Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

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Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:52 am

I'm in my last semester at South Texas in Houston, TX. I'm working as a clerk in a midsize litigation firm. The main office is in another city, and this is where the hiring,etc. decisions are made. The partner who manages our Houston office has made it clear he wants to keep me on after I take the Bar, as long as it is approved by our main office (this scares me), which won't make a decision until I am licensed.

I recently had an interview and a firm offer from a transactional solo in the suburbs. Transactions is really what I want to do (business formation, contract drafting, etc.). This position would be as an independent contractor, but the owner says he has more work than he can even think about handling and it would be no problem for me to bill between 30-40 hours a week (I believe him). Benefits are not an immediate concern for me. I will only be paid for the hours that I bill at a rate of 1/3 the billable rate. Without being too specific, it's not hard to figure out that this is fairly competitive pay. Based on my knowledge of what some of the other associates have started off at at the midsize firm, the pay at the solo firm would be quite a bit more (~$20k-$30k).

In summary, my future at the midsize firm is uncertain, and I could start working at the solo firm immediately (at a higher clerk rate) and be certain that I have work lined up after the Bar.

It seems obvious that I should jump ship at the midsize firm and start working for the solo, right? ...A guaranteed job and higher pay. Well, I still have several hesitancies. Mainly, the solo stigma and my inability to move "up" (anywhere) in a solo. If I stay there for 3 years, will a future employer look at the solo job as a negative? Compared to if I stuck it out at the midsize (and made less money) and of course, IF the job after the Bar exam actually came to light?

I would eventually like to end up as in house counsel at a corporation (7-10 years down the road). I have consulted a few practicing attorneys and everyone seems to have their own opinion. I know the decision will ultimately be mine to make, but I've seen some pretty good stuff on this forum and would welcome any suggestions/advice anyone would like to contribute.

Thanks in advance.

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crazycanuck
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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby crazycanuck » Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:23 am

How much of a risk taker are you?

One could make the argument that there's better opportunities for upward mobility with the solo. After 3 years of doing of the work by yourself, you could eventually branch out on your own, or the solo and you could start your own firm and hire clerks of your own.

However, of course there is more risk than this route than if you go to the mid size firm (presumably you get hired). The mid-size is most likely a guaranteed paycheck with a firm that won;t just up and leave.

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cinephile
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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby cinephile » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:04 am

A friend of mine was working for a solo and their personalities began to clash after a few months, so he let her go. And it really wasn't apparent at the interview phase that they wouldn't fit well together. At least with a mid-sized firm, if you clash with one partner there might be another who still likes you enough to keep you on.

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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby Broseidon » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:30 am

I only don't hate the idea of working with a solo, provided you get along with him. You'll be in close quarters and will be the only other attorney, so chemistry is key. What's great is that you'll be doing real lawyering as opposed to being a glorified proofreader.

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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:42 pm

Thanks for the replies.

Does anyone have thoughts on the stigma that may come along with working for the solo- basically how it will look on my resume to future employers? I've heard that some firms turn their nose up at applicants who have worked for a solo as compared to someone who has worked for a "multiname" firm. My goal is to get a few years of experience doing the transactional work while paying the bills, and then move on to a bigger firm. My fear is that the experience with the solo won't be as impressive as the experience with the midsize firm (even though the work I will be doing at the solo firm will be more relevant). Worst case scenario, I can't get another job because all of firms I apply to frown on the solo experience and I am forced to branch out on my own (which I am not really interested in doing this early in my career).

TooOld4This
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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby TooOld4This » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:03 pm

30% of billables or 30% of collectibles?

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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby TooOld4This » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:08 pm

Also, no way that a solo is doing the type of transactional work that any decent size firm is doing. It seems unlikely that you would develop marketable skills.

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holdencaulfield
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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby holdencaulfield » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:08 pm

Assuming your midsize job is guaranteed so long as you pass the bar, this is a no-brainer to me. Go with the midsize firm for several reasons:

Regarding your goal of eventually going in-house:

1. Every in-house guy I know came from a large firm, and many jumped ship to go work for a client. Large companies (the types that have in-house counsel) do not use solo practitioners; they almost always use a full-service large or midsize firm that can meet all of their needs. It's far more likely you'll gain the connections needed to go in-house at a larger firm.

2. Business formations and simple contracts are great, but you need broad experience in complex commercial transactions and related areas. You're much more likely to get this at a midsize firm that with a solo. You know who drafts 99% of my business formations? My paralegal.

Regarding pay:

1. What if work dries up in 6 months? What if the solo takes a vacation or starts working part time? What if you don't have enough work to bill 30-40 hours per week? Your income will be entirely dependent one person giving you work, and as discussed above, the work is likely going to be for smaller clients and not very complex. A good question to ask the solo is how many hours he billed last year because that may be indicative of how much work is available for delegation. If he only billed 1,300 hours last year (not uncommon for solos), there's not going to be enough work available for you to bill 40 hours a week.

2. Your first year salary may not be earth-shattering at the midsize firm, but it's steady, and it'll only go up if you do well. I'm at a midsize firm myself; after my first year I got a 20% raise plus a 5% bonus. Best part? I get the same paycheck every month and I don't have to worry about collecting bills from clients or having enough work to pay the mortgage.

Working for the solo is fine to fall back on as a last resort, but I would strive to get a job with a larger firm. Just my two cents...

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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:38 pm

Thanks for the reply holdencaulfield. Your insight was very helpful. As far as the workload, it's pretty steady right now but I know that could dry up. He told me he was contracting out about 90 hours a week and I would have "first dibs" if I came onboard.

My current firm isn't responding well to the pressure I'm putting on them and the solo wants me to start soon. And by not responding well I mean they basically said they won't have an answer for me until I pass the Bar, so its not guaranteed.

It looks like my current choices are:

1. Stay where I'm at, pray they hire me when I graduate, and increase my chances of being able to climb the legal/corporate latter (if I get hired).
2. Take the job with the solo and be able to rest easy at night knowing I have a job lined up making decent money in a bad economy as a TTTT graduate, BUT knowingly create a hurdle for myself in the future when I want to make the next step in my career.

I put in a lot of applications in on my schools job board when I started thinking hard about this just to see if I could open up some more opportunities for myself. I did manage to get one interview at a decent firm for next week. Maybe they'll hire me on the spot ; )

Bump for any last minute advice/comments before I'm forced to make a decision in the next week or so. Apologies for any typos or autocorrects. This was a pain to type on my phone. Thanks again.

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Re: Midsize vs. Solo- Does working for a Solo have a bad rep?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:40 pm

TooOld4This wrote:30% of billables or 30% of collectibles?


Billables. I made sure of this.




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