2021 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
“Colleagues are kind, supportive, extremely good at their jobs, and willing to teach new associates.”
“The work is extremely interesting, and we have a great culture.”
“Flexibility in hours.”
“Technology could be improved.”
“Less pay than BigLaw.”
“The stress. However, that's not specific to this firm, it's specific to this career.”
About Downey Brand LLP
Founded in 1926, when Sacramento was still a young, burgeoning metropolis, the three-lawyer firm of Downey, Brand & Seymour constituted about three percent of the city’s 100 or so attorneys. The firm’s growth was slow early on, with only 5 attorneys in 1946. But it continued to grow over the decades, expanding to new offices and locations. Now with nearly 100 attorneys of its own, Downey Brand is Sacramento’s largest law firm.
Notable in NorCal
Downey Brand handles most every type of civil matter, though its practice reflects its location in the state’s capital and in the middle of the state’s agricultural heartland. The firm’s particular strengths include business, litigation, and natural resources, and its attorneys specialize in a wide variety of sub specialties within these areas—more than 40 at last count. With additional offices in San Francisco; Stockton; and Reno, Nevada, the firm is well established in northern California and Nevada.
Litigating over Land—and Water
Downey Brand boasts a strong general commercial litigation practice. Many of the region's leading companies trust their most significant litigation to the firm—with good reason. Downey Brand’s attorneys have a proven record of successfully handling a wide variety of complex, high-stakes commercial and business cases, counseling both plaintiffs and defendants in business, construction, employment, eminent domain, environmental, family law, food and agricultural, intellectual property, products liability, land use, trust & estates, and water rights litigation. The firm also boasts an appellate & writ practice and even has a certified appellate specialist: Jay-Allen Eisen. Eisen has advised on more than 300 appeals and writs in his almost-50-year career.
The firm also boasts a noteworthy natural resources practice, including such areas as air quality, environmental enforcement defense, environmental remediation, land use, and water law. Its environmental litigation practice has been recognized nationally and in California by U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, and its water law practice has been recognized by U.S. News – Best Lawyers Sacramento rankings. Among the firm’s clients are companies and individuals in a range of areas, including aerospace, energy, petroleum, maritime, mining, manufacturing, and agribusiness. Downey Brand attorneys are no strangers to matters involving toxics and pollutants, including site cleanup and remediation, water quality and waste discharge, cost recovery litigation, and defense of environmental enforcement actions. And in the land-use arena, they counsel on such areas as entitlements, zoning, the National Environmental Policy Act, and more.
NorCal’s Corporate Counsel
With its headquarters in the state capital, Downey Brand serves as outside general counsel for many of Northern California’s leading companies, including privately held and family-owned companies, non-profits, and publicly traded companies. For other national and regional companies, Downey Brand’s corporate and business lawyers are called upon to act as special counsel to handle complex business and real estate transactions. Some of the firm’s recent experience includes advising a selling group on an $85 million cash-and-stock merger transaction; guiding a family-owned winery through reorganization; and achieving a dismissal for a financial institution in a multi-million-dollar breach of contract suit.
News & Awards
Downey Brand, along with Stanford University’s Religious Liberty Clinic, recently won a milestone victory for pro bono client South Valley Islamic Center (SVIC). SVIC is a Muslim congregation planning to build a mosque and community center in an unincorporated area of Santa Clara County. After its initial approval in 2013, the project faced several CEQA challenges brought primarily by a local, politically motivated group.
Over the past 5 years, many obstacles were thrown in the way of this project. In May 2019, the project finally came before the Planning Commission, with all the required findings and a staff recommendation to approve. After six hours of deliberation and moving testimony from SVIC members, the Planning Commission denied the project 4-3, with the “no” votes saying that it was “just too big” and directing staff to come back in August and present a smaller project. Downey Brand appealed the denial on constitutional grounds.
In August of 2019, Downey Brand argued aggressively that denial would violate SVIC’s religious rights, convincing two commissioners to change their votes, and the project was approved 5-2.
The Downey Brand legal team, including partners Christian Marsh, Don Sobelman, Arielle Harris, and Matt Ellis, assisted the East Bay Regional Park District in its multi-year effort to acquire the former Concord Naval Weapons Station and transform it into the Concord Hills Regional Park. On July 2, 2019, the project achieved a critical milestone when the district board voted to receive land from the U.S. Navy; this vote represents the first phase of land transfers and authorizes the district to take immediate possession of 2,216 acres. Ultimately, the district is expected to receive more than 2,540 acres through subsequent transfers.
Forty-nine Downey Brand attorneys were awarded the 2019 Top Lawyers distinction by Sacramento Magazine. Firm attorneys who made this year’s list were recognized for their excellence in one or more of 36 practice areas, a testament to the firm’s influence and scope. Attorneys throughout the region participated in the voting, recommending colleagues in more than 50 legal disciplines. Attorneys who received the highest number of votes in each discipline received a Top Lawyer designation and were featured in the August issue of Sacramento Magazine.
Downey Brand was awarded first place in the Sacramento Business Journal’s Best Places to Work “Large Companies” category, which represents employers with 125-499 employees. 2018 was the first time that Downey Brand took part in the competition. “We were honored that our employees had so many good things to say about working here. It inspires us to continue providing the best possible work experience for our team,” notes Cindy Snook, the Firm’s HR Director. After being nominated, more than 100 employees provided feedback on the environment, leadership, and benefits associated with their employer. A third-party company evaluated the responses and identified first-, second-, and third-place winners in each size category.
Why Work Here
WHAT WE DO
Downey Brand built its reputation by consistently providing clients with unparalleled legal solutions and unmatched customer service. Attorneys typically focus on one or more areas of law that most interest them and are best suited to their skills and knowledge. This affords our clients specialized advice that is tailored to their business and industry. Within the firm, various practices are grouped together to form our Business, Litigation, and Natural Resources Departments. Downey Brand attorneys have the flexibility to explore different practice areas and work with a variety of colleagues to best represent clients. Our firm is able to offer attorneys interesting cases and rewarding work no matter what their area of expertise.
621 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 444-1000
Chairman and Managing Partner: Scott Shapiro
Recruiting Chair: Meghan Baker
Total No. Attorneys 2020:
50 - 100
1st year: $120,000
Summer associate: $2,300/week
1st year: $145,000
Summer associate $2,750/week
No. of U.S. Offices: 4
No. of International Offices: 0
Sacramento, CA (HQ)
San Francisco, CA
Appellate & Writ Practice
Bankruptcy & Insolvency
Corporate Law & Finance
Food & Agriculture
Mergers & Acquisitions
Privacy & Data Security
Real Estate and Land Use
Trusts & Estates
*See firm website for complete list of practices and industries.