Highlights Cooley LLP
Cooley on top
The 1990s were wonderful to Cooley. Since 1990 the firm has more than doubled in size to over 600 lawyers. Profits per partner have more than quadrupled over the past decade, from about $220,000 in 1990 to $904,000 in 2000. Profits at the firm in 2000 topped the firm's then-record in 1999, having grown by a full 53 percent to hit $119.7 million. Cooley is also proud of its culture, as is demonstrated by Cooley's position at the top of Vault's list of the Best Firms to Work For for two years running.
Cooley Godward boasts a high-profile, full-service practice with such clients as Applied Materials, Apple Computer, AT&T, eBay, nVidia, PacifiCare, Raytheon and Pacific Gas and Electric. The firm has managed to change with the times, moving its base of operations from scenic San Francisco to the high-tech center Silicon Valley. In addition to its offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, the firm has established offices in San Diego, California; Broomfield, Colorado (between Denver and Boulder); Kirkland, Washington (on the outskirts of Seattle); and Reston, Virginia (just outside Washington, D.C.).
Stop and smell the roses? Not this firm. Cooley shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Leading the way into the sunny land of profits is the firm's business department. The Palo Alto M&A attorneys, under the leadership of firmwide M&A head Rick Climan, have kept particularly busy.
2000 was a banner year for Cooley's highly-rated M&A practice. The firm advised Saraide.com (the top wireless Internet service provider in Canada, Europe and Japan) when it was bought by Infospace (a leading provider of infrastructure services for consumers, merchants and wireless devices) in a stock swap valued at more than $1 billion. The deal facilitated the formation of the largest global alliance in the wireless Internet services market. Cooley also represented Fortune 500 giant Applied Materials when it acquired Etec Systems for approximately $2 billion in stock. Moving from semiconductors to software, the firm represented Aspect Development in its $9.3 billion merger with i2 Technologies, the largest deal to date in the software industry. Cooley also advised Alteon Web Systems in its $7 billion merger with Nortel Networks. Cooley's momentum in the M&A arena has carried over to 2001 as the firm represented LSI Logic in its $900 million acquisition of C-Cube Microsystems.
Noteworthy deals outside of the M&A arena include public offerings for New Economy powerhouses eBay and Qualcomm, each of which raised more than $1 billion. In the Qualcomm deal, the offering coincided with Qualcomm joining the ranks of the S&P 500. The corporate securities and technology transaction groups steered TiVo through private financings totaling $94 million and an IPO that brought in another $98 million while forming strategic alliances with DIRECTV, Phillips Electronics, NBC and Showtime. On the biotech front, the firm represented Onyx Pharmaceuticals in an agreement with Warner-Lambert to develop and commercialize Onyx's Phase III anticancer product, ONYX-015, plus two new armed anticancer viruses.
Finally, Cooley's venture fund formation practice remains a dominant force; the firm forms more venture capital partnerships every year than any other law firm in the country.
Cooley litigators have also stayed busy with high-profile suits such as Qualcomm's well-publicized dispute with Ericsson. In the litigation-happy biotech industry, Cooley represents industry giants such as Amgen (Cooley also took Amgen public) in licensing and trade secret suits. In fact, Cooley won the first trade secret suit in the biotech sector when it successfully protected Genentech's proprietary information against use by former employees. In early 2000, Cooley successfully assisted eBay in its dispute with auction aggregator Bidder's Edge. This important case confirms the right of a web site owner to control access to its web site and thus helps protect the substantial investment Internet companies make in developing web-based services and content for the public. While it might seem otherwise, Cooley Godward's litigators don't focus only on tech. Cooley's litigation department represents various major players in other sectors, such as Life Fitness and PacifiCare Health Systems. And in December 1998, the firm did its part for baseball in the Bay Area when partners Ken Adelson and Chris Westover, representing the Oakland Athletics in an arbitration proceeding with the city and county, successfully negotiated an agreement to keep the A's in Oakland until at least 2004. The firm's securities litigation practice is among the most dominant in the country.
Not just tech
While Cooley represents numerous hi-tech giants, the firm's client base extends well beyond technology companies. Notable "old economy" clients include America West Airlines, Levi Strauss & Co., Nestle, Noah's New York Bagels, the Oakland Athletics, PacifiCare Health Systems, PG&E, Peet's Coffee, PETsMART, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Tower Records, United States Gypsum and 24 Hour Fitness. Cooley's diverse client base provides the firm with a constant flow of cases and deals throughout the ebbs and flows of various business and economic cycles.
On the move
Since 1990, the firm has easily more than doubled in size to include over 600 attorneys. Most associates say they chose Cooley Godward over other firms because of its "prestige," "quality lawyers," and "excellent reputation" as a firm that "does high quality work without being hierarchical or a sweatshop."
The firm has grown to seven offices across the country. Cooley recently moved its Colorado attorneys into a new facility in Broomfield (midway between Denver and Boulder), and the San Diego office recently relocated to a brand new complex designed to accommodate over 200 lawyers. But the Colorado and San Diego offices are not the only locations growing in size and prestige. The firm's Reston, Virginia office has just celebrated its two-year anniversary, and now has some 75 lawyers providing full-service representation to clients in the mid-Atlantic region. To better service its Silicon Valley clients, the firm established a second office in Palo Alto, California. The new "campus" opened in February 2000, and houses approximately 200 attorneys. However, despite its large size and multiple offices, Cooley associates praise its "single firm" philosophy and the camaraderie among its attorney across all offices.
"Cooley is a friendly place to work and lacks the back-stabbing, competitive edge you would expect at a successful, booming law firm." One attorney describes approaching others for advice. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, they will be more than willing to spend 10, 15, 20 or more minutes discussing the issue, even if they ultimately may not be able to bill the time." That associate continues: "I can send out a department-wide e-mail and know that, if someone has come across the issue before, I will receive an e-mail response by the end of the day. In fact, in most instances, I will receive four or five responses within an hour from virtually every Cooley office." Another attorney notes that "everyone pitches in to help when needed. I am particularly impressed by the way associates cover for each other during vacations, maternity leave and so on." A San Francisco insider reports "Cooley is less hierarchical than other firms that I've seen. It is not unusual for partners to come to the office of the associate to discuss matters. Junior associates are expected to give substantive input and partners expect them to speak up when they disagree on any point."
"Cooley can't be topped for training," raves one associate. The firm's Cooley College program is an 80- to 100-hour program, covering all of the firm's practice areas. A corporate fourth-year explains that "the firm flies everyone to the Bay Area for five sessions, which are typically two days at a time." One associate practically gushes about the program, saying, "Training at Cooley is something the firm takes very seriously. After watching associates flounder helplessly at a Silicon Valley competitor with which I summered, I was lured here in large part by all that I heard about the firm's devotion to training when interviewing. I've found the firm puts its money where its mouth is, devoting considerable resources to a formal training program."
Says a corporate contact in San Francisco: "The Cooley College training program is amazing -- thorough, detailed, and a wonderful resource for all practice areas." A San Francisco first-year wonders "how associates at other law firms survive without such training." Down in Palo Alto, a second-year terms Cooley College "the best training of any firm in the Bay Area and perhaps the country." It's no surprise, then, that for the second year in a row Cooley ranked second in the country in training in Vault's annual survey of law firm associates.
The firm makes enormous investments in training, according to associates. Over thirty binders containing collected wisdom of the firm line the shelves of each attorney. In addition, each practice group has a monthly meeting attended (in person, by videoconference or conference call) by attorneys across the firm to discuss current issues as well as periodic lunches to "revisit fundamentals." A fourth-year specifically came to Cooley for its training: "Cooley is committed to training its associates and that is one of the reasons that I came to the firm. It values its lawyers and its lawyers' understanding of not only the law, but also the business of being a well-rounded, savvy and business-oriented lawyer."
Hiring Partner John Dwyer tells Vault.com: "Associate training has been an integral part of Cooley Godward's culture for decades, and we devote substantial resources -- millions of dollars and thousands of attorney hours -- to our efforts in this area. Our success as a firm depends on having savvy associates with well-developed legal skills interacting with our increasingly sophisticated, quality conscious clients." Dwyer says the firm does not believe in the "sink or swim" or "throw them into the fire" approach to training associates. "Even though this approach may be less costly in the short run from a pure dollars-and-cents perspective, we have consciously rejected this approach because we view it as an abdication of our fundamental responsibilities to our clients and our associates. We want our associates to feel confident in taking on substantial responsibility early in their careers and our training programs make this possible while enabling us to maintain our reputation for producing consistently high quality legal work."
The Cooley team
Cooley associates fairly burst with enthusiasm when asked about the firm's partners. They are described as "relaxed", "professional", "collegial", "generally very respectful" and "appreciative". Laterals rave that they have "never been treated better" while senior associates note that "the mentoring is the best" in the industry. Partners "follow a true open-door policy and are not tied to any titles or hierarchies," boasts an IP senior associate in the Valley. "Associates at Cooley are treated as valued teammates by the partners. There is little hierarchy, and the partners' doors are always open to the associates." The feeling is apparently mutual. One associate reports: "Cooley has a team approach that is expressed in many aspects of firm life - from partners refusing to refer to 'my clients' and instead referring to 'clients for which I am primarily responsible' to the 'pitch in and help' mentality of all the associates."
The Cooley way
"Cooley is a friendly place to work and lacks the back-stabbing, competitive edge you would expect at a successful, booming law firm." One attorney describes approaching others for advice. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, they will be more than willing to spend 10, 15, 20 or more minutes discussing the issue, even if they ultimately may not be able to bill the time." That associate continues: "I can send out a department-wide e-mail and know that, if someone has come across the issue before, I will receive an e-mail response by the end of the day. In fact, in most instances, I will receive four or five responses within an hour from virtually every Cooley office." Another attorney notes that "everyone pitches in to help when needed. I am particularly impressed by the way associates cover for each other during vacations, maternity leave and so on."
Cooley takes seriously its promise to make its lawyers' lives livable. According to one associate, "Everyone, from the top down, is supportive of individuals' values, life priorities and goals." While "it's the volatility of the schedule that is exhausting," a first year knows that he has it "better than any of my friends who went to big firms" and still manages "to find time to enjoy living in the Bay Area."
Balance of life
"The culture is results-oriented but respectful of individual and family needs," according to one associate. A contact from the firm's Colorado office also points out that the firm is "very supportive of employees' life decisions." Several associates give personal testimony to the firm's efforts. "I am the best example of this," offers a San Diego litigator. "I work fifty percent and get paid fifty percent of the salary of a regular associate. I recognize that this is not an option for everyone, from both the firm's and the attorney's perspective, but the fact that Cooley did this for me (and hired me with this schedule) is a huge indication of the firm's willingness to be flexible if they perceive that you can fill a need it has."
Across the board, Cooley associates back up the firm's commitment to promoting women in its ranks. Of the 11 lawyers who made partner in 2001, four were women. Moreover, a female partner, Janet Cullum, was recently named chair of the litigation department and is a member of the firm's management committee, and another female partner, Barbara Borden, was just elected to the firm's management committee as well. "The firm's very liberal stance on part-time work has been a big hit with many folks, particularly working moms." "There are lots of female attorneys with children whose needs outside the offices are respected. Many parents, mostly women, work reduced schedules with great success." Moreover, when it comes to diversity issues in terms of gays and lesbians, Cooley can't be beat. "Cooley has a large number of gay and lesbian attorneys," note a number of associates. A San Francisco insider says, "All of the gay and lesbian attorneys [I know] are openly out and vocal. The firm is very supportive of gay and lesbian issues." "Domestic partner benefits are given broadly," another source states.
Called "almost too good to be true" by those who work there, Cooley Godward once again tops Vault.com's satisfaction poll this year. "Confident that there is no law firm in which [they] would rather work" and unwilling to "consider leaving to go to another firm," Cooley associates are some of the happiest polled. Associates love their firm's "challenging work" and they give kudos to the "best people" in the industry.
An insider enthuses that it "feels like I joined a firm where all my best friends worked. [There is an] unbelievable social support system for junior lawyers." A contact comments that he's "not into the old-boy network of law firms" and Cooley is a very "un-law firm law firm." A colleague writes, "Simply stated, the laid-back atmosphere makes it easy to come to work every day." In the end, say insiders, Cooley's greatest strength is its congeniality. "While we are all highly qualified, Cooley has made a conscious decision to hire people that are the type of folks you would want over for dinner at your house."
It makes sense then that "there's virtually no competition between associates" because "advancement takes place by being a contributor to the team and not by having a book of business," according to a sixth-year litigator in San Diego. The team mentality means that "any attorney will stop what he or she is doing to help or teach. None of the partners or associates are territorial and the expertise of other departments is often sought and freely given." A fourth-year patent attorney agrees that there are "no traditional firm 'kingdoms' under one or two partners."
One contact tells Vault.com that "laughter is one of the most common things you will hear as you walk the halls of our office." A corporate lawyer extolls the possibility of "jeans five days a week." "To think it is a law firm is nearly impossible," exults a Silicon Valley second-year.
Come payday, it sounds like Cooley Godward associates wax delighted. "A hundred and twenty-five thousand, plus bonus, for someone just out of school! Sure, I'd take more, but anyone who doesn't think this is a good deal is smoking something they can't buy over the counter," says one very happy camper. Indeed, Cooley was the first Bay Area firm to follow Gunderson Dettmer's lavish pay raises in January 2000. A fourth-year associate boasts that the firm works to keep "the compensation structure simple - no multi-tiered salary or bonus system like many of the other firms have instituted to pay for associate pay raises through disguised billable hour increases." Indeed, "the bonus structure does not focus on billable hours and at the same time is very equitable."
Cooley offers the regular big firm perks, plus a few others. Firmwide, Cooley reimburses associates for a gym registration fee of $350 and subsidizes a monthly membership of $65 per month. Cooley also picks up the tab for a portion of the monthly service cell phone fee and all business-related calls. Several of our contacts also point out that the firm represents several sports franchises, and sports tickets are often available for hockey, baseball, basketball and football.
One of the firm's major perks is its casual dress code. Monday through Thursday is described as business casual, while Friday is "dress-down casual," which means jeans for many Cooley associates. While business engagements, of course, can require associates to dress up, some also find a way to stretch the firm's dress code. Reports one associate in Palo Alto: "I wear jeans every day."
Cool-ey place to work
"Cooley is a unique place," according to many associates, and so if you're considering coming here you should "talk to as many people as you can and ask honest questions. You will get honest answers."