Jenner & Block LLP - The Inside View

Don’t be shocked by the pro bono that they clock, it’s still, it’s still Jenner & Block.

PREPARE yourself for semantic satiation – the sensation you get when you see a word so many times it starts to look like it isn’t a word. Because at Jenner & Block, associates’ praise began and ended with pro bono. “I always heard that Jenner has a strong pro bono culture,” one said, “but I didn’t realize just how strong it was until I got here. It’s not overstating things to say it’s why a lot of Jenner attorneys got into law in the first place.” On average attorneys here clock up more pro bono hours than any other firm in Chambers Associate – around 165 a year. Across Jenner’s offices, associates told tales of working on asylum, First Amendment, criminal defense, and 1983 Civil Rights cases.

All of this do-gooding has a substantial foundation to rest on in the form of Jenner's commercial practice, which is made up mostly of litigation, with a bit of transactional work for good measure. In Illinois Jenner's general commercial, insurance, white-collar, and media & entertainment litigation practices are all top-ranked by Chambers USA, and nationally the firm is recognized for areas like appellate law, corporate crime & investigations, ERISA litigation, IP, and international arbitration. The media & entertainment practice is also ranked top in DC and highly in New York and California. The firm's clients include music moguls Jay-Z and Kanye West, plus record labels and music studios. 

Jenner has four US offices – Chicago, DC, New York, and LA – and an international base in London. The Chicago office is the firm’s largest “by a significant margin. A lot of the manpower is based here, especially at the junior level” – half of juniors called Chicago home at the time of our calls, with the rest split between evenly between LA, DC and New York.

The Work

Over 70% of Jenner’s juniors are litigators; most are “considered a general litigation associate until the fourth year when you elect primary and secondary practice groups.” Commercial litigation is the largest subgroup. It handles “matters for big corporations,” such as class actions, securities litigation, and contract disputes. One Chicago associate happily reported: “I’m not doing a ton of doc review or one-off research memos. If I’m doing research it’s usually because I’m writing a portion of a brief.” A consumer class action case “provided the biggest opportunities” for one interviewee, who told us: “I have weekly calls with the client and they email me directly.”

“I wrote a whole appellate brief.”

Other litigation subgroups include trade secrets; IP; patent litigation; media & entertainment; and investigations & compliance. The latter handles government and internal investigations, and monitorships. Interviewees told us “juniors are responsible for knowing the facts,” with one reflecting that “partners have a sense of the forest while juniors have a better idea of the trees, so partners will reach out to you. I helped a partner take a client to an interview with the Department of Justice. That was pretty intense!” The media & entertainment practice is a key group in New York, DC and LA, acting for clients from the worlds of music and the arts. LA also has a robust professional responsibilities group, which represents other BigLaw firms. “A typical case is that a firm gets sued when a transaction goes wrong or litigation gets ugly,” an associate explained, “so we step in and defend them.” There was “obviously some doc review and a lot of legal research,” along with more exciting work. “I wrote a whole appellate brief and worked with the client to get it to their satisfaction,” one junior reported. “We’re going to argue it in the Court of Appeals in a couple of months!”

Litigation clients: Warner Bros, Universal Studios, and Hertz. Defended 20th Century Fox against copyright allegations concerning the screenplay for Gone Girl.

At the time of our research there were just one or two juniors respectively in the government contracts, real estate, environment, and employee benefits & compensation groups, while corporate was home to roughly 10% of juniors. Interviewees in corporate described doing “a lot of M&A and financing for large, institutional clients.” Juniors handle “the logistical side and the organization – diving into the nuances of a deal.” Additionally, “you often get a stab at drafting, and the partner will revise it if it’s complicated.”

Corporate clients: Honeywell, US Foods, and General Motors. Represented aerospace and defense multinational General Dynamics in its $9.7 billion acquisition of IT company CSRA.

In smaller groups like corporate, assignments “come down naturally” to juniors from partners. Litigation associates described a “free-market system with a safety net” in the form of assignment partners monitoring weekly availability. Sources liked that this “forces you to be a self-starter”– one junior “emailed the partners I enjoyed working with in summer a few weeks before starting, so I had cases lined up when I arrived.” There can be “some anxiety trying to plan” workloads, but in Chicago new starters are “usually assigned one billable matter and one pro bono matter” straight away. Smaller offices like LA usually have “a stack of assignments” lined up for rookies.

Pro Bono 

Getting staffed on pro bono on arrival is guaranteed. Right away, Chicago associates were “working with advocates to implement legislative changes that would have a positive impact on lower income people in Illinois.” New York associates were “investigating the habeas system in Texas and writing a comment to the Department of Justice about its inadequacies.” The DC office “is constantly doing appellate work,” while LA associates recently got the chance to work on a murder trial. There are corporate opportunities too, like “handling smaller residential real estate transactions.”

“I’m sometimes concerned I’m doing too much, but no one has said so.”

Associates thought the firm’s 20-hour pro bono target was “pretty doable. They’ll reach out to you if you haven’t hit it.” We heard of one pro bono fanatic who had hit the target ten times over, recording over 200 pro bono hours in a year. “I’m sometimes concerned I’m doing too much,” one interviewee admitted, “but no one has said so.” Another junior observed: “People can get locked in on tons of pro bono, so they can’t take on billable work. If that happens someone can help you manage it.” Given this statement you might be wondering if it’s all a little too much. But associates insisted “there’s no pressure per se. It’s just something we constantly discuss and which is very much built into the culture.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 83,190
  • Average per attorney: 165


Along with the firm's big pro bono focus, associates singled out mentorship as a key feature of Jenner’s culture. “Right away people are focused on giving you guidance,” one Chicago source said. Another reported that, while they were doing pro bono work, “the partner was like, ‘You should depose the witnesses because that’s more experience for you.’ It felt good that that was in the forefront of his mind. And that’s true with a lot of partners.” Of course in such a big office there's “always going to be the outlier who’s difficult to work with,” but juniors can let off some steam at Chicago’s weekly running club or the Friday happy hour on the top floor.

“A big internal study on how women attorneys felt they were treated.”

Jenner’s three other US offices are much smaller than Chicago. As a result, a New York associate felt: “We’re all very friendly across practice groups.” Similarly an LA junior described a tight-knit associate group: “When I messed something up, people really went to bat for me and made sure partners knew I had done the work well.”

Associates felt the overall firm atmosphere “comes back to the fact we’re a big pro bono firm. A certain type of person comes to BigLaw and, on top of the demanding hours, wants to commit to pro bono – the type of person who’s invested in others.” What’s more, associates noticed “non-traditional” backgrounds among their peers and felt this “precipitates a well-balanced environment for people whose identity is not only a BigLaw attorney.” In LA for example, “several partners are academics, and some folks have worked in public interest or government.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Jenner subscribes to the Mansfield rule and its 2019 partner class had four non-white attorneys and a 50/50 gender split (out of a total of 12 partner promotions), which didn’t escape associates’ notice. “Some women made partner here even while on maternity leave,” one source commented, though another noted it's still the case that “the equity partnership might not always have the ideal makeup.” In 2018 Jenner's Women's Forum commissioned “an internal survey on how women attorneys felt they were treated and how attainable they felt partnership was.” The results have led to new initiatives and programs being implemented at the firm.

Sources also praised the firm for “constantly putting on training to ward against implicit bias during interviews” and described “a huge number of incoming LGBT associates” – Jenner has a higher proportion of LGBTQ associates than any other firm in Chambers Associate. Click here to read more about LGBTQ inclusion at Jenner.

Career Development

Litigation juniors get yearly training with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. “Last year was about expert witnesses,” one junior reported. “This year was about impeachment!”

We were told that the firm's focus is on nurturing homegrown talent through the ranks; in their third year associates choose a partnership track mentor. If associates do desire to leave, then Jenner has “a confidential program that helps to place people outside the firm.” Juniors were also encouraged to see “a lot of folks going in and out of government and public interest jobs.”

Hours & Compensation

There's an annual billing target of 2,000 hours, but if juniors want to become bonus-eligible they'll have to reach 2,100 hours. The good news here is that all billable, pro bono and 'firm approved' hours can count toward this total. 'Firm approved' hours cover the likes of training and development activities, participation in firm committees and professional writing: “I wrote a chapter for a legal book and billed all that time.”  While there are clear targets in place, associates felt that the firm still takes a “holistic” approach to bonuses – “you don’t have to sweat it before your review if you don’t make the target.”

Associates described a typical working day of 9am to 6 or 6.30pm plus a couple more hours in the evening, although you may “work 80 hours a week” when it’s hectic. Associates felt Jenner makes busy stretches “as palatable as possible.” Literally – on late nights food is paid for, and an additional bonus is dished up “if your hours are above some amount for a couple of months in a row.” But associates were clear that this “really small” bonus isn’t an incentive – the firm confirmed that the bonus is very much meant just as a 'thank you' and not as a tool to encourage people to work long hours frequently.

Strategy & Future

Associates noted a focus on growing the firm's investigation and compliance practice in London, as the firm recently made some hires from the UK's Serious Fraud Office. Managing partner Terry Truax confirms that the "the goal" in London is to "build up top-flight disputes and top-flight investigations practices." On a broader level, Truax goes on to explain that "we’re very focused on high-stakes, high-end work, both in the litigation and corporate transaction space. We’re a firm aiming to play at the top end of the market, in terms of delivering quality and service to clients, and that’s where we see ourselves sitting." For more from Truax, click on our 'Bonus Features' tab to read our full interview with him.

Get Hired

Coming soon...

Interview with Jenner & Block managing partner Terry Truax

Click here to read the full interview.

Jenner & Block LLP

353 North Clark Street,
IL 60654-3456

  • Head Office: Chicago
  • Number of domestic offices: 4
  • Number of international offices: 1
  • Worldwide revenue: $441,288,881
  • Partners (US): 209
  • Associates (US): 219
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Charlotte L Wager
  • Hiring partner: Charlotte L Wager, Chief Talent Officer and Co-Chair of the Hiring Executive Committee
  • Diversity officers: Courtney Dredden Carter, Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 43
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 2Ls: 48, SEO: 5
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Chicago: 26; Los Angeles: 3; New York: 8; Washington DC: 12
  • Summer salary 2019: 2Ls: $3,653.85/week Post 3Ls: $3,653.85/week
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Antitrust and competition; appellate and US Supreme Court; aviation and aerospace; communications; complex commercial litigation; content, media and entertainment; copyright; corporate; data privacy and cybersecurity; election law and redistricting; employee benefits and executive compensation; energy; environmental and workplace health and safety law; government contracts; government controversies and public policy litigation; information technology disputes; insurance recovery and counseling; international arbitration; investigations, compliance and defense; media and First Amendment; mergers and acquisitions; patent litigation and counseling; private wealth; professional responsibility; real estate; restructuring and bankruptcy; securities litigation and enforcement; tax; trade secrets and restrictive covenants; trademark, advertising, and unfair competition.

Firm profile
Jenner & Block is a firm with global reach, comprising more than 500 lawyers and offices in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC. Our lawyers are widely recognized for securing significant litigation victories from the trial level through the US Supreme Court as well as producing results in sophisticated and high-profile corporate transactions. We are a firm with a conscience, committed to pro bono and public service and to creating an unrivaled environment for superior talent. In 2018, The American Lawyer named us the number one Pro Bono firm for the ninth time.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Columbia University, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard University, Howard University, New York University, Northwestern University, Stanford University, University of California- Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Yale University

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Loyola Patent Law Interview Program; CCBA Minority Law Student Job Fair; The Midwest- California-Georgia Consortium; Lavender Law; SEO Program. We also accept write-in applications.

Summer associate profile:
We seek summer associates who have excelled in law school, and have exceptional oral and written presentation skills, leadership experience, and strong interpersonal skills.

Summer program components:
Summer associates work with our lawyers and firm clients on a wide variety of complex cases and transactions. Among other things, our summer associates attend court hearings and closings, observe depositions and participate in strategy sessions with firm lawyers and clients. We also offer extensive training programs on a wide range of subjects. Summer associates are encouraged to attend department meetings, firmwide monthly associate lunches and weekly lunch-and-learn sessions. All summer associates have mentors and receive feedback from lawyers with whom they have worked.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
LinkedIn: jenner-&-block
Twitter: @JennerBlockLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment (Band 2)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Appellate Law (Band 4)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 4)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation Recognised Practitioner
    • Government Contracts Recognised Practitioner
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration Recognised Practitioner
    • Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 2)