Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

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Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:15 pm

I didn't get into biglaw through OCI. Instead, I worked in law school at a firm and accepted an attorney job after. The pay was very low and I ended up taking another job after passing the bar at another firm that was well known in the state and paid slightly better. After a year there I moved to a firm that pays in the mid six figures (think, low amlaw 100/boutique/full service regional) but pays below market yet has same demands as big law.

My thinking here is that, heck, I've now been at three law firms but I'm still not at market so why not wait a respectable amount of time at new firm, like a couple years, and then lateral up one more time? Certainly it's not all about money but I generally like the work I do, the firms I've been at, etc. and the only uncommon denominator is pay... why do the exact type of work at my current for less pay than I would get somewhere? There's room to negotiate at my current firm, not up to the AMLAW 180K lockstep range, but up from where I'm at but I think that's only actually on the table if you plan to leave and ask for a counter to stay or other situations like if you bring in a big case or something.

Anyone in the same boat? I'd be interested to hear perspectives. I will say that partnership prospects are good at my firm, they make people a nonequity partner after year 8 or 10, but my guess is these partners are pulling in less than $275K or so without any business.... at other firms 8th year associates make almost 200k more than that when you factor in the bonus (325+100 bonus). What's the best move?

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I didn't get into biglaw through OCI. Instead, I worked in law school at a firm and accepted an attorney job after. The pay was very low and I ended up taking another job after passing the bar at another firm that was well known in the state and paid slightly better. After a year there I moved to a firm that pays in the mid six figures (think, low amlaw 100/boutique/full service regional) but pays below market yet has same demands as big law.

My thinking here is that, heck, I've now been at three law firms but I'm still not at market so why not wait a respectable amount of time at new firm, like a couple years, and then lateral up one more time? Certainly it's not all about money but I generally like the work I do, the firms I've been at, etc. and the only uncommon denominator is pay... why do the exact type of work at my current for less pay than I would get somewhere? There's room to negotiate at my current firm, not up to the AMLAW 180K lockstep range, but up from where I'm at but I think that's only actually on the table if you plan to leave and ask for a counter to stay or other situations like if you bring in a big case or something.

Anyone in the same boat? I'd be interested to hear perspectives. I will say that partnership prospects are good at my firm, they make people a nonequity partner after year 8 or 10, but my guess is these partners are pulling in less than $275K or so without any business.... at other firms 8th year associates make almost 200k more than that when you factor in the bonus (325+100 bonus). What's the best move?


I worked at regional big law firm for a year and now am at a Biglaw firm. You should not feel in the wrong nor guilty for wanting to maximize $ while you're in the law firm game. Lateralling up will give you more $ and will generally result in more and better exit opportunities. If you get the chance, I would definitely make the jump.

That said, a few thingsto at least consider:

1. From my experience, work-life balance was noticeably better at these midlaw/regional big law firms. Clients are smaller, not as demanding, not as expecting of weekend work, late nights, etc. People in general seemed chiller, so your life will probably be better where you currently are (not always the case though, your experience may be different).

2. You are not necessarily going to make your hours at the Biglaw firm every year (and therefore you may not get bonuses every year), so the $ difference may not be as much as you'd expect.

3. You sound like you're a junior associate, so what you think you want now is probably not going to last. However, if you think there's a good chance you want to do this law firm shit long term (aka make partner), midlaw/regional biglaw is by far the easier path in that regard.

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:59 pm

I worked at regional big law firm for a year and now am at a Biglaw firm. You should not feel in the wrong nor guilty for wanting to maximize $ while you're in the law firm game. Lateralling up will give you more $ and will generally result in more and better exit opportunities. If you get the chance, I would definitely make the jump.

That said, a few thingsto at least consider:

1. From my experience, work-life balance was noticeably better at these midlaw/regional big law firms. Clients are smaller, not as demanding, not as expecting of weekend work, late nights, etc. People in general seemed chiller, so your life will probably be better where you currently are (not always the case though, your experience may be different).

2. You are not necessarily going to make your hours at the Biglaw firm every year (and therefore you may not get bonuses every year), so the $ difference may not be as much as you'd expect.

3. You sound like you're a junior associate, so what you think you want now is probably not going to last. However, if you think there's a good chance you want to do this law firm shit long term (aka make partner), midlaw/regional biglaw is by far the easier path in that regard.


OP here. Thank you so much for your insight. I'd appreciate to hear your response:

1. Work-life. Hours now as a junior associate are about 9am to 645pm most days of the week, and I typically do an hour at home at night and then typically another 3 or 4 hours on a weekend. In terms of billings, I'm billing 170-210 hours on average. Firm is "like a regional firm" but not exactly one.. we're national or at least quasi. How does this compare to true big law (note, non-east coast)?

2. Good point. Is the takeaway here to have a clear understanding of hours req'd to bonus?

3. Yes, jr associate. There are true regional firms in my market, which like you say would be a good place long term. Right now my concern is that I've lateralled already a few times as a jr associate (all to better firms) but I'm not at market and honestly feel that the firm is just paying people less because they can. Billing rate is close to top firms. To be honest it seems like a place where you'll always be underpaid. What do you think about lateralling to big law firm, capturing benefits of the top market comp and then if that fails fall back on a regional firm, hopefully with some business or a few clients, etc.??

4. Also, economy is so good now. My two lateral moves have been very logical and firms will see that. What do you think about firm hopping risk/perception? My response would be look at where I'm started/where I'm at... seems like someone you'd want to have on your team. Thoughts there?

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:46 pm

OP: Which area of law are practicing in?

And do you, or anyone else, have any advice for lateraling for those who start their first job doing shitlaw?

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 3:27 pm

.

lolwat

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby lolwat » Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:01 pm

Just gotta think about whether you're willing to take the risk for the opportunity to make more money.

Firm hopping becomes a problem eventually--too many firms in too short of a time just looks bad and you may not even get a chance to explain. What looks very logical to you may not look great to a potential employer, who might just see that you keep looking for greener pastures after every year, and think why would they expect you to do any differently there.

Re hours, 9am-6:45pm with some evening or weekend work is not too bad, but 185 hours average a year probably puts you roughly at how much you'd be working in biglaw at a non-east coast office.

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby 1styearlateral » Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:24 pm

I'm on somewhat of a similar path of mid-sized boutique > smaller boutique (more prestigious/better pay/better clients/more responsibility). Am in my second year and have interviewed at several biglaw firms paying Cravath scale but after doing everything I've done and looking down the barrel of even more billable hours it seems to me that the move would be in-house if I can get it. Sure, it'd be great to make $200k+ after only being a few years out and grinding my way to the top of the law firm food chain, but I think my goals have changed and I don't care much more about money/prestige so much as I would like to find a sweet balance between work/life/being comfortable. YMMV.

What I have found though is if you get really good in a niche area of law you become pretty marketable to biglaw offices that are trying to grow those practices. In NYC, at least, I've seen a lot of "rags to riches" stories so to speak.

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
OP here. Thank you so much for your insight. I'd appreciate to hear your response:

1. Work-life. Hours now as a junior associate are about 9am to 645pm most days of the week, and I typically do an hour at home at night and then typically another 3 or 4 hours on a weekend. In terms of billings, I'm billing 170-210 hours on average. Firm is "like a regional firm" but not exactly one.. we're national or at least quasi. How does this compare to true big law (note, non-east coast)?

2. Good point. Is the takeaway here to have a clear understanding of hours req'd to bonus?

3. Yes, jr associate. There are true regional firms in my market, which like you say would be a good place long term. Right now my concern is that I've lateralled already a few times as a jr associate (all to better firms) but I'm not at market and honestly feel that the firm is just paying people less because they can. Billing rate is close to top firms. To be honest it seems like a place where you'll always be underpaid. What do you think about lateralling to big law firm, capturing benefits of the top market comp and then if that fails fall back on a regional firm, hopefully with some business or a few clients, etc.??

4. Also, economy is so good now. My two lateral moves have been very logical and firms will see that. What do you think about firm hopping risk/perception? My response would be look at where I'm started/where I'm at... seems like someone you'd want to have on your team. Thoughts there?


Same guy here.

1. Your current hours seem comparable to a Biglaw schedule. Just expect to have more late nights.

2. Yes, that and getting a sense of what % of associates hit their hours every year, but it's probably going to be hard/impossible to find out that information before you accept any offer. In my current office, I'd estimate maybe one-third of associates every year don't hit their hours and that's considered normal here, can't speak for any other offices or firms (I am in a west coast satellite).

3. Lateraling back to a regional firm from Biglaw is definitely an option and a lot of associates do exactly that eventually

4. Not sure how to best fight the notion of being a flight risk, people are human, some are going to assume you are based on your resume. Just have to convince them that you are in it for the long term, you want more sophisticated work, you had great hands on experience at your smaller firms, blah blah.

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:27 pm

Lots of good info...How do raises/bonuses work at your mid law firm? I’m at one now and it seems to me there’s a wide discrepancy in what associates at the same or similar level are paid.

1styearlateral

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Re: Career Progression in Big Law (lateralling for more $$)

Postby 1styearlateral » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:Lots of good info...How do raises/bonuses work at your mid law firm? I’m at one now and it seems to me there’s a wide discrepancy in what associates at the same or similar level are paid.

Most midlaw firms are blackbox.



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