Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

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PKSebben
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby PKSebben » Sat Apr 23, 2011 8:32 am

[quote="Ikki"]I figured this is the best place to post my question. Does the OP, PKSebben or any other attorneys doing biglaw know how accurate this article is?

http://www.lateralattorneyreport.com/2011/04/the-importance-of-law-firm-economics-to-your-legal-career/

It's a really interesting article, and if at least half of it is true, I think everyone aiming for biglaw should read it.

EDIT: The article is really long but it goes into detail on how law firm economics work. The article explains the role of the junior associate, senior associate, and partners. One of the main points is to explain how important the billable hour is for the success of the junior associate and that being successful at one's work does not translate at doing the work as efficiently as possible (e.g. billing less hours).
Here are some of the paragraphs I found most interesting.

[quote]

Fuck that article -- it's a scare piece and not useful for someone choosing between large law firms. The basic structure is right -- meaning that law firms make money through leveraging junior associates but it is not necessary to work 70 hours a week. That's 3000+ billables a year. I'm on track for 2400 hours this year and the firm is ecstatic. I haven't even made a conscience decision to work that hard, that's just how much work I've needed to get done. Some at my firm do it, but I can count those people on one hand. Also, if you think senior associates are not in demand you should check who is hiring right now. 6+ years of experience is the fucking sweet spot and those cats have their pick of jobs. Also, those billable rates are from like 10 years ago. I bill out at $320 an hour.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:02 am

roranoa wrote:Thanks for the reply!

I have more questions.

1. Speaking of billable hours, OP said that on a light day he/she works around 8:30 to 18:30 and on busy days he/she works until 21:30. But I'm sure there are days like when you're working until 3 am or 4 am and coming back to work at 8.

So, how often do you work all nighters or at least past midnight? (in relative ratio to light days)

2. I'm not socially awkward nor do I have a d-bag character but I am a bit introverted. I can keep a general conversation but I'm certainly not the most likable/interesting person to have a 1:1 personal conversation with(unless I've known the person for quite a while).

So what kind of demeanor or character do you need to make partner? What do you mean when you say that you have to be able to be put in front of clients? Do you mean in a business situation? Also, how important is it to keep/create a personal relationship with the partners you work for?

3. At what point in your career are you asked to bring in business? (5, 6th year) Or do you have to just do it one day even when nobody asked?

[Edited for clarity]


1. It happens but actually pretty rarely unless you're at trial. I've work past midnight maybe 3-4 times a year. Some people do it more often, but I'm not really able to function well past 2 so it's diminishing returns with me. I've only pulled a true all-nighter once in my career.

2. In litigation, there will be times when you have to work in a group to get something done. People have to like you enough to not want to kill you at 10-11PM working on a brief. After that, as a midlevel I have a fair amount of client interaction, meetings, pitches that kind of thing. It's important that the partners like your work, like working with you, and can count on you. You don't need to be best friends, but it helps if they don't mind taking a long flight out for a dep, or sitting in car for 5 hours driving to the client, etc.

3. Some firms probably start around the 6-8th year range. At my firm, there are a lot of service partners, we have too many institutional clients where it's very difficult to bring in new clients in my field, so there's no real expectation to bring in clients. As long as you can be a good service partner for an institutional client, they'll keep you around at my firm.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:09 am

Ikki wrote:I figured this is the best place to post my question. Does the OP, PKSebben or any other attorneys doing biglaw know how accurate this article is?

http://www.lateralattorneyreport.com/2011/04/the-importance-of-law-firm-economics-to-your-legal-career/

It's a really interesting article, and if at least half of it is true, I think everyone aiming for biglaw should read it.

EDIT: The article is really long but it goes into detail on how law firm economics work. The article explains the role of the junior associate, senior associate, and partners. One of the main points is to explain how important the billable hour is for the success of the junior associate and that being successful at one's work does not translate at doing the work as efficiently as possible (e.g. billing less hours).
Here are some of the paragraphs I found most interesting.

One of the most important aspects of your legal career-and almost among the most mysterious to young attorneys and others working both inside and outside of law firms-is law firm economics. The economics of your particular law firm will have profound significance in terms of what happens with your legal career. Many legal careers end up being quite successful in certain law firm economic environments where they might fail in other economic environments. Smart attorneys and law students should have a good understanding of law firm economics before joining any law firm.


Generally-and indeed almost always-the law firm as an institution is almost never guilty of padding its bills and the time its associates work on various matters. I have never personally encountered an episode of this occurring. However, law firms do as institutions push both their partners and associates to pad their bills. Since the client is being charged on the basis of the billable hour, the client will receive an accurate bill for the hours reported by the attorneys who worked on a given matter. Whether or not this bill accurately reflects the amount of time necessary to complete a given task is another story.


The organization of most American law firms is as follows. First, the law firm generally will have a least a few law clerks who are law students or waiting for bar results. In large law firms, most law clerks are called summer associates. Second, the law firm will have junior, midlevel and senior associates. Third, the law firm will have attorneys at a counsel level and partners. At the partner level, there may also be levels of partners such as income partners and equity partners. At each stage of your seniority with a law firm, your value to the law firm will change and the expectations the law firm has of you from an economic perspective will change.


Law Clerk (Summer Associate) $140/hour
1st Year $170/hour
2nd Year $215/hour
3rd Year $265/hour
4th Year $310/hour
—-
Partner $400+/hour


In considering the above billing rates you need to consider it from the point of view of the law firm and also the client. I personally hire attorneys all the time for the companies I work for. When you hire a law firm, you are generally working directly with a partner who will figure out the “most efficient way” to get the work done for you. Early on in your legal matter, there are usually a variety of legal matters that can be researched and analyzed. The partner may already understand these issues; however, he or she will generally say something like this to the client:


The work is then handed off to a junior associate. The junior associate knows that they are valued by their firm based on their individual productivity (i.e., how many hours they bill) and they have every incentive to work just as hard as they can and as many hours as they can on the project. The partner then can do more interesting work and rest assured that as many hours as possible will be given to the task and the bill correspondingly increased. None of this is to say anything dishonest is occurring; however, on many levels it may be:


I'm only reading your summary but if your question is, is there an incentive to overbill? Not in my experience. Clients these days are all acutely aware of legal costs. Also with client with a long history with your firm, they know approximately how long things should take from people at different levels. You have a lot of pressure to be efficient and get things done, because the last thing you want to be known as is someone who bills a lot more for the same tasks as other associates your level. I know associates who have gotten lectured about being efficient because their billing was out of line with the tasks they were given. Now, there are some cases where the client isn't really cost-conscious and there isn't that much pressure, but partners still want you to be efficient, at least that's been my experience.

As far as having different billings rates for different year levels, that is true, every year your billing rate goes up, and every year you're expected to have a bit more responsibility.

AlanShoreDisciple
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby AlanShoreDisciple » Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:29 pm

As someone who wishes to go into litigation and is curious about big law, I just have to ask: If you had to do it over again would you choose law as a career? and would you still stick with working in biglaw?

roranoa
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby roranoa » Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:41 am

Thanks for your replies!

Again, I have another question.

When you got out and do OCI's (as a interviewer) do you have a prepared list of questions to ask the interviewee? If you do, can you share that list? (I'm just curious)

If you don't have a prepared list, do you just ask whatever comes to mind by reading the interviewees' resume? But then how do you decide whether to give the person a call back? Just by the feel of the persons' character?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:36 am

AlanShoreDisciple wrote:As someone who wishes to go into litigation and is curious about big law, I just have to ask: If you had to do it over again would you choose law as a career? and would you still stick with working in biglaw?


That's a tough question, I think I would choose law as a career and I'd stick with biglaw, but I don't think I'm set on being in Biglaw for my entire career. I could see myself moving in house in a few years.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:41 am

roranoa wrote:Thanks for your replies!

Again, I have another question.

When you got out and do OCI's (as a interviewer) do you have a prepared list of questions to ask the interviewee? If you do, can you share that list? (I'm just curious)

If you don't have a prepared list, do you just ask whatever comes to mind by reading the interviewees' resume? But then how do you decide whether to give the person a call back? Just by the feel of the persons' character?


I don't really have a set list, there are a few standards: why law school, why this firm, what type of law do you want to practice, the standards. I don't ask any of the "where do you see yourself in five years" or the "what's your biggest weakness" questions because I think those are useless. I also tend to ask about things/experiences on the resume. And basically it's all about personality. Either you have the grades or you don't, if you don't there is nothing that you can do in your interview to overcome that. Once you have the grades it's basically just finding people that I would like to work with. What students don't always understand is that at least in my experience, the OCI interviewer really has to go to bat for each person they want to call back. There's always more people you want to call back than spaces (at least nowadays).

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby crumpetsandtea » Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:49 pm

Thanks for both your threads, they've been REALLY helpful. :mrgreen:

AlanShoreDisciple
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby AlanShoreDisciple » Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:53 pm

crumpetsandtea wrote:Thanks for both your threads, they've been REALLY helpful. :mrgreen:


I second that, and one more question.

How often do you find yourself having to work weekends?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:56 pm

AlanShoreDisciple wrote:
crumpetsandtea wrote:Thanks for both your threads, they've been REALLY helpful. :mrgreen:


I second that, and one more question.

How often do you find yourself having to work weekends?


Fairly often. I'd say at the minimum I do a few hours Saturday or Sunday but working all weekend doesn't happen all that often unless I'm going up against a deadline. Remember though, that you're pretty much on call every weekend all day. I check my mail at least every few hours and if a question comes in, I have to get to it as soon as possible. The thing that drives a lot of young associates crazy is feeling that you're always on.

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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby Sup Kid » Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:06 pm

3rdYrLitigator wrote:I'd say at the minimum I do a few hours Saturday or Sunday

Let's say you're working 6 hours on the weekend. Is that all at the office, all at home, or a mix of both?

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pjo
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby pjo » Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:41 pm

How often do you have to travel (if at all) for your firm? What kinds of things would lead to you having to travel?

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skw
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby skw » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:12 pm

My situation is somewhat different from most law students in that I am 12 years out of undergrad and I spent those 12 years in biotechnology. I worked selling enabling technologies to biotech and pharma companies, so I've been involved in complex technology in a consultative sales capacity and also in leading negotiations for multi-million dollar deals. My desired career path is to sit for the patent bar and to work in patent prosecution, or possibly patent litigation. (I added the litigation possibility recently because I understand an advanced degree is often desirable for patent prosecution -- I just have a BS in Biology with a Genetics concentration).

I was curious if you could comment on how my work experience will play with 'big law' in North Carolina as I try to break into IP. Big law is in quotes because obviously NC is not the same as NY or LA, or even DC, but my husband and I are settled near Research Triangle Park, NC, and I'm figuring that with the biotech concentration here, I should be ok.

So, my actual question: Besides taking the patent bar, do you have any suggestions for activities I could pursue (other than getting kick ass grades) that will increase my chances in this field?

Thank you for your thoughts and for taking questions. Reading your posts is very helpful.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:17 pm

Sup Kid wrote:
3rdYrLitigator wrote:I'd say at the minimum I do a few hours Saturday or Sunday

Let's say you're working 6 hours on the weekend. Is that all at the office, all at home, or a mix of both?


I think I could do more work from home on the weekends if I wanted to, not many people go in, but I prefer to work in the office, so usually it's there.

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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:19 pm

pjo wrote:How often do you have to travel (if at all) for your firm? What kinds of things would lead to you having to travel?


Depends on the stage of the case, for the most part, not a lot of travel, but then there will be a month or two of constant travel. Usually it's travel for meeting the client, taking depositions, or going to the court for one reason or another. That's all the travel I've done.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:22 pm

skw wrote:My situation is somewhat different from most law students in that I am 12 years out of undergrad and I spent those 12 years in biotechnology. I worked selling enabling technologies to biotech and pharma companies, so I've been involved in complex technology in a consultative sales capacity and also in leading negotiations for multi-million dollar deals. My desired career path is to sit for the patent bar and to work in patent prosecution, or possibly patent litigation. (I added the litigation possibility recently because I understand an advanced degree is often desirable for patent prosecution -- I just have a BS in Biology with a Genetics concentration).

I was curious if you could comment on how my work experience will play with 'big law' in North Carolina as I try to break into IP. Big law is in quotes because obviously NC is not the same as NY or LA, or even DC, but my husband and I are settled near Research Triangle Park, NC, and I'm figuring that with the biotech concentration here, I should be ok.

So, my actual question: Besides taking the patent bar, do you have any suggestions for activities I could pursue (other than getting kick ass grades) that will increase my chances in this field?

Thank you for your thoughts and for taking questions. Reading your posts is very helpful.


Well, I don't know if your experience in sales is going to be looked upon as favorably as if you worked in a lab, but that's just a guess. I also don't know a thing about the NC market, or what firms are there, so I can't really say much about that. But as to your overall question, I would say that just do the standard law school things, good grades, law review, get published, get on the executive board, and take the patent bar.

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PKSebben
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby PKSebben » Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:46 pm

3rdYrLitigator wrote:
Sup Kid wrote:
3rdYrLitigator wrote:I'd say at the minimum I do a few hours Saturday or Sunday

Let's say you're working 6 hours on the weekend. Is that all at the office, all at home, or a mix of both?


I think I could do more work from home on the weekends if I wanted to, not many people go in, but I prefer to work in the office, so usually it's there.


My firm strongly encourages remote working during non-facetime hours. If you want to book it at 7pm and work from home, it's okay. I almost never have to come in on the weekends. I've been the office one time on a weekend and the only reason was so we could manage the contract d00ds. You are correct that always being "on" was the biggest shock to me when I started. I've since learned that my firm is pretty reasonable about being "on." It's made pretty clear when things are happening and when you should be a little more actively engaged in checking the blackberry. Other times, checking in twice a day on a weekend is fine. Also, at my firm, people honestly try to shelve bullshit until Monday and if they send you an email, it's per se not urgent -- if something is going down and it's all hands on deck, they'll call you on the phone. It allows partners to catch up on their housekeeping emails without sending juniors into a complete panic. IMO, it's a more humane system because no partner wants to call an associate for something stupid, but they will have no hesitation to if it's a true fire drill.

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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby Renzo » Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:58 pm

What should we incoming Summer's know/be aware of? What do you wish someone had told you when you were a n00b?

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AntipodeanPhil
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby AntipodeanPhil » Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:19 pm

3rdYrLitigator: thank you very much for taking the time to do this! I had questions, but I see you've already answered them. I'm trying to decide whether to apply to law school next year, and this information has been enormously helpful.

I'm sure a lot of people here really appreciate your time.

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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby yessuh » Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:59 pm

What would be your best advice for turning a 2L SA into a permanent offer?

pereira6
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby pereira6 » Sun Apr 24, 2011 10:22 pm

I read about 80% of what was in both threads, and I'll echo the thanks by the other posters.

Sorry if I missed the answers to these questions:

Did you have work experience before your current job? If so, how much did it help land you the job? For those without work experience (read: me), what can they do to make up for it besides grades?

Also, what was your undergrad major? Did it help you with your writing skills that you say are very useful now, or was law school the primary source for acquiring good writing skills?

Thanks!

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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:39 am

pereira6 wrote:I read about 80% of what was in both threads, and I'll echo the thanks by the other posters.

Sorry if I missed the answers to these questions:

Did you have work experience before your current job? If so, how much did it help land you the job? For those without work experience (read: me), what can they do to make up for it besides grades?

Also, what was your undergrad major? Did it help you with your writing skills that you say are very useful now, or was law school the primary source for acquiring good writing skills?

Thanks!


How much do you think the "bio page resume lines" help the development of a biglaw career? Summa cum laude vs. magna cum laude; and two CoA clerkships vs one CoA; are my primary questions (and the reason I made this post anonymous - mods, please don't un-anon-ize me). Does the answer change depending on whether you work at a "Free market" or "Cravath-style" firm with respect to work assignments (i.e., are partners going to be more willing to give the guy with more resume lines work when s/he knocks on the partner's door on day one)? My intuition is "probably not", but I've heard mixed things.

What advice would you give to someone who was hired as a 3L/during the clerkship year for his/her first day to quickly start building relationships with people who will give him/her work? I'm concerned that I'm going to show up at the firm as an entirely unknown quantity, and that I may have a harder time shaking down work as a result.

How soon did you start feeling pressure to specialize? How long is it possible to avoid specialization without having a negative impact on your ability to get work/career prospects? Do you think holding off and being more of a generalist makes it easier to land an in-house gig, but more difficult to make partner?

Are you trying to make partner?

Do you think trying to write/publish articles during a clerkship year will be beneficial from a career standpoint?

Do you think publishing shorter pieces/client notices/blogs helps people drum up business, or at least improve their visibility?

Since you're in Chicago - do you know anyone who works at Bartlit Beck? Is it really all it's cracked up to be?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:23 am

Renzo wrote:What should we incoming Summer's know/be aware of? What do you wish someone had told you when you were a n00b?


Take it seriously, as if your job depended on it, because it very well might. Don't be afraid to ask questions about your assignment, and make sure you know the parameters as well as when it's due. As a summer, taking a ton of time to finish something generally isn't too big of a deal, so make sure you do a solid job, but also be aware if there are any pressing deadlines. That's about it.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:24 am

yessuh wrote:What would be your best advice for turning a 2L SA into a permanent offer?


Just do solid work. Take it seriously as if it's an actual job.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw Associate Taking Questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:27 am

pereira6 wrote:I read about 80% of what was in both threads, and I'll echo the thanks by the other posters.

Sorry if I missed the answers to these questions:

Did you have work experience before your current job? If so, how much did it help land you the job? For those without work experience (read: me), what can they do to make up for it besides grades?

Also, what was your undergrad major? Did it help you with your writing skills that you say are very useful now, or was law school the primary source for acquiring good writing skills?

Thanks!


There's no way to make up for a lack of work experience, but most students are still coming through without any so I don't think it's that big of a deal.

My undergrad did not help me with the type of legal writing I do, it was mostly law school that taught me how to write a brief. Your first year writing seminar will be useful, probably more useful than a lot of the other classes you take.




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