New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

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mallard
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:44 pm

Of course they're competent. Biglaw work isn't rocket science. And the simple fact that there's a difference between economic times should demonstrate that these aren't true for-cause firings. As should the fact that a few very honest firms (including, if I recall correctly, the much-excoriated Latham) actually attributed their firings to the economy rather than to poor associate performance.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby theghostofDrewTate » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:55 pm

PKSebben wrote:
theghostofDrewTate wrote:
PKSebben wrote:
greenlight wrote:5-10%?? Ouch.

How long before you are sure it's time to move on or begin worrying your billable hour quota is going to skyrocket without cause ......always an associate and never a bride?


You will probably know at year 5 whether you are on a partnership track. It won't be laid out for you in black and white, but you will know. And lots of firms prefer to lateral partners rather than grow them so the 5 to 10% may not even apply to your eventual firm. I don't understand your "billable hour quota skyrocketing" point. You just stop getting work and then you get booted if you are on the outs with a firm. This can happen during your first year or your sixth year.


Wrong, during busy times, big firms will hint to almost everyone who makes it to year 5 they are on partner track in order to extract more work out of them. A lot of big firms will make maybe one or two equity partners a year, which could be well below the 5-10% mark. Associates who have made it that far are generally very profitable, firms want to show a little piece of cheese to extract more hours and willingness to chip in. I work with a guy who is a Davis Polk alum who, along with several other people in his class, made it to that review the year he was up for partner only to hear "You're doing a great job. Well, did you know that Client XYZ is hiring?" That's fairly standard operating procedure - no sense in adding partners to dilute the PPP.


No way, dude. At year five you have two years to up and out at most firms. If you can't read between the lines when you get the "A+ work, bud" while Joe down the hall is first chairing trials and doing beauty shows, you're a fucking idiot. Especially when the only elevate one or two partners each year. Does everyone really think they are a special snowflake? At the firms I've worked, you can tell who is partnership track and who isn't by a lot of factors. Perhaps it's a function of firm, but at the ones I've summered at, it's pretty transparent.


My bad, I did not know that I was dealing with someone with multiple summers of experience. I'm sure that in between your summer lunches that you have gathered much more information on large law firm partnership opportunities than people sitting in the biglaw ball punch machine for years. And yes, an overwhelming number of people think they are that special snowflake - it's no different than the 400 kids who enroll at Brooklyn thinking they will be in the top 10%. When a biglaw class still has 30 kids in it at the end of year 7, 29 or 30 of them will be shocked when presented with the cock on the cheek. Have you followed up to see how many of these locks after 5 years actually made equity partner? Unless somebody's dad is the GC of a Fortune 500 company or they have at least a million bucks of portable business, the door is virtually locked at the overwhelming majority of big firms.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby d34d9823 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:17 pm

mallard wrote:Of course they're competent. Biglaw work isn't rocket science. And the simple fact that there's a difference between economic times should demonstrate that these aren't true for-cause firings. As should the fact that a few very honest firms (including, if I recall correctly, the much-excoriated Latham) actually attributed their firings to the economy rather than to poor associate performance.

I won't deny any of your points, but your argument does come off as a bit entitled. What do you think of this hypothesis: the standard for competence rises in poor economies and falls in good economies. The real world data for employment seems to support it.

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mallard
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:18 pm

d34dluk3 wrote:
mallard wrote:Of course they're competent. Biglaw work isn't rocket science. And the simple fact that there's a difference between economic times should demonstrate that these aren't true for-cause firings. As should the fact that a few very honest firms (including, if I recall correctly, the much-excoriated Latham) actually attributed their firings to the economy rather than to poor associate performance.

I won't deny any of your points, but your argument does come off as a bit entitled. What do you think of this hypothesis: the standard for competence rises in poor economies and falls in good economies. The real world data for employment seems to support it.


Except this is simply wrong. The associates weren't doing subpar work. They didn't have work to do.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby d34d9823 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:21 pm

mallard wrote:
d34dluk3 wrote:
mallard wrote:Of course they're competent. Biglaw work isn't rocket science. And the simple fact that there's a difference between economic times should demonstrate that these aren't true for-cause firings. As should the fact that a few very honest firms (including, if I recall correctly, the much-excoriated Latham) actually attributed their firings to the economy rather than to poor associate performance.

I won't deny any of your points, but your argument does come off as a bit entitled. What do you think of this hypothesis: the standard for competence rises in poor economies and falls in good economies. The real world data for employment seems to support it.


Except this is simply wrong. The associates weren't doing subpar work. They didn't have work to do.

Which is because the partners pegged them as the least competent (by whatever arbitrary standard partners use) associates in their class. Do you think this happened to any of those firms star associates? Of course not.

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Bert
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby Bert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:23 pm

mallard wrote:Except this is simply wrong. The associates weren't doing subpar work. They didn't have work to do.


And to switch that up on you, the inferior associates don't have work to do because they their work is sub-par.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:25 pm

You're not really getting what I'm saying, are you? These associates weren't replaced. Do you understand the implications of that for the "for-cause" rhetoric? It's not as though the associates were told "no matter what, x% of you will be out of here in a few years - it has nothing to do with our shitty-ass management, our expansion of practice areas based more or less on magical economic thinking, or our basic fungibility with comparable firms, though: what it has to do with is the fact that, in a few years, all of a sudden previously competent associates will become incompetent, and even though there will be an absolute fucking glut of out-of-work lawyers, none of them will have this magical competence that some kid on the internet told me about, so nobody will fill your spots." No, actually, absurd as that would have been, nobody was told that there would be massive, unexpected, and necessary firings. Nobody disputes that the worst associates were fired! It would be stupid to fire the best associates. But that doesn't make the firings "for-cause."

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Bert
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby Bert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:34 pm

Replying to your prior email:

mallard wrote:Of course they're competent.

I wouldn't go this far. Just because one makes it out of law school and into biglaw does not mean that one is competent -- it just means that they made it out of law school and into biglaw.

mallard wrote:Biglaw work isn't rocket science.

For the most part it is not, but some graduates of law schools lack even a shred of common sense. I work with an associate who can not find anything that he saves on the firm’s system -- nothing. He is constantly calling the client and asking the client to send things back to him that he circulated just days ago.

mallard wrote:And the simple fact that there's a difference between economic times should demonstrate that these aren't true for-cause firings.

Don't know about that. You’re inferior whether the firm is busy or the firm is slow. Your inferiority is more tolerated during good times, because at least you scrape together billable hours to justify your existence by doing the crap work that the good attorneys can’t get to.

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mallard
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:37 pm

This response doesn't make any sense either. Associates who aren't on the partner track don't simply "justify" their own existence at a firm. Their existence is part of massive partner/associate leveraging, which is what enables huge profits-per-partner at most firms that have them.

Nor is it true, as you guys have been assuming, that the worst associates across the board were cut. Entire practice groups (particularly real estate, I believe) were cut at certain firms. Hell, some firms even closed. That's management and rainmaking. That's on the partnership.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby d34d9823 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:41 pm

Uh, welcome to the real world?

No one deserves a BigLaw job, or any job for that matter. It's well known that the availability of jobs is dependent on the economy, and law wasn't even hit the hardest by this recession.

Almost everyone gets laid off at some point during their careers. If you think that's somehow unfair, I don't know what to tell you.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:43 pm

I never used the word "unfair," nor did I talk about what anybody "deserves." I was attacking your contention, not offering my own, and certainly not bringing normative concerns into play. The fact that you've imputed such a position to me goes to show that you don't really have a good understanding of what's even at stake in this discussion.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby 06072010 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:44 pm

a) I'm not arguing the doors aren't locked although I think that's a bit melodramatic. I think you're seeing a lot of people getting dumped into the of counsel or non-equity bin right now. Partners are fleeting fuckers and jump ship as soon as PPP dips below a rival. The books will open again once revenue goes up.

b) I'm not basing this purely off my summer luncheon. This could be a function of different markets. I think NYC biglaw is a different beast in terms of partnership than other firms.

c) People elevated to the partnership at my firms (whether equity or not, who the hell knows -- at both my firms nobody knew what anyone really was) in the practice area that I worked were expected. Fewer than I would have thought, but those that were elevated were the usual suspects. I wasn't picking people to be locks, but out of those elevated, they came from people you would expect based on their relative position on firms.

d) I've found lawyers at big law firms are some the most realistic and critical people out there. They know the score. If you went in and asked everyone how they felt about partnership chances, I think you'd find out who really thinks they will make partner and who won't. In a lot of cases, how much and what kind of work you are doing is a solid indicator of chances because we all know these are a function of how well-liked you and your work product is. In my experience, Biglaw lawyers are not ostrich types. Maybe the people you interface with are all delusional unicorns and rainbow types, but the d00ders I talk to don't need a weatherman to tell them which way the wind blows.

e) And what's this crap about elevation only upon books of business or wealthy father. Both of my firms did not allow associates to carry books; you punted any business you brought in as an associate to a billing partner and took in origination credits, but were not allowed to have "portable" business. I asked some d00ders at other firms and their firms didn't allow this either. With the type of work my firms do, it's virtually impossible to build a book of business on your own. Where exactly do these books come from?

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby Bert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:48 pm

mallard wrote:You're not really getting what I'm saying, are you? These associates weren't replaced. Do you understand the implications of that for the "for-cause" rhetoric? It's not as though the associates were told "no matter what, x% of you will be out of here in a few years - it has nothing to do with our shitty-ass management, our expansion of practice areas based more or less on magical economic thinking, or our basic fungibility with comparable firms, though: what it has to do with is the fact that, in a few years, all of a sudden previously competent associates will become incompetent, and even though there will be an absolute fucking glut of out-of-work lawyers, none of them will have this magical competence that some kid on the internet told me about, so nobody will fill your spots." No, actually, absurd as that would have been, nobody was told that there would be massive, unexpected, and necessary firings. Nobody disputes that the worst associates were fired! It would be stupid to fire the best associates. But that doesn't make the firings "for-cause."


I think you are assuming that just because somebody wasn't declared (or officially labeled) incompetent that they are perceived as completely competent. Firms have associates that are not up to par, and continue to employee these inferior associates with the belief that the inferior attorneys will do the low-quality work that clients need done while giving the high-quality work to the better attorneys. When the low quality work is no longer around, firm's don't need the associate who can only handle the low quality work, they need the person who can do both the high quality work and the low quality work -- which person is not the inferior associate. The fact is that the more inferior/incompetent attorneys are the ones shown the door first. They were inferior/incompetent long before the economy tanked, but their existence was justified. Now that the economy sucks, they are still inferior/incompetent.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby 06072010 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:53 pm

mallard wrote:This response doesn't make any sense either. Associates who aren't on the partner track don't simply "justify" their own existence at a firm. Their existence is part of massive partner/associate leveraging, which is what enables huge profits-per-partner at most firms that have them.

Nor is it true, as you guys have been assuming, that the worst associates across the board were cut. Entire practice groups (particularly real estate, I believe) were cut at certain firms. Hell, some firms even closed. That's management and rainmaking. That's on the partnership.


TI, OC, TCR

Associates don't make partners money with the quality of work product. They make partners money on quantity. Maybe this analogy will help out the Luddites. Partners are like momma birds, They have the responsibility of making sure that the baby birds get food. If there isn't enough food to go around and baby birds starve, it's momma bird's fault.

How do these dickwads account for the superstar but poorly positioned real estate associate that got shitcanned? Was he incompetent?

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:54 pm

Bert, it's as though you're not reading my posts.

1) I agree that, by and large, and with the exception of practice areas that were eviscerated more or less wholesale by the recession, like real estate, worse associates were let go.
2) I don't mean to suggest in any way that it's unfair for a biglaw associate to be fired, or that biglaw associates deserve biglaw jobs.
3) I do mean to argue that, when some firms are firing first-years or cutting entire years of summer classes and others aren't, and when this represents a switchover from zero layoffs and an 100% offer rate to summer associates, to say that the firings are "for cause" simply because 1) above holds is patently absurd.
4) I do think it's hypocritical to say "these associates represented a gigantic profit margin, since the firms were absurdly leveraged and billed out even these 'incompetent' associates at a much higher rate than the associates' hourly pay, and the associates worked tons of unpaid overtime anyway," and still rag on them for their work product.
5) I do think there's something ridiculous about the claim that these associates were doing "inferior work" and that biglaw managers and partners were justified in letting them go for this reason, since they had been billing them out at huge profit margins prior to the recession. "You're doing shitty, terrible work, but it's good enough for our clients."

And of course everything that PKSebben says is credited.
Last edited by mallard on Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby d34d9823 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:56 pm

mallard wrote:I never used the word "unfair," nor did I talk about what anybody "deserves." I was attacking your contention, not offering my own, and certainly not bringing normative concerns into play. The fact that you've imputed such a position to me goes to show that you don't really have a good understanding of what's even at stake in this discussion.

Yeah, I'm not really sure what we're arguing about anymore, except I definitely got the impression that you thought these firings were somehow unfair.

But, uh, good talk.

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mallard
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:57 pm

d34dluk3 wrote:
mallard wrote:I never used the word "unfair," nor did I talk about what anybody "deserves." I was attacking your contention, not offering my own, and certainly not bringing normative concerns into play. The fact that you've imputed such a position to me goes to show that you don't really have a good understanding of what's even at stake in this discussion.

Yeah, I'm not really sure what we're arguing about anymore, except I definitely got the impression that you thought these firings were somehow unfair.

But, uh, good talk.


So your argument was wrong and your interpretation of my argument was wrong? That doesn't seem like a good argument to me. That seems like a waste of time. But hopefully a third party reading this was educated somewhat.

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PLATONiC
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby PLATONiC » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:00 pm

There's a considerable amount of literature on the topic if you go on search engines or online open access databases. Try SSRN or do a search on Google with "filetype:pdf" next to the topic of your search.

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greenlight
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby greenlight » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:04 pm

I know that the first question regarding retention caused some spirited responses, but my much more innocuous discussion topic with respect to IP Law didn't seem to have a single taker?

Does anyone have a firm experience based opinion on attorneys specializing in patent or intellectual property law? Or maybe the perception of the field from the inside?

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby jms1987 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:06 pm

This is just a 0L speculating, but it sounds like to me that making partner has a good deal to do with knowing the politic of your firm, not just billing insane amounts of hours. Example: Associate A bills more hours than B, but associate B is well liked by a partner and is given better work despite not billing as many hours as A. Would this generally be true? It seems to be the vibe I'm getting from posts in here.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby 06072010 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:11 pm

jms1987 wrote:This is just a 0L speculating, but it sounds like to me that making partner has a good deal to do with knowing the politic of your firm, not just billing insane amounts of hours. Example: Associate A bills more hours than B, but associate B is well liked by a partner and is given better work despite not billing as many hours as A. Would this generally be true? It seems to be the vibe I'm getting from posts in here.


But availability of work is a good measure of how well-liked you are.

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby jms1987 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:18 pm

PKSebben wrote:
jms1987 wrote:This is just a 0L speculating, but it sounds like to me that making partner has a good deal to do with knowing the politic of your firm, not just billing insane amounts of hours. Example: Associate A bills more hours than B, but associate B is well liked by a partner and is given better work despite not billing as many hours as A. Would this generally be true? It seems to be the vibe I'm getting from posts in here.


But availability of work is a good measure of how well-liked you are.


That makes sense too. I really have no clue about biglaw at all, minus what one of my close relatives has told me about his job.

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Bert
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby Bert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:31 pm

mallard wrote:Bert, it's as though you're not reading my posts.


I wouldn't say that. Maybe I just have blinders on that tie me to my initial post, so lets try this again. My responses are interposed in bold.

1) I agree that, by and large, and with the exception of practice areas that were eviscerated more or less wholesale by the recession, like real estate, worse associates were let go. Fine. This is what I said -- at least we both agree on this

2) I don't mean to suggest in any way that it's unfair for a biglaw associate to be fired, or that biglaw associates deserve biglaw jobs. You and I never discussed fairness, and I am not expressing an opinion on this here, so we do not need to discuss this point further.

3) I do mean to argue that, when some firms are firing first-years or cutting entire years of summer classes and others aren't, and when this represents a switchover from zero layoffs and an 100% offer rate to summer associates, to say that the firings are "for cause" simply because 1) above holds is patently absurd. I don't recall you ever specifying "first years" or "summer classes" in your arguments with me, but I would generally agree with you on this point as to most first years being fired in their first year. Some first years clearly don't get it (and probably never will), but for most first years, it is too early to tell. As to summer associates, not so much. To argue that a historical 100% offer rate should continue to hold true eternally reeks of entitlement, and I don't agree with the implication that a student offered a SA position is entitled to have it turn into a first year associate position. Unless I have missed something, firms are not "no-offering" entire SA classes and announcing that the entire SA class's work was sub-par. As far as I am concerned, firms have no reason to justify any no-offers to any member of the SA class, as the SA class is not entitled to a job just because they worked for a firm for one summer.

4) I do think it's hypocritical to say "these associates represented a gigantic profit margin, since the firms were absurdly leveraged and billed out even these 'incompetent' associates at a much higher rate than the associates' hourly pay, and the associates worked tons of unpaid overtime anyway," and still rag on them for their work product. Why do you think this is hypocritical? Why is it hypocritical of a firm to staff a service with somebody that will get a specific job done (presumably at the lowest cost) to then say that somebody's service is not needed when there are more qualified people to take over the work? Why is it hypocritical to provide more specialized personel in a good economy than in a bad economy? Its like the janitor over here. When times were good, he mopped floors and dabbled in vacuuming. There was also a janitor who just vacuumed. Now that times are bad the first janitor mops floors and vacuums, and the second janitor does neither. Maybe you and I just see this differently, but I don't really see any hypocrisy in this (whether I spelled it correctly or not).

5) I do think there's something ridiculous about the claim that these associates were doing "inferior work" and that biglaw managers and partners were justified in letting them go for this reason, since they had been billing them out at huge profit margins prior to the recession. "You're doing shitty, terrible work, but it's good enough for our clients." I already said that partners don't out the inferior performers, so its more like "You're doing work, our client's aren't bitching too much about it and we eventually got the project done, and they paid us for it, so see you tomorrow." Welcome to biglaw. I won't really go into this much as I am afraid of outing myself or this firm, but this is totally the biglaw mentality (more specifically, maybe it is the transactional biglaw firm mentality). Regardless of whether the work was done competently, firms bill for all services provided to the client (whether it took one try to get it done correctly or three). Historically, there has been no need to cut "wasted" time from the bill sent to the client, as most client's of this firm do not see the actual broken-down invoices -- they just see a final number and then pass the final number along to the counterparty in the transaction footing the bills. Legal fees have been seen as a cost of doing the type of business that is being done.

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mallard
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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby mallard » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:37 pm

The problem is in calling them for-cause firings, as I said from the beginning. I said nothing about whether 100% offer rates should continue to obtain. Nobody is entitled to a job. But if somebody loses their job because of the economy, a firm shouldn't say it's for performance reasons. I don't really know how entitlement got into this in the first place. Do you really think in your example that the second janitor was fired "for cause," i.e., for performance reasons?

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Re: New Recruiting & Biglaw Retention

Postby underdawg » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:54 pm

as a ray of sunshine, at least in good times, i think a bunch of V10 associates would not get partner at their firm, but maybe at a V25 or so. and V25 --> V50/100, etc. am i right? it's not like associates either make partner or starve. they might get partner at a "lower ranked" firm or maybe midlaw or something, might get an actually pretty nice government or in-house job, they might languish as super senior associates, etc. but if the firm is transparent anyway, then associates have time to to find new jobs right? they might not have been the super duper stars, but there were prob some pretty nice jobs available to them, if they could suck in their pride a little bit.

at least during the boom, i would think that firms would like to place their associates in nice positions, to get the top talent working there. but of course, the top talent all thinks they're making partner.

or am i wrong? note i'm 1) only talking about the good times and 2) not pretending like i know everything already




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