Snell & Wilmer LLP - The Inside View

Want BigLaw but not the constant BigHours? You'd do well to consider Southwestern outfit Snell.

IT'S “Snell or nothing” for associates at this “shining legal light” of the Southwest. But what's behind this glowing assessment from our junior sources? “It's one of the biggest firms in Phoenix,” replied one, “and it's the best one based on reputation and community spirit.” Another expanded on this reputation: “I was drawn to Snell because a friend that already worked here was raving about the work/life balance and that you could have a family and a weekend! My friends at the big firms got totally burnt out most of the time, and that made me think twice.”

Let's be clear: Snell's lawyers aren't mostly off sauntering around Arizona's national parks and ski resorts. An inspection of Snell's Chambers USA rankings shows that this firm's lawyers mean business. In its home state of Arizona, Snell comes out on top for its corporate/M&A, environment, general commercial litigation and real estate expertise, while its labor & employment, zoning and Native American law capabilities also come highly recommended. The action isn't just concentrated in Arizona though: Snell picks up further rankings for its work in Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

In addition to its eight offices spread across the Southwest, Snell also has one foreign base in Los Cabos, Mexico, and three domestic 'presences' in Albuquerque, DC and Boise. Firm chair Matt Feeney explains that these presences “allow us to shift quickly into new markets; we've got a lot of good leads in DC, while Albuquerque is a great base for us in New Mexico. We've just announced our new presence in Boise and we think that will grow.”

Strategy & Future

“We'll remain an independent firm that's averse to acquisitions,” Feeney continues. “The Western footprint we have provides us with a good base to support our national and international vision.” He points to Snell's affiliation with Lex Mundi (an international network of law firms) to highlight the firm's reach overseas.

Closer to home, Feeney tells us that Snell's cybersecurity practice is “doing really well,” especially since former federal prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty (who prosecuted the Boston Marathon bomber) joined the firm in Denver. “It's one of our growth areas that we want to invest in – hacking has become a reality of life.” Natural resources is another area of focus for the firm, and the strategy here revolves around “local work with local regulators – it's important to know the specific context.” Phoenix, meanwhile, is “well poised as the center” of the firm's life sciences and biotechnology work, which, as Feeney says, is “one area that continues to grow dramatically.”

The Work

Snell's commercial litigation practice housed the largest chunk of associates on our list (almost 40%), but other groups with a fair number included IP; corporate and securities; real estate; and product liability litigation. In terms of location, just over half of the juniors were based in the Phoenix HQ, while the rest were fairly evenly split between Snell's other domestic offices.

“It's our most diverse and wide-ranging practice,” said those in the commercial litigation group. As a result, “you get exposure to a large variety of cases.” We heard about plenty from our interviewees, related to the likes of cybersecurity issues; auto insurance defense; medical malpractice claims; tort cases on damage caused by natural disasters; employment disputes; real estate matters; and disputes over the possession of high-end artwork. Responsibilities vary “widely” according to this Phoenix source: “It depends on your skills, the size of the matter and your relationships: sometimes you're the primary attorney and you're taking depositions, and sometimes – but very rarely – you're only coming in to provide extra support.”

Commercial litigation clients: Bank of America, health and wellness company Isagenix International and Wells Fargo. Currently advising the last of these on claims connected to mortgages and other consumer financial products across five states.

Over in IP “the clients range from the garage-based inventor (who's come up with an idea and wants to patent it) all the way up to multinational organizations.” Much of the work our sources had encountered was patent-oriented, but they did note some occasional trademark matters. Again, interviewees were pleased with their responsibilities here and especially liked handling patent applications: “I've conducted interviews with inventors, communicated with the Patent Office, figured out what needs to be done and filled out the application accordingly.”

Variety is the name of the game in the corporate and securities group too. “My favorite thing is being in a group that's big enough for a range of clients,” said a junior. “You can dip your toes in lots of different areas – there's no pigeonholing!” Those areas included private M&A, private equity deals, public company reporting, loan agreements, corporate governance and advisory work tied to SEC regulations. Work-wise, “you do the nitty-gritty day-to-day drafting on the nuts and bolts documents,” said one, while others explained that though “you start from the bottom,” partners “do recognize capability: they're behind you all the way and say things like 'I know you can do that.'"

Corporate and securities clients: biopharmaceutical company Sarepta Therapeutics, life sciences-focused tech outfit Anju Software and water resource management specialist Global Water Resources. Recently advised the last of these on its acquisition of Arizona-based Turner Ranches Water and Sanitation Company.


A few sources pinpointed Snell's annual retreat (which has traditionally been held in Phoenix in May) as a cultural highlight: “It's the best weekend of the year!” enthused one Phoenix native, while an Orange County interviewee told us that “everyone's great – it's all hugs and high fives! It shows that the firm is cultivating cross-office help.” Indeed, “spare hands are helping hands” at Snell, and that, it was felt, was true “all the way throughout the firm.”

“The firm's there for you as a big brother... but not an Orwellian 1984 big brother!”

While sources felt there were cultural similarities across the offices, they still identified some variation. “We have room to create our own culture,” reported a Salt Lake City interviewee, who added: “We're more informal here. We have a well-rounded approach to our lives outside of work and a real appreciation of family dynamics.” In Denver, a junior identified “a Midwestern feel; the people are nice and characteristic of the Midwestern culture. When we interview candidates we want much more than academic ability – it's about whether you will fit into our culture.”

Phoenix, meanwhile, was described as the “most formal office in terms of dress, plus we work greater hours compared to the other offices.” However, the formality of the dress code was raised in other offices too, with this source explaining that “we're a suit and tie firm, which is paradoxical; we're a laid-back firm without the laid-back dress. Our personality is at odds with the style!” The two do have a chance to align during occasional 'jeans Fridays' though.

Career Development

“This is not a turn and burn firm,” said one Phoenix resident, while their counterpart in Orange County relayed that “they definitely want to foster a 'homegrown' atmosphere where they bring you in as a summer and help you build and grow; it's like the firm's there for you as a big brother... but not an Orwellian 1984 big brother!” Those in Phoenix were especially positive about the firm's mentorship program, which pairs juniors up with both a midlevel associate and a partner: “I have a 30-minute meeting with my partner mentor every other week. They check in with me, have a forward focus and provide me with a bridge to get work.” These meetings are not mandatory, although the firm does encourage mentors and mentees to meet up on quite a frequent basis. In addition, “Snell puts its money where its mouth is,” as this Salt Lake City source revealed: “There are no questions asked for reimbursements to support CLEs in and out of state.”

Serious considerations for the partnership begin around the seven to eight-year mark, but we were told that conversations about prospects do happen early around the third or fourth year, as part of the firm's partnership advisory program. While interviewees were convinced that Snell wanted them to make it, they still weren't entirely sure how to go about it: “It's rather a mystery. The firm is striving to have greater transparency on the partnership track. Right now it's too varied and there's not enough clarity.” However, others saw this as a positive, and explained that “it's left open for you as a homegrown attorney; you might not have the largest book of business, but they may still consider you.”

Hours & Compensation

Minimum hours targets for bonuses vary by office: those in Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Reno aim to reach 1,900 hours; LA and Orange County residents pursue a 1,950 goal; and associates in Tucson try to bill 1,800 each year.

“ Snell, you can largely work to the schedule you want to.”

On the subject of base pay, the view was that “the Phoenix office has increased compensation in conjunction with similar firms, but in other offices [like Denver] it's not in line with the market. Compensation is monitored closely but it's not market across the board at the moment.” Before we went to press, the firm told us that salary increases had taken place throughout the latter half of 2018, and that base salaries were felt to be either market or close to market in each domestic jurisdiction. With bonuses, “they look at what you do for the firm and the community, as well as how many hours you've reached, but we have black box compensation, and no one knows what each other's bonus is.” Another concluded: “That's part of the culture that could improve.”

“At Snell, you can largely work to the schedule you want to,” one source commented, reflecting the flexible stance on hours described by others. “I'm an early riser, for instance, and will work hard during the week so I don't have to work at the weekend.” Of course, this doesn't mean that a “last-minute project” won't impact working hours, and associates acknowledged that they “do work some nights and weekends – that happens when you're a junior, but it's not a regular occurrence.”

Pro Bono

All attorneys at Snell can count up to 50 hours of pro bono as billable. Our interviewees added that there's actually an “informal expectation” that attorneys get close to the 50 mark, and that there's “an entire section on our annual evaluations that's devoted to pro bono.” In Phoenix, sources found it “easy to find pro bono work” and highlighted that two Snell attorneys attend the Volunteer Lawyers Program every Tuesday, which is “super cool – you're able to work with individuals who are having trouble and represent them.” Those in Orange County were also pleased: “The firm circulates emails and hosts meetings for those that want to engage with pro bono – you don't have to search it out.” In the smaller offices we heard that “it's more a case of you going out there and finding what makes you happy.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 13,229
  • Average per US attorney: 31.8

Diversity & Inclusion

“We're primarily a Western firm, so some of the hurdles we face with diversity are geographic,” said a Phoenix-based source. “Recruiting across the country becomes problematic,” a Salt Lake City interviewee agreed, adding: “We're so removed from the coastal influx of diverse candidates – our regionality does affect diversity.” Sources pointed to the firm's Fellowship for Advancement and Resources (FAR) pipeline program as a positive though: “We're using the FAR program as a recruiting tool – we're thinking, 'Wow, look at these awesome people coming through – let's hire them!'”

Get Hired

Coming soon...

Snell & Wilmer LLP

One Arizona Center,
400 East Van Buren Street ,
AZ 85004-2202

  • Head Office: Phoenix, AZ
  • Number of domestic offices: 9
  • Number of international offices: 1
  • Partners (US): 206
  • Associates (US): 159
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Abigail Raddatz, Director of Attorney Recruiting and Development
  • Hiring partners: Adam E Lang, Craig O’Loughlin, Rebecca Winterscheidt
  • Diversity officer: Anita Blanco
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 17
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
  • 1Ls: 8, 2Ls: 24
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
  • Denver: 3; Las Vegas: 3, Los Angeles: 1; Orange County: 3, Phoenix: 16; SLC: 3, Tucson: 2
  • Summer salary 2019:
  • 1Ls: $2,307-$3,269/week
  • 2Ls: $2,307-$3,269/week
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work

  Appellate, banking, bankruptcy, business and finance, class action, commercial litigation, construction, election and political law, emerging businesses, employee benefits and executive compensation, environmental and natural resources, estate planning and taxation, financial services and securities, franchise, government investigations/criminal defense and government related litigation, healthcare, intellectual property, international, labor, mergers and acquisitions, municipal finance, professional liability, product liability, professional liability and tort liability, public utilities, legislation and real estate/land use. 

Firm profile

  Founded in 1938, Snell & Wilmer is a full service business law firm with more than 400 lawyers practicing in nine locations throughout the western United States and in Mexico, including Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Los Angeles and Orange County, California; Denver, Colorado; Boise, Idaho; Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Los Cabos, Mexico. The firm represents clients ranging from large, publicly traded corporations to small businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs. Snell & Wilmer and its lawyers have been recognized by clients and peers for exceptional legal skills, ethical and exemplary business practices with various distinguished awards.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Arizona State; Brigham Young; Notre Dame; University of Arizona; UC Irvine; UCLA; University of Colorado; University of Denver; Iowa; Kansas; University of San Diego; University of Nevada Las Vegas; USC; University of Utah; UC Berkeley; Vanderbilt; Virginia; Pepperdine; Loyola Los Angeles; Washington University (St. Louis); University of Michigan.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Candidates at non-OCI schools may apply directly through our website. We participate in resume collections at many schools and in the Rocky Mountain Diversity and Cook County Job Fairs. We are not committed to only hiring from schools where we go oncampus.

Summer associate profile:
Snell & Wilmer seeks candidates who not only demonstrate high academic achievement, but also are social, energetic, unique, genuine, motivated, have a sense of humor, and enjoy working with their friends and colleagues and are committed to their communities. We desire diverse individuals who want to resolve new and exciting legal challenges, who enjoy working as part of a team and who will uphold our valued firm culture. In other words, we want great people who will become great lawyers.

Summer program components:
The firm appoints several senior associates to coordinate the program and assign summer associate projects. In addition, each summer associate is assigned a mentor, a partner reader and a reality partner. Summer associate mentors are responsible for making the summer a positive experience for each summer associate. Partner readers provide invaluable feedback on two written assignments a summer associate completes. The ‘Reality Snell & Wilmer’ program matches summer associates with a partner who brings them into other cases and transactions, as needed, to simulate the day-to-day reality of working as an attorney.

Social Media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @SWLawNews
Facebook: swlawnews
Linkedin: snell-&-wilmer

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Environment (including water rights) (Band 1)
    • Environment: Water Rights (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Native American Law (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Environment, Natural Resources & Regulated Industries (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)