Staff Attorney

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Anonymous User
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Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:43 am

Anonymous because I don't want to out myself. Recently (last month) hired as a staff attorney at a prestigious biglaw firm (Northeast but not NYC). Most of the searches I did on google and TLS came back with results from the (more) gloomy days of 2009. I'd like to get your more-recent thoughts. I summer associated at the firm but, given the economy, they are not hiring associates. I'm glad to have the job, and it definitely suits my lifestyle. I just want to see what the current consensus is on these jobs. Of course, we all wanted to be associates when we went to law school (or at least thought we did). But the idea of working roughly 9-5 for a good chunk of the associate salary + benefits is definitely appealing for those of us who are now unsure about whether we want to do biglaw forever. It is quite clear that these days staff attorneys are not the glorified doc review bitches of the past, though not quite doing full associate work (my firm - and maybe others - being the exception..the associates/partners are currently doing the work I'll be doing they just need help). I went to a good school (T20) and finished just barely in top half. What are my exit options if they decide to let me go? Will it be a scarlet letter on my resume? Any personal experience? All thoughts are welcome including the negative ones. If you need more specifics ask, but I likely can't get much more specific than i already have.

thanks TLS!
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:15 am, edited 2 times in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:58 pm

I interacted with two staff attys at my summer firm. They were quite laid back, but I sensed some resentment of their status, or inferiority complex. One told me that the only difference between his work and that of a first year is the salary. The other was the only attorney during the entire summer who felt the need to tell me that summer associate work-product was largely worthless. That may be true, but smarter and more accomplished associates did not feel the need to assert their superiority over mere summers. So this guys clearly had some issues. Just my limited first hand experience with staff attys.

Anonymous User
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:55 pm

Similar experience to the above.

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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:41 am

OP here: thanks for the replies. Of course there is some inferiority complex but Im not a prestige whore and it doesn't hurt me much. I'll still be making more money than I ever thought I would at my age and more than double what I would make with my B.A. I'm more concerned about the impressions other people (mainly other firms/potential employers) have of the position (lay people don't know the difference) and exit options. Any further help is appreciated.

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Remmy
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Remmy » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:24 am

Exit options for staff attorneys:

(1) Litigation Support Project Manager - either at your firm, another firm, a consulting company, or a vendor.

(2) Leave the legal profession entirely.

And that's it. I've seen lots of staff attorneys come and go at my big firm, and these are the only two "exit options" I've observed.

rad lulz
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby rad lulz » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:29 am

Remmy wrote:(2) Leave the legal profession entirely.

Sounds like they're getting a good deal then

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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:03 am

Remmy wrote:Exit options for staff attorneys:

(1) Litigation Support Project Manager - either at your firm, another firm, a consulting company, or a vendor.

(2) Leave the legal profession entirely.

And that's it. I've seen lots of staff attorneys come and go at my big firm, and these are the only two "exit options" I've observed.


Not really a partner I talked to at a V100 said they convert some Staff Attorney to Associates. Also, you can always network, and develop your connections. This is not accurate at all.

Depending on the level of your school obviously. If you are not from a T10 I don't think this would apply.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby reasonable_man » Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:34 am

If you want to have a real career (where you will be anything more than a paralegal with less presitge - at some big firms a long time paralegal for a senior partner has way more power/status than a staff attorney), you need to move on from this as quickly as possible. Even associates at small firms know that staff attorneys are project-monkeys that do the crap no one else wants to do. You may convince yourself that the work you are doing is substantive (hell - it might even be substantive), but no one else will believe it. You have a job and that's really great and by all means, until you find something else, stay and collect a pay check (and be the best staff attorney you can be - you know wear pants to work and dont drool on yourself). But if you want to have an actual career, you need to get out fast before that "staff attorney" designation starts to stick to you.

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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:03 am

reasonable_man wrote:If you want to have a real career (where you will be anything more than a paralegal with less presitge - at some big firms a long time paralegal for a senior partner has way more power/status than a staff attorney), you need to move on from this as quickly as possible. Even associates at small firms know that staff attorneys are project-monkeys that do the crap no one else wants to do. You may convince yourself that the work you are doing is substantive (hell - it might even be substantive), but no one else will believe it. You have a job and that's really great and by all means, until you find something else, stay and collect a pay check (and be the best staff attorney you can be - you know wear pants to work and dont drool on yourself). But if you want to have an actual career, you need to get out fast before that "staff attorney" designation starts to stick to you.


OP here:
Well, including my summer associate time I'll have more seniority than the paralegals who are all new so we are good on that front ;). You think what you say holds true even ITE and even if you can put on your resume that you did court appearances, drafted motions, argued motions, defended depos, etc. - real lawyer stuff? And what is your definition of fast? I'd think flaking before a year or two looks worse than being a "project attorney."

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reasonable_man
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby reasonable_man » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:09 am

Anonymous User wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:If you want to have a real career (where you will be anything more than a paralegal with less presitge - at some big firms a long time paralegal for a senior partner has way more power/status than a staff attorney), you need to move on from this as quickly as possible. Even associates at small firms know that staff attorneys are project-monkeys that do the crap no one else wants to do. You may convince yourself that the work you are doing is substantive (hell - it might even be substantive), but no one else will believe it. You have a job and that's really great and by all means, until you find something else, stay and collect a pay check (and be the best staff attorney you can be - you know wear pants to work and dont drool on yourself). But if you want to have an actual career, you need to get out fast before that "staff attorney" designation starts to stick to you.


OP here:
Well, including my summer associate time I'll have more seniority than the paralegals who are all new so we are good on that front ;). You think what you say holds true even ITE and even if you can put on your resume that you did court appearances, drafted motions, argued motions, defended depos, etc. - real lawyer stuff? And what is your definition of fast? I'd think flaking before a year or two looks worse than being a "project attorney."


I disagree. I think that ITE, the fact that you got a job is a positive thing and that you moved on to something more "substantive" as soon as it was available to you demonstrates your desire to be a real lawyer. I actually know a 2003 grad from a T14 that got no-offered by a big firm after 2L (that ultimately folded in horrific fashion right after). He had to do project work for about 8 months to make ends meet. He got himself into a very respectable midlaw firm (where I was working as a paralegal while in college). He and I are still very good friends and he has gone on to have a very good career. Mostly attributable to the fact that he jumped to a “real” associate position as soon as one became available. FWIW I’m a 2008 grad and work in the NYC market, so I am probably looking at this from a slightly different perspective.

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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:17 am

reasonable_man wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:If you want to have a real career (where you will be anything more than a paralegal with less presitge - at some big firms a long time paralegal for a senior partner has way more power/status than a staff attorney), you need to move on from this as quickly as possible. Even associates at small firms know that staff attorneys are project-monkeys that do the crap no one else wants to do. You may convince yourself that the work you are doing is substantive (hell - it might even be substantive), but no one else will believe it. You have a job and that's really great and by all means, until you find something else, stay and collect a pay check (and be the best staff attorney you can be - you know wear pants to work and dont drool on yourself). But if you want to have an actual career, you need to get out fast before that "staff attorney" designation starts to stick to you.


OP here:
Well, including my summer associate time I'll have more seniority than the paralegals who are all new so we are good on that front ;). You think what you say holds true even ITE and even if you can put on your resume that you did court appearances, drafted motions, argued motions, defended depos, etc. - real lawyer stuff? And what is your definition of fast? I'd think flaking before a year or two looks worse than being a "project attorney."


I disagree. I think that ITE, the fact that you got a job is a positive thing and that you moved on to something more "substantive" as soon as it was available to you demonstrates your desire to be a real lawyer. I actually know a 2003 grad from a T14 that got no-offered by a big firm after 2L (that ultimately folded in horrific fashion right after). He had to do project work for about 8 months to make ends meet. He got himself into a very respectable midlaw firm (where I was working as a paralegal while in college). He and I are still very good friends and he has gone on to have a very good career. Mostly attributable to the fact that he jumped to a “real” associate position as soon as one became available. FWIW I’m a 2008 grad and work in the NYC market, so I am probably looking at this from a slightly different perspective.


yeah I'm familiar with your background and was taking that into account. describe to me what your definition of "a very good career" is. To me, jumping to something ASAP for likely less pay, 30-40% more billables, more stress, and a small-to-zero chance at equity (if I can even make it that long) doesn't seem like the best option as much as biding my time and finding something solid and rewarding - maybe even outside the legal profession. Which is what I was hoping to gain some more information about in this thread.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby reasonable_man » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:17 am

Based on what you're saying, it doesn't seem like you really want to be a lawyer. It seems like its all a "waste of time" for you. So I would guess that you should focus on networking and only move when you find the right spot outside the profession.

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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:31 am

OP here:

ehh.. I want to be a lawyer. I just dont think I'd mind staying in the location of this position (Northeast but not NYC) and in the staff attorney role for as long as possible. I just want to understand the ramifications of this. Thanks for the info RM.

usfvictor
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby usfvictor » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:49 am

reasonable_man wrote:Based on what you're saying, it doesn't seem like you really want to be a lawyer. It seems like its all a "waste of time" for you. So I would guess that you should focus on networking and only move when you find the right spot outside the profession.



I think you both have different definitions of "lawyer", seems like for OP lawyer does not have to equal big law, while for reasonable_man "real lawyer" = big law(could be mistaken, just the vibe i got from reading your posts). OP, as far as exit options, that would depend on the experience gained from the projects your doing and if it doesn't tranlsate into another job at a firm, you can always look to go work in-house somewhere.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby reasonable_man » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:55 am

usfvictor wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:Based on what you're saying, it doesn't seem like you really want to be a lawyer. It seems like its all a "waste of time" for you. So I would guess that you should focus on networking and only move when you find the right spot outside the profession.



I think you both have different definitions of "lawyer", seems like for OP lawyer does not have to equal big law, while for reasonable_man "real lawyer" = big law(could be mistaken, just the vibe i got from reading your posts). OP, as far as exit options, that would depend on the experience gained from the projects your doing and if it doesn't tranlsate into another job at a firm, you can always look to go work in-house somewhere.



I'm an 08' grad from a TTT law school and practice at a small firm in NYC with a niche practice - not a biglaw snob at all.

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Re: Staff Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:51 pm

Staff attorneys and their roles within a firm vary wildly from firm to firm. For instance, at my firm they do the same exact work as associates but are simply paid less and have a lower par. Just depends brah. Definitely has a stigma that can go along with it but in terms of exit options, it probably depends on the experience you get in your position, not just that you were labeled as a staff attorney.




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