Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the firm's hiring criteria?
A: We seek talented and motivated individuals who share our well-known commitment to excellence. We assess candidates for associate positions based on an overall evaluation of their background and strengths. This evaluation includes, but is by no means limited to, academic distinction in law school and undergraduate education. We also look for lawyers with strong motivation and initiative, the ability to take on responsibility, and enthusiasm for private law practice. The firm has long been committed to the highest standards of the profession and public service, and we look actively for new lawyers to continue in that tradition.
Q: How do I apply for a position in the Silicon Valley office?
A: We seek outstanding candidates from all parts of the country as associates. In addition to interviewing graduating students at law schools throughout the United States for associate positions, the firm also considers applications from third-year students and graduates of other law schools, judicial clerks, and lateral candidates. Applicants are requested to provide a current resume, law school transcript, legal writing sample, and lists of references (including faculty and past legal employers).
Q: Why does Covington request references?
A: Our goal in speaking with an applicant's references is to develop a more complete and detailed understanding of the candidate and his or her qualifications. Thorough inquiries of an applicant’s references are a distinctive and crucial element of the firm's hiring process for potential associates. This allows us to look beyond the candidate's paper record or relatively brief campus interview. We ask every candidate for an associate position to provide two to three references who can speak to the candidate's qualifications, including analytical and writing ability, judgment, maturity, and collegiality.
Q: Who are appropriate references?
A: For a candidate who has worked in a legal position previously (typically during a summer, externship, or clerkship), we ask to speak with a lawyer or judge who is familiar with the candidate's legal work. And although by no means required, we also typically look for a reference who can speak about the candidate's performance in law school. This reference need not be a professor, but often is a legal writing instructor or similar individual who has seen the law student's work first hand. In this regard, we fully understand that, especially in larger law school classes, it can be challenging for law students to develop a relationship with a professor such that a candidate feels comfortable asking the professor to serve as a reference. A prospective applicant should not be dissuaded from applying to the firm for this reason, and we frequently rely on references from non-legal employers, undergraduate faculty, and other non-traditional sources.
Q: What sort of guidance does the firm offer to associates in the development of their careers?
A: We believe that the working relationship between partners and associates is the most important element in associate development. We keep the staffing of cases and projects as lean as practicable, consistent with effective representation of our clients. As a result, associates confer regularly with the partners with whom they work, and have vast opportunities to learn and grow through such relationships.
In addition to providing feedback on an ongoing basis, annually each partner prepares formal written reviews of associates' work. Associates also receive a mid-year review during their first year at the firm. The principal purposes of this review process are to assist in identifying the associate's special skills and opportunities for improvement, and to discuss with the associate his or her professional development goals. Beginning in the fifth year after the associate's law school graduation, the review process focuses principally on the associate's prospects for partnership.
Q: Does the firm offer a "mentor" program?
A: All incoming associates are assigned both a partner and associate mentor who are responsible for overseeing associates' early integration into the firm, and for being available on an ongoing basis to consult about career development and other matters of importance to the associate. In addition, the environment and scale of the San Francisco office are such that informal mentor relationships often arise, and we maintain a strong commitment to a relaxed, open door policy that fosters collegiality and an atmosphere of support for our associates.
Q: Does the firm provide continuing legal education?
A: The firm has a Continuing Legal Education Committee that offers an ongoing series of educational programs for our lawyers. These include programs on ethics, depositions, writing, oral skills, and trial practice. The firm also provides a series of orientation seminars for new associates on topics ranging from litigation and negotiation skills to professional ethics and relationships with clients. Lawyers also may attend educational seminars and conferences sponsored by outside organizations.
Q: What are the salaries for new lawyers?
A: The starting salary for first-year associates in the Silicon Valley office is $160,000.
Q: What is the firm's policy on judicial clerkships?
A: We actively seek judicial clerks, and recognize the benefits of the insights and training conferred by a judicial clerkship. Approximately half of all Covington lawyers have held at least one judicial clerkship, either directly after law school or after an intervening period of private practice. We reward judicial clerks who come directly to the firm following their clerkship with credit for purposes of both salary and partnership consideration, together with a $50,000 bonus for those who have clerked for a federal judge, or for the highest court in any state or the District of Columbia. We have a very active Supreme Court practice, as well as a number of former Supreme Court clerks among our ranks; we fully appreciate the benefits of a Supreme Court clerkship and offer Supreme Court clerks a highly competitive bonus and credit for their clerkships for purposes of partnership and compensation.
We strongly encourage law students to apply for clerkships in their third year of law school and, where feasible, to complete their clerkships prior to beginning as associates with the firm. We encourage this timing because we have found that, despite our best efforts, starting at the firm for a limited time period with a fixed departure date for a clerkship can meaningfully diminish an associate’s experience and development. Nonetheless, we understand that an increasing number of judges are hiring clerks to begin a year or more after law school graduation, and thus not all of our incoming associates will able to obtain a clerkship immediately following law school, even when they have applied during the normal cycle in their third year of law school. For this reason, we recognize that some of our incoming associates will unavoidably start at the firm for a period of time prior to beginning their clerkships.
We encourage current judicial clerks interested in practicing with Covington to provide a current resume, law school transcript, legal writing sample, and list of references (including faculty and past legal employers) to the recruiting contact for the firm office in which they are interested.