Importance of high Vault firm

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Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:47 am

I am having trouble deciding between a V10 NYC firm and a low V100 firm in a secondary market. I am litigation, and the V10 firm has an elite litigation group. I think I would love the work there, but I would rather work in the secondary market, since all my family and friends are there and I like the city better. I feel like the V100 firm is a great fit and I could bill 2100-2200 hours and be viewed as ambitious, whereas I'd probably only make it a few years at that level in the V10 firm. I think I could also live a better lifestyle and pay off my loans more quickly on my salary in the secondary market.

I know the big thing everyone is going to say is "exit options" which admittedly are great from the V10 firm. However, I think the option I would like to exit to would be a firm in my home city where I'd enjoy the work, even if it's not quite as sophisticated. I also interviewed at other firms in the secondary market, and it seems like people jump around from firm to firm often, so while I may not have an exit option to be a Manhattan AUSA or something, I would probably be marketable to other firms in my home city if things don't work out long term. Am I missing anything?

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby kaiser » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:57 am

People wildly underestimate and undervalue the importance of fit and comfort. If the secondary market firm is a place with good people, a tight-knit environment, low turnover, etc then you can certainly make an argument for taking it over a V10 firm. This isn't the US News school rankings, where opportunities monumentally decrease as you go down the list. That really isn't the case when it comes to Vault firms.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Renzo » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:00 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:No, you are not missing anything. Pick the firm in your hometown and never look back- you will be much happier in the long run.

Yep.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby quakeroats » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am having trouble deciding between a V10 NYC firm and a low V100 firm in a secondary market. I am litigation, and the V10 firm has an elite litigation group. I think I would love the work there, but I would rather work in the secondary market, since all my family and friends are there and I like the city better. I feel like the V100 firm is a great fit and I could bill 2100-2200 hours and be viewed as ambitious, whereas I'd probably only make it a few years at that level in the V10 firm. I think I could also live a better lifestyle and pay off my loans more quickly on my salary in the secondary market.

I know the big thing everyone is going to say is "exit options" which admittedly are great from the V10 firm. However, I think the option I would like to exit to would be a firm in my home city where I'd enjoy the work, even if it's not quite as sophisticated. I also interviewed at other firms in the secondary market, and it seems like people jump around from firm to firm often, so while I may not have an exit option to be a Manhattan AUSA or something, I would probably be marketable to other firms in my home city if things don't work out long term. Am I missing anything?


Ignore the Vault rankings and do more research. Start here: http://www.chambers-associate.com/ read each firm's profile. Next go here: http://www.chambersandpartners.com/ do the same for the practice areas that interest you. Next, start calling alumni that work or have worked at each firm. Ask them if they can chat for 10 minutes and go over what they think. Tell them your story and see what they suggest. After you finish with that, do some more research into stability, what kind of work each firm offers, how each firm is perceived in your home market, how stable and how well they're doing, etc.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:14 pm

OP here - Thanks for the responses. I was definitely leaning towards the lower Vault firm already, but I guess we are just conditioned to be so prestige-conscious in this field that we want to look at rankings for everything.

Quakeroats - I appreciate the point on stability, I do think the V10 firm is more stable - they no-offered/laid off far less people during the recession, the summer program is longer, and the PPP is way higher. I still may go back and visit each one.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby quakeroats » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Quakeroats - I appreciate the point on stability, I do think the V10 firm is more stable - they no-offered/laid off far less people during the recession, the summer program is longer, and the PPP is way higher. I still may go back and visit each one.


Visits are only marginally useful. You'll only see sunshine and rainbows. The things I mentioned will probably be more helpful.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Old Gregg » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:20 pm

Typically, the more prestigious the firm, the more they can command high rates and have clients pay them without complaint even during a recession. Less prestigious firms are not only facing lower demand for their services, but clients that are forcing them to cut their rates and, therefore, to cut their costs. Associates at lower ranked firms (again, with obvious exceptions) tend to have poorer morale, less job stability, and are most susceptible to sustaining a pay-cut/salary freeze.

Now whether there is necessarily a lifestyle benefit to working at the lower ranked firm... depends on the market. In NYC? No. If you're debating between a V10 in NYC and a V100 in Houston, there's probably a net lifestyle benefit at the V100. Moreover, if the V100 is at or near the top of the market in which it's located, it's more immune to the problems I outlined above, as they can still command premium rates from local clients. However, you must also examine the economy of the market, as a recession there will still hurt job stability. I'd surmise that starting out at Honigman in Detroit is probably a nightmare compared to starting out at Cleary in NYC.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Renzo » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I appreciate the point on stability, I do think the V10 firm is more stable - they no-offered/laid off far less people during the recession, the summer program is longer, and the PPP is way higher. I still may go back and visit each one.


Be careful. None of the things you listed is a good indicator of stability. For example: Many firms had high PPP pre-recession thanks to high leverage, and maintained that high PPP through the downturn by de-leveraging (also know as "firing people"). Similarly, a shorter summer program could be viewed as a sign that they are conservative about costs, and that's good for a firm's stability.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby CanuckObserver » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:34 pm

It sounds to me that you already know in your heart where you want to be.

It is never too early or too late to leave that weird bubble that is common on TLS where people seem to list "prestige" before fit, comfort, enjoyment and so on. It sounds like home is to you in the secondary market, a healthy support system cannot be underrated.

You may even find that the firm in your home town is not one you want to leave (it is possible to choose a firm without looking at exit options before you even start!). Besides, if you want to stay in that secondary market I would suggest you will have little problem lateraling down the road. Nor does it mean you will end up with uninteresting work. You may not have the huge players but even in a small firm, you may be surprised at who walks into your office and what kind of issues you are dealing with. Especially for litigation, if you truly enjoy litigation in its many forms.
Last edited by CanuckObserver on Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Old Gregg » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:37 pm

"prestige" before fit, comfort, enjoyment and so on.


Lower ranking doesn't necessarily lead to better fit, comfort, or enjoyment--not that I'm saying that you're arguing that. A lot of lower ranked firms offer poorer stability and make associates were pretty dreadful hours, with a higher proportion of them on menial tasks. Never underestimate how much fearing for your job influences your enjoyment.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:41 pm

Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I appreciate the point on stability, I do think the V10 firm is more stable - they no-offered/laid off far less people during the recession, the summer program is longer, and the PPP is way higher. I still may go back and visit each one.


Be careful. None of the things you listed is a good indicator of stability. For example: Many firms had high PPP pre-recession thanks to high leverage, and maintained that high PPP through the downturn by de-leveraging (also know as "firing people"). Similarly, a shorter summer program could be viewed as a sign that they are conservative about costs, and that's good for a firm's stability.


OP here - What would you consider to be a good indicator of stability? I believe the V10 firm only laid off support staff during the recession, and no associates or partners. So, if they kept high PPP, without "de-leveraging", isn't that a good sign by your reasoning?

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby quakeroats » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I appreciate the point on stability, I do think the V10 firm is more stable - they no-offered/laid off far less people during the recession, the summer program is longer, and the PPP is way higher. I still may go back and visit each one.


Be careful. None of the things you listed is a good indicator of stability. For example: Many firms had high PPP pre-recession thanks to high leverage, and maintained that high PPP through the downturn by de-leveraging (also know as "firing people"). Similarly, a shorter summer program could be viewed as a sign that they are conservative about costs, and that's good for a firm's stability.


OP here - What would you consider to be a good indicator of stability? I believe the V10 firm only laid off support staff during the recession, and no associates or partners. So, if they kept high PPP, without "de-leveraging", isn't that a good sign by your reasoning?


Almost everyone in the V10 let go of people from 2008-2010. They did it in less overt ways than, say, Latham, but they still did it. Btw, why don't you at least tell us which V10?

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Old Gregg » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:46 pm

I believe the V10 firm only laid off support staff during the recession, and no associates or partners. So, if they kept high PPP, without "de-leveraging", isn't that a good sign by your reasoning?


Increased PPP is only a good sign if there's also an increase in revenue. Without that revenue increase, you can tell that the profits came from cost-cutting as opposed to actual growth.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby CanuckObserver » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:46 pm

Fresh Prince wrote:
"prestige" before fit, comfort, enjoyment and so on.


Lower ranking doesn't necessarily lead to better fit, comfort, or enjoyment--not that I'm saying that you're arguing that. A lot of lower ranked firms offer poorer stability and make associates were pretty dreadful hours, with a higher proportion of them on menial tasks. Never underestimate how much fearing for your job influences your enjoyment.


Yes, I was not suggesting that all lower ranked firms offer better fit or comfort, however, OP has stressed he really liked the people at the V100, and that he really is comfortable being in his hometown (fit extends beyond the office doors). Menial tasks are not reserved for lower ranking firms alone, that all depends on the firms attitude towards work distribution to young associates. I have seen plenty of associates in high ranked firms in primary markets who have done very little after a couple years compared to associates in smaller firms in secondary markets.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Old Gregg » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:52 pm

CanuckObserver wrote:
Fresh Prince wrote:
"prestige" before fit, comfort, enjoyment and so on.


Lower ranking doesn't necessarily lead to better fit, comfort, or enjoyment--not that I'm saying that you're arguing that. A lot of lower ranked firms offer poorer stability and make associates were pretty dreadful hours, with a higher proportion of them on menial tasks. Never underestimate how much fearing for your job influences your enjoyment.


Yes, I was not suggesting that all lower ranked firms offer better fit or comfort, however, OP has stressed he really liked the people at the V100, and that he really is comfortable being in his hometown (fit extends beyond the office doors). Menial tasks are not reserved for lower ranking firms alone, that all depends on the firms attitude towards work distribution to young associates. I have seen plenty of associates in high ranked firms in primary markets who have done very little after a couple years compared to associates in smaller firms in secondary markets.


All true. I think, at the end of the day, it really depends on the specific firms OP is looking at and when he/she wants post-firm (or, indeed, if he/she wants to stay at the firm). Difficult to make a generalized point otherwise.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:53 pm

quakeroats wrote:Almost everyone in the V10 let go of people from 2008-2010. They did it in less overt ways than, say, Latham, but they still did it. Btw, why don't you at least tell us which V10?


OP here - It is STB. I suppose they probably have enough offers out that it won't out me.

Fresh Prince wrote:Lower ranking doesn't necessarily lead to better fit, comfort, or enjoyment--not that I'm saying that you're arguing that. A lot of lower ranked firms offer poorer stability and make associates were pretty dreadful hours, with a higher proportion of them on menial tasks. Never underestimate how much fearing for your job influences your enjoyment.


I completely agree. While I would rather not identify the secondary market or firm, there is more to the attraction than just location. I think I will be doing more than just doc review, I like the people there, and am convinced that the billable hours expected would be less than at STB, despite their "no minimum" policy.

ETA: I want to be clear I think STB is an amazing firm. I just get the sense that there is a little more stress, longer hours, and I'm not as subjectively interested in the city where it's located.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Old Gregg » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:00 pm

1) Simpson has had layoffs. In fact, they even had that "optional" public interest deferral program for one of their incoming classes. That said, the firm is just dandy these days.

2) I'm convinced that the secondary market firm will require you to bill less. What I'm trying to say is that it might not be as stable. If the economy tanks again, it might be closer to the chaos than, say, Simpson would be. Indeed, even right now, a lot of lower ranked firms are simply not doing well. Again, this is because the lack of prestige means that they can't command premium rates or that their clients are more insistent that they cut costs. Indeed, demand for legal services at the lower end of the Vault spectrum has been pretty stagnant. This influences your job security. While you might bill fewer hours at the secondary market, your life enjoyment will be significantly influenced by your fear of losing your job. I'd rather be at an NYC sweatshop, knowing my job is secure, rather than at a firm where I might skate by billing 1,800 hours, but with no assurance that I'll be there by the end of the year.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:49 pm

I would go to the local firm in the market you want to be in and not look back.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:55 pm

Chances are you will only be at the big firm for 3-5 years. Might as well go to the V10 one so you have better exit options.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you will only be at the big firm for 3-5 years. Might as well go to the V10 one so you have better exit options.


The partnership opportunities might be a lot different at the V100, so maybe it won't just be 3-5 years, and I think he already addressed exit options in the OP (I don't think in this case they may be automatically better from STB, depending on the type of work, and how insular his intended legal market).

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you will only be at the big firm for 3-5 years. Might as well go to the V10 one so you have better exit options.


The partnership opportunities might be a lot different at the V100, so maybe it won't just be 3-5 years, and I think he already addressed exit options in the OP (I don't think in this case they may be automatically better from STB, depending on the type of work, and how insular his intended legal market).


That's true.

Where is the V100 firm located? If you can pay off your debts more quickly there and have a better lifestyle it might be worth it.

I wouldn't underestimate V100 firms though. You might have a better shot at partner from the V100 firm but I really doubt that your chances of making partner will be high enough to make that a major consideration...But I may be completely wrong without knowing which firm you are talking about.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you will only be at the big firm for 3-5 years. Might as well go to the V10 one so you have better exit options.


No. If the V100 is the top dog in the secondary market, his/her exit options in that market would likely be better. In the south, for example, no one will be super impressed that you used to work at Cravath or SulCrom, much less STB.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Nom Sawyer » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you will only be at the big firm for 3-5 years. Might as well go to the V10 one so you have better exit options.


No. If the V100 is the top dog in the secondary market, his/her exit options in that market would likely be better. In the south, for example, no one will be super impressed that you used to work at Cravath or SulCrom, much less STB.


Yeah I agree, based on the fact that OP wants to exit into the region that the V100 is already located, then they're likely to have just as good exit options from that V100 due to much better local connections after several years working there.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I wouldn't underestimate V100 firms though. You might have a better shot at partner from the V100 firm but I really doubt that your chances of making partner will be high enough to make that a major consideration...But I may be completely wrong without knowing which firm you are talking about.


OP here - If the secondary market firm has less than half of the leverage of STB (which it does) shouldn't my chances at making partner theoretically be more than double? I admittedly don't have a mastery of this, so if I'm wrong, I'd like to know.

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Re: Importance of high Vault firm

Postby Renzo » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:20 pm

If you are looking for a number, revenue per lawyer is a good proxy for firm health. Otherwise, look at how diverse their work is, both between groups and inside them. For example, a firm with a big, well-known litigation office might not be that stable if 60% of their work is for a single client on a single toxic tort. Try and get a sense of how many clients they have, who they are, what kind of work they do for them, etc.




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