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Overview

Introduction

Windy City-based Banner Witcoff is a top IP boutique that offers a friendly, open-door culture. It also boasts a strong pro bono practice, which has included work on numerous amicus briefs related to novel IP issues. With its reputation as a firm that has helped shaped IP law, including through work on groundbreaking Supreme Court cases, the Banner Witcoff name certainly carries a lot of weight in the IP world.

Firm Stats


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Total No. Attorneys (2021)


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No. of Partners Named (2021)


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Featured Rankings

Top 150 Under 150...


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No. of 1st Year Associates Hired (2020)



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No. of Summer Associates (2021)



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Base Salary

2021:...

Vault Verdict

Banner Witcoff looks for local attorneys with strong technical backgrounds and personalities that mesh with others at the firm. Interviews focus on interest in IP work, as well as what the candidate wants out of a position with the firm. “Collegial” and “social” are how associates describe the firm’s culture, with an open-door policy and frequent firm-sponsored events. Partners and associates work well together, with a real focus on mentoring younger associates, and associates are impressed by the level of transparency the firm offers, particularly regarding partnership prospects. The hours are manageable, and attorneys feel that the work they do is sophisticated and satisfying—plus, the pay holds up to market, which associates love. Pro bono work doesn’t count toward billables, b...

About the Firm

Chicago-based IP boutique firm Banner Witcoff is unique not only for its status as a top firm in its field, but also for its role in shaping IP law by having represented defendants in groundbreaking Supreme Court cases. The firm—which has additional offices in Boston; Portland; and Washington, DC—continues to be involved in developments in its field by representing top companies.

From Crops to Patents and Trademarks

Banner Witcoff’s beginnings date back to 1920. Many of the firm's early clients were farmers and paid for their legal services in crops and produce. The firm’s Chicago office—its current headquarters—opened in 1937, where the firm began to represent clients like Lenox, Honeywell, and Meredith Publishing. The firm's Washington, DC, office opened in 1965. An office ...

Associate Reviews


  • “The culture at Banner Witcoff is collegial. The open-door policy promotes collaboration, question-asking, and discussion. I have never felt uncomfortable approaching a senior associate or partner with legal or firm practice questions. … Banner Witcoff also promotes socialization and mentorship between attorneys. The firm plans many events during the summer, which allow summer associates and attorneys to get to know each other better outside the office. In my experience, all of the attorneys and staff are approachable and respectful.”
  • “Banner has a hybrid social and professional culture. For example, we help our clients achieve our goals, but we still take time to celebrate our co-workers and their various life events. Every month, we celebrate our coworkers’ birthdays and work anniversaries. Additionally, invitations to impromptu happy hours are always being mailed out.”
  • “Lawyers frequently socialize together; there are many firm-organized social opportunities, especially during the summer months; the culture is collegial and supportive.”
  • “Generally, we socialize after work once a week. This increases seasonally based on holiday events and summer associate events. Some socialize daily at lunch.”
  • “There is a cordial, [collegial] relationship between partners and associates. From my observations, partners mentor associates and want to see them succeed. Additionally, the firm provides a significant amount of transparency into the firm's performance and finances. In particular, a detailed breakdown was provided of the firm's performance at our most recent attorney retreat. Reviews are conducted annually and provide helpful insights and recommendations into advancing one's career at the firm.”
  • “In my experience, partners treat associates with respect and value their time, input, and contribution to the firm. Overall, Banner Witcoff is transparent with most firm issues and decisions regarding finances, budgeting, timeline for promotions, and attorney reviews. Annual reviews are conducted for all associates.”
  • “I get to work with multiple partners, and they treat the associates with respect and cordiality. Each associate's performance (hours billed) each month is available to every attorney (including associates) in the firm. The annual performance reviews are very helpful as well.”
  • “The partners treat associates just like they would other partners. Everyone is very respectful, and they don't write off an associate's opinion just because they are an associate. The transparency, I think, could be better as far as the firm's performance/finances. It's very transparent for partnership track and performance reviews, however. I know exactly where I stand with the partners I work with and how my partnership track is looking.”
  • “The work hours are commendable. People are always accessible, and there is plenty of work to go around to make sure that attorneys hit their hours goals. Also, there is incredible flexibility as to when and/or where we can work. …”
  • “I generally have the right amount of work. If my workload looks low, I ask for more, and it is given to me usually right away. If my plate gets too full, I ask for help, and people are willing to take something away. I have flexibility on where I work. …”
  • “The amount and type of work is largely controlled by each individual attorney. Work is not distributed through a centralized program. Instead, collaborations and teams form organically, through conversations and can sometimes grow from smaller tasks. Attorneys are free to turn down work if they feel they have too much or are not interested, and they never have to provide a reason or excuse. Because of this system of work distribution, there is a lot of flexibility not just in terms of how much and on what matters an attorney works on, but also with whom an attorney wants to work.”
  • “Banner Witcoff does have an annual billable-hour requirement of 1,925 hours for full-time associates. Only billable work counts towards this requirement. Pro-bono work and other non-billable firm work does not count towards this goal, but this time is considered at year-end review.”
  • “My compensation and bonus [are commensurate] with market rates for someone with my background and years of experience. Additionally, there are tiered bonuses for exceeding your billable-hours target, which allows attorneys to have more control of what their bonus looks like.”
  • “Compensation is quite competitive and is on par or exceeds industry average, I believe. The bonus structure is clear to understand and straightforward.”
  • “I am satisfied with my compensation and comfortable with the annual billable requirement. Additional financial incentives to bill over the annual minimum and discretionary bonuses are clearly outlined in the firm's attorney guidebook.”
  • “Bonuses are tied primarily to billable hours; a tier system is used, wherein associates receive additional bonus money upon reaching the next tier of billable hours.”
  • “The work that I am tasked with is appropriate for my experience level. I have performed legal research, drafted memoranda, drafted routine motions, completed document reviews, performed priority analysis, and assessed prior art. My docket includes a variety of work, which includes both patent and trademark matters. The firm allows attorneys to curate their own practice and pursue IP areas and industries of interest.”
  • “I get to work with top-tier clients and interact with in-house counsel on a daily basis. The work is challenging and rewarding.”
  • “I have found that all the work I have done in my years at Banner have been substantive. Even the document review that many associates dislike and find unfulfilling lends itself to being integral for depositions. From taking lead on interacting with clients and opposing counsel and motion practice to handling the day-to-day on cases, and drafting appellate briefing, everything has contributed to my professional growth. I never felt as if I was doing meaningless work”
  • “The firm is very considerate about making sure I get the type of work that I want. I expressed particular interests early on (especially with having a variety of work) and this has been delivered. I have been given many opportunities to work on different legal issues. For the most part I do substantive work that I think is appropriate for my level, and probably levels above me. I have regular direct client contact that I probably would not get at other firms.”
  • “The firm has a formal Wellness Committee that promotes physical activity, healthy food choices in the kitchen, and wellness advice. The Wellness Committee also holds an annual ‘steps’ competition at the firm.”
  • “Banner offers several exercise programs throughout the year. Additionally, there is a gym on-site in the DC office.”
  • “The firm recently started a Wellness Committee; I anticipate the firm will begin to offer more wellness-related initiatives.”
  • “Informal training and mentoring are excellent; there is a strong commitment to the professional development of associates; there is also sufficient formal training for summer associates and junior associates”
  • “We have some formal training programs for new attorneys, but I think it is much more informal training. The senior associates and partners are very willing to mentor and teach, and it is mostly learning on the job. For the most part, I don't think formal training is as helpful since most people learn better by doing the work.”
  • “Mentors are assigned to new attorneys and work comes through and is monitored by the mentors for the first few months so that the new attorneys are not overwhelmed.”
  • “Each associate is assigned a mentor. Furthermore, new attorneys are provided several days of training with respect to the firm's history, as well as the tools, policies, and procedures employed by the firm. Periodically, there are client-specific trainings where attorneys are updated on specific client's preferences and preferred practices.”
  • “Partnership is extremely realistic for those willing to do the work. If an associate bills the minimum number of hours, does quality work, has a good attitude, and strives to take on marketing activities, they will be made a partner at this firm. People typically either make partner or leave. Some do come into the firm on a non-partner track (though typically if they are a more seasoned attorney). Associates who leave the firm typically find other associate positions at other firms or they go in-house. Some also take on judicial clerkships.”
  • “I believe I am on the partnership track within the next year or two. It seems that promotion to partnership is a realistic goal for those who would pursue it. Additionally, senior associates may transition to of counsel roles within the firm if partnership is not something they would like to pursue.”
  • “Banner Witcoff is transparent about its partner track; specifically, the timeline and considerations. Attorneys can choose to go in-house, clerk, or work for the USPTO if they wish to leave private practice.”
  • “An associate is eligible for the non-equity partnership equivalent after four-and-a-half years and equity partnership after seven-and-a-half years. Both are realistic goals. Many associates become non-equity partners the first year they are eligible. The firm is not shy about promoting those it believes merit the promotion. A large number of the current partners started at the firm as summer associates.”
  • “The firm's Pro Bono Committee is working to put infrastructure in place such that attorneys may more easily pick up pro bono work without as much administrative leg work; I recently worked on an immigration/asylum pro bono case.”
  • “We are committed to pro bono work, but it can be harder to come by in the IP field. I have done some pro bono work for a women's charity in Africa that promotes education for women and children. We also have a few asylum cases.”
  • “We are pretty diverse, and we have active Diversity and Inclusion Committees. We also have a women's group for female attorneys. We could have more female attorneys, but our numbers are growing steadily, and patent law is typically a male-dominated field since there are fewer female engineers. Promotion for diverse attorneys is very high. Our parental leave policy is excellent as it was just updated to include an extra month of fully paid leave.”
  • “The firm has been making a concerted effort to recruit and retain diverse candidates.”
  • “The associates and partners at Banner represent a diverse group of people. People appear to advance based on their ability to service our clients quickly and efficiently.”

Diversity at Banner Witcoff

"2019 Banner Witcoff Diversity & Inclusion Highlights: May 2019: Banner Witcoff Announced Recipients of Donald W. Banner Diversity Fellowship Banner Witcoff selected four law students as the 2019 recipients of the Donald W. Banner Diversity Fellowship. Created by the firm to strengthen diversity and inclusion in the field of intellectual property law, the fellowship provides recipients with $5,000 for law school tuition or other school-related expenses. The 2019 recipients are: Robert Chou, a..."

Getting Hired Here


  • “We have a pretty competitive hiring process since we don't hire many attorneys at once. We also are particular about personality types because we only want to hire people that we think we can enjoy working with (which in turn helps us hire people who will stay a long time at the firm). We look for [graduates of] top-tier law schools, patent agents, former USPTO examiners, and diversity, among other things. We hire a lot of people who previously worked as engineers before attending law school.”
  • “Banner looks for candidates who come from top-tier schools and have strong engineering backgrounds. Being located in DC, there is a lot of talent from schools like GW, George Mason, and Georgetown.”
  • “We typically look for candidates with some exposure to IP and, often, a technical background; prior work experience is a boon; being a good cultural fit is a must.”
  • “Beyond the standard factors (grades, work experience, diversity) the firm is concerned with a candidate's personality. Our summer classes are not that large, and because we hire with the intent that the summer associate is one day a partner, we invest a lot in each candidate and want to make sure they are the right fit for the long haul. The half-day [callback] interview is an important opportunity for us to get to know the candidate beyond just the paper resume and for the candidate to get to know us. …”
  • “I often ask candidates to explain a technical issue to me, such as a project they recently worked on.”
  • “What areas of intellectual property are you interested in? What prior work experience do you have and how has that influenced your legal education/practice?”
  • “Mostly, I ask the candidates about a previous work experience, why they are interested in intellectual property, and what's important to them in finding a position. Most of the time, we discuss the day-to-day work and any questions that they may have.”

Perks & Benefits