big law just a 7-year-long career?

(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.
dimreturns
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:59 am

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

Postby dimreturns » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:56 am

vanwinkle wrote:You overestimate what most people are capable of.


I sure hope so

Anonymous User
Posts: 273128
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

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

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:26 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
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.


And you underestimate how difficult these things are at the senior-associate level.

Being organized is easy when you are keeping track of a handful of things, but once you are in charge and are keeping track not only of what YOU are doing but also of what the junior associates are doing, what the partner promised you he'd take care of, what services outside vendors are taking care of, what the client wants, etc., you have to learn to have organizational systems in place. Some people have these skills naturally; some people can learn techniques that work for them; some people are just hopeless at this and will have to use what crutches they can, and compensate with other skills.

Having an understanding of what you're doing is not that easy either. Think of a law-school exam issue spotter. You spot some of the issues, you miss others. For the issues you spotted, you'll generally know how to discuss them because they are designed for you to apply what you learned in the course you just took. Real law practice isn't as neatly organized like that: a client might ask you a question and you either have to know the answer or find a professional-sounding way to say "let me find out and get back to you." It may sound easy, but the more experienced you are, the more people expect you to know, and the more people expect you to be able to spot issues, think ahead to avoid problems down the road, etc. As a junior associate, someone may ask you to draft a particular motion, research a particular issue, draft a contract provision that will accomplish X, etc. At a higher level, it's YOU who will be expected to decide that it's a good idea to file that motion now, or that the client should be protected by a contract provision that says X, or that a particular statute may have something to say about your matter and that someone should research the implications. The skills to do this kind of stuff come in part from experience, but it's by no means something that is easy for almost everyone with half a brain.

Responsiveness may be the easiest and most straightforward one of the skills you mention, but even that becomes harder as you become more senior. It's easy to be responsive when you're reporting to one or two senior associates on two or three cases. It becomes increasingly hard to be responsive (in a timely fashion) when you receive hundreds of e-mails per day, from many different people who all want something from you.

(I'm just a junior associate and at my level responsiveness and being organized are easy. But I see what's going on in the levels above me, and up there it's not easy at all. Knowing what you're doing at my level can be easy or hard depending on the task. I'd say that that's probably true all the way up.)

dimreturns
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:59 am

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

Postby dimreturns » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:
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.


And you underestimate how difficult these things are at the senior-associate level.

Being organized is easy when you are keeping track of a handful of things, but once you are in charge and are keeping track not only of what YOU are doing but also of what the junior associates are doing, what the partner promised you he'd take care of, what services outside vendors are taking care of, what the client wants, etc., you have to learn to have organizational systems in place. Some people have these skills naturally; some people can learn techniques that work for them; some people are just hopeless at this and will have to use what crutches they can, and compensate with other skills.

Having an understanding of what you're doing is not that easy either. Think of a law-school exam issue spotter. You spot some of the issues, you miss others. For the issues you spotted, you'll generally know how to discuss them because they are designed for you to apply what you learned in the course you just took. Real law practice isn't as neatly organized like that: a client might ask you a question and you either have to know the answer or find a professional-sounding way to say "let me find out and get back to you." It may sound easy, but the more experienced you are, the more people expect you to know, and the more people expect you to be able to spot issues, think ahead to avoid problems down the road, etc. As a junior associate, someone may ask you to draft a particular motion, research a particular issue, draft a contract provision that will accomplish X, etc. At a higher level, it's YOU who will be expected to decide that it's a good idea to file that motion now, or that the client should be protected by a contract provision that says X, or that a particular statute may have something to say about your matter and that someone should research the implications. The skills to do this kind of stuff come in part from experience, but it's by no means something that is easy for almost everyone with half a brain.

Responsiveness may be the easiest and most straightforward one of the skills you mention, but even that becomes harder as you become more senior. It's easy to be responsive when you're reporting to one or two senior associates on two or three cases. It becomes increasingly hard to be responsive (in a timely fashion) when you receive hundreds of e-mails per day, from many different people who all want something from you.

(I'm just a junior associate and at my level responsiveness and being organized are easy. But I see what's going on in the levels above me, and up there it's not easy at all. Knowing what you're doing at my level can be easy or hard depending on the task. I'd say that that's probably true all the way up.)


VERY HELPFUL. Thanks!

2LLLL
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:38 pm

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

Postby 2LLLL » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:22 pm

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.



Interesting point, but I'd respond with two observations:

(1) In the employment litigation example, it would be older partners (who may have joined the firm via a merger) who would be in this situation. You wouldn't start at, say, Skadden and end up in a practice that didn't fit with the firm. Or at least it would be highly unlikely and would require a shift in the economy/practice area/practice group at the firm. So, not many people starting as a junior associate these days are going to be in this category.

(2) The small practice group example seems more likely, but to make partner somewhere you have to have portable business. Now its possible that you're in a small practice group where it doesn't make sense to add another partner and you may have a book that isn't acceptable at that firm but is acceptable lower down the totem pole. But again, if it's a small practice group, you're probably less likely to end up in it as a junior associate in the first place.

I guess what I was going for is that an associate in the general litigation or securities or M&A group is probably unlikely to be able to do this.

imchuckbass58
Posts: 1245
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:24 pm

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

Postby imchuckbass58 » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:57 pm

2LLLL wrote:Interesting point, but I'd respond with two observations:

(1) In the employment litigation example, it would be older partners (who may have joined the firm via a merger) who would be in this situation. You wouldn't start at, say, Skadden and end up in a practice that didn't fit with the firm. Or at least it would be highly unlikely and would require a shift in the economy/practice area/practice group at the firm. So, not many people starting as a junior associate these days are going to be in this category.

(2) The small practice group example seems more likely, but to make partner somewhere you have to have portable business. Now its possible that you're in a small practice group where it doesn't make sense to add another partner and you may have a book that isn't acceptable at that firm but is acceptable lower down the totem pole. But again, if it's a small practice group, you're probably less likely to end up in it as a junior associate in the first place.

I guess what I was going for is that an associate in the general litigation or securities or M&A group is probably unlikely to be able to do this.


(1) Fair.

(2) From what I've seen, it's extremely rare, almost unheard of for a senior associate or junior partner to have a portable book of business, especially in corporate practice. Many firms (especially top ones) have institutional clients that have been with them forever and are more loyal to the firm than the individual partner. While this has been loosening, at the firm I was at, most of the clients had been using my firm for 20+ years. Even to the degree clients have attachments to particular partners, it's usually one or two big shot relationship partners, who have several more service-oriented partners working for them (informally). To steal the business, you need to steal the head guy, or the whole group.

But yes, generally agree that it's probably harder for people in general lit/cap markets/M&A.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273128
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

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

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:06 am

How long can you suck in biglaw (low hours, fair to below average work product, etc.) and not get fired (or safely hop from market paying firm to market paying firm) before being given the ax if you are generally responsive, not a complete jerk and don't piss off clients?

yay
Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2016 4:24 pm

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

Postby yay » Wed Jun 22, 2016 2:40 am

This older person I am close to who (say Sally) was a 6th year associate at a big firm took a nearly 50% pay cut to start over at a small law firm. This is what Sally told me:

In her 6th year, she realized that she was becoming too expensive for her biglaw firm and based on observing her peers, she was probably going to get shitcanned soon because she was not going to make partner. She didn't tell me exactly what her work entailed, but she literally had no marketable litigation skills. My guess is she did discovery and doc review since she got there. However, the pay was great. She felt the pressure to leave the firm because at some point she simply felt she out-stayed her welcome. When she started job searching, nobody wanted to take her because 1) she's 6 years out of biglaw 2) She had no marketable skills on the resume 3) no one gave a shit she worked at biglaw. She ended up finding a job at a small employment law firm and is literally learning how to litigate as a first year associate.

The problem is stories like this seems rather common. A lot of my older friends are frantically looking for another job 6-8 years in biglaw. From manager perspective, this cycle makes perfect sense. Recruit ppl with good pedigree who makes the firm look good. Promote a savvy, deserving handful to the club, kick out the rest, rinse and repeat.

HerculesQEinstein
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:45 pm

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

Postby HerculesQEinstein » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:08 am

vanwinkle wrote:
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.


That sort of stuff is honestly more junior and midlevel associate stuff. Still important for a senior, but more important is to become the person who knows the deal better than the partner and the person that the client calls with questions on the deal, starting off in an option 1(a) / 1(b) scenario with the partner quickly devolves into you becoming the first choice because the partner is never available.

Also, the idea of lateralling down to make partner is asinine unless you can take a book with you. In my experience, counsel is pretty much a necessary stepping stone on the way to partnership at most firms, its not necessarilly a permanent parking lot for folks off partnership track, but can become that. This varies by firm, but there aren't many biglaw shops making 8th years into partners in 2016. Counsel is a way to give old bastards a marketable title to help them show clients and prospective clients that they're no just associates. This all varies by firm, of course.

-Class of 2008 guy

User avatar
nealric
Posts: 2391
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

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

Postby nealric » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:19 am

dimreturns wrote:
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?


It's harder than it sounds on little sleep, little instruction, and with tasks flying at you from all directions. There's a bit of a social aspect to it as well. You have to find partners you can have good working relationships with or you probably won't stick around long. Sometimes being in the same orbit of a partner you work well with can be a matter of luck.

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3485
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

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

Postby lymenheimer » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:22 am

nealric wrote:

Does it make you feel old when you look at the date and realize that this thread was necroed from 4 years dead, but your name is in quoted posts?

User avatar
UVAIce
Posts: 442
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:10 pm

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

Postby UVAIce » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:33 am

nealric wrote:
dimreturns wrote:
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?


It's harder than it sounds on little sleep, little instruction, and with tasks flying at you from all directions. There's a bit of a social aspect to it as well. You have to find partners you can have good working relationships with or you probably won't stick around long. Sometimes being in the same orbit of a partner you work well with can be a matter of luck.


This. While my practice group is great and I get along with everyone that I work with, my job is infinitely more bearable because of the close relationships I have with one of my partners. I handle the vast majority of his work and when he brings in other associates (even those more senior than I am) the work normally funnels through me to them. Without that relationship I would most likely be looking to lateral or go in-house in 3-6 years.

User avatar
pancakes3
Posts: 3893
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2014 2:49 pm

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

Postby pancakes3 » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:50 am

yay wrote:This older person I am close to who (say Sally) was a 6th year associate at a big firm took a nearly 50% pay cut to start over at a small law firm.


i'm sure people get accustomed to their salaries but a ~50% paycut for a 6th year is still like 140k. Not exactly starting over in shitlaw-type money. you'd probalby have to manage your money in a pro-athlete-like manner where you know you're doing a bulk of your earning in a finite period so plan accordingly.

dixiecupdrinking
Posts: 3139
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

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

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Jun 22, 2016 10:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:How long can you suck in biglaw (low hours, fair to below average work product, etc.) and not get fired (or safely hop from market paying firm to market paying firm) before being given the ax if you are generally responsive, not a complete jerk and don't piss off clients?

In a good economy at a busy firm I'd say five years minimum.

User avatar
nealric
Posts: 2391
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

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

Postby nealric » Wed Jun 22, 2016 2:34 pm

lymenheimer wrote:
nealric wrote:

Does it make you feel old when you look at the date and realize that this thread was necroed from 4 years dead, but your name is in quoted posts?


I started reading law school discussion forums (before this one) over a decade ago. That makes me feel old :lol:

Anonymous User
Posts: 273128
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

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

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 23, 2016 7:15 pm

So, at the current biglaw pay rate, is it worth it (to you) to stay there for 7 years and pick up almost no marketable skills? Speaking mostly about corporate, but there may be some others that apply.

wons
Posts: 209
Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 7:25 pm

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

Postby wons » Thu Jun 23, 2016 10:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So, at the current biglaw pay rate, is it worth it (to you) to stay there for 7 years and pick up almost no marketable skills? Speaking mostly about corporate, but there may be some others that apply.


This is a dumb post. You get a a shitton of marketable skills in corporate. If you survive 7 years at a decent transactional firm, you have to try really hard not to make a ton of money at your next job.

User avatar
BizBro
Posts: 705
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:21 am

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

Postby BizBro » Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So, at the current biglaw pay rate, is it worth it (to you) to stay there for 7 years and pick up almost no marketable skills? Speaking mostly about corporate, but there may be some others that apply.


Yea this is dumb. The no marketable skills mainly applies to people doing doc review in litigation/investigations.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.