I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

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I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:22 am

I'm a T6 graduate and was a mid-level associate at a big firm in D.C./Chicago/L.A./Bay-sized market, Vault 20 firm.

I found it miserable, and now I'm working at a four-person firm in a suburb, completely by choice. My commute is 5-10 minutes. No one emails me after hours or on weekends. I work for one person, 2-3 at the most. I don't have to scramble like a guppy for morsels of work. I haven't done a PowerPoint or a memo for a partner in the two months I've been here. My salary was cut in half (before bonus), but I can make up some of it by out-billing my base salary.

Taking questions.

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Nagster5

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Nagster5 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:30 am

What do you think your partner prospects are, how long do you think that would take, and what ballpark is the comp? Thanks for posting this, interesting thread.

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PeanutsNJam

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby PeanutsNJam » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:30 am

How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Go Bears » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:34 am

Are you single? Married?
Last edited by Go Bears on Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Nagster5

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Nagster5 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:35 am

edit
Last edited by Nagster5 on Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:39 am

PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:42 am

Nagster5 wrote:What do you think your partner prospects are, how long do you think that would take, and what ballpark is the comp? Thanks for posting this, interesting thread.


Partner prospects at the new firm? Probably pretty good. Like I said, it's tiny. There are four lawyers here and four paralegals. The paralegals do a lot of the drafting of routine motions and filing documents. I don't think that they have a partner track timetable as you think of it from a biglaw perspective. There's one guy ahead of me right now.

I was making around $250K base at the big law firm and dropped down to $120K base. I'm billing about $250/per, though, and I'll take home 45% of what I bill, so I could push that to $200K or so, if I bill in the 2,000-hour range. (I had it all calculated out when I started, but I've been mostly just concentrating on getting settled in lately.)

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:44 am

Go Bears wrote:Are you single? Married?


I'm married with two children under 8 years old.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby jeeli » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Nagster5 wrote:What do you think your partner prospects are, how long do you think that would take, and what ballpark is the comp? Thanks for posting this, interesting thread.


Partner prospects at the new firm? Probably pretty good. Like I said, it's tiny. There are four lawyers here and four paralegals. The paralegals do a lot of the drafting of routine motions and filing documents. I don't think that they have a partner track timetable as you think of it from a biglaw perspective. There's one guy ahead of me right now.

I was making around $250K base at the big law firm and dropped down to $120K base. I'm billing about $250/per, though, and I'll take home 45% of what I bill, so I could push that to $200K or so, if I bill in the 2,000-hour range. (I had it all calculated out when I started, but I've been mostly just concentrating on getting settled in lately.)


So if you bill 2000 hours and get paid $200k, what's your billable requirement for your salary? This sounds like my ideal arrangement. How do you find these types of small firms?

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:52 am

jeeli wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Nagster5 wrote:What do you think your partner prospects are, how long do you think that would take, and what ballpark is the comp? Thanks for posting this, interesting thread.


Partner prospects at the new firm? Probably pretty good. Like I said, it's tiny. There are four lawyers here and four paralegals. The paralegals do a lot of the drafting of routine motions and filing documents. I don't think that they have a partner track timetable as you think of it from a biglaw perspective. There's one guy ahead of me right now.

I was making around $250K base at the big law firm and dropped down to $120K base. I'm billing about $250/per, though, and I'll take home 45% of what I bill, so I could push that to $200K or so, if I bill in the 2,000-hour range. (I had it all calculated out when I started, but I've been mostly just concentrating on getting settled in lately.)


So if you bill 2000 hours and get paid $200k, what's your billable requirement for your salary? This sounds like my ideal arrangement. How do you find these types of small firms?


I did the math. I think that if I bill 2,000 hours, I'll get paid $180,000. So I think I would be expected to bill about 1,500-1,600 to earn out my salary? Something like that. It wasn't as formal as biglaw interviews. He said he "wanted people who are smart and work hard," and "someone who wants to earn $200K a year." So take that for what it's worth. He also wants us to be home for dinner and spend the weekends with our families. You don't have the culture of absolute perfection that you do at biglaw, if that makes sense. The point is to win cases, not to churn out gold star work product. (At biglaw, you spend a whole lot of time polishing things that, in the end, don't make a difference in the outcome of the case.)

I actually just found the ad on Linked-In, I believe. It sounded like they did commercial litigation and the job description sounded interesting to me and it was only a few minutes from my house in the suburbs, so I applied. I guess my advice would be to keep your eyes and ears open.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:56 am

To be fair, I'm not sure how available such a position, at this salary, would be to a fresh law school graduate. It was my T6 school and my five years in biglaw that did the trick. Once they got my resume, though, the rest fell into place pretty quickly.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby mrtux45 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:07 am

How long had you been considering making a move? Were you in contact with other firms or were you searching for a specific kind of opportunity? You seem to be describing a pretty fast transition, I'm just wondering how typical that is for big law to small firm generally, or if you think your case was unique

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:11 am

mrtux45 wrote:How long had you been considering making a move? Were you in contact with other firms or were you searching for a specific kind of opportunity? You seem to be describing a pretty fast transition, I'm just wondering how typical that is for big law to small firm generally, or if you think your case was unique


I had been considering making a move for a while. I interviewed at three boutique or mid-sized firms about a year and a half ago, then decided to stick it out when none of those offers came through, probably because I wasn't getting enough experiences for my level at my biglaw firm. (Example: I have never taken a deposition.) I interviewed at the firm I landed at and a well-regarded boutique firm in the city that I really liked during the same two- or three-week span in April and May. I ended up pulling out of the boutique firm sweepstakes when this offer was finalized.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Rahviveh » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:20 am

Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:20 am

Rahviveh wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?

Lol. Bitter much?

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Vincent Adultman » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:23 am

Rahviveh wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?


I'm embarrassed to be your former classmate.

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Rahviveh

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Rahviveh » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:25 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Rahviveh wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?

Lol. Bitter much?


You're not in biglaw lit, you shouldn't be posting in these threads at all

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby jimmythecatdied6 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:26 am

Rahviveh wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?


Because now he gets to actually "practice" law ...............

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Rahviveh

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Rahviveh » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:27 am

jimmythecatdied6 wrote:
Rahviveh wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?


Because now he gets to actually "practice" law ...............


He could have done that at his biglaw firm. But he's weak.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby jimmythecatdied6 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:27 am

Lol. Right

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:30 am

Rahviveh wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:How is the quality of the work? Is it complex/interesting enough that you feel like you could build a career at this small firm?


So some of it is and some of it isn't. It's certainly not the complex commercial litigation cases that you get at a V20 firm, the kind of antitrust or big bankruptcy cases I was taking on before. Some of the cases are laughably simple - some asshole didn't pay our client for remodeling their house, and I have to go play Johnny Bill Collector. Some of them are more interesting summary judgment proceedings and such. There are some decent legal issues to get my wrap my head around.

What makes it fun is the autonomy. Something is handed off to me, and I get to devise the arguments and write the brief from scratch. The partner or senior associate might make suggestions or brainstorm or say he wants something mentioned in it, but for the most part it's hands off.

I think I've written three or four briefs here at this point, and no one has changed a word of any of them. It's a really fun way to work, without eight people's hands in the cookie jar on everything you do.


How embarrassing. What was the point of going to a T6 if you're going to practice shitlaw anyways?


Well, I bought a nice house in a nice town, got a start on my retirement savings, paid down my loans a little bit (though not as much as I would have liked). My kids are 8 and 4 now and starting to be involved in activities like sports that I don't want to miss. In biglaw, I was constantly on edge. It could be 9 p.m. and some partner I'd never even met in person might email me to work on something. I just didn't really like it, for all sorts of reasons. Or, I should say, the good didn't outweigh the bad at this stage of my life.

I'm not necessarily someone who was hell bent on climbing the biglaw ladder forever. I tried it. Had my fun. Then moved on when my priorities eventually changed due to life circumstances.

In a way, biglaw can be "shitlaw," just because of the lack of autonomy. You might be working on big cases for big clients, but you're doing menial tasks (at times), and constantly being reviewed.

It's a meat grinder.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Phil Brooks » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:57 am

Anonymous User wrote:In a way, biglaw can be "shitlaw," just because of the lack of autonomy. You might be working on big cases for big clients, but you're doing menial tasks (at times), and constantly being reviewed.

It's a meat grinder.


This is so true. It seems whether I spend one hour on a draft of something, or seven hours, the draft will get equally picked apart by the nine other people on the team. Like, what the hell is the point?

It's not the hours. It's the feeling that you have nothing to show for them. You can work all night on work-product. In the best case scenario, you get a misspelled "Tank you" e-mail from the partner. In the worst-case, or rather, normal scenario, all the gunner mid-levels pick apart your shit just so they can show the partner they are contributing.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:59 am

Phil Brooks wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:In a way, biglaw can be "shitlaw," just because of the lack of autonomy. You might be working on big cases for big clients, but you're doing menial tasks (at times), and constantly being reviewed.

It's a meat grinder.


This is so true. It seems whether I spend one hour on a draft of something, or seven hours, the draft will get equally picked apart by the nine other people on the team. Like, what the hell is the point?

It's not the hours. It's the feeling that you have nothing to show for them. You can work all night on work-product. In the best case scenario, you get a misspelled "Tank you" e-mail from the partner. In the worst-case, or rather, normal scenario, all the gunner mid-levels pick apart your shit just so they can show the partner they are contributing.


Agreed, for the most part. I don't know that the mid-levels' motivations are always that impure, though. It's just the ingrained culture.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby kykiske » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:01 pm

To OP:

When you were in biglaw, how many depositions (on billable files) did you get to take, and how many billable hearings did you appear for in which you personally argued? Or, rather, were you simply grinding out discovery responses, motions, and research memos?

I was never in "biglaw," so I have no personal foundation to comment on the daily life of a biglaw associate. My classmates who went to regional large firms are telling me they have yet to take a single billable deposition or argue a motion.

I'm at a pretty small firm (~20 lawyers) and I've taken a handful of depositions and appeared for non-dispositive motion hearings.

I find taking depositions and arguing at hearings to be quite fun.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Roy McAvoy » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:03 pm

Do you have any idea how your comp stacks up to other firms of (generally) this same size in your area? I guess I'm really asking if this is a typical comp structure for small firms like yours, i.e. base salary far below big law but you can make a big chunk of it up based on how much you decide to work.



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