Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

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Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:14 am

So I was one of the lucky few to get a summer associate position at a V100 law firm. I say lucky few b/c I got a position on the West Coast (LA/SF) and generally West Cost summer associate classes are at least 1/2 if not less of their East Coast (NY/DC) counterparts. (However, I've heard West Coast firms generally have better lifestyles than East Coast ones, especially compared to NYC firms).

However, I was unlucky in that I would like to do corporate/transactional work and my firm has a large litigation practice and a small corporate one. In fact, nearly all the associates (>70%) are in the litigation practice with very few associates in the corporate practice. It seems like litigation work is kind of a dead end: you either make partner or you move to govt/PI and take a HUGE paycut or move to a smaller law firm and again take a BIG paycut for roughly the same lifestyle.

In contrast, corporate/transaction work can lead to a nice, secure career at a single job with a stable 100k+ job. Sounds like my kind of deal. Unfortunately, my firm essentially doesn't have a realyl thriving corporate practice...just a steady litigation practice. (read: not a top LA firm, e.g. Latham / Skadden / Paul Hastings / etc.)

So my question is - am I going to be stuck as a litigation associate based on the "firm's needs". Am I doomed to make small money after I eventually get pushed out after 3-4 years at my firm? Or can I somehow do transactional/corporate work and position myself for a plum in-house position later on?

Note: My firm is a large satellite office with approximately 100 attorneys (1/2 associates and 1/2 partners), much like K & L Gates, Katten Muchin, Milbank Tweed, etc. in Los Angeles. The summer associate class is typically 4-6 people at my firm and the others mentioned. Given the size of the office, sometimes I wonder if the old "up-and-out" policy may be less applicable. The firm has been picking up lateral associates like crazy recently, according to an associate.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:53 pm

(original poster here)

I can't be the only one who wanted to do transactional/corporate work and then got a firm with only a strong litigation practice!

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:(original poster here)

I can't be the only one who wanted to do transactional/corporate work and then got a firm with only a strong litigation practice!

Nope. Ended up doing the same thing with a slightly smaller firm. Probably 85/15 litigation/transactional. Now hired as a tax/transactional associate starting next fall. If you're asking if it can be done, of course it can. FWIW, the other three summer associates who got offers were litigation.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:48 pm

Well, first of all, did you make it abundantly clear in your interviews that you wanted to do transactional?

If you did, I wouldn't worry about being forced to do litigation. Firms consciously make offers based on expressed interest from SAs, so if they took you for the summer knowing you only wanted to do transactional, they probably anticipate a full time position being available for a transactional associate.

That said, even if you aren't forced to do litigation, it's a less than ideal situation for several reasons. I imagine there are only a couple of corporate partners in the office. If the group is poached or one or two partners stop pulling their weight, that's going to put you in a very precarious position (versus a large group, where losing one or two partners barely has an effect). Second of all, if you're coming from an office that isn't really known for transactional, I imagine when you try to exit people will be somewhat confused if they perceive your office as pretty much all litigation.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:55 am

Well, the firm isn't known as a litigation shop (e.g. Quinn). It has a lot of leverage in the litigation dept, like 1:1.5 partner: associate ratio but there are actually more partners than associates in their small corporate practice. I wonder if they laid off a lot of their corporate associates in the economic downturn....if so they might be seeking to hire more transactional associates again?

I said I was open to both during the interview, definitely didn't say I wanted just transactional....I still strongly want to do corporate work --> mainly so I can go in-house later on instead of being forced to forever suck on the law firm teat.

I'm worried b/c I want to do transactional work, but don't want to be doomed to litigation simply because of where I'm starting my career!!! It seems so unfair that where you start can literally dictate what you do the REST OF YOUR LIFE. :(

P.S. Of course, it's better to have a job at a law firm, than be unemployed right now. But only in a short-sighted way.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:00 am

Anonymous User wrote:Well, the firm isn't known as a litigation shop (e.g. Quinn). It has a lot of leverage in the litigation dept, like 1:1.5 partner: associate ratio but there are actually more partners than associates in their small corporate practice. I wonder if they laid off a lot of their corporate associates in the economic downturn....if so they might be seeking to hire more transactional associates again?

I said I was open to both during the interview, definitely didn't say I wanted just transactional....I still strongly want to do corporate work --> mainly so I can go in-house later on instead of being forced to forever suck on the law firm teat.

I'm worried b/c I want to do transactional work, but don't want to be doomed to litigation simply because of where I'm starting my career!!! It seems so unfair that where you start can literally dictate what you do the REST OF YOUR LIFE. :(

P.S. Of course, it's better to have a job at a law firm, than be unemployed right now. But only in a short-sighted way.


This is sort of like complaining that instead of being a point guard in the NBA, you'll have to settle for power forward. Be glad you have a market paying job ITE and will be living the high life rather than being part of the lost generation.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Well, the firm isn't known as a litigation shop (e.g. Quinn). It has a lot of leverage in the litigation dept, like 1:1.5 partner: associate ratio but there are actually more partners than associates in their small corporate practice. I wonder if they laid off a lot of their corporate associates in the economic downturn....if so they might be seeking to hire more transactional associates again?

I said I was open to both during the interview, definitely didn't say I wanted just transactional....I still strongly want to do corporate work --> mainly so I can go in-house later on instead of being forced to forever suck on the law firm teat.

I'm worried b/c I want to do transactional work, but don't want to be doomed to litigation simply because of where I'm starting my career!!! It seems so unfair that where you start can literally dictate what you do the REST OF YOUR LIFE. :(

P.S. Of course, it's better to have a job at a law firm, than be unemployed right now. But only in a short-sighted way.


This is sort of like complaining that instead of being a point guard in the NBA, you'll have to settle for power forward. Be glad you have a market paying job ITE and will be living the high life rather than being part of the lost generation.


Working in the corp dept for a Vault firm known for litigation. I'm not too worried. In fact, seems like corporate associates (edit: in litigation-focused firms) get a lot of chances to work directly for partners on leanly staffed matters (because it's a smaller practice group). It's not as prestigious as working for a firm with a well known corporate practice, to be sure, but like another poster said: it's still a market-paying job with a great firm and great opportunities. Be happy.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:21 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Well, the firm isn't known as a litigation shop (e.g. Quinn). It has a lot of leverage in the litigation dept, like 1:1.5 partner: associate ratio but there are actually more partners than associates in their small corporate practice. I wonder if they laid off a lot of their corporate associates in the economic downturn....if so they might be seeking to hire more transactional associates again?

I said I was open to both during the interview, definitely didn't say I wanted just transactional....I still strongly want to do corporate work --> mainly so I can go in-house later on instead of being forced to forever suck on the law firm teat.

I'm worried b/c I want to do transactional work, but don't want to be doomed to litigation simply because of where I'm starting my career!!! It seems so unfair that where you start can literally dictate what you do the REST OF YOUR LIFE. :(

P.S. Of course, it's better to have a job at a law firm, than be unemployed right now. But only in a short-sighted way.


This is sort of like complaining that instead of being a point guard in the NBA, you'll have to settle for power forward. Be glad you have a market paying job ITE and will be living the high life rather than being part of the lost generation.


Working in the corp dept for a Vault firm known for litigation. I'm not too worried. In fact, seems like corporate associates (edit: in litigation-focused firms) get a lot of chances to work directly for partners on leanly staffed matters (because it's a smaller practice group). It's not as prestigious as working for a firm with a well known corporate practice, to be sure, but like another poster said: it's still a market-paying job with a great firm and great opportunities. Be happy.


Well I'd be happy if I knew my six figure salary days weren't capped at three years before I get pushed out to SHIT PAY government or non-profit or small law....the corporate practice at this point at my summer firm has more partners than associates, so I'll try to see if I can staffed on corporate assignments. If not, I guess there is always 3L OCI...and it seems wanting to do corporate/transactional and being at a firm that won't allow me to do that after I graduate is a good reason to look for another firm.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:27 am

No firm pushes out associates after three years unless you screw up, miss your billables, or are otherwise insufferable. HTH.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Grizz » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:32 am

Also, I don't think you have a very accurate picture of what exit/lateral options are like for lit people there duderino

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:46 am

Grizz wrote:Also, I don't think you have a very accurate picture of what exit/lateral options are like for lit people there duderino


Just do a quick search of previous threads, exit opportunities look VERY different between litigators vs. corporate attorneys -
1. govt work = not hiring anytime soon; SHIT pay
2. public interest = SHIT pay by nature; unless you move to senior position? very difficult
3. mid-small law firm = SHIT pay, most likely although there is the greatest chance of retaining your class yr and making more early on?
4. another similar or lower-ranked biglaw firm = you gain a few more yrs where you are again faced with options 1-3, unless you make partner

corporate work ----> awesome six-figure in-house counsel job with job stability and promotion potential. job stability!!!!

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Grizz » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Grizz wrote:Also, I don't think you have a very accurate picture of what exit/lateral options are like for lit people there duderino


Just do a quick search of previous threads, exit opportunities look VERY different between litigators vs. corporate attorneys -
1. govt work = not hiring anytime soon; SHIT pay
2. public interest = SHIT pay by nature; unless you move to senior position? very difficult
3. mid-small law firm = SHIT pay, most likely although there is the greatest chance of retaining your class yr and making more early on?
4. another similar or lower-ranked biglaw firm = you gain a few more yrs where you are again faced with options 1-3, unless you make partner

corporate work ----> awesome six-figure in-house counsel job with job stability and promotion potential. job stability!!!!

You still don't really know what you're talking about.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby rayiner » Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Grizz wrote:Also, I don't think you have a very accurate picture of what exit/lateral options are like for lit people there duderino


Just do a quick search of previous threads, exit opportunities look VERY different between litigators vs. corporate attorneys -
1. govt work = not hiring anytime soon; SHIT pay
2. public interest = SHIT pay by nature; unless you move to senior position? very difficult
3. mid-small law firm = SHIT pay, most likely although there is the greatest chance of retaining your class yr and making more early on?
4. another similar or lower-ranked biglaw firm = you gain a few more yrs where you are again faced with options 1-3, unless you make partner

corporate work ----> awesome six-figure in-house counsel job with job stability and promotion potential. job stability!!!!


To dispel a popular myth, in-house does happen for litigation folks, even though it's somewhat less common than for corporate folks. A Robert Half (I think) report noted that about 1/3 of folks going in-house were litigators, versus 2/3 corporate. Banks need people to manage securities litigations, folks in regulated industries need regulatory and anti-trust lawyers, everyone needs employment lawyers.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Old Gregg » Mon Oct 03, 2011 6:05 am

Banks need people to manage securities litigations, folks in regulated industries need regulatory and anti-trust lawyers, everyone needs employment lawyers.


Companies who are litigating with their patent portfolios need IP litigators.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby rayiner » Mon Oct 03, 2011 12:41 pm

Fresh Prince wrote:
Banks need people to manage securities litigations, folks in regulated industries need regulatory and anti-trust lawyers, everyone needs employment lawyers.


Companies who are litigating with their patent portfolios need IP litigators.


IP litigators are hugely in demand for in house.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby bmontminy » Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:38 pm

rayiner wrote:
Fresh Prince wrote:
Banks need people to manage securities litigations, folks in regulated industries need regulatory and anti-trust lawyers, everyone needs employment lawyers.


Companies who are litigating with their patent portfolios need IP litigators.


IP litigators are hugely in demand for in house.


Does not having a hard science degree hurt chances of an IP litigator going in-house?

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:12 pm

I have a friend who summered at a firm with a very small summer associate class. They did not guarantee corporate or litigation to any summer. At the end, they asked the summers to rank their preferences. My friend indicated that he only wanted to do litigation. However, when he got his offer, he was told that the offer was for corporate (ostensibly because the other people also asked for litigation as well and they were oversubscribed there).

Have you talked to the firm to ask how they give offers at the end of the summer--if it's for a particular department or for the firm generally?

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:44 pm

It depends. Last summer they had people rank practice areas by preference, and then tried their best to meet those preferences. Obviously, still driven more by need than what people actually prefer like most firms. Other summers they literally just put everyone in general litigation, and then people who wanted to try corporate work could easily reach out and get hand-off assignments.

I definitely want to do corporate, and what I hear on this thread is encouraging. I'm hoping that I'll be the lucky corporate summer associate; planning on putting it as a first preference.

Short answer = I think they give you an offer for a specific practice group, or just general litigation. Definitely don't have the firm offer with free market system like other firms (e.g. Jones Day, etc.)

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:41 pm

(OP here)

Is anyone else worried about this, i.e. want to do corporate work but stuck with a litigation-heavy law firm? It should be pretty common given the fact that shitty economy = more litigation work, even at firms that technically do both.

I don't want to make shitpay as a ex-Big Law commercial litigator who gets laid off in 3 or 4 years.....anyone else have this concern? Will I ever make as much as my first year salary out of Big Law as a litigator (assuming not lateraling to another Big Law firm or moving into a rare in-house litigation job)?

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Grizz » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I don't want to make shitpay as a ex-Big Law commercial litigator who gets laid off in 3 or 4 years.....anyone else have this concern? Will I ever make as much as my first year salary out of Big Law as a litigator (assuming not lateraling to another Big Law firm or moving into a rare in-house litigation job)?

Maybe people would be more willing to help you if you didn't cling to retarded assumptions after being offered evidence to the contrary.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Renzo » Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:(OP here)

Is anyone else worried about this, i.e. want to do corporate work but stuck with a litigation-heavy law firm? It should be pretty common given the fact that shitty economy = more litigation work, even at firms that technically do both.

I don't want to make shitpay as a ex-Big Law commercial litigator who gets laid off in 3 or 4 years.....anyone else have this concern? Will I ever make as much as my first year salary out of Big Law as a litigator (assuming not lateraling to another Big Law firm or moving into a rare in-house litigation job)?


The bolded is why no one shares your fear. It's completely detached from reality. Concern for future income is an absolutely absurd reason to pick a practice area, as there is far more variance within practice areas then between them.

However, if you really just don't like the idea of being a litigator, you have two choices.

1) do everything you can tactfully do to make clear that you aren't interested in litigation, and really want to do corporate work. This will likely either result in you getting an offer into a corporate group or a no-offer, since no one want to hire someone who clearly doesn't want to be there.

2) show your enthusiasm for the place in general. Steer towards corporate work as much as you are able, but don't fight the system if it becomes clear that they only have needs in litigation. This might result in an offer into the litigation group, if that's where the needs are. You can then try a 3L job search from the strong position of having an offer and knowing what you want to do.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:43 pm

All good advice. Worst case scenario my plan is to enter into a practice group where I can do a mix of corporate / litigation work. It seems that associates can do hand-off corporate assignments within a particular industry area.

Don't know whether this would be enough to go in-house though...

Maybe lateral to full-time corporate position at another firm ---> in-house position.

Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:(OP here)

Is anyone else worried about this, i.e. want to do corporate work but stuck with a litigation-heavy law firm? It should be pretty common given the fact that shitty economy = more litigation work, even at firms that technically do both.

I don't want to make shitpay as a ex-Big Law commercial litigator who gets laid off in 3 or 4 years.....anyone else have this concern? Will I ever make as much as my first year salary out of Big Law as a litigator (assuming not lateraling to another Big Law firm or moving into a rare in-house litigation job)?


The bolded is why no one shares your fear. It's completely detached from reality. Concern for future income is an absolutely absurd reason to pick a practice area, as there is far more variance within practice areas then between them.

However, if you really just don't like the idea of being a litigator, you have two choices.

1) do everything you can tactfully do to make clear that you aren't interested in litigation, and really want to do corporate work. This will likely either result in you getting an offer into a corporate group or a no-offer, since no one want to hire someone who clearly doesn't want to be there.

2) show your enthusiasm for the place in general. Steer towards corporate work as much as you are able, but don't fight the system if it becomes clear that they only have needs in litigation. This might result in an offer into the litigation group, if that's where the needs are. You can then try a 3L job search from the strong position of having an offer and knowing what you want to do.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby thelawyler » Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:46 pm

Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:(OP here)

Is anyone else worried about this, i.e. want to do corporate work but stuck with a litigation-heavy law firm? It should be pretty common given the fact that shitty economy = more litigation work, even at firms that technically do both.

I don't want to make shitpay as a ex-Big Law commercial litigator who gets laid off in 3 or 4 years.....anyone else have this concern? Will I ever make as much as my first year salary out of Big Law as a litigator (assuming not lateraling to another Big Law firm or moving into a rare in-house litigation job)?


The bolded is why no one shares your fear. It's completely detached from reality. Concern for future income is an absolutely absurd reason to pick a practice area, as there is far more variance within practice areas then between them.

However, if you really just don't like the idea of being a litigator, you have two choices.

1) do everything you can tactfully do to make clear that you aren't interested in litigation, and really want to do corporate work. This will likely either result in you getting an offer into a corporate group or a no-offer, since no one want to hire someone who clearly doesn't want to be there.

2) show your enthusiasm for the place in general. Steer towards corporate work as much as you are able, but don't fight the system if it becomes clear that they only have needs in litigation. This might result in an offer into the litigation group, if that's where the needs are. You can then try a 3L job search from the strong position of having an offer and knowing what you want to do.


BUT BUT... HE'S GOING TO GET SHIT PAY AFTER 3-4 YEARS!

Trolling aside, it seems that exit options seem better for lit than you thought so don't freak out so much.

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Re: Summer at firm office /w tiny corporate --> stuck with lit?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:57 pm

You overestimate the marketability of V100 transactional attorneys. Unless you are at a firm with really top notch special practice (e.g. schulte's fund group / cahill's leveraged finance),

V5/V10 corporate >> V20 corporate >>>>> V100.

Why? b/c most inhouse jobs are notoriously difficult to get, even if you are from a top firm. Moreover, many inhouse positions are filled by the company's "regular" outside counsel law firm with the recommendations from the partners.

That said, choose a practice field that you will really enjoy. Choosing it based on your future income is dumb and you will just hate yourself more when you are working.




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