Morrison & Foerster LLP - The Inside View

Yes, MoFo has become synonymous with cutting-edge tech work over the years, but we’d be doing this firm a disservice by not flagging its many other strengths…

Known to everyone – affectionately, we should say – by its nickname ‘MoFo,’ this firm is based in all the places you’d expect a top tech outfit to be. San Francisco is MoFo’s spiritual home and largest office, but the firm also has bases in all of the US’s tech, life sciences and regulatory hubs. Managing partner Craig Martin confirms that “tech is a huge part of our client base. We work for four of the five biggest technology companies in the world and half of the top 20 biopharmaceutical companies globally. It goes back to our roots in the Bay Area.” He adds that the firm services this sector from many fronts, including by advising funds that are investing in tech enterprises. But just when you were thinking you had MoFo all figured out, sources said: “MoFo is not just tech, it has a deep bench.”

“It’s amazing. They don’t just talk about it, they put their resources behind it.”

So, what gives? This junior explained that “you have the opportunity to do tech-based work, but even in San Francisco, MoFo is very strong in other areas.” If you explore MoFo’s website, you’ll find that technology is just one of nine core sector priorities for the firm, with other important areas including energy, media, real estate, finance, and life sciences. Alongside prestigious accolades for tech work, you’ll find Chambers USA bestowing praise on many other multi-sector practices at MoFo: the firm’s corporate/M&A, IP, litigation (general commercial and securities), outsourcing, government contracts, privacy & data security, and projects capabilities all earn high rankings.

MoFo associates were drawn to the firm’s “high-quality work, excellent reputation and clients.” In addition, many of our survey respondents and interviewees mentioned the firm’s “commitment to pro bono and its dedication to diversity” as important reasons for joining the firm. “It’s amazing. They don’t just talk about it, they put their resources behind it,” a source insisted.

Associates on our list were in all the firm’s national offices, with San Francisco taking on the largest contingent (just under a quarter). LA was the next biggest, followed by New York, DC and San Diego. Just under half of the associates on our list were in one of the firm’s litigation practices, with transactional departments taking the rest.

Strategy & Future



Moving forward, Craig Martin tells us “our clients, particularly tech firms, are enduring greater regulatory scrutiny and have a growing need for increased assistance.” Martin says that “to meet those needs we’ve beefed up our national security, risk, white-collar and regulatory practices and that has included our antitrust capabilities.” Read more from Martin by clicking on the ‘Get Hired’ tab above.

The Work



If all of this sounds appealing, sources explained that “when you’re interviewing, you’re either hired into litigation, corporate, finance, or tax.” Upon joining “corporate is very general and you get to try whatever you want to do,” we heard. “You’re not limited to, say, just capital markets or M&A.” Corporate cadets added that “even for your first few years you’re more of a generalist. Only now, three years on, am I starting to specialize.” Similarly, litigators told us “you can shape your work as you see fit. There’s no formal rule to be a generalist, but you can work in different areas.” Both transactional and litigious associates also told us that while “we have a staffing partner who tracks hours and assignments – and they are a means of getting work, especially when you start – once you’ve started, work assignments happen more organically.” One thing that is worth noting is that the staffing partner “makes sure there’s an equitable distribution of work among associates,” which helps to mitigate against implicit bias in work allocation.

“You can shape your work as you see fit.”

In litigation, juniors have access to “IP, general commercial, class action, securities, and white-collar investigation matters.” One area nearly every litigator we spoke to had worked in was securities. It’s certainly a big part of the firm. The securities team successfully represented JDS Uniphase and its former executives in a $20 billion securities class action – the largest securities class action in history. The firm represents clients across the board, from the expected tech and software spheres, to the realms of media, banking, and financial services. Over in patent litigation, the firm represents the biggest names in tech and the name Spotify jumps out at us, who the firm successfully represented in a five-patent case related to encryption techniques. In the general commercial litigation space, things like misappropriation of trade secrets and environmental tort cases make up the work, with matter values in the billions. In white-collar crime and investigations, antitrust, fraud, export controls violations, money laundering, insider trading, digital currency fraud and consumer protection were some of the areas the firm covered.

Juniors said they did “everything from research and writing to drafting motions, doc review and case management.” In keeping with BigLaw, we heard that “on a large matter with a sizable team, there’s not much client contact.” But, “on a small matter I’d be doing everything that needs to be done.” Different areas also lent themselves to different levels of responsibility. In white collar, for example, sources said “there’s a lot of doc review early on, but that’s the nature of the industry.” This source said that after the first two years they’d taken on “a lot more work in substantive research and drafted pleadings and related documents.”

Litigation clients: Amazon, Banc of California, Goldman Sachs. MoFo defended Blackberry in a class-action securities fraud matter worth over $1 billion.

On the non-contentious side of things, tech is a big part of the firm’s transactional dealings and MoFo’s techtransactions group provides full-service advice to its clients. AI, robotics, AR/VR, blockchain, IoT, biotech, and semiconductor matters are all areas of expertise here. M&A deals can be huge, like Salesforce’s $27 billion acquisition of Slack, which was the second-biggest software deal ever. MoFo also has a strong venture capital practice that works with startups and SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Company). The firm works with over 1,200 startups and emerging companies and their investors; a recent matter involved advising Temasek on a $30 million joint venture with Bayer that was focused on vertical farming.

I’ve worked with people in Boston, Hong Kong and London… you’re not limited geographically.”

Securities matters were popular among our sources, who also mentioned the firm’s projects, real estate, and corporate finance practices. On the whole, transactional associates were very positive about the work they’d been able to take on. “I’ve been surprised by the level of responsibility,” said one, “and I’ve helped to draft financing documents for a joint venture. In my second year, I was filing with the SECdrafting purchase agreements and all of the ancillary docs really, and managing the diligence process.” As is typical in transactional departments, project management plays a big part of junior associates’ lives: “There’s a fair bit of wrangling to make sure everything comes in on time. You have to keep track of everything.” What does that mean in terms of emails? Our source laughed: “A lot! I’ve been on a few deals at once and one day I had around two hundred emails that needed attention from me.” The influx is partly a result of “a fair bit of cross-office work. Pre-pandemic there was some,but during and post-pandemic that’s increased. I’ve worked with people in Boston, Hong Kong and London… you’re not limited geographically.” This source said that associates do have some control over their workload: “If I do not want to do a transaction, there’s been no pressure. I’ve said ‘no’ without repercussions.”

Technology clients: Blue Planet Corporation, Salesforce, SoftBank. Advised Walmart on its $100 million acquisition of telehealth provider, MeMD.

Career Development



Helping associates bed into the firm (whether they’re fresh from the summer program or laterals) is the firm’s “Pathway Program, which is the firm’s partner mentorship framework,” sources explained. “The mentor helps you with a range of things, including professional development and what practice areas you are interested in – they help you to pursue your goals.” We also heard that newbies are assigned “an associate liaison who helps you get plugged into the firm and allows you to ask those questions that you won’t ask a partner.” On top of mentors, there’s “more formal training. We have a first-year training program, which runs throughout the year and a midlevel training program, to help you make that transition as you progress to a more senior level.”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

Those we surveyed indicated working an average of 57 hours in the preceding week, which was just over the market average we recorded in 2021 (54 hours). “It’s BigLaw and there are better times and worse times,” thought one source. A billable target of 1,950 is pretty standard in terms of BigLaw, and our interviewees indicated that there was more than enough work to go around for them to be able to hit it. While the hours can be long, this associate noted that “it’s really not that bad if you’re good at time management. In the last three years I can count on my hand the times I’ve needed to be up past midnight.” One source also mentioned that partners had emailed them “to tell me not to work over the weekend. You work as hard as you choose to. It takes a certain type of personality. There’s no task master here.”

Financially, our sources were happy, with every single one of our surveyed respondents agreeing that the lockstep bonus package was fair and transparent (all associates who meet the hours target are eligible). Another area that got a positive ‘full house’ was the ease of taking vacation days; our MoFo respondents took more than the market average on a yearly basis (ten as compared to the market average of eight in 2021).

Culture



Given the picture painted above, it was not surprising to hear the culture described as “friendly, but intense. People work hard but on the whole we’re nice people!” How nice? “People are understanding about time and availability and don’t hold it against you when you say you’re too busy.” While associates flagged that “partners don’t want us to burn out” and are “paying attention to our hours,” many surveyed associates indicated there was an expectation to be available outside of office hours (as is typical across much of BigLaw).

“It’s intellectually challenging, without being arrogant.”

However, many juniors said the firm didn’t feel hierarchical and nearly 90% of survey respondents agreed that associate camaraderie was strong. Certainly, no one had any complaints. “I really like my colleagues,” enthused one. “Everyone seems really intelligent, but down to earth. It’s intellectually challenging, without being arrogant.” Another positive for our sources was senior colleagues’ response to mistakes: “The partners work hard to communicate in a manner so that if someone screws up, it’s a case of let’s fix it and move on.” A junior added: “When I’ve made mistakes, partners and senior associates have been graceful and kind and used it as a teaching experience.”

“On the whole, my experience has been good,” thought one. This was a sentiment that was backed up by our survey results. “The senior attorneys understand the challenges of the profession and its potential constraints on your time; during the pandemic there’s been increased acknowledgement of that.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



Over 70% of surveyed respondents were positive about the firm’s mental health and wellbeing initiatives (which was higher than the market average we’ve recorded).

In terms of ethnic and gender diversity, sources said the firm has “a lot of affinity groups and programs.” Particular praise was bestowed upon MoFo’s “tremendous effort in terms of events – we have a speaker series that is ongoing.” Alongside its affinity groups, MoFo also has a number of DE&I initiatives including The MoFo Black Venture Accelerator, a pro bono program that offers services and creative solutions to black-owned businesses; MoFo Navigate, a program to assist associates with career development; and MotherNation, an initiative focused on supporting working mothers. Head to the firm's website for more detail.

The feeling was that “because the firm is based out ofSan Francisco, people are more aware of diversity issues and intersectionality.” Several sources agreed that “the firm pays attention to who it’s hiring. It’s very diverse, which is really nice.” Other interviewees were a bit more cautious. “Our stats are good [in the context of BigLaw], but they’re still bad numbers,” thought one. “But I feel more optimistic here than I would at some of my friends’ firms.”

Pro Bono



One area that drew universal acclaim across our research was the firm’s pro bono offering. Managing partner Craig Martin explains that “there’s a commitment to pro bono that permeates the firm’s culture. Our partners understand that we are going to take on ambitious matters, invest thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and our lawyers embrace it.” They certainly do. “There is an expectation to do at least 30 hours,” sources explained, “and every week we get emails about matters we can take on.” Opportunities range from “corporate projects, to housing, immigration and guardianship cases,” juniors told us. All pro bono is counted as billable and there is no cap on the amount that associates can do.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 56,455
  • Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,082

Interviewees outside OCI: 43

Last year MoFo conducted OCI interviews at 29 law schools and resume drops at 28. Depending on the school, the firm might see as few as 12 students or as many as 120. It also attended three job fairs – Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Loyola Chicago Patent Fair, and Lavender Law Career Fair. 

Partners typically conduct the interviews at OCIs, although senior associates may do so on occasion as well. Chief legal talent officer Diane Downs says “we encourage interviewers to build a rapport with students, ask behavioural questions and answer questions about the firm.” Downs says interviewers want to get “a memorable picture of who you are and how you will fit in as a member of one of our work teams.” To achieve this, we ask questions like Tell us about how you have worked well in teams in the past. Tell us about how you approached a difficult challenge and how that worked out. Tell us how your work impacted the work of the team.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“A genuine interest in the firm you’re interviewing with goes a long way. Be sure to do your research and come prepared with questions about the summer program and the firm in general.” – Chief legal talent officer Diane Downs 

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 424 (390 from OCI 2020, 34 from outside OCI 2020)

Candidates meet with four to six attorneys during callbacks (some offices also include a lunch as part of the process). On arrival candidates are met by a recruitment team member, “who’ll walk them through the process for the day and be a contact between interviews to help interviewees feel comfortable.”  Downs says “students should conduct research on the firm, practice area strengths at the firm and have an understanding of what the attorneys do.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“It’s not just about selling your past accomplishments – it’s more about selling what you’ll do great here.”  a second-year junior associate 

“Bring your energy and engage with our interviewers in a conversation that highlights what you bring to the table and avoid canned answers.”  Chief legal talent officer Diane Downs 

Summer program

Offers: 1Ls – 99 offers, 2Ls – 162 offers, Returning 2Ls – 31

Acceptances: 1Ls – 31 acceptances, 2Ls – 57 acceptances, Returning 2Ls – 27

Total Summer 2021 Class: 115

In some offices, summers come into the firm with an assigned practice area and will return to that practice area as a junior associate. In other offices, summers are invited to explore practice areas during their summer and will receive an offer to return to a specific practice area upon graduation. In those cases, “practice areas are chosen based on mutual interest and practice hiring needs,” according to Downs. 

Summers get work from a central assignment system by a work coordinator (either a partner or senior associate). There isn’t a formal rotational system between practice areas, but Downs says the firm encourages students to explore different assignments “and remain curious throughout the summer.” Each office sets up orientation and training programs to integrate summers, and special activities “including sporting events and cultural events, as well as events that reflect each office’s unique geographic and cultural attributes.” 

Associates said MoFo’s summer program is “designed to help you develop lasting relationships, because once you start at the firm it’s hard to find time to really hang out and have fun with the people you’re working with.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Summer associates will have ample opportunity to solicit feedback and should feel comfortable seeking and implementing feedback.” – Chief legal talent officer Diane Downs 

And finally…. 

Chief legal talent officer Diane Downs tells us the firm also likes “to incorporate pro bono opportunities and diversity events throughout the summer.” 

Interview with managing partner Craig Martin



Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s current market position?  

We’re a market-leading firm in advising tech and life-sciences clients, financial companies, investment funds, and startups. We do high-value deals and high-stakes litigation.

CA: The firm is often described as a tech firm, but junior associates haven’t spoken much about that. How would you describe the firm?

Tech is a huge part of our client base. We work for four of the five biggest technology companies in the world and half of the top 20 biopharmaceutical companies globally. It goes back to our roots in the Bay Area and so many of our clients are tech companies. We are also advising clients who are investing in tech and life sciences, and that’s another way in which we touch the tech world.

CA: We’ve heard that the DC office, in particular the regulatory practice, has been targeted as an area of growth, why is that?

We grow the firm in a way that supports our clients. Our clients, particularly tech firms, are enduring greater regulatory scrutiny and have a growing need for assistance. To meet those needs, we’ve beefed up our national security, risk, white collar, and regulatory practices, and that has included our antitrust capabilities. We’ve hired Lisa Phelan, former chief of the national criminal enforcement and Washington criminal I sections of the antitrust division of the DoJ, and Alex Okuliar, former senior DoJ and FTC official, as co-chairs of our antitrust practice. In 2021, we also hired Brandon Van Grack, the former Chief of DoJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit and lead prosecutor for Special Counsel Robert S Muller III’s investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

CA: The firm’s commitment to pro bono is legendary, where does that come from? What keeps the firm committed?

We were one of the first firms to have a fulltime pro bono counsel. Kathi Pugh headed that up–an extraordinary lawyer. She put an amazing effort into developing the opportunities and institutional infrastructure that we have today. Now, we have three fulltime dedicated pro bono counsel and two fulltime support staff to help attorneys to interact with outside organizations and to assist them with the work. We get a steady flow of meaningful work. I’d add that there’s a commitment to pro bono that permeates the firm’s culture. Our partners understand that we are going to take on ambitious matters, invest thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and our lawyers embrace it. For example, we were fighting early on for LGBTQ+ equality. We have been deeply involved in reproductive-rights cases. The final point is that we count pro bono as billable hours. We don’t impose a limit. Our attorneys get full credit for every pro bono hour. I think our reputation has helped us to attract people who are interested in pro bono causes. I think there’s a beneficial feedback loop.

CA: How is the firm changing to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers?

We’ve focused on mental health and wellbeing. That’s a key part of our culture. In 2018, we kicked off a program focused on that. To destigmatize mental health, firm leaders shared their own personal mental-health stories. We take a holistic approach to health, under our Healthy MoFo program, which provides resources for overall health. We had launched a pre-pandemic survey to assess people’s needs and health, and during the pandemic we doubled down on making that a priority.

CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally? 

We will face the challenge of attracting, developing, and retaining top talent. We’re very focused on that. Our culture, our work on groundbreaking matters, and commitment to supporting our attorneys as they develop their careers are important aspects of that.

CA: What is your biggest retention challenge?

We’re in a hot market. All of our lawyers are highly sought after. All of them have a choice to go to other firms. Distinguishing ourselves, not just in terms of compensation, or in terms of benefits, but in terms of where you want to grow and belong meaningfully, is all the more important. That’s true for us and everyone else.

CA: How has the rise in legal technology affected the firm? Are you implementing any specific programs/initiatives with regards to technology? 

Overall, it’s been a positive for us. We have managed to incorporate data and built a data science team to analyze what we’re doing and how we’re going about it. We’ve embedded AI to assist with certain diligence functions. There are many ways in which technology has helped us automate some of the things that were less fun in the practice of law. And, of course, it was crucial to get us through the pandemic.

CA: Any advice for those about to enter the legal industry? 

I continue to believe that a practice in law remains extremely rewarding. It can be challenging, but the importance of choosing a firm carefully is that much more important. I would be looking for a firm that can clearly articulate their values and put them at the center of how they operate. The way that MoFo has treated its clients and colleagues, and our commitment to pro bono and social justice, are all things that are as important to selecting a firm as the work and are important in terms of retaining top talent once they arrive. Having an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the practice you’re interested in is important, but having an understanding of the people you’ll be working with every day is absolutely crucial.

Morrison & Foerster LLP

425 Market Street,
San Francisco,
CA 94105-2482
Website www.mofo.com

  • Largest Office: San Francisco, CA
  • Number of domestic offices: 9
  • Number of international offices: 8
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,230,000,000
  • Partners (US): 240
  • Associates (US): 414
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Nicole Wanzer, Director of Attorney Recruiting (nwanzer@mofo.com)
  • Hiring partner: Craig Martin, Managing Partner
  • Diversity officer: Natalie Kernisant, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 78
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls 51, 2Ls 89 Total: 140
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Boston: 14, Los Angeles: 10, New York: 16, San Francisco: 46, Washington, DC: 27, Palo Alto: 18, San Diego: 8, Tokyo: 4
  • NOTE: 3 summers are splitting 2 offices. Total Summers = 140. Headcount by office = 143
  • Summer salary 2022: Semi-monthly compensation is USD$8,958.33.
  • Split summers offered? Yes, on a case by case basis
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes

Main areas of work



  Appellate; antitrust; business restructuring and insolvency; capital markets; clean technology and alternative energy; commercial litigation; consumer class actions; emerging companies and venture capital; energy; financial transactions; financial services; global risk and crisis management; intellectual property; investigations and white collar defense; life sciences; mergers and acquisitions; national security; patent; privacy and data security; private equity; product liability; real estate; securities litigation, tax; and technology transactions. 

Firm profile



  Morrison & Foerster is a global firm of exceptional credentials. With more than 950 lawyers in 17 offices in key technology and financial centers in the United States, Europe and Asia, the firm advises the world’s leading financial institutions, investment banks and technology, telecommunications, life sciences and Fortune 100 companies.

Recruitment



Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Boston College, Boston University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Fordham University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Maurice A. Deane School of Law-Hofstra, Howard University, McGill University, New York University, Northwestern University, Santa Clara University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, University of Connecticut, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas–Austin, University of Virginia, Yale University.

Recruitment outside OCIs:

Generally, about 20% of our summer class is made up of 1Ls who were hired outside of OCI. We also recruit a small number of 2Ls in advance of OCI on a write-in basis.

Summer associate profile:
Morrison & Foerster looks for individuals of exceptional intelligence whose academic and other achievements evidence their talent, motivation, energy and creativity. 

Summer program components:
The summer program is intended to give summer associates a real sense of what it means to practice at MoFo. Work is distributed using a central assignment system, taking into account your areas of interest. Typical assignments include writing briefs, motions, contracts and client memoranda, assisting in drafting and negotiation sessions, assisting in depositions and witness preparation and performing due diligence in corporate transactions, as well as pro bono assignments. A variety of training programs are designed specifically for summer associates, including practice area presentations. Each summer associate is assigned one or more mentors to help acclimate him or her to the firm. Mentors take their summer associates out to lunch, introduce their summer associates to the lawyers and staff in their practice group and office and act as a sounding board for any questions or concerns summer associates may have throughout the summer.

Social media



Recruitment website:www.mofocareers.com
Linkedin:Morrison Foerster LLP
Twitter:@MoFoLLP
Facebook:MoFoLLP
Instagram:@MoFoLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Deals in Asia (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Technology: Transactions (Band 1)
    • Venture Capital (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Appellate Law (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Derivatives (Band 3)
    • FCPA (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 5)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Compliance) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Litigation) (Band 2)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 4)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 2)
    • Projects: Agency Financing (Band 1)
    • REITs (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 4)
    • Technology (Band 2)