small firm employment

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Anonymous User
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small firm employment

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:25 am

any tips/advice?

I have gotten a closer look at big law and even mid law through some friends and am pretty convinced that is not what I want. As of late, it seems I want to get a good amount of experience working in a small firm and then go solo at some point.

1, is this a goal that I should share with people at informationals, etc? If I am trying to network and potentially get a job, is it unwise to say that I basically just want to be there to get enough experience to do my own thing later on?

2, how does one go about seeking these jobs out?


I am a 2L (top 35% at a t2) interested in trusts and estates

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Re: small firm employment

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:any tips/advice?

I have gotten a closer look at big law and even mid law through some friends and am pretty convinced that is not what I want. As of late, it seems I want to get a good amount of experience working in a small firm and then go solo at some point.

1, is this a goal that I should share with people at informationals, etc? If I am trying to network and potentially get a job, is it unwise to say that I basically just want to be there to get enough experience to do my own thing later on?

no. they are running businesses, not charities. hiring you is an investment that wont pay off for a couple of years. no one wants to spend time and resources training you for your own solo/independent career.

beyond that, just in general, employers (legal or otherwise) want to hear that you dying to work for them forever because they are awesome, not use them as a jumping point for a bigger and better opportunity -- even if its true. that's why i find the "be honest" advice for interviews so hilarious: unless you are drowning in options, your job is to tell the interviewers what they want to hear in order to secure a job.

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reasonable_man
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Re: small firm employment

Postby reasonable_man » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:44 am

I am an associate at a small law firm located downtown NYC. It’s a litigation Boutique with 5 to 10 lawyers. I was previously and associate with a mid-sized firm in NYC of about 90 lawyers. I'm happy to answer targeted questions. I'll check back periodically as I'm writing my brief today..

I will not disclose the name of my firm(s) past or present, now will I identify my educational background beyond the following:

U-grad - T25 (for whatever that's worth)
LS - TTT (graduated Top 3rd in 2008)
Passed Bar exam on first try and had a full time offer of employment at the end of my second summer of law school.

During College - Worked 2 years as an intern and then paralegal at a large law firm (200 attorneys in the U.S. and Asia)

LS - Worked for a small solo shop in a rural area during the school year 1L - end of 2L
Summered at firm of 90 lawyers both first and second summer and worked part time during the year as a clerk (eventually received offer and started working full time after the bar exam)

Stayed for 2 years at the mid-sized law firm (post graduation from LS - there 4 years counting summers, etc)

After 2 years of practice moved to the current small firm. I Work on a mix of complex commercial cases, maritime cases, general liability case and insurance coverage.

Anonymous User
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Re: small firm employment

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:25 pm

reasonable_man wrote:I am an associate at a small law firm located downtown NYC. It’s a litigation Boutique with 5 to 10 lawyers. I was previously and associate with a mid-sized firm in NYC of about 90 lawyers. I'm happy to answer targeted questions. I'll check back periodically as I'm writing my brief today..

I will not disclose the name of my firm(s) past or present, now will I identify my educational background beyond the following:

U-grad - T25 (for whatever that's worth)
LS - TTT (graduated Top 3rd in 2008)
Passed Bar exam on first try and had a full time offer of employment at the end of my second summer of law school.

During College - Worked 2 years as an intern and then paralegal at a large law firm (200 attorneys in the U.S. and Asia)

LS - Worked for a small solo shop in a rural area during the school year 1L - end of 2L
Summered at firm of 90 lawyers both first and second summer and worked part time during the year as a clerk (eventually received offer and started working full time after the bar exam)

Stayed for 2 years at the mid-sized law firm (post graduation from LS - there 4 years counting summers, etc)

After 2 years of practice moved to the current small firm. I Work on a mix of complex commercial cases, maritime cases, general liability case and insurance coverage.



thanks.

How did you get the mid-sized firm summer? What were the hours like? And how would you compare the hours/culture between the mid sized and small firm? My main goal is to both get experience and be able to balance family life. I would like to have children some time soon and so that is very important to me.

How long would you say one needs to be working in a small firm to gain enough experience to move onto solo practice?

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reasonable_man
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Re: small firm employment

Postby reasonable_man » Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:I am an associate at a small law firm located downtown NYC. It’s a litigation Boutique with 5 to 10 lawyers. I was previously and associate with a mid-sized firm in NYC of about 90 lawyers. I'm happy to answer targeted questions. I'll check back periodically as I'm writing my brief today..

I will not disclose the name of my firm(s) past or present, now will I identify my educational background beyond the following:

U-grad - T25 (for whatever that's worth)
LS - TTT (graduated Top 3rd in 2008)
Passed Bar exam on first try and had a full time offer of employment at the end of my second summer of law school.

During College - Worked 2 years as an intern and then paralegal at a large law firm (200 attorneys in the U.S. and Asia)

LS - Worked for a small solo shop in a rural area during the school year 1L - end of 2L
Summered at firm of 90 lawyers both first and second summer and worked part time during the year as a clerk (eventually received offer and started working full time after the bar exam)

Stayed for 2 years at the mid-sized law firm (post graduation from LS - there 4 years counting summers, etc)

After 2 years of practice moved to the current small firm. I Work on a mix of complex commercial cases, maritime cases, general liability case and insurance coverage.



thanks.

How did you get the mid-sized firm summer? What were the hours like? And how would you compare the hours/culture between the mid sized and small firm? My main goal is to both get experience and be able to balance family life. I would like to have children some time soon and so that is very important to me.

How long would you say one needs to be working in a small firm to gain enough experience to move onto solo practice?


I got the job through contacts I made working at the larger firm before law school. I think it helps to come into the field with some connections, so getting yourself into the mix before you start is not the worst idea in the world.

Hours will differ from firm to firm, obviously. But at the mid-sized shop I was at, it was not unusual to work 60 to 75 hours in a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

The culture could not be any more different. I enjoyed the mid-sized firm because I was in with a good group of partners and actually became friends with them by the time I left. I routinely meet up with them for lunch or drinks and even still get invites to client events. I was told, expressly, that if I am ever looking for a job, I should look to them first (which was both nice and comforting when I left for a much smaller firm ITE). That said, it was much more like working for a small corporation than a law firm in a lot of ways. By contrast, the small firm I’m at now is way more relaxed and chill of an environment in which to work. I never feel stressed about coming in to work (which I would often feel at the old firm). I mean I feel stress from the job itself (deadlines, etc.), but I do not feel any internal political stress. I’m ultimately very happy I moved. I work significantly less hours in the office and am free to work from home when it makes sense to do so (they bought be a nice brand new laptop my first week and a high end laser printer for my house), so that I could work from home more efficiently. I also have one of the best views in Manhattan of the Hudson over Battery Park and can see clear to the statue of liberty from my own individual office. The office is housed in one of the oldest down town buildings at the top of the building and has a nice old quaint feel about it (which some people would not like – but appeals to me).

Smaller is the way to go for a family/work life balance. That said, don’t rush to be a solo. Getting clients is a very difficult thing to do (I have some of my own now, but not nearly enough to support myself). I think the small firm set up is ideal for a family-person (even more so than a solo practice). If, however, you are dead set on a solo career, I would not leave a firm for at least 5 years and until you have a good client base established.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: small firm employment

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:01 am

I summered at a small firm that I intend to return to after graduation. To answer various questions of yours that you raised in multiple posts:

- I would NOT tell any mid or big firms that you want to do small law or tell any firm whatsoever that you want to eventually enter solo practice. It's just one more reason to ding you.

- As for how to go about finding small firm jobs: the jobs are limited. In a way, small law is harder to find than big law. Not because you're competing against as many qualified people, but because there are far fewer jobs, and not all of them are good. Actually, a lot of them are horrible. A lot of them may require you to work just as many hours as at a big firm but for less compensation. So in the process of looking, you have to be able to separate the good from the bad. You want a small law firm with certain advantages (fewer hours, relaxed work setting) over biglaw, not a firm that sucks as much as biglaw but pays half the salary.

- I got the job through OCI, but I think it was literally the ONLY small law OCI firm on campus at my t-25. The hours were GREAT. Absolutely fantastic. I was the first person in the office every day (not counting the secretaries) at about 8:30 and the last to leave at 4:25 p.m. In other words, none of the attorneys was in the office more than me, and I was there maybe 35 hours per week. I do know the attorneys put in 5-10 hours a week from home. It is ideal for balancing a family. Have an appointment? No problem. Need to get off early for a soccer game? No problem.

- How many years of experience you need before going solo depends on what you want to do solo. If you want to do civil litigation, med mal, personal injury, construction law, real estate, stuff like that, I think five years or more would be ideal. (Keep in mind that at a small firm, you might be a partner after those five years, so you might not want to leave at that point.) If you want to do taxes, probate, criminal defense, adoptions, and juvie court, you could probably learn enough in just a few years.

Hope that helps. Again, I think the key is to find a firm that pays well and isn't just a crappy microcosm of big law. Oh, and you need a good mentor within the small group of attorneys at a small firm whether you want to go solo or just be a good attorney for the firm. It's going to be hard to learn from a group of idiots or a-holes, but you'll be stuck with a smaller group than the endless resources you'd have at biglaw. Good luck; there are good small firms out there that I think can be very rewarding if you find them.

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reasonable_man
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Re: small firm employment

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:I summered at a small firm that I intend to return to after graduation. To answer various questions of yours that you raised in multiple posts:

- I would NOT tell any mid or big firms that you want to do small law or tell any firm whatsoever that you want to eventually enter solo practice. It's just one more reason to ding you.

- As for how to go about finding small firm jobs: the jobs are limited. In a way, small law is harder to find than big law. Not because you're competing against as many qualified people, but because there are far fewer jobs, and not all of them are good. Actually, a lot of them are horrible. A lot of them may require you to work just as many hours as at a big firm but for less compensation. So in the process of looking, you have to be able to separate the good from the bad. You want a small law firm with certain advantages (fewer hours, relaxed work setting) over biglaw, not a firm that sucks as much as biglaw but pays half the salary.

- I got the job through OCI, but I think it was literally the ONLY small law OCI firm on campus at my t-25. The hours were GREAT. Absolutely fantastic. I was the first person in the office every day (not counting the secretaries) at about 8:30 and the last to leave at 4:25 p.m. In other words, none of the attorneys was in the office more than me, and I was there maybe 35 hours per week. I do know the attorneys put in 5-10 hours a week from home. It is ideal for balancing a family. Have an appointment? No problem. Need to get off early for a soccer game? No problem.

- How many years of experience you need before going solo depends on what you want to do solo. If you want to do civil litigation, med mal, personal injury, construction law, real estate, stuff like that, I think five years or more would be ideal. (Keep in mind that at a small firm, you might be a partner after those five years, so you might not want to leave at that point.) If you want to do taxes, probate, criminal defense, adoptions, and juvie court, you could probably learn enough in just a few years.

Hope that helps. Again, I think the key is to find a firm that pays well and isn't just a crappy microcosm of big law. Oh, and you need a good mentor within the small group of attorneys at a small firm whether you want to go solo or just be a good attorney for the firm. It's going to be hard to learn from a group of idiots or a-holes, but you'll be stuck with a smaller group than the endless resources you'd have at biglaw. Good luck; there are good small firms out there that I think can be very rewarding if you find them.




This is credited. My small firm has 3 partners. All 3 came from biglaw. That said, we have insanely good benefits (medical is fully covered by the firm), and we get raises and bonuses each year. Basically, the firm is made up of partners who determined a long time ago that they wanted to do high quality work outside of the biglaw setting. This is very different than working a shit-law mill where you will work insane hours for very low pay. Make no mistake, I do not make biglaw money. But I do get paid well, have a ton of freedom and work in a super relaxed environment. My goal is to make partner here one day and never leave because at this point, I could not even imagine wanting to switch firms. My bosses are brilliant and willing to teach and I’m given the opportunity to learn. Within 5 months of being here I sat second chair in a major trial in the Southern District of New York. That is unique.

Firm jobs like mine are few and far between. For ever firm like mine, there are 10 that use associates as fungible assets and treat them like garbage. You have to be very careful and very selective when dealing with small firms. There are no Vault rankings to guide you, so the leg work is more extensive in determining if the firm is “good” in general and if it is a good fit for you.

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SteelReserve
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Re: small firm employment

Postby SteelReserve » Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:30 am

Hey OP...for trusts and estates litigation, consider obtaining a trial level clerkship in your state post-grad on the civil side, so you can learn all the procedural rules of your state and get some experience with T&E litigation. Better yet, if your state is one of the few that still separates equity from law or even has its own Probate division (cough New Jersey cough), you should absolutely target said division and specify clearly in your cover letter why you are interested specifically in T&E.




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