The world of MoFo
Morrison Foerster is an international firm with over 1000 lawyers in key technology and financial centers in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Founded in 1883, the firm’s dedication to clients is reflected in the firm’s mantra that it is every lawyer’s responsibility to provide clients with “legendary service.” Clients include some of the largest financial institutions, Fortune 100 companies, investment banks and technology and life science companies. The firm is consistently included as one of America’s top 20 law firms in The American Lawyer’s A-List. Their practitioners are recognized by their peers in reference guides including IFLR1000, PLC Cross-border Handbooks, Chambers Global and Legal 500. The firm is consistently recognized for its commitment to the community and pro bono, recently honored by the Pro Bono Institute's John H. Pickering Award, given in recognition of the firm's unwavering commitment to pro bono. PBI highlighted the firm's recent pro bono victories, including a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court protecting juveniles from life sentences without parole in non-homicide offenses, and another case securing the release of a man wrongly imprisoned for 20 years.
Among associates, "everyone is generally supportive and willing to help. There is no sense of competition at all." When it comes to treatment by partners, so often a volatile aspect of large law firms, few problems are apparent. "Hierarchy really isn't an issue here" since "there is no associate abuse or power plays at this firm." Most partners "treat associates like colleagues who they respect both personally and intellectually, rather than as indentured servants."
Making the "MoFo Difference"
By most measures, working at Morrison Foerster is a real treat. The firm racks up healthy nine-figure revenues each year and consistently pulls a tidy profit for its partners. MoFo boasts a long list of familiar clients, including Intel, Yahoo!, Toshiba, and UPS. Big clients, however, haven't cost the firm its quality of life. Fortune magazine named the firm one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" and Working Mother magazine has voted the firm one of the best places to work thirteen times.
MoFo recognizes the hours its attorneys put in, however, and so provides "individual rewards for 'combat duty,' including weekend getaways, meals and gift certificates and the like." The firm has season tickets to the Yankees, Giants, A's, Dodgers, and other sports teams, which are made available to lawyers when not being used for business purposes. Other unusual extras include emergency child care provider programs.
Getting down to business
Morrison Foerster's practice is divided among three departments: business, litigation and tax. The litigation practice covers everything from financial services to patent disputes. They are consistently ranked as one of the top litigation practices in the country by The American Lawyer, the Chambers guides, The National Law Journal, and Benchmark Litigation. The U.S. News & World Report/Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms” ranks the firm in the top tier nationally in 12 separate litigation practices. They are the only firm to have four lawyers on the National Law Journal's annual "Winning" list four years running, and they’ve recently argued and won three important U.S. Supreme Court decisions in high profile commercial and pro bono matters. The business practice includes bankruptcy and restructuring, capital markets, financial services and financial transactions, project finance, technology transactions and real estate finance. Their highly ranked corporate, mergers and acquisitions and venture capital practices have been recognized both for their sector expertise in financial institutions, life sciences, IT, telecom and technology, and for their experience with cross-border transactions. Another notable department is tax - Morrison Foerster's federal tax lawyers are busy structuring transactions, building and restructuring business enterprises, tax planning and consulting, and representing clients in tax litigation, and the state and local tax lawyers represent about half of the companies from the Fortune 500 in their state tax dealings.
The effects of Morrison Foerster's progressive policies are readily apparent. The firm has successfully kept pace with the changing face of law school enrollment in its hiring practices. Attorneys of color represent 40% percent of all current associates. Women are even more strongly represented, accounting for 46% percent of associates and almost a fifth of partners. Gay and lesbian lawyers, too, are found in significant numbers, and the firm fosters an environment conducive to openness in sexual orientation. Members of all groups can be found serving on influential committees and in management positions. For years, Morrison Foerster LLP has shown uncommon foresight in maintaining a comfortable working environment through formal policies on sexual harassment, violent behavior, substance abuse, employee assistance for personal problems, and AIDS and AIDS-related conditions in the workplace.
Morrison Foerster's pro bono commitment is also strong. The firm publishes a 70-plus page annual tome on its lawyers’ pro bono and community activities. Their pro bono work has been recognized by many organizations, including The National Law Journal naming Morrison & Foerster LLP a recipient of its annual Pro Bono Awards for its display of exemplary commitment to access to justice. San Diego attorney Drew Woodmansee was profiled for his advocacy and litigation work that led to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on September 30, 2011.
Summer associate program
Says one former MoFo summer associate, "I loved my summer at Morrison Foerster. The program is not as lavish as other places, but it gives you a good idea of what the firm and the office is all about." Associates have "a lot of freedom, if you make your interests known." This is true both for getting assignments and in terms of social events, the latter of which there are "more than you could possibly do." A "good variety" of activities is on tap, including everything from a "gourmet cooking class," "a popular series of dinners at partners' houses," to outdoor events like a "bike ride through Sonoma [that] includes wine tasting."
Party while you're still young
Social life at MoFo is "individually determined, but [there are] many opportunities if you are interested." "We're not dancing on tables, but I work with a great group of people that I like and admire," remarks one associate. The "younger associates party a great deal. You don't have to but it's very common. " The social schedule is "downright exhausting during the summer months."
Morrison Foerster's reputation for woman-friendliness appears to be deserved. "This firm hires a lot of women, and hiring is based on qualifications rather than gender. Women are promoted to very high level positions. [For example,] the managing partner for the entire firm is a woman." Comments one associate, "I am grateful to have expert colleagues who would not have been able to pursue their careers without the flexibility afforded by this firm." The firm is "generally liberal with maternity leave" and "does special things for women attorneys, like having a special female attorneys-only dinner during the summer."
Train as you work
Associates rave about the on-the-job training at the firm. According to one litigator, "I have received excellent training from MoFo. The partners I work for have allowed me to argue important motions and take important depositions." An associate in real estate gushes even more: "I cannot describe how much effort has been put into helping me to become an excellent attorney through patient on-the-job training, advisement, and feedback."