The go-to firm for startups and early-stage companies, Cooley is ideal for those seeking cutting-edge work with innovative clients. The firm has a highly social culture that will no doubt appeal to affable personalities and boasts a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. With more than 1,200 lawyers practicing across the U.S., Europe, and Asia, Cooley is synonymous with tech and venture capital work. The firm is also well regarded for its clean tech, cyber/data/privacy, IP, M&A, private equity, and securities practi...

Firm Stats


Total No. Attorneys (2021)


No. of Partners Named (2021)


Featured Rankings

Vault Law 100...


No. of 1st Year Associates Hired (2020)


No. of Summer Associates (2021)


Base Salary

1st year: $205,000...

Vault Verdict

Cooley is a highly social firm where lawyers frequently got together—both during and after office hours—pre COVID and have continued to meet up virtually during the pandemic. The identity is so strong that lawyers use the firm’s name as an adjective to describe its culture. In interviewing candidates, Cooley strives to find candidates who will fit with the firm’s culture, and while there are grade cutoffs, the firm isn’t a prestige snob. Diversity is also a key recruiting component, and the firm has embraced behavioral interviewing. Unlike many of its peers, Cooley is exceptionally transparent with its associates—from firm finances to partnership. While making partner isn’t a shoe in, it’s possible, and associates are given ample support and guidance on the process. Associates are...

About the Firm


With more than 1,200 lawyers practicing across the U.S., Europe, and Asia, Cooley is synonymous with tech and venture capital work. The firm is also well regarded for its clean tech, cyber/data/privacy, IP, M&A, private equity, and securities practices.

Tech Roots

Cooley was founded by Arthur Cooley and Louis Crowley in 1920 in San Francisco. Six decades later, the firm opened an office in Palo Alto, the epicenter of American technology. The rest is history. The firm began working with venture capitalists, life sciences companies, and emerging technology startups, representing the likes of Adobe Systems and Gilead Sciences; it also took Genentech and Amgen public in 1980 and 1983, respectively. The firm also advised on the formation of Draper, Gaither a...

Associate Reviews

  • Pre-COVID we were a very social office. We actually like each other and enjoy hanging out outside of work. We would attend happy hours, parties at one another's homes, attend each other's weddings, etc. The day-to-day atmosphere is also very social. I often ate lunch or got coffee with my colleagues.”
  • As far as collegiality goes, you cannot do better.”
  • Generally we are very collegial and friendly and socialize with some regularity. We are all working remotely and have not seen each other in person for the past year, owing to the pandemic. But we have made efforts to do Zoom happy hours and the like.”
  • It’s telling that inside Cooley, the word “Cooley” is not only a proper name, it is also an adjective, as in ‘That’s so Cooley’ or ‘That’s not very Cooley.’ We all pretty much know what this means, although it can be a little hard to explain to outsiders. Depending on the context, it is probably some combination of friendly, generous, professional, inclusive or cutting-edge. To me, it is a sign that this firm is imbued with a very strong, positive culture and identity and that this culture helps the firm collectively be what it strives to be and self-correct when it falls short. Overall, this is one of the features that drew me to the firm in the first place, and that will continue to ensure its success in the long term.”
  • “Partners are great and value associates work and time outside of work.”
  • “The firm is not very hierarchical. Partners make an effort to reach out to individual associates, and when I have worked one-on-one with partners, they have been very respectful and easy to work with. Regarding transparency, the firm has given multiple presentations since I've joined giving us updates on firm performance, finances, and any other changes going on in the firm. Firm developments generally seem very well communicated.”
  • “Very respectful, and very supportive. Cooley is hyper transparent. We have monthly practice group meetings where we are informed about the firm's overall financial progress (I suppose this is not difficult when the news keeps getting better and better!).  In the annual reviews, which are face-to-face, 30-minute reviews with two partners following a written review process, they also give you extensive statistics related to firm performance as well as how bonus pools have been divided up.”
  • “I've been treated with only respect and trust. It doesn't feel hierarchical, though obviously there's a hierarchy. Everyone is very down to earth.”
  • Everyone is very busy right now; both across the firm and the industry. But I feel that there is a real recognition here that this level of work is not sustainable or desirable and the firm is taking active steps to address it.”
  • The last year has been brutal on hours. However, I think the firm's billable requirement is fair and the work is evenly distributed.”
  • The nature of big law is such that the hours are in flux and can be unpredictable. That said, while I have busy weeks, it tends to balance out, and there's a general effort to make sure that work evens out around the team. There is a ton of flexibility with where/when I work, especially with work from home.”
  • The firm was the first to give a special COVID bonus—it was unexpected and very much appreciated.”
  • Salary, market bonuses, and special bonuses are all at top of market rates. There is little to complain about from a compensation perspective.”
  • I am a relatively high biller and have consistently been paid bonuses well above market.”
  • The firm has a highly differentiated bonus structure, which is actually a lot more work for the firm to effectuate than it would be for them to simply correlate hours to a bonus amount like most other big firms. They evaluate associates' work qualitatively as well as quantitatively, review in detail all of the evaluations submitted, and consider non-billable contributions to the firm (DEI, recruiting, mentorship, etc.) in deciding bonus amounts. …”
  • I feel that work is thoughtfully given and I have access to help from senior associates or partners when things are outside of my comfort zone. The work is usually distributed with a mind towards my professional growth.”
  • I feel like I have been given the opportunity to demonstrate my skill level (as a lateral) and been quickly rewarded for demonstrating the capacity to handle it well and step up into more senior roles on teams. Overall, I would say I am punching up above my class year's typical roles on deals and often working across from associates several years my senior.”
  • I spend most of my time on substantive legal work. In my first few months at Cooley I have conducted legal research, drafted preservation letters, conducted document review, communicated with clients, and will soon be co-writing a complaint with another associate. I have also been managing an immigration case. Because it is Cooley, my work involves answering questions that are complex and that don't necessarily have ready answers. To answer these as-of-yet unanswered questions, we have to be creative and collaborative. I love that part of this job.”
  • Research, trial prep, doc review, client calls.”
  • No complaints; we got a technology stipend early in the pandemic that covered all technology I needed for an at-home set-up that is very nearly as nice as the one in the office.”
  • Cooley has done a great job of onboarding folks virtually.”
  • The firm offers technological support and I have never felt that they are failing to keep up with what is needed to remotely do our jobs.”
  • There has been and continues to be a real focus on wellness from the top down, whether its the plethora of services and perks to handle with it, discussion groups, or the focus on recruitment/hiring to ensure work can be spread manageably across departments, its noticeable.”
  • Nutrition coaches, counseling, exercise stipend, exercise rewards program (earn gift cards), Fitbit for all attorneys if they want it, and more.”
  • The firm offers a wide variety of wellness benefits, classes, perks, credits, etc. The only drawback is that the amount of work means there is little opportunity to take advantage of the full array of options.”
  • They offer $1,000 for fitness reimbursement.”
  • Cooley has an extensive Cooley College program that trains you in the substantive aspects of the job. You are then also assigned an associate mentor in the practice group with whom you check in every so often. There is also a lot of informal mentorship, and you are encouraged to ask questions of anyone in the practice group—regardless of whether or not they are on the case at issue.
  • The training opportunities at the firm are planned months in advance, very well structured, and made available afterwards for those who cannot attend live. The ability to access PLI resources on demand is also a great perk for those who like to continue learning about different areas of the law and other points of expertise on their own time.”
  • Extensive first year program and CLE opportunities. Shadowing program gives associates billable credit for learning new skills and observing more experienced attorneys.”
  • People go out of their way to be helpful and teach/mentor.”
  • Partnership is realistic, including on part-time basis for parents and caregivers. There are also of counsel roles. Once you reach the higher levels of associateship, the firm starts to signal and communicate about partnership, so the transparency is high.
  • Promotion to partnership is realistic, though not that easy. I think partners are pretty transparent about what it takes to become a partner and willing to help foster younger associates' careers.”
  • It's fairly easy to transition in-house to any number of biotech or tech companies from Cooley.”
  • I believe promotion to partner is possible in due course, and the firm makes room for senior lawyers to be promoted to special counsel. The partnership process is transparent.”
  • Pro bono hours are treated exactly the same as billable hours, and there is no limit on your pro bono hours. I am working on a big civil rights case against a police department that is going to trial this summer/fall, and it is very clear that the firm actively promotes civil rights and social justice.”
  • This is one of Cooley's best features—there's lots of pro bono opportunities, ranging from one-off volunteering to amicus briefs to election hotlines to large trial court and appellate court cases. I have worked on all of those different types and really enjoyed it.  It's all billable and very supported at Cooley.”
  • From the [start], I have been given opportunities to do pro bono work and encouraged to do so. …  I recently worked on an asset transfer between two charities and was left to run and negotiate the deal almost autonomously—[it] felt nice to be given that trust and opportunity.”
  • They are very committed—all pro bono hours are billable, with no limit. We took the lead on housing justice issues this past year as the pandemic was threatening to create a wave of evictions. When that crisis was postponed, I was part of a group that took on a ton of cases for tenants against their landlords, who were failing to conduct repairs and forcing their tenants to live in terrible conditions. Associates litigate these cases themselves, from client meetings, to negotiations with opposing counsel, to drafting and filing motions, and arguing in court.”
  • One thing I have noticed at Cooley is the relatively large number of women in partner and senior roles. My practice group is chaired by a woman, and a majority of the key partners in the group are women.”
  • The firm allows billable credit to diversity and inclusion efforts. The firm has also done a good job highlighting and lifting up minority lawyers. I am LGBT myself, and my supervising partners are incredibly supportive of me and my work on LGBT rights issues.”
  • The firm strives to hire diverse individuals and has a variety of affinity groups to support those individuals once they join the firm.”
  • Cooley has a strong focus on this and while it’s not perfect by any means there is definitely more diversity here and celebrated more authentically than at my previous firm.”

Why Work Here

Diversity at Cooley

"Cooley champions a diversity and inclusion strategy that is designed and implemented by a growing diversity & inclusion team and firm management, alongside key firm committees. Our three-pronged approach focuses on recruiting, retaining and promoting diverse talent across our firm. We engage and sustain these efforts through several innovative initiatives that drive career development, strengthen recruiting initiatives and promote acceptance and integration of diversity and inclusion as key priorities firmwide. From innovative..."

Getting Hired Here

  • The firm does have a hard grade cutoff and generally prefers candidates from top law schools. That being said, I didn't work on a journal or have a clerkship, and the firm is more interested in what kind of lawyer you are than in those sorts of hoop-jumping. … There has been more of a focus on diverse candidates, which has led to much more diverse and, frankly, better summer classes. In interviewing, Cooley uses behavioral interview questions to keep things as fair as possible.”
  • “[We] care a lot about personality fit; much less concerned with which law school you went to. …”
  • “The firm doesn't really discriminate [based on] credentials in a pretentious way, but is looking for competent people that want to do what's best for the team. There are guidelines regarding the types of questions that should be asked during interviews.”
  • Within core competencies (usually each interviewer is assigned a different one to test), the interviewer will ask the candidate a few behavioral interview questions, usually to describe a particular kind of past experience (e.g., working on a team with a difficult teammate, etc.) or a hypothetical about how the candidate would approach a particular problem.”
  • Behavioral interviewing (e.g., ‘Tell me about a time when ...’).”
  • The firm has standard questions to remove bias, ranging from legal acumen to teamwork.”
  • Lateral integration was very smooth, even remotely, I feel like the group made a real effort and has been consistent in making sure I am part of the team professionally and socially.”
  • Everyone has been amazing during the lateral period. People make a huge effort to integrate you.”
  • They have worked hard on integration, although [during the pandemic], it has been challenging at times, as I have still never met anyone with whom I work.”

Practice Area Q&A’s

Koji Fukumura & Jessica Valenzuela Santamaria

Partner & Partner

Rachel Proffitt & Danielle Gershowitz

Partner & Associate

Karen Deschaine & Kevin Milgram

Partner & Associate

Jon Avina & Giselle Rivers

Partner & Associate

Brooke Nussbaum & Matt Hallinan

Partner & Associate


Perks & Benefits