BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

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BigLaw or BigFed Honors Spot

BigLaw - V50 firm in desired practice group, sucky life, but $$$$$
4
8%
BigFed Honors Attorney - ideal work-life balance, $$$
46
92%
 
Total votes: 50

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Feb 06, 2015 2:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Somewhat off-topic but not: are honors programs available for long-term (3-4 year) clerks?

I will have four years of clerking (and nothing else) in a couple of years. Will honors programs still be a possibility? I've seen them limited to those coming off of clerkships, but there is no indication of if it's limited to 1-2 year clerks.

DOJ has imposed a limit, though I don't remember if it's 3 years clerking or 4. I haven't seen any other agencies cap it, though.

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 06, 2015 2:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Somewhat off-topic but not: are honors programs available for long-term (3-4 year) clerks?

I will have four years of clerking (and nothing else) in a couple of years. Will honors programs still be a possibility? I've seen them limited to those coming off of clerkships, but there is no indication of if it's limited to 1-2 year clerks.


The vast majority should be. There's even programs where working in biglaw for up to a year still allows you to apply (OCC and CFPB).

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 06, 2015 3:18 pm

I have a few questions, if you don't mind me asking. What's the pay like? What Corporate practice groups are best prepared to enter into a federal agency like this? Sounds like the life.

How much work do you actually do at home anyway?


http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversigh ... 15/DCB.pdf

I'm one of the more junior people I came in as an 11 right out of school now I'm a 13, I'll be a 14 in like 6 months after that you have to supervise some people if you want to be a 15 if you want to supervise even more people you can go into the Senior Executive Service (SES) on its own pay scale. I think I would be happy at 14 no more than 15. Step increases each year until year 4 then 2 years from step 4 to 8. You get steady modest raises. Basically as a fed attorney (Series 0905) you're going to make low to mid 100s

I don't know about corporate practice groups transfering very well thats the stuff they do at the sexy agencies like DOJ, SEC, FDIC, NCUA, CFTC, CFPB

Most of my work is defending the agency in employment actions lots of EEOC and defending agency personnel suspensions and removals in front of the Merrit Systems Protection Board so I guess you would characterize it as employment or administrative law. We also work up Federal Tort Claims Act cases but DOJ Civil AUSAs actually handle the litigation. We draft motions in these cases that the AUSA signs.

I get the feeling that the sexy agencies are totally different than the majority of agencies. Most people at my agency went to Tier 1 and 2 regional schools almost no one I've met went to a top14 this is in DC too lots of American, GW, U of Maryland, ect. My gs-15 boss went to George Mason. Most AUSAs I've worked with went to T14. Thing is we get paid the same. DOJ may be more interesting but I wouldn't do it unless I was looking to leave before retirement. But, the SK and CN pay scale that the SEC and CFPB are on are a nice pay jump so I can see doing that plus exit options. Seriously idk the hours SEC lawyers work but with SK pay scale money it maybe the best entry-level attorney job in America.

Any work I could do in the office can be done at home. Your on agency VPN they make you log on to lync (microsoft messenger) so someone can IM me. We also have blackberries someone can call me if they like. I call into conference calls I have done powerpoint presentations over lync and blackberry from home. There is little work benefit to coming into the office. Thats why OPM cancels work with like an inch of snow in DC everyone works from home and there isn't a problem.

I wouldn't call it "the life" necessarily you'll never be a millionaire like a biglaw partner but you'll have an ordinary adult life. It depends on whats important to you. Family is very important for me. There are no exit options here perhaps private sector employment law but I don't have the academic credentials for biglaw. I'm not really looking to exit though retirement scheme is pretty nice too (pension, 5% 401k match) Work isn't to compelling but I live for the weekend. You're not your job You're not your fucking khakis type of mindset. Another thing is attorney employment in federal government was setup back in the day when they had trouble getting lawyers into government so its setup for you to come in and rapidly advance to gs-14 when in reality now theres a slue of highly qualified people that would work for much less.

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 06, 2015 4:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
I have a few questions, if you don't mind me asking. What's the pay like? What Corporate practice groups are best prepared to enter into a federal agency like this? Sounds like the life.

How much work do you actually do at home anyway?


http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversigh ... 15/DCB.pdf

I'm one of the more junior people I came in as an 11 right out of school now I'm a 13, I'll be a 14 in like 6 months after that you have to supervise some people if you want to be a 15 if you want to supervise even more people you can go into the Senior Executive Service (SES) on its own pay scale. I think I would be happy at 14 no more than 15. Step increases each year until year 4 then 2 years from step 4 to 8. You get steady modest raises. Basically as a fed attorney (Series 0905) you're going to make low to mid 100s

I don't know about corporate practice groups transfering very well thats the stuff they do at the sexy agencies like DOJ, SEC, FDIC, NCUA, CFTC, CFPB

Most of my work is defending the agency in employment actions lots of EEOC and defending agency personnel suspensions and removals in front of the Merrit Systems Protection Board so I guess you would characterize it as employment or administrative law. We also work up Federal Tort Claims Act cases but DOJ Civil AUSAs actually handle the litigation. We draft motions in these cases that the AUSA signs.

I get the feeling that the sexy agencies are totally different than the majority of agencies. Most people at my agency went to Tier 1 and 2 regional schools almost no one I've met went to a top14 this is in DC too lots of American, GW, U of Maryland, ect. My gs-15 boss went to George Mason. Most AUSAs I've worked with went to T14. Thing is we get paid the same. DOJ may be more interesting but I wouldn't do it unless I was looking to leave before retirement. But, the SK and CN pay scale that the SEC and CFPB are on are a nice pay jump so I can see doing that plus exit options. Seriously idk the hours SEC lawyers work but with SK pay scale money it maybe the best entry-level attorney job in America.

Any work I could do in the office can be done at home. Your on agency VPN they make you log on to lync (microsoft messenger) so someone can IM me. We also have blackberries someone can call me if they like. I call into conference calls I have done powerpoint presentations over lync and blackberry from home. There is little work benefit to coming into the office. Thats why OPM cancels work with like an inch of snow in DC everyone works from home and there isn't a problem.

I wouldn't call it "the life" necessarily you'll never be a millionaire like a biglaw partner but you'll have an ordinary adult life. It depends on whats important to you. Family is very important for me. There are no exit options here perhaps private sector employment law but I don't have the academic credentials for biglaw. I'm not really looking to exit though retirement scheme is pretty nice too (pension, 5% 401k match) Work isn't to compelling but I live for the weekend. You're not your job You're not your fucking khakis type of mindset. Another thing is attorney employment in federal government was setup back in the day when they had trouble getting lawyers into government so its setup for you to come in and rapidly advance to gs-14 when in reality now theres a slue of highly qualified people that would work for much less.


Same quoted anon. Very helpful post -- thank you.

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 07, 2015 12:51 pm

Lots of the financial and energy/environmental regulatory agencies lose honors attorneys to bigfirms after their honors period.

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 07, 2015 5:40 pm

Side question, but say you're finishing a clerkship and have retained honors eligiblity--would it be a terrible move to go work at a big firm for <9 months, collect a no-strings clerkship bonus, and then apply to BigFed honors before you lose eligibility? Do you think you'd get blackballed in the legal market where you took the clerkship bonus and then bailed?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Feb 07, 2015 5:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Side question, but say you're finishing a clerkship and have retained honors eligiblity--would it be a terrible move to go work at a big firm for <9 months, collect a no-strings clerkship bonus, and then apply to BigFed honors before you lose eligibility? Do you think you'd get blackballed in the legal market where you took the clerkship bonus and then bailed?

I don't know how this would even work, since most clerkships run from fall to fall, and DOJ, at least, requires you to stay in the eligibility-preserving activity through December. Would you just bail on the clerkship? Also, don't most firms require you to pay back the clerkship bonus if you don't work there at least a certain length of time (I've heard a year)?

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 07, 2015 5:55 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Side question, but say you're finishing a clerkship and have retained honors eligiblity--would it be a terrible move to go work at a big firm for <9 months, collect a no-strings clerkship bonus, and then apply to BigFed honors before you lose eligibility? Do you think you'd get blackballed in the legal market where you took the clerkship bonus and then bailed?

I don't know how this would even work, since most clerkships run from fall to fall, and DOJ, at least, requires you to stay in the eligibility-preserving activity through December. Would you just bail on the clerkship? Also, don't most firms require you to pay back the clerkship bonus if you don't work there at least a certain length of time (I've heard a year)?

You're absolutely right--I only saw the "within 9 months" stipulation--I didn't see the "running through December" stipulation. Looks like I'll have to apply outside the honors program. (Oh, and in answer to your question, I know of a number of firms that don't have a specific "your bonus vests after x-months subject to pro rata repayment" policy--a few just pay you the clerkship bonus up front).

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 07, 2015 6:36 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Side question, but say you're finishing a clerkship and have retained honors eligiblity--would it be a terrible move to go work at a big firm for <9 months, collect a no-strings clerkship bonus, and then apply to BigFed honors before you lose eligibility? Do you think you'd get blackballed in the legal market where you took the clerkship bonus and then bailed?

I don't know how this would even work, since most clerkships run from fall to fall, and DOJ, at least, requires you to stay in the eligibility-preserving activity through December. Would you just bail on the clerkship? Also, don't most firms require you to pay back the clerkship bonus if you don't work there at least a certain length of time (I've heard a year)?


There's actually a few honors programs where this can technically be done, like at CFPB and OCC which allow you to work elsewhere for up to a year after a clerkship.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Feb 07, 2015 7:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Side question, but say you're finishing a clerkship and have retained honors eligiblity--would it be a terrible move to go work at a big firm for <9 months, collect a no-strings clerkship bonus, and then apply to BigFed honors before you lose eligibility? Do you think you'd get blackballed in the legal market where you took the clerkship bonus and then bailed?

I don't know how this would even work, since most clerkships run from fall to fall, and DOJ, at least, requires you to stay in the eligibility-preserving activity through December. Would you just bail on the clerkship? Also, don't most firms require you to pay back the clerkship bonus if you don't work there at least a certain length of time (I've heard a year)?


There's actually a few honors programs where this can technically be done, like at CFPB and OCC which allow you to work elsewhere for up to a year after a clerkship.

Good to know. (I'm stupid about the finance ones because, well, stupid about finance.) It makes sense given the (presumably?) the greater crossover between private sector/public sector jobs in those fields.

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 07, 2015 8:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Side question, but say you're finishing a clerkship and have retained honors eligiblity--would it be a terrible move to go work at a big firm for <9 months, collect a no-strings clerkship bonus, and then apply to BigFed honors before you lose eligibility? Do you think you'd get blackballed in the legal market where you took the clerkship bonus and then bailed?

I don't know how this would even work, since most clerkships run from fall to fall, and DOJ, at least, requires you to stay in the eligibility-preserving activity through December. Would you just bail on the clerkship? Also, don't most firms require you to pay back the clerkship bonus if you don't work there at least a certain length of time (I've heard a year)?


There's actually a few honors programs where this can technically be done, like at CFPB and OCC which allow you to work elsewhere for up to a year after a clerkship.

That's great to know! Does anyone happen to know how likely it is that you could cross over from working in the CFPB honors program to working at a USAO?

Also, does anyone know (1) if hours at the CFPB tend to be biglaw-style like you might get at a busy USAO, and (2) how large the regional CFPB offices might be? I imagine not large.

Anonymous User
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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 07, 2015 9:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:That's great to know! Does anyone happen to know how likely it is that you could cross over from working in the CFPB honors program to working at a USAO?

I'm at a USAO, and I don't see there being a huge overlap. AUSAs are very much trial attorneys, and the CFPB appears to be heavily administrative and less straight litigation. Most USAOs need more criminal people than civil people, and CFPB seems to lean more civil (although some of it might be relevant to white collar?). I really haven't met any AUSAs with that kind of financial background - people mostly come from state prosecution or from firms.

But I don't know tons about CFPB, either. And people do go from civil lit to being criminal AUSAs, so if you got good litigation experience you could probably sell it. And hiring can vary a lot across USAOs.

tl;dr - I don't think it's a clear-cut straight path between the two, but the right person could probably swing it.

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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:43 pm

OP here-- sorry, it's been a crazy week and I haven't had the chance to get back on TLS. I have to decide soon, and I can't say I expected such a huge disparity in the voting. I do appreciate all the responses/votes. I'll put out some more thoughts I've been having this week, and I'd love to hear any counter-points to what I'm thinking.

I guess I've been weighing out what's important for me near-term and long-term, and whether working at this agency is something I want to make a career out of (compared to the firm where anything beyond me lasting at the firm for anything beyond 5-6 years is pretty crazy or unlikely). But I've talked to some regular attorneys and former Honors attorneys with the agency and they all said that if they wanted to advance up the chain, they had to really grind (and that the HQ is a pretty cutthroat place, whereas the region/field offices are more relaxed, but at the expense of career advancement). Plus, some of them got stuck in a division that they didn't like, because nothing's a guarantee (no guarantee for a full-time job at the end of the program--although very likely to get a full-time gig--but no certainty as to what division or location, so for all I know, I could end up anywhere doing anything). At least with the firm, I'd have some certainty and be working in the practice group that I've already gotten exposure to and that I really enjoyed, and with people that I really liked (although we all know half of them will be gone in 2-3 years, or less), but be getting paid a lot more, and be living in a place with a relatively low COL. Plus, I'd have to travel a good bit for the agency, but would have minimal travel for the firm. I guess I keep going back and forth between these pros and cons.

Someone mentioned what I'd end up w/ in school costs -- I will end up with $80K total in debt, but only half of that is federal; the other half is from a family member on very favorable terms. So debt pay-down would be "relatively" manageable in both spots, with it happening much sooner at the firm.

Since I'll be getting married within a year, I'm interested in knowing what the costs are for insurance with a gov't agency (how much is it a month for single, married, and family)? I only know an approximate figure for the firm (haven't received anything about starting in the fall yet).

I keep hearing how cushy/comfortable most FedGov attorney jobs are...does that mean you get bored easily? I could see getting stuck in some division that I hate, and while the hours would be better, I may not ever enjoy what I'm doing. Is this really my only shot to get my foot in the door with this agency? If I turn it down, am I kissing this Magic Unicorn goodbye?

Sorry if this is all over the place; just trying to weigh things out. If you have anything helpful/insight, I'm all ears.

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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've worked in a "BigFed" agency for the last 3-ish years. We use biglaw firms as outside counsel and most of my classmates/friends from law school are in biglaw so I'm very familiar with it. I don't regret going to a federal agency for a second and would do so again.

Hours are great, the pay has gotten higher very rapidly and is now well over 100k, and benefits are fantastic. Most importantly, the work is really interesting and I run my own cases, get to do substantive work on regs due to expertise I've developed from cases, and really feel like I have a big role in my agency's work. On the other hand, my friends in biglaw are almost universally (with one major exception) miserable, most have left or are about to leave their firms and go either in-house or leave law all together because they can't take it anymore. The junior biglaw associates that work at our outside counsel firms do much less substantive work than I do. Also, if I want to do biglaw down the road exit options are great.

I will say that I work at an awesome agency that is self-funded, so I don't have to deal with some of the frustrations that other federal employees do. My agency is also in a very in demand area so exit options are probably better than from most agencies. And my law school had a great LRAP (and my agency also has its own loan repayment program now that I'm no longer LRAP eligible) so I haven't really had to worry about loans. But based on what I've seen from biglaw, I don't regret my choice and have no desire to leave to the private sector, even if I didn't have any of these extras (although there's definitely agencies out there that I wouldn't want to work at).

If this Anon is still following this thread, could you give any further insight about the agency/type of agency you're at? The agency that I got an offer to has an overall positive reputation, but as I just mentioned in my most recent post, I've heard from several folks that it's pretty competitive at the HQ for advancement. I'm not a gunner by any means, but I would want to make sure I keep as many doors open as possible wherever I work, and not just barely skate by. I know it's very (agency-)specific, but if you were to go to the private sector, are there a decent number of opportunities to do so, or would you be limited in what types of in-house/compliance or firm jobs you could get?

Because the firm I am considering is a satellite/smaller office with lower leverage, it seems like the younger associates got to do a lot of the substantive work. I know this could be both a blessing and a curse, but it does help some to be doing something besides closing checklists and ancillary schedules.

Anyway, if there's a way that you could PM or discuss more specifics, I'd love to hear more.

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Re: BigLaw vs. BigFed Honors

Postby bjohnsobf » Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:31 am

Since I'll be getting married within a year, I'm interested in knowing what the costs are for insurance with a gov't agency (how much is it a month for single, married, and family)? I only know an approximate figure for the firm (haven't received anything about starting in the fall yet).


http://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance ... /premiums/

Few agencies have other benefits SEC is $25 self insurance $50 for family some other small regulatory agencies might have something similar but the standard OPM benefits are for the vast majority of the government.




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