Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

(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.
Anonymous User
Posts: 327313
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:19 pm

I just finished my first year at HLS slightly above median (4Hs). I'll be graduating with around 30K in debt (GI bill). I want to do biglaw for 2-3 years, put 100K in an index fund, and move into either public defender work or innocence work. For firms, I'm looking at locations, ability to do pro bono and establish connections in my desired future career. I think this plan makes sense but I'm not sure.

All that being said, I have no idea which market I want to end up in. It seems like a really big decision since it's likely where I'm going to stay for a while. I'm considering New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. I have no real ties to any of them.

New York:
Pros-big legal market, great chance to get a good firm with strong pro bono, stuff like Bronx defenders and innocent project, really cool city, closer to my family on the east coast, it's where my girlfriend is going to go
Cons- super fucking expensive which will make it much harder to save, will basically be impossible to buy a house, high taxes

LA
Pros-cool city, good litigation work, a bunch of public interest organizations, death penalty work, very liberal, much more my style as far as weather and outdoorsy stuff to do, good economy, somehow much cheaper than New York
Cons-still higher housing costs, high taxes,more selective legal

Chicago
Pros-big legal market, apparently firms are not very selective from HLS, I love the city, very cheap housing, much lower costs overall than NY, and a bunch of public interest work
Cons-the weather. I don't think I can be happy living in Chicago weather year round. That may actually be a deal breaker for me.

Houston
Pros-super cheap everything, crushing need for legal work/public interest attorneys, death penalty work, still a somewhat big city with stuff to do, centrally located, close to family, no winters
Cons- still the fucking south, no public transportation, poor pay for public interest lawyers, ungodly summer heat and all the scourges and pestilence that comes with that, and does not seem as cool as the other ones.

Am I thinking of things the right way? I'm trying to decide where to spend the first 5-10 years after my law school career, which is a pretty big decision. Can somebody give me their thoughts? I'm stressing pretty bad about EIP coming up and forcing this decision.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29306
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:23 pm

Is NYC weather really different enough from Chicago for weather to be a deal-breaker for Chicago and not for NYC?

Anonymous User
Posts: 327313
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:58 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Is NYC weather really different enough from Chicago for weather to be a deal-breaker for Chicago and not for NYC?


Honestly yeah. I was miserable for a lot of the winter in Boston, and Chicago is worse. New York is milder, and is probably the worst winter I can handle long term.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327313
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:09 pm

I've lived in three of these cities and spent a good amount of time in the fourth. They are culturally broadly similar in the way that all large cities have become culturally similar over the past couple of decades, but within the set of large cities, these places are pretty different. Some thoughts on the cities as places to live and as places to do the kind of work you want to do.

New York
From what you have said, the biggest reason to go here is proximity to girlfriend and family, and that may be the ballgame. I suspect that you're already familiar with New York, and you know whether you're a New York person or not. It's not my city, but if you're a NY person, no other place will do.

With respect to your career, NY has the advantage of having by far the deepest labor market for lawyers (in both private practice and public interest), even compared to LA. That said, it will also be by far the most competitive market for public interest jobs of these four cities—YHS grads are a dime a dozen there. The prestigious PI jobs you mention (Bronx Defenders, Innocence Project) are swamped with highly credentialed people who want jobs, and even if you get in the door, it will take you longer to get the kind of substantive work you would get at a PD office in a smaller city (think Philly, New Orleans obviously, etc.). I think girlfriend and family are serious considerations, and it is true that you will have an easier time getting a good biglaw gig here, but aside from that, this would not be my choice unless you really love NY.

Los Angeles
LA is really the only city on this last that comes close to NY in terms of cultural amenities—incredible food, art, music, new stuff happening all the time. It has the best weather of any of these cities and by far the best outdoors stuff to do of any of these cities (mountains in the middle of the city, great hiking/rock climbing/mountain biking within a 1-2 hours of the center of the city, the Sierras a few hours away, the coast and wine country a short drive, etc.). That said, your day-to-day life here will be dramatically different from NY. The sprawl changes your pace of your life—unless you live downtown or in a few very select corridors, you have to drive basically everywhere, and you will almost certainly have to drive to and from work. If you're coming from HLS and aren't originally from Southern California, you may also find it a pretty isolating place compared to NY, where you are guaranteed to know a lot of people. (I'll also note that LA is quickly catching up to NY in rents and real estate prices, even on the east side).

With respect to work, LA has a good set of PI orgs (Public Counsel, ACLU SoCal, Bet Tzedek, etc.), though I think there are fewer positions in the public defense/innocence work world. This may wash out, though, since there are significantly fewer YHS-credentialed lawyers there. As you know, the biglaw world there, while still pretty diverse, will tend to tilt more toward IP and entertainment-facing work. There is a good set of lit boutiques/smaller firms there (MTO, Hueston Hennigan, Susman, Bird Marella, Irell, etc.), which may be more up your alley if you can swing it.

Chicago
I'll be brief here: I love Chicago, and it is probably my favorite of these cities, but you're right about the weather. NY winters are bad, but Chicago winters are on another level, and the summers aren't that much better than Houston. That said, you do get used to it after a while, and if you can handle it, I think this is one of the best places to live, period. All the culture you need with a more relaxed, non-coastal vibe and without the housing costs of NY or CA. (Unfortunately, not much in the way of nature anywhere near Chicago). I think there is good public interest work, and I suspect it would be easier to break into than NY or even LA, but I am much less familiar with the Chicago legal market than anywhere else.

Houston
Amazing city, and still surprisingly off the radar for coastal types. If Chicago sort of resembles a smaller and more affordable NY, Houston sort of resembles a smaller and more affordable LA (the sprawl, the car dependency, the confluence of Mexican and southwestern American culture, the diversity, the sense of being in a city on the rise). With your debt, I think you could buy a nice house after a couple years of biglaw. As with LA, think hard about what your day-to-day is like here, especially since it's unlikely you'll know many (any?) people here. Lots of driving. And, like LA, you aren't that close to many other places where you will know people—you can't just hop on the Amtrak and get to Boston or DC.

For PI work, though, this would be the city I pick. Incredible need for legal services in exactly the areas you want to work in. Your credentials will stand out much more. The biglaw work you'll do will probably be the least interesting of any of these cities (lots of energy litigation), and Houston may be the toughest of these cities to break into without ties. But if you can get in and stick it out for a couple years in biglaw, you'll be better positioned than any other city to do the kind of work you want to do.

Hard to give you firm recommendations without knowing more about you and your preferences. If this were me, and I were feeling adventurous and career-oriented, I would go to Houston. If I wanted to play it safe, I would probably stay in NY.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327313
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:33 pm

OP here, that is an amazing post. Thank you so much.

RaceJudicata

Gold
Posts: 1726
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2015 2:51 pm

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby RaceJudicata » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:48 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Is NYC weather really different enough from Chicago for weather to be a deal-breaker for Chicago and not for NYC?


Have lived in both. Negligible differences, imo. Sure, maybe Chicago will have a worse day here or there, but your average winter day is about the same.

Honestly, I find the NYC slush and and overall winter dirtiness to be more miserable (not that Chicago perfect in that regard, but hey, at least we have alleys).

User avatar
elendinel

Silver
Posts: 975
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:29 pm

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby elendinel » Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:07 am

Anonymous User wrote:NY has the advantage of having by far the deepest labor market for lawyers (in both private practice and public interest), even compared to LA. That said, it will also be by far the most competitive market for public interest jobs of these four cities—YHS grads are a dime a dozen there. The prestigious PI jobs you mention (Bronx Defenders, Innocence Project) are swamped with highly credentialed people who want jobs, and even if you get in the door, it will take you longer to get the kind of substantive work you would get at a PD office in a smaller city (think Philly, New Orleans obviously, etc.). I think girlfriend and family are serious considerations, and it is true that you will have an easier time getting a good biglaw gig here, but aside from that, this would not be my choice unless you really love NY.


This said, there were a LOT of LAS/BD PD pro bono projects at my firm, and I don't think my firm was special in this respect. If you target firms with good pro bono programs, then you are a lot more likely to be able to get enough PD work to swing a more substantial volunteer position with the organization who works with your firm. This + working in your firm's lit group would not be a bad option.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327313
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:59 pm

Bump

Also, thanks to everyone for responding. The input is super helpful.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327313
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Where should I work/how should I pick a firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:35 pm

So after a lot of thought I've decided to bid on New York and Houston. New York seems like it would give me the most career flexibility and put me in a good position to ultimately get the job I want. I'm looking at ways I could save money there, because that is my biggest concern.

Are there any real Houston litigation firms? I can't find anything like that.



Return to “Legal Employment?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.