Seyfarth Shaw LLP - The Inside View

Why labor over a decision when the answer is staring you in the face? For those interested in labor & employment law, Seyfarth is one of the top BigLaw firms to join. 

“The firm bills itself as full-service but we definitely have a labor & employment tilt,” summarized one astute junior, who we feel gave a fair depiction of Seyfarth Shaw. There’s no denying its prowess in the labor & employment space, with Chambers Global positioning the firm’s practice in this area as one of the very best in the US. Chambers USA also showers the firm with high praise for its L&E expertise in every state that it’s ranked in, including its home turf of Illinois, where its Chicago HQ can be found in the iconic Willis Tower. We were therefore unsurprised to hear many of our interviewees say that they came to Seyfarth precisely because of this area of expertise. “Not everyone at law school knew about Seyfarth, but those who knew about L&E knew that Seyfarth was one of the top three firms in the area,” said one, before declaring: “And I loved L&E law!”  

“L&E is the backbone."

It would be remiss of us not to flag the other areas of practice that Seyfarth performs well in. A big one for Chambers USA is the firm’s real estate know-how, alongside complementary construction and retail expertise. The firm’s antitrust practice is also rated particularly highly in Boston. Sources in Boston noted that the office has “more litigation, with the focus on banks and creditor-type cases,” while another mentioned that commercial litigation was “more robust in New York, Chicago and LA.” We were also told that there was more of an IP focus in the firm’s San Francisco base. However, time and time again we kept coming back to the point that “L&E is the backbone. For context, the L&E group in Chicago is at least ten times bigger than the corporate group.”  

Strategy & Future  



Seyfarth has opened bases in Seattle and Charlotte over the past couple of years. Despite the ongoing pandemic, our interviewees were confident that Seyfarth remained “in a period of growth,” and “rapid growth” at that. One junior in Houston elaborated: “In the past two years alone, I have seen a lot of growth in the training opportunities afforded to associates and in the complexity of the deals being handled. You can see the growth on a month-to-month basis – it’s all positive!” Another source pointed out that “the firm is busy trying to expand and attract high-profile business in other practice areas."

One eagle-eyed labor & employment source told us that “it will be exciting to have more diversity [of work] in the practice area. Even though unionization is not that big, with the Biden administration, which will be friendly to unions, I suspect that business will be booming.” 

The Work  



Summers join specific groups and typically return to that group when they join the firm full-time. “They hire people with an understanding that you have an interest in an area of law that you want to cultivate,” one source emphasized. The process of work assignment varies by office and practice group. Some interviewees highlighted that the onus was on associates to secure work for themselves after being staffed on a few initial matters. Others, meanwhile, explained that there are some systems in place to help juniors get work, including one where “you upload your availability.”  On the whole, we gathered that “building a reputation” in a part free-market, part structured assignment system was key, as “typically partners come to you and you reach out to the partners you’re familiar with.” Seyfarth’s labor & employment department held the most juniors on our list, while the rest were split between litigation, real estate and corporate groups. 

"...my initial draft was over 50 pages!” 

L&E juniors are “expected within the first year to feel out different areas and then focus on one for a quote-unquote ‘major.’” As this source helpfully explained, “there are many different subgroups, including class actions; single plaintiff; occupational safety; wage and hour issues; employment counseling; employee benefits; and an immigration group.” There are also industry-focused groups at Seyfarth – like healthcare, transportation and logistics – that labor & employment juniors can get involved in alongside colleagues in other practice areas. Single plaintiff matters provided more responsibility, with juniors often working with just one partner and in some circumstances “directing the cases” themselves. Class actions are a different affair, with larger teams but still a chance for juniors to “file motions, review docs and converse with local counsel.” Sources had also been part of the department’s COVID-19 taskforce, offering advice and guidance to companies in the pandemic. 

L&E clients: Verizon, Nike, BP. Successfully defended General Motors against a class action lawsuit that centered on the issue of overtime pay for contract workers. 

Most of the litigators on our list were assigned to general commercial matters, but a few were specialized in areas such as construction and bankruptcy. For those in general commercial, it’s a case of taking on “anything and everything” including sector-specific work in areas like energy and healthcare. This associate gave a big thumbs up to responsibility levels and explained that “in a typical day I might have to draft motions; interview and help prepare expert witnesses for depositions; and handle the discovery process.” Another junior recalled that their first week at the firm “was a trial by fire; I was tasked with drafting a huge mediation statement  my initial draft was over 50 pages!” 

Litigation clients: Stop & Shop, Huawei, American Surgical Professionals. Represented Huawei in a trade secret and RICO conspiracy matter against a former Futurewei employee who subsequently founded a competing company. 

Career Development 



“My sense is that people like it here and want to stay for a long time,” one source in Boston said. Another weighed in: “Generally associates stick around for five years plus and when they do leave, it’s typically to go to an in-house or federal position.” They added: “For those who want to stay, the firm is very supportive if you want to make partner.” Recent partner promotions should inspire a level of optimism in Seyfarth’s US associates: in January 2021, Seyfarth elected 21 lawyers to the global partnership – the overwhelming majority (20) were based in the US. 

To that end, juniors can make use of different avenues of support. Like most firms, Seyfarth assigns each newbie an ‘advisor’ (mentor) when they arrive, but associates can also elect to join a more unique coaching program, which pairs associates with a specifically trained partner for six months. There are also regular business development programs focused on subjects like how to build a book of business and move up the firm. With a wide network of offices across the country, associates also have the option of moving to a different state and remaining at the firm.  

Diversity & Inclusion  



Seyfarth has Mansfield Certification Plus status, so it’s met Diversity Lab’s minimum requirements for considering a certain percentage of diverse candidates for senior roles and achieved at least 30% diverse representation within those positions. Our associate interviewees were pleased with the progress that the firm has made, with one stating that “the difference between when I first joined and now is like night and day.” This praise was being bestowed on the firm’s efforts rather than results (which will take time to emerge), especially when it came to “responding and reacting to everything that has happened in the world” in 2020.  

“...the difference between when I first joined and now is like night and day.”

The firm’s Belonging Project was flagged as a highlight: it was created to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on diversity and has gathered the know-how of Seyfarth people “with diverse backgrounds, who have put together webinars, talks, and Zoom get-togethers.” Participation hasn’t just come from diverse associates, however, with this junior adding that there’s been “an explosion in involvement” in broader initiatives including “affinity groups, seminars, webinars and town hall talks – we've been hearing from the higher-ups and executive committees, and they’ve been really forthcoming.” 

Juniors did flag areas for improvement. As with other firms in this guide with free-market assignment systems, we heard concerns about the impact of implicit bias on minorities, who may struggle to get staffed on matters and subsequently “get branded as poor performers.” To counteract this and ensure workloads are balanced, a lawyer development advisor is assigned to every associate. They're also on hand to provide feedback, coaching and advice. In addition, when it came to mental health and wellbeing, we heard that “it’s an area that’s been lacking in terms of outreach, and there could be more effort put into making mental health resources available to associates.” Currently associates have access to benefits via One Medical, Spring Health, Health Advocate and MDLIVE. In 2020, the firm set up a mental wellbeing program called Mindful Pause. There's also support in the form of 'caregiver circles' for those providing care for a loved one while working at the firm.

Pro Bono 



There’s no limit on how much pro bono associates can put toward their billing requirement, but only 50 hours can count toward the bonus eligibility threshold. A pro bono team outlines available opportunities in weekly email blasts and monthly practice group lunches. While juniors can leverage their labor & employment expertise on matters, we were told that “the firm does encourage you to use pro bono to explore other areas of law.” There’s plenty for associates to explore: everything from asylum and adoption cases to landlord-tenant disputes and civil rights matters are handled at Seyfarth. The firm is also a member of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo), which assists firms across the world with their pro bono programs. 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all US attorneys: 25,537
  • Average per US attorney: 27

Hours & Compensation  



Billable hours: 1,900 requirement

In addition to the billing requirement, associates are expected to accrue an extra 200 contribution hours in order to progress at the firm. These can be acquired from “attending client events, mentoring or anything that contributes to the general wellbeing of the firm.” (Juniors can also use their pro bono allowance to this too). That brings the total hours up to 2,100, which is in line with many other BigLaw firms. Base salary raises kick in at 1,900 hours and bonuses at 1,950. We heard that there are bonus increases for every additional 100 hours billed, as well as a discretionary bonus. Associate weren't fully clear on how the latter was calculated, but the firm told us it's based on extra contributions such as business development, pro bono and D&I activities, 'extraordinary' billable hours, client service and other noteworthy work achievements. 

“...during the weekends I’ve spent a good amount of my time relaxing!” 

“I think large national law firms are very demanding in terms of hours and we’re no different in that respect,” one source commented, before adding: “I don’t think the firm is particularly hard or lax in terms of those ‘soft’ expectations, but between 8am and 8pm I am checking my phone often. When it comes to holidays it varies by partner. I do take my laptop but there’s definitely always time to switch off.” We got the sense from our interviews that Seyfarth is the kind of firm that has room for those who want to strive for more of a work/life balance and those who really want to go for it, as was the case of this junior: In my first year at the firm, I was keen to make a good impression. I was single with no family commitments and my primary focus was to bill as much as possible. I think I was billing over 200 hours a month and then some.” In contrast, this source highlighted how they’d been “generally happy with the work/life balance – during the weekends I’ve spent a good amount of my time relaxing!” As an indication of how hard Seyfarth’s associates are working, the median number of hours worked by our associate survey respondents in the last week was 50 hours. 

Culture  



Discussions of work/life balance continued into our conversations about Seyfarth’s culture. While associates weren’t saying that working at Seyfarth was an easy ride hours-wise, they did feel that the firm “respects people’s lives.” For example, we heard that in Chicago “we had an unlimited work from home policy,” and that the general pattern of work pre-COVID involved “partners and associates going home by 67pm and maybe logging back on later that night.” This was important to sources like this one, who “didn’t want work to consume me: I’m very involved in the community and love my family a great deal. I wanted to look after them. I wasn’t interested in an overly social firm where you were expected to go to a happy hour every Thursday night.” This led some to point out that the office can “feel like a place of work and that’s it,” without too many social events on the cards. The culture was never described as cold, however, with juniors  calling it “friendly and cordial” and “not cut-throat.”  

“I wasn’t interested in an overly social firm where you were expected to go to a happy hour every Thursday night.” 

Boston in particular was described as close-knit kind of office: “A lot of the people have been here for a long time – 20 years for quite a few – so there’s a nice familiar feel, where everyone knows each other and has seen one another go through important life stages.”  

Get Hired



Coming soon.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

  • Head Office: Chicago, IL 60606
  • Number of domestic offices: 12
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Worldwide revenue: $717,370,000
  • Partners (US): 380
  • Associates (US): 451
  •  Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Lindsay Callantine lcallantine@seyfarth.com
  • Hiring partner: Pete Miller, Chair
  • Recruitment website: www.seyfarth.com/careers.index.html
  • Diversity officer: Kori Carew
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 24
  • Clerking policy: No
  •  Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls 5, 2Ls 21
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office:
  • Atlanta, 3; Boston, 3; Chicago, 4; Houston, 1; Los Angeles, 4; New York, 4; Sacramento, 1; San Francis co, 4; Seattle , 1; Washington, D.C., 1
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: cbc 2Ls: Atlanta, $30,076; Boston/Chicago/LA/San Francisco, $31,730; New York, $34,611
  •  Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

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.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
Boston University, Boston College, Northwesters, Michigan, Illinois, Loyola, Chicago- Kent, USC, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, UC Berkeley, Southwestern, UC Hastings, Columbia, NYU, St. John’s Fordham, Cardozo, Hofstra, American, Georgetown, George 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
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/seyfarthshawLLP
 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seyfarthshawllp/ 
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/seyfarth-shaw

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • 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 4)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
    • 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 5)
    • ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)