict with Paul Newman is also good. And The Paper Chase! It came out when I was a young law student. Some of it is accurate. It’s got some epic lines and iconic scenes.

 

Jackson Walker LLP

2323 Ross Avenue,
Suite 600,
Dallas,
TX 75201
Website www.jw.com

Main areas of work
Corporate and securities; litigation; real estate; bankruptcy; energy; EBEC; environmental; regulatory and legislative; finance; healthcare; immigration; intellectual property; labor and employment; land use; public finance; tax; trusts and estates.

Firm profile
Jackson Walker is a Texas-based law firm with a national presence and global reach. With more than 500 attorneys and more than 135 years of experience, we’re the largest firm in Texas and one of the 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 non-profits.

Firm Facts:
• We represent 6 of the Fortune 10, 45 of the Fortune 100, and 167 of the Fortune 500.
• Our attorneys have represented clients in more than 85 countries and territories.
• We are currently ranked nationally in 25 practice areas in the U.S. News “Best Law Firms” rankings, we have seventeen 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 high quality work and deal directly with clients early in their careers.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
Baylor, University of Houston, St Mary’s University, Southern Methodist University, South Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech and the University of Texas.

Recruitment outside OCIs: We participate in the following Texas-based interview programs at: Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Washington & Lee, WashU. JW focuses on diversity and participates in the following diversity job fairs: Sunbelt Minority Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Southeastern Law School Consortium (f/k/a 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 dedication 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 an 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 the firmwide summer associate event, volunteer events, client visits, partner events, associates night out, cooking classes, fitness activities, sporting events and any number of informal gatherings.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.jw.com/careers
Linkedin: jackson-walker-llp
Facebook: JacksonWalkerLLP
Instagram: jacksonwalker_llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Electricity) (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • First Amendment Litigation (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 3)

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