I wear two hats at the firm: I’m a partner in our Litigation and Dispute Resolution group, and I’m the Chair of the firm’s Law Student Recruitment Committee. I love what I do in both roles. My practice is challenging and rewarding, and my recruiting work introduces me to new and interesting people who may soon be working side-by-side with me and my colleagues.
Nothing is more important to the firm than the people who work here, and that starts with law school recruiting. We rely on our newest lawyers to help us perform complex, high-quality work, and to contribute to the supportive culture that drew so many of us here.
You may find it hard to distinguish one large law firm from the next. I know how that feels. I’m the first lawyer in my family, and when I was in law school I did not know what kind of law I wanted to practice. What I did know was that I wanted to do interesting and high-level work, and I wanted to enjoy my colleagues. That is why I joined Schiff, and that is why I’m still here.
So what sets Schiff apart? First, the firm is the best of both worlds: we are big enough to have top-notch, nationally recognized practices, but we are not a “megafirm” – with fewer than 300 lawyers, everyone here matters.
Second, we are not built like other firms. Our partner-to-associate ratio is about 1.57:1. That means you will work directly with partners from day one.
Third, we are intensely focused on your professional development. Summer associates do real work for real clients in the practice areas that most interest them. For example:
- Conducting client calls, drafting affidavits, and writing the argument portion of our pre-hearing statement for an asylum hearing on behalf of a gay man from Honduras (we won!)
- Giving a presentation to our corporate group – and then to a firm client – about a securities regulation
- Attending several days of trial and preparing a motion for judgment
We have a legal writing coach on staff who works closely with our summer and new associates and more senior lawyers at the firm and a range of additional training programs. And our full-time associates get credit for up to 50 “training hours” so they can learn by observing more senior lawyers.
Fourth, we are a flexible place. We recognize that one size does not fit all. We do not hire first-year associates into practice groups. Instead, we give associates time to work with different groups before joining the one that best matches their interests and the firm’s needs. Further, our flexible advancement approach gives associates a clear roadmap for their development and lets them move toward partnership at a pace linked to their individual goals and performance.
Last but not least, we are devoted to our communities. Every year we surpass the American Bar Association’s pro bono target, and associates can choose the type of pro bono work they find inspiring and receive full revenue hour credit for their pro bono hours.
My colleagues and I are lawyers who like being lawyers. We take pride in our work, and we have fun doing it. I hope you will consider joining us.
David C. Blickenstaff, Chair, Law Student Recruitment Committee
Schiff Hardin’s summer program has two primary goals.
- We want every summer associate to be able to demonstrate the professional qualities we seek in new lawyers. We look for summer associates who are eager to learn and grow and are open to new ideas, who strive for excellence, and who are dedicated to their colleagues and the legal profession.
- We want all of our summer associates to get a realistic look at what it is like to practice law here, in terms of both the work we do and who we are. Our summer associates work with lawyers from different practice groups and different offices, experience the quality and range of our work, and gain substantive experience in the areas that interest them. By the end of the summer, our summer associates have a good feel for the firm’s work, as well as its culture.
Experience the Work
We are a general practice, national law firm and gather work for our summer associates from all of our practice areas and offices. Summer associates can choose their work based on their interests. While a few concentrate in a particular practice area, most explore several different areas during the summer and work with attorneys around the country. Our summer assignments are varied and have included the following:
- Researching and drafting memos on legal topics, including principles of causation in an Ohio product liability lawsuit, vicarious liability in a Section 1983 matter, and the varying probation and parole systems in several states;
- Drafting and interpreting contracts, opinion letters, and other documents,;
- Drafting trial and appellate level briefs and pleadings for both state and federal courts;
- Assisting in the due diligence investigation of a target company and drafting merger documents;
- Writing blog posts for the firm’s employment, environmental, and products liability blogs; and
- Assisting in deposition and trial preparation.
Develop Through Training
You will learn a lot during a summer at Schiff Hardin. We have both formal and informal programs. In some, experienced Schiff attorneys teach our summer associates, give them hands-on litigation and transactional experience, and provide substantive feedback to help them develop new skills. Summer here is designed to be a transition between law school and law practice.
Summer associate training has four components:
Litigation Training: Summer associates learn from top trial lawyers about how to argue a motion and then argue themselves and receive feedback from firm attorneys.
Transactional Training: Summer associates learn from leading corporate attorneys about their practices, including topics like the steps in a corporate transaction, securities issues in corporate practice, and the key elements of a purchase agreement. They observe a negotiation of terms of a mock purchase agreement and negotiate other terms themselves.
Legal Writing Instruction: Schiff Hardin’s summer writing program has three parts.
- First, at the beginning of the summer program, our in-house legal writing coach Julie Schrager conducts a half-day writing workshop called “Introduction to Legal Writing at Law Firms.”
- Second, each summer associate participates in an individual feedback conference. Before the conference, the summer associate will have written a memo or brief for a partner. In the conference, the summer associate and Julie and the partner discuss the assignment and the legal writing process generally. Partners share their best writing practices in an open and informal conversational setting.
- Third, Julie works one-on-one throughout the summer with each summer associate on a writing project.
Client Skills Training: Summer associates learn how lawyers develop new client relationships and nurture and maintain current ones through hands-on exercises in which they practice building trust, conveying empathy, and demonstrating expertise.
Learn Through Observation
We build observational experiences into our summer program because new lawyers learn a lot by watching experienced ones. Our lawyers take summer associates to court, to corporate negotiations, and to client meetings, and we help summer associates develop their legal skills through other meaningful "hands-on" experiences.
For example, recent summer associates have
- observed depositions of key witnesses and settlement conferences;
- attended an on-site due diligence review for purposes of a bank acquisition;
- observed oral arguments on motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment;
- watched acquisition negotiations and participated in client meetings;
- attended trials and other hearings; and
- observed and witnessed will signings.
Summer associates also join in our tradition of representing clients on a pro bono basis. In Chicago, for example, Schiff has staffed a Chicago Volunteer Legal Services clinic since 1979. Summer associates assist — they may observe and participate in the intake process and work one-on-one with attorneys on CVLS and other pro bono cases.
Get to Know Us and Have Fun
Summer associates meet many Schiff attorneys and staff during their ten weeks at the firm. They are assigned an associate adviser and a partner resource, both of whom are there to answer questions or provide advice. Associate advisers act both as friends and professional advisers, conveying partner feedback on summer associate work and helping summer associates learn their way around the firm.
The summer program starts each week with a Monday Morning Meeting with the Summer Program Committee. In these meetings, summer associates meet with senior lawyers who discuss the firm’s strategic plans, the firm as a business, and the most effective ways to develop strong client relationships. They also learn about the firm’s pro bono matters and the "Secrets of Being a Great Associate.”
We also host evening social activities so that summer associates and attorneys can get to know each other better in more relaxed, fun settings. In recent years, Chicago events have included an architectural boat tour, WhirlyBall, an improvised Shakespeare comedy show, a Cubs game, and a progressive dinner at partners’ houses.
An annual highlight: "Iron Schiff," an Iron Chef-inspired cooking competition in which teams of partners, associates, and summer associates work together to prepare a three-course dinner. Everyone then samples the "gourmet" creations.