Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

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Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:49 pm

The Vault ranking for Southern California goes Gibson, Latham, Munger, Irell, O'Melveny, Quinn, Skadden, Paul Hastings. I'm dinged pre-CB at Munger and Skadden.

Now, I really hate the nagging feeling that fucking Vault.com is playing a subconscious role in the biggest decision of my life. However, I haven't gotten any negative feelings about a firm from any of my interviews. I could see myself at any of them, and nothing in my own experience, my conversations with career advisors, or my conversations with attorneys has prompted me to shift my mental rankings that, for better or worse, originated on Vault.com.

So, for someone looking for general lit, barring any huge differences in "fit" or "gut feel," are there any other considerations that should lead me to prefer Latham or Irell (for example) to Gibson.

Obviously, I know some of the most obvious differences. Irell is So-Cal only and has a pretty different model than the other two. Latham and Gibson have global reach, but Latham is about twice the size. Latham has a very social reptuation, though I'd say from my interviews that Gibson is probably second in that regard. Gibson is best for appellate.

Am I missing anything? Compensation and hours would be comparable, right? Are partnership prospects drastically different?

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:54 pm

Curious what your thoughts are on Irell, and how they are different than the other firms.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:03 pm

You should compare the leverage between Gibson and Irell. That will dictate your partnership prospects. As to whether "global reach" matters, that depends on what you see yourself doing after you leave the firm. If you see yourself sticking around in California, then it won't make a difference.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:04 pm

Also, you shouldn't really rely on the Vault rankings. They're New York centric. Some say they're M&A centric, but I find that debatable. I don't think they really necessarily reflect the pecking order of firms in Los Angeles.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:23 pm

Fresh Prince wrote:You should compare the leverage between Gibson and Irell. That will dictate your partnership prospects. As to whether "global reach" matters, that depends on what you see yourself doing after you leave the firm. If you see yourself sticking around in California, then it won't make a difference.


Uh, low leverage =/= better partnership prospects. It seems like Irell has made very few partners recently.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The Vault ranking for Southern California goes Gibson, Latham, Munger, Irell, O'Melveny, Quinn, Skadden, Paul Hastings. I'm dinged pre-CB at Munger and Skadden.

Now, I really hate the nagging feeling that fucking Vault.com is playing a subconscious role in the biggest decision of my life. However, I haven't gotten any negative feelings about a firm from any of my interviews. I could see myself at any of them, and nothing in my own experience, my conversations with career advisors, or my conversations with attorneys has prompted me to shift my mental rankings that, for better or worse, originated on Vault.com.

So, for someone looking for general lit, barring any huge differences in "fit" or "gut feel," are there any other considerations that should lead me to prefer Latham or Irell (for example) to Gibson.

Obviously, I know some of the most obvious differences. Irell is So-Cal only and has a pretty different model than the other two. Latham and Gibson have global reach, but Latham is about twice the size. Latham has a very social reptuation, though I'd say from my interviews that Gibson is probably second in that regard. Gibson is best for appellate.

Am I missing anything? Compensation and hours would be comparable, right? Are partnership prospects drastically different?


Irell's bonuses tend to be higher than market (http://abovethelaw.com/2010/01/associat ... -twice-sc/) and expected hours are not as high as some other biglaw firms (http://www.top-law-schools.com/irell-manella-llp.html). Also, if you really care that much about the vault rankings, both Irell and Munger are higher on selectivity than the others you listed (http://www.vault.com/wps/portal/usa/ran ... gYear=2012).

They are also in totally different areas of LA - Century City versus downtown, which can make a huge difference depending upon where you want to live (the West side (read: Santa Monica) is really popular, and would be a long commute to downtown but is close to Century City.)

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fresh Prince wrote:You should compare the leverage between Gibson and Irell. That will dictate your partnership prospects. As to whether "global reach" matters, that depends on what you see yourself doing after you leave the firm. If you see yourself sticking around in California, then it won't make a difference.


Uh, low leverage =/= better partnership prospects. It seems like Irell has made very few partners recently.


(1) Why is this anonymous?

(2) Yes, low leverage typically means better partnership prospects. The reason is that with higher leverage, there are built-in expectations of attrition, voluntary or involuntary, in the firm's economic model. These expectations constitute perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in making partner.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:28 pm

Chambers (and multiple partners I've talked to) indicates that the top 3 firms are Gibson, MTO, and Quinn. Irell is probably competitive with those firms if you want IP litigation and a half-notch below if you don't. Gibson and Quinn could not be further apart culturally, but they are probably your best bet for litigation in LA and I would take either above any other firm on your list (unless you like Irell and have a specific reason to go there vs. Gibson or Quinn).

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:32 pm

Fresh Prince wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Fresh Prince wrote:You should compare the leverage between Gibson and Irell. That will dictate your partnership prospects. As to whether "global reach" matters, that depends on what you see yourself doing after you leave the firm. If you see yourself sticking around in California, then it won't make a difference.


Uh, low leverage =/= better partnership prospects. It seems like Irell has made very few partners recently.


(1) Why is this anonymous?

(2) Yes, low leverage typically means better partnership prospects. The reason is that with higher leverage, there are built-in expectations of attrition, voluntary or involuntary, in the firm's economic model. These expectations constitute perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in making partner.


It was anonymous because I was going to share personal knowledge of the situation, but decided against it.

(2) is just not true. If a firm doesn't intend to grow, leverage is irrelevant to partnership chances.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:16 am

(2) is just not true. If a firm doesn't intend to grow, leverage is irrelevant to partnership chances.


It's the rare firm that "doesn't intend to grow."

This argument is getting silly now. You should out yourself now that you decided not to provide that tidbit of personal, valuable information.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:23 am

In my view, Irell is a clear notch above all California firms except Munger. Irell is more profitable than all but Quinn, and it is significantly less leveraged than Quinn (which means more experience as a young associate). Irell also is more selective than every California firm except Munger (which means you'll be surrounded by smarter associates, for whatever that's worth). Since you're into Vault rankings, let me mention this: Irell is fifth most selective firm in the country, after Williams, Wachtell, Munger, and Cravath. Think of it this way: Irell has attracted and retained some of the smartest law students in the country—students who faced your same decision. There's something to be said for the wisdom of the crowds.

Irell pays good bonuses—better than other California firms (at least at 2000-hour level; Quinn may pay more if you bill 2700). Irell has some of the best-known trial lawyers in California (Morgan Chu, John Hueston). Irell also seems to take more cases to trial (though I don't know if they take more to trial than, say, Quinn). Also, Irell has no debt and didn't lay off associates during the recession (unlike, ahem, Latham). And, of course, the downtown-vs-Century City debate should bear on your decision. Finally, Irell lawyers seem great, while Quinn lawyers have the reputation of being less nice.

I would easily take Irell over any California firm other than Munger. The Vault rankings in LA are worthless. Among LA lawyers, there seems to be a clear hierarchy: Munger > Irell > Gibson > Latham/Skadden/Quinn/etc.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:27 am

Not to be mean or anything, but I definitely disagree with several of your points.

(1) Irell might be good at patent litigation, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're good at litigation.

(2) Irell is not *that* selective. Many, many top third types at T6 schools have gotten offers at the firm. I don't really trust the Vault selectivity rankings.

(3) Irell did stealth layoffs. Pretty well known I would think.

"To date, the firm has had no official layoffs, though some Lateral Link Members report that the firm “disguis[ed] layoffs as performance-based terminations.” Most Lateral Link Members think that the firm is well-managed, but say the current state of firm morale ranges from “very low” to “above average.”"

http://careers.abovethelaw.com/firm_snapshots?id=9
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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:28 am

Fresh Prince wrote:
(2) is just not true. If a firm doesn't intend to grow, leverage is irrelevant to partnership chances.


It's the rare firm that "doesn't intend to grow."

This argument is getting silly now. You should out yourself now that you decided not to provide that tidbit of personal, valuable information.


Irell was once like Munger, and the partner to associate ratio was 1-to-1. They left that model to become more profitable 10-15 years ago, and their PPP numbers have dramatically increased, but so has the difficulty of making partner. Partnership chances at Irell now seem to be roughly equivalent to chances at Gibson, but better than the chances at the likes of Quinn.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fresh Prince wrote:
(2) is just not true. If a firm doesn't intend to grow, leverage is irrelevant to partnership chances.


It's the rare firm that "doesn't intend to grow."

This argument is getting silly now. You should out yourself now that you decided not to provide that tidbit of personal, valuable information.


Irell was once like Munger, and the partner to associate ratio was 1-to-1. They left that model to become more profitable 10-15 years ago, and their PPP numbers have dramatically increased, but so has the difficulty of making partner. Partnership chances at Irell now seem to be roughly equivalent to chances at Gibson, but better than the chances at the likes of Quinn.


That's a fairer assessment.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:40 am

Fresh Prince wrote:
(2) is just not true. If a firm doesn't intend to grow, leverage is irrelevant to partnership chances.


It's the rare firm that "doesn't intend to grow."

This argument is getting silly now. You should out yourself now that you decided not to provide that tidbit of personal, valuable information.


Even the Vault guide has an irell "downer" as "difficult to make partner."

An anonymized version of the the personal information I was going to share: I had an in-depth conversation with an Irell associate, who said that it was impossible to make partner, and all the associates know this. Turnover by year 5 is as high as it is at any of the big NYC firms.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:45 am

Irell is a different beast. In many ways it isn't the firm that it once was. The fact that it's now more difficult to make partner, however, doesn't really refute my claim: lower leverage typically means better partnership prospects.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:49 am

Gibson seems to have a work hard/play hard mentality, whereas the vibe at Irell seems a little more serious and intellectual. Anyone else get similar impressions? I'm also intrigued by the "vote on everything" policy at MTO - it seems to mean an offer is less likely after summer there than at other places, NALP 2010 results show Munger at 14 SA's:11 offers versus 37:36 at Irell and 27:26 at Gibson. Anyone have any experience with this?

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:53 am

Fresh Prince wrote:Irell is a different beast. In many ways it isn't the firm that it once was. The fact that it's now more difficult to make partner, however, doesn't really refute my claim: lower leverage typically means better partnership prospects.



Your first post pretty strongly implies that Irell provides better partnership prospects because of its low leverage. That's not true.

In general, I know very little about Irell (or the LA market overall- I only applied to irell/munger) other than the frank discussion with one associate and a few more sanitized discussions with others at a recent CB, so I'll leave the discussion for the more informed.
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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Old Gregg » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:56 am

Your first post pretty strongly implies that Irell provides better partnership prospects because of its low leverage. That's not true.


Well I still think it provides better partnership prospects than Gibson, but I grant that it's debatable.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:Gibson seems to have a work hard/play hard mentality, whereas the vibe at Irell seems a little more serious and intellectual. Anyone else get similar impressions?


This seems right. Munger also is more intellectual. The credentials of a typical lawyer at Munger are better than at Irell, which are better than at Gibson. Hours at Irell seem worse than at Munger or Gibson.

Anonymous User wrote: I'm also intrigued by the "vote on everything" policy at MTO - it seems to mean an offer is less likely after summer there than at other places, NALP 2010 results show Munger at 14 SA's:11 offers versus 37:36 at Irell and 27:26 at Gibson. Anyone have any experience with this?


The vote-on-everything policy gives associates a sense of ownership, as does the fact that the firm shares its financial information with associates (and summer associates). This may be part of the reason that Munger associates rarely leave to join other firms (half of attorneys who start at the firm are there 20 years later). They have a lower summer offer rate, which typically hovers around 80-90%. Last year was surprisingly low, but an associate told me that this summer only one or two out of twenty-five summer associates were no-offered.

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby snailio » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:Chambers (and multiple partners I've talked to) indicates that the top 3 firms are Gibson, MTO, and Quinn. Irell is probably competitive with those firms if you want IP litigation and a half-notch below if you don't. Gibson and Quinn could not be further apart culturally, but they are probably your best bet for litigation in LA and I would take either above any other firm on your list (unless you like Irell and have a specific reason to go there vs. Gibson or Quinn).




CR

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:16 am

I don't envy your choice, OP, with the responses in this thread. Everyone has different, and often conflicting, things to say about every firm. I'm actually in the same choice (so maybe that's why I don't envy it), but here are my impressions of the firms you've listed, though I'm primarily interviewing in San Francisco:

Irell - people are a little strange. Definitely very smart. "Normal" people are SoCal bro type-of-guys. Everyone seems a little older, like 30s-40s, generally. At Quinn, I saw a lot more young people (this is probably from the leverage thing; more young associates at Quinn). The Gibson office I was at tended to be a little older, but seemed cool too. I really don't think there's an important difference in prestige. I'm coming to think that the bullshit you read on this board, and on Vault, is pretty silly - I was speaking with a professor yesterday about the difference between these firms and he basically said, they're all top firms; your decision at this point is unrelated to prestige. I have not investigated lateral prospects, though, so take me with a grain of salt. On the other hand, when I was at the US Attorney's Office, lawyers had come from all sorts of different firms; it seemed like diversity in firm hiring mattered (one from here, a few from there, etc.).

Re "Gibson is great at appellate," I've thrown that out of my calculus; I'm not interested in appellate, and doesn't Ted Olson usually hang out in DC? I guess you've got Boutrous down in LA.

I think Gibson, Quinn and Irell are three different sort of places: Gibson is traditional biglaw, but one of the more cushy in that category. Quinn is sort of weird, but I really like the people there, though I'm a little worried about higher hours and their business model (are they getting huge and what will happen of things turn south?); Irell seems to have an awesome model, solid financials, and is generally reliable, but I wonder if I'd be happy with the people there.

GLHF

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Re: Lit in LA: Choosing a Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:04 pm

OP here. Thanks for everything so far.

As far as something that was touched on above, Irell definitely has a philosophy where they don't intend to grow. So even though their associate ratio is around 1.5:1, yes, the partnership numbers look pretty bleak year to year. Also, although I am skeptical about Vault's selectivity rankings, I definitely get that vibe from Munger and Irell. Munger never even responded to my application, and a friend who just summered there and is friends with the recruiter told me it's because they wouldn't touch anyone from my school below 3.9. I was always surprised I got a CB from Irell, and I put my offer chances no better than 50/50 (CB was Monday). When my conversations with the attorneys there turned to the firm's unique culture and philosophy, everyone said one of the reasons for not growing is that they don't want to dip their hiring standards.

As far as culture, it was interesting at Irell because all the partners I interviewed with seemed very cool and down to earth and more like my "kind" of people. It was the juniors I interviewed and ate lunch with that seemed a little nerdy and awkward. The dynamic between the two associates at lunch was downright bizarre.

What this thread has added to my growing foundation for ordering these firms is that Munger is may be at the top with Gibson/Irell/Quinn a hair below and all three quite different from each other. So it's those differences that should guide my decision. Also, despite Latham being the highest of the bunch in the overall Vault, and #2 in So-Cal Vault, there doesn't seem to be any good reason to choose Latham over Gibson.

I have an offer from Gibson, and my Quinn CB is scheduled for late September on the same day the 28 days expires. Since I think Gibson is a really good fit, I will probably just cancel my Quinn interview. If I get an offer at Irell, I will have to seriously evaluate the differences between Irell and Gibson. I did like Century City quite a bit.




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