Blown away by the breadth of expertise, associates were big fans of this Windy City native.
Who doesn’t love a buffet? A spoonful of capital markets, with a hearty helping of IP, or even a plate stacked full of entertainment! However you want to fill your plate, you may well find it at Katten. But alongside a breadth of practices, associates were drawn to the firm’s “willingness to allow associates to specialize in their interests.” With workloads tailored to individual preference, our associate sources at cool Katten were feline positive.
“I wanted to try my hand at the big leagues.”
According to comments from our sources, perhaps ‘Tigerten’ or ‘Lionten’ would better evoke images of the firm’s prowess. “I wanted to try my hand at the big leagues,” explained a junior, who was clearly looped into the firm’sChambers USA rankings. The firm earns top spots in the guidefor its nationwide bankruptcy/restructuring and healthcare practices. In its home state of Illinois, the firm is ranked highly for its IP and real estate groups, the latter of which is also considered top-tier in North Carolina. In New York, the firm's white-collar litigation also picks up an accolade.
Aside from its Chicago HQ, the firm has additional offices in Charlotte, Dallas, Los Angeles (Century City and Downtown), New York, Orange County, and DC, with international bases in London and Shanghai. Over half of all associates found their home in Chicago, with a few on either coast (LA and NY). The Dallas, Charlotte, and DC offices also took on several junior associates.
Strategy & Future
On the topic of locations, Katten’s CEO, Noah Heller, was thrilled to highlight that the firm was in the process of moving to a new location in “the heart of Manhattan.” He elaborates: “We’re proud to occupy five floors at 50 Rockefeller Center. I’m excited about welcoming people back to the new space.” Heller was also keen to highlight Katten’s Dallas office as “a huge area for potential growth. We’re continuing to make our firm a better and better place to work,” he tells us.
“The firm is doing a great job at using emerging legal tech to make the world of junior associates easier.”
This sentiment was echoed by juniors, who applauded Katten’s use of legal innovation. “The firm is doing a great job at using emerging legal tech to make the world of junior associates easier,” beamed a source. Heller explains that the firm is “exploring the use of AI to streamline workflows and enhance collaboration. We realize the benefits of automation to increase efficiency where possible,” he tells us. “Clients are expecting us to have the resources to cut down on the amount of time it takes, and we need to look for the relevant tools to help us be more efficient.”
Newbies are paired with a partner mentor, a mid-level associate mentor, and a junior mentor, but sources agreed that it was the informal mentoring that really made the difference. “The feedback is immediate and respectful, and I’m constantly being pulled onto new projects,” shared a junior. Associates found that the ability to network organically meant there were “great opportunities to connect with people who will make your career what you want.” Aside from mentoring, first years also had substantive group-specific training, with frequent webinars continuing.
“A number of partners have been here since they were summers!”
Going forward, making partner seemed like an attainable goal for associates. “A mid-level associate I work with has brought in a number of clients this year, and credit is always given where credit is due,” shared an associate with hopes of doing the same. Another source applauded the fact that they had seen it happen for many: “I’ve seen the same associates I worked with as a summer make partner. A number of partners have been here since they were summers!” For those that aren’t looking to make partner, you’ll be pleased to hear that “the firm is candid (and helpful) about government and in-house opportunities.” A source shared that the firm “recognizes the developmental aspect of government experience, and the door is left open for associates to come back.”
While most firms have newbies start out as generalists, particularly in the corporate and litigation groups, “Katten lets associates jump into specific subgroups they’re interested in from the get-go.” This is also true of the summer program, which allows summers to try out a variety of work through a free-market system or be as specific as they like. Litigation remains the firm’s most populated department firmwide, followed closely by corporate and then real estate. The financial markets & funds, insolvency & restructuring, IP, private credit, private wealth, structured finance, and tax groups also take on a handful of juniors each. For associates looking to join litigation or corporate, Chicago is the place to be, while the firm’s real estate hotspots are in Charlotte and New York. Dallas predominantly takes on transactional work.
“Katten lets associates jump into specific subgroups they’re interested in from the get-go.”
The litigation group dabble in a variety of matters, though there is a particular emphasis on clients in the financial services and healthcare industries. Juniors in the Chicago HQ are largely kept busy with financial markets litigation enforcement, securities litigation, and white-collar internal investigations. Further specialisms include employment, healthcare, insurance, IP, and the list goes on. “I’m free to pick up the types of matters I’m interested in. It’s a free market system and I’m not pigeonholed,” confirmed a second year. When staffed on cases, juniors’ roles vary greatly, depending on the size of the matter. “There are some cases where I’m the sole associate with two partners and I’m in charge of taking the first stab at drafts and working closely with the partners to refine the documents,” we heard. Responsibility comes quick for juniors who demonstrate potential. “Going into my second year, I’ve really seen a shift in my role,” shared a source, who went on to elaborate: “I’ve become more client-focused. I’m now working directly with clients to prepare them for testimony, and I’ve been writing more external memos, rather than just internal communications.”
Litigation clients: UMB Bank, UBS, and Farm Credit Bank. Represented a major Wall Street research firm against accusations of stealing intellectual property and trade secrets.
Over in corporate, you’ll find juniors hard at work on matters involving healthcare, M&A, capital markets, securities, and private equity, serving clients in industries ranging from sports, to technology, to entertainment (as well as the traditional public/private and finance clients). “Chicago is not the best market for venture capital, but our Chicago office has quality venture capital work,” added one source. Compared to litigation, this bunch have a more centralized staffing system, with assigning partners who check on hours and take requests for projects. “I’ve never been force-fed a project,” a junior told us. “They’ll recommend projects, but you can say no.” When staffed on teams, juniors do anything from drafting and revisions to taking ownership of entire smaller deal processes. While drafting may be taxing for some, the Beth Harmons of corporate will be pleased to hear this junior’s creative spin on it: “I approach drafting revisions like a chess match between dueling attorneys. There’s a strategy component to it where you’re trying to make a move without your opponent catching on.”
Corporate clients: InterFlex Holdings, KCM Capital Partners, and Shorehill Capital. Advised Larry H. Miller Management Corporation in the sale of its majority interest in Utah Jazz, Salt Lake City Stars, and other assets for a total of around $1.66 billion.
The firm’s real estatepractice is largely based in the Charlotte and New York offices, but the team collaborates with attorneys across the firm’s network. There’s lots of lending and leasing work to be done on different types of real estate. Most lending work comes in the form of acquisitions where the juniors review purchase and sale agreements, draft loan documents, and check the boxes of the deal. On leasing matters, juniors handle amendments and draft leases and termination agreements. As a tightknit group, juniors tend to work with a few select partners who “jive with the best,” and when there’s a slight lull (which is unlikely) this bunch lend each other a helping hand, “even if it’s just in an ancillary type of way.”
Real estate clients: Citigroup, Douglaston Development, and Metropolitan Life Insurance. Represented Lincoln Ventures on the acquisition and development of various luxury housing projects in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, and Arizona for a total of over $500 million.
Despite the struggles around Covid restrictions, the firm put in the effort to keep colleagues connected. “During peak Covid we had Zoom parties and virtual cocktail-mixer gatherings, and as restrictions have eased we’ve had the chance to go out for team dinners and other events,” shared a source in the Chicago office. We heard that associates were also looking forward to a retreat in the spring! The firm’s efforts to maintain its culture (which our sources described as “not as buttoned up”) paid off, as our survey found that 100% of respondents reported that they were happy at Katten.
At the time of our research, despite the offices opening and the easing of restrictions, there was no set number of days required for attorneys to be in the office.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 requirement
The 2,000 billable hours target includes 100 pro bono hours, and 50 firm citizenship/development hours – hit the target and you’re bonus eligible. Associates warned that it was mostly an “all or nothing” target, but with how busy the firm has been recently, it was unlikely that you would fall short of 2,000 – in fact, one source shared that they had hit around 2,500 hours last year! The good news is that those that exceed the 2,000 target get additional bonuses that increase in set increments – “there’s an honest guide that details how bonuses are calculated, as well as extra hours, but you’re not given a guaranteed total.” Sources confirmed that salaries and bonuses were at market level, but the firm was “still deciding about the recent bump.”
“I think there was someone who had done a total of 800 hours over three years!”
Juniors can count up to 100 hours pro bono toward their billables, but they can also get approval for cases that exceed the limit. Juniors often find cases through email blasts, and engagement with pro bono is factored into annual performance reviews. Juniors shared the sentiment that the firm had become increasingly supportive of pro bono in the last year or so. Sources also highlighted “firmwide emails congratulating juniors who had dedicated a significant amount of time to pro bono.” One source was in awe when telling us: “I think there was someone who had done a total of 800 hours over three years!”
If you’re looking to be named in the email of fame, Katten’s pro bono opportunities span asylum cases, non-profits, housing rights, and discrimination, particularly in the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and the need for police reform. Juniors echoed that pro bono was also a great opportunity to gain trial experience.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 23,379
- Average per US attorney: 36.4
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Sources marveled at the prominence of Katten’s Women’s Leadership Forum. “There are firmwide female attorney groups, and you can always reach out with any questions,” we heard. The firm also has a generous parental leave policy including 20 weeks of gender-neutral paid leave upon the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. On the racial diversity front, the firm acknowledges that there is still work to be done. The firm’s Diversity Committee is active in the firm’s affinity groups, and the firm is partnered with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD). Katten also has a Mansfield 4.0 certification.
“Internally, we’re looking at the makeup of the firm with Katten Kattalyst- one of our sponsorship programs where we select a handful of promising associates and pair them up with partners who are prepared to be mentors and advocate for the associates in rooms they’re not in,” Heller explains. “We want to make sure there are equal opportunities for the best and the brightest to be staffed and mentored.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 459
Interviewees outside OCI: 49
In 2021 Katten attended OCIs at 20 schools and participated in three job fairs and recruiting programs, including Lavender Law Career Fair, the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, and the Cook County Bar Association Minority Law Student Job Fair. OCI locations include a mix of top schools such as Northwestern, Columbia and NYU, as well as regional schools such as University of Texas School of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law, and Loyola Law School.
Partner/associate pairs typically conduct interviews, and the firm sees roughly 20 students at each campus, although that number increases to more than 40 for the University of Michigan Law School, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and The University of Chicago Law School. According to hiring sources at the firm, questions are open-ended and allow the interviewers “to assess, among other things, each candidate’s interpersonal skills, motivation, applied intelligence, and entrepreneurial qualities.”
Top tips for this stage:
“We hire outgoing people because it means they are likely to build business at some point. I do think that the firm does tend to look for people who can have a normal conversation.” – a third-year junior associate
“I would advise students to prepare, but not be over-rehearsed, as we appreciate authenticity. It is beneficial to present yourself honestly to the interviewer, in a way that communicates enthusiasm for legal studies/the practice of law, motivation to achieve success, and a strong intellect.”
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 268
Four interviews with a mixture of partners and associates await those who get to the callback stage, though this can vary by office. According to hiring sources at the firm, “our interviewers tend to ask more behavioral questions than we ask at the OCI stage. Interviewers will continue to assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills, motivation, applied intelligence and entrepreneurial qualities. Additionally, interviewers will try to determine the candidate’s interest in the firm and the particular office.” Those we spoke to didn't find the experience too taxing: “For the most part you just have a conversation – they’re thinking about how you would work with this person or this group.”
Top tips for this stage:
“I would advise candidates to research the firm, our practice areas, and the attorneys that they will meet, and candidates should be prepared to discuss why they are particularly interested in Katten.”
The summer program runs for ten weeks. Summer associates can try work assignments in different practice areas, and an assignment coordinator is on hand to help them with the assignment process. Summers are also assigned mentors as an extra layer of support. Hiring sources at the firm encourage summers to “work on assignments with a variety of partners and associates across various practice areas, particularly during the first half of the summer,” as this gives them a chance to “experience the different practice areas at the firm and then hone in on what truly interests them for the latter part of the program.”
Depending on who summers end up working with, they may get to tag along to client meetings, closings or court hearings. The firm also offers learning and development programs that have included topics such as legal writing, communication, well-being, and diversity, equity and inclusion, in addition to presentations introducing the firm’s practice areas. “Almost all of our summers return as junior associates,” the firm tells us. “When a summer associate receives an offer to return as a first-year associate, the offer typically is for a specific department, based on their department preferences and the hiring needs of our departments.”
Notable summer events: a day trip to Disneyland, a boat cruise and baseball games (Cubs, Mets or Yankees, Rangers, Dodgers, Nationals).
Top tips for this stage:
“If you show great communication and organisational skills, that goes a long way. Bring all the documents you need for a call and keep up to date with all the calendar invites. Those small things are the main things that will impress.”– a third year junior associate
The firm encourages interested students to connect with Katten attorneys at events hosted through their law schools and by the firm: “They should also follow up with students who participated in our summer program. Our recruiting staff and attorneys are happy to speak with law students to share information on Katten.”
525 West Monroe Street,
- Head Office: Chicago, IL
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 2
- Partners (US): 311
- Associates (US): 242
- Recruitment website: For recruitment information and contacts, please visit: www.katten.com/careers
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 30
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 44 (2Ls: 35, 1Ls: 9)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Charlotte: 3, Chicago: 18, Dallas: 4, Los Angeles: 4, New York: 11, Washington, DC: 3
- Summer salary 2020:1Ls: $3,653.85 2Ls: $3,653.85
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Chicago-Kent College of Law, Columbia Law School, DePaul University College of Law, Fordham University School of Law, Harvard Law School, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, New York University School of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, The University of Chicago Law School, University of Illinois College of Law, University of Michigan Law School, University of North Carolina School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law
Recruitment outside OCIs:
In addition to OCI, the firm participates in the Lavender Law Career Fair, the Cook County Bar Association Minority Law Student Job Fair, the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, and the Chicago and Dallas On-Tour Interviewing Programs.
Summer associate profile:
Katten’s summer associate classes are comprised of a diverse group of individuals, who have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership experience and oncampus involvement. The firm seeks candidates who are motivated, entrepreneurial, and possess a high level of critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Katten looks for candidates who are reflective of our culture and values, which includes exhibiting professionalism, commitment to client service and team work.
Summer program components:
Our Summer associate program offers participants a realistic preview of a first year associate's experience. With our diverse client base, summer associates have the opportunity to work on a broad spectrum of assignments in many of our practice areas. Summer associates work directly with our attorneys on client matters as part of their training experience. We provide learning and development programs designed specifically for summer associates. Recent program topics have included legal writing, communication and professional skills, in addition to presentations introducing the firm’s different practice areas. Mentorship is also central to our summer associate program. Summer associates are paired with a junior associate, senior associate and partner mentor.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Public Finance (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: RMBS (Band 2)
- Derivatives (Band 2)
- Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Hedge Funds (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 4)