Welcome to Schiff Hardin! Law student recruiting is one of the most important things we do. We rely on our new lawyers to help us continue to perform high-quality and high-level work. For that reason, we try hard to develop strong and rewarding relationships between the firm and our summer associates.

Our goal is for our summer associates to learn and develop their skills and to get to know us during the summer. We know that you may be unsure about "big law," or that working at a large law firm is for you. We understand that. And many of us – including me – felt the same way when we were in your shoes.

Whether you are sure about your long-term goals or are still sorting them out, Schiff Hardin is a great place to start your career. We are intensely focused on professional development. Summer associates do real work for real clients in the practice areas that most interest them. We have a legal writing coach on staff and a range of formal and informal training programs. And we staff our matters leanly, so you will do meaningful work right away.

At Schiff you set the course of your own career:  we recognize that one size does not fit all. New lawyers work with different practice groups before deciding which group to join. In addition, we have abandoned a lock-step associate development structure in favor of one that links advancement with practice group-specific benchmarks. Our approach gives associates a clearer roadmap for their development and lets them move toward partnership at a pace linked to their individual goals and performance.

My colleagues and I are lawyers who like being lawyers. We take pride in our work, and we have fun doing it. We want the people who join us to share that enthusiasm.

We seek people who will succeed in a flexible environment that encourages all lawyers to build the career that suits them. Practicing in that environment is what appeals to us. We hope it appeals to you too.

David C. Blickenstaff, Chair, Law Student Recruiting Committee

  • Hiring Goals

    Our goal is straightforward: to hire associates who aim to be exceptional lawyers and who are excited to practice law and help solve clients’ real-world problems. And we are committed to helping associates develop the skills and gain the experience they need to thrive wherever their careers may lead.

    We do not have a "lockstep" approach to associate advancement because we recognize that new lawyers move along the development curve at different paces — in accordance with their skills, their interest in more challenging experiences, and the opportunities available in their practice groups. Our associates advance when they achieve clearly stated benchmarks established by their practice groups. These benchmarks are shared so that associates can work together with their practice group leaders to develop their skills and gain experience.

    Our approach encourages flexibility and lets associates set the course of their own careers.

    We seek candidates who are energetic, enthusiastic, and eager to start practicing law, — to think flexibly and exercise judgment, to take ownership of their careers and their responsibilities, and to interact directly with clients and outside attorneys.

    Often a Schiff Hardin team handling a litigation matter or a transaction includes only one partner and one associate. Part of being a great lawyer is being a great teammate, so we look for candidates who think and work collaboratively and who understand the value of mutual appreciation and respect.

  • Interview Format

    Our callback process is different from other firms’. We have customized it to give law students the chance to really show us who they are — not only as law students, but as people. And the process works both ways: now we can better show law students who we are as a firm, and as lawyers, mentors, and future colleagues.

    Our callback interview includes the traditional components that you will find at most other law firms — one-on-one office interviews and a lunch interview — but we have also added two additional components: an interview with a panel of Schiff Hardin attorneys and a short writing exercise.

    Panel Interview

    Each law student participates in a panel interview with three or four of our lawyers. The atmosphere of the panel interview is like any other Schiff Hardin interview — courteous, welcoming, and collegial.

    Over the course of an hour, Schiff lawyers take turns asking about the candidate’s work, academic, and other life experiences. We have found that this format helps us to get to know candidates better, and it allows candidates more time to describe their achievements.

    Writing Exercise

    During their callbacks, our summer associate candidates complete a writing exercise. We provide a case and ask you to explain it in a few paragraphs for a specific audience. Our exercises are based on real-world cases. For example, we may give you a court order and ask you to summarize it for a potential client affected by the ruling. We provide an hour to complete the exercise.

    What are we looking for? Organized thoughts, clear and accurate writing, and a responsive tone appropriate for the identified audience. We are not – we promise — testing your knowledge of any particular area of the law, or your familiarity with Bluebook form.

    Schiff lawyers interact directly with clients early in their careers. This part of the interview helps us identify candidates who are ready and eager to do so. It also provides an opportunity  for candidates who express themselves well in writing to highlight their skills.

  • Summer Program

    Schiff Hardin’s summer program has two primary goals.

    First, 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 the legal profession.

    Second, we want all of our summer associates to get a realistic look at what it’s 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. And at least twice during the summer, our summer associates nationwide travel to Chicago to further get to know each other and our lawyers.

    Our summer assignments are varied and have included the following:

    • Researching and drafting memos on legal topics, including whether a plaintiff in a products liability case has the right to inspect and videotape the manufacturing facility where the product was made; the French reporting and taxation requirements for a U.S. trust; and whether a plaintiff in a Clean Air Act action must show actual injury to prevail;
    • Drafting and interpreting contracts, opinion letters, and other documents, including related to a merger of two banks;
    • Drafting trial and appellate level briefs and pleadings for both state and federal courts, including motions to strike a jury demand, a motion for summary judgment addressing the invalidity of patents; and motions in limine to exclude evidence in a Section 1983 excessive force case;
    • 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, including analyzing the admissibility of an expert’s deposition testimony when he is not called to testify at trial and preparing witnesses for trial.

    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 corporate 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. Even law students who don’t think they are interested in litigation enjoy litigation training.

    Corporate 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, we host weekly writing roundtables. Each week, two or three partners and Julie meet with the summer associates in pairs to discuss the summer associates’ work 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 individual summer associates.

    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 senior lawyers at the top of their fields. Each week a list of opportunities is circulated to all summer associates. 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 in several state and federal courts;
    • watched acquisition negotiations and participated in client meetings;
    • attended trials and other hearings in state, federal, and bankruptcy courts; 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 Associate Committee. Each meeting focuses on a different topic. Summer associates meet with senior lawyers who discuss the firm’s strategic plan, the firm as a business, and the most effective ways to develop strong client relationships. They meet a panel of partners and associates who talk about the "Secrets of Being a Great Associate," and another panel of partners and associates who describe some of the firm’s pro bono matters.

    We also host evening social activities so that summer associates and attorneys can get to know each other better in more relaxed, fun settings. These events range from impromptu get-togethers to organized events like the following:

    • In Chicago: an architectural boat tour, WhirlyBall, trivia night, ping-pong, an Improvised Shakespeare comedy show, a Cubs game, and a night at the National Museum of Mexican Art.
    • In New York: Shakespeare in the Park, wine tasting, a cooking class, Escape the Room, and a Broadway show.
    • In San Francisco: cocktails at Bubble Lounge, San Francisco Bay ferry ride, Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament, a Giants game, and tea tasting at Imperial Tea Court.
    • In Washington, D.C.: Phillips Collection tour, DC United soccer game, Broomball tournament, and a brewery tour.

    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.

  • Integration of New Lawyers

    Transitioning to a new law firm is a big step, professionally and personally. For this reason, we do not take the entry-level or lateral hiring process lightly. We give all who join us – both entry-level and laterals – the tools to set the course of their own careers and develop into top-flight professionals.

    Integrating new and lateral attorneys begins before they step through the door. We create individualized orientations and ensure that resources are there to help new attorneys hit the ground running on day one

    We have a three-tiered, competency-based associate development structure. Each practice group has determined the skills and experiences necessary to advance to the next development tier. Associates advance at their own pace – and play a direct role in the process by seeking out career opportunities that interest them and will help them progress to the next level. Depending on their practice area, associates advance based on their demonstrated ability to competently negotiate contested issues with opposing counsel; experience making routine court appearances; creativity and ingenuity in drafting briefs; and drafting of strong first drafts of public disclosure documents. Document review does not dominate our associates’ years. Meaningful, high-level work does.

    We also work closely with lateral partners to ensure a smooth transition of their clients to the firm. And to facilitate the meshing of lateral partners’ practices with ours, we conduct collaborative team pitches and commit to staffing lateral partners on existing firm matters. Our teams implement the marketing and cross-selling strategies that best highlight lateral attorneys’ practices and expertise.

  • Training

    Schiff Hardin associates develop their skills in many different ways. The firm sponsors regular in-house training sessions and supports associates who participate in outside training programs. For example, the General Litigation Group has run an intensive motions workshop in which mid-level and senior associates argued two motions and partners presided as mock judges and provided feedback.

    Associates also receive on-the-job training through their case assignments and work responsibilities. Most cases are staffed with one partner and one associate, which provides associates with significant development opportunities.

    In addition, Julie Schrager is Counsel to the firm and our legal writing coach. We know of no other firm that employs a coach like Julie. She works with associates and partners to improve their legal writing skills. Julie teaches associate workshops addressing skills like outlining; persuasive writing; and revising, editing, and proofreading. Her primary focus, though, is working one-on-one with associates on their individual writing projects. Associates can send Julie a draft of a memo or a brief to review, or they can meet with her when they are beginning a new writing assignment. Julie focuses particular attention on working with summer associates and new associates during their first few years.

  • Professional Development and Feedback

    All lawyers need training and feedback to develop their skills. We provide both. To guide associates’ progress, we have adopted a competency-based associate development structure that has three tiers. Each practice group has developed written competencies that describe the skills and experiences necessary to advance to the next development tier. These competencies are communicated to associates and partners alike and are the basis on which associate performance is evaluated. This transparent structure provides clarity to associates about the firm’s expectations and gives associates a roadmap as they develop their skills and seek new experiences.

    It is important to us that our associates receive regular feedback on how they are developing. At least once each year, associates meet with their practice group leader for a professional development conference. These meetings focus on the associate’s performance, accomplishments, and areas for improvement, as well as the associate’s own professional goals for the next year. Through these conferences, practice group leaders can effectively staff associates on matters where these opportunities are available, and associates can develop a customized professional development plan for the next year.

    Associates can also track their development by working with Lisa A. Brown, the firm’s Professional Development Partner. We know that attorneys have different needs and goals at different stages of their careers. Lisa coordinates associate professional development and is a liaison between associates and firm management. She works with associates on staffing and workload issues, including managing pro bono commitments, leaves of absence, and flexible work arrangements, and she helps integrate entry-level and lateral associates into the firm.

  • Mentoring

    Mentoring at Schiff Hardin comes in many different forms. We have adopted the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professionalism’s mentoring program for all firm first- and second-year associates in all offices. That program pairs new lawyers with experienced ones and provides them with suggested topics of conversation and activities to do together. Topics range from conversations about professionalism and work/life balance to business development. Frequently these relationships last beyond an associate’s first few years.

    We also mentor in many less formal ways. Associates and partners form strong bonds by working together or sitting near each other. Practice groups form mentoring relationships within their group. And the Women’s Networking Group and Diversity Committee connect women and diverse associates with mentors to aid their progress and professional development at the firm.

image description
IN OUR WORDS

Lucy D. Bickford

Associate
As an attorney in the Private Clients, Trusts & Estates practice group, no two days are alike. I get to discuss plans with my clients and their other advisors, research important issues, develop complex solutions, draft our ideas into documents, and explain those ideas to clients in correspondence and visual materials. The best parts of my job are working with the admirable people in my group and learning something new every day.
image description
IN OUR WORDS

Katia Asche

Associate
Our writing coach has been a tremendous resource to me since I started. She has a gift for asking questions that lead me to clarify, specify, and organize my writing. As a result, I am not only turning in a stronger work product, but becoming a better legal writer with each subsequent assignment.
image description
IN OUR WORDS

David Pi

Associate
Schiff Hardin is remarkable for its commitment to developing associates into outstanding attorneys. In my first year, I took depositions, argued motions, and drafted important briefs. I even delivered a presentation to prospective clients in London with the heads of my practice.