SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

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SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:07 am

Saw the other thread and had things to say in response to several of the questions, but I didn't want to step on the other OP's toes by responding to their questions, so I thought I'd start another thread.

I've worked in two BigLaw offices as a litigation associate, one in SF and one in SV. I currently work in one of those offices, but I'll refer to both jobs in the past tense when responding to questions. I had no geographic ties to the Bay Area before I summered here, but my entire legal career has been in Northern California (so I can discuss overcoming the ridiculous parochialism of this market, as I initially had a hard time breaking into the market). I was a federal law clerk. Happy to answer any questions.

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brotherdarkness
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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby brotherdarkness » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:15 am

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Last edited by brotherdarkness on Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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patogordo
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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby patogordo » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:17 am

IP?

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:30 am

brotherdarkness wrote:I know you specifically mentioned that you'd be willing to discuss breaking into the market, but my question is about your career trajectory in general. I hope that's ok.

You said you were at two firms within three years. What made you leave the first and how soon after starting did you lateral?

You also alluded to your not being at a firm anymore? What made you leave the firm life behind? Are you still in the legal field?

Thanks for doing this.


I'd prefer not to give specific timelines for anonymity's sake (and I'm fairly certain I didn't say I was at two firms in three years!), but here you go:

- I am currently a midlevel associate (think years 4-6). I am still at a firm. I just said I'd refer to both jobs in the past tense so as not to say whether I am currently working in SF or SV. I was in either SF or SV when I started, and I'm in the other "sub-market" now.
- I left my first firm for a clerkship
- I've seen many people leave the firm life before, and I did it myself for a while. People's range of reasons are exactly what you'd think: escape from the billable hour; less pressure/fewer hours; more control over hours (a separate thing from HOW MANY hours - you can work a lot in other types of legal jobs, but you will typically have more control over WHICH hours those are in other legal jobs than in BigLaw); government/public interest; spend more time with family; work with a less-demanding set of clients; more responsibility sooner in one's career than BigLaw usually allows; became senior enough to have interesting in-house opportunities; etc.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:32 am

patogordo wrote:IP?


I have some IP lit experience. I don't currently do that work full time, but I can answer some questions about what it's like (both to get a job in that practice group and to do the work).

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby brotherdarkness » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:34 am

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Last edited by brotherdarkness on Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:39 am

brotherdarkness wrote:My bad, I read your post too quickly. When you said two offices I didn't think you were referring to an infra-firm transfer.

Anyways, how did the firm feel about you leaving to clerk? Was it easy to go back? Did you jump right back to the year you would have been had you stayed, or were you set back a year?


I was not referring to an intra-firm transfer. Post-clerkship, I went to a second firm.

The firm was supportive of my leaving to clerk and does allow former clerks to return. Because I left to clerk at the same time as some other associates, we got some insight into what clerkships the firm valued most. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, district court clerkships were valued for all litigators; Federal Circuit clerkships were especially priced for IP litigators; but other COA clerkships were not as favored. Essentially, the firm recognized that the other COA clerkships were plenty prestigious, but they were perceived to translate less well to the day-to-day work of business litigation. So, while the firm was perfectly fine with snapping up COA clerks after graduation, they were not as enthusiastic about associates interrupting their careers to do COA clerkships. Not that you could not do it or could not come back - it just was not as favored. Given the conventional wisdom that COA > DCt in desirability, this was interesting to see.

I received one year of credit for my clerkship when I returned to BigLaw, even though the year credited was above the first year.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby patogordo » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:
patogordo wrote:IP?


I have some IP lit experience. I don't currently do that work full time, but I can answer some questions about what it's like (both to get a job in that practice group and to do the work).

did you start out in IP or in general lit? any preference for one over the other?

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby thewaves » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:52 am

What's your end goal and next stage in your career? How do you like SF and SV?

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:29 pm

patogordo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
patogordo wrote:IP?


I have some IP lit experience. I don't currently do that work full time, but I can answer some questions about what it's like (both to get a job in that practice group and to do the work).

did you start out in IP or in general lit? any preference for one over the other?


I was at an office that allowed junior associates to take work from both areas, so I did both patent and business litigation. I personally prefer "general" litigation (which tends to include soft IP at many firms), although I have certain likes in which I'm currently working to specialize (don't want to say too specifically or it could help identify my current firm) and dislikes that I try to avoid.

Patent is definitely a specialist field. I have friends who are born to do it, and know others who have dabbled but find it's not for them. I am in the second category. If you are in the Bay Area, love patent, are good at it, and (if trying to get hired) have a profile that will interest firms, you are in about the best position in which you can be as a litigator in the current market.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby KD35 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:31 pm

What tends to be the lateral options for SV BigLaw litigation at your firm? In-House for a tech company/VC or what?

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby patogordo » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:34 pm

thoughts on clerking straight out of LS vs working at a firm first?

what are your career goals? planning to exit in a few years or trying to stick it out? (nm you just answered this)
Last edited by patogordo on Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:38 pm

thewaves wrote:What's your end goal and next stage in your career? How do you like SF and SV?


End goal/next stage in my career: right now, as a midlevel, I'm trying to grow as much as I can as a litigator. I'd like to remain as a senior associate ... and after, that's a conversation between the firm and me, I suppose. I am definitely interested in trying for partner and discussing of counsel options if needed, at the appropriate time. If either the firm or I realizes that those options don't make sense for me, then I'd be considering smaller firm and government options. I'd also look at in-house possibilities because those seem to be very much within reach for midlevels and seniors coming out of certain firms, and many of my friends have already gone this route and say they like it. But I can't say that going in-house is a goal at this point.

I love the Bay Area. I personally prefer San Francisco, but the Peninsula has great suburban options for those looking to live a more family-oriented lifestyle. And no matter where you live in the Bay Area, you will travel to the other parts to take advantage of they have to offer. IME, San Franciscans venture to the Peninsula/South Bay for ramen/Vietnamese/Korean food and for hiking/biking. When I was trying to come here as a 2L, I told firms that I was sure I wanted to spend the rest of my career out here. They were skeptical, as I'd never lived here and hadn't really even spent any time out here visiting. Several years later: still true. Although, I *still* get "where are you from?" questions in firm interviews, even though the ONLY post-law school area on my resume is Bay Area/NorCal, and I am only admitted to practice in California. They still want to know whether I'm interested in eventually moving back to the area of the country that I'm from. Fortunately for them, I'm really not willing to consider any other market - and I know many other people out here who feel the same.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby thewaves » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
thewaves wrote:What's your end goal and next stage in your career? How do you like SF and SV?


End goal/next stage in my career: right now, as a midlevel, I'm trying to grow as much as I can as a litigator. I'd like to remain as a senior associate ... and after, that's a conversation between the firm and me, I suppose. I am definitely interested in trying for partner and discussing of counsel options if needed, at the appropriate time. If either the firm or I realizes that those options don't make sense for me, then I'd be considering smaller firm and government options. I'd also look at in-house possibilities because those seem to be very much within reach for midlevels and seniors coming out of certain firms, and many of my friends have already gone this route and say they like it. But I can't say that going in-house is a goal at this point.


How are the exit options structured for in-house around SF/SV? Is it mostly just tech startups and VCs? (do people actually exit to VCs?) From an outsider's perspective, it seems like transactional attorneys would have more options than litigators, but I don't know if you see it differently. Thanks for taking questions by the way.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Old Gregg » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:12 pm

thewaves wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
thewaves wrote:What's your end goal and next stage in your career? How do you like SF and SV?


End goal/next stage in my career: right now, as a midlevel, I'm trying to grow as much as I can as a litigator. I'd like to remain as a senior associate ... and after, that's a conversation between the firm and me, I suppose. I am definitely interested in trying for partner and discussing of counsel options if needed, at the appropriate time. If either the firm or I realizes that those options don't make sense for me, then I'd be considering smaller firm and government options. I'd also look at in-house possibilities because those seem to be very much within reach for midlevels and seniors coming out of certain firms, and many of my friends have already gone this route and say they like it. But I can't say that going in-house is a goal at this point.


How are the exit options structured for in-house around SF/SV? Is it mostly just tech startups and VCs? (do people actually exit to VCs?) From an outsider's perspective, it seems like transactional attorneys would have more options than litigators, but I don't know if you see it differently. Thanks for taking questions by the way.


You aren't going in-house to a VC as a litigator and unless you work at a select few law firms that interact with such VCs regularly.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby echooo23 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:End goal/next stage in my career: right now, as a midlevel, I'm trying to grow as much as I can as a litigator. I'd like to remain as a senior associate ... and after, that's a conversation between the firm and me, I suppose. I am definitely interested in trying for partner and discussing of counsel options if needed, at the appropriate time. If either the firm or I realizes that those options don't make sense for me, then I'd be considering smaller firm and government options. I'd also look at in-house possibilities because those seem to be very much within reach for midlevels and seniors coming out of certain firms, and many of my friends have already gone this route and say they like it. But I can't say that going in-house is a goal at this point.


Thanks for taking questions!

1. Can you explain what you mean by certain firms?

2. Can you talk about your experience breaking into the SF/SV market?

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:53 pm

KD35 wrote:What tends to be the lateral options for SV BigLaw litigation at your firm? In-House for a tech company/VC or what?


I'm going to respond collectively for SF/SV exit options, because they have not looked that different. Everything that follows is highly anecdotal.

I've noticed that litigation associates departing in years 1-4 depart for a more diverse (and less necessarily lucrative) set of destinations. Clerkships, fed/state/local government (both civil and criminal), nonprofits, midlaw, and non-legal options (entrepreneur, etc.) all seem common. Some of the year 3-4 departures are in-house. Anecdotally, associates departing in years 5-9/beyond seem more likely to go laterally to another biglaw firm, in-house, or to a smaller firm, although a few go to government (sometimes in a way clearly designed to be revolving door, e.g. securities/WCD --> USAO --> possibly back to a securities/white collar group later as a partner). I suspect that there are a couple of things going on here. The first set of departures likely include people who never intended to stay at a firm long-term or quickly realized it was not for them; they also reflect people who have not been golden handcuffed - maybe they never got used to the income because they were using it to pay down their loans, maybe they don't (yet) have a spouse/children whom they want to continue to support on a biglaw income. The second group of people are more likely to be genuinely interested in the law firm's practice areas and clients' fields, less troubled with the lifestyle challenges of being in biglaw, and/or more committed to making practical sacrifices to receiving a high salary. So when they leave, they tend to make choices that reflect those interests and priorities.

For midlevel and senior associates whom I've seen leave - other than for another firm - in-house is definitely the most popular option. What kind of company they go to often depends on what clients they've worked with. E.g., financial services litigators may end up at BofA or Wells-Fargo, while tech litigators find themselves at FB or Google. I've seen people run into challenges when they've worked with heavily with one type of client at their law firm but would prefer to go in-house at a different type of company to which their firm/they do not have as strong ties. Sometimes this works out; other times, the person ends up lateraling to a different firm and trying again for the in-house job they're looking to in the long-term.

One other logistical factor for city folks thinking of going in-house: many of the in-house options are in SV, so many people whom I've seen lateral from the SF office have taken on the two-hour commute that was also being discussed in the other thread. That can cut into the lifestyle benefits of going in-house.

Edit: I do not personally know any litigators who have gone straight to VC - or who have even mentioned wanting to do so. Again, anecdotal, so take with a grain of salt.

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Re: SF/SV BigLaw litigation associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
brotherdarkness wrote:My bad, I read your post too quickly. When you said two offices I didn't think you were referring to an infra-firm transfer.

Anyways, how did the firm feel about you leaving to clerk? Was it easy to go back? Did you jump right back to the year you would have been had you stayed, or were you set back a year?


I was not referring to an intra-firm transfer. Post-clerkship, I went to a second firm.

The firm was supportive of my leaving to clerk and does allow former clerks to return. Because I left to clerk at the same time as some other associates, we got some insight into what clerkships the firm valued most. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, district court clerkships were valued for all litigators; Federal Circuit clerkships were especially priced for IP litigators; but other COA clerkships were not as favored. Essentially, the firm recognized that the other COA clerkships were plenty prestigious, but they were perceived to translate less well to the day-to-day work of business litigation. So, while the firm was perfectly fine with snapping up COA clerks after graduation, they were not as enthusiastic about associates interrupting their careers to do COA clerkships. Not that you could not do it or could not come back - it just was not as favored. Given the conventional wisdom that COA > DCt in desirability, this was interesting to see.

I received one year of credit for my clerkship when I returned to BigLaw, even though the year credited was above the first year.


Whats the lateral market like for IP lit. in SF/SV? Do they still look for those t14 degrees or are they open to the right experienced people (still within t25)? Does GPA/grad honors still matter say 3-5 years out for IP lit.? Do they value fed. district court clerks from a flyover city?




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