LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.

Small Firm Associate or Big Law Staff Attorney?

Poll ended at Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:58 pm

Small Firm Associate
10
91%
Big Law Staff Attorney
1
9%
 
Total votes: 11

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:58 pm

Hi all, I'm in a predicament of sorts:

I'm currently an associate at a small firm. The small firm is very prestigious and well known in the tiny niche it's in. Outside of the niche, no one knows of the firm. The niche is not one that allows me to move around: I'm locked out of many other firms sheerly because of conflicts, and I'm locked out of many firms I'm NOT conflicted in because, well, everyone in the field knows each other, and it's a bit awkward to poach (esp. since the partner I work for is influential in the field).

I have an opportunity to jump ship to a BigLaw firm as a Staff Attorney in a major market. The practice group is only tangentially related to what I work in now, so I'm almost starting from scratch. The job description doesn't sound like one of those eDiscovery attorney type of jobs. It's a litigation position that involves the following, in addition to doc review: case management, pleadings, pre-trial prep, regulatory filings, preparation of agreements, due diligence, analyzing damages, other data analysis work. The practice group is one I really want to work in (it's a sub-specialty field within litigation). The pay is a small bump up from my current small firm associate salary, but mainly I'm looking for opportunity for growth and the ability to develop skills I can use to later on apply or network my way into a biglaw associate position. And before anyone tells me it's going to be very difficult/near impossible, I know what I'm facing; I just want to know if I'm developing skills as s Staff Attorney (based on the above description) that would make me marketable later on in a year or two. As a side note, in case this might be relevant (and not to sound like a snob or anything) my creds are pretty good but I missed the OCI boat for various reasons.

Thanks so much TLS, I appreciate any feedback at all!

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2017 2:29 am

I'm not a lit associate, but I'd also try to check on how long staff associates are normally kept around at the firm you're considering. My firm has some staff attorneys who have been there for a while, but most of them are (from my understanding) only hired on an as-needed basis and aren't kept on for the long-term.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2017 2:46 am

I work at a firm that uses staff attorneys. All they do is discovery, typically in very high volume. I think this is very, very typical for big firms, regardless of what the job description suggests (and, frankly, most of the other stuff you describe are tasks we typically farm out to paralegals or very, very junior associates). I don't think it is the kind of experience that makes one very marketable.

By contrast, working at a small, well-regarded specialist firm sounds like a much better opportunity. I'd stay put.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:45 am

Here's the situation of a person I know. Started out as a Biglaw staff attorney really just because she graduated from a TTT. Worked for 3-4 years, quit, and went to do an internship (unpaid!!!!) at a prominent agency in the field of her dreams, which was entirely unrelated to where she was coming from. Things didn't work out when positions (non-legal) opened up at that agency since more qualified lawyers (with less experience) were chosen over her. Quit and did an LLM in a foreign country. Came back to the states and worked in a super nice consulting firm in the desired field. Found a Biglaw staff attorney position in the field and got hired. Not saying this will be you, but I think this might be the most likely best case scenario if you pick the staff attorney position, which is to end up in another staff attorney position.

With the small law position, I don't know enough about your field to comment. In my field, lawyers from the small niche firms ALWAYS get poached by the bigger players and most of the time are assigned substantial responsibility because of the obvious advantages small firms give you.

From this outsider's perspective, my advice would be to stay put to learn as much and generate as much of a ring to your name with this influential partner of yours.

dixiecupdrinking

Gold
Posts: 3440
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:36 am

I would not recommend taking the staff attorney job unless you are fine with doing doc review for 40-70 hours a week and having no realistic path to becoming an associate. Big firms have staff attorneys in order to farm out the work that is too low-level to justify having an associate do it. Regardless of what the job description says, that is what the job will be. It's also a scarlet letter and will actually reduce your odds of ever working in biglaw in a partner track job.

Npret

Silver
Posts: 1494
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Npret » Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:53 am

Why do you want to leave your firm which sounds like a great job.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:00 am

OP here.

I want to leave because of extremely unpleasant politics and personalities at my firm, which make me wonder whether I'll ever make partner where i am, too.

FWIW, attrition at my small firm seems to be as bad as/worse than in biglaw: we lost on avg 1 associate and 1 or more support staff per year.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Lacepiece23

Silver
Posts: 1053
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:03 am

My firm does a lot of portfolio cases and uses staff attorneys for those. Honestly, they get better work than I do as a junior associate because their rate is lower. They also never have a problem finding work because there are so many portfolio cases.

clerk1251

Bronze
Posts: 196
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:35 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby clerk1251 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here.

I want to leave because of extremely unpleasant politics and personalities at my firm, which make me wonder whether I'll ever make partner where i am, too.

FWIW, attrition at my small firm seems to be as bad as/worse than in biglaw: we lost on avg 1 associate and 1 or more support staff per year.


How many years have you been there? I wouldn't worry too much about making partner yet, unless you've been there for at least 5-6 years (but it doesn't sound like that's the case). You've said your place is prestigious, and that the partner you work for is very influential. All of these are what a young lawyer should strive for! Do good work for him, learn from him, and become the best attorney you can be. In no time at all, you will be the influential one and you will have headhunters calling you (make sure your linkedin is really solid). Biglaw sounds nice in concept, but there is very little growth in a staff attorney position, and it sounds like you will be going backwards on your professional growth track.

Npret

Silver
Posts: 1494
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Npret » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:47 am

Lacepiece23 wrote:My firm does a lot of portfolio cases and uses staff attorneys for those. Honestly, they get better work than I do as a junior associate because their rate is lower. They also never have a problem finding work because there are so many portfolio cases.

But do they ever move into associate status? I think that is what OP wants. It seems unlikely OP will achieve that goal and OP will be giving up the experience they have.

User avatar
Lacepiece23

Silver
Posts: 1053
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:51 am

Npret wrote:
Lacepiece23 wrote:My firm does a lot of portfolio cases and uses staff attorneys for those. Honestly, they get better work than I do as a junior associate because their rate is lower. They also never have a problem finding work because there are so many portfolio cases.

But do they ever move into associate status? I think that is what OP wants. It seems unlikely OP will achieve that goal and OP will be giving up the experience they have.


Yes, I've seen three do it so far.

Npret

Silver
Posts: 1494
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Npret » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:57 am

Lacepiece23 wrote:
Npret wrote:
Lacepiece23 wrote:My firm does a lot of portfolio cases and uses staff attorneys for those. Honestly, they get better work than I do as a junior associate because their rate is lower. They also never have a problem finding work because there are so many portfolio cases.

But do they ever move into associate status? I think that is what OP wants. It seems unlikely OP will achieve that goal and OP will be giving up the experience they have.


Yes, I've seen three do it so far.


That's good to know and not something I was aware would happen. I thought once staff attorney was on your resume you were stuck.

User avatar
Lacepiece23

Silver
Posts: 1053
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:58 am

Npret wrote:
Lacepiece23 wrote:
Npret wrote:
Lacepiece23 wrote:My firm does a lot of portfolio cases and uses staff attorneys for those. Honestly, they get better work than I do as a junior associate because their rate is lower. They also never have a problem finding work because there are so many portfolio cases.

But do they ever move into associate status? I think that is what OP wants. It seems unlikely OP will achieve that goal and OP will be giving up the experience they have.


Yes, I've seen three do it so far.


That's good to know and not something I was aware would happen. I thought once staff attorney was on your resume you were stuck.


My firm may be weird, but it seems like a lot of staff attorneys want to be a staff attorney. It's more 9-5 with real attorney work. Only the younger staff attorneys actually want to be associates. I even know of a former AUSA who is a staff attorney at my firm.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:27 am

To the poster who said their firm promoted three staff attorneys to associate, was this in a litigation group?

The Staff Attorney position I'm interviewing for is litigation, but it's a very niche, sub-specialty of litigation.

dixiecupdrinking

Gold
Posts: 3440
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To the poster who said their firm promoted three staff attorneys to associate, was this in a litigation group?

The Staff Attorney position I'm interviewing for is litigation, but it's a very niche, sub-specialty of litigation.

FWIW, based on my own experience and from talking to others, it's very unusual for a big firm to have this kind of mobility between staff attorneys and associates. We use staff attorneys and as far as I know, even the best among them (and there are good, really hard working ones) haven't been considered for associate positions.

AFS

New
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun May 01, 2011 3:06 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby AFS » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:38 pm

I agree with other posters who have mentioned that you should stay where you are. It sounds like you're getting good experience and you have the opportunity to develop a good reputation within your niche.

It's pretty difficult to transition from BigLaw Staff Attorney to a BigLaw Associate role, and you won't be developing any marketable skills as a Staff Attorney like you are right now where you are.

User avatar
Lacepiece23

Silver
Posts: 1053
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 2:25 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:To the poster who said their firm promoted three staff attorneys to associate, was this in a litigation group?

The Staff Attorney position I'm interviewing for is litigation, but it's a very niche, sub-specialty of litigation.

FWIW, based on my own experience and from talking to others, it's very unusual for a big firm to have this kind of mobility between staff attorneys and associates. We use staff attorneys and as far as I know, even the best among them (and there are good, really hard working ones) haven't been considered for associate positions.


Yeah, I agree with this. We also have a LOT of staff attorneys at my firm. And I only know of three who have made the jump. So there's that.

User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:42 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:FWIW, based on my own experience and from talking to others, it's very unusual for a big firm to have this kind of mobility between staff attorneys and associates. We use staff attorneys and as far as I know, even the best among them (and there are good, really hard working ones) haven't been considered for associate positions.

Same here. OP, I really don't think this is a close question. If you're not happy with the politics at your current firm, find another associate position. Do not become a staff attorney; there's a good chance that such a move would derail your career.

User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:45 pm

Lacepiece23 wrote:Yeah, I agree with this. We also have a LOT of staff attorneys at my firm. And I only know of three who have made the jump. So there's that.

Even that number strikes me as unusually high. I've worked at two firms and I'm unaware of a single instance of a staff attorney becoming an associate at either firm.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327248
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM LITIGATION ATTORNEYS: Small Law Associate vs BigLaw Staff Attorney?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2017 4:01 pm

I once interviewed for a staff attorney job in biglaw and they made it very clear to me that there was no chance of it ever turning into an associate position. If memory serves me, I believe they said that if I take the staff attorney position I wasn't allowed to apply for an associate position and wouldn't be considered. In fact, they even went so far as to say that this was a job where I could "get my feet wet" and leave in a year or two.



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.