First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

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First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:56 pm

I'm at a busy firm doing transactional work in a major market. I work a ton but I actually enjoy the job and the people I work with. I want to be light on details of my specific situation but am happy to be heavy on perspective/advice/reflections.

Biggest observation so far is that the practice area / partners / senior associates you land with make such a huge difference relative to everything else. Trying to select a firm without pinning down those details could never be much more than guess worm but that's what most of us had (or will have) to do. People at "my firm" in other practice areas have lives completely different from mine. They work on different hours, have different stress levels, different responsibilities, different trajectories, etc. I'm happy where I landed but might be miserable in the shoes of the guy a few floors above me.

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bk1
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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby bk1 » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:09 pm

Prior to starting, how long did you want to last and how long did you think you would last in biglaw? Based on your 6 months or so there, how long do you want to last and long do you think you will last?

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ph14
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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby ph14 » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:10 pm

What are your hours like? What are your billable expectations/requirements?

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piccolittle
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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby piccolittle » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:17 pm

What factors drew you to the firm over others before you started? Would you change those considerations now if you had the choice to make over again? What are the most competitive groups (to enter) at your firm, and which groups have good or bad reputations for quality of life/work?

bk1 wrote:Prior to starting, how long did you want to last and how long did you think you would last in biglaw? Based on your 6 months or so there, how long do you want to last and long do you think you will last?

Awesome question.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby rad lulz » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:20 pm

When you meet chicks in bars, do you tell them that you make binders for a living?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:26 pm

rad lulz wrote:When you meet chicks in bars, do you tell them that you make binders for a living?


I generally say something along the line of "copying and pasting for a living".

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:34 pm

ph14 wrote:What are your hours like? What are your billable expectations/requirements?


February averaged something silly like nearly 10 hours per day... including weekends. The distribution was much more steady than some - instead of having nothing to do some mornings and pulling all-nighters on occasion, which is the standard for "bad" months in transactional/lit practices at big firms, I had a more steady diet of 8-10 hours of work most days with some stretching longer, but never had to be at the firm past 10pm or so due to working with others or arrive earlier than 8 am for a call.

bk1 wrote:Prior to starting, how long did you want to last and how long did you think you would last in biglaw? Based on your 6 months or so there, how long do you want to last and long do you think you will last?


That's a hard question. I tried to go in willing to like/love it, but not gunning for partner. Your exit options are very limited if you leave in under ~2 years, and are probably the best after 4 to 5. Attrition is high though, because the grind is extremely taxing and the firm is good enough that you can go somewhere at almost any point, even if it's not to the dream job.

I'd say I'm pegging my hopes on serendipity. If I find a path to partner, and want it, I'd like to think I could try. If I find a path to a nice inhouse job or at another firm, I'd like to be willing to put my chips there. In this industry so much depends on what's happening around you and not on your own moxy/talent/pain tolerance. You won't get anywhere without a lot of pain tolerance and doing recognizably good work, but specific expectations are dangerous.

Since starting my expectations haven't changed much. My recent time sheet is clearly unsustainable (Extrapolated over the year I'm working Wachtell+ hours) but it hasn't burnt me out yet... and there's hope that the middle of March will be a bit of a respite.

piccolittle wrote:What factors drew you to the firm over others before you started? Would you change those considerations now if you had the choice to make over again? What are the most competitive groups (to enter) at your firm, and which groups have good or bad reputations for quality of life/work?


People. I had a lot of options selecting firms, and the biggest factor was the culture/people/vibe. I wanted to go to a place where when things got bad, I'd enjoy the sense of camaraderie with the other people under the gun. So far it's played out as I expected - a lot of us are "in the hole" but we joke and laugh when we cross paths in the hall at weird hours, and the teams I work with on a day to day basis are comprised of wonderful people that make me more willing to put in the silly hours. Not everybody is my favorite person or best buddy, but the place I chose puts a premium on decent human interaction and that's made the shitty time commitment much more bearable.

The hardest groups to get into are the slow ones, and the easiest to get into are the insanely busy ones - which shouldn't come as a surprise. Bread and butter corporate work has the worst reputation for quality of life, because our job is to get the client what they want no matter how insane the time table the propose, or how much volume is coming in. The best reputations for QoL are the groups that are highly specialized and somewhat outside of the frenzied transactional bubble.

Work wise, I'd say junior-level securities work has the worst reputation. Doing circle ups, coordinating all the docs for a deal, doing piles of diligence, etc. just isn't thrilling. The flip side is that "early responsibility" isn't a myth - running a deal before your a third year is the expectation and not the exception, and there is interesting corporate governance/disclosure-related legal question that come up once you've cut your teeth on the grind.

I'd imagine M&A has a mountain of diligence for juniors as well, and a longer horizon for "running" a deal, but perhaps more substance in-between?

Within sub-specialties (bankruptcy, derivatives, real estate, environmental, securitization, whatever) things are so narrow based on the clients and group that it would be hard to draw generalizations. Lots of big firms do securities work, or M&A work, or commercial litigation, so you can draw comparisons. As you move away from that, it gets much harder.

rad lulz wrote:When you meet chicks in bars, do you tell them that you make binders for a living?


I have yet to make a binder, and have lucked into a practice with a lot of substantive work for juniors. Describing it to anyone, chick at a bar or otherwise, is met with shitty responses. The work of a lawyer really isn't that sexy, unless you do nothing but drop the names of clients / foreign countries / transaction values :lol:

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby sfhaze » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:People. I had a lot of options selecting firms, and the biggest factor was the culture/people/vibe.

How do you really judge the people? Just gut feeling during interviews? What to look for? Red flags?

And if you end up picking the wrong people environment or not have a choice in the matter, what's the best way to manage this?

Anonymous User wrote:The hardest groups to get into are the slow ones, and the easiest to get into are the insanely busy ones - which shouldn't come as a surprise.

I have no idea, but wouldn't starting out in a slow practice area really hurt a junior associate? So I'm kind of surprised the slow groups are the hardest ones to enter into. Is this generally the case at other firms you think? Seems to be me being in a slow group might be fun and games for a while but would hurt with picking up the necessary or desirable no. of hours to look good, making connections within firm, and learning enough to allow for exit options down the line.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:36 pm

sfhaze wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:People. I had a lot of options selecting firms, and the biggest factor was the culture/people/vibe.

How do you really judge the people? Just gut feeling during interviews? What to look for? Red flags?


Basically both of those. Some firms have truly notorious cultural quirks, which doesn't objectively make them good or bad - but hopefully if you know yourself, you know whether it'd be a good fit.

You make a huge collection of choices when settling on a firm: geography, firm size, firm practice areas, firm finances/stability, etc. "People" can't really be the #1 choice, because you have to narrow things down before then, but I firmly believe it should be the deciding factor if you narrow your choices down to a few fungible firms (as most people do). If you make a choice based on one years' chambers rankings, or a possible 5% pay difference, or whatever - it's likely not going to impact your life nearly as much as gravitating towards people you mesh with better.

sfhaze wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The hardest groups to get into are the slow ones, and the easiest to get into are the insanely busy ones - which shouldn't come as a surprise.

I have no idea, but wouldn't starting out in a slow practice area really hurt a junior associate? So I'm kind of surprised the slow groups are the hardest ones to enter into. Is this generally the case at other firms you think? Seems to be me being in a slow group might be fun and games for a while but would hurt with picking up the necessary or desirable no. of hours to look good, making connections within firm, and learning enough to allow for exit options down the line.


Well, things change fast. If you did securitization at Latham before the crash, you started in a super busy group and ended on the street. Also, firms vary wildly on how and when you even choose a group. Some NYC firms keep all of their corporate lawyers generalists and/or rotating while others let you choose a specialty early. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models.

The 10,000 hour rule probably applies to biglaw; you need some amount of exposure to really become efficient, carefully, and expertised. So a group throwing 200-300 billables/month at you will get you there faster than one throwing 100-200 at you, but make no mistake: you will suffer.

If you want to pay down some debt then lateral into a public interest organization you already have ties with, you'll have different preferences then if you want to be the leading M&A expert in NYC ASAP, you know?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Sup Kid » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:44 pm

FWIW, I'm another first year at a biglaw firm in NYC and this is 100% my experience so far as well, right down to the type of work/crazy hours since I started. Great points from the OP, and if you're interested in doing transactional work you should definitely tag this thread and make sure to read it.

Like the OP, I cannot stress enough how important it is to like the people you're working with -- make sure to talk to lots of associates when considering OCI offers and try to work with as many people as possible as a summer associate to make sure its a good fit for you. I can't imagine how miserable my life would be if I had to work the hours I'm working now with people I couldn't get along with.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:07 pm

also a first year at an nyc v10. surprised that OP has still not had to work past 10pm. although dont acknowledge he hasnt been working insane hours. i have had a bunch of nights till midnight already, and a few past that.

i agree with OP everything depends on who you are working with. the times i stayed past midnight, it was because my senior was there late, and we were working together on something. there are seniors who aren't in a rush to go home, seniors who dont know how to manage juniors, and other seniors who just like being dicks bc they had it rough. its also partly self-selction i think - normal people cannot/will not put up with this lifestyle for more than a few years, so the ones who are left at the senior level are by definition not "normal" (with some exceptions). the schedule is tough. the excitement and stamina you come in with at the beginning quickly wears off, especially once you start having to cancel plans and really gets in the way of other commitments.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:also a first year at an nyc v10. surprised that OP has still not had to work past 10pm. although dont acknowledge he hasnt been working insane hours. i have had a bunch of nights till midnight already, and a few past that.


heh, should have been more clear - my presence has never been mandatory at the office past 10pm because of ongoing work with others, but I've definitely had later nights just because I had shit to get done.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby NYstate » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:51 pm

This came up earlier in another thread. What are the actual exit options you see people getting from your firm? Where are people going? It doesn't just have to be from your group.
We want to get information on biglaw exit options people are taking now. Thanks

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby sfhaze » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:00 pm

Also, typically, are those exiting doing so b/c they're sick of the grind or b/c their advancement within the firm becomes limited, i.e., they feel like they have to move on?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:19 pm

How many of your peers do you think are gunning for partner? I know the attrition rates are huge, but there has got to be a really large percentage of incoming associates who have no interest in the partner track, right?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby BigLawer » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:45 pm

NYstate wrote:This came up earlier in another thread. What are the actual exit options you see people getting from your firm? Where are people going? It doesn't just have to be from your group.
We want to get information on biglaw exit options people are taking now. Thanks


Thanks to all the practicing lawyers who are in this thread! +1 to the above question. This is always debated here, so it would be great to get some advice. You see it contradict often on here

If the different posters could take a signature that would be great so we can tell who is who.

We have one NYC non-specified, one NYC V10 (OP, mind stating a market? If not that is understood).

TLS is getting more legit as time goes on thats for sure!

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Samara » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:48 pm

Are you married or have a SO? If not, do you think the hours you're working would be infeasible?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby thelawyler » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:04 pm

Tagging. Thanks for the insights guys.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:14 pm

v10 first year here.

ive seen several departure emails over my ~5 months here. none have been anything noteworthy. Majority go to other firms. Most on the vault scale but a decent number that are not (and one wachtell). second most often i would say in-house at some fortune500. its not clear how good the in house jobs are because they always have some weird title. like "VP legal counsel in north america division" or something like that. other people have left to just travel (these are always single people). thats pretty much it for exit options. haven't seen anything crazy or out of the ordinary like people moving into business or something else non-law.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby BigLawer » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:v10 first year here.

ive seen several departure emails over my ~5 months here. none have been anything noteworthy. Majority go to other firms. Most on the vault scale but a decent number that are not (and one wachtell). second most often i would say in-house at some fortune500. its not clear how good the in house jobs are because they always have some weird title. like "VP legal counsel in north america division" or something like that. other people have left to just travel (these are always single people). thats pretty much it for exit options. haven't seen anything crazy or out of the ordinary like people moving into business or something else non-law.


The people leaving to other firms, are any of these in different markets? Or do people usually seem to be staying in NYC?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:20 pm

NYstate wrote:This came up earlier in another thread. What are the actual exit options you see people getting from your firm? Where are people going? It doesn't just have to be from your group.
We want to get information on biglaw exit options people are taking now. Thanks


V20 lit associate here.

Of the seven people I know who left my practice group since I've been here, four went in house at well known companies, one became an AUSA, one went to a smaller firm and another left law entirely for (allegedly) personal reasons. When they left, they ranged in year from second-year to eighth-year.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby 005618502 » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
NYstate wrote:This came up earlier in another thread. What are the actual exit options you see people getting from your firm? Where are people going? It doesn't just have to be from your group.
We want to get information on biglaw exit options people are taking now. Thanks


V20 lit associate here.

Of seven people who have left my practice group, four went in house at well known companies, one became an AUSA, one went to a smaller firm and another left law entirely for (allegedly) personal reasons. When they left, they ranged in year from second-year to eighth-year.


Interesting, you always hear its really hard to go in-house as a litigator.

tag

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:24 pm

AssumptionRequired wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
NYstate wrote:This came up earlier in another thread. What are the actual exit options you see people getting from your firm? Where are people going? It doesn't just have to be from your group.
We want to get information on biglaw exit options people are taking now. Thanks


V20 lit associate here.

Of seven people who have left my practice group, four went in house at well known companies, one became an AUSA, one went to a smaller firm and another left law entirely for (allegedly) personal reasons. When they left, they ranged in year from second-year to eighth-year.


Interesting, you always hear its really hard to go in-house as a litigator.

tag


This is probably true for most kinds of lit, but I do tech-related privacy/IP work in Silicon Valley. Your practice area and geographic location play a HUGE role in your exit options because 1) most people don't want to hire someone from another state and 2) most people don't want to completely retrain a litigator in a new practice area.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby drmguy » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:25 pm

Thanks for the info.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:v10 first year here.

ive seen several departure emails over my ~5 months here. none have been anything noteworthy. Majority go to other firms. Most on the vault scale but a decent number that are not (and one wachtell). second most often i would say in-house at some fortune500. its not clear how good the in house jobs are because they always have some weird title. like "VP legal counsel in north america division" or something like that. other people have left to just travel (these are always single people). thats pretty much it for exit options. haven't seen anything crazy or out of the ordinary like people moving into business or something else non-law.

So it sounds like you see some people moving up the Vault rankings. Any views on what this kind of a move is like or how common it is? Thanks.




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