Perkins Coie LLP - The Inside View

Want to work at a firm that’s expanding its reputation in all things tech? Don’t Seattle for anything less than Perkins Coie! 

When it comes to the big players in the Pacific Northwest, any lawyer worth their salt will tell you that Perkins Coie is the place to be. After all, this is a firm that has nabbed some of the most recognizable global brands to emerge from Seattle, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing. At the same time, Perkins has advised the likes of Google and Facebook in Silicon Valley and has a hefty East Coast presence in New York and DC. “We’re deeply rooted in locations where you have tech-focused clients and practices,” says managing partner Bill Malley. “Our lawyers work on the cutting edge of some of the most interesting and disruptive technologies across every sector of the economy.”  

“Our strategy is to work at the intersection between law and technology.”

Our associate sources were certainly drawn to the firm’s tech-infused practices, with one highlighting the “strong IP group, which has been built out and shows the firm’s commitment to the area,” while another recalled: “I really wanted to break into the tech field and do emerging companies/venture capital work.” A look at the Chambers USA rankings shows that these interviewees were on the right track: Perkins picks up high praise for its IP expertise across Washington and California in particular, while its startups and tech know-how collects nationwide recognition. Seattle is still where the firm receives the most prestigious accolades, with areas like corporate, litigation, antitrust, and labor & employment all receiving top nods. On a nationwide scale, Perkins is a leader when it comes to litigious privacy and data security work, while its political law capabilities are highly regarded.  

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Perkins has 20 offices across the US and Asia, with Austin becoming its most recent addition in 2020. “We’ve continued to grow our presence in Austin and New York,” says Malley. “We now have over 20 lawyers in Austin and 100 in New York, with a strong tech focus in each of those markets.” Perkins' Austin stronghold is proving to be an effective location for further boosting the firm’s emerging companies and venture capital work, we hear.

Strategy & Future 

“Our strategy is to work at the intersection between law and technology,” says managing partner Bill Malley. “The economy has taken a significant turn over the past year, and we’ve seen that play to our strengths in many ways. Some practices are becoming increasingly active, including litigation, securities and regulation. One area I would highlight is fintech – it has gone from something that was seen as niche to something more mainstream and it has continued to boom.”

As firms emerge from the pandemic amid an uncertain economic outlook, Malley notes that “one of the key skills is versatility and being able to adapt to a constantly changing work environment and client needs – those who are versatile and resilient can navigate uncertain times and continue to deliver excellent client service.”

The Work 

Most of the associates on our list were based in the firm’s Seattle HQ, with Palo Alto and DC the next most populated locations for juniors. Other offices with a fair share of juniors included New York, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco. The business, commercial litigation, and IP practice groups were the most represented on our list – each of these is further broken down into various subgroups. Work assignment varies across these groups, but “more often than not, it’s based on work stream and connections you have with individuals within the firm.” Talent advisers are on hand to help associates find work, and there's a new tool that can be used to input availability for fresh matters. The subgroup divisions are quite flexible, so “people are happy to hear from you if you’re interested in the kind of work they’re doing. You’re very welcome to reach out to those people and get involved.” One source explained the benefit of this flexible assignment structure: “It incentivizes partners in the sense that they need to treat associates well in order to get the best to work with them. You have a little bit more leverage in that relationship.” 

Subgroups in business include corporate & securities; M&A; tech transactions & privacy; and emerging companies & venture capital. These subdivisions provide “a feeling of working in a smaller team where you feel like you know everyone.” Associates in the emerging companies group assist startups with day-to-day corporate work, and “expect to grow with the client as the client grows.” Here “they give you a lot of client-facing work right off the bat. Rather than being in the background doing diligence on hundreds of computer files in the data room, you’re actually the client lead. They allow you that sort of experience.” Another perk here is that “each experience is unique, because each client’s business is different.” The life cycle that juniors get to assist with includes “the formation of the entity, helping to raise money – whether that’s through angel investing or a bridge financing – and navigating an exit in the form of a merger, an IPO or an asset sale.” 

Emerging companies & venture capital clients: Amazon, Wyze Labs, R-Zero Technologies. Represented sales enablement platform Highspot during its latest $248 million financing round.  

In commercial litigation, most associates could be found in the business litigation; privacy and data security; and energy and environmental subgroups. Business litigators found that they could dabble in a broad range of areas, including soft IP work, political law, and antitrust matters. “I thought I would be least interested in discovery work,” reflected one source, “but I have one case that I’ve seen from start to finish and the fact-gathering process was more enjoyable than I expected.” On smaller matters, “you might be working with one or two partners and researching specific issues, as well as drafting motions and emails to clients. Big cases might mean that you’re identifying gaps in discovery or responding to requests for the production of documents.” In privacy, associates aren’t limited to just US clients, and many work with European companies on GDPR matters; clients range from major tech companies to retail businesses and startups.  

Commercial litigation clients: Boeing, WeWork, Costco. Representing Nintendo of America during several putative class actions related to the Nintendo Switch. 

The IP group is broadly divided into patent litigation, patent prosecution and trademark work. We heard that there's a lot of patent work in Seattle, where there’s “a broad range of technologies that you get to encounter – everything from robotic arms for bricklaying machines to patents for glaucoma treatments to sleep apnea stuff. There’s a lot of medical device work.” (Note that patent work is available in other locations, too).We also heard about associates leading the likes of domain name enforcement and copyright filing programs: “The seniors train you up and instill a level of trust in you, which is appreciated because it gives you room to grow.” Given that patent law training “can be hit or miss at law school, here they build in buffer time for you to learn how to do patent prosecution – as you get more senior, you’ll take on projects that require more knowledge of clients’ technology.” 

IP clients: L’Oréal, Microsoft, F5 Networks. Represented Pinterest in a patent infringement case regarding the core functionality of the app.  

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 2,000 target 

Associates aim for 2,000 hours to get a bonus: “It’s fine if you don’t meet it – you won’t get fired!” Many found this to be an achievable target, but in some transactional areas of practice, “it’s a bit harder to meet the hours, as we have smaller clients – I'm still trying to find the right balance!” To hit the bonus, associates are expected to have 1,850 hours of standard client billable work, while the remaining can be made up of pro bono and up to 50 DE&I hours. Perkins also offers reduced hours tracks, “which allow you to have a billing target that’s lower and comes with a corresponding reduction in pay. They’re willing to work with people who have family or other outside commitments – they want to keep people here and help them to be successful.” 

“I have weekends, man!” 

Our sources' workdays varied in terms of start and finish times, but interviewees were mostly aiming to put in between eight and nine hours a day. Working extra hours or logging on after going home for dinner were not uncommon, but for most their weekends were left undisturbed: “I have weekends, man!” a thrilled associate exclaimed. Another told us that they’d only work on a weekend “if there was client demand or a deadline on Monday.” If associates do get overwhelmed, we heard that partners are always willing to help take off some of the burden: “They won’t leave you to suffer and people do share work. It is community-based and there’s a lot of peer mentoring among associates and partners.” 

Pro Bono 

Sources pointed out that “pro bono allows you to sharpen your skills within your area of practice, but it also gives you the opportunity to do work you’d otherwise never be able to do.” For instance, Perkins offers training modules to attorneys who are keen to take on asylum or military discharge matters. Meanwhile, on the specialized side, we heard of associates drafting privacy policies for startups. Immigration work was common across offices, but overall there were “lots of opportunities thanks to regular emails from the pro bono group.” These include domestic violence, landlord/tenant, nonprofit housekeeping, patent, and compassionate release matters. “I don’t feel uncomfortable using my time to work on pro bono,” an associate commented, “because I know that it counts.” While 150 hours of pro bono is technically the billable cut-off point, “you can get an exception if there are special circumstances, like if you have a particularly large matter that takes up a lot of your time.” 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all US attorneys: 59,545
  • Average per US attorney: 53.1

Career Development 

Many associates felt that partners and senior associates at the firm really go the extra mile to make sure young associates gain exposure and experience: “There is a culture of really seeing us as long-term investments.” The set-up at Perkins “rewards people who are go-getters,” with partners praised for ensuring that associates get the chance to level up key skills, such as drafting or examining a witness. One associate told us: “I’ve had partners say, ‘yeah, you could do this task, but I don’t think it’s going to make you a better attorney, so let’s find you something else to do.” 

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First-year associates also go through a formal training academy: “They go through everything you need to know as an associate, and have a vast library of all the resources online – I go back from time to time to refresh my memory on certain concepts! I never feel like I’m lost.” The path to partnership is “clear – you’re eligible after eight yearsand in your annual performance reviews they’ll discuss the track and the things you could be doing if you’re interested.” The people who do leave tend “to become in-house counsel for clients they’ve worked for before. If they leave for another BigLaw firm, that tends to come with a promotion, e.g. it would make them partner.”  


According to our sources, “there are no bad apples” at Perkins, with the majority of attorneys at the firm described as “decent people who are fun to talk to and be around.” The culture was felt to be influenced by the firm’s Seattle roots, with associates all the way over on the East Coast noting how their offices had “adopted the West Coast way of life: people won’t look at you funny if you have to pick up your kids or schedule work around your life, as long as you’re getting your work done.” Interviewees were keen to flag that people are “hard-working, and the firm prides itself on doing high-quality work, but does try to balance that with attorneys’ lives outside of work.”  

“We had a blast!” 

Others commented on the lack of a rigid hierarchy at Perkins, noting that there’s “less of a divide between attorneys and staff.” The Palo Alto office got a special shout-out here, “as we host a great office-wide picnic [other offices do this as well], which included staff and their families – we got to meet everyone, spouses and children, and organized a fair with games.” The firm’s business group retreat also received plenty of praise: “We had a blast! I loved it. The firm was prioritizing people reconnecting and having fun – there were a lot of social activities where I got to know people.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

“I never have a feeling that someone is in the spotlight or out of place because of who they are,” one associate mused when discussing inclusivity at Perkins. As is the case with the majority of BigLaw firms, Perkins was deemed to have done better with cultivating gender diversity than ethnic and racial diversity, with representation varying across practice groups (the privacy department, for example, was flagged as great for gender diversity). “At least half of the partner promotions were women,” an interviewee noted, while another emphasized that they’ve seen “a lot more women with kids who have risen to the partnership, which says a lot.” In addition, “we have a great LGBTQ+ culture – I have a friend who’s gay and moved from another firm and they felt more inclusivity at Perkins.” 

The affinity groups at Perkins tend to have “quarterly meetings and we set up talks – we're working on having more diverse speakers present to our team. There are more unofficial things as well: a couple of months after I started, I met three women who were phenomenal, and we have our own little support group.” Efforts at the early careers stage include law student diversity fellowships. “I do think Perkins probably has better diversity than most other BigLaw firms,” one associate summarized. “They are actively pursuing better numbers in that respect and are looking to make sure that they retain minority attorneys.” 

Get Hired

The first stage: Recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 2,051

Perkins Coie conducts OCIs at over 45 law schools across the United States, including the top 20 law schools as well as regional schools in the same area as the firm’s offices. At larger schools, the firm typically has multiple interview schedules.

In most cases, OCIs are conducted by partners, but Mike Gotham, the firm’s senior director for legal talent, adds that wherever possible, “we like to send attorneys who are alums of that school.” Interviewers use behavioral interviewing techniques so, Gotham says, students should be prepared to discuss examples of navigating past experiences that could be relevant to the practice of law.

Perkins Coie also regularly hires judicial clerks who apply during their clerkships.

Top tips for this stage:

“Candidates should be prepared for a conversation that will help us get a good idea of their interests, goals, and experience.”Mike Gotham

The second stage: Callbacks

The callback process differs from office to office at Perkins Coie, but candidates are typically invited to spend a half day at the office with a schedule that includes four to six interviews with a mix of associates and partners. Some offices now host ‘super-recruiting’ events at which up to 15 students participate in ‘round robin’ one-to-one interviews. For callback interviews, questions are more in-depth than those at OCIs, and Gotham advises, “While not every law student has definitively settled on a practice area by the beginning of their second year, every candidate should be able to provide a thoughtful explanation of what interests them and why.” The interview is often followed by a lunch with associates or an informal networking event.

Top tips for this stage:

“You’re definitely assessing them too, so don’t disregard that part!” first-year associate

“Do your homework on the firm and your interviewers and come prepared to ask questions that go to the criteria that will be important to you when you are deciding among offers from different firms.”Mike Gotham

The third stage: Summer program

Offers for 2023: 36 1Ls and 79 2Ls

Like callbacks, Perkins’ summer program can differ between offices. In some offices, summers are hired for a specific practice group, while in others, they can take assignments from different groups. At the end of the program, summers can express interest in a specific group or in broad areas, i.e., transactional or dispute-related practices. Offers are made based on business needs, but Gotham says, “the summer associate’s interests are key to their assignment” as well.

Gotham advises future summers to “get to know your fellow summer associates and the firm’s attorneys, but don’t be so social that it interferes with your work.” The summer program provides a variety of local, in-person social events as well as opportunities to network with the broader class of summer associates and the firm in general.

Top tips for this stage:

“Focus on getting projects that are substantive and significant and that represent a variety of topics so that you have a portfolio of meaningful work at the end of the summer.”Mike Gotham

And finally….

“Perkins is a national firm, but it’s very much a local firm too and wants to be involved in the community,” said one associate. “I had to think about how to showcase that I wanted to be part of both sides during my interview.”

Perkins Coie LLP

1201 Third Avenue,
Suite 4900,
WA 98101-3099

Main areas of work
Perkins Coie’s practice areas include:
• Intellectual Property
• Commercial Litigation
• Business (M&A, Emerging Companies, Corporate & Securities)
• Environmental Law
• Political Law
• Real Estate & Land Use
• Labor Law
• Privacy & Data Security

Firm profile
With more than 1,200 lawyers in 20 offices across the United States and Asia, Perkins Coie LLP represents companies across a wide range of industries and stages of growth— from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. In 2022, 403 of the firm’s lawyers were listed among the ‘Best Lawyers in America’ and the firm was named ‘Law Firm of the Year’ in both environmental law and patent law. Perkins Coie is very proud to have been named one of Fortune magazine’s‘Best Companies to Work For’ for 21 consecutive years.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
Arizona State, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, GWU, Gonzaga, Harvard, Howard, Lewis & Clark, Loyola (LA), Northwestern, NYU, Santa Clara, Seattle U., SMU, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, UCLA, Univ. of Arizona, Univ. of Chicago, Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Illinois, Univ. of Michigan, Univ. of Oregon, U Penn, USD, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Wisconsin, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Wash U (St. Louis), Willamette, Yale

Recruitment outside OCIs: Each year Perkins Coie attends a number of interview or job fairs including the Patent Law Interview Program (PLIP); Lavender Law, the Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Sunbelt, and the Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair.

Summer associate profile: Perkins Coie seeks self-starters who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership in and service to the community, and dedication to excellence in the legal profession.

Summer program components: Perkins Coie’s summer associate program provides varied work opportunities and social events designed to promote interaction among summer associates, lawyers and staff. Summer associates work on a wide range of challenging legal assignments similar to those given to new associates which typically include legal research, analysis and drafting. Summer associates are invited to attend depositions, mediations, deal closings, client meetings, trials and other professional activities and events. They are welcome and encouraged to work on pro bono projects.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: PerkinsCoieLLP
Twitter: @PerkinsCoieLLP
Facebook: Perkins Coie LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Venture Capital (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/Commercial (Band 1)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 3)
    • Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Appellate (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 5)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Native American Law: Non-Tribal Counsel (Band 1)
    • Offshore Energy (Band 2)
    • Political Law (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Registered Funds (Band 4)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 2)

More from Perkins Coie:

WATCH: The firm's 2019 diversity & inclusion retreat

WATCH: Life as a summer associate at the firm