big law just a 7-year-long career?

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Anonymous User
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big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:48 pm

What exactly is the decision tree for a 7th year associate who has reason to believe she will be passed over for partnership?

Is it, by that time, too late in the game to lateral to a firm with better partnership prospects?

Is it, by that time, too late to go "of counsel" and gradually build a book of business to the point where partnership is merited?

Is it, by that time, too late to stay in big law in some capacity if the firm doesn't allow for a relatively stable senior associate or of counsel title?

Or is the only remaining option to leave big law, hope you can find shelter in-house, or fade away into mid-law/boutique.

Basically, are people doing big law essentially banking on the 3-10% chance of making partner? Doesn't seem like much of a career, but a 10-year long interview.

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johansantana21
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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby johansantana21 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:48 pm

Most people get the boot long before 7 years.

2LLLL
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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby 2LLLL » Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:56 pm

As I understand it, you'll pretty much know if you're slotted for partnership before Year 7. Your best years to lateral, at least to another firm, are 3-6, so if you're lateralling at 7 it's probably going to be to a position topping out at of counsel. If you're competent, then the firm may say you can stay as an associate with no shot at making partner- but really, is being a senior associate something you want to do forever? I'd imagine that lateralling to government or in house would still be a possibility as a 7th year though...

Anonymous User
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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:06 pm

what if ur clerking for a couple years post-ls. then, do you figure out within A YEAR what the dealio is?

bdubs
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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby bdubs » Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What exactly is the decision tree for a 7th year associate who has reason to believe she will be passed over for partnership?
Depends on the practice, but lateral and going in-house seem to be the most common options.
Is it, by that time, too late in the game to lateral to a firm with better partnership prospects?
For some markets and some firm levels, yes. However, generally people get smart around year 4 or 5 and lateral somewhere that they do have partner prospects. Usually it's a move down the scale of profitability and prestige. There are a few V100s that even seem to make this their standard model for partnership (majority of promotions and senior associates are laterals).
Is it, by that time, too late to go "of counsel" and gradually build a book of business to the point where partnership is merited?
Depends on the firm and practice.
Is it, by that time, too late to stay in big law in some capacity if the firm doesn't allow for a relatively stable senior associate or of counsel title?
You can probably find some shop willing to take you, although there are gradations of "biglaw," so you might have to go midlaw.
Or is the only remaining option to leave big law, hope you can find shelter in-house, or fade away into mid-law/boutique.
For some, see above.
Basically, are people doing big law essentially banking on the 3-10% chance of making partner? Doesn't seem like much of a career, but a 10-year long interview.
Lots of law students/young associates realize that they just aren't cut out to make it as a biglaw lawyer in the first place and wind up bailing for something that suits their interests better. Most people who really want to stay in law seem to be able to find some firm/business to practice out of, even if it's not their first choice.


Based on conversations and research, not personal experience.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:42 pm

You should have relatively clear signals by year 5 or 6 about whether you stand a good shot at making partner. If not, most people lateral out or go in house.

Also, while in-house is probably the most common route, it's fairly common for people from V10s/V20s to lateral out at year 5 or 6 and end up making partner at a lower PPP firm.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby RVP11 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:02 pm

The idea that V10-20 associates simply move down the Vault rankings, and commonly make partner, is one of the great myths of TLS. I have never heard of a law firm that is more likely to promote a lateral, rather than a homegrown associate, to partnership. It makes a lot more sense to promote from within. No one on TLS has yet to show evidence of V10 laterals having a leg up for V100 partnership.

You go V10 because they're the most secure firms that give you the best in house and government exit options. You shouldn't go V10 if your goal is lower V100 partnership.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby 2LLLL » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:24 am

The idea that V10-20 associates simply move down the Vault rankings, and commonly make partner, is one of the great myths of TLS. I have never heard of a law firm that is more likely to promote a lateral, rather than a homegrown associate, to partnership. It makes a lot more sense to promote from within. No one on TLS has yet to show evidence of V10 laterals having a leg up for V100 partnership.

You go V10 because they're the most secure firms that give you the best in house and government exit options. You shouldn't go V10 if your goal is lower V100 partnership.



Agreed. Why would it make sense for a firm to do this? A lateral isn't going to know any of the lower-rated firm's clients, he/she isn't going to have a "rabbi" among the lower-rated firm's partners, and the lateral probably isn't really going to have a client base of his/her own (which is why he/she is lateralling in the first place).

I will say, though, that a lateral could have higher partnership chances at a lower rated firm if the lateral was specifically recruited to beef up a practice area that the new firm wants to improve. So, and I'm saying this without any supporting evidence whatsoever, it may be possible for a firm looking to bolster M&A could recruit an associate from WLRK and give certain assurances about partnership chances to get the associate to leave. But that would be the exception, not the rule.

* * * * *

Also, a note about senior associates. You're more likely to be allowed to stay as a senior associate if you specialize in some practice area that, while not particularly profitable, is nonetheless useful to the firm. From what I've seen, two common areas in which you have senior associates are state-law level regulatory (namely banking and insurance) and T&E. In either case, you're not likely to be able to bring in enough business to cover your PPP, but the services you offer can be useful to the firm in recruiting other clients. If you're just doing general corporate or litigation, though, then you're unlikely to get this deal- a mid-level associate can do the same job cheaper. My boss during 1L summer had been in this situation as a state insurance regulation specialist, and his perspective was, what's the point? Even if they are content to have you stay indefinitely as a senior associate, why spend your life billing 2200 hours a year (or more) and not seeing your family just to run in place?

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:34 pm

RVP11 wrote:The idea that V10-20 associates simply move down the Vault rankings, and commonly make partner, is one of the great myths of TLS. I have never heard of a law firm that is more likely to promote a lateral, rather than a homegrown associate, to partnership. It makes a lot more sense to promote from within. No one on TLS has yet to show evidence of V10 laterals having a leg up for V100 partnership.

You go V10 because they're the most secure firms that give you the best in house and government exit options. You shouldn't go V10 if your goal is lower V100 partnership.


That may be true (or not; I don't have any data or even anecdotal evidence), but being a V10 senior associate is a pretty good route to becoming of counsel (also called 'counsel' at some firms) at a lower-ranked firm, at least in litigation. I'm at a V10, on the litigation side. Last year, when partnership decisions were made, the associates who were passed over mostly left and one for one they all became of counsel at other large firms.

(Starting out at that other firm, chances to become of counsel would have been lower. I think most firms make fewer counsel than partners. Counsel is another form of the 'up' part of 'up or out' and is sometimes overlooked. Sure, it's not as much 'up' as becoming a partner, but it's still a pretty secure job, with a good salary, and without the associates' pressure to either make partner/counsel or leave. Plus, if you lateral into a counsel position, there's often the implication that if you do well in your new job, they may make you partner a few years down the road.)

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby MrAnon » Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:45 pm

People lateral because they will not make partner at their old firm. Some new firm isn't going to be impressed with some other firm's washouts enough to promote them to partner. Sure, they can do senior associate work, but they are just placeholders their until the next senior associate comes along. Its a lot different than being partner.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:48 pm

Seven years may not be realistic. Exits often occur in the three to five (3-5) year range. Having an MBA, in addition to the JD degree, may help some transitions.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:13 pm

RVP11 wrote:The idea that V10-20 associates simply move down the Vault rankings, and commonly make partner, is one of the great myths of TLS. I have never heard of a law firm that is more likely to promote a lateral, rather than a homegrown associate, to partnership. It makes a lot more sense to promote from within. No one on TLS has yet to show evidence of V10 laterals having a leg up for V100 partnership.

You go V10 because they're the most secure firms that give you the best in house and government exit options. You shouldn't go V10 if your goal is lower V100 partnership.


Not saying they have a leg up compared to home-grown associates, and certainly not saying you should go to a V10 with the goal of making partner at a lower-ranked firm. But this does happen pretty often. I can think of two direct 8th-year associates/counsel at my V20 to partner at another firm just during my summer last year. There were also several people who lateralled as 5th-6th years, presumably with the expectation of making partner (otherwise, why lateral instead of going in-house)?

The most common situation is you're a really good lawyer, but your practice just can't support the higher rates that V10s charge (e.g., employment litigation). Or in some cases (e.g., real estate) the group is small and there are already three partners, so there's really no space to promote another partner given the existing client base.

If you look at the trajectory of partners at some of these firms (e.g., Schulte, Shearman, Freshfields, etc.) a very high number of partners were laterals, either at the partner level, or as associates.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby HarlandBassett » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:54 pm

Is it common to take a break after year 4 and then get back into BigLaw?

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby nealric » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What exactly is the decision tree for a 7th year associate who has reason to believe she will be passed over for partnership?

Is it, by that time, too late in the game to lateral to a firm with better partnership prospects?

Is it, by that time, too late to go "of counsel" and gradually build a book of business to the point where partnership is merited?

Is it, by that time, too late to stay in big law in some capacity if the firm doesn't allow for a relatively stable senior associate or of counsel title?

Or is the only remaining option to leave big law, hope you can find shelter in-house, or fade away into mid-law/boutique.

Basically, are people doing big law essentially banking on the 3-10% chance of making partner? Doesn't seem like much of a career, but a 10-year long interview.


1. In house/another firm/new career/government/stick around and hope

2. Of counsel is usually used as a consolation prize for people who are not being made partner, but the firm would like to keep around. It's pretty rare to go from of counsel to partner, but it happens occasionally.

3. Not "too late", but most 7th years have some idea of whether the firm wants them around long-term.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby rad lulz » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:44 pm

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby rad lulz » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:46 pm

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby rad lulz » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:47 pm

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby rad lulz » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:48 pm

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby nealric » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:01 am

rad lulz wrote:
MrAnon wrote:People lateral because they will not make partner at their old firm. Some new firm isn't going to be impressed with some other firm's washouts enough to promote them to partner. Sure, they can do senior associate work, but they are just placeholders their until the next senior associate comes along. Its a lot different than being partner.

What? Plenty of firms don't hire new grads but only take laterals with the expectation that many will make partner.


That's pretty rare in biglaw, but somewhat common with midlaw/boutiques.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby dimreturns » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:04 am

what are the signs that tell a mid-level associate whether they have a shot at partner?

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby nealric » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:10 am

dimreturns wrote:what are the signs that tell a mid-level associate whether they have a shot at partner?


Sometimes people are explicitly or implicitly told in the formal review process. But failing that, people often know from the responsibilities they are given. They won't have you running important deals/cases if they are expecting to give you the boot.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby dimreturns » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:13 am

nealric wrote:
dimreturns wrote:what are the signs that tell a mid-level associate whether they have a shot at partner?


Sometimes people are explicitly or implicitly told in the formal review process. But failing that, people often know from the responsibilities they are given. They won't have you running important deals/cases if they are expecting to give you the boot.


so how do you be a good corporate deal-lawyer? A bit tangential to OP, but very curious if anyone has thoughts on what exactly makes for a good corporate associate

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nealric
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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby nealric » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:21 am

dimreturns wrote:
nealric wrote:
dimreturns wrote:what are the signs that tell a mid-level associate whether they have a shot at partner?


Sometimes people are explicitly or implicitly told in the formal review process. But failing that, people often know from the responsibilities they are given. They won't have you running important deals/cases if they are expecting to give you the boot.


so how do you be a good corporate deal-lawyer? A bit tangential to OP, but very curious if anyone has thoughts on what exactly makes for a good corporate associate


Corporate deals involve a lot of different tasks and subtasks. As a corporate associate, your job is to make sure the tasks get done timely and well, and to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. It's also important to have a solid understanding of the deals you work on, both from a business and a legal standpoint.

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby dimreturns » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:28 am

nealric wrote:
dimreturns wrote:
nealric wrote:
dimreturns wrote:what are the signs that tell a mid-level associate whether they have a shot at partner?


Sometimes people are explicitly or implicitly told in the formal review process. But failing that, people often know from the responsibilities they are given. They won't have you running important deals/cases if they are expecting to give you the boot.


so how do you be a good corporate deal-lawyer? A bit tangential to OP, but very curious if anyone has thoughts on what exactly makes for a good corporate associate


Corporate deals involve a lot of different tasks and subtasks. As a corporate associate, your job is to make sure the tasks get done timely and well, and to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. It's also important to have a solid understanding of the deals you work on, both from a business and a legal standpoint.


This is helpful, and echoes similar advice I've heard talking to corporate associates. What always confuses me is that being organized, responsive, and having an understanding of what you're doing don't seem like very difficult tasks. How do those responsibilities allow a corporate associate to differentiate him/herself when surely the majority of their peers are similarly competent at these tasks?

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Re: big law just a 7-year-long career?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:45 am

dimreturns wrote:This is helpful, and echoes similar advice I've heard talking to corporate associates. What always confuses me is that being organized, responsive, and having an understanding of what you're doing don't seem like very difficult tasks. How do those responsibilities allow a corporate associate to differentiate him/herself when surely the majority of their peers are similarly competent at these tasks?

You overestimate what most people are capable of.




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