Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

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Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:48 am

Going to be starting biglaw litigation without prior private sector experience.

To midlevel or senior associates, what do you wish somebody had told you when you started?

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:15 pm

To the extent you are at a firm that allows you some freedom in what matters you take on (free-market style), be very judicious in what you take on at first. Not all partners/matters are created equal, even within a biglaw firm that has a great reputation overall. Ask people that you trust at the firm about which partners are good to work for, and which to avoid. Screen partners'/senior associates' calls (when you think they might be asking you to get on a new case), and quickly do your homework on them before calling them back/responding by email. Don't just take on every matter that you are asked to help out on. Be deliberate in what you fill your plate with.

I know first hand that two junior associates who bill the exact same amount of hours in a year can have vastly different subjective experiences, based on who they worked for. (Spending your first year working for teams led by inconsiderate/abusive partners is a great way to ensure that you'll jump ship after a year.)

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:22 pm

In-house exit ops are hard to come by if you’re in general lit. If that’s your end goal, try to specialize in a niche group that actually has exit ops and might give you more experience that just lit (labor & employment, healthcare, trademark, advertising/marketing, etc.) or get out of lit entirely.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:In-house exit ops are hard to come by if you’re in general lit. If that’s your end goal, try to specialize in a niche group that actually has exit ops and might give you more experience that just lit (labor & employment, healthcare, trademark, advertising/marketing, etc.) or get out of lit entirely.


OP here. Have background in govt, so was leaning that way.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:55 pm

Don't try to pass the buck. If you are working on something, and don't know the answer to an issue, you'll probably be tempted to send your work, as is, to the mid/senior level associate. But if there are issues left to run down, they'll have to do it themselves and be annoyed. A better way is to exhaust all resources before turning in work - call your firm librarian, talk to people, etc. If there are still issues left to resolve, flag them when turning in your work, mention the things you did, and suggest what you think might be a good next step(s).

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby unlicensedpotato » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Don't try to pass the buck. If you are working on something, and don't know the answer to an issue, you'll probably be tempted to send your work, as is, to the mid/senior level associate. But if there are issues left to run down, they'll have to do it themselves and be annoyed. A better way is to exhaust all resources before turning in work - call your firm librarian, talk to people, etc. If there are still issues left to resolve, flag them when turning in your work, mention the things you did, and suggest what you think might be a good next step(s).


This is great advice and true for all groups. Take your time and run everything down. Before you send something off, stop and think through what you're doing and take a few minutes to see if anything else comes to mind that you could do. Your work product is better and you don't need as many discrete assignments/deals/matters (or as many days in the office) to get your hours. And you're the cheapest one to work through everything -- unless it's an emergency, the partner will want you to have already done it.

To disagree with the above somewhat, when you have tried your best and don't know the answer, reach out to the senior/partner and ask them. They'll likely have an idea of what to do -- incorporate that into your product, rather than just making a note asking the question. Ideally (although this rarely happens), the partner can turn around and send your document off as is. Get it as close to that point as possible.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:16 pm

I'm the "don't pass the buck" poster from above. Another thing that helped when I was new, and that is along similar lines - try to think like the person assigning the work. I've worked with several brand new juniors, and you can definitely tell them apart. There are juniors who turn in work with a ton of typos, research citing to unciteable opinions, and generally producing poor quality work. These are the kinds of errors that are within your control, so when a more senior person sees these types of things, they'll think that you're lazy/sloppy/don't care. Alternatively, there are people who turn in work that, while maybe not brilliant in its analysis, demonstrates overall mechanical quality.

Also, try to have fun and not take your inevitable mistakes too seriously.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:34 pm

Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby gregfootball2001 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 4:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.

Do people put on their resumes how many cases for which they were an attorney of record? What does that look like?

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.


Long hours and mean partners aside, what specifically actually sucks about the work, itself? This question is coming from somebody who’s been a d court clerk, so that experience basically forums my knowledge-base.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Going to be starting biglaw litigation without prior private sector experience.

To midlevel or senior associates, what do you wish somebody had told you when you started?


That it f*cking sucks and you'll limit your opportunities to go in-house by choosing litigation.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.


Long hours and mean partners aside, what specifically actually sucks about the work, itself? This question is coming from somebody who’s been a d court clerk, so that experience basically forums my knowledge-base.


Caveat: I like biglaw. But the things that people tend to not like:

- Unpredictability
- Working for people who cannot or will not manage their time, such that you have to deal with firedrills when a bit of planning would have prevented rushes
- Doing the grunt work (doc review, never-ending research, etc.)
- You'll rarely be told "good job" (which is new for some ppl), but you will certainly be made aware of mistakes
- You'll have to deal with an insane amount of bureaucracy
- Your peers can (depending on the firm) be insufferable douches

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.


Long hours and mean partners aside, what specifically actually sucks about the work, itself? This question is coming from somebody who’s been a d court clerk, so that experience basically forums my knowledge-base.


Caveat: I like biglaw. But the things that people tend to not like:

- Unpredictability
- Working for people who cannot or will not manage their time, such that you have to deal with firedrills when a bit of planning would have prevented rushes
- Doing the grunt work (doc review, never-ending research, etc.)
- You'll rarely be told "good job" (which is new for some ppl), but you will certainly be made aware of mistakes
- You'll have to deal with an insane amount of bureaucracy
- Your peers can (depending on the firm) be insufferable douches


EXACTLY!! Caveat—I hate biglaw and regret spending $160k on law school.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.


Long hours and mean partners aside, what specifically actually sucks about the work, itself? This question is coming from somebody who’s been a d court clerk, so that experience basically forums my knowledge-base.


As a clerk you got to see the final product and work on the most interesting aspect of the case. You got to decide or at least write about the issues. As an attorney you'll see how the sausage is made. It suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Just be ready.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:35 pm

gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Ask the partner if you can be one of the attorneys of record (those whose names are on the docket). It might give you a greater sense of ownership and the partner might appreciate that. It's also good for your resume.

But overall, don't underestimate how much complex biglaw litigation suuuuuuuuuucks. Not saying this to bring you down, but to prepare you.

Do people put on their resumes how many cases for which they were an attorney of record? What does that look like?


No, but at least you'll show up as an attorney of record if people check your Westlaw profile.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby gaddockteeg » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:47 pm

As a junior associate on big complex lit cases, one of the ways you really add value is by being a "master of the facts." Because you're down on the ground-level reviewing the docs, summarizing depositions, etc., you have a nitty gritty view of the case that partners and senior associates do not have. Use this to your advantage and you will get noticed very quickly.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:14 pm

gaddockteeg wrote:As a junior associate on big complex lit cases, one of the ways you really add value is by being a "master of the facts." Because you're down on the ground-level reviewing the docs, summarizing depositions, etc., you have a nitty gritty view of the case that partners and senior associates do not have. Use this to your advantage and you will get noticed very quickly.


While this is generally true, on really large cases it's not realistic because you're often given a piece of a project and don't get much of an opportunity to see how that piece fits into the whole.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:34 am

Great thread. There is so much that I wish I knew but here are the highlights:


Guard your time. Everything takes much longer than you think or that your supervisors will promise you that it will, and the more senior the person the greater the ratio of time they think that things will take vs. time it will actually take. Practice this in the mirror "I'd love to take this on but I've got X assignment for Partner A on the Smith case, Y assignment for Partner B on the Jones case, and it looks like we'll be starting up discovery in the Williams case. I will need to check with Partners A and B before taking this on. Can I get back to you?" Just saying it will give you confidence that if you are being pressed to take on more work by a senior associate or partner that they will really need to think hard before giving you the assignment.

Related to the above, pro bono can be rewarding personally and professionally. It can also be a huge time suck and a trap for the unwary depending on the assignment. One of the mistakes I see juniors make is joining the firm, having a slow month or two, and then taking on multiple pro bono assignments, and then getting slammed with billable work and not being able to handle everything. Often this will happen because senior associates cajole junior associates into joining big, headline-grabbing pro bono cases and then dump a lot of the work on junior associates so they can focus on their billable work. My advice is that for your first year or two, take on no more than one pro bono matter at a time until that matter concludes. Take on a matter that you choose (your firms pro bono coordinator will be able to put you in touch with approved organizations), in an area of law you are interested in, and that is fully vetted, meaning you understand the case and the deadlines before taking it on (i.e. don't take on a matter where there is a statute of limitations that might run in a week or where you will need to file a TRO). If you find the matter yourself, partners and senior associates will be less inclined to micromanage you or create busy work for you).

Learn to delegate. Biglaw is terrible at delegating work to the lower-cost, most efficient person in the organization. That's because most attorneys operate by doing as much work as possible until their schedule fills up and then delegating what they do not want to do (often this happens late in the day or Friday before a long weekend). Don't get in that habit, it is a great way to get burned out and make a mistake. Instead, delegate as much as you can - including things like making binders, turning partners' line edits, bluebooking/fact cite checking. Delegate time-consuming portions of assignments as well. When I get a new document to draft I ask a paralegal to draft me a shell - the case caption, signature block, names of the parties, etc., and then I fill in the rest. The flip side of delegation is that you have to leave time to supervise and review. That means delegate as early as you can and set a deadline in advance of when you need to get it to your supervisor.

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:29 pm

Another tip I learned: get organized. I'm pretty organized by nature (read: borderline OCD), but the associates who aren't miss deadlines, which is one of the few reasons juniors get fired (barring economic problems w/ the firm).

I use Outlook to keep track of everything. I create separate folders for every case/matter I'm working on, calendar everything, and put ALL deadlines/milestones in the tasks section. For instance, if there's a deadline to file an MSJ in a few months, I'll put that in tasks, alongside other mini-milestones (i.e., collect declarations, draft separate statement, get draft to partner, check in with client, etc.). I ALWAYS know what's coming up, and therefore never miss deadlines, using this system.

Also, when a partner sends you something, or when you see something with a deadline, email it to the docketing department to add to your partner's calendar. The partners are generally busy and appreciate this sort of thing. Then, check in with the partner periodically about the deadline, and be helpful (Partner X: Following up on the MSJ in XXX matter. Given that it's YYY weeks away, I'd like to begin drafting the facts section and the separate statement. Please let me know if you'd like to discuss. Thanks.).

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:19 am

Not OP but this thread is helpful. Headed to a Non-NYC major market biglaw lit group, would like to eventually lateral to government. Other than USAO/DOJ, what are some other options that can leave the door open for a return to biglaw down the road?

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Re: Things you wish you knew when you started biglaw lit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:08 am

Anonymous User wrote:Not OP but this thread is helpful. Headed to a Non-NYC major market biglaw lit group, would like to eventually lateral to government. Other than USAO/DOJ, what are some other options that can leave the door open for a return to biglaw down the road?


If you want to come back to biglaw after the DOJ make yourself seem like someone who can run trials and will bring in clients. It's obvious how to do the former but on the latter, give speeches, write articles if you can stuff like that. Biglaw doesn't hire from the DOJ for grunt work that can be done by 1-3 years.



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