V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

(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.
TooOld4This
Posts: 638
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:09 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby TooOld4This » Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How common is it for associates to be fired within their first year? I got an offer, but I'm pretty sure they weren't terribly happy with my work. :( Also, the offer was pretty half-assed. "We'd love to have you but maybe think about doing 3L OCI."


Sorry, but you should look for a new job. This is pretty much a cold offer. It's a way for you to honestly say that you were given an offer by your 2L summer firm when you do OCI.

If you don't wind up with anything, it sounds like they will take you in the fall, but you will be digging yourself out of a hole. You will need to prove yourself and prove yourself fast. If you connected with anyone at the firm, I would reach out to them and let them know you really want to hit the ground running and are wondering if they have some ideas about ways that you can make sure you climb the learning curve as quickly as possible (ie, don't say tht you got a cold offer or that you have concerns about your summer work product -- present the question in an entirely positive manner, this person might not have any idea about the issues you've described and you should not share your concerns without some one bringing them up first).

If you start, keep a keen eye on the signals you are getting and continue job hunting. If the firm cold offers, then they are likely to give you lead time if they decide to let you go.

Best of luck.

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby reasonable_man » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:44 pm

Torney12 wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:Thanks for taking questions - good of you to take time out to do so.

I'm a 2008 LS grad and practice at a small firm in NYC. In any of the cases I've dealt with where a biglaw firm is on the other side, it is always the partners that wind up speaking at conferences, taking depositions, etc. I recall a deposition a while back where I was the "lead" for my firm and the "lead" for one of the large firms was a 6th year associate who actually asked the Court reporter "how he did" following the deposition because it was only his third time taking a deposition. In your firm, do mid-level and senior associates take the lead in litigation in any meaningful way or run a deal (on the transactional side), so to speak?
Of course. Unlike small law firms, however, big law firms have many associates to choose from. Thus, unlike small law firms, big law firms don't have to give sensitive work to the village idiot just because he's the only one around. In big law, some associates, such as apparently the 6th year you dealt with, get shitty work for a very long time. Other associates get challenging, skills-building work. Often, who gets what is decided according to ability (ability to do good work and ability to escape bad work and bad people). Just as often though, luck plays a huge role.
We escape assigning work to the village idiot by not hiring him in the first place.

Not to be an ass, but surely, you jest.


Nope. Quite serious actually. While some small law firms may have that problem, others can avoid it by paying well and hiring very carefully. When I applied for my job my competition was primarily ex-biglaw, Yalie types and ex-DAs out of the Manhattan office. Partners all worked at biglaw before forming the firm 30 years ago. It is possible to have a small firm and not be bunch of idiots.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:09 pm

I'm not a V10 midlevel, but am very interested in these topics. And I do work at a similar big firm doing transactional work, just with less experience. I'll add my thoughts for what they're worth though:

Anonymous User wrote:How common is it for associates to be fired within their first year? I got an offer, but I'm pretty sure they weren't terribly happy with my work. :( Also, the offer was pretty half-assed. "We'd love to have you but maybe think about doing 3L OCI."


To the first point: If you're talking about Traditional Big City Big Law, nearly unheard of absent economic collapse (see: turning Latham into a verb). First years are expected to be clueless, useless, eager, pain-tolerant, and inexhaustible. I assume this is less true but not false at smaller firms... there simply can't be much expectation for your abilities fresh out of law school, it's a totally new world.

To the second point: A job is a job. If they don't have it in them to flat out no offer you, take it and deal with it.

Anonymous User wrote:1) IYO, who has it good in the law these days? Does anyone in biglaw? Partners are getting paid, but even for them it seems like the money is diminishing and there are serious questions about what it took to get there.

2) Could you shed some light on the "pushing out" mechanism? How exactly are people bumped, short of purely being fired?

Thanks!


A passing thought on #1 - they people who have it best like what they're doing. Practicing law at the level of a big firm is an epic time sink, emotional drain, etc. and if you don't actually derive pleasure from some of it, it's going to wear you thing.

Beyond that, I'd say that litigation is getting hit the hardest now. It's picking up some as financial crisis lit picks up, but for a long time there was less turnover as the model changed and lateral positions dried up. Outsourcing of doc review, client cost consciousness, etc. seems to have hit the big firm litigation scheme hard and almost independent of the general downturn from the crisis.

I'd also like to hear more on #2, but it's worth pointing out law students can be far too paranoid about this. Big firms often find themselves struggling to retain associates, not grinding their axes and eagerly pruning their ranks. There's a reason the salary is so high. There's a reason that salary + bonus jumps a tremendous amount after two years.

Sure, sometimes a firm or practice area hits a rough patch, and sure the lowest performers might be 'counseled out' - but I'd wager "combating attrition" is often a bigger problem than "pushing out the dead weight."

Hard to talk in a vacuum though... firms and practice areas vary tremendously from region to region.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:47 pm

I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:02 am

TheZoid wrote:Hey Torney 12- thanks for taking questions. It sounds like from what you're saying, if the end goal is to make partner in a secondary market, you're better off heading straight to a firm there, rather than shooting for a V10/20 and lateraling after 3-5 years. Would you say that's right?

Yes, unless you have compelling reasons to head to a V10/V20 (such as finances, a serious relationship, family issues etc).

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:Hi V10 anon,

Thanks for this thread, it's been very enlightening. A few questions:

1) IYO, who has it good in the law these days? Does anyone in biglaw? Partners are getting paid, but even for them it seems like the money is diminishing and there are serious questions about what it took to get there.

2) Could you shed some light on the "pushing out" mechanism? How exactly are people bumped, short of purely being fired?

Thanks!

1. Good in what sense? Good is relative. From a financial standpoint, even first year associates in big law have it good compared to most other attorneys and they certainly have it good compared to unemployed classmates. If you tell me what having it good in big law means to you, I'll have a better idea of how to answer.

2. It is rare for anyone to be fired in the Donald Trump's Apprentice sense. Only the top rainmakers have the power to fire people on the spot and most of them can't be bothered with firing associates. They'll just humiliate you and then instruct someone else to write you a nasty review and ensure you are never again staffed on any of their cases or in their line of vision. Someone else will then do the job of pushing you out via the mechanism outlined below. In my career, I have heard of maybe 4 people being, for instance, thrown out of meetings and instructed never to return, and two of those instances predated my arrival in big law.

The most common mechanism is for an associate who is targeted for removal to be given uniformly negative reviews and then told at an annual (or impromptu) review session that s/he has 2-6 months to find another job. No one is stupid enough to wait until they are fired, so associates in that position quickly leave. Sometimes, the associate might be told at the review session that s/he has 3-6 months to "improve", but the reality is that the firm has no intention of letting him/her "improve." So, the associate is then subsequently removed from all his/her cases so that there is no way to show improvement, or the associate is staffed on cases with truly awful people who have been instructed to make life as hard as possible for the associate, or the associate is entrusted with duties so difficult and above his/her level that the associate cannot perform well. Either way, the associate is guaranteed negative reviews at the next session 3 or 6 months later. At this point, the associate is then instructed to look for another job since the firm, having been eminently reasonable and patient, sees no other option.
Last edited by Torney12 on Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:16 am

TooOld4This wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How common is it for associates to be fired within their first year? I got an offer, but I'm pretty sure they weren't terribly happy with my work. :( Also, the offer was pretty half-assed. "We'd love to have you but maybe think about doing 3L OCI."


Sorry, but you should look for a new job. This is pretty much a cold offer. It's a way for you to honestly say that you were given an offer by your 2L summer firm when you do OCI.

If you don't wind up with anything, it sounds like they will take you in the fall, but you will be digging yourself out of a hole. You will need to prove yourself and prove yourself fast. If you connected with anyone at the firm, I would reach out to them and let them know you really want to hit the ground running and are wondering if they have some ideas about ways that you can make sure you climb the learning curve as quickly as possible (ie, don't say tht you got a cold offer or that you have concerns about your summer work product -- present the question in an entirely positive manner, this person might not have any idea about the issues you've described and you should not share your concerns without some one bringing them up first).

If you start, keep a keen eye on the signals you are getting and continue job hunting. If the firm cold offers, then they are likely to give you lead time if they decide to let you go.

Best of luck.

What he said. Let me emphasize: You need to find somewhere else to work. Return to the firm only if you have no other viable option. Get ready to have to overcome a presumption of your incompetence if you do return.

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:23 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.
Last edited by Torney12 on Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

005618502
Posts: 2577
Joined: Thu May 06, 2010 10:56 pm

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby 005618502 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:27 am

Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


Do more associates leave because they are, more or less, told to or because they want to? Even if a firm tells you that you are not on partnership track couldnt you stay on as a senior associate or of counsel and continue working hard making 200+ a year rather than taking a huge pay cut going in house

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm not a V10 midlevel, but am very interested in these topics. And I do work at a similar big firm doing transactional work, just with less experience. I'll add my thoughts for what they're worth though:

Anonymous User wrote:How common is it for associates to be fired within their first year? I got an offer, but I'm pretty sure they weren't terribly happy with my work. :( Also, the offer was pretty half-assed. "We'd love to have you but maybe think about doing 3L OCI."


To the first point: If you're talking about Traditional Big City Big Law, nearly unheard of absent economic collapse (see: turning Latham into a verb). First years are expected to be clueless, useless, eager, pain-tolerant, and inexhaustible. I assume this is less true but not false at smaller firms... there simply can't be much expectation for your abilities fresh out of law school, it's a totally new world.

To the second point: A job is a job. If they don't have it in them to flat out no offer you, take it and deal with it.

Anonymous User wrote:1) IYO, who has it good in the law these days? Does anyone in biglaw? Partners are getting paid, but even for them it seems like the money is diminishing and there are serious questions about what it took to get there.

2) Could you shed some light on the "pushing out" mechanism? How exactly are people bumped, short of purely being fired?

Thanks!


A passing thought on #1 - they people who have it best like what they're doing. Practicing law at the level of a big firm is an epic time sink, emotional drain, etc. and if you don't actually derive pleasure from some of it, it's going to wear you thing.

Beyond that, I'd say that litigation is getting hit the hardest now. It's picking up some as financial crisis lit picks up, but for a long time there was less turnover as the model changed and lateral positions dried up. Outsourcing of doc review, client cost consciousness, etc. seems to have hit the big firm litigation scheme hard and almost independent of the general downturn from the crisis.

I'd also like to hear more on #2, but it's worth pointing out law students can be far too paranoid about this. Big firms often find themselves struggling to retain associates, not grinding their axes and eagerly pruning their ranks. There's a reason the salary is so high. There's a reason that salary + bonus jumps a tremendous amount after two years.

Sure, sometimes a firm or practice area hits a rough patch, and sure the lowest performers might be 'counseled out' - but I'd wager "combating attrition" is often a bigger problem than "pushing out the dead weight."

Hard to talk in a vacuum though... firms and practice areas vary tremendously from region to region.

I do agree that pushing out the deadweight is easier than combatting attrition, but I disagree that attrition is all that big of a problem. The big law model requires attrition. Associates don't seem to understand that. The ideal scenario is not a bunch of associates making it to 4th, 5th, 8th year. If that happens, something went wrong in the whittling process. The ideal scenario is to lose most associates by the 4th year, but keep the stars, who, by definition, range from 2 to 10 or so people in a class. Attrition is only truly a nail-biting problem when the stars are leaving and even then, it never happens that all the stars leave. The sort of attrition that sees too many average Joes leaving for busy matters to be well staffed is not a major problem. More warm bodies will be hired and the warm bodies who remain will simply be worked harder. I understand this much better as a senior associate now because honestly, I couldn't care less if 95% of the associates below me leave as long as they are replaced by someone else eventually. If too many leave at once, it'll inconvenience me, but that is rare. There are only two people whose loss would be a blow because they are so good as to be hard to replace. Those are the ones who I pull close and mentor and who partners ask about from time to time.

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:48 am

AssumptionRequired wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


Do more associates leave because they are, more or less, told to or because they want to? Even if a firm tells you that you are not on partnership track couldnt you stay on as a senior associate or of counsel and continue working hard making 200+ a year rather than taking a huge pay cut going in house

Most associates leave of their own volition. They are miserable, tired, and know they can't make partner or they've paid off a lot of debt, gotten married, or had children. Those who don't leave of their own accord, however, will often not be able to just stay indefinitely if they are not partnership material. At some point, the vast majority will be told to jump or get pushed. Only a rare few are so hard working and smart and respected that even though they lack something else needed for partnership (such as social skills, comfort with clients, or a rabbi), they are allowed to stay on indefinitely. Those are often the ones you see ending up as 15th year associates or as counsel with no prospect of partnership. The firm needs those people to do the actual lawyering and supervising of teams while partners go out and hunt for clients.

005618502
Posts: 2577
Joined: Thu May 06, 2010 10:56 pm

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby 005618502 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:03 pm

Torney12 wrote:
AssumptionRequired wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


Do more associates leave because they are, more or less, told to or because they want to? Even if a firm tells you that you are not on partnership track couldnt you stay on as a senior associate or of counsel and continue working hard making 200+ a year rather than taking a huge pay cut going in house

Most associates leave of their own volition. They are miserable, tired, and know they can't make partner or they've paid off a lot of debt, gotten married, or had children. Those who don't leave of their own accord, however, will often not be able to just stay indefinitely if they are not partnership material. At some point, the vast majority will be told to jump or get pushed. Only a rare few are so hard working and smart and respected that even though they lack something else needed for partnership (such as social skills, comfort with clients, or a rabbi), they are allowed to stay on indefinitely. Those are often the ones you see ending up as 15th year associates or as counsel with no prospect of partnership. The firm needs those people to do the actual lawyering and supervising of teams while partners go out and hunt for clients.


I am sure this is a worry for everyone, but how in the world does one "get clients" that push one towards partner. Do you have to use your own connections? Or do you get the opportunity through the firm? If you are a people person and very social will they actually send you out to lock someone down? Or is it you have to hope your friends do something big/make the right contacts while a young attorney and bring those contacts on as clients? Does bringing in clients matter more for corporate or litigation? (I would imagine its harder to get a corporate client)

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:52 pm

AssumptionRequired wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
AssumptionRequired wrote:
Torney12 wrote:Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


Do more associates leave because they are, more or less, told to or because they want to? Even if a firm tells you that you are not on partnership track couldnt you stay on as a senior associate or of counsel and continue working hard making 200+ a year rather than taking a huge pay cut going in house

Most associates leave of their own volition. They are miserable, tired, and know they can't make partner or they've paid off a lot of debt, gotten married, or had children. Those who don't leave of their own accord, however, will often not be able to just stay indefinitely if they are not partnership material. At some point, the vast majority will be told to jump or get pushed. Only a rare few are so hard working and smart and respected that even though they lack something else needed for partnership (such as social skills, comfort with clients, or a rabbi), they are allowed to stay on indefinitely. Those are often the ones you see ending up as 15th year associates or as counsel with no prospect of partnership. The firm needs those people to do the actual lawyering and supervising of teams while partners go out and hunt for clients.


I am sure this is a worry for everyone, but how in the world does one "get clients" that push one towards partner. Do you have to use your own connections? Or do you get the opportunity through the firm? If you are a people person and very social will they actually send you out to lock someone down? Or is it you have to hope your friends do something big/make the right contacts while a young attorney and bring those contacts on as clients? Does bringing in clients matter more for corporate or litigation? (I would imagine its harder to get a corporate client)

Good question. I, myself, am still trying to figure it out. I don't think it's a coincidence that, almost without exception, the most successful rainmakers have family, old friends, in-laws, godparents etc in high places to draw upon. In fact, this is true of even partners who aren't particularly successful rainmakers but are at least secure. It is hard and getting even harder to find established partners who did things the supposedly old fashioned way - billed lots, worked their way up, then pounded the pavement and pitched and paid their dues until they built their own client base. It's hard to consistently land major clients purely by pitching when your competition has family and friend ties, and firms increasingly don't even have the patience to give young, unconnected partners the time to build significant books of business. The higher I get, the more I see that it's the same relatively small circle of powerful people hiring and representing each other and each other's relatives/friends. Director A's cousin has been lifelong friends with person B whose son's wife is now partner at xyz law firm that Director A will retain. To an outsider, Director A and the female partner that Director A just hired have no connection. In reality, they've long moved in the same circles.

Once upon a time, those without their own connections could at least aim to start their careers under the wings of those who did have powerful friends and relatives. Unfortunately, looking to be taken under someone else's wing is increasingly an obsolete way of managing one's career. Everyone is jockeying for position nowadays since client loyalty is increasingly rare and those who have a good set of clients aren't looking to share. Certainly, established partners will bring senior associates and counsel along for pitches and let senior associates, counsel, and junior partners service their clients, but coming along on someone else's ride is not the same as being established in one's own right. These are certainly interesting times. Unless an amazing economic boom arrives quickly, I think most firms are headed towards equity partnership for the well connected and service partnership for those who are merely smart and hard working, but not connected enough to land big clients. Firms that insist on one tier of partnership will just end up having virtually only elites as partners and the hard working, talented people who don't have connections will be 45th year associates and counsel.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:16 pm

What sort of careers do you see people jumping to? (I know it varies vastly, but any examples would be helpful)

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:36 pm

Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.

Originally quoted anon here. Maybe it is different at a v10 which carries more prestige, better comp and is probably more highly leveraged than my firm. My experience has been very different. Our deals are being mistaffed because we do not have enough midlevels and senior associates to properly staff deals, associates are being asked to juggle more deals and take on more responsibility than they can really handle, which leads to mistakes and burnt out associates...who leave. Clearly some attrition is necessary, but to have almost no midlevel associates is not good. Our deal flow is picking up, but we lack the associates to handle them.

The lateral prospects that I have interviewed are not as good as our homegrown associates. A lot of the laterals are the dredges of their firm. Even the decent ones that we have hired are not as good as our homegrown associates, except for one outlier. Not to mention that we lose institutional knowledge when associates leave. I have seen first hand that it leads to mistakes and worse client service.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:46 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.

Originally quoted anon here. Maybe it is different at a v10 which carries more prestige, better comp and is probably more highly leveraged than my firm. My experience has been very different. Our deals are being mistaffed because we do not have enough midlevels and senior associates to properly staff deals, associates are being asked to juggle more deals and take on more responsibility than they can really handle, which leads to mistakes and burnt out associates...who leave. Clearly some attrition is necessary, but to have almost no midlevel associates is not good. Our deal flow is picking up, but we lack the associates to handle them.

The lateral prospects that I have interviewed are not as good as our homegrown associates. A lot of the laterals are the dredges of their firm. Even the decent ones that we have hired are not as good as our homegrown associates, except for one outlier. Not to mention that we lose institutional knowledge when associates leave. I have seen first hand that it leads to mistakes and worse client service.



This is much more in line with my experience at my (top NYC) firm. "Laterals" might be in high supply, but good ones are in short supply. There's a reason the "best" firms hire so many people out of law school and so few laterals.

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2080
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:37 am

Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


This is 100% true for junior associates. However, I can think of at least half a dozen associates who I interact with on a daily basis who would fuck the firm over royally if they decided to leave in two weeks. There *are* some associates who are particularly important because they know everything about a case and have developed relationships with the client that are not easily replaceable, and yes, some of these associates are midlevels.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:13 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


This is 100% true for junior associates. However, I can think of at least half a dozen associates who I interact with on a daily basis who would fuck the firm over royally if they decided to leave in two weeks. There *are* some associates who are particularly important because they know everything about a case and have developed relationships with the client that are not easily replaceable, and yes, some of these associates are midlevels.

Is it possible to get to where you know everything about a case as a first or second year associate? If so, how? Otherwise, can a junior associate do anything to become indispensable on a case/deal or for a partner at a large firm?

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:06 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


This is 100% true for junior associates. However, I can think of at least half a dozen associates who I interact with on a daily basis who would fuck the firm over royally if they decided to leave in two weeks. There *are* some associates who are particularly important because they know everything about a case and have developed relationships with the client that are not easily replaceable, and yes, some of these associates are midlevels.
I find this implausible and laughable. What exactly is it about a midlevel's relationship with the client that you think makes the midlevel so indispensable? Will the client take its matter or deal and go elsewhere because some midlevel left? Will the client refuse to communicate with the partner except through the midlevel? You mean to tell me that the midlevel is such a genius that no one else - not a fellow midlevel or lateral, not to mention the senior associate, the counsel, the partner himself - can take over some of the midlevel's prior functions on short notice? And how exactly is it that the midlevel knows everything about the matter again? The midlevel was not there when the client first called and the representation was undertaken. The midlevel was probably not on any prior matter to which this current matter is related. The midlevel is certainly not on every call of consequence that the partner has with the client - or do you think that the partner is running to debrief the midlevel every time the partner is playing golf, having dinner, or taking midnight calls with an officer from the client? Sometimes not even junior partners are privy to all the crucial discussions that a senior partner has with a client, but the midlevel is the one who knows all? Even if you, as a midlevel, master everything you are told, you need to realize that however important you seem to be, there are things going on that you are not even told about because they are well above your pay grade and expertise and it doesn't even occur to people to involve you.

You are confusing being inconvenient to replace with being indispensable. A firm gets fucked over when it loses a client or messes up a deal/matter in some way that jeopardizes its fees, reputation, or standing with the client. An entire firm is merely inconvenienced, however, when a new associate has to be staffed on one of its many deals on short notice because another associate left. When someone who was doing a lot of work leaves, others on the deal/case have to do more work, and sometimes they have to rifle through the dearly departed midlevel's things to find documents, and everyone is annoyed for a time. Nothing else is in jeopardy. Let that sink in, as disconcerting as it might be to you.

Ours is a field in which most associates are gone by the 5th year. Virtually none of them give the firm a heads up that they are job hunting until they have found a job and are leaving within two weeks. What sense do you think it could possibly make for any partner to build a matter around a senior associate, talk less of a midlevel, of all people, under such circumstances? Even the most seemingly happy midlevel could give notice today and partners are aware of that. Associates need to do better when it comes to dealing with the reality of our fungibility. Convincing yourself that your position is more important than it is only hurts you and your ability to direct your career.

Torney12
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:14 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Torney12 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.

Originally quoted anon here. Maybe it is different at a v10 which carries more prestige, better comp and is probably more highly leveraged than my firm. My experience has been very different. Our deals are being mistaffed because we do not have enough midlevels and senior associates to properly staff deals, associates are being asked to juggle more deals and take on more responsibility than they can really handle, which leads to mistakes and burnt out associates...who leave. Clearly some attrition is necessary, but to have almost no midlevel associates is not good. Our deal flow is picking up, but we lack the associates to handle them.

The lateral prospects that I have interviewed are not as good as our homegrown associates. A lot of the laterals are the dredges of their firm. Even the decent ones that we have hired are not as good as our homegrown associates, except for one outlier. Not to mention that we lose institutional knowledge when associates leave. I have seen first hand that it leads to mistakes and worse client service.
"Mistaffed" from whose perspective? Do you mean to tell me that work at your firm is not getting done, entire deals are being passed up, cases are being left outright unlitigated, and crucial deadlines are being missed all because of associate attrition? Manifestly unqualified laterals are slipping like roaches through the cracks of the firm's crumbling foundation and habitually committing malpractice because that's all these bottom-feeding laterals know how to do?

If the situation really is this dire at your firm and partners have yet to notice this, then I'd advise you to log off and start job hunting because your firm's crash is imminent. If the situation is not really this dire, then your firm illustrates exactly what I said in my prior post: between hiring laterals and overworking the associates who remain, big law life will go on regardless of associate attrition. Associates might not like the increased workload and might resent laterals, but the wheels of big law will not stop turning.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:07 pm

Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.

Originally quoted anon here. Maybe it is different at a v10 which carries more prestige, better comp and is probably more highly leveraged than my firm. My experience has been very different. Our deals are being mistaffed because we do not have enough midlevels and senior associates to properly staff deals, associates are being asked to juggle more deals and take on more responsibility than they can really handle, which leads to mistakes and burnt out associates...who leave. Clearly some attrition is necessary, but to have almost no midlevel associates is not good. Our deal flow is picking up, but we lack the associates to handle them.

The lateral prospects that I have interviewed are not as good as our homegrown associates. A lot of the laterals are the dredges of their firm. Even the decent ones that we have hired are not as good as our homegrown associates, except for one outlier. Not to mention that we lose institutional knowledge when associates leave. I have seen first hand that it leads to mistakes and worse client service.
"Mistaffed" from whose perspective? Do you mean to tell me that work at your firm is not getting done, entire deals are being passed up, cases are being left outright unlitigated, and crucial deadlines are being missed all because of associate attrition? Manifestly unqualified laterals are slipping like roaches through the cracks of the firm's crumbling foundation and habitually committing malpractice because that's all these bottom-feeding laterals know how to do?

If the situation really is this dire at your firm and partners have yet to notice this, then I'd advise you to log off and start job hunting because your firm's crash is imminent. If the situation is not really this dire, then your firm illustrates exactly what I said in my prior post: between hiring laterals and overworking the associates who remain, big law life will go on regardless of associate attrition. Associates might not like the increased workload and might resent laterals, but the wheels of big law will not stop turning.

Misstaffed from the partners perspective. They talk about it regularly. As in, their time is being wasted micro-managing deals because they need to rely on a junior when they should be relying on a midlevel (or a midlevel when they should be relying on a senior associate). It's not an efficient use of their time. They should be out selling, not doing the work of midlevels or senior associates. I am not some naive associate who doesn't understand how big law works... this is directly from the horse's mouth.

My department wants to hire, but there is a lack of qualified candidates. I'm not sure why you do not believe this. It is a widely accepted notion that there is a lack of good 4-7th years associates in transactional groups because there were not a ton of deals going on when they were rising the ranks due to the recession. This is not a crazy conspiracy theory. It is a fact. Will a firm collapse because it loses a midlevel? Of course not....your example goes down a pretty silly train of thought and misses the big picture. It is about efficiency.

Are deals being passed on? No - of course not. Are the partners missing opportunities to expand their practices because they have to micro-manage more than they should be instead of networking? Yes. Resoundingly, yes...and given that practice at a large law firm is already extremely time consuming and competition among firms is stiff, it is problematic to have inefficiencies.

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2080
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:21 am

Torney12 wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Torney12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm also not v10 midlevel, but I concur with the above poster with regards to firm focus on associate retention. Certainly, this depends upon the firm and the practice group, but at my firm we are losing associates by the truckload once they become 3rd/4th year associates. Back in 2008-2010, there was a real concern about layoffs (it was happening), but we are very lean right now. Associates are busy and there are very few associates between 3rd years and senior associates. Junior associates are expected to pickup midlevel tasks earlier than they were these past several years (more akin to the boom years). Partners have started to notice that retention is becoming a problem... though, they are not doing anything about it yet.

Here's a secret: They don't care. If too many associates leave, they'll hire laterals. Meanwhile junior associates will soon come of age and replace their predecessors as midelevels. Associates are replaceable and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Nothing makes this clearer than when, from time to time, so-called star associates leave suddenly and their classmates think this will shake up the partnership. Except it doesn't and life goes on as usual. Especially in this economy, big law will never lack for associates to do the work.


This is 100% true for junior associates. However, I can think of at least half a dozen associates who I interact with on a daily basis who would fuck the firm over royally if they decided to leave in two weeks. There *are* some associates who are particularly important because they know everything about a case and have developed relationships with the client that are not easily replaceable, and yes, some of these associates are midlevels.
I find this implausible and laughable. What exactly is it about a midlevel's relationship with the client that you think makes the midlevel so indispensable? Will the client take its matter or deal and go elsewhere because some midlevel left? Will the client refuse to communicate with the partner except through the midlevel? You mean to tell me that the midlevel is such a genius that no one else - not a fellow midlevel or lateral, not to mention the senior associate, the counsel, the partner himself - can take over some of the midlevel's prior functions on short notice? And how exactly is it that the midlevel knows everything about the matter again? The midlevel was not there when the client first called and the representation was undertaken. The midlevel was probably not on any prior matter to which this current matter is related. The midlevel is certainly not on every call of consequence that the partner has with the client - or do you think that the partner is running to debrief the midlevel every time the partner is playing golf, having dinner, or taking midnight calls with an officer from the client? Sometimes not even junior partners are privy to all the crucial discussions that a senior partner has with a client, but the midlevel is the one who knows all? Even if you, as a midlevel, master everything you are told, you need to realize that however important you seem to be, there are things going on that you are not even told about because they are well above your pay grade and expertise and it doesn't even occur to people to involve you.

You are confusing being inconvenient to replace with being indispensable. A firm gets fucked over when it loses a client or messes up a deal/matter in some way that jeopardizes its fees, reputation, or standing with the client. An entire firm is merely inconvenienced, however, when a new associate has to be staffed on one of its many deals on short notice because another associate left. When someone who was doing a lot of work leaves, others on the deal/case have to do more work, and sometimes they have to rifle through the dearly departed midlevel's things to find documents, and everyone is annoyed for a time. Nothing else is in jeopardy. Let that sink in, as disconcerting as it might be to you.

Ours is a field in which most associates are gone by the 5th year. Virtually none of them give the firm a heads up that they are job hunting until they have found a job and are leaving within two weeks. What sense do you think it could possibly make for any partner to build a matter around a senior associate, talk less of a midlevel, of all people, under such circumstances? Even the most seemingly happy midlevel could give notice today and partners are aware of that. Associates need to do better when it comes to dealing with the reality of our fungibility. Convincing yourself that your position is more important than it is only hurts you and your ability to direct your career.


I never said indispensable. Quit putting words in my mouth. I said they would fuck over a firm, and by that I meant that it would be extremely inconvenient and unprofitable for the firm. That doesn't mean it would sink the firm. Don't be an idiot. Not even partners are so indispensable that they would sink a firm if they left.

What I'm talking about is someone who has worked on an investigation or long-running case and billed 8,000+ hours on the matter, more than any other partner, associate, etc. I'm talking about someone who knows every relevant person to the investigation, every major and most minor issues to the case, and every strategy that has been tried and failed in the past. I'm talking about someone who has already sent hundreds of letters to opposing counsel coordinating schedules, doing discovery, working with experts, etc. These people exist in my firm, and they are midlevels. I'm sorry they don't exist in your over-leveraged, piece of shit firm where midlevels are probably still doing doc review.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:02 am

since it seems that there are a couple of active ~senior associate level people here right now, i thought i'd ask:

i'm going to be an SA this summer in a ~v20 (it's an overseas office so im not sure if that changes things - but it's a big office, more than 100 people, and generates significant revenue and has a lot of deals going on)

my attitude going in (if i get the full offer) is that i am just another associate, and am utterly replaceable and will probably be out the door in a couple of years. there is a chance i could be more, but improbable. My question though, is what can i do to try and become that kind of associate who is noticed? is there anything i can do to increase my chances of not getting pushed out the door early on and making it to senior associate, and beyond that, being one of those "up and coming" associates? i feel so much of this is dependent on things that right now i am not even conscious of, but present, will manifest in my work (going into transaction cross border m&a). im hoping there is at least some that is actively within my control to do and improve upon to augment that.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273135
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:20 am

Question about the firm I'll be summering at regarding career development, since I would potentially like to go in-house one day.

I'm going to be working this summer at a small (~25 lawyer) secondary market satellite office of a NLJ250 BigLaw firm HQ'd in one of the primary markets (NY/CHI/DC). The secondary market I'm in is pretty big, but not huge (think Philly/Houston/Atlanta). The firm is still a nationally known BigLaw firm, although this office isn't particularly well-established my city since the office is relatively new. Because the office is so small, the cases will be pretty leanly staffed and I'll take on responsibility pretty quickly, and the firm is not highly-leveraged at all so being on the partner track is a real possibility. I will have several practice areas to choose from, so I'm not going to forced to work in any particular niche, although I will likely be on the transactional side.

My question: in terms of career development and potential in-house exit options in my secondary market, is it better to be at a smaller office like this and have potentially greater experience and responsibility, or to be at one of the biggest firms in the city with a better reputation, even if your experience may not be quite as substantial. I worry that because my firm isn't as well-known in my secondary market as it is in it's primary city, it might hurt me in the long run.

User avatar
star fox
Posts: 13660
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:13 pm

Re: V10 Midlevel Associate. Taking Questions.

Postby star fox » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:34 pm

Do you have to be super extroverted (the kind of person that can carry a room) to be successful in BigLaw or can you be quiet but friendly and polite and still be able to find success in BigLaw?




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.