Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

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Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:20 pm

A lot of this forum seems to be geared towards finding the first or second job within 0-5 years of graduation. What doesn't seem to be discussed is what the long-term career outlook of an attorney is. I've heard general thoughts that after about 10 years of experience, give or take a few years, attorneys begin to become unemployable to private firms. Unless you have a book of business or you're a partner within that time frame, you are no longer an attractive candidate for employment at a firm.

The reality is that few people on here will make partner at a large firm. Finding a book of business also seems to be very difficult. That being said, does anyone have any outlook on what prospects there are for "senior associates" with around 10 years of experience who aren't a partner or don't have business of their own? Do attorneys with that much experience become unemployable after a certain extent, especially if they're fired/laid off from a firm? Does this differ when it comes to plaintiff's firms? Appreciate any thoughts on this, I can't seem to find much on the subject.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:43 pm

My theory is that the vast majority of lawyers will get, at most, one chance to become partner at a firm. Not at each firm, but one chance at one firm.

Per 100 law grads, the funnel goes like this, more or less, with the numbers changing based on the rank of the law school:

100 people graduate from law school

5 become federal clerks or get full-time, paid, JD-required positions in fed gov't or appealing public interest organizations

30 go to good, reputable law firms with partner tracks (19 big, 9-10 small/mid), and 1-2 go into consulting. This group and the one above it form the only people with a legitimate chance at making partner anywhere. Yes, this can be predicted with a high degree of confidence by one's first job after law school.

30 get "secondary" JD-required jobs including local prosecutors, district court clerkships, and state public defenders. It is possible to start here and eventually make partner somewhere, but it's a long haul and it's pretty unlikely. Most partners from this group probably have very good academic credentials and simply did a little pit stop in prosecution or defense work in a large city. Those people, under those specific circumstances, more or less belong in the next category up.

35 have a hell of a time finding anything. A portion of these people eventually do no or low-pay work at non-profits, some may latch on to their law school's clinical program, some join shitlaw firms where they have little hope of building a career or reputation, and others get non-JD jobs in business, gov't, etc.

---

So 35 members of the class have alleged "desirable" jobs. Another 30 are in decent "stepping stone" positions, and the final 35 are screwed: unemployed, underemployed, scrambling.

Of the 35 who have "desirable" jobs, a few will make partner. The others will toil away, pay off loans, and lateral to a smaller firm or in-house. Around 22 of these 35 will hate their jobs for at least the first three years out of law school. So roughly a dozen will either be at a firm where life is ok or else at least tolerate an unhealthy lifestyle.

That's the funnel at kind of a mid-T1 law school, where maybe 12% of grads will have a tolerable, rewarding job with long-term career value. Everyone else will be looking to move "up" to the next category (district court clerks want to lateral to reputable small firms, etc.) as soon as possible or else try to carve out a rare rewarding career in a generally sub-par field (sub-par in terms of pay and career prospects) like county-level prosecution or insurance defense.

To state what is embedded between the lines here: No, lawyers with experience don't become unemployable, they just don't make partner. Now what happens to people in that "first" group of 35 is dependent on the type of firm they are in after law school and what they want to do, but their career prospects are much better than the other 2/3rds. They still are very unlikely to make partner once passed up the first time, but they can re-invent themselves in secondary markets and make partner there. Others get decent gigs in-house. Some become judges. Some go to USAO offices. Some do boutique crim defense. Some do JD-required fed gov't work. Some hang a shingle. Some become political appointees or get hired on to a state AG or IG office. Some quit practicing law. Etc. The trajectory after good entry-level law jobs is diffuse.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My theory is that the vast majority of lawyers will get, at most, one chance to become partner at a firm. Not at each firm, but one chance at one firm.

Per 100 law grads, the funnel goes like this, more or less, with the numbers changing based on the rank of the law school:

100 people graduate from law school

5 become federal clerks or get full-time, paid, JD-required positions in fed gov't or appealing public interest organizations

30 go to good, reputable law firms with partner tracks (19 big, 9-10 small/mid), and 1-2 go into consulting. This group and the one above it form the only people with a legitimate chance at making partner anywhere. Yes, this can be predicted with a high degree of confidence by one's first job after law school.

30 get "secondary" JD-required jobs including local prosecutors, district court clerkships, and state public defenders. It is possible to start here and eventually make partner somewhere, but it's a long haul and it's pretty unlikely. Most partners from this group probably have very good academic credentials and simply did a little pit stop in prosecution or defense work in a large city. Those people, under those specific circumstances, more or less belong in the next category up.

35 have a hell of a time finding anything. A portion of these people eventually do no or low-pay work at non-profits, some may latch on to their law school's clinical program, some join shitlaw firms where they have little hope of building a career or reputation, and others get non-JD jobs in business, gov't, etc.

---

So 35 members of the class have alleged "desirable" jobs. Another 30 are in decent "stepping stone" positions, and the final 35 are screwed: unemployed, underemployed, scrambling.

Of the 35 who have "desirable" jobs, a few will make partner. The others will toil away, pay off loans, and lateral to a smaller firm or in-house. Around 22 of these 35 will hate their jobs for at least the first three years out of law school. So roughly a dozen will either be at a firm where life is ok or else at least tolerate an unhealthy lifestyle.

That's the funnel at kind of a mid-T1 law school, where maybe 12% of grads will have a tolerable, rewarding job with long-term career value. Everyone else will be looking to move "up" to the next category (district court clerks want to lateral to reputable small firms, etc.) as soon as possible or else try to carve out a rare rewarding career in a generally sub-par field (sub-par in terms of pay and career prospects) like county-level prosecution or insurance defense.

To state what is embedded between the lines here: No, lawyers with experience don't become unemployable, they just don't make partner. Now what happens to people in that "first" group of 35 is dependent on the type of firm they are in after law school and what they want to do, but their career prospects are much better than the other 2/3rds. They still are very unlikely to make partner once passed up the first time, but they can re-invent themselves in secondary markets and make partner there. Others get decent gigs in-house. Some become judges. Some go to USAO offices. Some do boutique crim defense. Some do JD-required fed gov't work. Some hang a shingle. Some become political appointees or get hired on to a state AG or IG office. Some quit practicing law. Etc. The trajectory after good entry-level law jobs is diffuse.


And what about plaintiff's work, since the business model is different?

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:15 pm

Long-poster anon here...what about plaintiffs' firms? Plaintiffs' attorneys are worth about as much as their last case, as doing one-off suits for aggrieved clients is not a way to build a book. It's not a great way to make a living these days, with some exceptions. If you're at a reputable firm and get trial experience, you could get on the civil department of a USAO.

Though, I don't know why any attorney with the option would limit himself to only doing plaintiffs' work.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:37 pm

I totally don't understand why DA/PDs are referred to as "stepping stone" positions when plenty - most? - of them don't want to work in a firm or make partner at a big firm (they might go out on their own eventually). That's a really weird way to view the profession. PD/DA isn't a rung down from biglaw; it's an entirely different ladder (maybe a shabbier, less shiny ladder, but still a different one). There are people who occasionally switch from one to the other, I suppose, but they're still completely different tracks.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby baal hadad » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Long-poster anon here...what about plaintiffs' firms? Plaintiffs' attorneys are worth about as much as their last case, as doing one-off suits for aggrieved clients is not a way to build a book. It's not a great way to make a living these days, with some exceptions. If you're at a reputable firm and get trial experience, you could get on the civil department of a USAO.

Though, I don't know why any attorney with the option would limit himself to only doing plaintiffs' work.

At least in the securities context your institutional clients at bid deal P shops are large funds and pensions and whatnot bro

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby baal hadad » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:48 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I totally don't understand why DA/PDs are referred to as "stepping stone" positions when plenty - most? - of them don't want to work in a firm or make partner at a big firm (they might go out on their own eventually). That's a really weird way to view the profession. PD/DA isn't a rung down from biglaw; it's an entirely different ladder (maybe a shabbier, less shiny ladder, but still a different one). There are people who occasionally switch from one to the other, I suppose, but they're still completely different tracks.

My experience has been the exact opposite

People running for the exits to firms or whatevr (not big firms usually) 3-5 yrs in there when you start seeing a lot of diminishing marginal returns on the experience you get (like trial exp.)

People go to private practice or stage ag or whatever

Plaintiffs firms around here esp. med Mal types love to hire DA people

It's an entry level gig in my jx; if you stay more than 5 or so years you get branded as a lifer

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:01 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I totally don't understand why DA/PDs are referred to as "stepping stone" positions when plenty - most? - of them don't want to work in a firm or make partner at a big firm (they might go out on their own eventually). That's a really weird way to view the profession. PD/DA isn't a rung down from biglaw; it's an entirely different ladder (maybe a shabbier, less shiny ladder, but still a different one). There are people who occasionally switch from one to the other, I suppose, but they're still completely different tracks.


I'm the anon from above. I posted as anon because I thought I would give info on my school, then I ended up making everything hypothetical, so ... whatev.

The vast majority of people I know who took jobs in prosecution, public defender offices, or district court clerkships directly out of law-school did so only after they failed to get a law firm job or a more prestigious clerkship. I'm saying that based on first-hand knowledge of what some of my peers wanted along with assumptions I am drawing from the fact that many of them were unemployed for a year after graduating before starting those jobs.

As I stated in the earlier post, that might be different if you're prosecuting or defending in a large district and following your passion (or doing either for the feds, of course), but for 95% of counties out there, being an assistant DA it's not a very prestigious position, doesn't pay well, and isn't the type of gig most folks would want.

After 3 years as a prosecutor or clerk in Dayton, Ohio or Wilmington, NC or Boise, UT, these same folks start getting looks from local firms who want an associate who has some experience and knows the local judges and attorneys. If they don't want to get on at a law firm or can't, then these folks still want to leave for greener pastures: state AG, federal gov't, or at least a bigger district. In any event, I don't know a single person who took one of these jobs out of law school who liked the idea of staying in that job for an entire career. Hence, stepping stone.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby 84651846190 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:08 pm

District court clerkships are way harder to get than the vast majority of high-paying firm jobs. Very few people fail to get good firm jobs but succeed in getting federal district court clerkships.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:12 pm

Then this probably varies by school and region (although there are plenty of people just on TLS who went to law school specifically to be a PD/DA and don't even try for biglaw). Where I went to law school, and where I work now, there are plenty of lifers in these jobs and they're not taking them because they failed to get biglaw (the PD/DA don't tend to hire those people). People who leave these jobs generally stay in criminal law and either go solo or to very small criminal defense firms.

I should also have been clearer that I meant all public sector gigs, so including state AG and federal jobs that don't hire entry level and bigger districts. Just because you start in a podunk district as an ADA and ultimately leave that job for something related in the public sector - whether that's a bigger district or the feds - doesn't alter your fundamental path or mean that you were on the same track as biglaw people.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:13 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:District court clerkships are way harder to get than the vast majority of high-paying firm jobs. Very few people fail to get good firm jobs but succeed in getting federal district court clerkships.


I'm talking state court. In my original post, you can see fed clerkships in the top category.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Long-poster anon here...what about plaintiffs' firms? Plaintiffs' attorneys are worth about as much as their last case, as doing one-off suits for aggrieved clients is not a way to build a book. It's not a great way to make a living these days, with some exceptions. If you're at a reputable firm and get trial experience, you could get on the civil department of a USAO.

Though, I don't know why any attorney with the option would limit himself to only doing plaintiffs' work.


OP here. Back to my original post, I guess I should've clarified that my question had to do with long-term career options for civil litigators specifically. Above posters are right - it's a completely different type of career progression for criminal law or transactional work.

For civil litigators though, is there a 10-year or so make or break window? In other words, if a graduate either (1) hasn't made partner somewhere; (2) hasn't developed a book of business; or (3) hasn't opened his own shop by that time, does the employability of that individual begin to decrease? How many defense firms actually want to hire 12+ year associates? If you happen to become one of these 10+ year associates and you get fired/laid off, are you basically screwed?

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Yukos » Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:34 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:After 3 years as a prosecutor or clerk in Dayton, Ohio or Wilmington, NC or Boise, UT, these same folks start getting looks from local firms who want an associate who has some experience and knows the local judges and attorneys.


Not sure if you're trolling Boise or Utah, but harsh bro.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My theory is that the vast majority of lawyers will get, at most, one chance to become partner at a firm. Not at each firm, but one chance at one firm.

Per 100 law grads, the funnel goes like this, more or less, with the numbers changing based on the rank of the law school:

100 people graduate from law school

5 become federal clerks or get full-time, paid, JD-required positions in fed gov't or appealing public interest organizations

30 go to good, reputable law firms with partner tracks (19 big, 9-10 small/mid), and 1-2 go into consulting. This group and the one above it form the only people with a legitimate chance at making partner anywhere. Yes, this can be predicted with a high degree of confidence by one's first job after law school.

30 get "secondary" JD-required jobs including local prosecutors, district court clerkships, and state public defenders. It is possible to start here and eventually make partner somewhere, but it's a long haul and it's pretty unlikely. Most partners from this group probably have very good academic credentials and simply did a little pit stop in prosecution or defense work in a large city. Those people, under those specific circumstances, more or less belong in the next category up.

35 have a hell of a time finding anything. A portion of these people eventually do no or low-pay work at non-profits, some may latch on to their law school's clinical program, some join shitlaw firms where they have little hope of building a career or reputation, and others get non-JD jobs in business, gov't, etc.

---

So 35 members of the class have alleged "desirable" jobs. Another 30 are in decent "stepping stone" positions, and the final 35 are screwed: unemployed, underemployed, scrambling.

Of the 35 who have "desirable" jobs, a few will make partner. The others will toil away, pay off loans, and lateral to a smaller firm or in-house. Around 22 of these 35 will hate their jobs for at least the first three years out of law school. So roughly a dozen will either be at a firm where life is ok or else at least tolerate an unhealthy lifestyle.

That's the funnel at kind of a mid-T1 law school, where maybe 12% of grads will have a tolerable, rewarding job with long-term career value. Everyone else will be looking to move "up" to the next category (district court clerks want to lateral to reputable small firms, etc.) as soon as possible or else try to carve out a rare rewarding career in a generally sub-par field (sub-par in terms of pay and career prospects) like county-level prosecution or insurance defense.

To state what is embedded between the lines here: No, lawyers with experience don't become unemployable, they just don't make partner. Now what happens to people in that "first" group of 35 is dependent on the type of firm they are in after law school and what they want to do, but their career prospects are much better than the other 2/3rds. They still are very unlikely to make partner once passed up the first time, but they can re-invent themselves in secondary markets and make partner there. Others get decent gigs in-house. Some become judges. Some go to USAO offices. Some do boutique crim defense. Some do JD-required fed gov't work. Some hang a shingle. Some become political appointees or get hired on to a state AG or IG office. Some quit practicing law. Etc. The trajectory after good entry-level law jobs is diffuse.


Pretty sure the unemployed/underemployed percentage is higher than 35% if you're talking about all law schools. I think the average from 2011-2013 has been closer to 50%. It's probably closer to 35% at t14s within 9 months of graduation, though.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:52 am

So far there's really only been one substantive answer to this. Do all of you litigators out there just not worry at all about this or does no one know?

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:07 pm

Yukos wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:After 3 years as a prosecutor or clerk in Dayton, Ohio or Wilmington, NC or Boise, UT, these same folks start getting looks from local firms who want an associate who has some experience and knows the local judges and attorneys.


Not sure if you're trolling Boise or Utah, but harsh bro.


Ha! Nothing wrong with Boise! Or Dayton or Wilmington, for that matter. Actually, I think all three are nice places to live and I'd sure as hell rather be at one of them than NYC, personally. I'm just saying that most people don't want to spend an entire career as a prosecutor in Wilmington. Doing it for a few years and then latching on at a reputable local firm, however, could be a pretty good career path.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby TooManyLoans » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:19 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
Yukos wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:After 3 years as a prosecutor or clerk in Dayton, Ohio or Wilmington, NC or Boise, UT, these same folks start getting looks from local firms who want an associate who has some experience and knows the local judges and attorneys.


Not sure if you're trolling Boise or Utah, but harsh bro.


Ha! Nothing wrong with Boise! Or Dayton or Wilmington, for that matter. Actually, I think all three are nice places to live and I'd sure as hell rather be at one of them than NYC, personally. I'm just saying that most people don't want to spend an entire career as a prosecutor in Wilmington. Doing it for a few years and then latching on at a reputable local firm, however, could be a pretty good career path.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby I'm Feeling This » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:22 pm

I can feel the breeze from here

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:30 pm

I'm Feeling This wrote:I can feel the breeze from here


Haha, Boise, Salt Lake City, same thing ...

I need more coffee.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So far there's really only been one substantive answer to this. Do all of you litigators out there just not worry at all about this or does no one know?


What do you want to know? As a 10th year litigation associate who got canned because you weren't partner material and also weren't good enough to keep around as "of counsel," you're not much better off than someone who didn't get biglaw in the first place out of law school. You're going to be pretty much going to be looking anywhere that will take you. If you left willingly, going to a smaller boutique firm might be possible. Exit options in litigation aren't great. The likelihood of transitioning to federal government isn't great, unless you were in a practice area that translates well with a similar position in federal government (e.g. if you did securities litigation, going to the SEC might be possible). You're not going to become a judge of any sorts at 10 years of biglaw experience. Other biglaw firms in secondary markets won't take you (this doesn't even make sense--those firms are just as competitive as in major markets, since there's less positions available, and they want people with ties to the market). You definitely won't be working at a boutique criminal defense firm after spending 10 years in commercial litigation. Transactional associates with 10 years of experience at least have the option to go in-house somewhere.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby NorCalLaw » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Long-poster anon here...what about plaintiffs' firms? Plaintiffs' attorneys are worth about as much as their last case, as doing one-off suits for aggrieved clients is not a way to build a book. It's not a great way to make a living these days, with some exceptions. If you're at a reputable firm and get trial experience, you could get on the civil department of a USAO.

Though, I don't know why any attorney with the option would limit himself to only doing plaintiffs' work.


I don't think you know what you're talking about.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:A lot of this forum seems to be geared towards finding the first or second job within 0-5 years of graduation. What doesn't seem to be discussed is what the long-term career outlook of an attorney is. I've heard general thoughts that after about 10 years of experience, give or take a few years, attorneys begin to become unemployable to private firms. Unless you have a book of business or you're a partner within that time frame, you are no longer an attractive candidate for employment at a firm.

The reality is that few people on here will make partner at a large firm. Finding a book of business also seems to be very difficult. That being said, does anyone have any outlook on what prospects there are for "senior associates" with around 10 years of experience who aren't a partner or don't have business of their own? Do attorneys with that much experience become unemployable after a certain extent, especially if they're fired/laid off from a firm? Does this differ when it comes to plaintiff's firms? Appreciate any thoughts on this, I can't seem to find much on the subject.

I work at a big firm and don't have a clue what the 7-8 year associates who are not going to make partner plan to do. Some of them can latch on as "counsel" here or somewhere else, which seems to be an option for people who are very good at handling the work but don't have business prospects.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby ResIpsa21 » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:17 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:I work at a big firm and don't have a clue what the 7-8 year associates who are not going to make partner plan to do. Some of them can latch on as "counsel" here or somewhere else, which seems to be an option for people who are very good at handling the work but don't have business prospects.

I think these people stick around as "of counsel" and shift their attention substantially to business development. They might start publishing articles, presenting at conferences, joining associations, rekindling old connections, etc. As long as they are still profitable for the firm, they won't get booted out. This is essentially what non-equity partners do: build a book of business large enough to become equity partners (and finally stop being glorified associates, which is all "of counsel" or "junior partner" actually means).

I don't know what they do if they aren't able to build a book of business within a few years, though. I expect they go to government or in-house and then consider trying to come back to a firm as a partner later in life.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:52 pm

ResIpsa21 wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:I work at a big firm and don't have a clue what the 7-8 year associates who are not going to make partner plan to do. Some of them can latch on as "counsel" here or somewhere else, which seems to be an option for people who are very good at handling the work but don't have business prospects.

I think these people stick around as "of counsel" and shift their attention substantially to business development. They might start publishing articles, presenting at conferences, joining associations, rekindling old connections, etc. As long as they are still profitable for the firm, they won't get booted out. This is essentially what non-equity partners do: build a book of business large enough to become equity partners (and finally stop being glorified associates, which is all "of counsel" or "junior partner" actually means).

I don't know what they do if they aren't able to build a book of business within a few years, though. I expect they go to government or in-house and then consider trying to come back to a firm as a partner later in life.

At least some counsel at at least some firms seem to stay indefinitely, though. I think there is room for good performers to be permanent fixtures if they are good enough but not cut out for (or interested in) partnership for whatever reason. Not something to bank on as an option but it is one more place these people can end up.

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Re: Long-term Career Outlook - Having "Too Much" Experience?

Postby 09042014 » Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:26 pm

It doesn't intuitively make sense that old lit associates are washed up. I sort of see why corporate bros missed their exit in house. But lit bros are going to another firm. I don't see why firms wouldn't want someone who actually knows what they are doing.

But a lot of shit doesn't make sense about law.

However, I've never heard anyone reliable say that lit seniors are permafucked. Just XO bros. I'm not going to necessarily believe some idiot trolling litigators on Xo.



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