Good morning Baltimore! This national firm was forged in Charm City, and has a spring in its step thanks to a recent merger.
ESTABLISHED in Maryland over 100 years ago, Venable has now expanded its reach to eight offices spread across the US. Sources were pleased to report, however, that it hasn't forgotten its roots. “It’s still a firm that values social connections and friendliness,” one Baltimore-based interviewee told us. “They want to make sure you're involved, whether that's in community service, political campaigning, networking events etc...” An associate in the DC HQ added: “It’s not as flashy or showy as other firms, and overall you get good substantive work.” While it may not be the flashiest of firms, it certainly has a fair amount to show off about: Venable picks up a range of Chambers USA rankings in Maryland and DC; it's particularly strong in corporate/M&A and employee benefits/exec compensation work in the former location, and well respected for its IP, real estate and technology practices in the latter. At the nationwide level, Venable stands out for its REITs, advertising and privacy & data security expertise.
Just before our calls with juniors, Venable announced that it was merging with the New York-based IP firm Fitzpatrick – a combination that doubled the firm's headcount in the Big Apple and also the headcount of the IP division firmwide. Ellen Berge, Venable's managing partner of professional development and recruiting, tells us that the merger “doesn't represent a geographic shift – we see it as a move that has strengthened our IP practice group. Now it is a firmwide group with equal strength across the offices.” Berge adds that Venable is “expanding in areas that we've been strong in for many years, like regulatory, for example. What our attorneys are doing now is focusing on new and emerging markets, from blockchain to cryptocurrency to AI. We've always been very entrepreneurial and a lot of our associates are leading the charge."
Strategy & Future
Commenting on the big picture, hiring partner Bob Bolger explains that “it's not our mission to be a megafirm; instead, we view ourselves as particularly strong in key areas.” This doesn't mean that Venable isn't interested in growing its footprint, Bolger adds, and the firm will “look at other markets if our clients are in them,” but don't go expecting Venable to swell to Dentons' proportions any time soon. Bolger adds that “on the West Coast we continue to witness a great deal of momentum in the entertainment area, as well as in tax and business transactions.”
Around half of this year's associate sample were based in Venable's DC HQ; the next most populated offices were Baltimore, LA and New York. A few could be found in the firm's San Francisco and Tysons Corner offices. The groups that drew in the most associates were commercial litigation, regulatory, corporate and real estate. These were followed by other groups including intellectual property litigation, which will be bolstered in the coming years thanks to the aforementioned Fitzpatrick merger. First-years are assigned to a “home group” on arrival, as well as to a practice group leader, who helps to coordinate assignments based on associates’ availability.
Commercial litigators had sampled an array of work that ranged from “your more traditional contract cases and business tort matters” to trade secrets issues and product liability disputes. Interviewees added that “there’s a huge variety of appellate work that crosses over with other groups like regulatory and commercial.” Sources reported a hefty dose of research and writing tasks, as well as the opportunity to work on discovery documents. While we did hear stories of “monotonous days of document review,” sources assured us that “those less glamorous jobs haven’t overshadowed the more interesting writing and research that's available.” On the more exciting end of the spectrum, one interviewee beamed: “I was invited to do a solo appearance in a lower-level state court. It was a great opportunity that you wouldn’t get at a larger firm.” Another revealed that they were “able to draft trial briefs and motions in limine,” while this interviewee was especially pleased that they were “fortunate enough to be able to first-chair five depositions.”
Litigation clients: The Dannon Company, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Merck. Currently serving as national counsel to the last of these in product liability litigation related to the company's osteoporosis medication Fosamax.
“Regulatory is such an exciting area,” we heard. “It’s constantly evolving so it doesn’t go stale.” Associates in this overarching practice can work in teams focused on areas like food and drugs, cybersecurity and privacy, politics, nonprofit organizations, telecom, finance and advertising. Those who'd sampled cybersecurity work told of “drafting a lot of memos and answering questions about compliance,” while those who'd experienced the telecommunications end described “reviewing processor agreements and working on oddball research topics.” Regulatory sources added: “We currently have a blockchain caucus and I predict we’ll have a formal practice area for that in the next six months. That's really exciting because it’s such a fast-growing industry and we want to be at the forefront of meeting that demand.”
Regulatory clients: Kellogg, Digital Advertising Alliance and iStream. Successfully resolved an FTC investigation for TA Sciences and its owner Noel Patton.
“I’ve been really impressed by the way partners know what work to assign,” a Baltimore junior reported. “They give you work slightly beyond your capability so you’re constantly developing. They're attuned to what we need to be doing well and what new experiences we need.” However, partners aren't the only ones looking out for associates' development. At the time of our calls Venable had recently appointed an in-house career counselor, who is “very involved in rolling out programs and resources. They're available to discuss goals and they sit down with every associate when they reach their third and fifth years.” In addition, “as part of our annual review everyone had to do a self-evaluation and career development plan, which gives you insight into the benchmarks you should be reaching at each level of seniority,” insiders explained.
“They're available to discuss goals.”
For those looking further to the future, a DC source explained: “We recently had a presentation where they explained that the track to partnership takes ten years, while to reach counsel you're looking at eight. There are certain metrics you need to meet like how much work you’re doing and how much revenue you bring in, but it seems pretty transparent.” However, those in Baltimore did feel that “we have a somewhat longer partnership track than other firms. It's not unusual for people to reach their eighth year and not make counsel – the firm is quite conservative.”
When asked about the atmosphere, sources across the offices often described a variation of the following: “We have an open-door environment filled with down-to-earth people and zero yellers.” The consensus was that Venable “has a more human feel. It doesn't view itself as a snooty firm. No one is arrogant and everyone’s committed to producing the best work product they can.” The praise didn’t stop there, with DC residents telling us: “Partners know how important associates are so we’re very valued here. You get a lot of thanks and appreciation, which goes a long way when you’re burning the midnight oil.”
“It doesn't view itself as a snooty firm."
On the social side, “there’s the bocce ball tournament, obviously.” Yes, Venable is famous for its appreciation of this Italian game. For those unfamiliar with bocce, it’s related to bowls and pétanque, and it’s a pretty big deal at Venable. A ten-week tournament takes place every summer, complete with a “guy who dresses up as a moose – he's an informal mascot.” We also heard about Halloween parties that involve “costume contests and skits performed by partners and first-years.” The fun is not just limited to employees – their families are encouraged to join, especially for the annual summer party. In conclusion, “the culture here is pretty kooky and fun – last week someone was riding one of those electric scooters down the hall,” a DC interviewee reminisced gleefully.
Hours & Compensation
First-year associates aim to bill 1,800 hours, but their target rises to 1,900 from their second year onward. We heard that this figure can include a certain amount of nonbillable experience like “attending depositions and hearings,” as well as time spent on business development, pro bono and recruiting efforts. Bonuses kick in when associates hit 1,950 hours; potentially 100 hours of 'impact case' pro bono (see pro bono section) can count toward this total, and the bonus amount rises for every additional 50 hours associates bill. We heard that the ability to reach the targets “varies enormously between the groups. Commercial litigators always meet or exceed the target while groups like IP litigation generally lag behind.” Associates agreed, however, that “it’s not the end of the world if you don’t meet the targets.” The firm takes into account how busy each group is in order to potentially give associates discretionary bonuses.
“I’d rather have my sanity and more of a work/life balance.”
When asked about the recent salary hike, associates in Baltimore reported receiving “some radio silence” from the higher-ups. This bothered some across the network more than others, with this source in LA summing up the more accepting view: “I was surprised when they bumped up the salaries the first time. I’d rather have less compensation and be able to have an extra few people at the firm. I’d rather have my sanity and more of a work/life balance.” Venable's base salaries are lockstep for the first two years; after that base compensation is figured out according to a “performance-based scale.”
Most interviewees reported working fairly humane hours, with an average working day typically lasting between 9/9:30am and 6:30/7pm. There’s no formal remote working policy, but sources in DC told us that “as long as the work gets done, the firm doesn’t need you here physically all the time,” while those in Baltimore assured us that “it's very flexible – a lot of people do work remotely.”
Managing partner of professional development and recruiting Ellen Berge tells us: “While there is an emphasis on recruiting from local schools in each of our markets, we make a conscientious effort to review write-in candidates and candidates coming through resume drops in real time.” Find out more about how to get hired by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Diversity & Inclusion
“We have some work to do,” associates agreed when discussing the topic of diversity. In particular, they flagged retention as a key issue to improve on: “There'sa problem growing female partners and partners of color through the ranks,” a Baltimore interviewee commented. “It's an ongoing problem on everyone's mind.” A source in DC felt the same, and said that “when you walk around the hallways, the majority of the people you see are Caucasian.” Others were keen to flag that “the firm has good intentions,” but highlighted the difficulty of tackling “pervasive issues of bias that affect the industry every day.” We did hear that the firm has recently enlisted the help of a consultant to confront these issues, especially at the recruitment stage; the consultant reportedly “introduced a new set of assessment frameworks that are more objective and reduce bias.”
Associates had sampled a wide range of pro bono matters through the firm’s connections with “great organizations.” We spoke to sources who had worked on immigration issues, housing investigations, Habeas cases and custody matters for victims of domestic violence. We heard of a cross-office matter that had involved associates from LA to DC, which centered on preventing vulnerable Arkansas residents from being jailed for nonpayment of debt in what has been dubbed 'a modern-day debtors' prison.' In DC, juniors had worked with WALA (Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts) on intellectual property matters.
Overall, associates agreed that “the firm is definitely trying to increase pro bono – before we could only count 50 hours as billable but now it's gone up to 100 hours of credit.” The firm clarified that associates can count up to 50 hours of standard pro bono work toward their billables, and up to 100 hours of what they term 'impact case' pro bono: the firm determines the significance of particular matters on a case-by-case basis.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 29,455
- Average per attorney: 60
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 709
Interviewees outside OCI: 35
Hiring partner Ellen Berge tells us: “While there is an emphasis on recruiting from local schools in each of our markets, we make a conscientious effort to review write-in candidates and candidates coming through resume drops in real-time.” She adds: “Typically, we like for students to be in the top of the class, but we’re not restricted to recruiting from the T14. Most of our entry-level class is filled by former summer associates, but we do go to the market for clerks on occasion.”
Associates revealed: “Particularly in Baltimore the number one thing we’re looking for is a commitment to the region. We want to make sure people won’t leave after a couple of years.” Berge adds: “During OCI, we’re looking for folks who are comfortable, poised, and able to articulate their interest in the firm and in BigLaw generally. It is important that candidates demonstrate a good academic record, but also be well-rounded and focused.”
Top tips for this stage:
"It sounds obvious, but be ready to explain your path to law school, prior work experience, extracurricular involvement, and interest in the firm." —hiring partner Ellen Berge.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 229
Berge explains: “We have two options for callback interviews. The first is an interview event where candidates individually meet with four attorneys and one member of the recruiting team in our office. Events generally conclude with either a luncheon reception or a cocktail reception. These events allow students to meet more attorneys at the firm, observe how our attorneys interact with one another, and get to know potential summer classmates and peers.” The second option is a traditional interview, structured the same way, but without the social gathering afterwards.
When it comes to the interview questions themselves Berge tells us: “At this stage they tend to be more open-ended and may focus on a candidate’s particular practice group interests and assessing whether they’re the type of candidate who will thrive in Venable’s environment. For example, candidates may be asked to describe an instance where they had competing deliverable deadlines or a time when they disagreed with a peer on the approach to a group project and how they navigated that collaboration.” Associates said: “It’s important to be upfront about which practice areas you’re interested in so that you can meet individuals and get a feel for the team. When I know people are interested in certain areas I’ll channel them towards the right people in happy hours and so on.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Do your homework. Research the firm’s practice areas and be able to articulate why you are interested in Venable specifically and why you’re interested in the market in which you’re interviewing (if it’s not obvious from your resume). Be genuine, candid, and don’t hesitate to ask questions." —hiring partner Ellen Berge.
“Our program is designed to give summer associates a realistic depiction of what everyday life is like as a junior associate. In each of our offices, summer associates are given the opportunity to work on assignments across practice groups,” Berge summarizes. “Summer associates receive real work assignments on behalf of real clients — the same type of assignments our junior associates receive throughout the year.” She adds: “Building professional relationships is another essential part of the summer associate program. Informal dinners, happy hours, and lunches are some of the best ways for the summer associates to get to know our attorneys.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Ten weeks goes by quickly, so take every opportunity to get to know your peers and attorneys! Even if you have a particular practice group focus, we encourage summers to try a little bit of everything. Taking work from different groups not only gives summers a wider social network when they return to the firm as first years, but gives the Hiring Committee a full portfolio on which the summer can be evaluated." —hiring partner Ellen Berge.
“WhenI was a student – and this goes for all law firms – I didn’t realize that they keep track of who attends open-house events or the hospitality suite or table at an OCI event. Soft networking all counts and firms do take note.” – a second year associate.
600 Massachusetts Avenue,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Worldwide revenue: $570.8 million
- Partners (US): 306
- Associates (US): 272
- Main recruitment contact: Kera Wise, Senior Director of Legal Personnel & Attorney Recruiting, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Bob Bolger
- Diversity officers: Nora Garrote, Milo Cividanes, Lisa Tavares
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 42
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1L LCLD Scholars: 5
- 2Ls: 50, 3Ls: N/A
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- DC: 20; BA: 8; NY: 14; LA: 5; TY: 2; SF: 1
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1L LCLD Scholars: $3,650 (for the first 5 weeks at Venable)
- 2Ls: $3,650
- Split summers offered? Determined on a case-by-case basis; must spend the first 8 weeks of the summer with Venable
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Summer associate profile:
We typically fill our entry-level class with hires from our summer associate program.
We give careful attention to all aspects of a candidate’s experience and abilities and like to see the following:
■ Demonstrated record of academic achievement with an emphasis on strong undergrad and 1L performance
■ Participation in various extracurricular activities highlighting leadership skills, commitment, and time management
■ Excellent written and oral communication skills
■ Ability to work well with others and independently
■ We look particularly favorably on law journal and moot court participation. Previous job experience is a plus
Summer program components:
Summer associates receive real work assignments on behalf of real clients — the same type of assignments our junior associates receive throughout the year, ranging from research and memos to presentations for a client. We strive to maintain a balance between work and social events for the duration of the summer program. Informal dinners, lunches, happy hours, and city-specific events are some of the best ways for our summers to get to know the firm.
Leadership Council on Legal Divesity Scholarship Program:
Venable’s 2019 1L LCLD Scholars Program, available in our Washington, Baltimore, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, offers diverse law students who will have completed their first year of law school by May 2019 the opportunity to spend a summer working side-byside with attorneys from LCLD Member Organizations. Our 1L LCLD scholars split their time between Venable and a corporate partner in each of our offices. Scholars pull from the same project pool as our 2L summers and participate in an assortment of professional development and social programming.
Applications can be submitted through: www.venable.com/careers/laterals/positions/.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Advertising: Litigation (Band 2)
- Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
- Government Contracts (Band 4)
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
- Privacy & Data Security (Band 2)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 3)
- REITs: Maryland Counsel (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)