fingersxd wrote:Dumb question from an OL here, but can someone clarify what they mean by "biglaw" ... I ask only b/c it seems that different posters ocassionally imply different things (i.e. NLJ250 v. V100). I would contend that there is a a fairly sizeable difference b/t the top 100 and the 150 that follow (may not from 100->110 or so, but there is, i would suspect, some serious stratification even at those levels).
Also, where exactly is the cutoff (approx.) where pay transitions from 6 to 5 digits?
There's no hard and fast rule. Most people are referring broadly to large firms that pay 6-figure salary to associates and handle complex/large cases for important/large/wealthy clients. The various rankings don't correspond directly to any logical definition (NLJ 250 is just the 250 firms with the most attorneys, Vault 100 are the 100 most 'prestigious' firms, AmLaw rankings are all based on revenue and profits, etc.). Those are only rough proxies for big law, and it's very rough. In general, for example, most people would consider a 20 person boutique handling complex commercial litigation and paying the 1 new associate they hire each year $140,000 big law, but it would never fit into the above categories. Likewise there are some firms in the NLJ 250 that pay well under 6-figures and most wouldn't really consider biglaw.
In practice, a large majority of firm jobs that people get from top law schools via fall OCI are biglaw and in the Vault 100, but there's always a smattering of other firms.
At the end of the day it doesn't really matter. The world hums along just fine without a rigorous definition of biglaw, and the gray area is pretty slight. The term is only really used to distinguish desirable jobs that can quickly pay down debt and give an investment in law school a steep RoI from those which, however satisfying, are less obviously desirable.