McDermott Will & Emery LLP - The Inside View

Health remains a priority in more ways than one at this Chicago outfit, combining this expertise with “incredible” personal and professional development.

You might be familiar with the status McDermott’s earned in the healthcare space our associate sources certainly were. “The reputation was what really drew me in,” one interviewee confirmed. It’s a reputation rightfully bestowed on the firm, backed by its top-of-the-charts Chambers USA accolade for its nationwide healthcare expertise which sees the firm work with some of the biggest players in the field.

But we’d be remiss not to mention some of the other medals McDermott’s earned. “McDermott touted itself as a full-service firm,” one interviewee reflected of their interview process, “and they really meant that. They offer everything from big transactions and corporate, to smaller specialized practices.” Indeed, Chambers USA also showers glittering praise on the firm’s nationwide privacy & data security (healthcare) and product liability: toxic torts practices, as well as its tax work across California, New York, and Illinois; corporate/M&A and technology outsourcing in Texas; white-collar crime & government investigations in Massachusetts; and employee benefits & executive compensation, intellectual property, and labor & employment in its home state of Illinois.

On top of such esteem, another source noted: “I wanted to be at a place where I could be a real lawyer.” What does being a ‘real lawyer’ entail, you ask? For this associate, it meant being “at a place where I could do substantive work and somewhere I wouldn’t have to leave in a few years.” And you’ll be relieved that our sources saw no reason to swiftly depart. Thanks to the firm’s “incredible” career development opportunities, our sources felt there was a “well-founded realistic path to partnership.”

McDermott has a 14 office network across the US, with the majority of juniors joining the Chicago, DC, and New York offices.

Strategy & Future

“We’re definitely still in growth mode,” declared a number of associates we spoke to. Part of this growth includes a slew of prominent lateral hires across practice areas such as white-collar, antitrust, and real estate transactions. “Our New York office has grown hugely,” associates noted of the expansion. While McDermott remains a leader in its core practice areas, the room for growth was something that excited many of our sources: “It’s great to be part of something that’s growing as opposed to something that’s already the best.”

The Work

McDermott operates a system where “you’re free to find your own work.” Smaller practice groups at the firm have a slightly more informal vibe when it comes to work allocation, as people will just “reach out and internally allocate work based on expertise and availability.” While some groups may have a lead “to help manage and assign workflow,” most associates get their work organically through the relationships they’ve built with senior associates and partners.

“You’re not just a name and a number in a back office!”

The firm’s “broad” litigation group covers “everything from big auditor cases and SEC investigations to spicy trust and estate divorce issues,” product liability cases, white-collar, and crypto work (to name just a few). “We also do a ton of general commercial litigation,” one interviewee explained, adding: “I’ve enjoyed my job because I’ve been able to do lots of different things.” On the flip side, “you can specialize – I just haven’t chosen to do that,” a junior divulged. Litigators at the firm also pick up work that comes out of McDermott’s other practices, like private equity, healthcare, and bankruptcy. With such range, it comes as no surprise that the group serves clients from all sorts of sectors, too. While day to day tasks vary greatly depending on the case at hand, one thing that associates echoed was the firm’s willingness to dish out responsibilities: “In my experience, however much responsibility you can handle, they’ll give you. You’re not just a name and a number in a back office!” In fact, associates are “expected to get deep into fact information, interviews, drafting deposition outlines, and taking the first crack at motion summary judgements” – even “in a hundred-million-dollar case!”

Litigation clients: Apple, Trustpilot, Airbnb. Represented Stephen Curry in a federal securities class action involving recovery of investor losses linked to the collapse of FTX.

Healthcare remains McDermott’s beating heart; it’s a “transaction-focused” group “with a strong and broad bench from a regulatory perspective.” Unsurprisingly, clients here span “a variety of different healthcare providers, such as hospitals, private equity investors, and a full gamut of individuals or large physician groups – basically anyone you’d see within healthcare!” Within the department, associates explained, “we have groups representing payers, health insurance companies, or organizations working for managed care spaces.” With such scope, typical junior associate tasks in the group also vary vastly. To-do lists here can involve “diligence, if a client is looking to purchase, reviewing documentation, and flagging things.” For transaction-type work, juniors are often “putting together disclosure schedules,” while “on the regulatory side, it’s quite a bit of legal research, analysis, and contract review.” Essentially, “you’re making sure nothing falls through the cracks from a regulatory perspective!”

Healthcare clients: CVS, HIG, Cigna. Represented The University of Chicago Medical Center in its acquisition of the majority interest in Adventist Midwest Health.

Career Development

Our sources certainly felt invested in, as we heard the firm is “very much focused on retaining, growing, and developing associates. I’ve been amazed by it!” one source gushed. There is formal training available to associates (including McDermott University and the firm's Attorney Career Enrichment Series), balanced out with more informal mentorship through relationships built with partners, senior associates, and peers, and associates are able to bill up to 75 professional development hours towards their billable targets. “Training is focused on leadership, and the mentorship programs are insanely good – it’s all so well thought out, put together, and real,” one associate laid out. To provide a glimpse of what this looks like in practice, one associate outlined some of the themes of their mentor chats: “I’m talking with my mentor about non-equity partnership – we talk not so much about the picky details of how many hours I’m working, but rather who do I want to become, and how do I see myself developing?”

In terms of making partner, “there’s a two-tier partnership model” – income partner and capital partner. The path to “income partnership is extremely clear – you would definitely know more or less whether that’s something you want to do,” an insider explained. “For capital partnership, I do think it becomes clearer, but it’s maybe not quite as clear for an associate.” Regardless, there were certainly no grumbles to be heard; a whopping 80% of survey respondents indicated that partnership is a realistic aspiration at the firm.

Pro Bono

Pro bono was a popular endeavor among our sources, perhaps helped by the fact that up to 100 hours can count towards billable targets. “Anything over has to be approved,” sources explained, “but you won’t be denied if you ask for more hours!” In fact, there’s an “internal push” for associates to get involved in some form. “Associates are expected to be participating,” interviewees made clear. Examples of matters our inside sources had worked on include immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and workplace harassment issues, on top of more department-specific topics relating to healthcare or corporate work.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 49,471
  • Average per US attorneys: 47.5

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 target

In order to become bonus eligible, associates are required to hit a 2,000 billable hour target which can be achieved through a combination of traditional client billable work, pro bono hours, business development, and mindfulness hours. In addition to 100 hours of creditable pro bono work, associates can spend up to 75 hours on business development, which includes things like “writing articles, presenting and other speaking engagements, and tagging along to client-based endeavors.” A further 25 hours are allotted for “mindfulness practices such as meditation or taking a walk!” All in all, our associates reckoned that despite the market being slow over the past year, “it’s a very achievable target!”

On a granular level, hitting the target meant being “plugged in from 9am till about 6pm,” and then returning for “a couple hours in the evening. It can be anywhere from a 10-, 12-, or 14-hour day,” an interviewee explained, though on occasion, “there’ll be weeks where you’re doing a true 9-to-5.” As for in-office time, “the expectation is to be in three days a week.” And for their efforts, our sources felt well rewarded. In fact, a grand total of 92% of survey respondents agreed the firm’s bonus allocation is fair and transparent – we even heard bonuses are sometimes a little above market!


While advice given to budding associates is often to ensure that a firm is the right cultural fit for you, it can be difficult to pinpoint what a ‘good’ firm culture actually is and what it all entails. Luckily, this interviewee provided the ideal answer for those unsure: “What it really means is that there’s a core sense of decency where you feel safe to take risks or ask for time off if you really need it. You hear many stories of BigLaw, but here, I feel looked after and encouraged to be part of the community.”

“All the firm’s associates from all over the world got to meet up in LA.”

And community seems to be the key word: “Even with all our growth, we’ve been able to hire nice people,” insiders noted. “There’s a culture of generosity among associates,” where “people are extremely helpful and willing to share information” with one another. This tight-knit bunch enjoy a thriving social scene, too. “We recently had our associate retreat which was awesome! All the firm’s associates from all over the world got to meet up in LA,” one interviewee boasted. We also heard that associates are encouraged to organize their own social events: “The firm sponsors us getting together a couple of times in the summer, and we can ask for a budget for it!”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

McDermott coins its efforts here as ‘JDEI’, referring to justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. And it seems its efforts have paid off: “I do think we do a really good job, especially with recruiting,” one source pointed out. “The junior classes are very diverse,” an associate praised, putting this down to the firm’s formalized diversity programs, including the Diversity Fellowship Program. That said, it was noted that “we could always be doing better in terms of the retention of diverse attorneys.”

When it came to the representation of women at the firm, we heard nothing but praise. “There are lots of women in the healthcare groups,” as well as “lots of women in leadership positions” across the firm’s various offices. What’s more, the firm also allows associates to dedicate 25 hours of their billable target to DE&I efforts. “It’s great that the firm gives you the opportunity to dedicate time towards DE&I – it makes a huge difference!” a source happily commented. McDermott also has three subcommittees which each focus on race & ethnicity, gender, and the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a number of affinity groups. What’s more, the firm has a program called McDermott Rise – an initiative that “works with businesses and entrepreneurs to advise minorities and give them the resources to help them succeed.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus   

OCI applicants interviewed: 857

Interviewees outside OCI:  235

“While we recruit from many of the top-ranked law schools, we also focus our recruiting efforts at schools we have identified as key feeders. We also do additional to job fairs, work with student groups directly and do resume collections to make sure we are talking to as many students from around the country as possible,” hiring partners Eric Gilbert  and Lisa Richman tell us. In addition to OCI programs at law schools, McDermott attends several regional, diversity and IP-focused job fairs.  The Firm is also very focused on direct write-in applications, received from students we have interacted with at recruiting events throughout the academic year.

Interviews are conducted by local and national hiring partners, alumni, local and firmwide practice group leaders, firm leadership, as well as members of the firm’s recruiting and diversity committees. During OCIs, interviewers meet approximately 16-20 students per schedule. Given the rapid interview process, at this stage “most of our questions are broad-based and focus on getting to know the candidate and their interest in our firm. In addition to understanding why a candidate is interested in McDermott, our interviewers will ask questions to gauge what the candidates’ goals are and what their office and practice interests may be.”   

Top tips for this stage:   

By taking to the time to research the practice areas represented in the office, candidates demonstrate that they are sincere about their summer job search and are looking to find a firm that aligns with their interests.” –Lisa Richman and Eric Gilbert, national hiring partners  


Applicants invited to second stage interview: 470  

Candidates will meet with at least four or five interviewers. Callback interviews are mostly conducted by a mix of partners and associates made up of recruiting committee members as well as representatives from the practice areas in which the candidate has expressed interest.   

Interviewers here ask more in-depth questions about things such as prior work experience, school experience and short and long terms goals in a candidate’s career:    

“We look for candidates with characteristics that go beyond academic excellence. We seek candidates who will prioritize solutions over ideas, bring their best to the table every day, stand together and support each other, embrace new and diverse perspectives and anticipate change and adapt quickly,” say Richman and Gilbert 

Top tips for this stage:   

“Even if you do not have experience that directly relates to the practice of law, impressive candidates find ways to tie their prior experiences to the future work they will perform for the Firm and its clients, emphasizing, among other things, problem solving, a willingness to learn, and a strong work ethic.” Richman and Gilbert 

Summer program   


Acceptances: 84

Our program offers summer associates a realistic introduction to the practice of law and day-to-day life as a McDermott associate. The summer associate program provides meaningful responsibility and feedback that is consistent with a junior associate experience. Summer associates are given the opportunity to accept assignments with many of our practice groups during the summer. This allows summers to experience the type of work they are interested in first-hand and ultimately steer them toward the type of work they enjoy.

Top tips for this stage:   

“McDermott is all about collaboration, with many of our practice groups working together across the platform to solve the challenges our clients face on a day-to-day basis. Getting acquainted with attorneys across a variety of practice groups and that are geographically diverse builds on the collegial atmosphere of our firm, even at the summer associate level.” – Richman and Gilbert 

And finally…   

Richman and Gilbert tell us “Our goal is to be the number one career accelerant in the industry and we pride ourselves on having a warm, people-first culture.  We want you to get to know us too, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. We hope candidates embrace - and enjoy! - the process.”

McDermott Will & Emery LLP

444 West Lake Street,
IL 60606-0029

Main areas of work

 Antitrust and competition, corporate, employee benefits, employment, energy, financial institutions, government strategies and contracts, health, intellectual property, private client, state and local tax, trial, US and international tax, white collar and securities defense.

Firm profile

 As a top-ranked international law firm, McDermott Will & Emery focuses both on being indispensable to clients and on creating a culture of happiness and excellence in its offices worldwide. With recognized strengths in tax, private equity, mergers and acquisitions, healthcare, high-stakes litigation and many other key areas of transactional and regulatory law, the firm fosters long-term, industry-focused relationships with its clients. Leadership is committed to providing lawyers and staff professionals at all levels with an exceptional work experience, opportunities to work on significant matters and ongoing professional development, mentorship and training. Understanding that success is driven by their people, they respect individuality and provide support for each person to live a life they love.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law, Columbia University Law School, Duke University School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, New York University School of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, Stanford Law School, UCLA School of Law, University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, University of Florida Levin College of Law, University of Illinois College of Law, University of Miami School of Law, University of Michigan Law School, University of Notre Dame Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, University of Texas School of Law, University of Virginia School of Law, Vanderbilt University Law School, Yale Law School

Recruitment outside OCIs: We attend several diversity and IP focused job fairs outside of OCI programs at law schools. We also strongly encourage direct write-in applications. 

Summer associate profile: McDermott strives to hire well-rounded candidates who maintain a balance of academic, as well as personal and professional successes. The ideal summer associate candidate is someone who possesses the drive to tackle new challenges and embrace new experiences, takes an active approach to building relationships with attorneys and staff, has a collegial attitude and acts with integrity.

Summer program components: Our program offers summer associates a realistic introduction to the practice of law and day-to-day life as a McDermott associate. The summer associate program provides meaningful responsibility and feedback that is consistent with a junior associate experience. Summer associates are given the opportunity to accept assignments with many of our practice groups during the summer. This allows summers to experience the type of work they are interested in first-hand and ultimately steer them toward the type of work they enjoy. Our conservative hiring approach allows students to access a number of substantive assignments and matters. Summer associates receive formal feedback during midsummer evaluation and final review in addition to information feedback over the course of the summer. Each summer associate is assigned an associate and partner level mentor to provide guidance throughout the summer, explain firm policies, address any questions or concerns and to assist in the transition from law school to life in a law firm.

Social media

Recruitment website:
LinkedIn: mcdermott-will-&-emery
Facebook: McDermottWillandEmery

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Tax: State & Local (Band 1)
    • Chancery (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 6)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Tax: State & Local (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 2)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
    • False Claims Act (Band 3)
    • Food & Beverages: Alcohol (Band 2)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)
    • Product Liability: Toxic Torts (Band 1)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 3)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)