Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

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Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:34 pm

Currently a 3L sitting on a midlaw NY offer after my SA there. I took the job because I wanted to practice law in a more relaxed atmosphere. I kind of hated the firm though, super white and boring and local (I'm international so I really felt like a fish out of water). Seemed like the kind of place and outsider like me wouldn't do very well in. I have been seriously considering saying no the the offer and going into PI, but then this opportunity came along...

Through a personal connection I have a biglaw asia office offer in the works. This firm is completely top notch, someone with my shit grades could only dream of starting in a firm like this. I have no interest in staying in the country long term, but a 1-2 year stint in Asia sounds fun (I have lived in a few countries in Asia growing up but never this one, seems like a good experience).

So my question is, what is better for career prospects in America? Looking to go in house or government as soon as possible basically, lifestyle is more important to me than money.

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 13, 2016 3:04 pm

i seriously considered starting biglaw in asia (HK and tokyo, specifically) and london, and i reached out to a lot of attorneys who had experience starting out their careers in those offices. almost all of them said that they wish they started their careers in the US instead. apparently it's really hard to come back to the states when you start your career abroad. it's not impossible but you have to jump through a few more hoops. in HK or london as a us associate you are doing cap markets and even within that a very specific type of cap markets work and apparently that's not as marketable as having a broader experience as a US junior.

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:53 pm

I think it depends on the work that you do. I think it will be easier to come back if you do more M&A work vs more capital markets work. I have couple of friends in London doing specialized capital markets work and he is having a really difficult time coming back to the US.

In terms of your midlaw offer, what kind of work are you doing? Is it corporate? tech trans? Honestly, if you dont have good grades it will be more difficult lateralling to a V100 or V50 biglaw firm. It may be better to just take the biglaw job in Asia first and then go from there. Perhaps you can transfer within the firm back to the US.

Do you speak that country's language? if you do and can fit in well, chances are that you will like it in Asia more. Honestly, biglaw in the US is going to be super white and super male. There is no way around it.

I am actually in the opposite boat. I am trying to get to Asia after US midlaw and biglaw experience. The unfortunate part for me is that I am a specialist and not a "corporate" lawyer.

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:51 pm

I'm an associate at an Asian office of a top U.S. firm, where I lateraled after 18 months at a top firm in NY. Due to my family situation I am returning to NY with my current firm shortly. A few thoughts:

(1) Before asking my firm to send me back to the U.S., I went to the lateral market in NY to try to push my firm's hand. With only 18 months of experience in NY, there were a lot of concerns over the (fairly short) time I have spent in Asia. The one firm that gave me an offer would only do so if I was willing to take a haircut on my class year. The partners I interviewed with said that in their experience associates from Asia had a really time readjusting to practicing in NY and they basically wanted me to redo the time I have spent in Asia.

(2) I have Asian trained lawyer friends who are having an even more difficult time getting traction in the U.S. job market. With zero U.S. experience on their resumes finding legal jobs in the U.S. of any kind is really really hard. If you are well respected at your firm you can try an internal transfer, but even that can be difficult as you get more senior because you will literally have to be retrained in many respects.

3) The issues underlying items (1) and (2) are not fictional. The Asia legal market is fairly unsophisticated in general, and there is little respect for technical skills. As a result, efficiency is valued over quality and much work is delegated to very junior associates or paralegals with minimal supervision. Without constant feedback from supervising attorneys (like you get in NY) you never really learn much more than how to update precedents. In the end, true U.S. trained associates tend to run circles around Asian trained associates much senior to them in terms of lawyering skills. This is not a major issue if you want to spend your career in Asia (although your progression may still be limited), but a huge issue if you want to come back to the states. A year or two hit in seniority may not be enough to overcome it.

These issues are not limited to capital markets, even if M&A is a bit more transferable. Given the restrictions on corporate structures in various Asian countries M&A transactions tend to much less complex than in the U.S., and price pressure still lends itself to consistently sacrificing quality for efficiency. Lean deal teams mean more responsibility, but less training.

(4) Poor grades will make lateraling to the U.S. even more difficult. Without strong technical skills or grades you don't have much to trade on. The fact that you are with an elite U.S. firm probably won't help too much, because most lateral offers go to candidates with specific skills that meet current firm needs. You will likely face similar issues if you look for in-house jobs, unless the particular company has a very strong Asia focus.

With this in mind, you should probably think long and hard about what you want with your career. You can get paid very well at top U.S. firms in Asia (cost of living adjustments are usually at least $65,000 and paid on top of NY market base salary), but you may have to accept the possibility of being in Asia for the long term. If you envision staying in the U.S. for the long-term you may be better off with the mid-law firm. Your call, but for me perceived "prestige" doesn't trump living where I want to live or doing what I want to do.

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:13 am

Is it better if you first work in the US and then go to Asia? Is it easier to come back to the US afterwards?

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 14, 2016 10:37 am

I'm a midlevel at a top US firm in Asia. I started in Asia right after graduation. Benefits: I work much less than my colleagues in NY (1600 to 2,000 hours year) and mostly have weekends off; both earn and save significantly more money; more pleasant daily life in a country with such great infrastructure. Costs: I have much less experience both within my own practice area and across practice areas than my colleagues in NY.

That said, I did not have trouble lateraling and did not have to take a pay/class year cut. This may have been because of the quality of my initial firm and/or credentials, but generally speaking if you are year 4-6 and come from a good firm, you should be able to lateral.

All in all, I don't regret my decision at all. I never wanted to be in biglaw (or law, frankly) long term so I'm happy to receive time and money in exchange for partnership prospects (which would have been slim to none any way).

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a midlevel at a top US firm in Asia. I started in Asia right after graduation. Benefits: I work much less than my colleagues in NY (1600 to 2,000 hours year) and mostly have weekends off; both earn and save significantly more money; more pleasant daily life in a country with such great infrastructure. Costs: I have much less experience both within my own practice area and across practice areas than my colleagues in NY.

That said, I did not have trouble lateraling and did not have to take a pay/class year cut. This may have been because of the quality of my initial firm and/or credentials, but generally speaking if you are year 4-6 and come from a good firm, you should be able to lateral.

All in all, I don't regret my decision at all. I never wanted to be in biglaw (or law, frankly) long term so I'm happy to receive time and money in exchange for partnership prospects (which would have been slim to none any way).


Are you still a mid-level in Asia? There is a difference between lateraling between firms in the region and lateraling back to the states. The former is easy. The latter is doable, but it is certainly not easy or something OP should count on (although given the time I assume OP has already made his/her decision).

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Re: Biglaw Asia or Midlaw NY? What's better for career prospects?

Postby curepure » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a midlevel at a top US firm in Asia. I started in Asia right after graduation. Benefits: I work much less than my colleagues in NY (1600 to 2,000 hours year) and mostly have weekends off; both earn and save significantly more money; more pleasant daily life in a country with such great infrastructure. Costs: I have much less experience both within my own practice area and across practice areas than my colleagues in NY.

That said, I did not have trouble lateraling and did not have to take a pay/class year cut. This may have been because of the quality of my initial firm and/or credentials, but generally speaking if you are year 4-6 and come from a good firm, you should be able to lateral.

All in all, I don't regret my decision at all. I never wanted to be in biglaw (or law, frankly) long term so I'm happy to receive time and money in exchange for partnership prospects (which would have been slim to none any way).


Would you mind PMing me? would love to hear more on US firms in Asia, thanks!



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