Seyfarth Shaw LLP - The Inside View

With a stellar national labor & employment practice and opportunities to get hands-on experience from the get-go, life for associates at this Chicago-born firm is Seyfarth, so good. 

We’re all familiar with what Chicago has to offer, whether that’s giant skyscrapers, windy weather, or the much beloved deep-dish pizza. But when it comes to BigLaw, Chicago native Seyfarth offers one of the top labor & employment practices in the US. In fact, its labor & employment group earns elite status from Chambers USA in its hometown, with top rankings going to its practices in Boston and Atlanta, too. “There’s no better place to practice labor and employment law,” a source declared, describing their motivations for joining the firm. “If you want to hit the ground running and get substantive trial experience, it’s a great firm to do that.” This interviewee was very much in agreement: “Seyfarth was at the top of my list because of its substantial employment team with different subsets. You can get experience here with experts in the field.” The other big area for Seyfarth is real estate, and the firm picks up many a Chambers USA accolade for this practice, as well as related areas such as construction and retail

“...every associate is an investment.” 

For associates, Seyfarth’s reputation for having “kind and professional” people was just as important as the work on offer. One junior explained their impression of the firm prior to joining: “It seemed like the kind of place that fully invested in its employees for the long haul. I heard that someone left for another BigLaw firm but came back a year later because of the work environment here.” Another interviewee added: “Every associate feels like they’re wanted here, and every associate is an investment that the firm is interested in pursuing. I can spend my entire career here if I choose to do so.”  

The Work  

Most associates on our list were based in Seyfarth's Chicago HQ and New York office, with a few more in the firm’s LA bases (in Century City and downtown). The rest were dotted across the Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston and Boston offices. As you might expect, Seyfarth’s labor & employment department housed the most juniors, followed by the corporate, real estate and litigation groups. Seyfarth has an attorney talent development team in place to help associates find work, as well as a web-based platform where associates can input their availability. However, our sources still felt there was plenty of scope for them to find their own work by reaching out to partners directly. “It allows me to be the initial decision-maker on who I want to work with,” one interviewee commented. “I’ve been trying to keep myself on the radars of partners I really like.” Another junior added that “you have to be proactive and willing to put yourself out there. It suits outgoing personalities more, but work comes to you once you start making those initial relationships.”  

Seyfarth specializes in all things labor & employment: “We’re unique in that we do all the subspecialties of the practice.” That includes complex discrimination litigation, class actions, workplace safety, employee benefits, union work, counseling, and more. “It really runs the gamut. We work for major retailers, healthcare providers, some defense contractors, entertainment talent agencies, and other contract providers,” one source explained. We were told that juniors are “encouraged [but not required] to choose a major and minor specialty early on,” and associates felt that this approach is “beneficial as a learning experience, plus having experts in every field is great for clients!”  

“‘You need to be comfortable speaking your mind because we listen to your suggestions to best serve the client.’” 

One interviewee enthused how “juniors get to try everything when it comes to day-to-day tasks – it’s a very collaborative place to work.” The level of responsibility depends on the matter, as well as “the quality of work product the junior has turned in and the trust they’ve gained. I was recently trusted to write an entire brief on my own!” Sources explained that it’s typical to get involved in the strategy of a case early on: “When I first interviewed with the firm, the attorneys told me, ‘We do a lot of lean staffing here, so you’ll be on matters with just a partner. You need to be comfortable speaking your mind because we listen to your suggestions to best serve the client.’” Duties include conducting legal research; handling discovery responses; compiling discovery requests; taking and defending plaintiff depositions; and arguing motions in court. Many interviewees enjoyed the nitty-gritty of single plaintiff litigation and working in teams at trial, while some preferred counseling and “parsing a new law and putting it into digestible words for a client.”  

Labor & employment clients: Delta Air Lines, Verizon, Lyft. Represented Hyatt Corporation in a wage and hour lawsuit that focused on the nature of a furlough period and was worth tens of millions of dollars.  

“I feel like I’m way ahead of my peers at other firms.”  

The corporate department is smaller, but juniors still get a wide range of opportunities: “Having such small teams is only an advantage, as everybody in my office knows who I am,” an associate gushed. M&A was highlighted as a key strength of the group. This junior mentioned how they “feel like I’m way ahead of my peers at other firms in terms of how I understand the work and I’m not just pigeonholed into M&A deals. I do a lot of general corporate work and governance, too.” There’s lots of client interaction up for grabs as well: “I was handling calls with clients and advising them as early as from my second year. There was even one transaction I ran pretty much on my own with guidance from a partner.” The only drawback to smaller teams was felt to be the need to balance the junior tasks with more substantive activities: “Even though I do get a wide range of responsibilities, I might be negotiating with a senior associate on one end but doing checklists and lower items on the other.”   

Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation  

Billable hours: 1,950 target  

According to our interviewees, emails are regularly sent out to associates from the firm’s pro bono counsel and devoting time to this noble endeavor is highly encouraged. “If you’re on a court-appointed pro bono case, every hour that you bill will go toward your hours target,” a source explained, “but if you’re doing regular pro bono – that's not court-appointed – there’s a billable cap of 60 hours on that work.” Any pro bono beyond the 60-hour cap is “factored into your discretionary bonus,” we heard (Seyfarth hands out both an hours-based bonus and a discretionary one that’s based on associates’ additional contributions, such as mentoring and participation in firm activities). Our sources had gained experience on both one-off and long-term pro bono matters, including work with elders, inmates, asylum seekers and nonprofits. “Our pro bono coordinator is wonderful and there are so many opportunities for specialty work,” a labor & employment junior told us. “I’m currently assisting a local nonprofit in reviewing their employee handbook to ensure it’s compliant with state and federal regulations.”  

“I’m rarely working on the weekends or after 6 or 7pm, even in New York!”  

When it comes to work/life balance, Seyfarth has written the handbook on what makes a great workplace – literally! The jokes write themselves, but all we really need to say is that Seyfarth doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to employee wellbeing. Associates felt that this was a priority at the firm, and one interviewee highlighted a recent “eight-week ‘Moving and Grooving Through the Holidays’ challenge, which encouraged us all to be active. We were split into groups across the firm and tracked our activity on a leadership board.” What’s more, sources explained how “people understand that being at Seyfarth means you don’t want to put in 3,000 hours a year,” so the reasonable work/life balance makes up for the lower than market-rate compensation. “I’m rarely working on the weekends or after 6 or 7pm, even in New York!” one associate exclaimed. “They make a point of not asking for work on a weekend unless absolutely necessary, and vacations are encouraged.”   

Pro bono hours  

  • For all US attorneys: 18,957
  • Average per US attorney: 20.8


This interviewee’s summary of Seyfarth’s culture was that “everyone’s treated with respect whether you’re an associate or partner. A lot of people have kids, so people tend to go home at the end of the day and work from there. There’s just a lot of kindness and I couldn’t be happier.” Others echoed this sentiment, with one recalling: “People are very kind and take the time to mentor and teach you. In my first week at the firm, my group took me out to lunch. Then the next day I had lunch with my assigned partner mentor, and then my associate mentor took me out to lunch the day after that. I’ve seen other BigLaw firms, so I know the grass isn’t greener!”  

“We’re hybrid and the culture’s great online as well!” 

Another source pointed out that “it’s an environment where you really can ask for help – I like the people I work with, and there are people here I’d call my genuine friends. We’re members of the same class year, we talk about work and other things, and help each other out.” The firm is encouraging attorneys to get back into the office at least three days a week, but this is not strictly enforced. “We’re hybrid and the culture’s great online as well! We have monthly lunch-and-learns in person, and the firm provides lunch – it's a great way to see your colleagues in the office.”  

Career Development  

“It’s very much a choose-your-own-adventure type of place,” an associate told us right off the bat. “I take the lead when it comes to my career development. If I’m interested in partnership, they’ve told me they’ll help me get there, but it’s okay if I’m not.” Even though partnership may not be the aim for everyone, the general attitude was that it’s a realistic option for those who want it. We heard that “all associates across the US were invited to a virtual meeting where they discussed the path to partnership. It was probably more useful for the senior associates, but I appreciated that they invited us all anyway.” Another insider explained how “the firm offers a retreat for senior associates at our HQ, where they go through the details of the partnership track, building your book of business, and what needs to be done to make partner.”  

“...they can open a lot of doors and connect you with a lot of the right people.” 

Associates flagged mentors (who are typically partners) as a key part of the equation for their development. “If you’re assigned a good one, they can open a lot of doors and connect you with a lot of the right people. They know the partners and who’s a good writer, counselor, or whatever you need. That’s a great resource,” an associate explained. Practice groups also host monthly lunches where “we learn new developments in the field or hear how a trial went for one of our colleagues. We discuss the takeaway, what went well, and what we could have done better.” Proactive juniors can get a head start on professional development: “I meet monthly one-on-one with a partner coach. We talk about areas in which I can develop my skill sets and they suggest what I can and shouldn’t do going forward.”  

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  

With associates counseling clients on DE&I matters as part of their role, many of our interviewees were conscious of the diversity in their own workplace. “In my group, it seems like there are as many women here as men – possibly more! But in terms of people of color or of different religions, I think the representation could be better,” one associate reflected. Others commented on how the firm celebrates diversity months, with “presentations and emails talking about their importance. At every practice group lunch, there’s a section where the diversity counsel talks about updates.” Another junior added that “we always get reminders when there’s a religious holiday coming up.” Seyfarth’s inclusivity was rated highly by interviewees: “I get the sense that the firm really cares. Not just for retention and recruitment, but to maintain a good work environment.” Insiders had different anecdotes to offer on the firm’s inclusion efforts, ranging from the option to put pronouns on the firm website bios to an attorney making partner while on maternity leave. An exciting piece of news for Seyfarth is that it will soon be led by Lorie E. Almon, its first woman chair. “She’s fantastic and I’m so excited that’s she’s going to be our firm chair,” one associate enthused. “The firm is really trying to build up its representation of women.”  

Strategy & Future 

“From what I see, we want to keep getting high marks for handling trials,” one associate explained, adding: “We’re very open to legal technology to streamline processes to make sure we can do anything we can to make the experience for clients cost-effective and efficient.” Over the past few years, Seyfarth has been building up its presence in Seattle, steadily adding over 30 lawyers to the office it opened there in 2020.

Get Hired 

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 420 

Seyfarth participates in OCIs at a number of schools in the regions where the firm hosts summer associate programs, like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, LA and New York. The firm also attends job fairs, including diversity-focused fairs. 

Partners, counsel and associates all conduct OCI interviews, which cover interviewees' past experiences, school experiences, why they're interested in Seyfarth and its practice groups, plus some behavioral questions. 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Take advantage of opportunities to practice interviewing, whether through mock interviews, with your family and peers, career services or in front of a mirror.  You should come prepared with some examples but also prepare yourself on how you will respond to questions. You should be your authentic self - You want to be able to tell your story. It's also important to be proactive by attending outreach events and/or utilizing your alumni network helps to create various touchpoints leading into the recruiting season to further showcase your interest. The connections you make are also helpful to keep as you progress in your career. Finally, be gracious - how you handle rejection is important because you never know what opportunities may open up down the line." - national senior director of talent development Kelly Wing 


There is just one callback round: this includes four to five interviews with four to eight lawyers in the practice group the candidate is applying for - usually partners, counsel and associates. 

The interview questions are similar to those at OCIs, but are tailored to whatever feedback was provided by the OCI interviewer. Callbacks are more detailed since OCI interviews are usually only about 20 minutes long. The firm feels that callbacks allow for more conversations and more opportunities for questions from both the interviewers and the candidates, and also provides an opportunity to determine cultural fit within the office, firm and practice group. 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Send an email to your interviewers when you receive your schedule letting them know you’re looking forward to meeting them. Hone in on why you’re interested in a particular practice group. Keep in mind that thank you messages go a long way, especially if you incorporate specifics from your interview." - national senior director of talent development Kelly Wing 

Summer program 

Offers:  44 

Acceptances: 41 

Summer Associates are typically assigned to a specific practice group i.e. Labor & Employment, Employee Benefits, Real Estate, Litigation, Corporate and primarily work with attorneys in that group. Each practice group has a work assignment coordinator who assists in providing work assignments and unique opportunities throughout the summer. Additionally, Summer Associates are assigned a partner and associate mentor who provide individualized feedback and coaching. During Fall recruiting, Seyfarth interviews for specific practice areas and summers are placed in a specific practice area on day one of their summer which carries over when they become first-year associates. 

During the summer program, summer associates are given the opportunity to develop robust, hands-on skills that build upon and complement their formal law school education through: 

• A specialized training curriculum, including substantive seminars on important legal topics 

• Training in ethics, client service, marketing, legal writing, communications, and finance taught by leading practitioners from throughout the firm 

• Practical learning opportunities, including attending depositions, court appearances and client meetings 

• Cutting-edge legal work on active cases and client projects 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Take good notes when receiving an assignment; ask questions; communicate, communicate, communicate! Keep lawyers updated on the status of your work and let them know well ahead of time if you need an extension. It's also important to be respectful of everyone and to get to know assistants and paralegals. Participate in activities and events and, finally, be on time - or early!"- national senior director of talent development Kelly Wing 

Lateral hiring 

Roughly 65% of associates are lateral hires. The firm hires from a variety of areas, but tends to favor AmLaw 200 firms, and focuses on more experienced associates This is because Seyfarth likes to hire junior associates who have participated in the Summer Program. Looking to the next twelve months, Kelly Wing said the firm will be hiring into all practice areas including Corporate, Real Estate, Labor & Employment, Litigation and Employee Benefits. 

And Finally... 

"Do your homework about the firm -  know how to answer “Why Seyfarth?”- national senior director of talent development Kelly Wing 


Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Main areas of work
Seyfarth offers a full portfolio of practices in advisory, litigation and transactional legal services to companies around the world.

Firm profile
Seyfarth is home to high-performing, dedicated attorneys and allied professionals who embody the firm’s core values of excellence, inclusion, teamwork, client service, innovation, and commitment in everything. Working together, we have created a forward-thinking talent story, allowing those who exceed expectations to advance on their own terms. For attorneys, we do this by offering a unique set of tools, resources, and pathways to serve as a platform for your success. If you want to be a part of a team that has the freedom to grow at a firm that is invested in your future, we want to hear from you.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
American University, Boston College, Boston University, Cardozo School of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Columbia University, DePaul University, Duke, Emory, Fordham University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Georgia State, Howard University, Loyola University - Chicago, Loyola Law School (LA), New York University, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, St. John’s University, UC-Berkeley, UC-David, UC-Irvine, UC-Hastings, UCLA, USC, University of Georgia, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, University of Seattle, and University of Washington

Recruitment outside OCIs: We attend several diversity job fairs, including Lavender Law, HNBA, NEBLSA as well as regional fairs. We also consider write-in applicants.

Summer associate profile: Demonstrated academic achievement is important, but we highly value diverse backgrounds and experiences and students with strong analytical skills and communication skills.

Summer program components: Our program is one where summers are assigned practice groups before joining, so they know the scope of the work they will be given. This approach allows for customized training and assignments based on the area of practice in which the summer has chosen, so the training begins well before the first year of full time work. We offer a specialized training curriculum, including substantive seminars on important legal topics; training in ethics, client service, marketing, legal writing, communications, and finance taught by leading practitioners from throughout the firm. Summers are also afforded practical learning opportunities, including attending depositions, court appearances and client meetings. And our summers do real work, for real clients on cutting-edge legal work on active cases and client projects.

Social Media

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Immigration (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Immigration (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 5)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 4)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 5)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)

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