Seyfarth Shaw LLP - The Inside View

There’s lots to sey about Chicago-founded Seyfarth: labor and employment work is a major strength, but its full-service platform also offers prospective juniors a robust offering in areas like real estate, litigation and corporate.  

When it first burst onto the legal scene in 1945, Chicago-headquartered Seyfarth focused solely onlabor and employment. The specialist approach quickly reaped rewards as Seyfarth became known as a go-to firm for such work. Its reputation in this space is just as strong today: “We are one of the best labor and employment firms in the world,” one starry-eyed associate told us. It’s a comment that’s certainly supported by our colleagues at Chambers USA, who have consistently rated the firm’s labor and employment expertise within the top two highest tiers since 2007. On its home turf of Chicago, Seyfarth is ranked with the elite category of firms in this practice area. “It’s the most well-rounded labor and employment practice, too,” another junior explained. “There’s somebody at the firm doing every niche or spin-off area of work.” 

“We are one of the best labor and employment firms.” 

However, Seyfarth’s once singular focus has long given way to a full-service offering across all the major transactional, litigious and regulatory areas of practice. Chambers USA also gives nods to the firm’s real estate, construction, antitrust, and environmental practices, while also acknowledging Seyfarth’s capabilities across the retail, healthcare and transportation sectors. Another strong area for the firm – tied to its labor and employment know-how – is immigration work. Beyond client work, our sources championed the firm’s “character and culture,” with one junior setting out from the start that “the attorneys here are not just intelligent and hard-working – they genuinely care about my development and life and wellbeing outside the practice of law.” Another proudly stated that Seyfarth’s “a firm that is as little high-stress as you can get in BigLaw.” What more could you ask for? 

The Work 



Associates are recruited fairly evenly across the firm’s 12 US offices, although the newest offices – Seattle and Charlotte – have only taken on a handful of newbies recently. Given Seyfarth’s history, it’s unsurprising that most juniors on our list found their home in the labor and employment group. A significant chunk joined real estate, while litigationand corporate also took on a handful of associates each. Work assignment tends to be a casual affair, as the firm doesn’t use staffing coordinatorsand opts to have work filtered down from partners to senior associates to juniors. “Sometimes it’s difficult as a junior to say no to work,” an associate told us. “But the method works here and is quite casual, which mirrors the firm’s culture. The system also allows you to work with someone directly as you can reach out to senior people you like working with. I like having the ball in my court.” 

As its flagship practice, there’s multiple types of labor and employment work available for associates to throw their weight behind. We’re told slight differences emerge across the offices, with “the nature of geography and sectors determining the work.” One associate suggested that collective action and wage and hour work was big in Atlanta, while privacy expertise was deemed something of a forte in the California offices. New York understandably deals with a lot of commercial-related finance or banking matters. 

"It’s good to get an expansive foundation in the labor and employment space."

The associates we spoke with had worked on them all: class and collective actions, wage/hour disputes, single-plaintiff complex discrimination cases, privacy and trade secret matters, non-compete issues, computer fraud allegations, and more. “My practice is relatively broad,” one associate told us. “It’s good to get an expansive foundation in the labor and employment space, but the firm does encourage you to find a niche to have a competitive advantage going forward.” As cases can vary from “huge class actions” to “complex single-plaintiff work,” responsibility levels naturally shift. “I’ll be more active on a single-plaintiff case,” one source found. “I’ll speak directly to witnesses and clients, I’ll help to prepare depositions and take witness statements, too.” On the larger, higher-value cases, exposure might “typically be helping with discovery” or “researching specific issues or discovery responses.” Sources welcomed the variety: “We get a lot of responsibility here. It’s nice to work on smaller matters as well as being able to get stuck in with a larger team.”  

Labor and employment clients: Verizon, Costco, Nike. Successfully represented global airline catering company Gate Gourmet in a putative class action brought by employees laid off during the pandemic. 

The firm’s real estate team covers all areas of practice including transactions, financings, dirt work, and zoning/landing use matters. It serves a broad client base, from Fortune 100 companies to investment banks, real estate owners, developers, pension funds and life insurance companies. “Real estate isn’t one of our most known areas,” a humble interviewee declared, “but the deals and transactions are significant.”  One source had assisted on “an acquisition of a long-term care facility being purchased in Texas,” while another had worked on a large multimillion-dollar financing transaction for a client that was developing student housing in Florida. Responsibility ramps up quite quickly according to our interviewees, who told us of substantive work on “organizational issues” such as titles, surveys, and ancillary documents. “I’ve also worked on some trickier issues with regard to loan documents, too,” a junior pointed out. First-years are supported and “included on conference calls and emails” to “learn how deals work and how different documents relate to each other.” 

Real estate clients: 7-Eleven, Capri Urban Fund, New York Life Insurance Company. Represented LBA Realty in multiple transactions aggregating over $6 billion on various recapitalizations, financings, acquisitions, joint ventures, and more.  

The litigationgroup covers general commercial litigation, construction disputes, bankruptcy spin-off litigation, and securities work. We’re told there’s a sector focus in Texas, where the firm is particularly known for its healthcare and energy expertise. In Boston, meanwhile, we heard there’s a strength in automotive matters. “The pandemic has meant we work across offices a lot more,” one source told us. “Lots of my matters are national in scope so bring in a lot of people from various locations.” We’re told work streams “are not very hierarchical” and juniors get exposure early on. “I tend to support and report directly to a partner managing a case,” this interviewee noted. This might mean “handling significant tasks” like writing briefs or attending and assisting with hearings and depositions. “I like the level of responsibility. I also like that there are not many links in the workflow chain. Not being buried in document review was a big draw!” 

Litigation clients: Stop & Shop, General Motors, BMW of North America. Represented Nissan North America in litigation arising out of a failed development project in Manhattan. 

Career Development 



All associates are assigned a partner mentor: “That’s somebody to go to with questions and to talk about your progress. They act like your confidant.” Newbies are also encouraged to find a junior or senior associate mentor to act as a more informal point of guidance. “I play golf with mine on the weekend!” a source added. Formalized training sessions were also praised. “The training sessions are really strong, and the firm produces lots of well-rounded materials,” this interviewee enthused. In addition, “the firm pays for resources like legal writing sessions and deposition coaches as you become more senior.” Sources tended to praise their development at the firm and noted that formalized training tends to give way to more “learning by watching and doing” as they advance. “They don’t take on tons of summers, which means I feel the firm is invested in the people it takes on and wants to see them develop.” 

“I feel like the partnership is attainable."

71% of survey respondents stated that they intended to make partner at Seyfarth. “I feel like the partnership is attainable,” one source declared, mirroring the views of many others. “Of course, people might not want that, but the firm definitely makes it a realistic prospect.” For those looking at partnership, “it’s a nine-step system, with each associate needing to move through ‘proficiency boxes’ rather than just class years.” For those without partnership on their mind, the firm’s ‘alternative career track’ makes counsel and senior counsel positions as an option. We heard that “the firm also makes an effort to place people with clients if the appropriate position arises.” 

Hours & Compensation 



Billable hours: 1,950 target

“It’s not hellish,” joked one source, “but it’s a BigLaw firm, so there are some long hours.” How long is long? “My work/life balance can be a mixed bag. Tight deadlines are driven by the practice, but the firm is pretty respectful of our time and makes concerted efforts to ensure people aren’t overworked.” Our survey respondents recorded an average of 53 hours worked in their preceding week, which is in line with the market average we recorded in 2021. Respondents had also taken an average of seven vacation days in the last 12 months. “The work/life balance here was a selling point, and it does feel balanced,” one junior happily revealed. “The firm does care about burnout and our mental health.” 

Seyfarth recently changed its hours target for associates. Where once juniors needed to hit 1,900 billable plus 200 ‘contribution hours’ to achieve a bonus, the firm has now upped the billable hours target to 1,950 (at which point they are eligible for a bonus) and done away with the supplementary hours. “For the most part, reception to the change has been positive,” one source concluded.If juniors hit the 1,950, “you’re guaranteed to move up a salary level” and bonus eligibility kicks in. “Our bonuses could be more competitive in today’s market,” a junior flagged, “but I consider the lower compensation and bonuses as trade-offs for the culture and work/life balance at the firm.”Another added: “I’m happy with the amount I make for the work I do.”  Bonus levels are also tiered, so if juniors reach certain hours thresholds beyond 1,950, they can get a higher bonus. We also heard that there’s a discretionary component that can bulk out bonuses, too.

Pro Bono 



89% of our survey respondents agreed that Seyfarth is committed to pro bono work. “The firm really does encourage it,” an interviewee emphasized. “We have a 60-hour target and there’s lots of work taken on – every year there’s a pro bono challenge and the office that records the most hours gets a prize.” An unlimited number of hours can also count toward their billable target. Sources had worked with local volunteer lawyer programs, fair-housing initiatives, and various legal clinics across the country. Some had spent time conducting research for pro bono organizations, while others had assisted with policy and handbook revisions for nonprofits. “It’s looked on favorably,” a junior concluded. “I spent many hours last year working on an amicus brief and there was no pushback.” Opportunities are sent out in “weekly lists, and there are lots of pro bono trainings that count as billable as well. When the time allows, it’s easy to get involved – it's really seamless.” 

Pro bono hours  

  • For all US attorneys: 19,287
  • Average per US attorney: 21

Culture  



“There are no assholes here,” one associate proudly declared. “It’s not a cutthroat culture with people being thrown under the bus. It’s just a healthy, positive environment.” With “doors always open” in a “relaxed environment where people aren’t dressing up and talking formally,” our phone interviewees felt at ease and 100% of our survey respondents reported that they felt comfortable to be themselves at work. Coming back to the point about work/life balance, this source commented: “The sign of a good attorney here is someone who sets boundaries. The top partners clearly prioritize their family, but they also are all in for the job. They see it as a failure if you have to pull too many all-nighters and cannot manage both work and truly living life.” 

“There just aren’t sharp elbows here – that’s not how things are done.” 

Social events earned praise, too. “This is the most social firm I’ve been at,” one interviewee said. “The firm really does like it when its associates go out together.” An ‘associate development’ budget allows juniors to expense their activities with other associates providing there is a business case. Happy hours, office softball clubs, and pre-COVID associate retreats have all helped to promote the “friendly vibe. There just aren’t sharp elbows here – that’s not how things are done.” This junior summed it all up nicely by noting the following: “I haven't had a single poor interaction with anyone at this firm, and that applies to partners, associates, and staff. It’s truly a special place.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 



“Over the past couple of years, the firm has taken a stronger approach to DE&I,” a junior told us. “They brought in a chief D&I officer, and they’ve set up seminars and events that look at inclusion.” Other interviewees highlighted active affinity groups and a diversity retreat as pluses to the firm’s approach, but this associate flagged that “one area they could improve upon is counting D&I activities as billable time, otherwise people aren’t focusing on it. You want to get the people who aren’t focused on it to attend, as they would get value from it.”  

Strategy & Future 



Looking ahead, sources noted an emphasis on bolstering certain practices. “They’re trying to grow the headcount in the government contracts and transactional spaces,” one interviewee reported. “They’re also trying to cross-market our work to accommodate client needs generated by our labor and employment practices.” On the labor and employment front, we’re told “the firm is pushing to become more specialized and away from single-plaintiff work.” Beyond the specifics, sources praised the firm for “doing its best to keep us involved in the firm direction, with regular practice group meetings on big-picture development.” 

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 55

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

Callbacks

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:  33

Acceptances: 18

Summer Fellows 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 Fellows 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, fellows 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 Wimg 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

  • 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 2022: 21
  • Clerking policy: No
  •  Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls 7, 2Ls 33
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Atlanta, 4; Boston, 4; Charlotte, 1; Chicago, 8; Houston, 2; Los Angeles, 6; New York, 6; Sacramento, 1; San Francisco, 4; Seattle, 2; Washington, D.C., 2
  • Summer salary 2022: - Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC: equivalent of $190K/year
  •  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 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
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, 2022

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 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 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)