Celebrating a “small firm culture with big firm opportunities,” associates here sounded like the kats who’d got the cream.
Imagine for a moment that law firms were restaurants in a food court at the mall. The menus are similar – corporate and litigation make up most of them – but then you notice what Katten’s offering. Alongside the typical BigLaw dishes are exotic flavors like media, sports, entertainment, life sciences, cybersecurity, cannabis law and aviation. Is your mouth watering yet? Snap out of the mental image and feast on the news that this international firm hires juniors in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, DC, Los Angeles and New York.
Between the unusual practice area spread and approachable people they met at interview, junior associates told us they were quickly at home: “Katten just felt like the right fit for me.” The firm was born in Chicagoand earns most of its Chambers USA rankings there, scoring highly for banking and finance, healthcare, white-collar crime and investigations and real estate among other areas. It’s in Charlotte, however,that Katten earns a top spot for real estate finance.
“Katten just felt like the right fit for me.”
Strategy & Future
We’re not trying to start an office rivalry, and opportunity seems to run throughout the firm: the 2020 new partner class was the largest in more than a decade. With promotions in New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Orange County, DC and LA, there was plenty to celebrate. Associates in the Big Apple had even more to get excited about – we got wind of a new office opening in Midtown Manhattan in 2021.“The new space will have a more open layout,” insiders revealed.
Though many juniors are based in New York, the Chicago HQ remains the biggest entry-level recruiter. Broad-brush litigation and corporate departments are the most popular starting points, followed by commercial finance and real estate. The structured finance, trusts, restructuring, financial services and IP teams welcome some newbies too. In most practice groups, juniors are directly roped into projects via partners, counsel or assigning attorneys, “The partners are very responsive and balance our schedules,” interviewees said. “The work is challenging but rewarding.” Associates can also take the initiative and reach out for work if it takes their fancy, but some told us they’d “like more opportunities to choose matters directly.”
“It's often just me and the partner on cases.”
Litigationsubgroups at Katten include white-collar, financial institutions, employment, healthcare, and general commercial. The firm’s Los Angeles office also has an entertainment practice. There and in other smaller bases especially, juniors were entrusted with responsibility from the outset: “It's often just me and the partner on cases,” one said. “I’ve been given a high level of independence.” Our sources cut their teeth on contract disputes and regulatory matters, class action lawsuits, commercial litigation, antitrust matters, domestic and international arbitrations and appeals. One who’d worked on a breach of contract matter between two corporations explained their role: “I was writing drafts of the brief, engaging in discovery and preparing affirmations.” Employment cases offered plenty of opportunities to interact with clients: “An employee might’ve been discriminated against by their employer,” insiders explained. “We file a case and help submit the position statement – during investigation, we gather evidence and speak with the firm client. It’s super fun.” Bigger cases might seem more exciting on paper but tend to come with less client contact.
Litigation clients: Republic Tobacco, UBS Bank, Allston Trading. Defended industrial gas giant Praxair/Huntsman in a $78 million suit by a large global chemical company alleging breaches of a supply agreement.
There’s yet more variety to browse in corporate: the Katten team advises on leveraged buyouts, equity financings, acquisitions and divestitures. Middle-market private equity work has seen a boom of late; our sources in Chicago told us they worked with plenty of “exciting clients” in the sports sector, while New York yielded exciting media and retail deals. Katten’s clients also come from the healthcare, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and technology industries. No matter the client type, interviewees were stoked on their experience: “I will work with this group for as long as I can,” one declared. “It’s hard to imagine an offer that would entice me to leave.” Rookies’ days were filled with “due diligence, drafting agreements, handling corporate governance and writing memos.” While most were very happy, corporate wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows for junior attorneys: “It would be great to have more recognition for my work and contributions.”
Corporate clients: Netrix, The Urology Group, GR Companies. Acted for France-based private equity fund ArchiMed in its acquisition of epilepsy treatment intra-cranial monitoring devices manufacturer and distributor Ad-Tech Medical Instrument Corporation.
Katten runs separate orientations for new associates and partners and a midlevel associate academy, to ensure everyone’s well equipped in each stage of their careers. “You’re given responsibility early and provided with the resources necessary to rise to the occasion,” juniors told us. The firm offers regular training programsthrough which associates get up to speed with “how to talk to partners and manage your time well.” There are also programs to help associates with legal writing. “The coach gives us feedback on our writing and does individual sessions with us,” associates said.
“You’re a valued member of the team from day one.”
“People go out of their way to make sure you’re getting the training and support you need to be successful,” we heard from a source in Dallas. “You’re a valued member of the team from day one.” Others described partners who “truly care about your professional development.” The firm also maintains an ‘attorney development team’ that provides associates with career counseling and support; the annual and mid-year review process typically includes talk about the path to partnership.
Diversity & Inclusion
Like most large law firms, Katten has a long way to go on racial diversity at partner level – with just 14% ethnic minority partners, the firm is not among the best performers we cover in Chambers Associate. According to juniors, “the firm is aware of these issues and is doing everything they can to address it.” Recent steps include achieving Mansfield Rule 3.0 certification and joining the newly founded Law Firm Antiracism Alliance in 2020. Our sources were more impressed with progress in gender diversity – some were initially attracted to Katten because of its relative strength in this area. “There is an emphasis on the promotion of female attorneys,” one in DC confirmed. The firmwide diversity committee puts efforts toward regular events like happy hours and a diversity leadership retreat.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target (1,950 in Charlotte)
The firm recently dropped its expectation for associates from 2,100 to the current goal, which includes 50 hours of firm citizenship work (such as interviewing juniors or mentorship) and 100 hours of pro bono. Some of our sources were unsure about how COVID-19 would affect bonuses as “the policy hadn’t yet been released” when we spoke to them toward the end of 2020. Confirmation came later that every 100 hours billed above 2,000 leads to a higher-tier bonus. Juniors felt Katten’s communication lines could be clearer: “I’d like more transparency on the expectations of a junior and how our bonuses are affected.”
“Working from home has really changed my work schedule.”
On an average day, our respondents logged a solid 9am to 6:30 or 7pm work shift, with later nights finishing around 10pm. Across the legal industry and at Katten too, COVID-19 has caused associates’ hours to be a little more volatile. A junior gave us their take: “Working from home has really changed my work schedule. Now the clock will hit 7pm and I think ‘Oh I'm still at my computer, oops!’” When late nights do occur, associates get to open their laptops a little later the next day. “The hours are very flexible, partners treat you like an adult,” we heard.
Juniors can officially count 100 pro bono hours toward billables but can submit a request to have the cap increased. One who’d done just that told us they’d “billed above 200 hours” in a single year. Coordinators email potential projects to associates on a weekly basis, with common options including LGBTQ+, civil rights, discrimination, nonprofits, immigration and asylum cases.We spoke to juniors in New York who’d focused their efforts on mentoring high-school children, while others in Chicago were helping give back to disadvantaged communities.
“You’ll often be the only associate on the case – you can really take leadership and gain a lot of experience.”
An associate staffed on an immigration project outlined their experience: “We were working on securing the release of a Cuban immigrant who was detained in an asylum center. Our team prepared the claim: I worked on the interview outlines, did some brief writing and reviewed evidence.” Because pro bono comes with different pressures to paid work, cases can yield different challenges. “You’ll often be the only associate on the case – you can really take leadership and gain a lot of experience,” we heard.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 29,609
- Average per US attorney: 50.2
Home to around 700 attorneys in the US, the firm has maintained a “small town feel” according to junior associates. While the Chicago and New York offices are more energetic, other offices run at a slightly different speed: “Katten is a big firm with much smaller offices that have a regional firm feel,” a voice from one such small office said. In DC, Charlotte and the bigger bases too, summaries of the firm culture were however similar: “down to earth,” “welcoming,” and “positive” were all common terms used.
“Katten is a big firm with much smaller offices that have a regional firm feel.”
A junior in Chicago praised the open atmosphere: “I can stop by anyone's office and ask how they are doing. Everyone is interested in how you are and is happy to answer any questions.” The HQ’s corporate squad seemed to be a particularly close-knit department. “Everybody in my group actually likes working with one another – to me that was the biggest selling point in terms of culture,” a source said. The social scene varies by office, but drinks events and dinners were common before COVID-19 hit the pause button. Applauding Katten’s “no-asshole policy,” juniors had little to critique about the firm’s atmosphere.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 389
Interviewees outside OCI: 47
In 2020 Katten attended OCIs at 18 schools and participated in four job fairs and recruiting programs, including Lavender Law Career 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 conversations.” – 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: 185
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.”
In most offices the summer program lasts 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 provides a writing training program, professional skills training and a negotiation workshop. “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, 2021
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- 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 2)
- Healthcare (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 3)
- 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)