Big Law vs Mid Law

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Biglaw or Midlaw?

Total votes: 14

Anonymous User
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Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 25, 2016 10:16 pm

Hello everyone, I'd like some advice from the board.

Rising 2L, just wrapping up fall recruiting. T-14, good grades, LR. I have multiple biglaw and one midlaw offer. All in the same region. I also am on full scholly, so debt repayment is not a consideration.

Both seem to have ups and downs. After talking to numerous people, there seems to be a consensus that the average BigLaw career is something on the order of 4-5 years. Yes, some people stay long enough to make partner, but most don't. Is this correct? That being said, the exit options are generally much better. (one of my biglaw offers is the premier firm in that region).

Also, from what I've gathered, Midlaw offers a higher chance of success IN THAT FIRM. Lateral and other exits are less guaranteed, but I would be getting a better chance (still only a chance, i know) of making partner eventually.

As to pay, the biglaw offers are at market. The midlaw is below market, but not much.

I should mention, I also have a family. As in, wife and child. Is biglaw really a 75-80 hour week every week? Is midlaw substantially different? Or is it the same 75-80 hour week just with lower pay?

Some people I've talked to have said "you'd be insane to not take biglaw in that case" Other people have said "you'll have zero debt? take midlaw and never look back"

Obviously this is a big decision and I really am almost 50-50. Any feedback would be appreciated.


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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby gabewatch » Thu Aug 25, 2016 10:45 pm

I'm at a mythical midlaw firm. Was trying for big law and didnt get it (think top 20% at T1). I think it worked out for the best. I work 50-60 hours a week and can't imagine working more too much more than that - and I don't have kids. I generally work 8-6, good people. I think big law would have been an awful fit for me, but might have done it for the money. I'll be done paying loans in about a year as I didn't have too many to begin with.

Anyways, if you want a life, I would vote for mid law given your loan situation. Depends on your goals also though.

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 25, 2016 10:51 pm

How long have you been there? What do you think of partnership prospects?

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Toni V

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Toni V » Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:40 am

I agree with most of the advice you received. Note, my experience has been with BL but I do have a number of MLaw friends. The best as I can tell, MLaw associates also work long hours and some do like their MLaw firm ― others hate theirs, and try as hard as they can, they are striking out on lateraling up (even with the help of headhunters). As I see it, the worst case MLaw scenario is that you want out and can’t while being paid tens-of-thousands less than an unhappy BL associate with the option to lateral.

I know a couple small-law associates who gladly embrace their trade off, of what I assume is less interesting work and a lot less $$ for their cherished extra free time. As an FYI: I know the myth is that BL associates are hooked up to a plow every minute of every day (that myth is only partially true), we often manage to cut out for a long lunch by the pool. Hours are usually 9A-6P (+ 60 minutes round trip drive….a short drive but the traffic is usually brutal) and weekend hours vary.

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 26, 2016 3:11 am

So I actually split between big law and mid law. I cannot be specific because it's kind of outtable, but here are my thoughts:

Pros of Mid law: definitely way better hours, attorneys did not stay past 8pm and if they do, that was rare. you do get full sleep, and you do have a life outside, including weekends.
Cons of Mid Law: less interesting work, as a junior you get non-legal work sometimes, budget constraints, smaller clients

Pros of Big law: substantive work, high-stakes, clients less concerned about budgets because if they lose, then they go bankrupt, higher quality work
Cons of Big Law: super long hours... the poster above sounds like he/she might've worked in a different market (?) or certainly different firm, but my hours did not consist of 9-6... it was more like 9-10pm regularly, weekends included.

Ultimately, I chose big law, not even for the exit options and prestige, but because I couldn't stand getting work that's more appropriate for a support staff. I also realized that I didn't value having personal life/time as much as I thought, because oh man... the slowness of mid law kind of killed me inside. I'm not sure how long I'll last in big law, but I'd rather that than the work I was doing in mid-law.

But of course, not all mid law is made the same, and if you have family and greater responsibilities, I can totally understand why mid law might be more appealing.

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:53 am

As someone who worked in both a V50 big law firm and a regional big law firm I think the biggest difference relates to the sophistication of your work and training.

At my regional firm the work that I did was a lot less nuanced and specialized. For example, a large client would send all their commercial contracts to our regional firm. 90% of the time we would just use our form agreement and force the other party to negotiate off of that.

At the big law firm we tend to work more off of the vendor's agreements and while that costs the client more in terms of legal fees, it also teaches you to be a better drafter. Secondly, the issues that I deal with at a big firm are much more nuanced. The clients are, as a whole, bigger, and many of them have their own in-house counsel. They generally send tougher questions/issues that the in-house guys either don't have time for or don't really know how to answer.

Furthermore, some mid law firms may not have /or have extremely small practice groups in certain areas. For example there may not be a group that does patent work at your mid law firm or a group that works on environmental issues.

With bigger clients, I think there are less assignments that I get which ask me to "only spend 2 hours" to complete. While you still have to be efficient, you can take a little bit more time.

In terms of people, some people assume that midlaw/regional big law means better personality. I'm not sure there is a correlation and I think it heavily depends on who you work with and for.

Hours wise, I think big law works slightly more (obviously this depends on practice group/location and I am in a secondary city at the V50 firm). This is obviously not to say that mid law is a walk in the park. My regional firm required 1850 hrs and my new firm requires slightly more.

Lastly in terms of exit opportunities. I think big law will definitely give you a heads up on in-house opportunities. Having a big law firm resume that many other lawyers have at least heard of is definitely better than going into an interview asking you about your firm. However, this heavily depends on your practice group/specialty as well.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

What the f.supp?

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby What the f.supp? » Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:59 am

I am really interested in this topic. Have a few friends that went from BL to ML and are really enjoying the change of pace. Hope more people like the poster above me chime in about their experiences.


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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby WhiteCollarBlueShirt » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:27 am

Big Law --> Regional Big/Mid Law associate here:

1. Agree wholeheartedly on sophistication and budget concerns above.
2. Agree wholeheartedly on having a life outside of the firm and much, much better hours, but still working a lot more than I would want to (and more than others generally work in this region).
3. Being a partner at a midlaw is far from a walk in the park, because of the above 2 points.

Personally, if you said a different region, I would say it comes down to what sort of life you want. However, because you're talking about 1 region, if the region I lived in now had true biglaw, then I would do that instead (my end goal is not to be a law firm partner, but to land an in-house or non-law position in my current non-major market region).

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:00 pm

I'm getting ready to lateral from mid law to big law (in a non-major market) after 4 years. I don't have the big law experience yet, but I can tell you the reasons why I'm choosing to leave mid law when most would be going in the opposite direction.

A little background: T-14, struck out on big law during 2L OCI. My 1L grades weren't spectacular (bottom half), and though they improved significantly 2L and 3L, the OCI damage was done. I think I was also lacking significant connections to one of the two markets I was targeting and had some work experience that worked against me because it suggested I was interested in using big law as a vehicle to work in a legal role in my prior industry. I landed my mid law gig in a city that I'm not from, and I took it because I liked the people I met during my callback and I didn't want to be without a job. I have enjoyed working with the people at my firm and like a lot of things about my new city (including my now-spouse, who I met here), so I am grateful that the last few years haven't been miserable.

Fast forward to ~4 years after graduation, and I'm on my way out because 1) I have to do work in areas of law I have no interest in; 2) I don't really feel like I'm being given the opportunity to become an expert in the areas of law I AM interested in; and 3) I'm bored and restless because of 1 and 2.

If you want to be a generalist -- a "jack of all trades" lawyer, then mid law might be the place for you. You may find yourself working in multiple areas of law because the firm can't support someone working in a particular area 100% of the time. Some people prefer this, but it can also prevent you from becoming an expert in any particular field. I found that while I liked the variety at first, I now loathe it because I know what I'm interested in and my firm can't support me doing that work full time. You will probably have a handful of strong regional clients for whom you do some interesting work and who don't complain about their bills, but you'll also probably have a lot of smaller clients who are not regular purchasers of legal services, and who will balk at your (reasonable) billable rates. You'll feel a constant pressure to work against budget constraints, which can lead to either cutting corners or shorting yourself on the hours you actually bill.

The other issue with starting in mid law is that it can be extremely difficult to lateral up to big law. It's not lost on me that I was able to do so, and it's because I do have some experience in a particular area of law that I'm now moving into full time. If you start out litigating small disputes in state court or working on small business transactions, you won't have the federal court or large deal experience that big firms are looking for. This is the primary reason I would encourage you to take one of the big law SA positions, especially if you're not sure exactly what area of law you'd like to work in. If you can stick out big law even for a year or two, it will give you more flexibility to choose what your future looks like, whether that's in big law, mid law, small law, in-house, or otherwise.

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Frayed Knot

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Frayed Knot » Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
If you want to be a generalist -- a "jack of all trades" lawyer, then mid law might be the place for you. You may find yourself working in multiple areas of law because the firm can't support someone working in a particular area 100% of the time. Some people prefer this, but it can also prevent you from becoming an expert in any particular field.

Depending on the midlaw/regional biglaw firm, the opposite can also be true: some midlaw firms will hire you into a specialized practice group (e.g., ERISA; real estate) and you'll basically never have a chance to get work outside that group. That can be great for developing expertise, but isn't a good fit for people who don't know what they'll enjoy. Conversely, most biglaw firms will let you do at least a couple of rotations before committing to a group.

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Re: Big Law vs Mid Law

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:40 pm

v5 turned midlaw lawyer here. i think it makes sense to start in biglaw for the training, but working in midlaw is wayyy better for all the above reasons. because of all the budges constraints, etc. we are very commercial. i actually spend a good chunk of my time lawyering, and not fixing comma mistakes, because we won't get paid for stuff like that. we try to keep the bill low, which means no pointless checklists or issues list (fyi in biglaw all you do as a junior is make issues list - i once had to make an issues list of an issues list because the original issues list was so long!). i wouldn't say the work is THAT less interesting or less high stakes. there are similar issues in a 1 billion dollar deal as there are in a 10 million dollar deal. hours are definitely better.

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