How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

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paratactical
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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby paratactical » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:37 am

Resources to do your work. The bigger and more highly ranked the firm, the more hours you can bill to a task, the more paralegals you can get to assist you, the more technology you will have at your disposal. It is really nice to be at a big shop and pay a vendor to handle copying and creating your deposition and trial exhibits rather than having to laboriously proof and copy every item yourself. There are all kinds of little things that big firms can spend money on because they have clients that are less cost-concerned than the clients located at satellite offices or smaller firms.

Rule11
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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby Rule11 » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:47 am

Cooler office-mates, who won't tattle if you curl up under your desk for a few winks at 4am.

alumniguy
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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:02 am

paratactical wrote:Resources to do your work. The bigger and more highly ranked the firm, the more hours you can bill to a task, the more paralegals you can get to assist you, the more technology you will have at your disposal. It is really nice to be at a big shop and pay a vendor to handle copying and creating your deposition and trial exhibits rather than having to laboriously proof and copy every item yourself. There are all kinds of little things that big firms can spend money on because they have clients that are less cost-concerned than the clients located at satellite offices or smaller firms.


But a V10 v. a V50 is not a big v. small firm comparison. Most biglaw shops are going to have secretaries, legal assistants, copying centers located in house, etc. Moreover, many firms simply do not want 1st years doing non-legal work because clients do complain about costs (even investment banks and major corps.). Should a first-year be coordinating the production of a deal bible, yes. Should a first-year be actually compiling and copying the deal bible, no. Does it happen that a first-year does 95% of the this type of work and still charge the client, at times yes. It has more to do with staffing levels than size of a firm.

Spending money on small things that yield major cost savings are routinely done at many biglaw shops. But I don't think superior resources are correlated to V10.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:11 am

alumniguy wrote:
paratactical wrote:Resources to do your work. The bigger and more highly ranked the firm, the more hours you can bill to a task, the more paralegals you can get to assist you, the more technology you will have at your disposal. It is really nice to be at a big shop and pay a vendor to handle copying and creating your deposition and trial exhibits rather than having to laboriously proof and copy every item yourself. There are all kinds of little things that big firms can spend money on because they have clients that are less cost-concerned than the clients located at satellite offices or smaller firms.


But a V10 v. a V50 is not a big v. small firm comparison. Most biglaw shops are going to have secretaries, legal assistants, copying centers located in house, etc. Moreover, many firms simply do not want 1st years doing non-legal work because clients do complain about costs (even investment banks and major corps.). Should a first-year be coordinating the production of a deal bible, yes. Should a first-year be actually compiling and copying the deal bible, no. Does it happen that a first-year does 95% of the this type of work and still charge the client, at times yes. It has more to do with staffing levels than size of a firm.

Spending money on small things that yield major cost savings are routinely done at many biglaw shops. But I don't think superior resources are correlated to V10.


This is basically correct. Remember, too, that Wachtell, that king of kings, is smaller than most V50s. Folks at Wachtell routinely complain about how bad their legal library is, for example.

As an aside (and the reason for my anonymity)--I work in-house, and we don't pay for first or second years ever, be their work legal or non-legal. If a firm tries to bill us for juniors, we remind them that we were up front about our policy, and direct them to cross those items off of the bill. Not all clients are as frugal as we are, but I do work at a huge, profitable corporation, and I know for a fact that many clients share our policy.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:As an aside (and the reason for my anonymity)--I work in-house, and we don't pay for first or second years ever, be their work legal or non-legal. If a firm tries to bill us for juniors, we remind them that we were up front about our policy, and direct them to cross those items off of the bill. Not all clients are as frugal as we are, but I do work at a huge, profitable corporation, and I know for a fact that many clients share our policy.


This is a pretty fascinating policy to me that I've definitely heard before. What I don't understand, is that some legal work could be done by anyone - drafting ancillary documents, preparing/monitoring the closing checklist, etc... Do you think you actually save money by not paying for first/second years? I would imagine (and if I was a partner would implement) that any client refusing to pay for first/second years simply get staffed with associates from year 3 and up. So instead of a first year keeping track of documents for the closing checklist, a third year is doing it. For the sake of argument I will concede that third years are more efficient than first years (not sure I fully agree with this, but let's take it out of the equation). First years bill at what, $350 these days and third years at $500. Do you think you are realizing any savings? That third year would need to be 30 percent more efficient for you to realize any savings.

It seems to me a better policy would simply be to demand a 10% haircut off the total legal bill, no?

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paratactical
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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby paratactical » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:30 am

alumniguy wrote:
paratactical wrote:Resources to do your work. The bigger and more highly ranked the firm, the more hours you can bill to a task, the more paralegals you can get to assist you, the more technology you will have at your disposal. It is really nice to be at a big shop and pay a vendor to handle copying and creating your deposition and trial exhibits rather than having to laboriously proof and copy every item yourself. There are all kinds of little things that big firms can spend money on because they have clients that are less cost-concerned than the clients located at satellite offices or smaller firms.


But a V10 v. a V50 is not a big v. small firm comparison. Most biglaw shops are going to have secretaries, legal assistants, copying centers located in house, etc. Moreover, many firms simply do not want 1st years doing non-legal work because clients do complain about costs (even investment banks and major corps.). Should a first-year be coordinating the production of a deal bible, yes. Should a first-year be actually compiling and copying the deal bible, no. Does it happen that a first-year does 95% of the this type of work and still charge the client, at times yes. It has more to do with staffing levels than size of a firm.

Spending money on small things that yield major cost savings are routinely done at many biglaw shops. But I don't think superior resources are correlated to V10.

I went from a V10 to a V50 and I notice a huge difference in spending, costs and client cost awareness.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby ResolutePear » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:36 am

I don't see how this is even a scenario for most people.

Do people really sit around twiddling their thumbs around OCI thinking, "HMMM! SHOULD I GO WITH A V10 OR A V50...? I HAVE SO MANY IMPORTANT DECISIONS TO MAKE..."

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:50 am

paratactical wrote:
alumniguy wrote:
paratactical wrote:Resources to do your work. The bigger and more highly ranked the firm, the more hours you can bill to a task, the more paralegals you can get to assist you, the more technology you will have at your disposal. It is really nice to be at a big shop and pay a vendor to handle copying and creating your deposition and trial exhibits rather than having to laboriously proof and copy every item yourself. There are all kinds of little things that big firms can spend money on because they have clients that are less cost-concerned than the clients located at satellite offices or smaller firms.


But a V10 v. a V50 is not a big v. small firm comparison. Most biglaw shops are going to have secretaries, legal assistants, copying centers located in house, etc. Moreover, many firms simply do not want 1st years doing non-legal work because clients do complain about costs (even investment banks and major corps.). Should a first-year be coordinating the production of a deal bible, yes. Should a first-year be actually compiling and copying the deal bible, no. Does it happen that a first-year does 95% of the this type of work and still charge the client, at times yes. It has more to do with staffing levels than size of a firm.

Spending money on small things that yield major cost savings are routinely done at many biglaw shops. But I don't think superior resources are correlated to V10.

I went from a V10 to a V50 and I notice a huge difference in spending, costs and client cost awareness.


This is surprising. I assume this was not a pre/post recession comparison.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:52 am

ResolutePear wrote:I don't see how this is even a scenario for most people.

Do people really sit around twiddling their thumbs around OCI thinking, "HMMM! SHOULD I GO WITH A V10 OR A V50...? I HAVE SO MANY IMPORTANT DECISIONS TO MAKE..."


Well, to be honest if you have option you SHOULD be thinking this. V10s on the whole consistently get much "better" work than V50s. And the exit opportunities are generally considered better from the V10s - if you are looking at prestige/salary. Students should be looking more at firms because firms are NOT all alike. They are similar, but they have different clients and different cultures.

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paratactical
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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby paratactical » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:04 am

alumniguy wrote:
paratactical wrote: I went from a V10 to a V50 and I notice a huge difference in spending, costs and client cost awareness.


This is surprising. I assume this was not a pre/post recession comparison.

I transitioned in the middle of the recession - full disclosure, I'm a paralegal, so I might see a lot more of the financial limitations. As an example - at the V10, we got video and sync files and load options with every deposition and used video at every trial and hearing I managed whereas at the V50, we only get video and sync of depositions for key witnesses or big cases and often go technology free for smaller hearings. I think there's logic and merit (as well as flaws and problems) with both approaches.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby Stanford4Me » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:15 am

I can't remember how much we can quote from outside sources, but ATL posted about their experience working @ Wachtell:
Here’s a synopsis of our WLRK experience. We worked with some brilliant people, some of whom remain good friends to this day, on some phenomenal cases; learned a lot and got a ton of experience (e.g., depositions, a trial, appellate briefs), despite being so junior; and did very well for ourselves financially. This allowed us to move to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and then into blogging and freelance writing, without downsizing our lifestyle. So if you plan on spending only a few years in Biglaw, you might as well get the most out of them, in terms of both money and lawyering experience.

If you want to make a career out of large firm practice, the appeal of Wachtell is obvious. Yes, the associates (and partners) at Wachtell work harder than most. But they’re working on interesting, cutting-edge, headline-making cases and deals. And as you can see from the firm’s associate bonuses, as well as its profits-per-partner, the rewards for the marginal effort are outsized. For associates, a few hundred additional billable hours can add six figures to your paycheck. For partners, those extra hours can add seven figures to your annual partnership draw.

And that’s assuming you work harder than your friends at other firms. When we were at WLRK, we billed around 2700 hours a year (and worked quite a bit more — we weren’t very efficient). Those hours are nothing to sneeze at. But we had friends at other firms who worked just as hard or harder than we did, yet made significantly less. Several of them would tell us, especially around December, “I wish I had taken that Wachtell offer.”

So if you have the opportunity, go to Wachtell. You won’t be sorry.


http://abovethelaw.com/2006/12/associat ... windfalls/

That being said. Personal preferences matter. If I ever stayed in NYC (which I would never do, yuck) I'd choose a lower ranked firm over a V10, if given the opportunity.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby FiveSermon » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:20 am

Stanford4Me wrote:I can't remember how much we can quote from outside sources, but ATL posted about their experience working @ Wachtell:
Here’s a synopsis of our WLRK experience. We worked with some brilliant people, some of whom remain good friends to this day, on some phenomenal cases; learned a lot and got a ton of experience (e.g., depositions, a trial, appellate briefs), despite being so junior; and did very well for ourselves financially. This allowed us to move to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and then into blogging and freelance writing, without downsizing our lifestyle. So if you plan on spending only a few years in Biglaw, you might as well get the most out of them, in terms of both money and lawyering experience.

If you want to make a career out of large firm practice, the appeal of Wachtell is obvious. Yes, the associates (and partners) at Wachtell work harder than most. But they’re working on interesting, cutting-edge, headline-making cases and deals. And as you can see from the firm’s associate bonuses, as well as its profits-per-partner, the rewards for the marginal effort are outsized. For associates, a few hundred additional billable hours can add six figures to your paycheck. For partners, those extra hours can add seven figures to your annual partnership draw.

And that’s assuming you work harder than your friends at other firms. When we were at WLRK, we billed around 2700 hours a year (and worked quite a bit more — we weren’t very efficient). Those hours are nothing to sneeze at. But we had friends at other firms who worked just as hard or harder than we did, yet made significantly less. Several of them would tell us, especially around December, “I wish I had taken that Wachtell offer.”

So if you have the opportunity, go to Wachtell. You won’t be sorry.


http://abovethelaw.com/2006/12/associat ... windfalls/

That being said. Personal preferences matter. If I ever stayed in NYC (which I would never do, yuck) I'd choose a lower ranked firm over a V10, if given the opportunity.


Just curious but did you realize your hate for NYC before or after you chose NYU?

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby Stanford4Me » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:23 am

FiveSermon wrote:Just curious but did you realize your hate for NYC before or after you chose NYU?

Haha, my hate is a little exaggerated. I love NYC, in the sense that I think it's a great place to live/study for a few years as a young adult. The only reason I'm not staying is because I can go back to Texas and enjoy a lower COL while maintaining the same first-year pay (although I'm pretty sure Texas bonuses don't follow NYC market). Before I came I thought I'd want to work here, after being here I realize I only want to study here.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:34 am

Stanford4Me wrote:
FiveSermon wrote:Just curious but did you realize your hate for NYC before or after you chose NYU?

Haha, my hate is a little exaggerated. I love NYC, in the sense that I think it's a great place to live/study for a few years as a young adult. The only reason I'm not staying is because I can go back to Texas and enjoy a lower COL while maintaining the same first-year pay (although I'm pretty sure Texas bonuses don't follow NYC market). Before I came I thought I'd want to work here, after being here I realize I only want to study here.


You do realize that most Texas based firms don't keep up with NYC firms in salary bumps as you get more senior, right?

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby Stanford4Me » Wed Apr 06, 2011 12:46 pm

alumniguy wrote:
Stanford4Me wrote:
FiveSermon wrote:Just curious but did you realize your hate for NYC before or after you chose NYU?

Haha, my hate is a little exaggerated. I love NYC, in the sense that I think it's a great place to live/study for a few years as a young adult. The only reason I'm not staying is because I can go back to Texas and enjoy a lower COL while maintaining the same first-year pay (although I'm pretty sure Texas bonuses don't follow NYC market). Before I came I thought I'd want to work here, after being here I realize I only want to study here.


You do realize that most Texas based firms don't keep up with NYC firms in salary bumps as you get more senior, right?

The bonus I noted was inclusive of raises. Still, I'd rather make 170 in Dallas and enjoy the fact that I have all my debt paid off and have the opportunity to buy my own property than make 230 and have to deal with all the expenses that come with NYC. All of the information I have about Texas pay raises deals with Texas firms (Fulbright, V&E, BB) but I'm not working for a Texas firm, so I have no idea if that has any bearing on what I can expect to make a few years in.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:27 pm

Stanford4Me wrote:
alumniguy wrote:
Stanford4Me wrote:
FiveSermon wrote:Just curious but did you realize your hate for NYC before or after you chose NYU?

Haha, my hate is a little exaggerated. I love NYC, in the sense that I think it's a great place to live/study for a few years as a young adult. The only reason I'm not staying is because I can go back to Texas and enjoy a lower COL while maintaining the same first-year pay (although I'm pretty sure Texas bonuses don't follow NYC market). Before I came I thought I'd want to work here, after being here I realize I only want to study here.


You do realize that most Texas based firms don't keep up with NYC firms in salary bumps as you get more senior, right?

The bonus I noted was inclusive of raises. Still, I'd rather make 170 in Dallas and enjoy the fact that I have all my debt paid off and have the opportunity to buy my own property than make 230 and have to deal with all the expenses that come with NYC. All of the information I have about Texas pay raises deals with Texas firms (Fulbright, V&E, BB) but I'm not working for a Texas firm, so I have no idea if that has any bearing on what I can expect to make a few years in.


The only point I was making was that while a NUMBER of firms start first years at 160 - that doesn't translate into the same salaries throughout your career at the firm. Typically you have to get to mid-level to be pulling in 200k+ in base in NYC (4th years are at 210k). In some secondary markets, you may only get to 200k base as a very senior associate. For example, I believe that 8th years at BB take in 195k. While at most NYC market shops your taking in 280 as an 8th year.

Whether you can make it an 8th year in NYC is a separate story, but as you get more senior, any savings based on cost of living adjustment seems to fall away. I ran the figures in some cost of living calculator and 280k in NYC is equal to about 150k in Houston.

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Re: How are Elite law firms any better than non-Elite ones?

Postby Stanford4Me » Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:34 pm

alumniguy wrote:The only point I was making was that while a NUMBER of firms start first years at 160 - that doesn't translate into the same salaries throughout your career at the firm. Typically you have to get to mid-level to be pulling in 200k+ in base in NYC (4th years are at 210k). In some secondary markets, you may only get to 200k base as a very senior associate. For example, I believe that 8th years at BB take in 195k. While at most NYC market shops your taking in 280 as an 8th year.

Whether you can make it an 8th year in NYC is a separate story, but as you get more senior, any savings based on cost of living adjustment seems to fall away. I ran the figures in some cost of living calculator and 280k in NYC is equal to about 150k in Houston.

Yeah, I don't plan on staying in BigLaw that long. Though, again, if I did I think it would be much easier for me to do so in Texas than it would in NYC. Not based on any COL considerations, but QOL considerations. I'm not saying that BigLaw in Texas is a piece of cake, but the entire culture seems more laid back than the East Coast from my observations/interviews.




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