Has anyone summered with a small firm?

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Anonymous User
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Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:27 am

10-20 lawyers? If so, can you please discuss hours, work, and stress levels?

Miller32
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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Miller32 » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:38 am

The answer you're going to get is that it varies. Small firm cultures depend on which firm you're talking about, and the particular attorneys in the office.

I had a great experience at my firm. It was a nice boutique firm, and I got to work on fairly high level stuff. The attorneys were great for the most part and did a lot to help my develop. Your experience could be different, but I would think that it will be fine. Just go in with a good attitude and work hard.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:22 am

I summered at a small firm in LA. I arrived at the office at or before 9 every morning. most people were late, though. One law clerk (not summer associate) from a what TSL'ers would regard as a TTTT came to office almost 10 every morning (and failed to meet assignment deadlines at some point) but managed to convince everybody that she's very hardworking. people seemed overly nice at first, then there were office politics ... which made the experience unpleasant. the female partner was a bitch.... there happened to be 2 harvard people at the firm. At one time I gave some random feedback on something which sort of contradicted with others (I should not have done so....but I did so in a very humble way) and she responded in email: "please prove our Harvard experts wrong!"

My co-intern was an ok dude but tended fit into the LA stereotype. He's also late to work every day and arrived at 10am. On the very few occasions that he came on time he made sure that he left early (at 4pm)

The firm is still surviving. The partners earn a lot of money. Strangely, though, the firm's website has not been updated for like 1 whole year, even though 2 attorneys had long left the firm.

The TTTT law clerk who's habitually late is now an attorney.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:I summered at a small firm in LA. I arrived at the office at or before 9 every morning. most people were late, though. One law clerk (not summer associate) from a what TSL'ers would regard as a TTTT came to office almost 10 every morning (and failed to meet assignment deadlines at some point) but managed to convince everybody that she's very hardworking. people seemed overly nice at first, then there were office politics ... which made the experience unpleasant. the female partner was a bitch.... there happened to be 2 harvard people at the firm. At one time I gave some random feedback on something which sort of contradicted with others (I should not have done so....but I did so in a very humble way) and she responded in email: "please prove our Harvard experts wrong!"

My co-intern was an ok dude but tended fit into the LA stereotype. He's also late to work every day and arrived at 10am. On the very few occasions that he came on time he made sure that he left early (at 4pm)

The firm is still surviving. The partners earn a lot of money. Strangely, though, the firm's website has not been updated for like 1 whole year, even though 2 attorneys had long left the firm.

The TTTT law clerk who's habitually late is now an attorney.


don't let my experience scare you. This is one of othe most regrettable experiences I've had over the past few years.... I stated the facts. I know this is the real world.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:42 am

i summered at pavia & harcourt, where justice sotomayor used to work. it was an awesome summer. people left at 6 or 7 every night, and most people were chill and had an open door policy. everyone was very friendly with each other, and i worked on some really high level stuff (someone I later interviewed with said it sounded like a 2nd or 3rd year associate experience). there weren't any of those big wine and dine party events like you'll get at a biglaw firm, but the good hours more than made up for it.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:58 pm

I summered with a small general practice firm in a somewhat rural Midwest area. The firm was about a dozen lawyers but the largest in its area. The attorneys each took at least one vacation during the summer, which on one hand was great because it indicates that they DO get time off, but it was also a bit hard to keep track of projects, deadlines, court dates, etc. You'd have a question on something but would have to table it for two weeks until Partner X got back from Italy or whatever.

The attorneys varied a lot on when they came in. One came in at 7:30 or so every day but usually left by 3. Another worked 9 - 4. The most senior partner worked 10-4 basically with an hour lunch, but he really busted it when he was in the office. One of the other partners, a litigator, was a workaholic (by their standards) and put in 10+ hour days.

They took me to lunch almost every day, but it usually wasn't too fancy. Not fast food or anything, but a small city has limited options. Lunch was an important time to talk about cases and get input from other attorneys...or just to relax and talk about whatever.

Work was substantive and varied. I worked in dozens of areas from criminal defense to municipal/government regulatory law, ranging in magnitude from misdemeanors and squabbles over small patches of farmland to multimillion dollar commercial real estate litigation and felony defense. I also worked on a case that went to the court of appeals, and I went to oral arguments. Also did my share of putting together questions for depositions and writing memos.

I really enjoyed the experience and will probably go work there after law school. My favorite part is that, while many of the attorneys have good academic credentials (including an editor of law review at a T-30 and two attorneys from CCN), they don't feel they have anything to prove and seemed like they couldn't care less about prestige. None of them brought up past successes, academic or career, the entire summer, even though the website makes clear most have impressive backgrounds. They've found their niche and just roll with it, and the whole experience was really chill and low drama.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:06 pm

I worked at a 15 attorney firm after 1L and am going back this summer. I suppose some here would call it shitlaw but as a 1L summer I wrote a significant number of briefs that went out the door with only minor tweaking (this was of course after strategizing with the supervising attorneys). I also wrote a federal court brief for a large international corporation (everyone here knows it). Corporate counsel made some revisions, but it was dispositive and we won with most of my efforts substantially intact.

This is in a pretty tiny market in the West. The attorneys are all great. Some have more work for summers than others, but they are all friendly. Nobody sucked. Most importantly, the place was generally a ghost town by 5:30.

Does it pay $160K? Not even close, but partners are regularly out to pursue recreational activities and coach their kids' sports teams. I'll take that any day.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:09 pm

How much formal training did you receive at these smaller places? I'll be working at one this summer and was wondering if they kind of just throw you right in to what they're working on.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:41 pm

How much formal training did you receive at these smaller places? I'll be working at one this summer and was wondering if they kind of just throw you right in to what they're working on.



I worked at a 35 attorney firm last summer, and getting thrown right in was definitely my experience. But, that's the best training you can get? What do you want, a classroom session on how to write a brief, or do research? That stuff is useless. You learn so much more by jumping right into it and getting feedback based on actual assignments.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby jkay » Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:50 am

Anonymous User wrote:How much formal training did you receive at these smaller places? I'll be working at one this summer and was wondering if they kind of just throw you right in to what they're working on.


My experience: almost none. But what does "formal training" mean? I had access to every brief/letter/document written at the firm over the last 15 years, and I could search by file, keyword, attorney, court, etc. I could also see records of all emails/phone calls in any given case, so I felt I had some idea of what was happening in the projects I was working on, and I was expected to look at this stuff before I asked about it. Every attorney who ever gave me a project was always available to discuss issues or talk about strategy.

On second thought, maybe this was "formal training." Whatever it was, I learned a full shitload.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:57 am

Miller32 wrote:The answer you're going to get is that it varies. Small firm cultures depend on which firm you're talking about, and the particular attorneys in the office.

I had a great experience at my firm. It was a nice boutique firm, and I got to work on fairly high level stuff. The attorneys were great for the most part and did a lot to help my develop. Your experience could be different, but I would think that it will be fine. Just go in with a good attitude and work hard.

This is similar to the answer I was going to give.

I summered with a small-ish (45-atty) firm and I can't imagine that my experience is terribly representative of any other small-firm SA's experience. That's the thing with small firms - they vary. When you're talking about 1,000-atty mega-firms, they're going to have a lot in common, because the individual personalities of each lawyer matter less to the functioning of the overall whole. When you're talking about small firms, you're talking about a work experience where 2 or 3 cool (or miserable) partners can change the dynamics of the entire office.

My best advice is to not get involved in office gossip and be Switzerland when associates try to get you involved. Other than that, try and get a sense of the office culture and fit in a bit. Talk baseball if it's the thing to do. Culture is huge with these firms, and if you don't get an offer, lack of fit is as likely as bad work product (maybe more) to be the reason.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:09 am

For those of you who summered at small firms, could you describe how you got the position? 2L here, T10, below median, have been applying all year to firms small to big, government, public interest, etc, no luck, and I was wondering if you guys had any advice on how to get a job at a small firm. I know it's late in the game so my odds dwindle each day but I keep hearing that small firms do a lot of their hiring in March/April for summer positions (if they have one available). Any tips would be great! Thank you

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kalvano
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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby kalvano » Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:36 pm

I'm working at one this summer. Pure mass mail; they didn't have a recruiting or HR contact on their website, so I emailed a named partner and asked if they employed summer associates and, if so, who should I contact for more information. She got right back to me with the firm administrator's name and contact info, went from there.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For those of you who summered at small firms, could you describe how you got the position? 2L here, T10, below median, have been applying all year to firms small to big, government, public interest, etc, no luck, and I was wondering if you guys had any advice on how to get a job at a small firm. I know it's late in the game so my odds dwindle each day but I keep hearing that small firms do a lot of their hiring in March/April for summer positions (if they have one available). Any tips would be great! Thank you

(Posted above, summered at the 45-atty firm.) I was about top-25% at a T1 and got the job through OCI. I also conducted an extensive mass-mail campaign that resulted in 2-3 interviews but no offers. Quite frankly, interview skills and dumb luck played a huge role for me.

You have the T10 thing working for you, the grades working against you. All in all, I think that below median at a T10 is certainly up for plenty of firm jobs, but you need to hustle a bit and polish those interview skills. Basically, you're going to need to convince employers at small firms that that's where you actually want to work, and that you're not just knocking at their doors because you didn't have the grades for biglaw.

ETA: Play up the fabled "ties to the area" if you have them. If you grew up in Cleveland or Omaha or some similarly unremarkable city, apply immediately to every firm in town. Normally they are highly skeptical of T14 applicants, but you can play the "I'm a hometown kid who just wants to come back to my roots" card, which is as likely as anything to get them to overlook your grades. If you're from someplace like San Francisco or NYC, you're probably boned, because employers there don't care about ties.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For those of you who summered at small firms, could you describe how you got the position? 2L here, T10, below median, have been applying all year to firms small to big, government, public interest, etc, no luck, and I was wondering if you guys had any advice on how to get a job at a small firm. I know it's late in the game so my odds dwindle each day but I keep hearing that small firms do a lot of their hiring in March/April for summer positions (if they have one available). Any tips would be great! Thank you


I got my small firm job while at a T30 through OCI. There are only maybe 1-2 small firms that do OCI here each year, however.

I co-sign the comments from previous poster about playing up ties. Small firms can be more picky than biglaw. They want good work product, good grades, and also a commitment to the area. It's hard to establish all three. I know both small firms I've worked for have no-offered three times as many SA's as they have offered over the past decade or so. It's just the nature of the beast. If you're a really reputable small firm, you might only need one person every 3-4 years, so you can afford to be picky.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:28 am

i worked at a 15-20 atty firm in a midwest secondary market. i got the job through personal connections as a 1L and there was no real suggestion that it would lead to a permanent offer or anything the next summer (though i transferred to a T6, so it wasn't really necessary). i was top 5%, but i don't know how much that really mattered to them.

the hours were super laid back. i showed up at 8:30 my first day and none of the attorneys were in yet. i learned my lesson pretty quickly and was rolling up around 9:30 most days. this might be different if they're paying you on salary, but i was making about $20/hr., so the expectations were if there wasn't anything for me to work on there wasn't a reason to come in.

i didn't get a lot of perks or anything. we got food catered in on thursdays for lunch/attorney meeting where they mostly shot the shit. it was a good time and i had a lot of fun at those just listening to stories from people who have been practicing for 20 years or more.

no formal training at all. in fact they didn't even show me how to use the billing system. it was all ask questions, and learn as you go. i got the hang of things eventually, but it did take a while before i felt confident in what i was doing and turning in. you should probably have a thick skin also, especially if you do this as a 1L, because you don't know shit and some people will remind you of that a lot.

the work was about 1/2 excellent interesting stuff, 1/4 okay, and 1/4 tedious/boring. boring stuff like deep research into condominium taxation. cool stuff like complex litigation. okay stuff like diligence. it's really a range. still a lot of things were different than i expected, and i found that keeping an open mind was really imperative. i developed some great relationships with a few people, got along okay with some others, and didn't really care for a couple. it's like any small office environment though - there's going to be a few duds no matter where you go.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:41 am

I worked a small (10 person) firm before law school. I can't comment on the work, etc., because I was doing file clerk stuff, but I can say that everyone there was very nice, generally worked very hard for 40-50hrs/wk, and most were friends outside of work.

From my law school friends' experiences, it seems (like one poster said) it varies tremendously--from a fantastic experience to a fucking nightmare.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:06 am

OPP here- When accepting an offer, is there any sort of indication that the small firm would normally give you if theyre interested in extending you a permanent offer should you succeed? Is it assumed? If its not the case, would/should they make it clear? Please excuse my ignorance.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:08 am

Anonymous User wrote:OPP here- When accepting an offer, is there any sort of indication that the small firm would normally give you if theyre interested in extending you a permanent offer should you succeed? Is it assumed? If its not the case, would/should they make it clear? Please excuse my ignorance.


Depends on some factors. As a general rule, no, you shouldn't assume that a summer at a small firm will lead to a permanent offer, especially if the job was not through 2L OCI.

At my school (T-30), there seems to be an expectation that employers doing 2L OCI would consider any summer employee for permanent employment. If not, they generally state it openly in the job description (e.g. "This position is ONLY for Summer 2012 and should NOT be expected to lead to permanent employment.") My 2L small firm was very open during interviewing about the fact that they were looking for a permanent employee and that the position is likely to lead to that if we all get along well over the summer. While I wouldn't necessarily say you can assume that a 2L gig will lead to permanent placement as a general matter, I would say that it's a completely legitimate question for you to ask as a job-seeking 2L.

1L OCI is different. My 1L firm only recruits 1L's just so that it can no-offer them without ruining careers. It has offered only 2 of it's last 7 SA's. There is definitely NOT an assumption that a small firm taking a 1L for summer will hire permanently, and there is probably the opposite assumption if you get it through mass mailing. In addition, I never asked my 1L firm whether they were looking for a permanent employee. While I'm sure it wouldn't have been a huge faux pas, I nonetheless felt it would be presumptuous as a 1L to ask. I got offered the very last day of my 1L summer.

As the summer goes on, you might look for some clues. Are they throwing a lot of low-level work at you (doc review, simple "form" motions, basic statutory research, etc.), making you bill a ton, using your Westlaw account, not paying you a lot, not taking you out to lunch or talking to you much, etc.? That's a bad combination that suggests that they are using you for cheap labor. On the other hand, are they giving you substantive work, spending time to help you learn, encouraging you to go to court and to depositions, NOT using your Westlaw account, etc.? Those things would suggest that they are investing some time in training you and also seeing how you react to more "real" lawyer situations. Those are better signs. I had a very good idea I was getting offered 1L summer when about 2-3 weeks before the end of the summer, the attorneys started taking me out a lot more often to meet clients, started introducing me to the judges and stuff. They also started asking me general questions about the job market and what I was interested in doing, certain things like, "Where was it that your wife works again?" etc. There was a noticeable shift, and I just had a gut feeling that they talked about the possibility of hiring me and were doing some due diligence including seeing how I got along with clients / maybe even getting some long-term clients' opinions on what they thought of me. They also started asking me to take projects from start to finish, including drawing legal conclusions and telling them how I would advise the client if I were an associate.

TL;DR version: Don't assume anything with small firms, especially if it wasn't a 2L OCI job. Keep an eye on the type of work they have you do, and follow your gut. Probably better advice is to only worry about what you can control. Do good work, learn as much as you can, and whatever they decide to do is up to them.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:08 am

Paying me very well, and I have a mentor from whom I will be primarily learning. The offer also indicated that his area of work is what I will primarily focus on.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:OPP here- When accepting an offer, is there any sort of indication that the small firm would normally give you if theyre interested in extending you a permanent offer should you succeed? Is it assumed? If its not the case, would/should they make it clear? Please excuse my ignorance.

I'll be summering at a small firm this summer and my offer letter said that the firm has a history of permanent hiring from their summer program.

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Re: Has anyone summered with a small firm?

Postby kalvano » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:05 am

Is it a 2-person firm paying $8 an hour? If so, then a permanent offer is probably not on the table.

Is it a 10+ person firm that pays well and seems to have a fairly structured summer program? Then it probably is designed to lead to permanent employment. Small firms don't have a ton of money to throw around; if they are paying $700 a week or more to someone over the summer, they are probably interested in that person staying on if they aren't bugfuck nuts.




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