Top-quality litigation meets top-tier pro bono commitment at the most Jenner-ous firm on the Block.
FEW are the firms at which we hear associates say: “This is the only BigLaw firm I could work at.”What makes Jenner & Block different from the hundreds of other multimillion-dollar outfits in the US, or even the dozens in its home city of Chicago? For one, its attorneys logged the highest average pro bono hours of all the firms covered in the last edition of Chambers Associate. “There are no limitations on doing pro bono here,”sources insisted. Then there’s Jenner’s approach to diversity: on LGBT+ representation in particular, the firm leaves the competition in the dust. More than 12% of its associates identify as LGBT+, as do almost 5% of partners – both of these figures are above the national average.
"We’re among the best firms in Illinois."
Now that we’ve firmly established its progressive credentials, we should point out Jenner is also considered a “litigation powerhouse. We’re among the best firms in Illinois,” sources confidently declared. The firm boasts 11 consecutive years of top rankings by Chambers USA for its general commercial litigation team in Chicago, and 18 years for media and entertainment litigation. Jenner shines in New York for media and entertainment disputes too, and in DCit earns a top spot for telecom, broadcast and satellite law.
Chicago serves as Jenner’s HQ and houses just over half of its juniors; New York, Los Angeles and DC take most of the rest. The firm as a whole tilts heavily toward litigation. One associate in Chicago recalled: “Among my summer class of 20 people, the vast majority of them went into litigation.” While our interviewees acknowledged regional specialties – for example, “DC is well known for its appellate, telecommunications and energy ligation work” – sources stressed that “cases are staffed cross-office." Jenner’s junior litigators remain generalists for their first four years, before selecting primary and secondary practices to enter into. In the early going, work assignment “is a sort of free market with safeguards,” one junior summarized. “They have assignment partners which the other partners go to if they can’t staff organically, but in my experience I haven’t had to utilize that system. There’s more of an impetus on getting work by developing relationships with partners.”
"We had to go through millions of emails from a client to see what went wrong."
“The remit of the firm’s general litigation pool is huge,”as a source there made clear: “I’ve worked on consumer class actions, contract disputes, trademark infringement cases and some employment matters too.”Interviewees had also sampled work from the white-collar and government investigations team. “The cases feel very much like a detective story,” one told us. “We had to go through millions of emails from a client to see what went wrong. I also did a lot of attorney/client privilege review, negotiated the handover to the DOJ, and generally worked out with the partner whether the fault was willful or accidental.” The consumer class action subgroup – Jenner defends large companies on such cases – was also popular: “I was the most junior associate on the team but have never been treated that way. I’ve drafted motions, attended depositions and client meetings, and addressed client inquiries; there’s been very little document review.”With four years to pick their permanent practice, juniors found there’s “plenty of time and opportunities to find out what you like.”
Litigation clients: Sony Music Entertainment, Northwestern University, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. Won a dismissal for American Express in a securities fraud class action following the non-renewal of its co-brand agreement with Costco.
Bankruptcy at Jenner is “unique in that it technically falls under the transactional umbrella,”unlike at most firms where it’s deemed litigious. “There’s a transactional element to it,but a lot of the work is front of the court fighting over assets, prices, and how it’s all distributed.” This source went on to reveal that “at the point of delegation, a decent chunk of a matter falls to the junior to exercise discretion on. I’m responsible for developing all the facts, doing research, and drafting the complaint for the lawsuit as well as the motion to dismiss.”
The vast majority of Jenner’s incoming class are litigators, but other groups including corporate, government contracts, real estate, environment, and employee benefits and executive compensation all recruit juniors. Insiders in transactional practices were as positive about their experience as litigators, enjoying “ample drafting opportunities”and chances to take charge of the logistical side of deals by managing the document flow. Jenner’s corporate team represents a mix of mid-market, private equity and Fortune 500 companies.
Corporate clients: Fox, General Motors, Hertz. Represented aerospace and defense business General Dynamics in its $9.7 billion acquisition of IT solutions firm CSRA.
“I think it’s fair to say that the firm’s pro bono program attracts left-leaning people,” one source reasoned, adding that “anytime there is a conversation about politics, people aren’t afraid to speak their minds.” Interviewees certainly weren’t afraid to talk about their pro bono efforts, including working with asylum seekers and assisting transgender individuals with name changes. Co-managing partner Katya Jestin has even represented clients detained in Guantanamo Bay. The firm is very proud of to be named on the Public Interest Law Initiative's pro bono recognition roster (a list honoring firms in Illinois that have shown dedication to pro bono). Partners and associates at Jenner aim for a 20-hour pro bono target – in 2019 all attorneys met it, and all the juniors we spoke to certainly breezed past it. Jenner’s pro-pro bono reputation tends to attract juniors who are keen to put in hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re all wedded to the same causes: “I remembered finding out early on that not everyone here is left-leaning. There’s a collective passion for giving back to community regardless of your political inclinations.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 84,905
- Average per US attorney: 175
Culture & Career Development
Enthusiasm is a common thread across the patchwork of Jenner: “Partners are very willing to supervise you if you ask. They also make sure to treat each case like it's yours,” one junior emphasized. “As an example of that, an opposing counsel kept trying to go over my head to the partner on the case, who was very good at redirecting everything back to me.” Another provided us with insight into their role on a pro bono immigration case: “When you meet with a client, you have to deal with all the logistical stuff such as getting their fingerprints, but at the same time we get to fully prepare for trial. That could mean drafting direct examination questions and preparing a witness for the stand.”
“There’s a collective passion for giving back to the community.”
Many saw the firm’s Midwestern roots reflected in its culture and described colleagues as “super smart and super nice. Everyone is very personable and there’s no passive aggressiveness.” Even sourcesin traditionally hectic New York agreed “there’s not a 'work hard, play hard' environment at Jenner. I think at some firms there’s an expectation to hang out with colleagues 24/7, that’s not the case here.” They also highlighted a “culture of mentorship. From the recruitment stage, partners get very invested in associates and want to develop them.”
Strategy & Future
September 2019 saw two new co-managing partners, Katya Jestin and Randy Mehrberg, elected to replace the outgoing Terry Truax. We spoke to Jestin about the appointment: “As managing partners, we are confronted every day with a long list of decisions to make and they don’t often have black and white answers. Any decision we do make is driven by our core firm values: excellence, collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to pro bono.” On the third of those, Jestin voices a desire to firmly establish Jenner as “a real leader within BigLaw when it comes to diversity and inclusion. As well as being Mansfield 2.0 certified we are constantly thinking of innovative ways to set us apart, including the provision of unconscious bias training for all our staff and real commitment to the resources of our affinity groups.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Jenner already boasts impressive statistics for its LGBT+ representation and was “one of the very first firms to list preferred pronouns in employees’ email signatures and website bios,” one associate pointed out. “In terms of diversity visibility at the partner level, it’s great inDC. There’s a senior partner here who makes a point to talk openly about her wife and kids, which is great to see.” An annual summit brings together diverse associates in Chicago; one described it as a “breath of fresh air.” However, a colleague in DC felt the firm could be more proactive in some elements of its approach to diversity: “Jenner waslate to offer diverse scholarships compared to some rivals.” Others also agreed the firm could “widen the group of universities from which it recruits.”
“One of the very first firms to list preferred pronouns.”
Part of leading the way on diversity is acknowledging where problems continue to exist, and Jenner recently commissioned a third party to help. “They looked at the challenges facing female partners and associates at the firm,” we heard. “Jenner has since implemented new policies, events and programming." We also heard that the firm revamped its mothers circle, which supports new mothers.What’s more, worries that the firm’s business development program had become “a bit of a boys' club” prompted the creation of a new one exclusively for women.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours:2,000 target
Bonus eligibility begins at 2,100 hours; the good news is that all billable, pro bono and 'firm approved' hours can count toward this. 'Firm approved' hours include time spent on training and development activities, participation in committees, and professional writing. Sources told us Jenner has a flexible approach to hitting targets, although the firm tells us that higher bonuses go to those with higher billables. Though many were happy to see pro bono counting toward the target, one source reasoned that “for those who spend upward of 500 hours on big appeals, there is an implicit assumption that they will take on less pro bono the following year. This is still BigLaw."
Working weekends, sometimes “many in a row,” also sadly comes with the territory. Most admitted to “always having to work a few hours every weekend to stop cramming everything in during the week,” but assured us that their long days were partly by choice. “I never feel conscripted into working a whole weekend when approaching a deadline, it’s always a soft pressure,” one suggested. However, we were also told that if client needs are pressing, associates are expected to work when needed. Again, this is BigLaw.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 318
Interviewees outside OCI: 33
The scope of Jenner’s recruitment includes 18 of the top law schools across the country, as well as four job fairs: the Cook County Minority Job Fair, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Law Interview Program and the Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium Chicago Walk-Around Program. However, the firm also tells us that “it is possible to apply for a summer position outside of the OCI process.”
“Candidates should be prepared to talk about anything listed on their resume,” with a particular premium placed on those who can demonstrate alignment with the firm’s core values of “excellence, collaboration, diversity & inclusion, and pro bono and public service. Interested candidates should be sure to highlight any areas in their backgrounds that point towards those ideals,” the firm emphasizes.
Candidates invited to second stage: undisclosed
While the callback process varies slightly by office, “students can expect to meet with five to six lawyers during their callback interview,” the firm tells us, adding that “depending on the office, one to three of those interviewers are usually associates. At this point, we are interested in learning more about the candidate’s interests and experience. We are also evaluating their leadership ability and initiative.”
The nature of Jenner’s summer program varies by office: “In Chicago, for instance, summers can be staffed on a litigation case rotation, a transactional department rotation or a combination of both. You choose! Summers are also encouraged to pick up additional one-off projects and have the flexibility work with various practice groups. In our New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC offices, summer associate assignments are tailored to individual practice area preferences, subject to client needs and availability.” The firm also offers “a variety of specially designed training opportunities focused on helping summer associates develop a broad range of skills. They range from legal writing courses to a communications workshop.”
While most of the firm’s summers return as first-year associates, the firm encourages summers who wish to clerk before joining the firm to do so. For example, in the DC office, the firm tells us that “many, but not all, of our summer associates clerk prior to re-joining us as second or third year associates.” Finally the firm, recommends hopefuls to read up on the firm’s annual ‘The Heart of the Matter pro bono and community service report’ on its website.
LGBT diversity at Jenner & Block
Interview with co-managing partner Katya Jestin
Jenner & Block LLP
353 North Clark Street,
- Head Office: Chicago
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Number of international offices: 1
- Worldwide revenue: $448,005,149
- Partners (US): 207
- Associates (US): 190
- 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 2020: 34
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 2Ls: 39, SEO: 5, 1L LDLD Scholar: 1
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Chicago: 22; Los Angeles: 4; New York: 6; Washington DC: 7
- Summer salary 2020: 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
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.
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 2019, The American Lawyer named us the number on pro bono firm for the tenth time.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020: 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, 1L LCLD Scholars 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.
Recruitment website: www.jenner.com/joinus
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment (Band 3)
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- Appellate Law (Band 3)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 4)
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
- ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
- Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
- International Arbitration (Band 4)
- Native American Law (Band 2)
- Native American Law: Appellate Spotlight Table
- Transportation: Aviation: Regulatory (Band 2)
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