Boutique or BIGLAW

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:47 am

Lucky enough to have offers from a boutique and a BigLaw firm in a secondary market for my 1L summer. The Biglaw firm pays around $200 more per week then the boutique but the boutique requires much less hours. What would you take in this situation? Boutique has around 30 lawyers, the large firm has a few hundred.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:05 pm

It's your 1L summer, so it doesn't matter as much, but as someone who has practiced at a V20 firm and a boutique, be very, very cautious about the latter. Boutiques can be absolutely miserable places to practice. With only a handful of attorneys, even one a**hole can make everyone's life unbearable. Plus, if it gets slow, the axe comes a lot quicker. The handful of partners are keenly aware that they are paying your salary, so a slow month or two, and you quickly start to look like deadweight. Oh, and with a few exceptions, the work is decidely inferior to what you get at a big firm -- I was at pretty much the top boutique (or at least one of them) in a secondary market, and it was pretty clear that 75%+ of what we were getting were the cases the big firms didn't want. And those just suck -- most of the time, the big firms didn't want them because the expected fees-to-work ratio was way too low, so you ended up working a ton on something and then billing maybe half of it.

Which takes me to my next point. The "lower hours" are illusory in a lot of places. Either you're eating a ton of hours, or there is a huge nonbillable commitment (or both, as was the case at the boutique I was at). So, at the end of the day: Lower pay? Check. Worse work quality? Check. Less job security? Check. Better lifestyle? Maybe, maybe not.

I'm not saying all boutiques are like this. But be damn sure that the one you are considering isn't. (Full disclosure: I quickly ran away when I saw the dynamic -- fortunately, I had other options -- and the firm dissolved within 18 months of my departure. So it might just be THAT boutique, and not all of them.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:30 pm

Appreciate the response. This boutique has been around for 50 years and seems pretty well known. They seem to have a fair amount of ex big law types and even a few past t14 grads who are now the head partners.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:36 pm

I'd love to work one of the smaller firms or small firms with former biglaw types or otherwise very well-credentialed people.

but i know it'd be incredibly hard to get a job there and as someone said, when things are slow you'd fear...

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:41 pm

What they told me during my interview is that thry have so much work right now that they are trying to expand.... Hence the reason I am having such a hard time deciding.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:17 pm

What they told me during my interview is that thry have so much work right now that they are trying to expand.... Hence the reason I am having such a hard time deciding.


(Poster from above who cautioned you about boutiques.)

It sounds like you already have decided and are now looking for someone to tell you it was the right call. Again, some boutiques are all they are cracked up to be -- it's just that in my experience, most of them aren't. Since it is "only" 1L summer, it sounds like it will be a good opportunity to figure out which category this firm falls in. You can always check out biglaw the following summer, after all.

EDIT: Oh, and good luck!

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:24 pm

To the anon poster above -

My market is smaller so most if not all 1L SA pos. Equal an auto 2L pos. This is why this is such a big decision for me as a 1L. Odds are, I am shutting the door one one or the other.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:52 pm

My market is smaller so most if not all 1L SA pos. Equal an auto 2L pos. This is why this is such a big decision for me as a 1L. Odds are, I am shutting the door one one or the other.


If what you are saying is that right now you have to absolutely decide whether you want to work at a regional biglaw firm or a boutique after law school (i.e., there is little chance to get the one you don't pick for 2L summer), I think you are making a hugely risky (and bad) decision going with the boutique, especially because they appear to be hiring due to a recent and ahistorical bump in business. Even setting aside the boutique issues identified above -- and trust me, you won't confirm that this firm is different until you have been there a bit -- you are gambling that the current increase in business will continue until 2014 or so, AND that they won't hire someone before then who will make you unnecessary.

You'll always be able to move from a biglaw firm to a boutique. The same is not true in reverse -- and the path is exponentially riskier.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
My market is smaller so most if not all 1L SA pos. Equal an auto 2L pos. This is why this is such a big decision for me as a 1L. Odds are, I am shutting the door one one or the other.


If what you are saying is that right now you have to absolutely decide whether you want to work at a regional biglaw firm or a boutique after law school (i.e., there is little chance to get the one you don't pick for 2L summer), I think you are making a hugely risky (and bad) decision going with the boutique, especially because they appear to be hiring due to a recent and ahistorical bump in business. Even setting aside the boutique issues identified above -- and trust me, you won't confirm that this firm is different until you have been there a bit -- you are gambling that the current increase in business will continue until 2014 or so, AND that they won't hire someone before then who will make you unnecessary.

You'll always be able to move from a biglaw firm to a boutique. The same is not true in reverse -- and the path is exponentially riskier.


This is totally credited. You even said the boutique seems to hire a lot of laterals from biglaw. If it doesn't foreclose any options for your 2L summer, then I would just pick the one you prefer, as generally as long as you do substantive legal work your 1L summer, no one is going to think twice or wonder what you turned down.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:24 pm

Why is everyone anonymous in this thread? There is nothing revealing or controversial about it.

r6_philly
Posts: 10707
Joined: Sat Dec 19, 2009 4:32 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby r6_philly » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Why is everyone anonymous in this thread? There is nothing revealing or controversial about it.


Why are you anon?

User avatar
romothesavior
Posts: 14772
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:29 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby romothesavior » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:32 pm

Why do people write BIGLAW? Is that the hip thing to do?

r6_philly
Posts: 10707
Joined: Sat Dec 19, 2009 4:32 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby r6_philly » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:34 pm

romothesavior wrote:Why do people write BIGLAW? Is that the hip thing to do?


It looks bigger (literally) than boutique.

User avatar
bk1
Posts: 18415
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:06 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby bk1 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:52 pm

romothesavior wrote:Why do people write BIGLAW? Is that the hip thing to do?


New Rule: It's now BIGLAW

User avatar
romothesavior
Posts: 14772
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:29 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby romothesavior » Sat Jan 21, 2012 1:23 am

bk1 wrote:
romothesavior wrote:Why do people write BIGLAW? Is that the hip thing to do?


New Rule: It's now BIGLAW

I'm just secondary BIGLAW so I can't do that. Not enough of that prestige.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:47 pm

Does the boutique only practice in one field of law? If so, I think that factors such as what type of law the boutique practices and the size of the practice group at the BigLaw firm in the same field need to be known. Some fields thrive with boutiques being the most respected and well-off firms. Certain fields are quite difficult to maintain in a BigLaw environment.

keg411
Posts: 5935
Joined: Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:10 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby keg411 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To the anon poster above -

My market is smaller so most if not all 1L SA pos. Equal an auto 2L pos. This is why this is such a big decision for me as a 1L. Odds are, I am shutting the door one one or the other.


If this is the case, take the BigLaw position, since you have no idea if the Boutique will turn into post-grad/2L employment. You can always lateral to the boutique (or a similar firm) down the road.

User avatar
crazycanuck
Posts: 3040
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:04 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby crazycanuck » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:59 pm

My gf works at a boutique, one of the best in Canada in its field, pay is $100k for 1st year with targeted billings of 1400.

She loves it there, there's always good food in the kitchen and the perks are outstanding.

Sometimes with good boutiques they will really take care of their people because they can afford to have a higher budget/person than biglaw firms because there's no as much overhead/lower levels.

They fly to Mexico every year for an all expenses paid trip for everyone who has been at the firm for 2+ years.

The work environment is something you should really consider, as mentioned above.

sebastian0622
Posts: 276
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 10:30 pm

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby sebastian0622 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:44 pm

You could do the boutique thing this summer, and if you don't like it, go for biglaw next summer.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Boutique or BIGLAW

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It's your 1L summer, so it doesn't matter as much, but as someone who has practiced at a V20 firm and a boutique, be very, very cautious about the latter. Boutiques can be absolutely miserable places to practice. With only a handful of attorneys, even one a**hole can make everyone's life unbearable. Plus, if it gets slow, the axe comes a lot quicker. The handful of partners are keenly aware that they are paying your salary, so a slow month or two, and you quickly start to look like deadweight. Oh, and with a few exceptions, the work is decidely inferior to what you get at a big firm -- I was at pretty much the top boutique (or at least one of them) in a secondary market, and it was pretty clear that 75%+ of what we were getting were the cases the big firms didn't want. And those just suck -- most of the time, the big firms didn't want them because the expected fees-to-work ratio was way too low, so you ended up working a ton on something and then billing maybe half of it.

Which takes me to my next point. The "lower hours" are illusory in a lot of places. Either you're eating a ton of hours, or there is a huge nonbillable commitment (or both, as was the case at the boutique I was at). So, at the end of the day: Lower pay? Check. Worse work quality? Check. Less job security? Check. Better lifestyle? Maybe, maybe not.

I'm not saying all boutiques are like this. But be damn sure that the one you are considering isn't. (Full disclosure: I quickly ran away when I saw the dynamic -- fortunately, I had other options -- and the firm dissolved within 18 months of my departure. So it might just be THAT boutique, and not all of them.)
I'm not sure you share the same definition of "boutique" as many people do. I worked 1L summer at the top firm in a big secondary market and 2L at a boutique in the same market. I would call what you're describing "midlaw" rather than "boutique." My definition of a boutique is a small firm that generally has one or a few specialties, pays market salary, and competes for the top students and/or laterals with the biglaw firms. They also tend to get the best work because they are the most well known for their one or two niches. In the major markets, I mean firms like Kellogg Huber, Bartlit Beck, etc. And I don't think those firms fit the model you've described above.

Of course I'm not sure whether OP means what I'm talking about or what you're talking about. But if he is considering a firm that's more like the ones I've described, I don't think your words of caution are warranted.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.