Vedder Price PC - The Inside View

Looking for a smaller firm sporting BigLaw resources? Sounds like the Vedder Price is right!

Whether it’s Michelle Obama, Harrison Ford or Jennifer Hudson, there are plenty of good things to come out of Chicago. But while Vedder Price has its roots firmly based in the city, it has now expanded far beyond the Midwest, with a further six offices outside of the Windy City – New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami. It’s fitting too, with their stretch across the US, that the firm’s most notable Chambers USA rankings are for transportation practices, including aviation and maritime finance. Further to their 18-year streak of top-tier rankings for aviation finance, the firm has also been recognized by Chambers USA in areas such as labor & employment, litigation, and government contracts

“It’s a full-service law firm, just a little bit smaller.”  

A big selling point for associates at Vedder Price was the size of the firm. As one put it: “It’s a full-service law firm, just a little bit smaller.” Make no mistake though, “it has the prestige of a larger firm,” along with the “BigLaw resources” that come with it. The firm’s status as “either the largest of the mid-sized firms or the smallest of the BigLaw firms” is by design rather than by accident: “The firm wants to grow naturally, rather than growing for the sake of growth,” one associate explained. Handily, this met the firm’s associates where they were at: “I wanted a more hands-on, personal experience rather than just being one in a large number of people,” one told us; “I wanted the BigLaw experience, but I also still wanted to feel like I was being heard and appreciated.”  

Strategy & Future 

“We strive to stay consistent with our core values,” says operating shareholder Dana Armagno, “ with each new office we open, we build around our key strengths, which are finance, M&A, global transportation finance, labor and employment, and investment services.” The firm’s focus is largely on “devoting resources to grow the offices that we have, particularly Dallas, Miami and San Francisco,” explains Armagno, “in any new office, we plan to replicate what we have in other areas, focusing on our core values and key practices, and really growing around those.” Further to this the firm continues to “grow laterally with shareholder and associate affiliations, adding attorneys in key practice areas,” whilst making sure to “stay true to what we do well.” 

The Work 

Almost half of the firm’s US associates were based in Chicago, with the rest spread between Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and DC. The largest number of juniors, around a third of the firm’s total, can be found working in global transportation finance (GTF), with finance and transactions the next largest groups. There’s also a handful working across other areas of corporate law, labor & employment, and litigation. One thing that’s worth noting about Vedder Price is that over half of the juniors arrived at the firm as lateral hires, the rest being made up of former summer associates. Summer programs at the firm are usually dedicated to specific practice areas, allowing associates to immediately specialize, but the firm sometimes offers a more generalist transactional rotation. 

“…you can build pretty strong connections – and quickly - with the people you work with.” 

Associates told us that the firm uses a free market system, with no central staffing coordinator. While “there are some things in place, like availability reports to make sure people aren’t too overwhelmed or not busy enough,” current juniors warned that the system meant that “unless you thrive in that environment, you wouldn’t really get any work.” That said, for those suited to the format, it allows associates to “reach out to people you haven’t worked with who are working on an interesting matter, and you can build pretty strong connections – and quickly - with the people you work with.” 

“I feel like I’m getting to stretch a lot of different mental muscles…” 

Juniors working in finance & transactions told us that while “on the finance side it’s predominantly acquisition financing and work for some institutional clients like banks or lenders,” there was also the opportunity to jump on “some venture capital deals and work with clients in that space as well.” One junior told us that “no project is the same for me, I feel like I’m getting to stretch a lot of different mental muscles within my group, which is great.” Typical associate tasks in finance & transactions include “doing due diligence, disclosure schedules, document review, putting in comments, running redlines, signature pages, and all that typical junior stuff.” The associates we spoke to also highlighted the fact that they were “regularly given the opportunity to take the first stab on deal documents and communicate directly with the client on certain issues.” This never came at the expense of adequate support however, “I’m learning a lot and I’m given responsibility, but I also don’t feel like I’m out on a limb by myself.”  

Finance clients: Credit Suisse and Natixis, Citibank and Deutsche Bank Securities. Represented Vista Global Holdings in a certificate issuance (EETC) to a group of investors in a private placement. 

Housing the bulk of junior associates, the global transportation finance (GTF) group covers all of the financial elements that go into areas of global transportation, and while it’s “mostly aviation,” “I’ve also done engine-related work, railcar finance, and a little bit of maritime work too.” Consequently, the work is “pretty broad. It covers a lot of aspects of equipment and sales, and leasing finance,” with one source telling us that “a lot of stuff I’m doing right now is secured financing work.” This might not be an area of law you’ve heard of before, and those we spoke to described it as ‘unique’: “It’s one of those things that’s fun to talk about at parties when people ask what you do, and I get to explain it. Before I started, I never thought about how airlines acquire airplanes, which is silly looking back on it!” Teams are small, and “depending on how it’s staffed, sometimes it’s just me and a shareholder or someone pretty senior.” Junior roles “are really typically to run the closing checklists and prepare the initial draft, all to make sure it flows smoothly.” As one source described it, “we’re kind of the point man and the boots on the ground with a lot of things.” 

Transportation finance clients: Azorra Aviation, Wheels Up Partners, HSBC. Represented Credit Suisse and Natixis, and a syndicate of other lenders, in an amendment of a revolving warehouse credit facility for a portfolio of commercial aircraft. 

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,850 target; additional bonus eligibility starting at 2,000 

Juniors felt that their billable target of 1850 was “pretty reasonable,” with one source even telling us that it was “100% achievable. Yep, definitely.” The further target of 2000 for additional bonus eligibility was also taken favorably by associates who appreciated the “buffer” it offered, as “people have other things going on, so it’s a good way to try and fit different lives.”  It also then rewards those with higher numbers of billable hours who “really are trying to level up to being a shareholder or growing their skills.” 

“The firm is respectful of my time, and they trust that I’ll get my work done when I can get it done.” 

“The firm is respectful of my time,” one associate explained, “and they trust that I’ll get my work done when I can get it done.” The sources we spoke to also appreciated the flexibility of the fact that “no one’s watching to make sure I stay in the office or stay online at certain times.” Associates working in Los Angeles told us that the varying time zones across the firm meant that they tended to start earlier, but as a general rule associates arrive in the office between 8am and 9am and are finished between 6pm and 7pm. Though “there’s definitely some late nights, typically around closings or signings,” none of the associates we interviewed mentioned a need to work over the weekend.  The firm recently raised its associate salary to match the industry standard but, even before the pay rise, associates remained satisfied: “We enjoy a better work/life balance than some of those massive firms, so to me that’s worth it.” 

Career Development & Culture 

The general consensus was that associates found senior staff at Vedder Price to be invested in their development, and a lot of this associates felt came from the size of the firm: “We’re staffed leanly on purpose, and I really like that. There’s a really broad range of opportunities to stretch, and I feel very invested in. People are aware of how I’m developing and care about it.” Mentorship was also another stand out feature of life at Vedder Price, with sources emphasizing that those assigned to them were quick to arrange a coffee or a meet up around once a month. “Everyone’s door is open, and a wide range of people up to seniors and shareholders, have had multiple conversations with me throughout my time at Vedder about what I wanted to do, where I could grow my skills, and what deals I could join.” Though early in their careers, juniors also told us that they felt the path to partnership was “very, very attainable.”  

“There are emojis in our IM system and people use them, so it’s not out of place for one to pop up.” 

With Vedder Price spread across seven US and two international offices, chances are, juniors will get a chance to work with almost all of them at some stage. We heard too that the culture that senior lawyers create at the firm helps put new starters immediately at ease: “There are emojis in our IM system and people use them, so it’s not out of place for one to pop up.” Of course, life at a law firm means that busy periods are part of the package, and there were times when our interviewees felt “a bit underwater. But that’s the exception not the norm. Even at my busiest I’ve never felt alone or on an island.” And all of this goes back to what one associate referred to as the firm’s “’we’re all in this together’ mentality” – do we hear a wildcat roar?! 

Pro Bono 

All lawyers benefit from 100 hours of billable credit available for pro bono work each year, the feeling was that Vedder Price views pro bono opportunities as an important part of life at the firm: “It’s definitely celebrated. In my last review they recognized positively that I had done a good amount of pro bono and there’s shoutouts that get sent in email blasts to the whole firm.” We also heard that the firm are well-equipped to support this work too, as “they have different platforms and webinar meetings to help facilitate the opportunities that are out there. They’ll reach out to different people at the firm if they think you have the skills that could help on a matter.” Work included asylum cases, local community projects, advocating for victims of human trafficking, and assisting those who have served in the US army in Afghanistan and are seeking refugee status. 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 8,673 
  • Average per (US) attorney: 27 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

While associates were clear that “it seems like there are efforts made” regarding diversity at the firm, “at the shareholder level you see an absence of women, people of color, or just general diversity.” We heard that “there’s a women’s group at the firm where any woman can join, and it’s discussed. That jump to shareholder among women is lacking at the moment.” While we heard about the size and impact of the women’s affinity group at the firm, there are also “groups for LGBTQ+ attorneys, people of color and parents."

Get Hired 

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI & Job Fair applicants interviewed: 349 

Interviewees outside OCI & Job Fairs: 24 

Most of Vedder's summer class is recruited via OCIs at law schools across the country, but slots are available for job fair and direct applicants, as well as diversity and inclusion scholarship recipients. Shareholders at the firm (many of whom are Associate Hiring Committee members and alumni of the law school in question) spend a full day interviewing more than 20 applicants through some schools’ OCI programs; at others they fit 11 interviews into a half-day.  

The interviewers are aiming “to get a sense of the student’s communication skills, interest in our firm and the practice of law, and preparedness for the interview” according to associate hiring committee chair Shelby Parnes. In addition to the typical academic and work experience criteria,   

Vedder zeroes in on interviewees' practice area interests and any ties to the location of their target office. “Candidates should think through how to convey their interest and relevant work/academic experience in connection with their preferred practice area,” Parnes tells us.  

Top tips: “Vedder is looking for people who are genuinely interested in a specific practice group.   

That doesn't necessarily mean having a background in it, however.”  

“From what I've seen in my group, the firm's looking for someone who can understand the business as well as the legal aspects of a transaction. Vedder is hiring folks who can interface with clients and offer pragmatic advice without always falling back on legal maxims.”  


Applicants invited to second stage: 121 

By the callback stage, applicants are interviewing for a particular practice area, so it's shareholders from that group who assess them through one-on-one interviews. Interviewees also sit down for more casual chats over lunch or a coffee with two associates; Parnes explains that the entire process is designed so “that students come away with a strong sense of the practice group and the attorneys they would work with as a summer associate.”  

The criteria at callback is similar to OCIs but goes into more detail, and Vedder particularly prizes “executive presence” alongside work experience, career motivation and personality. Interviewees get a heads-up on who's going to be interviewing them, so some background research and knowledge of “recent deals or industry accolades” will come in handy.  

Top tips: “There's not as much hand-holding here as at some other firms so we're looking for someone self-sufficient. Ideally the candidate can juggle a big workload independently.”  

“It's about finding someone willing to take ownership of their work and take the job seriously. Having a likable personality is a big plus.”  

Summer program  

Offers: 26 

Acceptances: 15 

After an orientation in the Chicago HQ, Vedder's summers fan out to their chosen offices and “are immediately immersed in projects and observational opportunities tailored to their designated practice area.” Summer associates get to work on substantive projects once they're settled in, under the watchful eye of an associate mentor. Reviews come at the mid-point of summer and at the conclusion, though shareholders and associates give feedback throughout the process.  

Parnes confirms that summer associates can impress by demonstrating “a strong work ethic, careful attention to their final work product, time-management skills and balance of their workload.” Vedder typically hires 100% of summer associates on a full-time basis and keeps close ties with them until they've circled back to the firm.  

Notable summer events: attending baseball games, cooking classes, court tours, group activities (mini-golf, darts, Whirlyball) and participating in community service/volunteer initiatives.  

Top tips: “Don't be shy about asking questions as juniors are very friendly and not competitive; we're all here to help and it's a cooperative environment.”  

“Try to work with as many people as possible.”  

And finally...  

“Past summer associates have noted that over the course of the summer they come to know almost every single person in the office," Parnes comments. "We are invested in the long-term success of our summer associates, not just as lawyers, but as future colleagues who will contribute to the culture of our firm.”  

Interview with Dana Armagno, operating shareholder

Commercial strategy, market position and trends 

Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market?  

Dana Armagno:  We are a middle market firm with approximately 400 attorneys and professionals; as far as our identity goes, we strive to stay consistent with our core values and stay true to what we do well. We are globally ranked in global transportation finance, nationally ranked in finance & transactions, litigation and labor, and our government investigations group has an impressive client base and a deep bench nationwide. With each new office we open, we build around our key strengths, which are finance, M&A, global transportation finance, labor and employment and investment services.  

CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you’d like law students to know about?  

Armagno:  We continue to grow laterally with shareholder and associate affiliations, adding attorneys in key practice areas. We have significantly expanded our footprint by opening our newest office in Miami, and we have also significantly increased our presence in the healthcare, real estate and government investigations spaces. In any new office, we plan to replicate what we have in other areas, focusing on our core values and key practices, and really growing around those. 

CA: Are there any domestic or international events/trends that are affecting any of the firm’s practices at the moment?  

Armagno:  I think the biggest thing that is impacting us – as well as everyone – is how to work with AI. We are assessing how that impacts our business, our attorneys and our clients. We are also in the middle of our five-year strategic plan and we are driving that forward, determining where to focus our domestic or international expansion, and devoting resources to grow the offices that we have, particularly Dallas, Miami and San Francisco. 

CA: What is your firm’s commercial strategy focusing on, and how do you expect the next year to unfold? 

Armagno:  Our strategy is to focus on our core competencies and grow those in every office – finance and transactions, corporate, global transportation finance, labor and litigation, and investment services – and build in those areas across our entire global presence. The way our firm is structured means that we are not reliant on any one practice area; we have a broad client base, and we provide services on a spectrum. I expect in the next year our focus is going to continue to be on Miami, Dallas and San Francisco, as we focus on talent development, client relationships, cross-selling and business development. We have a lot of success developing our attorneys, in particular working with associates and building up their practices. We have a business development team that focuses on the individual business development strengths of our attorneys (both shareholders and associates). Also, from a cross-selling perspective within the firm, we are looking to really engage internally to help everyone understand what we do, how we do it, and how we can deliver those services to our clients. 

Inside the Firm 

CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers? 

Armagno: I think the three key areas in particular are our professional development team, our Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and our business development team. We are focusing on what associates need, what their focuses are, and how we can help them develop as attorneys. It is individual – there is no one way to practice law and there is no one way to develop business, so we are putting all three of those areas to work so that associates understand the support that is available to them. Whether it is legal skills training or developing soft skills focusing on client relationships, we talk to our associates and ask what they need to be successful. We also have a very robust HR department helping them, focusing on mental and physical health, and on benefits that people might not know are available to them. We communicate these resources regularly, so that associates understand that there is a support network, not just for legal and business development skills, but on a personal level, too. 

CA: What’s the firm’s approach to bolstering diversity, equity, and inclusion?  

Armagno: We have a very robust Diversity & Inclusion Committee headed by Andy Torre and our Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Merisa Lima. They have made significant strides in moving toward formal certifications like the Mansfield Certification, which we have, and supporting our Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) participation. We have a lot of ideas that Andy and Merisa, together with members of our committees, have helped us implement, to better reach law schools, law students and future associates. As our footprint has expanded, we have also expanded our summer associate program recruitment to law schools in additional cities and regions, as we have gotten bigger as a firm and opened offices in new markets, like Dallas. We have a strong team that helps us implement new ideas, establish new affinity groups, and address concerns from a recruiting perspective. It is really great to see, and it is welcomed by shareholders and associates alike.  

The Legal Profession 

CA: How do you predict the legal profession will change in the next five years?  

Armagno:  I think the industry is facing challenges related to two significant areas: remote work and artificial intelligence. As we all continue to learn how best to work remotely, I think it is bringing to bear the fact that working from a laptop in an apartment stunts growth, stunts camaraderie, stunts creativity, and hinders our attorneys from grasping the nuances that occur during negotiations. Whether that is getting to know our clients, understanding how transactions and negotiations move forward, or developing relationships with staff, with attorneys, and with one another. I do think that you lose the relationship aspect of our profession if you are constantly on a laptop at home. We require three days in the office, and being in, being present, and being engaged all resonate with our values. In terms of AI, we are already aware of the negative aspects and will continue to see them in the industry; people relying on ChatGPT and things like that. It is all about harnessing the benefits of AI, while also being cautious and understanding how that affects clients, because it can in a myriad of ways. 

The Fun Bit 

CA: Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self starting out your career? 

Armagno:  This is going to be silly, but as a woman, I would either hyphenate or not change my maiden name, because I think I have lost so many contacts that knew me! And I have had to rebuild those relationships. I would reach out or be more involved in keeping my name in front of people before and after it changed. I would also never be afraid to ask questions. Always ask them, but know your audience too – know who to ask. 

CA: The hours in BigLaw can be punishing. How do you unwind at the end of a long day/week? 

Armagno:  I think you need to find a way to take care of yourself a little bit every day, whether it is yoga or a fast walk or just getting up from your desk. Maybe not at the end of the day, but throughout the day, get up from your desk and put your phone down. Get away from your feeds and everything. Get up, move around: yoga, treadmill, whatever’s available.  

CA: Is there a movie/TV show/books about lawyers or the legal profession that you particularly enjoy? And how accurate would you say it is? 

Armagno:  I think for a transactional practitioner, Anatomy of a Merger is a must read. It is not exciting, but I don’t think any book or movie reflects reality. I mean, whether it is A Few Good Men, The Firm or Suits, it is very glamorous, but not very realistic.  


Vedder Price PC

222 North LaSalle Street,
26th Fl.,
IL 60601

Main areas of work

 Finance & transactions, global transportation finance, corporate, labor and employment, litigation. 

Firm profile

 Vedder Price is a business-focused law firm with a global reach and a proud tradition of maintaining long-term client relationships. With approximately 340 attorneys and growing, Vedder Price serves clients of all sizes and in virtually all industries from offices in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York, Washington, DC, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Singapore.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
• Brooklyn
• Chicago-Kent
• Cornell
• Fordham
• George Washington
• Georgetown
• Howard
• Loyola (Chicago)
• Northwestern
• Notre Dame
• Santa Clara
• Texas A&M
• UC San Francisco
• University of Chicago
• University of Illinois
• University of Michigan
• University of Minnesota
• USC Gould
• Washington University in St. Louis 

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Participation in the Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair and Loyola Patent Law Program.

Summer associate profile: Vedder Price recruits candidates with strong academic credentials, excellent verbal and written communication skills, initiative and enthusiasm. Ideal candidates have a demonstrated interest in the practice area they are applying for, as evidenced by relevant course work and/or prior work experience. As summer associates will interact immediately with senior shareholders and clients, executive presence and maturity are valued.

Summer program components: Summer associates are integrated quickly into the practice area they are joining, through substantive work assignments, observation opportunities and training sessions. Summer associates will work with an assigned associate advisor to receive practical advice and guidance. A firm-wide summer program orientation is hosted in Chicago during the first week of the program for the full summer class to meet each other and engage with firm management. There are two formal review sessions, one at mid-summer and the other at the completion of the program, incorporating written attorney feedback regarding each completed project. Social events are frequent, both office-wide and in small groups, to ensure summer associates enjoy the collegiality of the firm.

Social Media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @vedderlaw
Facebook: VedderLaw
Linkedin: vedder-price-pc

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Registered Funds (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 3)