Deciding on a firm

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Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:33 pm

For all of you who have had to pick a firm after receiving several offers: How did you go about making your decision? Are there any online resources that will give insight into what working at the firm is really like? I'm thinking about going back to several firms to help in the decision making process. What kind of questions would you ask (both associates and recruiting), who would you meet and what would you look out for when visiting?

desertlaw
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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby desertlaw » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:06 pm

Every attorney I talked to, always says that they "went with my gut" when making the final decision. But some objective criteria might be a good idea....

There are probably a few resources like Chambers & Associates that give inside details on things. Searching Above the Law or their Career Center for more info is a good place. (Vault also has some more info, your Career Services office should have special access for more info on the firms).

Personally, I'd like to know if vacation time is respected, if the firm lets you leave at 8 and work from home, asking an associate what she/he has been billing the past 3 months, and what the policy is with "up and out." You may or may not get an honest answer from people about this, but it's worth asking at least. Might want to ask how they handle compensation/bonuses (can probably find this online through Chambers). Probably want to ask about their offer rates of their past few summer classes and how they handled recession (did they layoff, did they do large deferrals, etc --- lots of this could probably be found online).

It MIGHT be a reach, but I just thought about possibly asking if they have firm alumni that you could get in touch with. I doubt they'd give up this info. But if you could find alumni of the firm somehow (maybe your school's office is a good place to check), then you'd get an honest answer from someone who isn't trying to sell you on the firm.

For face-time requirements, someone told me that you should call the firm like at 7, see if anyone answers. Then 8, 9, 10, etc. That might give you more honest answers than simply asking someone. (Some firms might just turn off phones after 5 or 6, but some might keep open for clients?)

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quakeroats
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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby quakeroats » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:10 pm

Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:19 pm

Yeah I am having a tough time with this too. I loved the first firm I interviewed with and they gave me an offer. Honestly, they are just the best for my slice of diversity. I just feel compelled to kick some more tires though. I really wish I had the guts to just take this one and be done with the whole process.

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RVP11
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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby RVP11 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:52 pm

quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:07 pm

RVP11 wrote:
quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.



Why do you think so?

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby TooOld4This » Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:51 pm

Once you have screened out all the low hanging fruit issues (firm being on a death watch list, one firm is known to have a more brutal atmosphere than another, doesn't have a practice area that really fits with your interests, etc.) it really should be about fit.

Unless you have a burning passion to do X, the gradations in the various specialties within the law really pale in comparison to who you are working with day-in, day-out. Walking the halls of the firms, you should have been able to get some sense of the atmosphere. Do people scurry from office to office? Are support staff dower and unwilling to make eye contact? Did you sense that the people you met with were using any code to alert you of issues? Was there a place where you just felt like you fit in?

If you are comparing firms with similar pay scales and practice areas, firm culture will probably be the biggest predictor of how quickly you burn out and jump ship. In a worst case scenario, it is much better to get stuck with boring work with good people than interesting work with people you can't stand to be in the same room with. In the former situation you can bide your time and wait for a good next opportunity. It's in the later situation that I have seen people jump from frying pan to fire and burn out of the profession altogether.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 25, 2011 11:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
RVP11 wrote:
quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.


Why do you think so?


Not RVP, but because the firms in the former group have terrible, demoralizing cultures/lifestyles (even for NYC biglaw) and don't do better/higher caliber work than the firms in the latter group.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
RVP11 wrote:
quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.


Why do you think so?


Not RVP, but because the firms in the former group have terrible, demoralizing cultures/lifestyles (even for NYC biglaw) and don't do better/higher caliber work than the firms in the latter group.


The "terrible, demoralizing culture" at Cravath, S&C is highly overplayed. I have a number of friends who summered at S&C, and they reported it was a reasonably nice place to work. And I don't think Cravath ever had a reptuation for a "terrible" culture. They have a reptuation for working associates somewhat more, but it's more "polite, if a bit cold" then "partners yelling at your face."

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:09 am

So Skadden just sucks?

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So Skadden just sucks?


Lol probably. (Ok in honesty the Skadden partner I interviewed with at OCI was by far the worst one I met during the entire process).

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:50 pm

True story I heard from OCI:

A kid got a Skadden callback, only for the firm to call him/her up again later and say that it was a mistake and that he/she wasn't supposed to get a call. The recruiting person then asked if the student would still like to get the rejection letter, and if so, if the student would like it by email or hard copy.... Douches.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 3:17 pm

try to get candid responses from associates. I imagine phone is probably better because email might be tracked by their firms and they would be uncomfortable giving you the truth. specifically:

-when was the last time you took a vacation? did work interfere at all?
-how many billable hours did you do last year? what was the office avg?
-how does face time play out in the office? is there a time you have to be in by in the morning?

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby rayiner » Sat Aug 27, 2011 3:34 pm

RVP11 wrote:
quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.


That's not a reason to ignore Vault ranking, it's a reason to not treat it as dispositive. Taking Bingham over Ropes Boston, for example, could have been a potentially career ending mistake in 2009 that going to the higher Vault ranked firm could've prevented.

Of course there are great non vault ranked boutiques, but within the same market, Vault can at least give you a rough guess as to the pecking order.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Blindmelon » Sat Aug 27, 2011 3:39 pm

RVP11 wrote:
quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.


Credited.

What did it for me was asking where people left to go after a few years. While overall reputation isn't everything, some firms are known for feeding heavily into different places. I want to eventually work for the fed. gov, so I chose a firm that is basically a rotating door with a lot of agencies.

Look to practice areas. Some firms (especially satellite offices) do a lot of things, but will predominately focus in one area. E.g., if you're working for Goodwin Boston, be prepared to work with generic pharma. If Ropes, a lot of your work will be tech focused.

General location is important. Firms outside NYC/LA/DC seem to be less grinding and more family oriented. Big-city firms though tend to have much more extravagant summer programs. My friends in NYC firms had pretty ridiculous summers (champagne lunches, ridiculous dinners).

Layoffs. Some firms gouged attorneys, so I stayed clear. E.g., Bingham and Goodwin Boston. Some firms had less cuts (like Wilmer) and some really did go out of their way to place people they laid off (like Choate). Some firms no-offered a lot of SAs (Goulston), and some were really conservative with SA hiring and so things were a little more stable (like Nutter).

Going with your "gut feeling" is a tricky one. I easily knocked my choices down to 2 just based on feel. I had a "gut feeling" that one would be more relaxed, but I felt more comfortable with the people at another. Honestly, the decision came down to lateral opportunities, but I would have been happy as a clam to be at the other.

At the end of the day, your choice isn't a death-sentence, you can always try to lateral to another place after a few years. Keep your grades up, and make keep in contact with your friends at other firms.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 4:43 pm

Ask about the yield from the prior year's summer class. Knowing that about my 2L firm would have changed where I ultimately accepted an offer. I only asked about the offer rate and knowing that approximately 14/15 SAs got offers made me feel better.

It wasn't until I started with the firm that I found out that in that summer class, 3-4 decided not to return to the firm. In addition, roughly half of the second year attorneys had already left. Those are huge red flags, but I never thought to ask about those things. Those numbers can, in a snapshot, give an idea of the culture of the firm in a way that makes it hard for the firm to BS about how wonderful it is. 2Ls and junior associates in this economy don't just choose to not return to a place unless it's incredibly toxic.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 5:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Ask about the yield from the prior year's summer class. Knowing that about my 2L firm would have changed where I ultimately accepted an offer. I only asked about the offer rate and knowing that approximately 14/15 SAs got offers made me feel better.

It wasn't until I started with the firm that I found out that in that summer class, 3-4 decided not to return to the firm. In addition, roughly half of the second year attorneys had already left. Those are huge red flags, but I never thought to ask about those things. Those numbers can, in a snapshot, give an idea of the culture of the firm in a way that makes it hard for the firm to BS about how wonderful it is. 2Ls and junior associates in this economy don't just choose to not return to a place unless it's incredibly toxic.


Who do you ask for this information? A partner, associate, or recruiting?

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby de5igual » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:03 pm

rayiner wrote:Of course there are great non vault ranked boutiques, but within the same market, Vault can at least give you a rough guess as to the pecking order.


the rankings are so NYC-centric, though, that in non-east coast markets, vault rankings are essentially meaningless. In tx, it would almost always make more sense to take VE/BB/FJ (and arguably AK, TK, HB - despite them not being vault-ranked) over any V20 satellite office.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:32 pm

bbbbbbbbbb

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rayiner
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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby rayiner » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:44 pm

f0bolous wrote:
rayiner wrote:Of course there are great non vault ranked boutiques, but within the same market, Vault can at least give you a rough guess as to the pecking order.


the rankings are so NYC-centric, though, that in non-east coast markets, vault rankings are essentially meaningless. In tx, it would almost always make more sense to take VE/BB/FJ (and arguably AK, TK, HB - despite them not being vault-ranked) over any V20 satellite office.


You got to use some judgment obviously. Satellite offices in any market are usually second-fiddle to home grown ones. But the Vault rankings peg Kirkland and Sidley as the best big firms in Chicago, and Alston and KS in Atlanta.

Again, not saying you should treat them as dispositive, but they do have value.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
RVP11 wrote:
quakeroats wrote:Whatever you do, ignore Vault rank.


I hate to admit you're right.

Generally, unless you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault ranking should not play a huge role in your decision. And even if you're interested in NYC corporate, Vault rank still shouldn't be the decider - for example, I think taking CSM/S&C/Skadden over DPW/STB is insane.

I took a non-Vault firm over a V5 and a V10 simply because it felt right, and I have very few regrets.



Why do you think so?


Where do lower-ranked V10s like Weil and Kirkland fit into this mix?

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby quakeroats » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:21 pm

rayiner wrote:
f0bolous wrote:
rayiner wrote:Of course there are great non vault ranked boutiques, but within the same market, Vault can at least give you a rough guess as to the pecking order.


the rankings are so NYC-centric, though, that in non-east coast markets, vault rankings are essentially meaningless. In tx, it would almost always make more sense to take VE/BB/FJ (and arguably AK, TK, HB - despite them not being vault-ranked) over any V20 satellite office.


You got to use some judgment obviously. Satellite offices in any market are usually second-fiddle to home grown ones. But the Vault rankings peg Kirkland and Sidley as the best big firms in Chicago, and Alston and KS in Atlanta.

Again, not saying you should treat them as dispositive, but they do have value.


One problem with the Vault ranking is what it purports to measure (i.e., prestigiousness). Even setting aside how imperfectly they define and measure prestige, the rankings are still nearly useless. Their rankings occasionally correlate with the right firm choice for a given student, but so would darts thrown at a board.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby rayiner » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:51 pm

quakeroats wrote:
rayiner wrote:
f0bolous wrote:
rayiner wrote:Of course there are great non vault ranked boutiques, but within the same market, Vault can at least give you a rough guess as to the pecking order.


the rankings are so NYC-centric, though, that in non-east coast markets, vault rankings are essentially meaningless. In tx, it would almost always make more sense to take VE/BB/FJ (and arguably AK, TK, HB - despite them not being vault-ranked) over any V20 satellite office.


You got to use some judgment obviously. Satellite offices in any market are usually second-fiddle to home grown ones. But the Vault rankings peg Kirkland and Sidley as the best big firms in Chicago, and Alston and KS in Atlanta.

Again, not saying you should treat them as dispositive, but they do have value.


One problem with the Vault ranking is what it purports to measure (i.e., prestigiousness). Even setting aside how imperfectly they define and measure prestige, the rankings are still nearly useless. Their rankings occasionally correlate with the right firm choice for a given student, but so would darts thrown at a board.


Vault rankings correlate loosely with lots of important indicators: firm RPL, offer rate in 2009, etc. You're greatly understating their utility by comparing them to a dartboard. Look at the V25. If you don't have a pretty specific practice area in mind, you'd do pretty well to go to S&C or STB in NY or Kirkland in Chicago, Covington or W&C in DC, MoFo in SF, Gibson in LA, or Ropes in Boston.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby quakeroats » Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:23 pm

rayiner wrote:
quakeroats wrote:
rayiner wrote:
f0bolous wrote:Of course there are great non vault ranked boutiques, but within the same market, Vault can at least give you a rough guess as to the pecking order.

the rankings are so NYC-centric, though, that in non-east coast markets, vault rankings are essentially meaningless. In tx, it would almost always make more sense to take VE/BB/FJ (and arguably AK, TK, HB - despite them not being vault-ranked) over any V20 satellite office.


You got to use some judgment obviously. Satellite offices in any market are usually second-fiddle to home grown ones. But the Vault rankings peg Kirkland and Sidley as the best big firms in Chicago, and Alston and KS in Atlanta.

Again, not saying you should treat them as dispositive, but they do have value.


One problem with the Vault ranking is what it purports to measure (i.e., prestigiousness). Even setting aside how imperfectly they define and measure prestige, the rankings are still nearly useless. Their rankings occasionally correlate with the right firm choice for a given student, but so would darts thrown at a board.


Vault rankings correlate loosely with lots of important indicators: firm RPL, offer rate in 2009, etc. You're greatly understating their utility by comparing them to a dartboard. Look at the V25. If you don't have a pretty specific practice area in mind, you'd do pretty well to go to S&C or STB in NY or Kirkland in Chicago, Covington or W&C in DC, MoFo in SF, Gibson in LA, or Ropes in Boston.


You're picking the firms you like (and adding criteria that Vault doesn't) and forgetting the rest.

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Re: Deciding on a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:17 pm

Anyone have thoughts on using Chambers & Partners as well? Seems everyone is focused on Vault but C&P offers "rankings" to a certain degree that could possibly be helpful. Not something that is dispositive, but another resource to help distinguish between firms.




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