Taking pol position for its entrepreneurial vibe, “the grass is truly greener” at Polsinelli, which excels at healthcare-related work and much more.
Have you ever watched Mad Men? The show where multimillionaire advertising execs sip whisky from their leather recliners, feet atop gleaming mahogany desks? Well, Polsinelli is nothing like that: “We’re not surrounded by a bunch of 80-year-old country club men who sit around basking in the glory of the firm they created,” one delighted interviewee told us, noting Polsinelli’s relative youth as a law firm. “You can feel life and energy pulsating through the firm,” another associate pointed out, adding that Polsinelli is far from reaching a sense of staleness that other firms can suffer from.
This atmosphere is the reason CEO and Chairman, Chase Simmons, has stayed at the firm since his days as a summer associate: “I’ve spent my career here because we have such an excellent, entrepreneurial culture: we are a firm that really says yes to good ideas, which means we branch out into new specialties, hire new attorneys and bring on new clients. We’re not only sticking with the clients we’ve had for 20 years.” That said, this is a firm that knows what it’s good at: “We focus on real estate, financial services, private equity, technology and health care, and we will continue to focus on those areas,” Simmons explains. A case in point: our sister publication, Chambers USA, has awarded the firm high rankings for its real estate and corporate work, alongside a further seven healthcare rankings. All in all, Polsinelli is recognized for its expertise in ten practices across 11 states.
“You can feel life and energy pulsating through the firm.”
With so many strings to its bow, the firm plans to increase its leverage at the associate level: “We will be doubling our summer class sizes and we continue to be active in the lateral space. There aren’t many opportunities to make partner at other firms, so we’re keen to hire associates who want to build their practice here.” Indeed, the firm is particularly popular with laterals: more than 30% of our associate interviewees were lateral hires, who gave us all sorts of reasons for moving to Polsinelli. The firm’s reputation proved to be a major selling point for several sources: “A bunch of my friends have nothing to do with the legal industry, but even they all speak really highly of Polsinelli!” Others were drawn to the firm’s size: “I wanted to be part of a bigger firm so I could expand my knowledge.”
Polsinelli set up shop in Kansas City in the 70s, but today it has 21 offices across the US. “Our headcount has grown substantially in the past ten years, which showed me the firm is poised to make some pretty big moves,” one interviewee reflected. Sources were also keen to highlight the firm’s financial performance: “We had a town hall a couple of weeks ago and management was in disbelief at how well we’re doing: we’re completely obliterating financial projections!”
Work allocation varies by practice group, but for the most part associates fill out a weekly workload tracker, which shareholders (partners) look at before assigning matters. Naturally, some shareholders will reach out to associates they’ve worked with before. The firm’s wider business department is home to the corporateand transactional group, which in turn has its own sub-groups, like private equity and M&A. The latter focuses on midsize private M&A deals ranging from one million dollars in revenue to a couple billion, across areas like healthcare, technology, real estate and private equity: “Polsinelli is really well known for its health expertise, both on the regulatory and deal sides, like buying and selling assets and merging with other health entities.” On any given deal, associates will run the checklist, handle the due diligence and draft the ancillaries for purchase agreements: “We essentially do everything that comes after the negotiation stage.” Our research indicated that this group doesn’t offer the most client contact, but sources did score it highly for partner interaction and the opportunity to progress their legal skills.
Corporate clients: spirit company Spring44 Distilling, standardized testing company ACT inc, Big 12 Conference. Represented Catholic Health Initiatives in connection with its $30 billion (plus) combination with Dignity Health.
Trademark issues form the bulk of Polsinelli’s IP practice, both on the contentious and non-contentious side: “We do a lot of Trademark Trial and Appeal Board [TTAB] work; if our client has a registered trademark but someone else out there applies for a similar one, we’ll try to get their application canceled.” Where enforcement is concerned, “I’ll write cease and desist letters and file a takedown,” a source informed us. Sounds serious! There’s also work to be done for clients who don’t yet have a trademark: “Clients will come to us wanting to launch a new brand, so we’ll do the clearance work for them. We’re pretty heavy on the patent prosecution side.” More generally, associates are responsible for maintaining clients’ portfolios, whether they involve large international patents or smaller domestic ones, so it’s unsurprising that associates scored this group highly for client contact.
IP clients: Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, cosmetics company Liberta, wine company This Realm. Defended oilfield service company TCO against a patent infringement claim concerning oil well equipment.
Client interaction is also high over in technology transactions and data privacy, where rookies split their time between data breach responses and data privacy counseling. It’s one of the firm’s largest departments and is spread across ten offices: “It’s a fast-paced, ever evolving area and I’m fortunate to be able to learn from some of the best lawyers in the industry,” declared one particularly enamored source. Given the firm’s health focus, “most of our advisory matters concern HIPAA [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], which protects the use and disclosure of health information.” Associates also advise clients on different state laws and international regulations like the UK’s GDPR. In the event of a cybersecurity breach, newbies will assist in notifying the affected organizations and regulatory authorities. Associates get to hone their negotiation and drafting skills on the technology side of the practice. This department wasn’t highlighted as the best for awarding associates tons of responsibility, but “it’s a very friendly, cohesive unit” with good working hours.
“I’m fortunate to be able to learn from some of the best lawyers in the industry.”
Tech transactions and data privacy clients: Iovance Biotherapeutics, photo-management company Flickr, publishing company Riverside Assessments. Counsels UT-Battelle, manager of the Department of Energy’s nuclear research facility, on privacy and data security issues.
The healthcare folks are kept busy with regulatory work, which covers Medicare, Medicaid and state-specific compliance matters. Hospitals form the bulk of the client base, but the firm also works with health and hospice agencies: “Right now lots of clients want to expand their operations, so I’ve been doing a lot of licensure and enrollment work,” a source reported. This involves drafting notices and submitting applications to the relevant health authority. A fair bit of research comes up here: “Sometimes I’ll need to contact the relevant state to get more insight into the process, then I’ll relay that information to the client.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, associates were tasked with tracking developments in different states: “It was a bit chaotic, but we just wanted to get our clients through it. I’ve learned an immense amount in a short period of time. This group has some of the most intelligent but kindest attorneys out there.”
Healthcare clients: Northwest Community Healthcare, home medical equipment company, AdaptHealth, Dimensional Dental. Assisted non-profit research organization Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center with research contracts for COVID-19 vaccine trials.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900
The firm upped its base associate compensation in June 2021. Polsinelli varies pay by region (it divides its salaries into four regional brackets); first-year associates working in the biggest legal markets will now receive $200,000 while those in the smaller markets will get $170,000. All of this was announced after we did our associate interviews, but at the time of research the salary got mixed reviews: associates based in a range of legal markets told us they would consider leaving the firm for a higher salary, while lower satisfaction scores were registered for transparency around bonus allocation and the amount itself.
Associates are eligible for a bonus if they hit the billing target (which most interviewees thought was doable), and a mix of objective and subjective factors determine the amount awarded. Associates also felt that people at Polsinelli were flexible when it came to appreciating personal lives: “Nobody will crack the whip if you have to go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day. It’s not do or die.”
“The firm won’t allow people to be mean or ruthless to juniors. All the shareholders I’ve worked with have been unbelievably nice,” declared one insider. While not all departments have formal mentorship structures, our interviewees across the board had no trouble finding mentors organically: “Everyone is so supportive. People always check in to make sure I don’t have too much or too little work and answer my questions.” There’s also a nationwide professional development committee, which associates take part in and raise any points they want to make about their career progress.
Polsinelli was further praised for helping newbies with networking: “We’re encouraged to go to conferences and our marketing department is great at helping us decide what sort of boards we should be on.” The pandemic inevitably put a stop to in-person networking opportunities, “but we have an internal program where some of our clients speak to us about what they’re looking for in attorneys.” Sources were pleased to report that “there is definitely a pathway for associates to become shareholders here.” According to our survey, 35% of associate respondents intended to make partner at the firm, with a strong number hoping to stay at the firm indefinitely.
“There is definitely a pathway for associates to become shareholders here.”
Those who joined the firm remotely were relieved to be invited to several Zoom events so they could get to know their colleagues. While some found that these events “really helped me to feel part of the firm,” others thought “attendance at the catch-ups was pretty low, so there are still loads of people I haven’t met.” Either way, sources agreed that camaraderie among associates is strong: “It’s not remotely competitive. We build each other up.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Polsinelli runs regular talks to promote mental wellbeing – which associates get billable credit for attending – but sources thought the firm could be more proactive in addressing mental health. The firm did establish a four-week program called Vision Persue, which is run by an external mental wellbeing company: “It helps people with mindfulness, stress and brain chemistry.” It should be noted that attorneys also have access to an anonymous helpline, which puts them through to HR and is not just for mental health related matters. Counseling is available under the firm’s Employee Assistance Program.
Like all firms, Polsinelli could improve its representation of diverse attorneys, but associates thought the firm was doing a decent job in addressing this through recruitment. CEO Chase Simmons explains: “We’re also focused on improving diversity in leadership by creating opportunities within the firm: if someone wants to be a practice leader, we make sure they’re not just waiting in line for someone to retire.”
Newbies scored the firm highly for providing an environment where they felt comfortable being themselves: “When you first join, there’s a Zoom call with all diverse associates where you can speak candidly. There’s definitely an eagerness to make sure everyone is represented,” a source who identified as diverse told us. Each affinity group hosts regular events and talks.
"There’s definitely an eagerness to make sure everyone is represented.”
The firm has partnerships with organizations like Lawyers for the Creative Arts, but pro bono wasn’t felt to be as pushed as it is at other firms. That said, associates did feel they had freedom to take on any project they wanted. Our sources had helped a Medicaid beneficiary who was denied the services they were entitled to and had acted as in-house counsel for a nonprofit healthcare company. Associates can bring in their own matters or sign up to projects the firm has on its books. Attorneys can reportedly count some pro bono towards the billing target.
Pro bono hours
•For all (US) attorneys: undisclosed
•Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed
Strategy & Future
CEO Chase Simmons is optimistic about the future: “Overall, industries are generally busy due to low interest rates and GDP growth in the US and in other parts of the world. It’s a very hot economy that’s really swinging back, so we’ve seen a lot of activity in terms of people and companies investing, buying and selling.” That has led to a lot of real estate and private equity work landing on Polsinelli’s books of late. On the healthcare front, “telemedicine took a giant leap” as a result of the pandemic, so all the issues surrounding that have also been keeping Polsinelli’s lawyers on their toes. In the year ahead, expect Polsinelli to keep its focus on those core areas like real estate, healthcare, private equity and IP, but we also anticipate that this firm will remain an active player in the lateral market.
OCIs and Callbacks
OCI applicants interviewed 2021: 406
Polsinelli participates in OCIs at over 30 universities across the country. Members of the firm’s Strategic Recruiting and Hiring Committee and university alumni who practice at Polsinelli all conduct interviews; the number of interviews depends on how many applications the firm receives, ranging from one to 20 interviews per OCI event.
The firm also attends a number of diversity-driven careers fairs, including the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, the Hispanic National Bar Association Job Fair and the Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair.
Those who make it to the callback stage complete a 30-minute virtual interview with partners and associates.
Clerks are hired on a case-by-case basis.
Top tips: “Demonstrate superior academic credentials; strong work ethic; and exceptional writing and analytical skills,” an insider at the firm told us, adding: “We look for demonstrated leadership ability in prior work and academic experience, and well-rounded, personable individuals who are self-motivated and confident in their abilities.”
Offers 2021: 53
Summer associates will work alongside associates and partners for ten weeks across different practice areas. Students get involved in all sorts of tasks, like drafting motions, examining data to help formulate strategies for clients and analyzing the probable outcome of cases.
There are multiple social events and training sessions to increase networking opportunities: “The goal of our summer associate program is to encourage students to drive initiatives, cultivate relationships and to provide first-hand law firm experience,” a representative of the firm told us. It’s worth noting that Polsinelli has a high return rate when it comes to summers joining as full-time associates.
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This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 5)
- Labor & Employment (Band 5)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
Missouri: Kansas City & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
Missouri: St Louis & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 5)
Texas: Dallas, Fort Worth & Surrounds
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Franchising (Band 4)
- Healthcare: The Elite (Band 4)
- Healthcare (Band 3)