Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

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Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:53 pm

Hi all.

How do I properly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the small offices of the V10 firms in D.C.? Specifically I'm talking about sub 100 attorney offices of Sullcrom, Weil, Simpson, and Davis as opposed to Skadden and Kirkland whose D.C. offices are large and well established.
These small offices rarely appear in the various D.C. rankings, but I imagine a lot of that has to do with sheer size. What's the best way to really evaluate these places?

Could anyone shed some light on what it's actually like to work at one of these offices (or a similarly sized office in a different city?) Do you essentially do NYC work remotely from D.C. with D.C. QoL? Or would that be a mistaken assumption?
Are there any advantages to working at one of these type firms over the D.C. centric firms like Covington, Arnold Porter, and Williams & Connolly that I should be considering?

Thanks!

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Re: Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Loose Seal » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:50 pm

I work in a DC office of an NY firm and I love it. I imagine quality of life varies greatly from firm-to-firm, so I would recommend scheduling a second look at the DC offices at which you get offers in order to talk to junior associates who can tell you what their day-to-day is like and how the office integrates with the NY office.

Our office does not have a typical DC practice, so we do NY-type litigation matters that are either staffed entirely with DC partners and associates or that are cross-staffed with a mix of NY and DC people. I work almost entirely out of the DC office, and because we are smaller I have a good amount of partner contact. Most of my cross-staffed cases have a periodic meeting via phone conference to discuss the status of the case. It is rare that I need to go up to the NY office, but when I do the firm (obviously) pays for my transit and a night in a hotel. It's a pretty great perk if you like NY but don't want to sign up for the QoL up there.

Which brings me to my next point about QoL, which is that I think it's much more manageable here than in the NY office. I can't say how this compares to big DC firms, but I'd say I average between 45 and 50 billable hours a week. Also, the smaller office leads to a great feeling of collegiality; all of the partners know my name and most of them know the name of (and have met) my significant other. I've met most of the partners' kids at various events. Many of them chose to be in DC to have more of a family life, which means that it's not frowned upon if you maintain your own family/personal life as well.

That said, our office brings in a lot of revenue to the firm and we are big enough that we have earned a good amount of independence and self-sufficiency. We don't have to answer to the NY office; we are on somewhat equal footing with them. It might feel differently to work here if NY was seen as the "mothership" and we were seen as serving at its grace, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I think you need to schedule second-looks with these firms and ask your tough questions. That's the bottom line.

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Re: Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:09 pm

Loose Seal wrote:I work in a DC office of an NY firm and I love it. I imagine quality of life varies greatly from firm-to-firm, so I would recommend scheduling a second look at the DC offices at which you get offers in order to talk to junior associates who can tell you what their day-to-day is like and how the office integrates with the NY office.

Our office does not have a typical DC practice, so we do NY-type litigation matters that are either staffed entirely with DC partners and associates or that are cross-staffed with a mix of NY and DC people. I work almost entirely out of the DC office, and because we are smaller I have a good amount of partner contact. Most of my cross-staffed cases have a periodic meeting via phone conference to discuss the status of the case. It is rare that I need to go up to the NY office, but when I do the firm (obviously) pays for my transit and a night in a hotel. It's a pretty great perk if you like NY but don't want to sign up for the QoL up there.

Which brings me to my next point about QoL, which is that I think it's much more manageable here than in the NY office. I can't say how this compares to big DC firms, but I'd say I average between 45 and 50 billable hours a week. Also, the smaller office leads to a great feeling of collegiality; all of the partners know my name and most of them know the name of (and have met) my significant other. I've met most of the partners' kids at various events. Many of them chose to be in DC to have more of a family life, which means that it's not frowned upon if you maintain your own family/personal life as well.

That said, our office brings in a lot of revenue to the firm and we are big enough that we have earned a good amount of independence and self-sufficiency. We don't have to answer to the NY office; we are on somewhat equal footing with them. It might feel differently to work here if NY was seen as the "mothership" and we were seen as serving at its grace, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I think you need to schedule second-looks with these firms and ask your tough questions. That's the bottom line.


Thank for the helpful response! Did you summer in D.C. with your firm? Do you feel the small class size was ever a disadvantage?

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Re: Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Loose Seal » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thank for the helpful response! Did you summer in D.C. with your firm? Do you feel the small class size was ever a disadvantage?


Yes, I did summer with my firm. I liked the small class size because we got to know each other very well and became pretty good friends over the course of the summer (and still, with all of us now going into our second years). Also, because our office/summer classes are so small, the firm is very very careful with its initial hiring. One jerk can really throw off the balance of the whole program, so the hiring folks picked people who were not only qualified for the job but also enjoyable to be around. We still had tons of summer events and lunches and the quality of our assignments was very good.

You know your preferences best, though. I think some people would prefer to be one person in a big class where they can fade into the background a bit more easily, or they would rather have a bigger socialization circle than <20. I saw the smaller size as an advantage because it made the experience much more personal, but YMMV.

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Re: Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:00 am

Two things:

(1) It is often difficult to make partner from a satellite office such as this.
(2) Be careful not to be a "prestige whore" and choose a firm based on the Vault rankings. The "best" in DC are going to differ from those rankings -- Covington, Wilmer, A&P, Gibson, Jones Day, etc. all outperform their overall ranking in DC.

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Re: Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Two things:

(1) It is often difficult to make partner from a satellite office such as this.
(2) Be careful not to be a "prestige whore" and choose a firm based on the Vault rankings. The "best" in DC are going to differ from those rankings -- Covington, Wilmer, A&P, Gibson, Jones Day, etc. all outperform their overall ranking in DC.


Re: #2 -- is this not contradictory? If I'm avoiding being a prestige whore, why would I base my decision on what those same prestige rankings say about the hierarchy in D.C.? And what does it even mean to be the best in a city in 2012? How much money that office makes? Is that not just a function of how many attorneys work there? Anyway, my understanding seems to be technology makes it fairly seamless to work on matters from across the country if not from across the world with partners and associates based elsewhere. I don't think I'd be limited to working on just the scraps New York didn't want, or the work brought in by D.C. partners, would I?

Your first point about making partner is well taken though and I do worry about that.

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Re: Small offices of V10 firms vs. D.C. centric firms?

Postby Loose Seal » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Two things:

(1) It is often difficult to make partner from a satellite office such as this.
(2) Be careful not to be a "prestige whore" and choose a firm based on the Vault rankings. The "best" in DC are going to differ from those rankings -- Covington, Wilmer, A&P, Gibson, Jones Day, etc. all outperform their overall ranking in DC.


(...)

Your first point about making partner is well taken though and I do worry about that.


If what you want to do is make partner, you can get yourself on cases that will allow you to be exposed to the important NY partners. We have had an equal percentage of folks make partner from our DC office as our NY office (a very, very small percentage at both), and those who are on the partner track are placed on matters with the important NY partners. You'll want to look to see the degree to which the DC offices of the firms you are looking at are integrated with the NY offices. If the NY office sees the DC office as a rural outpost, then you'll need to factor that in.




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