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McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP

Our Survey Says


MBHB is looking for candidates with technical backgrounds, and typically hires out of Chicagoland schools—interviews can get granular, with behavioral questions as well as technical and social ones. The firm is a social place where people are friendly and attorneys get together regularly. Associates rave about the partners, their willingness to mentor, and firm leadership’s commitment to transparency. The hours can get a little long, but attorneys love that the firm is flexible with those hours. Attorneys spend their time on quality legal work, and training—particularly mentoring—supports attorneys as they grow. Pro bono work is a source of pride, but associates don’t cite it as a major focus at the firm. Associates note that diversity is improving at MBHB. Partnership appears possible to associates, though they are also confident that the firm’s reputation will open doors for them should they choose a different path.


The below associate quotes are derived from Vault's Annual Associate survey, which took place from late January 2020 to early April 2020.


Hiring Process & Interview Questions

  • “Strong technical backgrounds are very important for patent attorneys, so our firm places a lot of value in undergraduate grades. Law school grades are still important though, and a strong writing sample will go a long way. We hire a lot from Chicago schools, including Kent, DePaul, and Northwestern. We also have a large presence from the University of Illinois.”
  • “I appreciate that MBHB is nontraditional in their hiring practices. This has allowed MBHB to create a successful and sustainable culture. Experience and advanced degrees are valued as much or more than law school grades. Class rank is never discussed when choosing an applicant. Diversity, personality, [and] professional (non-law) experience is valued. This allows MBHB to find unique talent that aligns with the firm goals and maintain these individuals.”
  • “Behavioral-type questions are common: ‘Tell me about a time where your research project didn't go the way you thought—what did you do/how did you react?”’
  • “Questions cover a variety of areas important to an IP firm and relate to many skills, such as technical knowledge, legal knowledge, sociability, teamwork, organization, leadership, communication, writing, among other skills.”


Firm Culture

  • “Lawyers often socialize throughout the day at the office, including grabbing lunch together. Some of my best friends are my coworkers. Many lawyers participate in both firm-organized and private social events with one another outside of normal business hours.”
  • “Very professional, social, and friendly colleagues. There are many firm-organized social opportunities every month, such as lunches, happy hours, and other group events.”
  • “Firm culture is friendly: daily lunch crew, monthly happy hours, and all-practitioner lunches. [There is a] patent prosecution roundtable and CLE opportunities. Weekly summer activities and summer lunch program mean lots of opportunities to socialize and get to know others at the firm”

Associate/Partner Relations

  • “Most individual partners are great to work with and socialize with. They are down to earth and willing to teach. So far, the partners seem transparent to me with their decisions.”
  • “The firm is very transparent. Partners are open with the performance and finances when asked, and there is an annual meeting where it is explained to the associates at which questions are answered. Formal reviews are conducted annually.”
  • “The partners treat the associates well. The firm is getting better with transparency and with effective/proactive communication about major decisions. I am happy with the current leadership.”
  • “Associate/partner relations are excellent. Partners have an open-door policy and treat associates in the same manner they treat other partners. The firm is very transparent. … Reviews are conducted annually where a panel of three partners discusses face-to-face with each associate their performance statistics, target for the next year, and any expected changes in how performance will be evaluated in the next review.”


  • “Workload in manageable, and as with any firm, the more experience and more times you prove your reliability, the more work you get. Work is always steady with times of substantial workloads with tight deadlines.”
  • “The firm is extremely flexible with when and where I work. I currently have more work than I'd like, but that is a better problem than having too little work.”
  • “There is always a lot of work to do—time management and organization are very important. Deadlines can get stressful, but colleagues are always willing to take over some of my work when my docket gets overloaded.”
  • “Full time associates are given a 1,900-hour requirement. Pro bono and attorney project time counts toward this requirement up to a point (100 hours each, I believe). Missing the requirement results in no bonus and could result in forced reduced hours or termination depending on the extent and pattern of behavior.”


  • “Very competitive base salary. Also competitive bonuses. Far more transparent on the bonus system than other firms I'm familiar with.”
  • “Completely satisfied with hours and salary compensation. Bonus structure historically has not been transparent and non-partners are rarely, if ever, awarded generous bonuses.”
  • “For a boutique IP firm in Chicago, I think MBHB has a pretty solid compensation scale. We're switching to a level-based (instead of year-based) compensation schedule, which may reward high-achievers a bit more fairly going forward. In a field where you have a lot of second career (read: older) associates, it's nice to know that people that put in the time will get compensated more or less fairly, regardless of their year out of law school. …”

Quality of Work

  • “My work is almost entirely substantive legal work, and I often get opportunities to work on projects that are above my level (in a good way).”
  • “I'm a patent prosecutor, so most of my day is working with patent applications, either drafting them or dealing with them in prosecution. I like working with clients to figure out their patent strategy and manage their portfolios. Most of my time is on substantive work, but like any other law firm job, I do deal with some administrative work that is less fun.”
  • “Yes, I think I am being introduced with projects that are challenging, but attainable. They are helping me push my limits in a positive way.”
  • “I spend my time doing appropriate legal work. I have a lot of flexibility in choosing the type of work, and there is plenty of work available. I focus on patent prosecution, so writing patents, responding to office actions, and working with clients to develop IP strategies.”

Wellness Efforts

  • “We have a fitness center in the building with super cheap monthly rates for tenants. Periodic mental health CLEs (most recent example was a class on mindfulness and digital distractions). [The] firm also has a reduced rate program at a nearby fitness center.”
  • “Firm overall supports a work-life balance but does not necessarily have any initiatives focused on wellness.”
  • “Counseling—partners reach out and offer support, advice, and solutions when an associate is struggling.”

Training & Mentoring

  • “Mentoring and informal training are the main processes for advancing an associate's knowledge. Each associate has two mentors and we meet regularly as well as upon request. In general, very prestigious formal training opportunities and CLE courses are always offered to any associate and paid for by the firm. Each associate also has a budget for his or her own professional development.”
  • “Formal training offered in a series through lunch and learns. Most partners/senior associates willing to train junior associates informally.”
  • “As a lateral, I didn't participate in the new attorney training, but there are frequent seminars for improving skills at all levels. There is also a formal mentorship program as well as several helpful partners that provide informal training.”

Career Outlook

  • “I am optimistic about my chances for promotion at MBHB. That being said, I think there are a lot of other good options if I elect to move. High-quality in-house jobs (e.g., associate GC, etc.) are possible for those that have a few years of experience under their belts.”
  • “Promotion to partner seems realistic.  I am not aware of other non-partner roles for senior associates other than becoming Off Counsel. Exit opportunities are excellent because the firm has a very strong reputation as one of the best IP firms. In-House and law firm opportunities increase every year the associate remains at the firm.”
  • “[The] firm has paths to either become a partner or become a senior associate based on the employee's preference. I plan on and expect to make partner in the near future.”



Pro Bono Commitment

  • “The firm encourages all attorneys to participate in and bring in pro bono projects. A billable-hours budget is afforded to every attorney for pro bono work; and attorneys are encouraged to request an increased billable-hour budget on a case-by-case basis if needed.”
  • “The firm does a lot of pro bono work for student startups at local universities.”
  • “Pro bono work is credited (5 percent of total hours allowed) but not actively sought out, largely due to the size firm and need to balance paying clients with keeping the firm a going concern.”
  • “We work with Chicago-Kent on their Patent Pro Bono program. However, I think that work has tailed off and I wouldn't say that pro bono is a strong emphasis at the firm.”

Diversity Efforts

  • “The firm leadership always seems to value diversity with respect to all the classes listed. Diversity seems clearly considered with respect to hiring, retention, and promotion. Parental leave policy is generous. The firm sponsors many initiatives, organizations and activities that promote women and other minority groups in law.”
  • “The firm has moved/is moving to a much more objective basis for promotions, raises, and bonuses to ensure that they are given out fairly. Excellent parental leave policy and freedom to work remotely aids in childcare.”
  • “Not a very diverse firm, but I can tell they are making a real effort to improve in this regard.”
McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP

300 South Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: (312) 913-0001

Firm Stats

Managing Partner: Gavin J. O’Keefe
Recruiting Co-Chairs: Kevin E. Noonan & Aaron V. Gin
Total No. Attorneys (2021):
50 - 100
No. of Partners Named 2020:
Billable-Hour Requirement:

Base Salary

Level 1: Starting at $180,000
Summer Associate: $3,475/week

Employment Contact

Mary Bosworth
Legal Recruiting & Development Manager
(312) 935-2351

No. of U.S. Offices: 2

No. of International Offices: 0

Major Office Locations

Chicago, IL (HQ)
Mountain View, CA

Major Departments

Business Methods
Mechanical & Materials
Pharmaceuticals & Diagnostics
PTAB Trials
Trademark, Unfair Competition & Advertising Law
Transactions & High-Tech Litigation Strategy
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.