How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

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bloodorangedeer
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How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby bloodorangedeer » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:52 am

I had a solid academic year (3.9) and am at a T14. We're creating bid lists now and honestly I'm a bit overwhelmed by the contradictory arguments I've heard about different firms on the market. I have no real knowledge of BigLaw or the legal market; I was in the visual arts before coming to law school. Regardless, I'd like to do transactional work. I'm above Cravath, S&C, Skadden, Simpson, & DP median GPAs at my school and have a good summer job. How do I decide? What factors do you guys recommend I consider? I imagine reputation, job mobility, exit opportunities, quality of life (not just in hours, but benefits, amount of dbags you have to work with) all matter. Really, any thoughts on how a complete law n00b should best make this decision would be great.

Anonymous User
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:35 pm

Not sure if flame. If serious, pretty much every firm (including Wachtell, potentially) is on the table depending on how well you interview. I think the V5 + Simpson + Cleary are all pretty fungible if you want generic NYC transactional work (at least with respect to pay, realistic prospects at partnership, quality of exit options, quality of work, etc.) and will all work you very hard, so I'd pick the one where you think you'd be happiest for a few years.

UpandDown97
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby UpandDown97 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not sure if flame. If serious, pretty much every firm (including Wachtell, potentially) is on the table depending on how well you interview. I think the V5 + Simpson + Cleary are all pretty fungible if you want generic NYC transactional work (at least with respect to pay, realistic prospects at partnership, quality of exit options, quality of work, etc.) and will all work you very hard, so I'd pick the one where you think you'd be happiest for a few years.


Potentially dumb question, but how are people supposed to figure out where they will be happy and where they won't? I'm always confused on how a prospective SA is supposed to figure out "fit." The interview is only an hour or two long.

For reference, I do have WE, so that should color the response.
Last edited by UpandDown97 on Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

CanadianWolf
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:22 pm

Depends as much upon the individual as it does upon the firm. Firms have reputations; individuals have personalities. Many 3Ls & recent graduates can help to confirm or dispel those reputations. In my experience, firm reputations were spot on accurate. Whether or not your personality fits in with a particular law firm is something that you can best gauge.

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Capitol_Idea
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby Capitol_Idea » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:23 pm

For me it was a combination of having worked with these firms and knowing people at the various firms. Lacking these connections, your school should be able to get people from top firms to speak to you.

With your credentials I think you want to start with the top firms in whatever area you want to practice in (Vault, Chambers & Partners, etc. can help in assessing this). If you really don't know what you want to do, look for a major office (usually NY?) in a firm that's really strong in a lot of areas.

Ultimately, though, it can be a crap shoot, because a bad partner or practice group at a firm with a great reputation will always suck more than a great partner/group at a firm with a bad rep.

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2014
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby 2014 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:28 pm

If you have a subset of corporate work in mind there are differences amongst the various well regarded firms and that should be taken into account. Like if you want to do M&A Skadden's group is a lot larger headcount wise than DPW's and Simpson does higher volume of private deals than others.

A firm's clients might make a difference if you are thinking ahead to exits already. S&C and DPW do a ton of work for banks, Simpson does a ton of work for private equity companies, Skadden and Cravath do a ton of work for public companies, etc. All are going to be equally supportive helping you gtfo when you are ready.

Your preference for rotation should play a big role I would think. The options range from free market/unassigned (S&C) to going right into a group without rotating (Wachtell I believe) and that matters.

Culture should matter but there's no real way to gauge it at the screener or even CB stage. Internet reputations of firm cultures are tenuously based on fact at best.

Firm structure/leverage might matter and amongst the firms being discussed there are some differences. Cleary is marginally less NY centric because of its sizable international presence, S&C/DPW/STB are somewhere in the middle, and Cravath and Wachtell are functionally all in on NY. Skadden is a completely different beast because it is massive comparatively.

Location can matter. Some might prefer Midtown East (Wachtell/DPW/STB), others Midtown West (Cravath/Skadden), and others FiDi (S&C/Cleary). It could matter if you have a preference toward living in West Village or Upper East Side for example and prefer firms on the same side of the island for ease of commute.

All are going to match each other on compensation (other than Wachtell of course) should NY raise market or on bonuses so that shouldn't be a factor. Other minor differences like benefits may matter but are too difficult to gauge at this point and are small differences.

I may be missing something important but that's all I got. If you have specific preferences feel free to list them and I or others can surely spew unintelligible opinions in hopes of being helpful.

CanadianWolf
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:31 pm

@2014: Great post, but location within Manhattan shouldn't come into consideration, in my opinion.

bloodorangedeer
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby bloodorangedeer » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:52 pm

Thanks everyone! Perhaps not surprisingly, these answers were all better than what I heard from career services ("they're all good; bid them all"). I'll probably try to set up meetings with firms throughout the summer to get a better sense of their culture/connect with alums who work there for their feedback. Appreciate it.

v5junior
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby v5junior » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:24 pm

Which firms you should bid (and how you rank them) vs. which offer you accept should be almost an entirely different methodology. The former should only matter at the margins for the latter.

E.g., you have 26 firms you want to bid, but only 25 bids, or, out of 4 firms you are competitive for grades-wise, you want to rank them 1->3->2->4 because that first bid has a marginally higher chance of earning you an interview.

Cravath may be perfect for your preferences re: rotations, practice areas, clients, and location, but if 100% of people who bid it 17th get an interview, you're a moron if you bid it #1.

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jbagelboy
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby jbagelboy » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:30 pm

My advise would be don't get too hung up on vault and ignore it as much as you can. Use it to set ranges and as a general guide (for Ny transactional) but not as gospel.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Jun 08, 2015 5:01 pm

Bid on the top firms for what you want to do, see where you get screeners, callbacks, and offers, and then figure it out. Don't overthink it right now, 90% of the firms will be irrelevant by the time you make a decision.

legends159
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby legends159 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:10 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:@2014: Great post, but location within Manhattan shouldn't come into consideration, in my opinion.


Location matters a lot. Midtown east is the easiest location to get to for all places except NJ. If you want to live in NJ then Midtown west is better. Location will matter when you decide whether you want to live outside Manhattan and stop paying the high rents (or have a family and need to move) - it can turn a reasonable commute into one that you wouldn't consider because it's too far from the office. Midtown east gives you easy access to Brooklyn and Queens as well as Westchester (to avoid paying NYC city tax - which will save you $5K+ a year).

The top NYC firms are all interchangeable work/exit opps wise. The culture may be a little different but not really - you'll make the most of it no matter where you go or you'll hate it no matter where you are. There's so many partners/senior associates that ultimately a "nice" firm will not seem nice when the partner you happen to work for yells at you. The people who hate it would hate biglaw no matter where they go. The people who can stand it can stand it no matter where they are. And the people who love it are sociopaths who would love the punishment wherever they are.

Anonymous User
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:40 pm

Mid-level associate that left big firm life for in-house weighing in on considerations for a transactions practice if you want to go in-house.

I would value a low partner/associate ratio because you are less likely to be shown the door in the first several years and you are more likely to get more substantive experience early on. If you want to go in-house eventually, you want to be able to get solid drafting experience by the time you are a mid-level (and get some general mentoring along the way). Speaking with friends, those at firms with large stables of junior associates often neglect a large portion of those juniors because partners/senior associates just don't have time to mentor so many juniors. Granted, most of this advice is tailored towards a corporate associate that wants to go in-house. Obviously, go to a firm with a strong practice in the area you want to practice (think carefully about exit options for your practice choice...most don't stay in big law).

Otherwise, go where you feel like it will be a good fit. When you interview, look around. Are doors open? Are people in the hallway smiling and saying hi to each other? Is it stiflingly quiet? Are the interviewers stiffs? If you are observant, interviews will tell you a lot about culture. Try to get a sense of associate turn-over. Are your interviewers laterals? Home grown?

Sorry if thoughts are a little jumbled - almost ready for bed.

UpandDown97
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby UpandDown97 » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:59 am

zacharus85 wrote:For me it was a combination of having worked with these firms and knowing people at the various firms. Lacking these connections, your school should be able to get people from top firms to speak to you.

With your credentials I think you want to start with the top firms in whatever area you want to practice in (Vault, Chambers & Partners, etc. can help in assessing this). If you really don't know what you want to do, look for a major office (usually NY?) in a firm that's really strong in a lot of areas.

Ultimately, though, it can be a crap shoot, because a bad partner or practice group at a firm with a great reputation will always suck more than a great partner/group at a firm with a bad rep.


Simply put, could you tell an interviewer you want to work at a firm because you have friends there who like it (even if they don't like it)?

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Capitol_Idea
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby Capitol_Idea » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:49 am

UpandDown97 wrote:
zacharus85 wrote:For me it was a combination of having worked with these firms and knowing people at the various firms. Lacking these connections, your school should be able to get people from top firms to speak to you.

With your credentials I think you want to start with the top firms in whatever area you want to practice in (Vault, Chambers & Partners, etc. can help in assessing this). If you really don't know what you want to do, look for a major office (usually NY?) in a firm that's really strong in a lot of areas.

Ultimately, though, it can be a crap shoot, because a bad partner or practice group at a firm with a great reputation will always suck more than a great partner/group at a firm with a bad rep.


Simply put, could you tell an interviewer you want to work at a firm because you have friends there who like it (even if they don't like it)?
You can but I'm not sure you'd want to at a firm they hate (I'd avoid the firm!).

If you can name names of people you know there, it shows you might actually be serious about the firm and not just picking it randomly as one of your bids. If the people you know are well liked, you can get a positive association from that. You do need to articulate something more than 'they like it there so I will too' though - you need to find specific things about the firm that makes it seem like they are uniquely the right choice. Of course many firms understand the bidding process and that it's all a jumble of samey firms competing for the top students, but personal interest in the firm backed by a sooid connection stands out - it's how I got at least one of my offers, I'm convinced.

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TFALAWL
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby TFALAWL » Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:55 am

Get coffee with lots of attorneys this summer. Your experience will be largely based on who you work for rather than which firm you work for.

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First Offense
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Re: How to Choose the Right BigLaw Firm...

Postby First Offense » Sun Jun 14, 2015 7:53 am

zacharus85 wrote:
UpandDown97 wrote:
zacharus85 wrote:For me it was a combination of having worked with these firms and knowing people at the various firms. Lacking these connections, your school should be able to get people from top firms to speak to you.

With your credentials I think you want to start with the top firms in whatever area you want to practice in (Vault, Chambers & Partners, etc. can help in assessing this). If you really don't know what you want to do, look for a major office (usually NY?) in a firm that's really strong in a lot of areas.

Ultimately, though, it can be a crap shoot, because a bad partner or practice group at a firm with a great reputation will always suck more than a great partner/group at a firm with a bad rep.


Simply put, could you tell an interviewer you want to work at a firm because you have friends there who like it (even if they don't like it)?
You can but I'm not sure you'd want to at a firm they hate (I'd avoid the firm!).

If you can name names of people you know there, it shows you might actually be serious about the firm and not just picking it randomly as one of your bids. If the people you know are well liked, you can get a positive association from that. You do need to articulate something more than 'they like it there so I will too' though - you need to find specific things about the firm that makes it seem like they are uniquely the right choice. Of course many firms understand the bidding process and that it's all a jumble of samey firms competing for the top students, but personal interest in the firm backed by a sooid connection stands out - it's how I got at least one of my offers, I'm convinced.

Also - if you drop the name, make sure you actually spoke to them about it. Screeners may follow up with that person.




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