Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 28, 2017 1:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I graduated in 2014, did two years of corporate biglaw, and just started a district court clerkship. After the clerkship, I want to return to biglaw to do litigation. Do you have any advice for the transition? Will my two years of corporate work count for anything in the firm (year level, salary, etc.), or will I essentially be starting over? FWIW, I know I want to do litigation and have always known, but the firm placed me in the group and would not let me switch.


Also interested in this.

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 28, 2017 6:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you find a difference in work product quality between those who've clerked and those who haven't?


Usually yes, for three reasons.

First, and most obviously, people who have clerked spend their year (or two) writing. (Sidebar: While I still find this surprising and disappointing, many biglaw first- and second-years may struggle (depending on case) to get even a couple of meaty writing assignments -- a good chunk of an appellate brief, a half or full dispositive motion, etc. Another challenge is that if biglaw juniors are given such a motion/brief and don't hit it out of the park, the senior associate/partner may be more likely just to ask them to do research next time so as not to incur fees for two drafters (junior associate writer and senior associate total rewriter.) I often think biglaw juniors don't realize this issue, and thus how important it is to ace their first writing assignments.)

Second, people who have clerked have honed their motion practice instincts and been exposed to a wide range of legal principles beyond what their associate peers, who have worked on 2, or 3, or 10 cases, have seen. Former clerks' instincts regarding what arguments to make and what motions to bring are usually pretty good.

Third, people who have clerked are more likely to get writing assignments at firms, such that their writing advantage over non-clerks can become greater over time. This is important; writing draft orders or opinions doesn't necessarily translate to being a great motion writer. The former is objective; the latter is advocacy. So it's important even for former law clerks to get as many writing at-bats as possible. The first motions from former law clerks are usually not brilliant screeds, but they improve fast.

- SrA

kykiske

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby kykiske » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:53 pm

What's your worst year for total billable hours?

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I graduated in 2014, did two years of corporate biglaw, and just started a district court clerkship. After the clerkship, I want to return to biglaw to do litigation. Do you have any advice for the transition? Will my two years of corporate work count for anything in the firm (year level, salary, etc.), or will I essentially be starting over? FWIW, I know I want to do litigation and have always known, but the firm placed me in the group and would not let me switch.


Also interested in this.


OP here. Any thoughts on the above are appreciated.

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:14 pm

Hey guys - sorry for the slow responses here, which I guess illustrates my point about the senior associate years being "live to work." Will try to be a bit quicker on this thread, but things are hectic. I am planning to respond to everything asked in this thread as time permits. - SrA

What the f.supp? wrote:Really helpful responses.

Admittedly very broad, but do you have any tips for biglaw midlevel associates making the transition to senior associate (with aspirations for partnership)? Skills to hone, things to avoid, etc.

Also, as you're managing junior and midlevel associates more and more, what do you do when they have a mistake in their work (something nonobvious, say a few citation errors in a brief) that you review and then pass along to the partner without catching? Are those mistakes ultimately on you since you were the last to review before sending to the partner? I'd be grateful for your thoughts on how you might handle. Hasn't happened to me yet but it's only a matter of time.


These are good questions and I have a lot to say, so this might get long.

Skills to hone: The year you're up for partner, what will you give as your 4-5 sentence "elevator speech" response to the question, "What's your business case why we should promote you to partner?" If you're a 4th-6th year associate who knows you want to make partner, write out now what you want the answer to that question to be as an 7th-10th year associate going up. Then work back from there, year by year, to make your own pre-partnership tasklist. Here are some topics to consider:

- What are your specialty area(s)? This is important to position yourself as a partner candidate. "I'm a general litigator so call me when you have a general litigation need" isn't a great sales pitch. You want the partnership to think of you as, "S/he's the guy/gal who can add expertise in X, Y, and Z areas we want to build out in our practice, but s/he's also a well-rounded overall litigator who can be the junior partner on any matter where we have a need." Adjust this comment slightly if you're in patent lit or another specialty area, but the same theme largely applies.

- What will your flagship practice experiences be? Make sure you're on a mix of cases that round out your depo experience, get you into trial as much as possible (unless you're a specialist in a low/non-trial area like class action, and *even then* consider having a second area that gets you trial work), and showcase your ability to manage large and complex matters (ideally you can point to supervising at least one large team of associates, being the lead associate on a case with one massive document production and a large reviewer population, superintending several complex motions (cross-MSJs with under seal component, motions for class cert, etc.)) Re trials: it can be hard to gain in-court speaking experience when you "go to trial" as a biglaw lit associate, but fight for it. Angle for at least one witness at first in paid cases, then use the kickass job you do with that witness to negotiate for more at-bats. Also, use pro bono hearings/trials and contingency fee cases where there are no clients demanding that partners handle hearings to make the case that you're good and experienced on your feet in court.

- What will your flagship business development contributions be? If you've got a 5M book, then stop reading here. If not, you've got to show your firm in other ways that you're someone who will grow the pie long-term. Think in terms of ensuring you're making direct contributions to growing the immediate bottom line (active roles in pitches, cross-selling existing clients, etc.) and positioning yourself well for the long-term (profile-raising, networking in venues where you'll meet current and potential future clients, organizing such client development events for your firm, etc.) You should be making *significant* contributions of non-billable hours on these fronts for 3-4+ years before you're up, if you want to maximize your chances.

- Who are your key partner backers? Obviously, you want at least one heavy-hitter partner "sponsor" in the stratosphere of the partnership to go to bat for you if you can manage it. If you don't have that person yet, as a midlevel, you should identify the one or two most likely candidates and deliberately work on cultivating your relationships with them (I can make some suggestions on this if that would be helpful). For best results, you also want to ensure broad-based support among the partners in your group and office AND to show demonstrated relationships with partners in other groups and offices that will facilitate client relationships down the line (i.e., ideally as a senior associate you are receiving some client referrals from partners elsewhere in the firm (even if you are nominally supervised by a partner in your group) and are making such referrals to other partners.)

- Are you someone who cultivates associates and who naturally forms mentoring relationships with your juniors/midlevels? May vary by firm but mine thinks this is very important for partner candidates. Even if not explicitly valued in the partnership process at your firm, the quality of your team's work is partly based on your ability to lead people loyal to you. That's a tough dynamic to cultivate in the pressure cooker world of biglaw, which requires you sometimes to be the asshole who asks these folks to sacrifices their nights and weekends and cancel their personal plans for the sake of a client or business development need. Do what you can to form these relationships and advocate for "your" associates' professional development (not just because you want to make partner but because supporting the juniors who work hard for you is the right thing to do.) This was one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do in making the mid-->senior transition.

- What are your contributions to the firm and the legal community beyond billables and mentoring? Again, may vary by firm, but mine likes to see 1-2 key "citizenship" contributions (firm committees, nonprofit board service, etc.). You should be selecting areas that are important to you while also facilitating in-firm or external networking and ideally advancing your profile in the legal community.

That's all the time I have for now, so I'll respond to your remaining questions separately. (Also: sorry this post got so long. I essentially decided to write out everything I wish I'd known on this topic at the end of my 4th year in the hope it might be useful to others of roughly that vintage.)
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Wild Card

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Wild Card » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:16 pm

Among those who leave, how many leave willingly, how many are pushed out?

Of course, it varies by firm, but is there a time by which one is certainly pushed out?

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:49 pm

I appreciate all the (excellent) advice. I know you provided a long list of things to consider in pursuing partnership. Much of that I imagine is generally applicable. But do you have any specific advice for assoiates hoping to go in house or transition to a government job (AUSA, DOJ, SEC)?

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:14 am

When you say "live to work" what do you mean? Do you have a family? Do you spend quality time with friends and/or family for at least a few hours a week? Do you have any personal time?

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby grand inquisitor » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:If you don't have that person yet, as a midlevel, you should identify the one or two most likely candidates and deliberately work on cultivating your relationships with them (I can make some suggestions on this if that would be helpful).

i'd be interested to hear this.

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby What the f.supp? » Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:Hey guys - sorry for the slow responses here, which I guess illustrates my point about the senior associate years being "live to work." Will try to be a bit quicker on this thread, but things are hectic. I am planning to respond to everything asked in this thread as time permits. - SrA

What the f.supp? wrote:Really helpful responses.

Admittedly very broad, but do you have any tips for biglaw midlevel associates making the transition to senior associate (with aspirations for partnership)? Skills to hone, things to avoid, etc.

Also, as you're managing junior and midlevel associates more and more, what do you do when they have a mistake in their work (something nonobvious, say a few citation errors in a brief) that you review and then pass along to the partner without catching? Are those mistakes ultimately on you since you were the last to review before sending to the partner? I'd be grateful for your thoughts on how you might handle. Hasn't happened to me yet but it's only a matter of time.


These are good questions and I have a lot to say, so this might get long.

Skills to hone: The year you're up for partner, what will you give as your 4-5 sentence "elevator speech" response to the question, "What's your business case why we should promote you to partner?" If you're a 4th-6th year associate who knows you want to make partner, write out now what you want the answer to that question to be as an 7th-10th year associate going up. Then work back from there, year by year, to make your own pre-partnership tasklist. Here are some topics to consider:

- What are your specialty area(s)? This is important to position yourself as a partner candidate. "I'm a general litigator so call me when you have a general litigation need" isn't a great sales pitch. You want the partnership to think of you as, "S/he's the guy/gal who can add expertise in X, Y, and Z areas we want to build out in our practice, but s/he's also a well-rounded overall litigator who can be the junior partner on any matter where we have a need." Adjust this comment slightly if you're in patent lit or another specialty area, but the same theme largely applies.

- What will your flagship practice experiences be? Make sure you're on a mix of cases that round out your depo experience, get you into trial as much as possible (unless you're a specialist in a low/non-trial area like class action, and *even then* consider having a second area that gets you trial work), and showcase your ability to manage large and complex matters (ideally you can point to supervising at least one large team of associates, being the lead associate on a case with one massive document production and a large reviewer population, superintending several complex motions (cross-MSJs with under seal component, motions for class cert, etc.)) Re trials: it can be hard to gain in-court speaking experience when you "go to trial" as a biglaw lit associate, but fight for it. Angle for at least one witness at first in paid cases, then use the kickass job you do with that witness to negotiate for more at-bats. Also, use pro bono hearings/trials and contingency fee cases where there are no clients demanding that partners handle hearings to make the case that you're good and experienced on your feet in court.

- What will your flagship business development contributions be? If you've got a 5M book, then stop reading here. If not, you've got to show your firm in other ways that you're someone who will grow the pie long-term. Think in terms of ensuring you're making direct contributions to growing the immediate bottom line (active roles in pitches, cross-selling existing clients, etc.) and positioning yourself well for the long-term (profile-raising, networking in venues where you'll meet current and potential future clients, organizing such client development events for your firm, etc.) You should be making *significant* contributions of non-billable hours on these fronts for 3-4+ years before you're up, if you want to maximize your chances.

- Who are your key partner backers? Obviously, you want at least one heavy-hitter partner "sponsor" in the stratosphere of the partnership to go to bat for you if you can manage it. If you don't have that person yet, as a midlevel, you should identify the one or two most likely candidates and deliberately work on cultivating your relationships with them (I can make some suggestions on this if that would be helpful). For best results, you also want to ensure broad-based support among the partners in your group and office AND to show demonstrated relationships with partners in other groups and offices that will facilitate client relationships down the line (i.e., ideally as a senior associate you are receiving some client referrals from partners elsewhere in the firm (even if you are nominally supervised by a partner in your group) and are making such referrals to other partners.)

- Are you someone who cultivates associates and who naturally forms mentoring relationships with your juniors/midlevels? May vary by firm but mine thinks this is very important for partner candidates. Even if not explicitly valued in the partnership process at your firm, the quality of your team's work is partly based on your ability to lead people loyal to you. That's a tough dynamic to cultivate in the pressure cooker world of biglaw, which requires you sometimes to be the asshole who asks these folks to sacrifices their nights and weekends and cancel their personal plans for the sake of a client or business development need. Do what you can to form these relationships and advocate for "your" associates' professional development (not just because you want to make partner but because supporting the juniors who work hard for you is the right thing to do.) This was one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do in making the mid-->senior transition.

- What are your contributions to the firm and the legal community beyond billables and mentoring? Again, may vary by firm, but mine likes to see 1-2 key "citizenship" contributions (firm committees, nonprofit board service, etc.). You should be selecting areas that are important to you while also facilitating in-firm or external networking and ideally advancing your profile in the legal community.

That's all the time I have for now, so I'll respond to your remaining questions separately. (Also: sorry this post got so long. I essentially decided to write out everything I wish I'd known on this topic at the end of my 4th year in the hope it might be useful to others of roughly that vintage.)


Thanks so much! Looking forward to hearing what else you have to say, when your schedule permits.

Jchance

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Jchance » Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:52 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Third, people who have clerked are more likely to get writing assignments at firms, such that their writing advantage over non-clerks can become greater over time. This is important; writing draft orders or opinions doesn't necessarily translate to being a great motion writer. The former is objective; the latter is advocacy. So it's important even for former law clerks to get as many writing at-bats as possible. The first motions from former law clerks are usually not brilliant screeds, but they improve fast.

- SrA


Following up on this, is it better for junior/mid-level associates to get more writing assignments (motion practice) or deposition experience? Obviously both, but which one should they strive for more?

Thanks for answering!

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:54 am

I am just a fourth year at a highly regarded firm in a major market (had d ct and coa clerkships so starting my second year at firm). Getting very good and very broad experience where I am right now, but want to make a jump to a smaller market in the next 2-5 years. Best time to make the jump professionally in your opinion. Money and experience make me want to stay where I am, but worried I will miss time making connections in the target market.

Jchance

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby Jchance » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am just a fourth year at a highly regarded firm in a major market (had d ct and coa clerkships so starting my second year at firm). Getting very good and very broad experience where I am right now, but want to make a jump to a smaller market in the next 2-5 years. Best time to make the jump professionally in your opinion. Money and experience make me want to stay where I am, but worried I will miss time making connections in the target market.


You want to make the jump before you get to year 6. After that, it'd be much much harder. And you'd also want to be at one firm for at least 2 consecutive years so you don't look like a flight risk. Otherwise, the rest of the trajectory is pretty relaxed.

hlsperson1111

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Re: Biglaw senior litigation associate. AMA.

Postby hlsperson1111 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:54 pm

My understanding is that your marketability for other biglaw jobs drops dramatically after year 5 or so, but that your marketability for in-house positions and other similar jobs continues to increase the more senior you get. True? False? Somewhere in between?



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