Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

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Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:15 am

Since so much of TLS is focused on more prestigious jobs, I thought I should go ahead and invite some questions for people looking into smaller firms in smaller markets.

I've been at my firm for about four months now. There are three offices and 24 total attorneys. The city I'm in has a population of about 90-100k (think something the size of Scranton, PA; Akron, OH; Dearborn, MI; etc.).

Not sure if this will generate any interest, but figured I could at least be a reference.

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logdog
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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby logdog » Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:30 am

What kind of law are you practicing?

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ck3
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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby ck3 » Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:33 am

What type of clients does this size firm serve. Not asking you about your particular firms' clients but more generally.

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Young Marino
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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Young Marino » Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:33 pm

What is the pay like and how do you see your future earning potential? How often do you see the inside of a courtroom and do you find fulfillment in your work?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:46 pm

logdog wrote:What kind of law are you practicing?

Anything civil. As the junior associate, I'm basically the bitch of the firm. So I just do whatever assignments that have been thrown my way. In my short time here, that's ranged from your standard slip-and-fall PI case, a divorce case, a mechanics' lien case, and a multi-million dollar shareholder derivative lawsuit. Really, you name the body of law and I've probably at least dabbled in it.

My goal is to eventually recruit more labor and employment work, but for now, I'm just kind of doing whatever they tell me to do.

ck3 wrote:What type of clients does this size firm serve. Not asking you about your particular firms' clients but more generally.

It's a nice mixture of clients, but we mostly deal with small LLCs and closely held corporations. We do represent some individual clients (has to be an almost surefire win to take a PI case or something similar). Also, since we are in a flyover state, larger businesses and insurance firms from the East Coast contract us out to do their work in my home state. That stuff is usually pretty interesting and provides us with a lot of litigation in federal court (e.g., Title VII, ERISA, etc.).

Young Marino wrote:What is the pay like and how do you see your future earning potential? How often do you see the inside of a courtroom and do you find fulfillment in your work?

Pay is decent but not great (between $50-55k). I'd lean more towards decent because the cost of living is so low in my area (splitting a one-bedroom with my GF for $450, so my rent is only $225 a month). I went to some website once and I have the same relative earnings as somebody making $85,000 in NYC. So I'm doing fine.

My earning potential looks good. My firm has a five year partnership track. Most of the attorneys here have been here a really long time, which indicates to me that there's a good work-life balance. I think that's definitely the case, since we only have a 1500 hour billing requirement.

I go to court once a week or so, for now. I expect that to increase as the firm gets more comfortable sending me down to the courthouse on my own.

To kind of merge an answer all of the above questions, the cool part about my firm and representing small businesses is that you see things start to finish, even as a junior associate. The stakes are obviously substantially lower but it's a lot of fun. For instance, a few months ago, I played a major role in arranging a merger between two local printing companies. Granted, it wasn't HP merging with Intel or anything, but it was cool to meet with clients, investigate their businesses, align their interests, draft merger agreements, draft employee agreements, draft the new articles of incorporation, and everything else from start to finish.

So yes, I enjoy my work.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
logdog wrote:What kind of law are you practicing?

Anything civil. As the junior associate, I'm basically the bitch of the firm. So I just do whatever assignments that have been thrown my way. In my short time here, that's ranged from your standard slip-and-fall PI case, a divorce case, a mechanics' lien case, and a multi-million dollar shareholder derivative lawsuit. Really, you name the body of law and I've probably at least dabbled in it.

My goal is to eventually recruit more labor and employment work, but for now, I'm just kind of doing whatever they tell me to do.

ck3 wrote:What type of clients does this size firm serve. Not asking you about your particular firms' clients but more generally.

It's a nice mixture of clients, but we mostly deal with small LLCs and closely held corporations. We do represent some individual clients (has to be an almost surefire win to take a PI case or something similar). Also, since we are in a flyover state, larger businesses and insurance firms from the East Coast contract us out to do their work in my home state. That stuff is usually pretty interesting and provides us with a lot of litigation in federal court (e.g., Title VII, ERISA, etc.).

Young Marino wrote:What is the pay like and how do you see your future earning potential? How often do you see the inside of a courtroom and do you find fulfillment in your work?

Pay is decent but not great (between $50-55k). I'd lean more towards decent because the cost of living is so low in my area (splitting a one-bedroom with my GF for $450, so my rent is only $225 a month). I went to some website once and I have the same relative earnings as somebody making $85,000 in NYC. So I'm doing fine.

My earning potential looks good. My firm has a five year partnership track. Most of the attorneys here have been here a really long time, which indicates to me that there's a good work-life balance. I think that's definitely the case, since we only have a 1500 hour billing requirement.

I go to court once a week or so, for now. I expect that to increase as the firm gets more comfortable sending me down to the courthouse on my own.

To kind of merge an answer all of the above questions, the cool part about my firm and representing small businesses is that you see things start to finish, even as a junior associate. The stakes are obviously substantially lower but it's a lot of fun. For instance, a few months ago, I played a major role in arranging a merger between two local printing companies. Granted, it wasn't HP merging with Intel or anything, but it was cool to meet with clients, investigate their businesses, align their interests, draft merger agreements, draft employee agreements, draft the new articles of incorporation, and everything else from start to finish.

So yes, I enjoy my work.


Do you have a lot of debt to pay off?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you have a lot of debt to pay off?

Yes, doing PAYE, though.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:26 pm

This is a great thread. I am also at a small firm (~10 attorneys), not necessarily a small market though (DFW). I'm happy to answer questions as well. It's nice to see others doing well and enjoying their non-biglaw jobs. In fact, from what I've seen on here, one of the big differences (other than pay and prestige) in small firms and biglaw is that we actually enjoy our work.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Young Marino » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Do you have a lot of debt to pay off?

Yes, doing PAYE, though.

Do you feel your student debt is very limiting? Do u ever worry about the PAYE tax bomb, investing for retirement and/or that you'll just never pay off all your loans?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:25 pm

Young Marino wrote:Do you feel your student debt is very limiting? Do u ever worry about the PAYE tax bomb, investing for retirement and/or that you'll just never pay off all your loans?

I do worry about never paying off my loans, but I've met with several financial advisers and think I've developed a pretty good plan.

After all COL expenses (food, rent, etc.), bills (including my PAYE payment), matching my 401(k), and $200 of bullshit expenses (going out, buying a pair of shoes, etc), I have about $1,300 in discretionary income per month. (Rent only being $225 really frees up a ton of income).

I'm sending about $400/month to a conservative index fund to save for a house (my GF is matching that). That savings amount ($400) + my current rent ($225) should about equal my share of an eventual 15-year mortgage payment, so my COL in terms of housing should not change over time.

I'm sending about $400/month to invest in stocks to save for the "tax bomb." Based on my calculations, over 20 years, the principal investment (i.e., 0% return) should cover and exceed my tax liability. Any capital gains will go towards paying off a house, saving for kid's college, paying for parent's nursing home care, etc.

The remaining $500 is being split between putting in a rainy day fund and a Roth IRA.

If I keep these investments intact and retire at 62 (and assuming a 7% return), I should have $630,000 in my 401(k) and $670,000 in my Roth, leaving me with about $1.2M in retirement savings. Seems like plenty for me. Moreover, assuming we eventually get married, my GF makes more than I do and she really has her shit together, so she probably will have double that in savings by the time she retires.

TL;DR: yes, I worry about my student loan debt a lot. But I've spent a lot of time planning and figuring out the best way to tackle that problem as best as possible given my average salary and massive debt.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ron Don Volante
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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Ron Don Volante » Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:31 pm

What were your grades like/your school and what impact did they have on your getting the job? Ties to the area?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:33 pm

Edit...
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:36 pm

Ron Don Volante wrote:What were your grades like/your school and what impact did they have on your getting the job? Ties to the area?

Big Ten school (not UM or NW). Top 30%, so not spectacular.

But I was from the area. My family has actually been here for five generations or something like that. Thus, at the interview, it was very easy for me to say: "My family is here, my girlfriend works here [we were long distance in law school], and I want to come back home and work here."

Overall, my ties to the area and commitment to practicing in my hometown were much more important to me getting hired than my grades/school. Although being from a reputable Big Ten school and doing reasonably well there certainly didn't hurt.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Young Marino » Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Young Marino wrote:Do you feel your student debt is very limiting? Do u ever worry about the PAYE tax bomb, investing for retirement and/or that you'll just never pay off all your loans?

I do worry about never paying off my loans, but I've met with several financial advisers and think I've developed a pretty good plan.

After all COL expenses (food, rent, etc.), bills (including my PAYE payment), matching my 401(k), and $200 of bullshit expenses (going out, buying a pair of shoes, etc), I have about $1,300 in discretionary income per month. (Rent only being $225 really frees up a ton of income).

I'm sending about $400/month to a conservative index fund to save for a house (my GF is matching that). That savings amount ($400) + my current rent ($225) should about equal my share of an eventual 15-year mortgage payment, so my COL in terms of housing should not change over time.

I'm sending about $400/month to invest in stocks to save for the "tax bomb." Based on my calculations, over 20 years, the principal investment (i.e., 0% return) should cover and exceed my tax liability. Any capital gains will go towards paying off a house, saving for kid's college, paying for parent's nursing home care, etc.

The remaining $500 is being split between putting in a rainy day fund and a Roth IRA.

If I keep these investments intact and retire at 62 (and assuming a 7% return), I should have $630,000 in my 401(k) and $670,000 in my Roth, leaving me with about $1.2M in retirement savings. Seems like plenty for me. Moreover, assuming we eventually get married, my GF makes more than I do and she really has her shit together, so she probably will have double that in savings by the time she retires.

TL;DR: yes, I worry about my student loan debt a lot. But I've spent a lot of time planning and figuring out the best way to tackle that problem as best as possible given my average salary and massive debt.

Thanks for this in depth response. Sounds like you've made a concerned effort to tackle the student loan problem. Good to know these options are available.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

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

Young Marino wrote:Thanks for this in depth response. Sounds like you've made a concerned effort to tackle the student loan problem. Good to know these options are available.

Ya. Don't get me wrong--loans are still stressful and seeing your balance increase every month is quite daunting.

But I think it's more important for you to choose a job you'll like rather than pick one solely based on being able to pay off your loans on a standard or extended repayment plan. There's nothing wrong with being on PAYE, IBR, etc.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Dec 10, 2014 5:57 pm

Relevant to my interests...

Do you do criminal defense? Probate? Does your firm represent municipalities, school districts, city utilities?

What are your work hours like?

Do you know if partnership is equitable or eat-what-you-kill?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby bengoshi » Wed Dec 10, 2014 6:32 pm

How did you learn to draft those agreements? Did you have templates or practice guides that you found helpful?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby kykiske » Wed Dec 10, 2014 7:11 pm

How did you get this offer? Did you clerk for them part-time first, or were you hired as an entry-level?

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:12 am

smallfirmassociate wrote:Relevant to my interests...

Do you do criminal defense? Probate? Does your firm represent municipalities, school districts, city utilities?

What are your work hours like?

Do you know if partnership is equitable or eat-what-you-kill?

A few guys in the firm specialize in estate planning. They rarely get tussled into probate court (i.e., they're usually on the drafting side of things), but sometimes they get hired for a dispute.

One guy accepts criminal defense clients (DUI-type stuff), but only for people who are personal friends with the firm.

Yes, we represent several school districts. The labor guy here is one of the best in the area and is pretty much never in the office because he's always negotiating with unions.

Not sure about your partnership question, haven't had the stones to ask those types of questions yet.

As for hours, I come in at 7:45-8:00 AM, take an hour lunch, and leave around 5:00. I've had to stay past 6:00 PM once, and that was due to my own incompetence.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:14 am

bengoshi wrote:How did you learn to draft those agreements? Did you have templates or practice guides that you found helpful?

Practice guides and looking through the document system at work. We have a pretty decent search feature that allows me to search my almost anything (author, date, client, etc.). Basically just tinkered with those.

Also: I was obviously under the supervision of a partner. He changed a lot of things around, but I had the first draft for almost everything along the way.

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Re: Small Firm (~25 Attorneys), Small Market, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:16 am

kykiske wrote:How did you get this offer? Did you clerk for them part-time first, or were you hired as an entry-level?

Clerked for them for three months under a grant program from my school. To be more specific, my school paid me a fixed sum to work there for three months. They treated me like a lawyer instead of a clerk and essentially used that time as a three-month interview. At the end of those three months, the firm hired me.




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