Legal Aid or Biglaw?

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?

Legal Aid
13
36%
Biglaw
23
64%
 
Total votes: 36

09042014
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby 09042014 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:56 pm

I'm guessing there is a 5% chance you could actually get this big law job.

Can't you just walk up to legal aid and volunteer there for a summer?

Anonymous User
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:21 pm

I'm wondering (not to completely hijack the thread) how one might think the situation and advice would change if a person a) did have a biglaw offer, b) did not disdain it nearly as much as OP, c) had GULC's LRAP available, and d) a shit ton of debt...think 250k.

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somewhatwayward
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby somewhatwayward » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:27 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:Yeah, you're wrong and need to be corrected. All other things being equal, public interest orgs like to have those with the strongest commitments to their cause. But the guy with biglaw experience kills the "all other things being equal" because it provides the best training and serves as a signal to public organizations that says something along these line, "THIS GUY ISN'T A STUPID DO-GOODER. HE MIGHT BE A DO-GOODER, BUT HE'S ALSO THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST. HIRE HIM."


I was about to write 'IME, you're wrong and need to be corrected' before I continued reading your post and realized you are saying what I would say. The supposed rigid barrier between big law and PI is mainly a myth for people from prestigious schools or, to a lesser extent, top of their class at less prestigious schools. Of course PI orgs like people dedicated to their cause, but they appear to be pretty prestige-driven in their hiring. I worked at Legal Aid and what I observed was that it took the homegrown staff attorneys much longe to progress up the ladder than the people who lateraled in from big law (eg, my boss had been a staff atty for 10 years, starting out at Legal Aid right out of law school, while her boss had spent four or five years at a big law firm and entered into a supervisory position even though she had less years of experience). My boss recommended that I go to a big law firm out of school and told me I could lateral into PI if I wanted to after that.

My one hesitation with recommending this to OP is that I think the barrier between big law and PI is more real for people with less impressive resumes. Big law makes the resume more impressive, but below median at a T20 is not going to knock-the-socks-off the people hiring in PI. As I mentioned above, I believe the reason PI orgs are attracted to ex-big law attys is because of prestige. Law is just really prestige-driven in much of its hiring. The thing is that big law is a proxy for either a prestigious school or really good grades. If OP sneaks into big law through his connection (which is far from a certainty in my mind until he has the offer letter in hand), I think that would help him in PI hiring down the line, but I think the below median T20 thing would decrease the boost from big law. From what I observed it seems to be big law + prestigious school or good grades = reasonable shot at lateraling to PI.

The bottom line IMO for OP is probably to go to big law but do PI externships and clinics and keep connected with the PI community to hedge your bets. Don't expect the big law job alone to get you into PI. I would also recommend working hard to raise your grades so you can put some type of honors on your resume.

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Postby Myself » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:45 pm

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Last edited by Myself on Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

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jbiresq
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby jbiresq » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:58 pm

Desert Fox wrote:I'm guessing there is a 5% chance you could actually get this big law job.

Can't you just walk up to legal aid and volunteer there for a summer?


This is neither here nor there but you're telling me the firm is going to create an associate position because the person is family friends with a large client?

AllTheLawz
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby AllTheLawz » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:30 pm

ajax adonis wrote:
justme17 wrote:I don't think working a summer in biglaw and then going to work PI is necessarily a bad idea, but if I'm reading your posts correctly, my guess is you'd like to work in an environmental field. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if that's the case it probably will raise some eyebrows if you just spent a summer working for the "other side." You only have so much time left to demonstrate a strong commitment to PI - I wouldn't waste a whole summer doing something else if public interest is your ultimate goal. In the end though, I have to ask why you're talking to us instead of career services? If they're any good at your school (and I realize that's a big "if" depending on where you go), they can almost certainly answer this question much more reliably than a bunch of Internet strangers.


Jeez, it's BigLaw, not BP. The "other side"? I'm surprised you didn't say the Dark Side. Just because you work a summer in big law doesn't mean you're tainted. There are many reasonable non-profits and government agencies that will see that as a benefit to have that experience/credential.


Yeah it just sounds like this person has no clue what they are talking about. I worked at a pretty big legal non-profit on the east coast and all but one member of the legal staff was a former associate from a private sector oriented firm and about three quarters of them were former senior associates or partners in biglaw. The only "entry-level" hiring was sponsored fellowships and, at least the summer I was there, every single one of them was from a top 20 law school.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:43 pm

Well, for what it's worth, environmental law can have that us/them thing - a friend of mine who has a lot of "save the rainforest" kind of stuff on her resume has been grilled by big firms about whether she'd really be willing to go to the "dark" side and defend in environmental suits. (And she didn't get the jobs, though who knows if that was why.) Not saying you can't go biglaw --> PI, just that how easy that is might depend on the area of law and what exactly you did. (And it could go the other way, of course - a PI org might like someone with experience on the "dark" side. Just thought I'd throw it out there.)

HeavenWood
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby HeavenWood » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
HeavenWood wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sure. The biglaw firm I'm talking about defends power companies. I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me. That's my issue there.

I see. You must charge your laptop via waterwheel, then.


Anonymous User wrote: I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me.

I saw your explanation. I just find your grandstanding hilarious.

kenji
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby kenji » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:39 pm

I know that TLS sucks biglaw's dick but jeez one guy doesn't like it and he gets these kind of responses.

This board sucks.

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Lasers
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Lasers » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:55 pm

kenji wrote:I know that TLS sucks biglaw's dick but jeez one guy doesn't like it and he gets these kind of responses.

This board sucks.

I think it has more to do with not having a good reason for disliking biglaw than anything else.

If OP said the hours suck or the high stress environment doesn't fit me, then there wouldn't be many denouncing that. Above all we appreciate some rational thought...just a little though.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:31 pm

Lasers wrote:I think it has more to do with not having a good reason for disliking biglaw than anything else.


I never said I disliked biglaw. The stress and hours don't appeal to me, but I don't view biglaw as evil or anything. The only reason I'm not really interested in this firm is the particular type of work they do. You guys can rage at me all you want, but there are some positions I just don't have any interest in.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a 'fuck you op with your grandstanding and treehugging.' I was really, really just interested in the utility of having one spot vs. the other on my resume for chasing PI post graduation.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm wondering (not to completely hijack the thread) how one might think the situation and advice would change if a person a) did have a biglaw offer, b) did not disdain it nearly as much as OP, c) had GULC's LRAP available, and d) a shit ton of debt...think 250k.


Take the biglaw offer (I assume you mean summer, not post-grad). Seriously, take it, work your ass off, get a full-time offer. Try to live as much like you are on a PI salary as possible and get involved in pro bono work, trying to build ties with a few places you might want to lateral to. Then, after a few years of aggressively paying down debt, you will be a) more comfortable taking a pay cut b) have developed skills and a resume that will be more attractive, and c) maybe the economy won't be so incredibly shitty. If you keep your grades up, you might be able to do a transition clerkship, which speeds the process. But don't hang your hat on the possibility of maybe getting a full time job after graduation or maybe being jobless and 250k in debt when the path to PI only requires a little more patience and a few years of hard work.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Just as an FYI b/c I see these "guaranteed biglaw job with connections" posts on TLS all the time lately, your connections don't sound like the type that will land you a job in biglaw. I used to work with a lobbying oriented group in a major DC biglaw firm and the partner (not managing partner but on the managing committee) I worked for used to get these "connections" calls all the time. Only once did I see someone get a job using connections but she didn't just know a guy. She was the daughter of big client that was actively shopping work and was the type of client from which a constant stream of work could be expected. She also was at least a grad of a tier 1 school and on a secondary journal so I assume her grades weren't terrible. I once heard a guy in charge of work from a Fortune 500 client ask the partner about a job for his tier 4 grad daughter-in-law and all she got out of it was a 20 minute informational interview.


I didn't mean to say that I could get a guaranteed post-grad job. I meant that I was told that if I wanted a summer spot it was pretty much a lock. If it is that hard to get a summer spot then I was misled.

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FlanAl
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby FlanAl » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:04 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:
justme17 wrote:I don't think working a summer in biglaw and then going to work PI is necessarily a bad idea, but if I'm reading your posts correctly, my guess is you'd like to work in an environmental field. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if that's the case it probably will raise some eyebrows if you just spent a summer working for the "other side." You only have so much time left to demonstrate a strong commitment to PI - I wouldn't waste a whole summer doing something else if public interest is your ultimate goal. In the end though, I have to ask why you're talking to us instead of career services? If they're any good at your school (and I realize that's a big "if" depending on where you go), they can almost certainly answer this question much more reliably than a bunch of Internet strangers.


Yeah, you're wrong and need to be corrected. All other things being equal, public interest orgs like to have those with the strongest commitments to their cause. But the guy with biglaw experience kills the "all other things being equal" because it provides the best training and serves as a signal to public organizations that says something along these line, "THIS GUY ISN'T A STUPID DO-GOODER. HE MIGHT BE A DO-GOODER, BUT HE'S ALSO THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST. HIRE HIM."

OP, if the stint in biglaw would give you litigation experience, go with biglaw. Public interest organizations, for all their zealotry, need damn good lawyers. When they look for damn good lawyers, they look for people with demonstrated ability...like those who jump ship from biglaw firms. You won't be sacrificing the potential for public interest work down the road by working in biglaw, but you will be sacrificing the signaling power of a biglaw employment history if you go straight into public interest work. Moreover, you might get a better sense of where to hunt, if you will, by working on the power co's side for a bit before going to work for the little guy.



edited because I didn't see the environmental stuff. if you want to do environmental work i'm not sure either one would be more helpful than the other so probably take biglaw for some money.
Last edited by FlanAl on Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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IAFG
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby IAFG » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:11 pm

1) I agree with DF that you're probably going to be out in the cold if the biglaw thing is really, actually biglaw.

2) Legal aid isn't going to lead to an offer.

3) I just had the opportunity to chat with some OCS staff about trends in legal hiring, and everyone in the room agreed the whole "proven commitment to PI" is way oversold.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Just as an FYI b/c I see these "guaranteed biglaw job with connections" posts on TLS all the time lately, your connections don't sound like the type that will land you a job in biglaw. I used to work with a lobbying oriented group in a major DC biglaw firm and the partner (not managing partner but on the managing committee) I worked for used to get these "connections" calls all the time. Only once did I see someone get a job using connections but she didn't just know a guy. She was the daughter of big client that was actively shopping work and was the type of client from which a constant stream of work could be expected. She also was at least a grad of a tier 1 school and on a secondary journal so I assume her grades weren't terrible. I once heard a guy in charge of work from a Fortune 500 client ask the partner about a job for his tier 4 grad daughter-in-law and all she got out of it was a 20 minute informational interview.

I've also seen these "guaranteed spots" lead to failure more often than success, and when it's worked it was for people that had the credentials anyway. Big firms hire by committee. It's not enough to just have one person willing to half-heartedly vouch for you.

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FlanAl
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby FlanAl » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:47 pm

IAFG wrote:1) I agree with DF that you're probably going to be out in the cold if the biglaw thing is really, actually biglaw.

2) Legal aid isn't going to lead to an offer.

3) I just had the opportunity to chat with some OCS staff about trends in legal hiring, and everyone in the room agreed the whole "proven commitment to PI" is way oversold.


i don't know anything about all PI but I know that for public defense work spending a summer in biglaw isn't going to help when you're looking for jobs after graduation. I think mostly PI places are going to think you got no offered if you do a biglaw summer and then come knocking at their doors 3L looking for jobs.

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IAFG
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby IAFG » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:58 pm

FlanAl wrote:
IAFG wrote:1) I agree with DF that you're probably going to be out in the cold if the biglaw thing is really, actually biglaw.

2) Legal aid isn't going to lead to an offer.

3) I just had the opportunity to chat with some OCS staff about trends in legal hiring, and everyone in the room agreed the whole "proven commitment to PI" is way oversold.


i don't know anything about all PI but I know that for public defense work spending a summer in biglaw isn't going to help when you're looking for jobs after graduation. I think mostly PI places are going to think you got no offered if you do a biglaw summer and then come knocking at their doors 3L looking for jobs.

I assume we're talking about getting those jobs after actually working (and being trained) by a firm. Frankly, getting PI right out of school isn't something to bet on.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:04 pm

IAFG wrote:1) I agree with DF that you're probably going to be out in the cold if the biglaw thing is really, actually biglaw.

2) Legal aid isn't going to lead to an offer.

3) I just had the opportunity to chat with some OCS staff about trends in legal hiring, and everyone in the room agreed the whole "proven commitment to PI" is way oversold.


1. If I got the biglaw summer spot I know it wouldn't lead to actual employment. I'm not desirable on account of my experience and numbers. Really just interested in the lines it would add to my resume. Doubt it would be very good experience.

2. I didn't think it would lead to employment. I wanted the experience/resume/commitment. I would be able to spend some time in court, which would be nice.

3. Thanks, I had no idea how (un)important it was.

Also, I'm not betting on anything. It would be nice, and I'm aiming for it, but I expect to have to hustle to get anything.

AllTheLawz
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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby AllTheLawz » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
IAFG wrote:1) I agree with DF that you're probably going to be out in the cold if the biglaw thing is really, actually biglaw.

2) Legal aid isn't going to lead to an offer.

3) I just had the opportunity to chat with some OCS staff about trends in legal hiring, and everyone in the room agreed the whole "proven commitment to PI" is way oversold.


1. If I got the biglaw summer spot I know it wouldn't lead to actual employment. I'm not desirable on account of my experience and numbers. Really just interested in the lines it would add to my resume. Doubt it would be very good experience.

2. I didn't think it would lead to employment. I wanted the experience/resume/commitment. I would be able to spend some time in court, which would be nice.

3. Thanks, I had no idea how (un)important it was.

Also, I'm not betting on anything. It would be nice, and I'm aiming for it, but I expect to have to hustle to get anything.


Given that you are a 2L, that isn't how it works at all. If you get summer biglaw position then you are desirable for whatever reason and will be at least considered for a permanent offer. In fact, at most of the firms I would consider biglaw, a summer position turns into an offer over 80% of the time. Also, Im not really sure why you think it would not be a very good experience. As someone who has summered at both biglaw and PI I would say that the summer at biglaw was an equally good experience (though with less responsibility). The advice that has been given in this thread regarding major PI orgs hiring from biglaw applies just as much for an environmental as it does for other stuff. The place I described earlier where about 3/4 of the legal people were from biglaw was a legal org.

In general, it just sounds like you have no idea what the reality of either PI or biglaw is about. I would really recommend you get together with a knowledgeable person at your school's OCS and get some advice.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:55 pm

AllTheLawz wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
IAFG wrote:1) I agree with DF that you're probably going to be out in the cold if the biglaw thing is really, actually biglaw.

2) Legal aid isn't going to lead to an offer.

3) I just had the opportunity to chat with some OCS staff about trends in legal hiring, and everyone in the room agreed the whole "proven commitment to PI" is way oversold.


1. If I got the biglaw summer spot I know it wouldn't lead to actual employment. I'm not desirable on account of my experience and numbers. Really just interested in the lines it would add to my resume. Doubt it would be very good experience.

2. I didn't think it would lead to employment. I wanted the experience/resume/commitment. I would be able to spend some time in court, which would be nice.

3. Thanks, I had no idea how (un)important it was.

Also, I'm not betting on anything. It would be nice, and I'm aiming for it, but I expect to have to hustle to get anything.


Given that you are a 2L, that isn't how it works at all. If you get summer biglaw position then you are desirable for whatever reason and will be at least considered for a permanent offer. In fact, at most of the firms I would consider biglaw, a summer position turns into an offer over 80% of the time. Also, Im not really sure why you think it would not be a very good experience. As someone who has summered at both biglaw and PI I would say that the summer at biglaw was an equally good experience (though with less responsibility). The advice that has been given in this thread regarding major PI orgs hiring from biglaw applies just as much for an environmental as it does for other stuff. The place I described earlier where about 3/4 of the legal people were from biglaw was a legal org.

In general, it just sounds like you have no idea what the reality of either PI or biglaw is about. I would really recommend you get together with a knowledgeable person at your school's OCS and get some advice.


Thanks, I think you're right. I'm kind of flying blind here. I don't really have any attorney friends/family members and my OCS sucks. Trying to piece together a plan, which is why I'm here. I'm not set on doing environmental work... I'm actually looking to branch out. It just happens that the one connection I have is to biglaw that deals with the environment.

I had just assumed that if I called in a connection to get a summer spot that I didn't have the stats for that they wouldn't be inclined to give me an actual spot when I graduated.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby kenji » Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:03 pm

I think you need to keep in mind that this is TLS and its very biglaw-focused. Please take everything that is said with a huge grain of salt.

If you want PI, take the PI experience. You need the commitment/exp on your resume for future positions and frankly you're just not into biglaw. Aint nothing wrong with that, this is your life. Do what you want.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:45 pm

Look, OP, you don't seem to fully recognize that you are in an objectively bad position with that school, those grades, and that debt load. You're in very real danger of being unemployed when you graduate, and $100,000 in loans with no job is going to be very unpleasant. A 2L job at Legal Aid does very little to ensure you get a permanent job. They won't offer you a job at the end of the summer, and when you apply for similar jobs at graduation you're going to be competing against many, many people with much more impressive qualifications. If it's true that you can get a job in a large firm, you have a good chance to get an offer to return after you graduate. That really should be what you're worried about right now.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Agent » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:23 am

I've heard of this going either way. My advice: take the biglaw gig and do your best to land an offer.

Anonymous User wrote:I had just assumed that if I called in a connection to get a summer spot that I didn't have the stats for that they wouldn't be inclined to give me an actual spot when I graduated.

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Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:12 pm

What did you do your 1L year?

I volunteered with Legal Aid and was informed by an attorney there that they absolutely will not hire someone that has not actually worked as a legal clerk with them. So take that for what it's worth.

If you were a 1L, I would say try biglaw out for the summer, you have time to show your commitment/find a post-grad PI gig, but 2L summer is the time you show your commitment to your post-grad path. You don't want to take biglaw and have to explain to a PI org why you didn't work in PI. It doesn't look well at all. They will absolutely question your commitment, especially if you don't have a term time PI internship or volunteer work. If you really want to work in PI, you should be talking to your OCS and finding out what you need to do to look desirable to PI orgs. Now if you want only the most prestigious PI gigs, then your school, tier, etc. comes into play. A gig in Biglaw will hurt your prospects either way.




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