Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

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1styearlateral

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby 1styearlateral » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:08 pm

jd20132013 wrote:I want to be a writing associate

Idk if I agree with the poster who said there's "writing" associates and "fact/discovery" associates. How do you write a brief without having extensively reviewed all the documents? That's like trying to write a brief without having done any legal research (and offloading it on some poor intern or first year, which is a whole different story that I have strong views on that I won't get into).

Although I will agree that some associates are so bad at writing (and in general) that their only real use is doc review/discovery.

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Desert Fox

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby Desert Fox » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:09 pm

Partners do that shit all the time.
Last edited by Desert Fox on Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jd20132013

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby jd20132013 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:25 pm

1styearlateral wrote:
jd20132013 wrote:I want to be a writing associate

Idk if I agree with the poster who said there's "writing" associates and "fact/discovery" associates. How do you write a brief without having extensively reviewed all the documents? That's like trying to write a brief without having done any legal research (and offloading it on some poor intern or first year, which is a whole different story that I have strong views on that I won't get into).

Although I will agree that some associates are so bad at writing (and in general) that their only real use is doc review/discovery.


I didn't read the poster as saying writing associates weren't reviewing relevant documents. I assume they rely on the discovery associates to do those helpful excel charts and binders of relevant facts and documents

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nealric

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby nealric » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:32 pm

You can absolutely get an appellate-focused group job with "just" a COA clerkship- there simply aren't enough SCOTUS clerks in existence for such work to be limited to them.

That being said, appellate work tends to be a loss-leader for firms. You can't bill oodles of hours in discovery, and few clients are eager to pay big bucks for appellate work. What that can sometimes mean is that the appellate groups have less political clout- which is often to the detriment of associates for promotion and retention purposes. On the upside, the work is going to be much more interesting than what discovery-focused associates are stuck with.

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby lolwat » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:15 pm

jd20132013 wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:
jd20132013 wrote:I want to be a writing associate

Idk if I agree with the poster who said there's "writing" associates and "fact/discovery" associates. How do you write a brief without having extensively reviewed all the documents? That's like trying to write a brief without having done any legal research (and offloading it on some poor intern or first year, which is a whole different story that I have strong views on that I won't get into).

Although I will agree that some associates are so bad at writing (and in general) that their only real use is doc review/discovery.


I didn't read the poster as saying writing associates weren't reviewing relevant documents. I assume they rely on the discovery associates to do those helpful excel charts and binders of relevant facts and documents


Yeah. Typically by the time some writing needs to be done, the brief is going to be based on a closed universe of facts and the partners/senior associates have already thought on a very high level about the motion they want written.

It's much easier if I'm already assigned to the case so I already know what's going on. But even if it's a case I've never worked on, it's not like I get an assignment that says, "We'd like you to draft a MSJ in this case. Thanks, Partner." It's more like "We'd like you to draft a MSJ in this case. Here's a brief summary of the facts. We think our arguments are going to be X, Y, and Z. You can find the complaint and other relevant documents you need in Case Folder A." So yes, I still have to extensively review those documents myself to understand everything, but it's not like I needed to have been part of the team that propounded all the discovery and reviewed the entire universe of documents to get to that point. It's also not like I work all by myself. I go to to the partners/senior associates as necessary for any clarification or additional facts I need, and they review my drafts to make sure that we're not missing anything. But I'm the one that does the legal research and the writing while they go their merry way developing the case for trial.

There are sometimes more fact-intensive motions, and in those cases I tend to express my concerns to the partners/senior associates and have them decide whether they still want me to draft the brief.

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:32 pm

I'm a completely different anon posting for the first time in this thread.

I'm a fairly new (less than three years outta law school) prosecutor in a large office who's only worked in the appeals bureau. Clearly most of my stuff is state appeals, but federal "habes" are ubiquitous.

I can't imagine how biglaw appellate associates are able to get more brief-writing done in a year than I am. Even without billables or profit to worry about, only about 60% of my time is spent on appeals. I also have to do post-conviction motions and hearings, I get roped in to assist the trial bureaus by either drafting pre-trial motions on weird issues or second (third) seating trials or hearings in order to be the "law guy." I also occasionally have to draft an internal memo interpreting a new statute.

To get closer on topic of career trajectory...

What about me? Are there such things as decent-paying midlaw appellate firms or groups?
I've had no clerkships, and am TTTT, but what would the transition be like to private? I've thought about leaving my current gig to do a state supreme court clerkship, but I'd rather just spend the year or two becoming a better advocate than try to get a resume line.

Any insights?

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby papercutter » Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:03 am

Maybe my experience has been unusual, but I find the idea that there are distinct "writing" and "discovery" associates to be pretty strange. When I'm assigning things out, I definitely keep track of which associates are better writers, but they better be able to do discovery work as well, and vice versa. At least once a case gets past the pleading stages, the people drafting motions are going to be drawn from the team for the case, just like the people working on depos, doc review, and discovery disputes. When we get to SJ, class cert, and trial motions, you need good writers, sure, but you also want the people who know the issues in painstaking detail because they've been in the discovery trenches.

I have seen a few friends whose work has been almost all briefing, but they're rare, usually more senior, and when they're smart, re-learn discovery skills so that they're well-rounded.

Also, doing all writing and no discovery is a great way to back yourself into a corner as a mid-level. If you haven't mastered discovery basics you can't supervise other associates in discovery, which means you can't manage cases, and once you have a midlevel's billing rates, it's hard to justify giving you the work you'd need to pick up those skills.

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:46 am

I will say that my significant other works at a major litigation shop with some very high-profile appellate lawyers and did NOT want to do appellate litigation, and he actually had to fight a fair amount to not continue getting work from the appellate group. And he never clerked. So your mileage may vary significantly - at least at some firms, even lawyers who don't want appellate sometimes get pressed into appellate. People saying breaking into appellate litigation at a big firm is difficult may not have experience with it, just awareness of the prestige mystique.

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby lolwat » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:25 pm

papercutter wrote:Maybe my experience has been unusual, but I find the idea that there are distinct "writing" and "discovery" associates to be pretty strange. When I'm assigning things out, I definitely keep track of which associates are better writers, but they better be able to do discovery work as well, and vice versa. At least once a case gets past the pleading stages, the people drafting motions are going to be drawn from the team for the case, just like the people working on depos, doc review, and discovery disputes. When we get to SJ, class cert, and trial motions, you need good writers, sure, but you also want the people who know the issues in painstaking detail because they've been in the discovery trenches.

I have seen a few friends whose work has been almost all briefing, but they're rare, usually more senior, and when they're smart, re-learn discovery skills so that they're well-rounded.

Also, doing all writing and no discovery is a great way to back yourself into a corner as a mid-level. If you haven't mastered discovery basics you can't supervise other associates in discovery, which means you can't manage cases, and once you have a midlevel's billing rates, it's hard to justify giving you the work you'd need to pick up those skills.


I don't think it's necessarily unusual, but every firm/litigation group probably does things differently.

As for the last comment, yes and no. That seems to be the most common path for litigation associates, but it's not the only path, and it's not for everyone, either.

I will say that my significant other works at a major litigation shop with some very high-profile appellate lawyers and did NOT want to do appellate litigation, and he actually had to fight a fair amount to not continue getting work from the appellate group. And he never clerked. So your mileage may vary significantly - at least at some firms, even lawyers who don't want appellate sometimes get pressed into appellate. People saying breaking into appellate litigation at a big firm is difficult may not have experience with it, just awareness of the prestige mystique.


I think this is rare, but obviously it can happen. It's not so much prestige as much as that there often isn't that volume of appellate work to go around. Of course, when there is, then everybody gets sucked into that kind of work. It's just typically the other way around where the trial work eats up the vast majority of hours.

jd20132013

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby jd20132013 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I will say that my significant other works at a major litigation shop with some very high-profile appellate lawyers and did NOT want to do appellate litigation, and he actually had to fight a fair amount to not continue getting work from the appellate group. And he never clerked. So your mileage may vary significantly - at least at some firms, even lawyers who don't want appellate sometimes get pressed into appellate. People saying breaking into appellate litigation at a big firm is difficult may not have experience with it, just awareness of the prestige mystique.


Pm firm pls

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Re: Chances of getting an appellate gig in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I will say that my significant other works at a major litigation shop with some very high-profile appellate lawyers and did NOT want to do appellate litigation, and he actually had to fight a fair amount to not continue getting work from the appellate group. And he never clerked. So your mileage may vary significantly - at least at some firms, even lawyers who don't want appellate sometimes get pressed into appellate. People saying breaking into appellate litigation at a big firm is difficult may not have experience with it, just awareness of the prestige mystique.

This may well be true. Many appellate lawyers can be difficult/unpleasant to work for, especially the high-profile ones. It would not surprise me in the slightest if that meant fewer people wanted to work on their matters. Appellate practice is not for everyone.



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