Farella is "incredibly supportive" of its attorneys. Women attorneys, in particular, are mentored, treated professionally, and given equal opportunities ant: challenges. Although the number of women partners is not large, there are several with significant power, including Debbie Ballati (litigation), who serves on the executive committee. and Georgia Meagher (litigation), who heads the employment group. The firm has sponsored a number of women's dinners and rainmaking seminars for its female attorneys. Farella is also very much "pro-family leave," we were told. One insider reported that, in this area, "from both a professional and personal standpoint, the firm (and the people of the firm) has been beyond wonderful." Two partners (both women) are presently on part-time; one male associate is on part-time for childcare purposes; and one male paralegal recently took paternity leave when he and his wife adopted a child. Farella is "trying hard to increase its diversity." The partners are committed to recruiting, mentoring, and retaining minority associates, and "minority associates who are here are generally very happy," remarked one insider.
Entering attorneys elect to work in either business or litigation. First-year business associates are assigned to one partner for the entire year. Litigation associates work for a variety of partners, in areas of interest they generally get to choose. The litigation department head reviews associate workload reports and requests in assigning cases. "I think the system works quite well, particularly compared to horror stories I've heard from colleagues in other firms where there is no gatekeeper to prevent an associate from being overloaded or stuck with working for only one or two partners," reported one insider. The firm uses both formal training programs and on-the-job training to "teach associates the art of practicing law." Regular lunches are scheduled to discuss such topics as "how to prepare a discovery plan, how to do a document production, taking expert depositions, etc." Farella staffs its cases leanly, generally with one partner and one associate, offering young associates significant responsibility. In the litigation department, assignments include research memos, responding to document requests, and defending or taking depositions. "I am a second year associate, and I have an IP case in federal court, an international arbitration before the International Chamber of Commerce, an appellate case, and a state court construction matter, along with several smaller matters. I negotiate directly with opposing counsel in every matter, have frequent client contact, and draft all of the pleadings and briefs in the cases, including the requisite legal research. I am in the library as necessary, but have never done a legal research project that did not become incorporated into final product," one insider informed us. Farella generally keeps away from "huge" defense cases ("the type of cases which bury associates in document discovery for months or even years"), favoring complex mid-size cases as the "bread and butter" of the firm's business. "For me, the variety of clients and cases has been one of the best things about working here," a second insider observed. Farella has a "business casual" dress policy Monday through Thursday and a "Friday casual" dress day. Men typically wear khakis, sweaters, and oxford shirts and women wear slacks, sweaters, or "whatever they want to," and jeans can be worn on Fridays. "Everyone cleaves to the casual dress code, and we get dressed up only if we are meeting with a client," one insider noted. Farella provides a formal review of its associates every six months, at which time a supervising partner secures evaluative comments from every attorney for whom the associate has done significant work. These comments are presented at a firm-wide partnership meeting, after which the supervising partner and a second partner provide the associate with feedback "In my experience the reviews are overwhelmingly positive-mostly a chance to make the associate feel good," remarked one insider. Although not formally part of the process, partnership prospects are generally indicated during the formal reviews. "Partnership prospects are good, as there are not many people up for partner each year," we were told. The social life at Farella strikes a nice balance-people are friendly and gather together casually for drinks, lunches and for basketball or softball games, and yet "there is no pressure to spend all your time with other lawyers. Everyone has a life outside the office," one insider observed. The firm sponsors Friday lunches which are "purely social and an opportunity to mingle with people you don't normally work with." There are also regular happy hours on Friday "at any number of watering holes downtown and that goes a long way towards keeping the place convivial," a second insider noted. The firm has hosted a ski trip to Lake Tahoe the past two years, for which it picks up the entire tab including a dinner with a DJ on Saturday night. "It's the best event of the year," exclaimed one insider. Farella is run by an executive committee comprised of the heads of the business and litigation departments, one senior partner, one junior partner, and the managing partner. There are also several key rainmakers who have "substantial influence" on firm affairs, including Jeff Newman (business), John Cooper (litigation), and Doug Young (litigation). Associates are included on most of the firm's committees, and financial data ("budget and actual numbers, etc.") is made available, although information dissemination differs between the firm's two major departments, we were told. "The business department head rarely calls a meeting, and therefore the business associates are not very knowledgeable about their department's direction. In contrast, the head of litigation does an excellent job of calling meetings for all of the litigation associates and keeps everyone in the loop regarding the firm's business, financials and future," according to one insider. Salaries are roughly competitive with other big firms in the city, but "Farella might pay a little less at the higher levels," observed one insider, who added that attorneys are generally content to make less and "not work ridiculous hours." Associates in the past have rejected pay hikes which would require additional billable hours and have "met again recently to decide how they wish their decision to go this year. There is a strong feeling that the associates will forgo a raise again if they can keep the minimum billable hours at 1850," a second insider informed us. Farella gives very small bonuses based on reaching 1850 hours; it offers, however, "combat pay bonuses" when an associate is staffed on a particularly "grizzly" project. Although our contacts expressed satisfaction with conditions at the firm, we were told that there has been a large contingent of lateral hires "as a result of departures that occurred two years ago; at present there are 15 laterals out of 30 associates." There are few perks at Farella other than the elaborate ski trip given each year; the firm does, however, sponsor a free lunch for attorney; every Friday and provides associate and partner sabbaticals.