Venable LLP - The Inside View

An atypical BigLaw experience awaits juniors at this “shockingly nice” firm with a solid domestic network.

We hear it time and time again during our research: the people make the place, the people drew me here, the people are fantastic! Sometimes bluster, yet oftentimes spin. But when Venable’s culture and character routinely cropped up in our interviewees as a motivation for joining, we reasoned that there must be truth to the claim. “It’s not a normal BigLaw firm,” said one happy camper. “Everyone is shockingly nice.” Another added: “My reason for joining is entirely unscientific, but the people and the culture were such a good match. I just got really positive vibes from the off.” Certainly high praise for this esteemed Baltimore-founded firm that now operates across nine US bases. “People are just so nice here,” said one source. “They take their work seriously but not themselves.”

"Real opportunities to progress.”

Yet vibes and kindness don't pay the bills, and instead the Venable lights are kept on by some top-tier work, as noted by our colleagues at Chambers USA. Nationwide, the firm is considered among ‘The Elite’ for its government contracts, privacy and data security, product liability, and mass torts work. In Baltimore, the firm receives high-end rankings in corporate/M&A, healthcare, labor and employment, commercial litigation, and real estate. The firm also scoops a number of other rankings across its bases in DC, Chicago, New York, and Virginia. So not only are Venable attorneys “down-to-earth, team-oriented, and incredibly interested in associate development,” the “firm’s reputation and quality of work presents real opportunities to progress.”

The Work



The firm’s work is broadly characterized by four divisions: business, regulatory, litigation, and IP. Smaller subgroups make up these wider practices, with associates spread fairly evenly across the groups. The firm hires into seven of its offices, with most finding home in DC (the firm’s largest office), followed by Baltimore, then New York. Smaller offices – like the 2020 new opening in Chicago – also take on a handful of juniors. Associates rank three preferences of groups they’d like to join after the summer program. While not guaranteed a place, we’re told “most people get one of their top three.” Work allocation also raised little complaints, with associates experiencing a blend of formal assigning and organic relationships determining workflow. “You have regular check-ins with partners to talk about your capacity and whether you can take on more work,” one associate told us. “It works well.”

"I’ve helped draft smaller portions of transaction documents, like shareholder agreements or board resolutions.”

Various subgroups fall under the firm’s business umbrella: transactional tax, commercial real estate, corporate/M&A, real estate finance, and more. The associates we spoke with had worked across all these permutations. “I’ve gotten to do everything,” said one associate. Everything? It appears so with such varied experience across M&A, securities, SPAC deals, IPOs, and fund-raising for startups. “I’ve been on a few deals where it’s just me and a partner,” one source said. “So there’s been lots of responsibility.” This might mean “lots of client contact” or producing buy-side diligence reports. “There’s obviously due diligence to do,” one source told us. “But I’ve helped draft smaller portions of transaction documents, like shareholder agreements or board resolutions.” Another shared their highlight with us: “I really like taking early-stage companies through various rounds of financing, so it was exciting to do early-stage financing for a California company in the health sector.”

Business clients: Spartan Surfaces, SmartStop Shelf Storage REIT, iBio. Acted as M&A counsel to PinnacleCare on all aspects of its $85 million acquisition by Sun Life Financial.

The firm’s litigation umbrella is similarly broad and covers commercial litigation, product liability and mass torts, as well as labor and employment disputes. “My workflow has been a real mix,” said one commercial litigator. “There’s always a new set of facts, contract, or dispute to get involved in.” This meant work on a portfolio of tort cases for a national company, a contractual dispute “with national implications,” and a case concerning property rights and assets in Cuba, as well as a trade secrets case with a chemical company. “It’s just so varied and super interesting work,” one beamed. In labor and employment, we’re told “matters are staffed quite leanly,” which means responsibility is there to be had. “I take calls from clients and communicate with opposing counsel,” one source shared. “I wasn’t expecting to do that, it’s been great!” Other tasks involved discrete research assignments, drafting the first draft of a motion to dismiss, and helping with deposition prep. “Thankfully it’s not been crazy amounts of document review either,” one junior joked. “I put in my evaluation about wanting more drafting and deposition prep experience and they responded to that, which was cool.”

Litigation clients: Morgan Stanley, NYU, Macquarie Capital. Represented Marriott International in a dispute with a restaurant tenant in New York over the impact COVID-19 has had on the city’s hotel and restaurant business.

In IP, you’ll find life sciences, technology, and advertising litigation, plus trademark prosecution and counseling, as well as transactional work. The firm’s remit grew considerably larger after its acquisition of esteemed IP outfit Fitzpatrick, which brought in over 100 IP practitioners back in 2018. The sources we spoke with had helped file copyright registrations for a large portfolio, and worked on patent infringement contentions, as well as litigation in the pharmaceutical space. “The group covers a wide range of sectors, but I’ve done a lot of work with vaccines and oral drugs, as well other things like tires and biotech.” We’re told leanly staffed teams equate to broad exposure, such as “drafting complaints” and “drafting discovery requests.” Naturally there’s also “lots of fact research and document review to do,” one source admitted, adding that “overall, I’ve been very happy.”

IP clients: Novartis, Allergan, Sanofi-Aventis. Represented Astellas against Sandoz for patent infringement of a multibillion-dollar prostate cancer therapy license.

Career Development



“You can talk to the head of HR whenever you want about development,” sources enthused. One added: “There’s a definite emphasis on development and I feel like they’re invested a lot in me.” Sources told us most learning occurs on the job. “Because of the scale and scope of what we’re doing for huge global companies, I’ve been surprised that people still have the time to train me.” Another junior told us: “I get the sense that they’re letting me take the lead on things that might be advanced for me but are great for getting better.” This approach looks to the future, with one source suggesting: “My mentors are very hands-on and they are very responsive. They want to keep talent, which I was surprised about but appreciative of.”

“You see other people do it so get the sense that there’s an actual path.”

Looking ahead, sources said a path through the firm “is clear.” One said: “I would say progress through the firm seems apparent as you see other people do it so get the sense that there’s an actual path.” And while one source wasn’t “100% sure on what that the exact path to partnership looks like,” others quickly highlighted a “formal career development” program. “You can check in and see whether you’ve done certain things,” one source clarified. “I’m not sure the extent to which that affects partnership, but it’s a pretty robust development program,” supported by a designated career development team. In our latest survey, the firm scored comfortably above the market average for both the achievability of partnership and for the number of associates intending to make partner.

Hours & Compensation



While the pandemic has skewed and shifted everyone’s working patterns, sources were quick to praise a positive work/life balance. “It’s actually been pretty good,” summarized one insider. “Sometimes you might work late or on the weekend, but it’s not the norm to do that.” Weekly projection calls with partners allow associates to map out their week ahead. “For me projecting the week, 35–50 hours feels where you should be. Any more than 50 would be considered slammed and you would be encouraged to spread work around.” Our survey data shows the average number of hours worked by Venable associates to be 44.9 hours in the previous week, which is significantly under the market average. Our data also showed associates to overwhelmingly believe the hours and workload are reasonable. “It’s obviously not a 9–5 job,” one source told us. “But I am pleased to say how much partners and associates respect your time boundaries.” Even those late-night emails and weekend work are framed intentionally. “Deadlines aren’t arbitrary either,” one source revealed. “And if it needs to be done urgently, you’ll be thanked genuinely.”

Despite a suggestion the firm is “a little fiscally conservative,” sources raised little qualms about compensation. “It’s obviously good and I’m happy,” one source told us. “They won’t be the first to raise, but they matched the last salary bump.” We’re also told that “bonus structures are publicly available and transparent,” with associates receiving different tiered bonuses depending on the hours they clock. “I appreciate the transparency,” one source said.

Pro Bono



Associates can clock up to 50 hours of pro bono toward their annual target. “I hit 70 last year,” one source said, adding that “I get the sense that over the 50 hours is fairly routine.” Still, we spoke to a number of insiders who “wished that number was higher” and noted that “it can be difficult to get the firm to undertake any expenditures required for pro bono cases.”

Sources had worked on asylum cases, a First Amendment case “that’s going to trial,” tax issues for nonprofit organizations, and drafting employee handbooks or vaccine policies for smaller organizations. “I think there’s a big emphasis on it,” one source shared. “Especially in Baltimore, where we were founded. Lots of people genuinely care about the place and see giving back through pro bono as a priority.” Our survey data also shows the firm to be in line with the market average concerning whether associates believe pro bono work to be meaningful and engaging, as well as having autonomy over the volume of work they can take on.

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 26,247.8
  • Average per (US) attorney: 47.2

Culture



And how about the people? “They’re generally and genuinely very nice,” one source responded. “They’re great. Any time I’m stressed with work, that’s what I come back to.” Another agreed, saying: “I haven’t met a single person I could say that I don’t want to work with.” Our survey data confirms a similar rosy picture, showing that associates believe partners are nurturing future leaders, junior camaraderie is strong, and that the firm has an active social scene. Even in the virtual age, social dynamics were maintained. “We regularly message each other. There’s always someone you can just shoot the s*** with; it’s really easy to connect with people here.” Another source was quick to dispel their preconceived notions of firm life. “I expected to join and experience all the things BigLaw has a bad reputation for, such as long hours and difficult partners. But at this point I haven’t experienced any of that; everyone’s fantastic.” Of course, no conversation about culture at Venable is complete without mention of the firm’s famed bocce tournament – DC and Baltimore even have their own courts!

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



“It’s definitely a priority and they’re making efforts,” according to one source, pointing to the hiring of a new D&I director recently, a recent speaker series, and a diverse 1L summer program as evidence. “It doesn’t feel like a box-ticking exercise - they’re actually trying to take the right steps.” Sources were also quick to praise the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts, finding that the firm makes an effort to retain and promote diverse lawyers. Our survey data also shows praise for the firm’s mental health and wellbeing initiatives. The firm has also proudly reported a 50% increase in the number of racially diverse attorneys over the past decade and doubled the number of partners and counsel who are women in the same period. That said, for some of our interviewees the pace of change remained too slow: “There isn’t nearly enough diverse candidates in the highest leadership positions and while there is meaningful diversity within some practice groups, it’s not replicated across the entire firm.”

Strategy & Future



“We’re also moving into a brand-new office in New York next year, which is a good sign to show we’re doing well.”

Despite a turbulent few year, sources dubbed Venable “a steady ship.” And while a “little conservative when it comes to growth and finances,” our insiders were confident in the direction of travel. “We did absolutely great last year and smashed our revenue targets,” one source proudly revealed. A smattering of hires plus organic office expansion indicates things are moving forward positively. “I know they’re trying to expand the Chicago office and ones in California too where there's a focus on IP and construction,” one source said. Indeed, the office launched its first summer program this year.  “We’re also moving into a brand-new office in New York next year, which is a good sign to show we’re doing well.” Another succinctly concluded: “I feel good about the direction of the firm. I’m appreciative of this place.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 871

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.

Callbacks

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 teamWhen 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.

Summer program

Anticipated summers 2022: 55

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.

And finally…

When I 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.

Venable LLP

600 Massachusetts Avenue,
Washington, DC,
20001
Website www.venable.com

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 9
  • Worldwide revenue: $717M
  • Partners (US): 371
  • Associates (US): 275
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Melissa Meyer, Director of Associate Recruiting mnmeyer@venable.com
  • Hiring partner: Robert Bolger, Jr.
  • Diversity officers: Jenn Reddien
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 44
  • Clerking policy: Yes Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 56
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: DC:19, TY: 2, BA:11, NY:11, LA:6, SF:4, CH: 3
  • Summer salary 2021: $3,942 per week
  • Split summers offered? Determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work




Our clients rely on Venable’s proven capabilities in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property, and regulatory and government affairs.

Firm profile




With over 800 attorneys in nine offices across the country, we are strategically positioned to advance our clients’ business objectives in the United States and abroad. Clients choose Venable for the skill, dedication, creativity, and superior service that our legal and professional staff provide. Attracting and retaining the best talent isn’t just essential to the successes of our clients and our firm—it’s central to elevating the legal profession through continuous learning, improvement, and innovation.

Recruitment



Law schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
American University, Washington College of Law; Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; Columbia University School of Law; Cornell Law School, Duke University School of Law; Fordham University School of Law; George Mason University School of Law; George Washington University Law School; Georgetown University Law Center; Harvard Law School; Howard Law School, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; New York University School of Law; New York Law School, Stanford Law School; T. C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond; University of Southern California, Gould School of Law; University of Baltimore School of Law; UC at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law; UC Hastings College of the Law; UC Irvine School of Law; UC Los Angeles School of Law; University of Maryland School of Law; University of Michigan—Ann Arbor Law School; University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of San Francisco; University of Virginia School of Law; Vanderbilt Law School, Villanova University School of Law; William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law. We will also attend the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Mid-Atlantic BLSA, Western Region BLSA Job Fair, Northeastern BLSA Job Fair, and Lavender Law Job Fair.

Summer associate profile:
Successful candidates display high academic achievement in their law school and undergraduate education. We look for motivated candidates who combine intellectual ability with enthusiasm and a collaborative approach. In addition, we give careful attention to all aspects of a candidate’s experience and abilities and like to see the following: participation in extracurricular activities highlighting leadership skills, commitment, and time management; excellent written and oral communication skills; ability to work well with others and independently; Law Journal and Moot Court participation preferred; prior work experience is a plus.

Summer program components:
Summer associates are assigned to active matters in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property, and regulatory and government affairs. At the beginning of our program, we bring the entire summer class together for a robust orientation in our Washington, D.C. office. In addition to providing the opportunity to network with peers, the orientation kickoff allows summer associates to build relationships with firm leadership and to learn about our culture and values. We firmly believe that a talented and diverse legal team delivers the best results for our clients, and we are committed to inclusion, openness, and support for all employees. To meet these standards, we welcome summer associates from all backgrounds.

Leadership Council on Legal Divesity Scholarship Program:
Venable’s 2022 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 2022 the opportunity to spend a summer working side-by-side with attorneys from LCLD Member Organizations. In certain offices, our 1L LCLD scholars split their time between Venable and a corporate client. Scholars are included in the same project pool as our 2L summer associates and participate in an assortment of professional development and social programming. Applications can be submitted through: www.venable.com/careers

Social Media



Recruitment website: www.venable.com

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Advertising: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
    • Political Law (Band 4)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 3)
    • REITs: Maryland Counsel (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)