With cool Cali roots and a culture to match, tech pro MoFo is a natural go-to for its innovative clients.
"WE offer something a lot of New York firms can’t.” A risqué name? Well, yes. But also “expertise in technology transactions.” MoFo’s West Coast origins have a lot to do with its ties to the tech world. “We're born and bred San Francisco, so we have a lot of big Bay Area homegrown clients,” one interviewee told us. Those cool Cali clients include Salesforce, Visa and McAfee – but the firm also acts for well-known businesses from outside the Bay Area like BlackBerry and 21st Century Fox. Working for “tech and consumer giants” was a selling point in itself for the juniors we interviewed. One said: “I recognize their names and I follow their news – it’s more exciting to work on something for a company you’ve heard about, rather than just another thing for a big bank.”
Nationally, MoFo’s privacy & data security, outsourcing, IP, government contracts, and financial regulation practices get top rankings from Chambers USA, while at state level the IT & outsourcing, corporate/M&A in Asia, IP, and litigation teams in California and New York’s technology & outsourcing practice come out top. Chambers USA doesn’t do rankings for pro bono, but if it did MoFo would have to be a serious contender. Managing partner Craig Martin tells us: “Our firm has continued to advocate for the professional and ethical obligation to maintain a strong pro bono practice. We’ve also tried to lead by example.” Recently the firm has been active on ongoing defenses of reproductive rights in Texas and Louisiana. It’s also done work for detained parents separated from their children at the border with Mexico, and “we won the first ever grant of asylum in Japan for an individual who’d been persecuted for their sexual orientation.”
Strategy & Future
Craig Martin gives us a snapshot of the firm's strategic plans: “We are looking to build on our practice strengths and also leverage our market-leading positions in the Bay Area and in Japan. That has meant building on our capabilities there and in other key geographies, while ultimately looking to remain a leading global law firm for technology companies.” On the East Coast, Martin says, “we've invested quite a bit in our DC office in recent years in trying to stay ahead of our clients’ regulatory requirements.” Juniors in DC noticed “a great deal of investment in talent,” and were particularly pleased MoFo would be moving to brand-new offices at the end of 2020.
About 80% of MoFo’s juniors are split evenly between litigation and corporate, with the remaining 20% in finance (and a tiny number in tax). MoFo favors a free-market system when it comes to getting work, but some groups also have an overseeing partner. A New York associate admitted: “I felt a little nervous reaching out at first, but the partner is nice – they make it easy to say if you’re drowning!” After a while juniors naturally “gravitate to certain people and types of work.”
MoFo’s litigation group handles general commercial, securities, white-collar, IP, and privacy & data security work. Juniors in LA told us of working on everything from class action defenses to misappropriation of trade secrets cases. IP is a focus in San Francisco“because this is such a hub for technology and life sciences companies.” Juniors here “work with technical experts as they draft their reports.” (We should add, though, that IP is prominent practice across the firm's offices.) In DC the white-collar and investigations practice is “incredibly prominent. Its mainstay is FCPA work, but we also do criminal defense work on white-collar cases.” The nature of the work is often international – “we work very closely with the London office.”
“I’m not gonna lie – there was a lot of doc review in my first two years!”
The firm’s privacy group “counsels companies on compliance issues, for example the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation and other new privacy laws. A lot of companies will have questions on whether they can implement a monitoring program.” For juniors, work entails “drafting agreements to allow the transfer of information between different companies.” The group also supports the M&A practice with privacy issues, and the white-collar group “if an investigation concerns data breaches under the FCPA.” Recalling starting at the firm, one junior said: “I’m not gonna lie – there was a lot of doc review in my first two years! There were about ten associates supporting a project.” After the doc review initiation, “80% of my work was write, write, write!”
Litigation clients: BlackBerry, 21st Century Fox, Target. Defended Etsy in a class action alleging the online crafts marketplace concealed information that products might infringe intellectual property.
The corporate 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 Band 1 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. “Whether it’s licensing, distribution or negotiating – anything to do with technology that you can imagine – we probably do it!” One junior told us of their involvement in these matters: “I get to draft contracts and negotiate back and forth with opposing counsel, which is sometimes the in-house team in a tech company.” Getting to grips with different technologies was a high point for one associate, who reported: “If I’m drafting an inbound license for a piece of technology, I need to talk to the client about how it works. I then take all those nuances and put them into contract speak.” For Palo Alto associates, work in the corporate group entails “emerging company venture capital work, given our location in the middle of Silicon Valley.” Associates also reported working on “a lot of cross-border M&A and private equity deals related to fund formation.”
Corporate clients: Walmart, SoftBank. Represented Sprint on its $59 billion merger with Germany's T-Mobile.
The finance group covers the likes of bankruptcy, financial services and real estate matters. The latter branch of the group “does a lot of financing work for banks and insurance companies funding loans for projects” – its largest presence is in New York. The firm does lender and borrower-side work, “so it’s nice to see both sides in different stages.” Interviewees were pleased with the tasks that fell to them. “Within my first six months I was leading checklist calls,” one told us. Juniors also told us of getting “a few interesting research assignments.” For example, you might be asked to look into the EB5 program, a visa program that fast-tracks investors to getting a temporary visa if they invest over $500,000 in real estate that results in job creation.
Finance clients: HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo. Advised Wells Fargo on a $1.5 billion refinancing loan for an office and retail tower planned for 50 Hudson Yards in Manhattan.
“Between all the CLE programs and informal training,” associates felt MoFo certainly invests in its juniors. Associates are even “able to bill time for informal training if a partner is explaining something, or you’re listening in on a call.” (Take note that this time can count toward the billable hours requirement, but not toward bonus considerations.) That said, some perceived “a lack of transparency on how well you’re doing – it would be nice to have more institutional support.” There are end-of-year reviews, which one associate pounced on to advance themselves. “I had comments saying I’d done a lot of doc review and at that rate I wasn’t going to grow with my class,” they told us, “so the way I responded was, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to look at what work I get!’ That conversation sparked me getting better work.” The firm also organizes 'spring reviews' for all first-years and recent laterals to keep them up to date on their progress. Going in-house to tech companies was a common route out. One interviewee reported: “I’ve seen 11 associates leave my group in two years and all 11 have gone to tech companies.”
Hours & Culture
Although the firm does not disclose its official billable requirements/targets, our interviewees told us that they are expected to bill a minimum of 1,950 hours. “Having that looming over you is a bit stressful,” one associate admitted, before adding: “I’ve never heard of an associate having a problem reaching their hours!” Neither did we. Associates must meet the billing requirement to receive a bonus, but apparently the firm “isn’t super strict” about it in the New York office. “I didn’t meet it last year by a little bit and still got the full bonus – if you fall short they will take other things into consideration.” There was also a special second bonus in summer 2018 for attorneys who were halfway toward the hours target by summer. “A lot of us were 45% of the way there and didn’t get the bonus, so that was kinda BS,” one source grumbled.
“There’s a huge work-from-home culture – or work-from-anywhere culture!”
Interviewees said they expected a “laid-back Cali culture” prior to joining. Did the expectation match the reality? “In terms of the hours demand, not so much,” interviewees agreed. On the plus side, “there’s a huge work-from-home culture – or work-from-anywhere culture! Sometimes you can walk around the office and it’ll be pretty empty.” In San Francisco, “most people are gone by 7pm.” A Friday bar tradition among juniors in the LA office takes face time to the next level: “If the managing partner sees you at your desk at 3pm, they’ll have this puzzled look on their face like, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be at the bar?’” Hm, sounds too good to be true. “If it means working Saturday or Sunday to make up for it, that’s fine.” Ah, now we understand. Over in New York, a source said: “They like us to be in the office between 9:30am and... I don’t know if there’s an actual end time.” Associates can potentially have one remote work day a week to play with (the firm considers remote working on a case-by-case basis), but wherever they are, the hours associates spent working were “nothing crazier than in the rest of the market.” That’s a lot then.
The firm has an informal dress policy. One interviewee commented: “Some call us a ‘cool dad’ firm that’s trying too hard, but if anything I appreciate that it tries!” Does anything suggest ‘cool dad’ more than the “sneakers and Marvel comic T-shirts” donned by some in the LA office? The dress code engenders a low-key vibe in DC too: “It’s very easy to go into a partner’s office and have a conversation.” Similarly in San Francisco, “there isn’t a gatekeeper system where we have to talk to a midlevel or senior before we talk to a partner.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Associates were positive about gender diversity at the firm, stating that “women take leadership roles in this firm” – that's swell but the partnership is still around a quarter female, so MoFo has a way to go yet (although in comparison to its peers we'd say its rates are above average at this point). A women’s affinity group “organizes events for professional development and networking. Then we have smaller mentorship circles where you meet with partners.”DC’s women’s group recently hosted a taco party and a high tea. Several associates praised attitudes to the firm’s maternity and paternity policies: “I’ve been in the office when a partner said, ‘Who cares what anybody else thinks – take this leave!’ And I know at least three men who’ve taken all six weeks of paternity leave.”
Associates in the LA office wanted to see more diverse candidates coming in: “It’d be different if we were in Denver, but 50% of the LA community is Latino!” Within the firm, diverse associates reported a sensitive culture: “I’ve never had an issue taking time for religious holidays.”
The number of pro bono hours that can count toward the billing target is uncapped. “I got to the end of my first year with 500 hours of pro bono and nobody gave me a talking to,” one source shared. Rather, “what I’ve heard is that if you’re not doing any pro bono you’re gonna get some pressure to take on a project.” Everyone is encouraged to reach a minimum of 25 hours. We heard about a wide range of opportunities, from social security cases in DC to “a very cool project to bring technology to developing countries” in San Francisco. A lot of work in San Francisco comes out of the city's significant homelessness problem, “helping homeless people register for benefits.”
“The firm has taken a proactive stance on the refugee crisis.”
A corporate junior appreciated the variety of opportunities: “I do work for cool tech nonprofits, but I’m also doing asylum cases.” There's a lot of immigration work on offer across offices because “the firm has taken a proactive stance on the refugee crisis and the deportations, so we do a lot of work for unaccompanied minors and host clinics to help people fill out their I-485 applications.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 67,787
- Average per (US) attorney: 92
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.” Click on the 'Bonus Features' tab above to read more about MoFo's summer program and how to get hired by the firm.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,293
Interviewees outside OCI: 57
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. Hiring partner 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..” – hiring partner Diane Downs
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 494
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.” – hiring partner Diane Downs
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 recruiting coordinator, a partner or one or two associates). 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.” – hiring partner Diane Downs
Hiring partner Diane Downs tells us the firm also likes “to incorporate pro bono and diversity throughout the summer.”
Interview with managing partner Craig Martin
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm'scurrent market position?
Craig Martin: We had a great 2017, which was driven by exceptional demand in both our litigation and transactional practices. A common theme to that success was our work on a variety of technology and life sciences matters. We were able to translate those results into good momentum in 2018, which is consistent with our long term strategy.
CA: And what is your long term strategy?
CM: There are a few elements to it. We are looking to build on our practice strengths and also leverage our market-leading positions in the Bay Area and in Japan. That has meant building on our capabilities there and in other key geographies, while ultimately looking to remain a leading global law firm for technology companies.
CA: Are there any broad trends that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm's practices?
CM: I’d say there have been surges of demand related to technology matters or technology companies. For example, we have been representing Sprint and SoftBank in the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. We represented SoftBank in its investment in Uber. We’ve been advising Alibaba regarding a $14 billion financing. We’ve been assisting GLP in establishing a $2 billion fund in China with a Singaporean sovereign wealth fund. We’ve represented Walmart in a new credit card program agreement with Capital One. And we’ve been representing Wells Fargo in the $1.5 billion construction loan for Hudson Yards.
On the litigation side, we defended Uber in its trade secrets dispute with Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary. And we secured a unanimous jury verdict for Sandoz in a dispute over biosimilars. For our firm, there’s certainly a trend toward active matters on behalf of companies who are involved with technology or life sciences and that’s really continued and fueled our growth.
CA: Which practices and offices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why?
CM: We hope to maintain a good balance among our practices and geographies. We are also looking to further build out our very strong M&A, IP litigation, privacy, investigations, and restructuring practices. Additionally, we invested heavily in 2018 in our national security and financial technology practices, so we expect that would continue.
Geographically, we’ve invested quite a bit in our DC office in recent years in trying to stay ahead of our clients’ regulatory requirements. In San Francisco, our largest office, we’re continuing to expand capabilities both in technology and other sectors. We’re also adding strengths in Asia, with Tokyo being a place where we are by far the largest international firm, and looking to grow our capabilities in London and Berlin.
CA: Can you tell us more about MoFo’s commitment to pro bono matters?
CM: We continue to reinforce the importance of an ongoing pro bono commitment, both internally and within our peer firms. That has remained very important to us, notwithstanding how busy we’ve been on the transactional and litigation front. Our firm has continued to advocate for the professional and ethical obligation to maintain a strong pro bono practice. We’ve also tried to lead by example. We have led ongoing defenses of reproductive rights in Texas and Louisiana where those states have created medically unnecessary regulations that are intended to essentially interfere with women and their ability to obtain abortions. We’ve been involved in litigation to enforce voting rights in California and North Carolina and have brought a suit against Georgia to enforce a safe voting system that isn’t susceptible to hacking. We’ve been involved in representing the detained parents of children who’ve been separated. And we won the first ever grant of asylum in Japan for an individual who’d been persecuted for their sexual orientation.
CA: How do you think the legal industry has evolved over recent years?
CM: There’s obviously a rapidly changing regulatory environment that’s somewhat driven by the volatile political situation here in the United States. That has informed much of the investment we’ve made in our DC regulatory practice in the last few years. The rapid growth of technology has also presented our clients with situations in which there isn’t necessarily a clear guiding law in how to proceed. Additionally, Clients are dealing with ethical issues, so helping them to navigate that has been important for us and I assume for most firms.
CA: Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
CM: I watched far too much Perry Mason, a TV show in the 1950’s and 60’s about a lawyer. Every week he seemed to have a blockbuster trial that ended up being decided by a surprise witness who burst into the courtroom at the last possible moment. It could not be more different from my practice today, but that was a big motivator to getting me interested in the law.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?
CM: I would say to trust their instincts and not to underestimate the importance of the quality of the people with whom they choose to associate themselves when they’re making career decisions. When I came to Morrison & Foerster, I have to admit, I was not particularly sophisticated about what practice area I wanted to be in or the strengths of the firm, but I very quickly learned that I was dealing with people who had high integrity and who were respectful and very smart. I made career decisions based, in large part, on those factors both initially in choosing to come here and then to stay here. I've been very well served by that. So I think it’s important for people to do their homework about firms and other professional opportunities they may have over the years, but I personally put a thumb on the scale for considering who your future colleagues are going to be.
Morrison & Foerster LLP
425 Market Street,
- Largest Office: San Francisco, CA
- Number of domestic offices: 9
- Number of international offices: 8
- Worldwide revenue: $1,042,800,000
- Partners (US): 225
- Associates (US): 384
- Main recruitment contact: Nicole Wanzer, Director of Attorney Recruiting (email@example.com)
- Hiring partner: Craig Martin, Managing Partner
- Diversity officer: Natalie Kernisant, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 61
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls 26, 2Ls 70
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 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 2019: 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
American Univ., Washington College of Law, 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, 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, Suffolk Univ. 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.
Linkedin:Morrison Foerster LLP
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Deals in Asia (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- IT & Outsourcing: Transactions (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Life Sciences (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
- Venture Capital (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity Recognised Practitioner
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Appellate Law (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- FCPA (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Compliance & Litigation) (Band 2)
- Government Contracts (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Life Sciences (Band 3)
- Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Privacy & Data Security (Band 1)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
- REITs (Band 3)
- Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
- Tax: Controversy (Band 4)