Morrison & Foerster LLP - The Inside View

MoFo combines a “progressive outlook” with tip-top expertise in all things tech.

Venture onto MoFo’s website and you’ll be greeted by a Matrix-like constellation of numbers, computers and blinking lights. In case it wasn’t obvious, tech is a key specialty sector of this international giant and it’s got pockets full of Chamber USA accolades to show for it, including a top nationwide ranking for privacy and data security. But despite the firm’s tech know-how, take note. “People think that if they come to MoFo they are only going to be helping out companies such as Apple,” associates said. You would be hard pressed to find a MoFo junior who hasn’t had some involvement with a tech company, but they wanted to clarify that the firm "assists a range of companies in the food, construction, and real estate sectors.” The firm also acts for companies in the life sciences space.

This wasn’t the only misconception associates wanted to clear up. “When people think of MoFo, they tend to think of California,” one observed. And while the firm is indeed a big name in the Golden State (with headquarters in San Francisco), juniors also highlighted its reputation elsewhere. “A lot of the leadership team is based in New York,” they told us. “That office plays a pivotal role in the firm’s network – it’s also where many of our finance clients sit.” In this vein, “although the balance of the firm is skewed toward litigation, we also have a sterling reputation in the real estate, finance, corporate and bankruptcy sectors.” It’s also worth highlighting MoFo’s strength in the Asia-Pacific market, where it has offices in Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. Chambers Global bestows the firm with high rankings for its corporate capabilities across the region.

Strategy & Future



In 2019, MoFo expanded into Boston with a group of 23 finance attorneys. Managing partner Craig Martin elaborates on the move: “Boston is a hugely important financial and life sciences hub and is central to our strategy of strengthening our expertise in those areas.” He also highlights the city’s importance in the life sciences sector. He adds that “our DC office has seen a number of high-profile senior government officials returning to private practice and who have chosen MoFo.” These include Lisa Phelan and Brian Kidd, both of whom previously held senior positions at the Department of Justice, as well as John Smith, former Director of the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Overall, Martin reflects that 2020 has been “a mixed bag. Yes, on the one hand, many of our clients have been busy and have come to us with a number of new challenges. At the same time, it’s also been a hugely challenging time for all firms on the market. I consider us to be a fiscally conservative firm and I think that has served us well, but I do think that there are challenges that will persist until we get back to a place of normalcy."

The Work



In the San Francisco HQ, associates said “you’re encouraged to seek out work in a diverse group of practice areas before making an informed choice to specialize in one area after three years.” That system differs from smaller offices such as New York, where “the firm solicits three preferences from you as a summer, before assigning you a group based on business needs.” The West Coast offices – San Francisco, LA, San Diego and Palo Alto – housed more than half the junior population, with New York and DC also taking in a sizable chunk.

The DC office conducts a lot of government-facing, national security, antitrust, investigations and regulatory work, New York houses more traditional corporate, finance, private equity and litigation practices, while the West Coast offices focus on M&A, IP, litigation, life sciences/healthcare, venture capital and emerging companies work. Matters are often staffed across the firm's offices, as one junior explained: “I’ve worked with Hong Kong, Denver, and Palo Alto.”

“Clients will associate your name with their questions, so you have to get up to speed quickly.”

MoFo’s SLEW group stands for securities litigation, enforcement and white-collar criminal defence. Our interviewees here had assisted with producing interview outlines, preparing presentations, conducting interviews and even attending trials. Doc review was also a common task, which one junior in San Francisco thought “gets a bad rep. It’s the basis of any case and by digging your heels in and forming a strong, factual basis it gives me a strong footing to play a larger role in the case.” On the litigious side of the firm’s bankruptcy group, one junior in New York reported summarizing pleadings for internal purposes, updating clients on case developments, and summarizing hearings. “Very quickly as a junior you’re sending out your emails,” they said. “Clients will associate your name with their questions, so you have to get up to speed quickly.”

SLEW clients: Costco, BlackBerry, New York City Council, pharmaceutical company Novartis. Defended gaming company Boyd and its subsidiary Par-A-Dice against allegations that they had violated the Biometric Information Privacy Act in Illinois by gathering scans of customers’ faces without their consent. 

“You’re always working with cutting-edge clients in the technology and life sciences sector.”

“Within the corporate group, I’ve done pretty much everything,” one diligent junior in New York told us. “I’ve done both public and private M&A, securities filings, some capital markets work, and some fund formation – really whatever they need me to do as a junior!” The wider group covers M&A, private equity, capital markets, funds, patent prosecution and tech transactions. The last of these is an area of particular strength for the firm – Chambers USA ranks the practice as one of the best in California. Based mostly out of the San Francisco office, the group does M&A and commercial deals for clients in the technology and life sciences sectors.One important focus of the firm is emerging companies and venture capital work. We heard from one associate who reckoned developing knowledge in these areas was “key to becoming a good corporate lawyer, as you get an idea of the life cycle of a company.” In this group, juniors have the opportunity to help solve all manner of legal problems facing budding entrepreneurs. As well as drafting checklists and securities filings, “due diligence is a big part of what we do,” one junior explained, adding that “it can be interesting rifling through the dirty laundry of a company!”

Corporate clients: Fujifilm, Visa, private equity firm Alpine Investors. MoFo advised telecommunications company Sprint and its controlling shareholder SoftBank on its merger with T-Mobile.

Under MoFo’s IP umbrella, associates can engage with a mix of patent litigation, copyright, trademark and trade secrets work. “You’re always working with cutting-edge clients in the technology and life sciences sector,” a junior in Palo Alto told us. They were quick to add: “You don’t have to have a specific degree in biology or anything – just a willingness to learn!” Sources described doing a mix of work “for early-stage startups all the way up to huge companies,” with opportunities to draft expert reports and motions, and attend hearings.

IP clients: Gilead Sciences, Seattle Genetics, medical device company Nevro, Washington University in St. Louis. Defended grocery delivery company Cornershop in copyright litigation against Instacart in the Eastern District of Texas.

Culture, Hours & Compensation



Our interviewees readily embraced MoFo’s label as one of the more ‘progressive’ tenants in the house of BigLaw. But what does it mean to be a progressive firm in 2021? Firstly, a loose hierarchy. “Very senior partners will take the time to talk to you in the kitchen,” one source explained, adding that “I have also had partners randomly calling me just to check in – there’s attention paid to it not being all about work.”

“We are a bit goofy and like to have some fun.”

Positioning themselves against the conservative image of BigLaw, one junior in DC reckoned “we are a bit goofy and like to have some fun. For example, we have a fantasy football league where everyone gets involved and starts trash-talking about football.” Similarly, another junior in New York told us that “when people leave – even first-years – people take the time to have a good party. Recently, we had a whole department event to wave someone off, and they hired a comedian for it.”

Secondly, our interviewees felt MoFo was a firm that “cares about your wellbeing and work/life balance.” More specifically, “people like MoFo because when they decide to have children, the firm has encouraged them to step away from work more.” True enough, MoFo’s 20-week leave allowance for primary care givers is at the higher end of the industry.

Others were impressed by the firm’s approach to mental health, noting that “we have a whole host of different mental health resources which we are reminded of twice a month. Every year we have partners who head up a mental health panel.” One interviewee reflected that “if I was stressed and needed a mental health day off, I would feel comfortable calling the partners to ask.” However, another source felt it would be “dependent on who the partner is” adding that “theyoung generation of partners tend to be more receptive.” Craig Martin tells us about the measures the firm took as the pandemic took hold: “We held training sessions, partnered with an organization called Marquee Health which provides holistic health and wellness advice, and offered everyone a free subscription to the Calm app. We also extended emergency healthcare benefits such as making our backup/emergency care days unlimited."

Billable hours: 1,950 target

Still, “you’re expected to work when there is work to do.” One junior told us that “generally, one day of my weekend is freer than the other and can range from a full day of work to just a couple of hours. On average, I would say I work around three hours at the weekend.” To receive a market-rate bonus, attorneys need to hit the billing target, with an additional lump sum added on for those who bill over 2,500 hours.

Pro bono & Diversity



And of course, no firm could call itself ‘progressive’ without a top-notch pro bono program and a genuine commitment to diversity. On both accounts, our interviewees offered nothing but praise. “I’ve worked on a variety of criminal justice and immigration cases,” one junior told us. A corporate associate added: “I think a lot of the time transactional associates are boxed into just doing nonprofit corporate and tax-type pro bono work. There is that, but I’ve also been able to engage with litigious work.”

There’s no limit to how much pro bono associates can bill. This is reflected in the average number of hours billed by its associates each year, which at 88 puts it at the higher end of the national average of BigLaw firms. We wondered if the firm’s commitment was reflected in a left-leaning atmosphere. “In my practice group, everyone is probably a Democrat,” one source reflected. However, Martin made clear to us that “we welcome people from all political persuasions and I think it’s crucial that the firm transcends political affiliations. However, I think it’s fair to say the firm is progressive in its culture."

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 78,723
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed

MoFo is one of a handful of firms that has achieved Mansfield Certification Plus for the third year in a row, cementing its position as leader in diversity in BigLaw. It also has an above average number of partners who are women or ethnic minorities. One associate reflected that “I was the only female associate in my group when I started but in just two years we have added four more women in the group – there’s definitely a meaningful effort to improve things.” One of our interviewees attributed the impressive representation of women at the partner level to the firm’s progressive approach to maternity leave.

"Most of the senior associates are homegrown and have been here their entire career."

Career Development



Taking all of the above into account, associates reasoned that people stick around at MoFo a little longer compared to most other BigLaw firms. “Retention is good because the partners are very nice and check to make sure you’re happy,” one source summarized. Another explained: “Most of the senior associates are homegrown and have been here their entire career – that seems to be a typical experience across the firm. There definitely seems to be an emphasis on keeping people here as much as possible.” The firm also has a training and development manager, “whose job is to ensure you have the skills you need” and help associates get the sort of work they’re interested in.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,460 

Interviewees outside OCI: 46 

Last year MoFo conducted OCI interviews at 28 law schools and resume drops at 26. Depending on the school, the firm might see as few as 12 students or as many as 120.  It also attended three job fairs – the Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Loyola Chicago Patent Law Interview Program 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 behavioral 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. 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 you 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: 582 

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 – 30 offers, 2Ls – 75 offers 

Acceptances: 1Ls – 27 acceptances, 2Ls – 67 acceptances/3 open offers 

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 and diversity throughout the summer.” 

Morrison & Foerster LLP

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

  • Largest Office: San Francisco, CA
  • Number of domestic offices: 8
  • Number of international offices: 8
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,042,800,000
  • Partners (US): 226
  • Associates (US): 404
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Nicole Wanzer, Director of Attorney Recruiting (nwanzer@mofo.com)
  • Hiring partner: Craig Martin, Managing Partner
  • Diversity officer: Natalie Kernisant, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 61
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls 26, 2Ls 70
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Denver: 1, Los Angeles: 6, New York: 15, San Francisco: 33, Northern Virginia: 3, Washington, DC: 23, Palo Alto: 12, San Diego: 4
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,654/week (approx.) 2Ls: $3,654/week (approx.)
  • 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 2021:
American Univ., UC Berkeley School of Law, Boston College Law School, Boston Univ. School of Law, Cardozo Law School, Univ. of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, University of Connecticut School of Law, Cornell Law School, UC Davis School of Law, Duke Univ. School of Law, Fordham Univ. School of Law, George Washington Univ. Law School, Georgetown Univ. Law Center, Harvard Law School, UC Hastings College of the Law, Maurice A. Deane School of Law-Hofstra, Howard Univ. School of Law, McGill Univ. Faculty of Law, Univ. of Michigan Law School, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, NYU School of Law, Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School, Univ. of San Diego School of Law, Santa Clara School of Law, Stanford Law School, UCLA School of Law, Univ. of Connecticut School of Law, UC Irvine School of Law, USC Gould School of Law, Univ. of Virginia School of Law, Yale Law School

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, 2021

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 (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 3)
    • Appellate Law (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 5)
    • 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)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Projects: Agency Financing (Band 1)
    • REITs (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 4)
    • Technology (Band 2)