ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How does choice of practice area within corporate affect in-house opportunities? If my goal is to eventually go in-house for a F500 or similar large company, is there a certain practice area that I should shoot for? I think I previously heard that M&A was a good practice area to build the skills needed to go in-house, can the same be said for private equity work?

Any thoughts on this Kochel or others?

Also, for Kochel, do you think your firm was unusual in terms of how it treated performance reviews? I have heard a lot of criticism from associates that their reviews tell them very little about how they are doing and I get the impression that few associates at V10s are pushed out due to bad performance reviews during their first 5 years.

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:29 pm

What do litigators do?

Coming into law school I assumed I'd follow the standard biglaw -> in-house trajectory, but it's looking like I'll be a litigator. If I don't make partner at my first firm (Chicago biglaw), do I lateral around until I make partner somewhere else? Am I doomed to a life of billable hours?

Kochel
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Kochel » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:

You may not have a sense for this but do you think this is typical at smaller offices of biglaw firms? So, not the 700 person NYC office, but a big highly ranked vault firm's 100-150 person office in a major market where the classes are more like 10. Do you think they are actively pushing people out with a class & office size that small? Thanks for fielding questions.


I worked at my firm's headquarters, so don't have specific experience on how it would play out at a satellite office. However, from what I've observed as a client, the law firm will want to make sure that the satellite office is staffed with a sufficient number of associates to support the partners based there. But I don't believe that gives associates in the satellite office any greater margin for error, particularly because they'll have fewer partners with whom they work in-person. In fact, it could actually work to the associate's disadvantage, to the extent that he/she is staffed on clients with partners from other offices: the impersonal element of associate reviews/promotions would be accentuated.

Another thing about national firms: the firm can always force you to move to a satellite office (i.e., by conditioning partnership on a transfer). The firm will want to staff all its offices with the best talent, meaning that you can't count on job security just because you're based in the satellite office, if you're not judged to be as good as associates from the headquarters office.

Kochel
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Kochel » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:40 pm

Na_Swatch wrote:
Kochel wrote:
I think my firm's practices were typical. For associates, everything hinges on the semiannual review process. Partners you've worked with submit reviews, which are then summarized for you by the Politburo.

.....

It was just unpleasant. And while I'm grateful to have had the four-year apprenticeship, I've never once felt that law firm work offered any advantage over the in-house environment.


Thanks a lot for this! It's awesome to hear from someone whose actually gone through the process of Biglaw -> In house. I was wondering if you could go into a little more detail about how you looked for and found your inhouse job though? Do you just make it known to headhunters that you're looking or is it more about directly contacting companies themselves? Thanks again!


I used a headhunter. The fact that I ended up applying at a client of my firm was coincidental, but it made the interview process much easier, as I was to some extent a known quantity to the GC.

That said, lots of people in effect create their own in-house job openings by developing close working relationships with clients; GCs are always looking for ways to cut down outside counsel expenses and can sometimes justify a new hire by poaching from outside counsel (and presumably generating less work for the law firm). As an associate, you should always take care to cultivate relationships with your in-house clients, because you never know when that could drop a dream job in your lap.

Kochel
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Kochel » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Na_Swatch wrote:
Kochel wrote:
I think my firm's practices were typical. For associates, everything hinges on the semiannual review process. Partners you've worked with submit reviews, which are then summarized for you by the Politburo.

.....

It was just unpleasant. And while I'm grateful to have had the four-year apprenticeship, I've never once felt that law firm work offered any advantage over the in-house environment.


Thanks a lot for this! It's awesome to hear from someone whose actually gone through the process of Biglaw -> In house. I was wondering if you could go into a little more detail about how you looked for and found your inhouse job though? Do you just make it known to headhunters that you're looking or is it more about directly contacting companies themselves? Thanks again!


Was there a big paycut? Was it tough to handle?


Not too tough; I probably "regressed" about three years in terms of base salary, but the bonuses in my industry are much higher than in Biglaw. Those who stuck it out at my Biglaw firm and are now partners no doubt make substantially more than I do, but I'm doing okay. (And the job is essentially 8 to 6.)

But one caution: even in industries where the starting comp is good, in-house lawyers cannot count on promotions and raises like Biglaw associates. You might, in fact, go several years without a raise, and many more without a promotion. It's part of the tradeoff.

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby quakeroats » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:55 pm

Kochel wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Na_Swatch wrote:
Kochel wrote:
I think my firm's practices were typical. For associates, everything hinges on the semiannual review process. Partners you've worked with submit reviews, which are then summarized for you by the Politburo.

.....

It was just unpleasant. And while I'm grateful to have had the four-year apprenticeship, I've never once felt that law firm work offered any advantage over the in-house environment.


Thanks a lot for this! It's awesome to hear from someone whose actually gone through the process of Biglaw -> In house. I was wondering if you could go into a little more detail about how you looked for and found your inhouse job though? Do you just make it known to headhunters that you're looking or is it more about directly contacting companies themselves? Thanks again!


Was there a big paycut? Was it tough to handle?


Not too tough; I probably "regressed" about three years in terms of base salary, but the bonuses in my industry are much higher than in Biglaw. Those who stuck it out at my Biglaw firm and are now partners no doubt make substantially more than I do, but I'm doing okay. (And the job is essentially 8 to 6.)

But one caution: even in industries where the starting comp is good, in-house lawyers cannot count on promotions and raises like Biglaw associates. You might, in fact, go several years without a raise, and many more without a promotion. It's part of the tradeoff.


527 or 626?

Kochel
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Kochel » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How does choice of practice area within corporate affect in-house opportunities? If my goal is to eventually go in-house for a F500 or similar large company, is there a certain practice area that I should shoot for? I think I previously heard that M&A was a good practice area to build the skills needed to go in-house, can the same be said for private equity work?

Any thoughts on this Kochel or others?

Also, for Kochel, do you think your firm was unusual in terms of how it treated performance reviews? I have heard a lot of criticism from associates that their reviews tell them very little about how they are doing and I get the impression that few associates at V10s are pushed out due to bad performance reviews during their first 5 years.


1. Practice areas. This is actually a big deal. Generally speaking, the broader your practice at the firm, the more marketable you will be for in-house jobs. But your firm will inevitably try to push you to specialize, so if in-house is your ultimate objective, you should either resist specializing for as long as possible or self-select for specialties that translate well into what in-house lawyers actually do. All companies will need corporate generalists who can get stuff done, so any practice area that has you doing governance work, contracts, securities or strategic transactions (asset sales, mergers, financing) will serve well, because it will give you nuts-and-bolts training with broad applicability. Also, companies in heavily regulated industries (finance, telecom, energy, etc.) will always need lots of lawyers versed in those specific areas of law. Now specializing in one of those areas will limit your marketability in terms of numbers of companies, but will make you attractive to companies in those industries.

On the contrary, there are some "corporate" practice areas that really don't translate well into in-house jobs: tax, benefits, antitrust, bankruptcy. Most companies simply aren't big enough to require more than 1-2 in-house lawyers (if that) doing those kinds of work, so if you gravitate to those fields you'll want to adjust your ultimate career goals. There are exceptions, of course, but your average company requires many more general corporate lawyers than non-corporate lawyers.

2. I believe it's very common, if not universal, for Biglaw firms to fire junior and midlevel associates ostensibly for bad performance. The frequency may be variable, because it's largely dependent on the firm's financial position, but it is especially true when the outside job market is slow, because the firm will need to force the attrition that normally would occur through voluntary departures--hence the term "stealth layoff." Once you've reached the 5+ year level, then the firm will start using the "we don't see you making partner" line if they want you to leave. And in fact that's preferable to letting you hang out until your eighth year, after your in-house marketability has peaked, before surprising you with the partnership denial.

Kochel
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Kochel » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:03 pm

quakeroats wrote:
527 or 626?


626 (but Don Giovanni is a darn good opera)

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:14 pm

What about niche practice as a litigator? It seems like government is the only major non-firm exit option, so if you are in a practice area (securities, employment) that has a big government practice, does that help? I doubt there is enough white collar to make it realistic for an eventual AUSA lateral.

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby quakeroats » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:25 pm

Kochel wrote:2. I believe it's very common, if not universal, for Biglaw firms to fire junior and midlevel associates ostensibly for bad performance. The frequency may be variable, because it's largely dependent on the firm's financial position, but it is especially true when the outside job market is slow, because the firm will need to force the attrition that normally would occur through voluntary departures--hence the term "stealth layoff." Once you've reached the 5+ year level, then the firm will start using the "we don't see you making partner" line if they want you to leave. And in fact that's preferable to letting you hang out until your eighth year, after your in-house marketability has peaked, before surprising you with the partnership denial.


How isn't that based on performance? From what I understand, competence isn't going to cut it at the midlevel+ range. Firms may keep median midlevels around in a good economy, but when money's tight they have to go. Assuming there's no counsel slot available, midlevels are either performing at the level of a future partner or they aren't. While it's true they've performed well enough to have made it to the midlevel stage, that's no longer relevant. Why continue wasting the associate's time?

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby desertlaw » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:40 pm

Kochel wrote:
quakeroats wrote:
527 or 626?


626 (but Don Giovanni is a darn good opera)



I'm sorry but what are we talking about here? Salaries for in-house?

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quakeroats
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby quakeroats » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:40 pm

desertlaw wrote:
Kochel wrote:
quakeroats wrote:
527 or 626?


626 (but Don Giovanni is a darn good opera)



I'm sorry but what are we talking about here? Salaries for in-house?


There's enough there for you to figure it out.

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:49 pm

What about lateralling out of biglaw to a smaller litigation boutique, or putting one together with a half dozen other midlevels?

Kochel
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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby Kochel » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:54 pm

quakeroats wrote:
Kochel wrote:2. I believe it's very common, if not universal, for Biglaw firms to fire junior and midlevel associates ostensibly for bad performance. The frequency may be variable, because it's largely dependent on the firm's financial position, but it is especially true when the outside job market is slow, because the firm will need to force the attrition that normally would occur through voluntary departures--hence the term "stealth layoff." Once you've reached the 5+ year level, then the firm will start using the "we don't see you making partner" line if they want you to leave. And in fact that's preferable to letting you hang out until your eighth year, after your in-house marketability has peaked, before surprising you with the partnership denial.


How isn't that based on performance? From what I understand, competence isn't going to cut it at the midlevel+ range. Firms may keep median midlevels around in a good economy, but when money's tight they have to go. Assuming there's no counsel slot available, midlevels are either performing at the level of a future partner or they aren't. While it's true they've performed well enough to have made it to the midlevel stage, that's no longer relevant. Why continue wasting the associate's time?


Well it's all ostensibly based on performance, but at the junior level you can be tagged as a poor performer just on the basis of one bad partner interaction; at the midlevel and senior levels, it will be said that you're good but not good enough. It's mainly rhetorical. After all, there are more partner-caliber midlevels than there are future partner openings, so good lawyers will be let go at every stage.

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Re: ITT We Discuss "Biglaw Exit Options" or "Life After Biglaw"

Postby alumniguy » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:04 pm

I think there is a lot of truth in Kochel's posts here, but it is certainly one perspective (and I think in terms of lateraling, a bit dated information). As a current 3rd year, I've witnessed the stealth layoffs and yes, they do happen. From my perspective, however, it is directly correlated to the needs of the firm. If self-attrition is high, then there is less of a need for stealth layoffs. Generally, I think stealth layoffs are rare and are usually NOT random. Less competent associates are generally the first to go. However, law is not rocket science and so long as you get the job done with minimal to no "mistakes," you won't be forced out unless there is no need for you at the firm. The reality is that self-attrition is generally the way that firms rely on dwindling the masses of junior associates to mid level to senior to partners. As one moves up the ladder, you are given more responsibility and assume more pressure to get things done. By the time your 4th or 5th year rolls along, most people have decided that they are looking to stay in a law firm setting for their careers or they want to transition someplace else (smaller market, smaller firm, in house, leave law all together). The massive layoffs in 08 and 09 likely won't be repeated because firms have been much more cautious about entry level hiring and therefore, there isn't going to be the same need to right size the ship.

With respect to lateraling, it is becoming increasingly hard to lateral in-house without 5+ years of work. Companies simply aren't hiring in house counsel like they did in the boom times. From my perspective, M&A provides the most broad based skills. However, there are in-house jobs for all specialties (even tax - just less of them, but then again there are less tax associates at most NYC firms than say M&A associates). Generally, you want to at your firm's best practice group because you are more likely to get good experience and have made contacts with important clients.




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