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Overview

Introduction

With offices in California and Las Vegas, Downey Brand serves the region’s clients in a number of practice areas and industries. Those seeking environmental law will find their interest piqued by the firm’s prominent natural resources group, which works in such areas as air quality, environmental enforcement defense, environmental remediation, land use, and water law.  The firm also serves as outside general counsel for many of Northern California’s leading companies, including privately held and family-owned companies, nonprofits...

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 Summer Associates (2020)



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Base Salary

All offices (except San Francisco):...


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No. of U.S. Offices

Vault Verdict

Downey Brand’s hiring process is competitive, with a focus on stellar grades and local Cali grads. The firm is fairly social, with regular happy hours and a full suite of summer activities. Associates generally agree that hours at the firm are not overbearing, allowing them a good work-life balance—which some associates view as a fair tradeoff for compensation that falls a bit short of market. Associates are pleased with their relationships with partners, and they appreciate the levels of transparency offered by firm management. Quality of work is a high point, and associates appreciate the early responsibility in substantive matters. While there is some formal training at the firm, associates note that they find informal training and mentorships to be more valuable. The firm does...

About the Firm

Founded in 1926, when Sacramento was still a young, burgeoning metropolis, the three-lawyer firm of Downey, Brand & Seymour constituted about three percent of the city’s 100 or so attorneys. The firm’s growth was slow early on, with only 5 attorneys in 1946. But it continued to grow over the decades, expanding to new offices and locations. Now with nearly 100 attorneys of its own, Downey Brand is Sacramento’s largest law firm.

Notable in NorCal

Downey Brand handles most every type of civil matter, though its practice reflects its location in the state’s capital and in the middle of the state’s agricultural heartland. The firm’s particular strengths include business, litigation, and natural resources, and its attorneys specialize in a wide variety of sub specialties within these...

Associate Reviews


  • “It’s a collegial atmosphere with [an] open-door policy. The firm associates have quarterly happy hours with an annual bonding event. The firm does a good job of organizing random lunches for staff and attorneys (St. Patrick’s Day, staff appreciation day, summer socials, holiday party, etc.) for people to mingle.”
  • “Attorneys are affable and welcoming. The firm sponsors happy hours and other social events throughout the year to foster stronger communal bonds.”
  • “Associates have a quarterly happy hour and do a yearly bonding activity. Associates join in the annual firm retreat and have monthly lunch meetings to discuss important topics by which an Associate Liaison Committee presents issues back to the firm's Executive Committee.”
  • “We have quarterly associate happy hours, annual summer golf tournaments, softball, ping pong tournaments, and other competitions throughout the year for attorneys and staff to engage.”
  • “Partners are generally open to discussing business matters with associates. The Associate Liaison Committee meets with the managing partner on a monthly basis to discuss the state of the firm and ways to improve working conditions. There are written policies for attorney evaluation, compensation, and promotion made available within the firm. Evaluations and performance reviews are conducted on an annual basis in general and semi-annually for new associates.”
  • “… I think it completely depends on who you work for. I appreciate the time and effort the partners I work for give to me and my professional development and growth as an attorney. I know that everyone is extremely busy, so it means a lot that they take time out of their day to answer my questions and provide me feedback.”
  • “Partners treat their associates well. I receive feedback on all work product, and I appreciate when the partners tell me they like something or something needs improvement on a project-by-project basis so I can continue learning. I also get good feedback on our [annual] review system. As to transparency, partners present the state of the firm at the annual retreat and often come [to] make brief presentations at the associates meeting. These are all great efforts to maintain transparency. I do wish the firm was more transparent about partnership compensation and the pathway to partnership.”
  • “Reviews are conducted annually. Associates are given a copy of what others have said about them. Senior associates (sixth years and up) are also asked to review junior associates (first through fourth years) if they have worked closely with any. Partners tend to treat associates very well. The firm is a bit odd in that it is a mid-size firm and has commensurate resources but feels like a small firm in terms of firm culture and how partners treat associates.”
  • “The occasional variation in hours inherent in the industry makes it hard to be completely satisfied, but Downey Brand is about as good as it gets. The firm is very flexible about when and where you work. No one [bats] an eye if you need to work from home, come in late, or leave early so long as the job gets done.”
  • “As a first year, partners I work with are good at not overloading me with work, and work is fairly evenly distributed.”
  • “Our billable requirement is 1,750 [hours], and it is manageable with the amount of work we are given. We have great flexibility in where we work and when we work. Generally, I feel senior attorneys trust their associates to get the work done.”
  • “… Fifty hours of pro bono time counts toward the minimum. Training time may count toward the minimum at the  [Department Chair’s] discretion.”
  • “Compensation is competitive for our market and firm size, although not the top. Objective bonus based on hours is attainable.”
  • “Compensation could be higher to remain competitive with the legal industry. Bonuses are discussed privately at our end-of-year review, which is good for understanding the breakdown. I appreciate the firm sharing the distribution of bonuses at the end of the year with all the associates at their associates meeting.”
  • “Comp is transparent and highly competitive in the Sacramento market given the nature of our work, our rates, and our hours. The bonus system is transparent. I'm happy with my comp. I'd love to make more, but I would not trade my time and autonomy for more money.”
  • “The firm is at or near the top of the Sacramento market in terms of compensation among local firms but does not compensate at the level of the national firms or the national firms with offices in Sacramento. The compensation, however, is generous considering the firm’s low minimum billable hours and the firm bonuses on all hours over the minimum billable-hours requirement. The firm also bonuses a percentage of any work brought in by the associate and offers a subjective bonus based on performance.”
  • “The vast majority of my work is substantive, and I also interact directly with clients and experts. On most of my matters, I take the lead on day-to-day case management and consult with partners on strategic issues as appropriate. And when I do, my opinions are generally appreciated and implemented.”
  • “Given the nature of clientele of firm being mix of public and private sector clients, the work can be quite interesting. The matters are quite leanly staffed with generally just one associate and one partner (exceptions being big litigation and compliance matters) being staffed; thus, the associate gets to handle substantive legal work (brief writing, substantive memorandums for clients, etc.) and responsibilities quite early in the career.”
  • “Work ranges from drafting correspondence, administrative comments, appellate briefs and pleadings, to client counseling and board meeting participation, to research and strategy development with colleagues. Opportunities frequently arise to address and help shape developing substantive law in a number of practice areas.”
  • “As a seventh-year associate, I spend almost all my time on high level legal work, including drafting pleadings, strategizing on cases with the lead partner, and preparing and participating in high-level discovery. I also have second chaired a trial and participated in high-level settlement discussions. At all levels, work is assigned based on demonstrated ability, and plenty of young associates at the firm have taken depositions and handled stand-up hearings that their counterparts at larger firms would probably not get the opportunity to participate in.”
  • “A massage therapist is made available approximately every two weeks. Wellness is an area to which the firm could and should devote more attention.”
  • “Standing desks and ergonomic chairs/keyboards/mice are available upon request, without a doctor's note. A specialist will come to help identify a particular person's ergonomic needs and follow up to ensure the products are working as intended. Health care plans cover mental and behavioral counseling and chiropractic and acupuncture services. A massage therapist visits the firm on a monthly basis.”
  • “The firm provides useful training for the research, database, and drafting software regularly utilized by Downey Brand attorneys. Informal training takes place incident to the mentorships that develop naturally, as well as through the revamped formal mentor program.”
  • “There are plenty of training, mentoring, and sponsorship opportunities in the firm. There is a mentoring program where each associate is matched with a senior associate. I know senior associates are also matched in a different type of mentoring program. Training comes with the job—and senior attorneys trust their associates with challenging research and courtroom assignments.”
  • “Because partners truly care about your development as a lawyer, Downey Brand excels at informal training and mentoring. We are also pretty good at providing formal training through outside vendors (e.g, NITA). As a midsized firm, we don't have as much formal training as BigLaw firms, but I don't think that's a problem. I learn more by doing real work and getting feedback from partners than I would from more formal training.”
  • “There is a formal mentoring program. It matches associates with partners. There is also a formal lunch invite system where associates are matched with a partner outside of their practice group to go to lunch with. The partners I work with focus on mentoring their associates and providing training. The firm also sends associates out for NITA deposition training.”
  • “[The] firm encourages pro bono work and advertises opportunities to do such work. They also give 50 hours of billable credit per year for pro bono work.”
  • “I have recently worked on a pro bono matter in helping an undocumented immigrant navigate the immigration court. The work has been rewarding, and I know the firm takes a stance on pro bono work. The firm also reaches out to the local law library and courts to help with any pro se help day events.”
  • “Pro bono hours are highly encouraged. There are ample legal work and volunteer opportunities, especially in [the] Sacramento office. The firm participates in the ‘lawyers in [the] library’ program [in] Sacramento and mentoring local high school students and law students for moot courts/mock trials, etc. The firm has a very active pro bono partner who is quite dedicated in providing pro bono work opportunities, especially to junior associates. On certain matters, the 50-hour annual pro bono limit is waived, if that is required for effective legal representation of [a] pro bono client.”
  • “The firm recently formed a Diversity Committee to help with increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have engaged with a third party who specializes in diversity training, and I look forward to serving on the committee”
  • “I think the firm, especially in the last few years, has put even more emphasis on finding ways to improve this.”
  • “The firm had a keynote presentation at its last attorney retreat to address how to foster and improve diversity. It has also formed a diversity task force of associates and partners to develop an approach and program that will do more than pay lip service to the issue. It is difficult to say how effective the program will be, but it is reassuring to see how passionately the partnership is putting forth the effort. The firm revised its parental leave policy in 2018 to provide for up to eight weeks of paid leave that includes a pro rata reduction to the billable-hour requirement. This policy was adopted after input and collaboration from associates and was a substantial improvement from the previous policy.”

Why Work Here


WHAT WE DO

Downey Brand built its reputation by consistently providing clients with unparalleled legal solutions and unmatched customer service. Attorneys typically focus on one or more areas of law that most interest them and are best suited to their skills and knowledge. This affords our clients specialized advice that is tailored to their business and industry. Within the firm, various practices are grouped together to form our Business, Litigation, and Natural Resources Departments. Downey Brand attorneys have the flexibility to explore different practice areas and work with a variety of colleagues to best represent clients. Our firm is able to offer attorneys interesting cases and rewarding work no matter what their area of expertise.

Diversity at Downey Brand LLP

"Downey Brand is committed to fostering and maintaining a strong culture of diversity and inclusion, based on the belief that a diverse workplace creates a stronger law firm and allows us to better serve our clients and community. To that end, the firm works hard to attract, retain, and promote individuals of differing races, religions, ethnicities, genders and gender identities, family structures, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. The firm encourages and supports its attorneys' memberships and participation in diverse bar..."

Getting Hired Here


  • “It was shocking to me how competitive it is to get a job here, [both] as a law student or a lateral. Grades are extremely important. We focus most of our efforts at California law schools, but we also hire people who attended law school out of state.”
  • “I believe the firm has high standards—law school, grades, law review, moot court, [and] mock trial experiences. The firm seems to hire from local law schools, such as McGeorge and UC Davis.”
  • “Highly competitive—[candidates] need [a] good academic record and experience.”
  • “Summer associate interviewees are asked to talk about their backgrounds, both professional and academic, and describe what makes them unique or well suited to work at Downey Brand. Some behavioral technique questions may be posed to gauge an applicant's ability to anticipate issues or think on their toes. A candidate will likely be asked what they are looking for in a law firm and work environment, what sort of mentoring they hope to receive, and what they wish to gain from their experience as a summer associate.”