Perkins Coie LLP - The Inside View

Come as you are to the Seattle-born nirvana where cutting-edge work and liberal attitudes go hand in hand.

WASHINGTON State has given the world more than you might realize. Two of the world's largest companies – Microsoft and Amazon – began life there. As did Starbucks, Costco, Boeing... and Perkins Coie. "We began representing Amazon when it was a 30-person company,” the firm's executive committee chair Dave McShea tells us, adding: “We’re still representing them today.” Like its giant client, Perkins has had quite the growth spurt. The firm now has 16 US offices, and around half line the West Coast, while others can be found in key domestic locations like DC, New York, Chicago and Dallas. Overseas, Perkins has three more bases in China and Taiwan.

Juniors attributed PC's “progressive” culture to its West Coast roots – it's also got a trademark political law practice and close ties to the Democratic Party. The DC-centric team has represented corporations, nonprofits, political law campaigns and even presidential bids: group chair Marc Elias served as general counsel to Hillary for America in 2016/17. Perkins' voting rights litigation prowess prompted one associate to declare it “a unicorn,” and Chambers USA awards the practice a similarly rare top ranking. Other strong nationwide rankings go to leisure and hospitality, Native American law, retail and aviation litigation. “In the Pacific Northwest, Perkins Coie is the most respected and prestigious law firm,” proud Seattle juniors declared. “In terms of what a firm could do for my career trajectory, this is the pinnacle.” It would be remiss of us not to point out, however, that most of Perkins Coie's lawyers (two thirds in fact) actually reside outside of Seattle.

Strategy & Future

They also reckoned Perkins' roots would serve its practice well in the future: “As California gets more crowded in more industries, this city becomes more and more attractive to companies, especially in technology.” Perkins already does “a lot of work for the big tech giants,” associates continued proudly, singling out Google, Twitter, Yelp, Adobe and Uber.

The advent and growth of blockchain and fintech has had a very strong effect on our practice,” executive committee chair Dave McShea says. “Because we have significant offices in Seattle and the Bay Area, we are strongly aligned with many tech companies.” He goes on to outline the firm’s aspiration:We want to be in markets where we see the world’s most innovative companies and industry leaders.” With this in mind, the firm is primarily targeting six offices for growth: New York, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC, San Francisco and Palo Alto. Find out more from McShea about the firm's future by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above to read our full interview with him.

The Work

Most Perkins rookies find themselves in business, commercial litigation, IP or political law. Associates are hired directly into subgroups within these but get “plenty of opportunities to move around” between sub-teams “especially during the first five years.” In some smaller groups “partners work as a team” to dole out tasks, but for most there's a free-market system. “From day one you're encouraged to knock on doors and ask people to grab coffee to build relationships.” This proactive approach suited our go-getting interviewees and there are resources in place to help out, including weekly timekeeping surveys.

Around 40% of the firm's juniors fall into the 'business' bucket. This broad category encompasses corporate and securities, M&A, emerging companies and venture capital, technology transactions and privacy. “Clients are all over the place in terms of what they do and how big they are,” sources said; team Seattle“have probably worked with every major public company in the city,” whereas Palo Alto focuses primarily on emerging businesses. Juniors in corporate and securities got exposure to capital markets and public company filings with “lots of drafting, general corporate maintenance and answering questions that pop up from the client.” On that latter note, associates were happy to find “even as a summer I met with clients in a shadowing role. Once I started, client contact was immediate with supervision.”

“So much is new – no one is a complete expert on anything!”

Woven across different sub-teams you’ll find special industry groups, including one dedicated to blockchain. “Our clients put out papers describing the goal of a new app,” one associate explained, “and we have to help thread the needle to ensure they comply with a whole host of regulatory requirements. As a junior I was helping to coordinate large-scale white papers.” Working on cutting-edge areas of law, “you’re instantly given a lot of responsibility because so much is new – nobody's a complete expert on anything!” One associate gave us a breakdown of their day ahead: “I’m reviewing white papers and issue-spotting, then I’ll be doing some business development work in client meetings with partners – a lot of that is shadowing.”

Business clients: Amazon, Griffith Foods, Nasdaq. Represented Boeing in its $3.5 million financing of virtual reality startup C360 Technologies.

Well over half of Perkins’ junior litigators join business litigation; other options include white-collar investigations, securities, government contracts, construction and real estate, and privacy and data security. Being in a small office is no obstruction to the litigious buffet: “What's interesting about Portland is there's never just one thing always coming through,” for instance. The free market meant sources were able to play the field, but research and writing was a core task for all. That could mean “anything from demand letters to pleadings or motions, or even just emails to opposing counsel or the client. The litigation group really prides itself on its writing so there's a lot of focus in the first three years on improving that skill.” On larger teams, associates were managing expert reports: “I’ll be a go-between for partners and expert witnesses and get that report ready for filing.” Other cases saw juniors working solely with a partner. As well as strategizing, they were “responsible for pushing forward discovery requests and getting ready for trial.” Stand-up experience in court was more difficult to come by. “I knew it would be harder to get deposition and argument opportunities,” one told us, “but at a certain point I want to get away from my desk and into the courtroom.”

Litigation clients: Microsoft, Starbucks, General Mills. Defended Google against claims that a photo uploaded to Google Photos violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

There was less movement across IP as “it’s broken into patent litigation and everything else.” That 'everything else' encompasses a significant amount of patent prosecution work. Compared to litigators, IP associates found that rather than “living and breathing a specific case for months or years, we hop from thing to thing. Any day might touch up to 20 clients, it’s very fast-paced.” Trademark, copyright, media and brand protection sources were handling “all aspects of a client’s trademark and copyright management.” Over in patent litigation associates got to grips with “very large-scale patent infringement actions by big players in the semiconductor industry.” IP sources also slotted into indemnification cases for tech manufacturers. “Their customers might get sued for patent infringement and go to our client asking for defense against the action because they think it’s based on technology that our client sold them,” they explained. “The client turns to us and says: ‘Here’s our agreement with our customer. Are we obligated to pay for that lawsuit?’”

IP clients: T-Mobile, Nintendo of America, McAfee. Defeated a preliminary injunction motion on a design patent infringement claim brought against food company General Mills.

Get Hired

“Perkins is a national firm, but it’s very much a local firm too and wants to be involved in the community,” said associates. “I had to think about how to showcase that I wanted to be part of both sides during my interview.” Click on the 'Bonus Features' tab above for more tips.

Career Development

As part of its annual review system the firm provides associates with “benchmarks for what you should be doing at which year in your practice, and when you'll be considered for promotion.” Those gunning for partnership were optimistic as “it seems as though if you like Perkins, and Perkins like you, there's definitely better than a two percent chance.” In a smaller office like Chicago “it's hard to say there's a clear path, but the expectations are clear.” As for those with other plans, going in-house with one of the firm's clients is “a pretty natural segue.”

Outside of annual reviews some felt “the firm doesn't pay too much attention to individual development, there's little incentive for partners to invest in us,” but many interviewees praised their supervisors for putting in the effort outside formal channels. “I was thanking a partner for pushing me, and he told me he’d had great mentors at the firm,” one recalled. “There’s this ‘pass it down’ mentality.”

Culture & Diversity

Keen to celebrate their tight-knit environment, associates described Perkins as “softer around the edges” than other firms of a similar size. “We can go toe-to-toe with anywhere in the country, but everyone recognizes you’re a person and not just a billable hours number.” Many appreciated being treated as an individual even before joining Perkins; diverse juniors with “reservations about applying to a prestigious firm where I might not be the normal candidate” found this particularly appealing. For some, the firm’s commitment to gender diversity shone through its Le[a]dBetter program, an initiative to support women-founded companies.

Two firm-wide diversity retreats take place every other year: one for women, and one for all other minorities. Many took this as evidence that “the firm actively promotes everybody getting to know each other. They put people from different offices at different tables during dinners to make sure you integrate.” Bonding over a meal with colleagues seemed common: “I went out for lunch almost every day my first month.”

“Partners are just as excited to hear about my weekend as they are to find out where that draft is.”

A cheery Seattle source said: “When I come in on Monday morning, partners are just as excited to hear about my weekend as they are to find out where that draft of the motion is.” Over in Denver, Friday bagels (more food!) and informal dress foster the laid-back vibes even further, and all the way over in Chicago associates felt “the atmosphere could be described as West Coast.” It's probably unrealistic to expect the same of DC. According to sources there, “things are way less laid-back than the smaller West Coast offices by nature of where we are. It’s quiet and not very social – a 'get work done' sort of place.” The political law group might be the exception: “There’s a feeling of solidarity that we’re in the good fight together.” Our sources attributed the Perkins atmosphere to “scrupulous” hiring efforts. “They want to make sure people that are willing to, put in the hours but also have some sort of personality!”

Hours & Compensation

One downside to such diligent hiring? “We have great people but we need more of them,” sources stressed. “I turn down a lot of work I’d like to do. Hours can be incredibly long.” Sources said it was “rare to be in the office before 8am or to stay past 8pm,” but most continued working from home to get everything done. To get the market-rate salary, associates need to bill between 1,850 and 1,950 hours (the target amount differs between the offices: for example, those in the major markets like New York, DC and all the Cali bases are looking to hit 1,950, while those in markets like Seattle, Denver, Phoenix and Portland are aiming for 1,850). Most found these targets attainable, especially busy M&A juniors.

“We have great people but we need more of them.”

However, those in the lower billable hour markets can opt to be on the higher 1,950 scale if they would like to take on the challenge and earn more. Some loved that they were “not pressured to put in 1,950 hours, but if I do I’ll still get paid for it.” That was the attitude in Denver, but other offices had a different outlook: “It’s been made clear to me that the minimum is 1,950,” according to a Seattle junior, “and the comp structure makes sure you know it. Not reaching 1,950 makes a huge financial impact!” The 100-hour difference is reportedly worth $30,000, although we could not confirm this figure before we went to press. The firm made it clear to us that in all of the lower billable hour markets the standard is set at 1,850 and that there is no formal expectation to hit 1,950 hours. We were also informed that all of the hours billed over 1,850 are pro-rated to ensure that associates receive the extra base compensation for surpassing their target. However, associates do need to hit 1,950 to be bonus-eligible across markets. Beyond this hours requirement, many interviewees had “never been 100% sure on how bonuses work!” One clued-up source said: “Your contribution to things like pro bono is also taken into consideration. They're not just based on one or two metrics.”

Pro Bono

Our interviewees lavished praise on the firm’s pro bono practice, even though many had been too busy to pick anything up. When they do find time to do so, they’ll be able to bill all of their pro bono hours. The firm sets a target of 50 hours and circulates a magazine highlighting pro bono achievements to incentivize attorneys – associates who bill more than 50 earn a mention in the magazine plus a little gift. Immigration was a key issue in DC while Seattle insiders reported “deep relationships” with local nonprofits and clinics advising local businesspeople, “like the local barber who can’t afford a lawyer.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 49,985
  • Average per (US) attorney:52

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,652

Candidates outside OCI: 1,002

Perkins Coie conducts OCIs at over 40 law schools across the US, including the top 20 law schools as well as regional schools in the same area as the firm’s offices. At larger schools, the panel typically interviews up to 70 to 80 students. Perkins Coie also attends five job fairs, and regularly hires judicial clerks who apply to the firm during their clerkship.

In most cases OCIs are conducted by partners, but hiring partner Mike Gotham adds that if they can “we like to send attorneys who are alums of that school.” The panel uses behavioral interviewing techniques to focus on candidates’ past behavior, so they should be ready with examples of, for example, a time when they “took on additional responsibility for a major task at work or in school.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Candidates should be prepared for a conversation that will help us get a good idea of their interests, goals, skills and personality” – hiring partner Mike Gotham



Applicants invited to second stage interview: 328 (conducted interviews with 256)

The callback process differs office to office at Perkins Coie, but candidates are typically invited to spend a half-day at the office and undergo four to six interviews with a mix of associates and partners. Some offices now host ‘super recruiting’ events, at which up to 15 students undergo ‘round robin’ one-to-one interviews. Questions are unsurprisingly 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. A Portland associate remembered “we went to a juice bar of course – it’s Portland!”

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 detailed questions about the firm, the summer program and the practice of law at Perkins Coie” – hiring partner Mike Gotham


Summer program

Offers: 85

Acceptances: 50

Like callbacks, Perkins’ summer program can differ between offices. In some, 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 broad areas i.e. transactional or dispute-related. Offers are made on business need but Gotham says, “the summer associate’s interests are key to their assignment” as well.

Gotham advises future summers to “be social – get to know your fellow summer associates and the firm’s attorneys, but don’t be so social that it interferes with your work.” All summers attend a two-day Summer Associate Retreat at a resort outside Seattle which incorporates training with “outdoor fun.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Meet all deadlines or, if you know you cannot meet a deadline, notify your supervisors.” – hiring partner 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."


Interview with firm chair Dave McShea

Chambers Associate: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?

Dave McShea: A number of our practices have been performing very strongly lately; our blockchain and fintech group is one of our fastest growing practices. We have developed one of the world's leading practices in this area and we have been focused for several years on developing the breadth and depth of that group.

Emerging companies and venture capital continue to be very strong for the firm as do IP litigation and IP generally, privacy and data security (both litigation and counseling), private equity and M&A, public company corporate and securities, white-collar and investigations, political law, product liability, and our trial litigation practice for highly complex cases.

CA: Are there any broad trends that are currently shaping the type of work conducted in your firm's practices?

DM: Certainly, the advent and growth of blockchain and fintech has had a very strong effect on our practice. Because we have significant offices in Seattle and the Bay Area, we are strongly aligned with many tech companies. We represent some of the largest names in technology and we have a history of working with companies from start-up to market leadership. We began representing Amazon when it was a 30-person company and we’re still representing them today.

CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?

DM: We have been growing the firm fairly rapidly. We’ve probably had 20 lateral partners join the firm over the past year in a variety of practices from IP to emerging companies and venture capital, across many offices. Combine that with our record for promoting associates to partner as well and we’re expanding at a fairly strong rate.

CA: Is the firm singling out any particular offices for growth?

DM: Our strategy is to grow across all offices, but particular areas of focus and development are New York, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC, and the Bay Area in both San Francisco and Palo Alto. We want to be in markets where we see the world’s most innovative companies and industry leaders, and all those markets have a strong share of that. DC is on the list because of the regulatory work that impacts all of these companies.

CA: Some of our interviewees had the feeling that the firm is becoming more DC-centric given that the managing partner John Devaney sits in Washington DC. Is there any accuracy in that?

DM: The managing partner John Devaney is based in DC, but I’m chair of the executive committee and I’m based in Seattle. If you look at the members of the management committee, Stephen Hedberg and Paul Parker are both in Seattle; Mark Birnbaum is based in LA; and Molly Moynihan is based in DC so there’s no real concentration in DC. The executive committee is geographically diverse and has members from Seattle, the Bay Area, Chicago, New York, and DC.

CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?

DM: It’s become more national and, as a result, recruiting top talent has become more competitive. When considering firms, candidates now look beyond the region where they studied and they have far more options.

CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate/adapt to in the future?

DM: I’d say that one big challenge will be client demands for greater efficiency which will likely lead to more creative alternative billing strategies. Firms will also need to ensure they invest in technology to increase efficiency and value for their clients.

CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?

DM: You have a unique relationship with the people you work with and you work in a setting with a very strong sense of camaraderie. In addition, you have the opportunity to be a trusted adviser to some of the most interesting and innovative companies and industry leaders in the world. It’s a unique and wonderful opportunity: you get to be a participant, adviser and key player in helping grow companies that are changing the world.

CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?

DM: It’s equally important to do fantastic legal work and to ensure you develop deep, trusted relationships with your colleagues and your clients.

CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students about to enter the law?

DM: When you choose a firm, it’s very important to find one with a culture that resonates with you. Also, as you begin your career, pay attention to your reactions as you try different types of work and always focus on playing to your strengths. That will be a good indicator of the things you like most.

CA: Anything to add?

DM: Our vision as a firm is to be the most trusted adviser to the world’s most innovative companies and industry leaders, and we focus on that by gaining trust and providing high-value strategic solutions on matters vital to our clients’ interests and success. The first goal of our strategic plan is to be among the highest-rated firms in terms of client satisfaction, and we are utilizing a variety of methods, including data analytics, to understand how we’re serving our clients and how we can improve.

I’d also add that one of the most important things for us as a firm is to start with the client and work backward. Most firms start with what they’re good at and try to market that. We work in reverse, and first assess the needs of the clients we’re trying to serve. We work from that and develop processes, talent development and technologies to meet those needs.

Perkins Coie LLP

1201 Third Avenue,
Suite 4900,
WA 98101-3099

  • Head Office: Seattle, WA
  • Number of domestic offices: 16
  • Number of international offices: 3
  • Worldwide revenue: $861,731,000
  • Partners (US): 532
  • Associates (US): 556
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Michael Gotham, Director of Legal Recruiting and Retention (
  • Diversity officer: Genhi Bailey
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 46
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
  • 1Ls: 29; 2Ls: 49
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
  • Chicago: 5; Dallas: 3; Los Angeles: 3; Madison: 2; New York: 1; Palo Alto: 9; Phoenix: 5; Portland; 3; San Diego: 3; San Francisco: 9; Seattle: 26; Washington, DC: 9
  • Summer salary 2019
  • 1Ls: $2,885—$3,462 (depending on location)
  • 2Ls: $ $2,885—$3,462 (depending on location)
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

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 1,000 lawyers in 19 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 2018, 281 of the firm’s attorneys were listed among the ‘Best Lawyers in America’ and the firm was named ‘Law Firm of the Year’ in patent law for the third time. Perkins Coie is very proud to have been named one of Fortune magazine’s ‘Best Companies to Work for’ for the past 17 years.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
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 Chicago, Univ. of Illinois, Univ. of Michigan, Univ. of Oregon, U Penn, USD, Univ. of Arizona, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Washington, 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 Northwest Minority Job Fair, the Bay Area Diversity Fair 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, attorneys 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, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Environment, Natural Resources & Regulated Industries (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Environment (including water rights) (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Venture Capital (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Corporate/Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy Recognised Practitioner
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Native American Law: Non-Tribal Representation (Band 1)
    • Political Law (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security (Band 3)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 5)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/Commercial (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)