Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

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smallfirmassociate
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Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:01 pm

I practice at a small firm that has multiple offices located in rural areas in the Midwest. This is obviously a different type of practice than most of what is discussed around here, so feel free to ask anything you'd like. Other than questions that would threaten my anonymity, I'm open to answering anything.

Basic info: The firm has under a dozen lawyers. My salary is the NYC equivalent of around $120k-$125k or $65-$70k in Chicago, using cost-of-living calculators. The firm's clients range from divorce clients and misdemeanor defendants to corporations and municipalities.

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brotherdarkness
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby brotherdarkness » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:03 pm

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Last edited by brotherdarkness on Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Bronx Bum
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby Bronx Bum » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:05 pm

LMAO why don't u just tell us what ur salary is?

BTW, I'm a small firm guy too and I work in NYC. I probably make the equivalent of $13k where you're practicing.

1. How small? Please don't tell me 20.

2. Assuming it's a small firm, have you ever had to answer a phone? I don't mean someone patch it through to you. I mean did you ever have to pick up and say "Waldo & Stevens"?

3. What's the funniest thing you've had to do? (i.e. collect from a deadbeat client and put a lien on a shipment of turkeys).

4. Have you ever gone at it with a client on the phone?

5. How do you dress?

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:16 pm

brotherdarkness wrote:What type of work does your firm do? Transactional, litigation, both?

Did you start at this firm straight out of school, or do a stint in biglaw first?

What kind of hours do you typically work?

What do you like most and least about working at a small firm?


What type of work does your firm do? Transactional, litigation, both?

We do both transaction and litigation. Most of our revenue comes from transactional work, but we have one attorney who does almost exclusively litigation and two others who do a significant amount, including me. Most of the attorneys tend to shy away from litigation, though, as we're seriously outgunned when we deal with large civil lawsuits. Our modest attorney manpower means that big suits are stressful, and some of the partners get annoyed when litigators tie up a lot of money in expense advances for cases they take on contingency.

Did you start at this firm straight out of school, or do a stint in biglaw first?

Straight out of school. I worked here as an SA and decided I liked the pace.

What kind of hours do you typically work?

The office opens at 8 and closes at 4:30. I usually come in around 8:10 - 8:15 and am gone by 4:30 the majority of days. I stay past 5:15 about once per week, and I work about one Saturday per month, usually for two hours or so. I also take a lunch every day, usually with a partner in my office who puts it on the firm's credit card.

What do you like most and least about working at a small firm?

As you can tell, the hours are awesome. What I do is basically part-time lawyering by biglaw standards. That's probably my favorite part, along with the autonomy that I have. I can take or turn away clients as I see fit, set my own retainer and rate, and build up my practice to my liking. My least-favorite part is that I don't have an endless supply of work, so I feel guilty or stressed on some days when I only bill 3-4 hours (like today). Also, I don't get paid a ton. That follows naturally from what should be obvious from this thread so far: that I don't work a ton. If my wife didn't work, I'd have a hard time getting ahead financially as an associate.

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yossarian
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby yossarian » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:20 pm

What are your career goals? How do you view your time at this firm in light your ambitions?

What kind of debt did you carry out of school? Do you find that the COL difference does not make up for the salary difference in terms of paying down debt?

What is your specialization at the firm? What is your balance of personal (divorce/misdemeanor) v. larger cases (corp/municipal)? What is your firm's balance?

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:27 pm

Bronx Bum wrote:LMAO why don't u just tell us what ur salary is?

BTW, I'm a small firm guy too and I work in NYC. I probably make the equivalent of $13k where you're practicing.

1. How small? Please don't tell me 20.

2. Assuming it's a small firm, have you ever had to answer a phone? I don't mean someone patch it through to you. I mean did you ever have to pick up and say "Waldo & Stevens"?

3. What's the funniest thing you've had to do? (i.e. collect from a deadbeat client and put a lien on a shipment of turkeys).

4. Have you ever gone at it with a client on the phone?

5. How do you dress?


LMAO why don't u just tell us what ur salary is?

I know, it's odd, but just part of the anonymity, sorry. My salary is considered good money for my area, but I'm certainly not raking in the dough. Like a lot of rural areas in the Midwest, there aren't a lot of professional jobs or good-paying jobs in general.

1. How small? Please don't tell me 20.

Fewer than a dozen, including semi-retired attorneys practicing Of Counsel.

2. Assuming it's a small firm, have you ever had to answer a phone? I don't mean someone patch it through to you. I mean did you ever have to pick up and say "Waldo & Stevens"?

Yes! We have two secretaries at my branch, so it's not uncommon for me to pick up the phone. I would say I answer at least one phone call on nearly half of the days I am in the office. On busy days, or when a secretary is off, I've answered up to a dozen phone calls, although that's rare. I don't mind it too much, despite the fact that I obviously can't bill for a lot of them.

3. What's the funniest thing you've had to do? (i.e. collect from a deadbeat client and put a lien on a shipment of turkeys).

Speaking of animals, I do have a case that revolves around bull semen. My client bought a bull to breed cows, but the bull, well, didn't perform. The most important facts of the case are the times when the bull was semen checked, my guy's refusal to, um, manually semen check the bull when he took possession, the supervision (or lack thereof) of the cows during the breeding period, etc. It's a sticky situation. BUT damages for several non-pregnant cows are pretty high!

I've also had to file a number of strange replevin actions on cars, furniture, etc and represented some pretty colorful low-grade criminals.

4. Have you ever gone at it with a client on the phone?

You mean today? Ha...well, not too much, actually. I've got a reputation as the patient, tactful attorney at the firm. The partner in my office, on the other hand, is known to regularly get into it with clients. We're dealing with such a strange mix, where one guy in the door might be a sophisticated businessman, and the next might be, to be honest, a total idiot, that it's kind of hard to stay patient at times.

5. How do you dress?

I wear a suit most days, since I tend to either have court or at least one "important" client meetings each day. Otherwise, I go with casual: dress slacks and a button-up, no tie.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:39 pm

yossarian71 wrote:What are your career goals? How do you view your time at this firm in light your ambitions?

What kind of debt did you carry out of school? Do you find that the COL difference does not make up for the salary difference in terms of paying down debt?

What is your specialization at the firm? What is your balance of personal (divorce/misdemeanor) v. larger cases (corp/municipal)? What is your firm's balance?


What are your career goals? How do you view your time at this firm in light your ambitions?

This may be obvious considering the job I took, but I have modest financial and career goals. If I make partner here, it'll be more than enough to meet my goals, raise a family, retire at a reasonable age, etc. And the firm, despite being small, has a good enough reputation that I shouldn't destroy my exit options. We've had attorneys become judges, go in-house, move on to big firms, etc., so I should have some options if this isn't for me long-term.

What kind of debt did you carry out of school? Do you find that the COL difference does not make up for the salary difference in terms of paying down debt?

I have, um ,"normal" debt from a T-25 / $100k+ in loans between undergrad and law school. The COL difference definitely does NOT make up for my low salary, but the federal repayment plans are awesome if you live in a low cost of living area. My minimum payments (under IBR) are comically low and would be even lower under PAYE. I'm actually saving a lot of money, which I will probably use to pay some loans off eventually.

What is your specialization at the firm? What is your balance of personal (divorce/misdemeanor) v. larger cases (corp/municipal)? What is your firm's balance?

Good question that would require a complex answer, but I'll try to keep it short. Real estate is our money-maker. Commercial real estate, farmland, and associated trust and estate planning work brings in the most money. Our municipal practices and variations (school districts, municipal utilities, etc.) are great business for us as well. As an associate, my business is on the lower end of the prestige spectrum. Luckily I don't have to do much divorce (< 10%), but I do a lot of criminal defense (maybe 35% of my practice). I also do a lot of our firm's lower-end civil litigation: promissory notes, etc., and that may be 30% of my practice. The rest is real estate, estate planning, elder law, municipal law, appellate work, administrative law (unemployment / DOT hearings), and whatever comes in the door that I feel like taking. I suppose I've been doing a lot of real estate lately and representing a lot of non-profits for some reason.

(Well, it's past 4:39 and I'm the last guy here--better go home!)

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:56 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:(Well, it's past 4:39 and I'm the last guy here--better go home!)


wat

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2014
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby 2014 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:09 pm

What sort of business generation is expected of you and how much credit do you get for it?

Do you get raises? bonuses?

Is there any point at which you expect to be considered for partner or pushed out, or can you stay an associate in perpetuity?

Did you choose this firm over any large ones in that market or otherwise, and if so why?

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yossarian
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby yossarian » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:22 pm

Also. Thank you so much. This has the makings of a very informative thread. Great info so far! Appreciate the help.

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DKM
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby DKM » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:26 pm

Did you try to load up on any certain classes during 2L or 3L?

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RemyMarathe
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby RemyMarathe » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:50 pm

Thanks for taking qs! TLS lacks information on smaller firm life/hiring/etc.

How much was obtaining the SA a function of grades and how much of fit, networking, connections and the like?

What's it like building your "book" at an early stage in your career? Or is your contact with new clients mostly those of the one time client variety (i.e., crim defense, divorce)? I imagine that as being a rewarding part of small firm practice.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:30 am

2014 wrote:What sort of business generation is expected of you and how much credit do you get for it?

Do you get raises? bonuses?

Is there any point at which you expect to be considered for partner or pushed out, or can you stay an associate in perpetuity?

Did you choose this firm over any large ones in that market or otherwise, and if so why?


What sort of business generation is expected of you and how much credit do you get for it?

This is a pretty complicated question. I would say the most important thing I need to do is retain business and develop rapport with existing and new clients to keep our position in the market strong. In other words, our firm's name brings in enough business; associates can't afford to lose that business or harm the firm's reputation by being ineffective lawyers or douchebags. I'm also expected/gently nudged to do some networking and get out in the community. I sit on a few boards, and the firm seems to appreciate that. Above all, I need to keep my level of practice high and be respected among colleagues. A lot of our work actually comes from referrals from local sole practitioners, and those referrals are reputation-based.

Do you get raises? bonuses?

Yeah, I get modest raises. There's supposed to be a bonus program, but I won't be eligible for a few months still. If I were worried about my salary, I would just need to talk to the managing partner. He has hinted at raising associate pay in the past, but I haven't pushed him on it. If my numbers come back good this year, I'm sure we'll talk. When you work for a really small firm, it's not like there are policies that are set in stone. More like, "Hey John Doe, I gotta pay the new guy, how much did you get paid when you were an associate...?"

Is there any point at which you expect to be considered for partner or pushed out, or can you stay an associate in perpetuity?

The business model isn't really set up to keep associates around forever if they aren't going to make partner. The idea is to have only one or two associates at a time and to develop their books and make them partners. The firm has been open that it plans for me to become a partner, and I should be there within four years of my start date. The significant majority of attorneys who join the firm make partner. We have had two recent associates who failed. One didn't work at all and was canned after just a few months on the job. The other has been here for four or five years, and the partners don't have the heart to push him out, but I have a feeling that they will now that I'm up and running with my practice.

Did you choose this firm over any large ones in that market or otherwise, and if so why?

Only indirectly. I stopped pursuing jobs at bigger firms once I had this offer on the table, which was early in law school. Just personal reasons. The reason I became a lawyer is because my last job involved sitting in an office all day and working on the same few types of things over and over. I wanted a, shall we say, more ADD-friendly law job where I work on lots of different things. For example, today I'm drafting several proposed city ordinances, filing suit against a contractor involved in a construction project for a non-profit, and wrapping up a plea deal on an OWI. So I'm all over the place, and I like that. A lot of other people wouldn't.

Also, work-life balance is big for me, as I'm married with kids. And while I'm smart, I have a mean slacker streak and don't like to work a lot of hours. (I think I burned myself out as a young adult working some very demanding jobs and want to enjoy life now.) On a more philosophical level, I've never felt defined by my career, but instead see it as a means to an end. I'll never be able to say I'm a partner at a big law firm, and I'll never work on multi-billion dollar business deals or lawsuits that make national news, but I am ok with that. Hope that kind of answers the question.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:38 am

DKM wrote:Did you try to load up on any certain classes during 2L or 3L?


Yes. Off the top of my head, here are the subjects that I took that cover areas where I now practice: Tax (which unfortunately wasn't very helpful in practice, but whatever), Property II, Elder Law, and some advanced contract law courses.

In addition, I didn't take these but may have found them useful: Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Wills, Trusts & Estates, Family Law, and anything involving School Law or Municipal Law (in addition to Property II, which was good).

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:58 am

RemyMarathe wrote:Thanks for taking qs! TLS lacks information on smaller firm life/hiring/etc.

How much was obtaining the SA a function of grades and how much of fit, networking, connections and the like?

What's it like building your "book" at an early stage in your career? Or is your contact with new clients mostly those of the one time client variety (i.e., crim defense, divorce)? I imagine that as being a rewarding part of small firm practice.


How much was obtaining the SA a function of grades and how much of fit, networking, connections and the like?

It was an OCI job, and they didn't pre-select me. My grades were bottom third at the time, so I can't blame them. I got into an interview on the lottery, and they called the next day and offered me the SA position. So, the SA offer was probably 70% personality fit from the interview + __% from the fact that I am originally from within an hour of the firm's locations + ___% dashing good looks. Ok, I made that last one up. I graduated in the top-third, so I suppose I rewarded the firm, but they had no idea at the time.

I should add that the firm has some high academic achievers, including two partners who graduated from t-5's and two others who were editors on law reviews at t-20's. Those four are originally from the area, though, so I think it's more that they ended up at the firm by chance, not that the firm recruits those types of academic credentials. It's just interesting because people don't expect to find those attorneys here in the sticks.

What's it like building your "book" at an early stage in your career? Or is your contact with new clients mostly those of the one time client variety (i.e., crim defense, divorce)? I imagine that as being a rewarding part of small firm practice.

It's sloooowwwww. Building a book in rural practice isn't something you can do in a few months. You've also perhaps unwittingly hit on part of building that practice: that you never know who is going to be just a one-time client. You might represent a person in a divorce, then five or twenty years later they come back to set up a will and trust, and they've built or inherited twenty million dollars in assets in the meantime. Or you might represent the other party in a divorce, and have the other person come to you in the future because they liked how you handled things. I've definitely learned that it's a small world here, so it's best to treat everyone with respect, even adversaries. And even indigent clients "bothering" you with low-end crap. I do send potential clients away on occasion, but I try hard not to, as you never know what kind of work that person may have for you down the road. Ultimately, you're right that being in charge of your own reputation and destiny is rewarding, albeit somewhat nerve-racking. You're always aware that one public stumble can do a lot of damage to your career.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby arklaw13 » Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:22 pm

What is the transparency like, as far as total firm revenue, how much the partners are drawing, etc.? How long did/will it take before you have full knowledge of the firms finances, individual billing numbers, etc.?

How do you make sure that your criminal case clients actually pay you?

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Jan 14, 2014 2:02 pm

arklaw13 wrote:What is the transparency like, as far as total firm revenue, how much the partners are drawing, etc.? How long did/will it take before you have full knowledge of the firms finances, individual billing numbers, etc.?

How do you make sure that your criminal case clients actually pay you?


The partners have offered a surprising amount of transparency. The managing partner told me his income from the previous two years when he offered me a job, and a partner occasionally discloses firm books to me. At this point, I have a very good idea of the firm's income and expenses, and what I need to do to make partner.

As for making sure my criminal clients pay me, the state pays me for representing indigent clients. For private pay criminal defense clients, I just make sure to take an adequate retainer. I haven't had a big problem with people not paying. If someone has trouble, we'll offer to put them on a monthly payment plan.
Last edited by smallfirmassociate on Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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patienunderstanding
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby patienunderstanding » Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:11 pm

Approximately how long have you been with the firm? And also, if you decided today that you want to "open your own shop," do you think you would be able to "function"? Meaning, do you think that by working at a small firm you learned so much that you could survive as a solo practitioner? (Not financial wise, but skill-wise).

Thanks a lot for your time.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:18 pm

patienunderstanding wrote:Approximately how long have you been with the firm? And also, if you decided today that you want to "open your own shop," do you think you would be able to "function"? Meaning, do you think that by working at a small firm you learned so much that you could survive as a solo practitioner? (Not financial wise, but skill-wise).

Thanks a lot for your time.


No problem. I think there's a dearth of information on different types of practice on these forums, so I'm glad to chip in.

I've been with the firm for approximately a year.

If I decided to open my own shop, I could function, but I'd have a limited practice. I could handle, for examples, criminal defense, family law, and a good range of fairly basic civil litigation matters. On the other hand, I wouldn't feel comfortable helping clients with complex estate planning and tax issues or time-consuming lawsuits with a lot of discovery, depositions, and motions.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:26 am

smallfirmassociate wrote:Speaking of animals, I do have a case that revolves around bull semen. My client bought a bull to breed cows, but the bull, well, didn't perform. The most important facts of the case are the times when the bull was semen checked, my guy's refusal to, um, manually semen check the bull when he took possession, the supervision (or lack thereof) of the cows during the breeding period, etc. It's a sticky situation. BUT damages for several non-pregnant cows are pretty high!


The randomness of that story seems to out you more than your salary haha.



Thanks for posting, I worked at a small firm in undergrad and loved the pace. Sounds similar to where you are working at.


ETA- deleted my first question, for a better question.


I'm going to SA at a small/mid sized firm this summer. I really, really, want to turn it in to a full time offer because of a lot of the pros you mentioned above. I would love to hear some insight on how to turn this in to an offer. Anything novel that you did that worked?

Also, you mentioned that one associate got canned. Why? Was it personality or could he simply not do that job. For some reason, my biggest fear in life is that I will graduate and not know how to function as a real attorney.

Thanks!

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:The randomness of that story seems to out you more than your salary haha.

Well, I don't think it's going to go to trial. We're negotiating a settlement, and only a few people even know the conflict exists.

I'm going to SA at a small/mid sized firm this summer. I really, really, want to turn it in to a full time offer because of a lot of the pros you mentioned above. I would love to hear some insight on how to turn this in to an offer. Anything novel that you did that worked?

I wish I could provide some brilliant advice, but a lot of it just comes down to personality fit with the other lawyers. One important thing is that you have to possess the personality to deal with clients. At a small firm, you're going to have a lot of face-time with clients from day one, and the partners have to be confident that they can turn you loose without you screwing things up. The firm can't hide you in a back office for two years while it grooms you for client contact. This means you have to be personable, and you also have to show good judgment, professionalism, and a knack for understanding the economics of small firm practice so that you're not taking unprofitable clients. So whatever you do, don't cower from client contact while you are an SA, but seek it out where appropriate and show that you're comfortable jumping straight into the fray. Of course, don't be so eager that you screw anything up or step on toes--you'll figure it out.

Also, you mentioned that one associate got canned. Why? Was it personality or could he simply not do that job. For some reason, my biggest fear in life is that I will graduate and not know how to function as a real attorney.

The guy who got let go had major personality issues. He did decent, but not great, work. The associate who is flailing around right now has moderate personality issues and moderate work quality issues. He's not a terrible lawyer, but he's sub-par and doesn't excel in any area.

Thanks!

No problem--thanks for asking questions.

Jan 14
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby Jan 14 » Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:23 pm

How does your firm advertise (cable, paper, etc.). Did you join local organizations (rotary, chamber, etc.), if so, how is it working out? Thoughts on a Country club membership.

Have you ever gone against BL firm… were they smart/just so-so or did they use their manpower to gain a BL advantage?

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RemyMarathe
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby RemyMarathe » Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:19 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:


Appreciate the response.

How is the social life in the firm? Is there an expectation you attend happy hours, play golf, etc.?

Is it like big firm life with stuffy awkward holiday parties? Or do you have pleasant relationships with your co-workers/their families?

Is there anything a potential associate could do/not do that would red flag him as an ill fit (i.e., doesn't watch football and participation in a fantasy league is pretty much expected)?

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:10 pm

Jan 14 wrote:How does your firm advertise (cable, paper, etc.). Did you join local organizations (rotary, chamber, etc.), if so, how is it working out? Thoughts on a Country club membership.

Have you ever gone against BL firm… were they smart/just so-so or did they use their manpower to gain a BL advantage?


The firm doesn't really advertise at all. It did finally get a rudimentary website in the past few years, but that's it.

I sit on a few boards and attend some meetings for fraternal organizations. It works out fine. I mean, that kind of thing isn't really my style, but I've met some good people. A country club membership is usually a good idea if you can use it enough to make it worth it. If you have a family, it's hard to justify going to the CC for a Saturday and leaving the wife and kids at home, unless you're kind of a terrible husband and father. :)

We go against big firms pretty regularly and tend to do just fine. We've won our last three appeals against big firms, actually, all within the past year. If there were a case where we thought opposing counsel's manpower would put our client at a disadvantage, we wouldn't take in the first place. I actually think it would be unethical to take such a case. The cases that we do have are ones where we feel we can represent our clients as well as any firm in our state.

To finish answering your last question, my experience is that the standard of actual litigation practice at big firms isn't much different than it is anywhere else when it comes down to the brass tacks of lawyering. Litigating isn't rocket surgery, as Homer Simpson would say. Pretty much any decent lawyer is going to identify similar arguments and write similar motions and briefs. Maybe the main thing is to have lawyers who are good in deposition, and we fortunately have some of those.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:19 pm

RemyMarathe wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:


Appreciate the response.

How is the social life in the firm? Is there an expectation you attend happy hours, play golf, etc.?

Is it like big firm life with stuffy awkward holiday parties? Or do you have pleasant relationships with your co-workers/their families?

Is there anything a potential associate could do/not do that would red flag him as an ill fit (i.e., doesn't watch football and participation in a fantasy league is pretty much expected)?


My firm has multiple branches, so social life with other attorneys is really limited simply because each office has just a few attorneys in it. I do hang out with a few of the younger partners on occasion, but there's really no expectation that I'll do so. If a partner asked me to do something, for example, it would be fine if I declined. From talking to my friends in biglaw, I know that's different than how things go at a lot of other places.

We have an annual holiday party. It's less awkward than I thought it would be. That's probably because everyone knows each other pretty well and we have a sociable crew of attorneys, plus some really entertaining, funny, outgoing support personnel. And I think all of our attorneys like to put down a few drinks...

I think the biggest red flag for an associate would just be an antisocial personality. If you're distant or short with support staff, I think that would be a huge problem. You have to consider that our office workers are very similar to our client base, culturally. If you can't relate to them, you'll probably struggle to relate to clients. It's also hard to find good help in our area, so the partners don't want to risk losing a good paralegal because of a mediocre associate--that's a bad trade. Also, it's a red flag if you can't develop relationships with other attorneys and judges. We have a very collegial bar, but there are about 20% of attorneys who just don't really fit in for any number of personal or professional reasons: bad personality, no personality, annoying, blowhard, dishonest, unprofessional or incompetent, etc. So if you were an SA or new associate and it looked like you might be in that outcast 20%, that would be a red flag too.

I know it's been a recurring theme, but practice out here basically comes down to being a normal, sociable person and diligently representing your clients / doing your job. It's amazing how many attorneys, even very intelligent ones with strong academic records, struggle with these basic things. In addition to being normal and being diligent, it helps if you just happen to be brilliant. But it's not necessary.




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