Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

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Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:14 pm

I'm a 1st year at a mid-law in SF.

1. I'm in the office from 8 to 6:30 (10.5 hours more or less). I bill anywhere from 6, 7, or 8 hours a day. Sometimes 10 hours. However, I do a shit ton of non-billable work. Partner comes in and talks to me about a case and asks me factual questions for 2 hours because I was the one who created the timeline? Not billable. Getting put into a case that's in the middle of discovery, and I have to review prior case files to get up to speed? Not billable. I don't know what I'm doing so I have to look up the last date to file XYZ? Not billable. Are all my non-billable experience, as well as my weak billable conversion the same as big-law 1st years?

2. There's so much research memos. I think they are useless. Partners want me to draft a research memo in lieu of a simple email with the answer they're looking for. Takes an additional hour or so to make sure the memo is flawless. They bill the entire hour to client.

3. Sort of going back to #1 -- Partners assign me work that they eventually write off. E.g. I was told to draft a response letter to a plaintiff's demand letter. Took me hours to review the files + draft. It gets written off about 75%. Yet I'm being judged by the total billable hours.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a 1st year at a mid-law in SF.

1. I'm in the office from 8 to 6:30 (10.5 hours more or less). I bill anywhere from 6, 7, or 8 hours a day. Sometimes 10 hours. However, I do a shit ton of non-billable work. Partner comes in and talks to me about a case and asks me factual questions for 2 hours because I was the one who created the timeline? Not billable. Getting put into a case that's in the middle of discovery, and I have to review prior case files to get up to speed? Not billable. I don't know what I'm doing so I have to look up the last date to file XYZ? Not billable. Are all my non-billable experience, as well as my weak billable conversion the same as big-law 1st years?

Maybe going out on a limb here but at least IME in BigLaw, any work on a case is billable. Yes, there's a lot of nonbillable work (managing email, attending group/firm meetings/talks/socials, attending to administrative payroll/insurance/expense reimbursement/etc. tasks, reading Law360 updates...) and also nonbillable but still creditable work (writing law update memos, doing marketing/biz dev). But actual work on a case - like briefing a partner to get them up to speed, reviewing prior filings in the case, etc. - that's all billable. In many cases that time may be written off by the relationship partner and not actually charged to the client, but associates absolutely get billable credit for it.

I feel like BigLawyers generally roll in later and stay later. 6:30 would be very early for any BigLawyer to leave (excepting maybe Fridays). On the flip side I don't know of many who get in by 8 AM. Some of the older partners do.

Anonymous User wrote:3. Sort of going back to #1 -- Partners assign me work that they eventually write off. E.g. I was told to draft a response letter to a plaintiff's demand letter. Took me hours to review the files + draft. It gets written off about 75%. Yet I'm being judged by the total billable hours.

Hours get written off all the time. I wouldn't worry about it especially as a first-year, unless you've been told to improve your efficiency.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:51 pm

QContinuum wrote:Maybe going out on a limb here but at least IME in BigLaw, any work on a case is billable. Yes, there's a lot of nonbillable work (managing email, attending group/firm meetings/talks/socials, attending to administrative payroll/insurance/expense reimbursement/etc. tasks, reading Law360 updates...) and also nonbillable but still creditable work (writing law update memos, doing marketing/biz dev). But actual work on a case - like briefing a partner to get them up to speed, reviewing prior filings in the case, etc. - that's all billable. In many cases that time may be written off by the relationship partner and not actually charged to the client, but associates absolutely get billable credit for it.

I feel like BigLawyers generally roll in later and stay later. 6:30 would be very early for any BigLawyer to leave (excepting maybe Fridays). On the flip side I don't know of many who get in by 8 AM. Some of the older partners do.

Anonymous User wrote:3. Sort of going back to #1 -- Partners assign me work that they eventually write off. E.g. I was told to draft a response letter to a plaintiff's demand letter. Took me hours to review the files + draft. It gets written off about 75%. Yet I'm being judged by the total billable hours.

Hours get written off all the time. I wouldn't worry about it especially as a first-year, unless you've been told to improve your efficiency.


OP here.

I thought it was interesting you point out 6:30 was early to leave for big law. Though perhaps the better comparison might be whether they are in the office for +/- 10.5 hours. I think I put in an average of 60 working hours a week (I spend 2-3 hours working remotely from home). Yet I get paid substantially less (120k...). I was told I'd get early hands on experience.... not sure how true that is. A friend of mine at biglaw just got to appear for a motion to dismiss hearing. I've only made a small TRO appearance. No depos lined up yet. Still waiting for the opportunity to draft a MSJ. Most substantive work I wrote was just a simple motion to compel.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Though perhaps the better comparison might be whether they are in the office for +/- 10.5 hours.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Some spend a bit less time in the office, but those folks will have to log back in at home, so they aren't actually working any less. Also, there is some variation. Litigation and M&A tend to fluctuate pretty wildly. Folks can swing from an entire month of no work to multiple weeks of fire drills where they work 'round-the-clock. Non-M&A transactional practices tend to be a bit more steady, which is generally better. (Obviously the fire drills are torture, and even the no-work downtime isn't really as good as it sounds because then you're constantly trying to chase down your next project and worrying about whether you're racking up enough billables to get your bonus and/or stay employed.)

Anonymous User wrote:I think I put in an average of 60 working hours a week (I spend 2-3 hours working remotely from home). Yet I get paid substantially less (120k...). I was told I'd get early hands on experience.... not sure how true that is. A friend of mine at biglaw just got to appear for a motion to dismiss hearing. I've only made a small TRO appearance. No depos lined up yet. Still waiting for the opportunity to draft a MSJ. Most substantive work I wrote was just a simple motion to compel.

Not a midlaw expert, but I think midlaw varies a lot more firm-to-firm in terms of how much exposure juniors get.

I also don't think it's ever advisable to choose midlaw over BigLaw, certainly not for lifestyle. The best "lifestyle" move is to do BigLaw for a few years and then go in-house, something that's eminently more doable with a BigLaw pedigree than a midlaw pedigree.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby tyroneslothrop1 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:49 pm

You've been with the firm for, what, 6 months, 3 of which you've been admitted to the bar? The things that the partners are assigning you to do may be pointless but for now I would just put your head down and do what you're told, to the best of your abilities. You're still so new.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:00 pm

QContinuum wrote:I feel like BigLawyers generally roll in later and stay later. 6:30 would be very early for any BigLawyer to leave (excepting maybe Fridays). On the flip side I don't know of many who get in by 8 AM. Some of the older partners do.


This strikes me as New York-centric. In my non-NY biglaw office (but not a tiny outpost), most people are gone by 6:30. I would say the median associate is showing up around 9:15 and leaving most days around 6:15, then logging on from home for a couple of hours that evening/night - "working" about 10-ish hours to bill about 8 or 8.5. I don't think this time line is unusual in my market either.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Vursz » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
QContinuum wrote:I feel like BigLawyers generally roll in later and stay later. 6:30 would be very early for any BigLawyer to leave (excepting maybe Fridays). On the flip side I don't know of many who get in by 8 AM. Some of the older partners do.


This strikes me as New York-centric. In my non-NY biglaw office (but not a tiny outpost), most people are gone by 6:30. I would say the median associate is showing up around 9:15 and leaving most days around 6:15, then logging on from home for a couple of hours that evening/night - "working" about 10-ish hours to bill about 8 or 8.5. I don't think this time line is unusual in my market either.


100% agree with this assessment (biglaw in non-NY, but major market). When I leave at 6:30 or 7 the halls are desolate.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby hlsperson1111 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:03 am

Same (in LA). I leave before 5:30 more often than after 7 (although I am online/working from home until 9:30 or 10 most nights and 4-12 hours over most weekends).

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby jarofsoup » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:30 am

Just as an FYI. All of that "non-billable work" I would bill.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby gregfootball2001 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:48 am

jarofsoup wrote:Just as an FYI. All of that "non-billable work" I would bill.

I agree with this. There's a difference between what's "billable" and what's "billed." All the work you do for a client should be billable, that is, you should bill the time you spend. If a partner decides not to bill the client for all that time, that's their choice (unless, as someone already said, you've been called out for efficiency issues). Your job isn't to worry about billed time, but your billable time.

Also, to agree with another poster, you're not going to get stand-up time in many midlaw shops three months after being licensed. If you wanted to be in court every day, go be a prosecutor. Otherwise, learn how the case is being handled so that you can be of more help on the next case.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:19 pm

The 6:30 thing is extremely New York specific. In Chicago, and a lot of people (especially partners) leave before 6. People are working long hours from home, but facetime just isn't nearly as important here.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:33 pm

To be clear, I agree that regularly staying late in the office is a NY thing. I should have made that clear in my original post.

Still, as I noted in a later post ITT:
QContinuum wrote:Some spend a bit less time in the office, but those folks will have to log back in at home, so they aren't actually working any less.

BigLaw hours are generally a little better outside NY, but as other posters ITT have clarified, "better" doesn't mean you simply get to head out at 6:30 and stop checking your work email. You get to head out, yes, but you'll still be expected to log back in and work for a couple of more hours from home in the evening.

And even in some NY firms/groups, it's increasingly okay to leave by 6:30 and do the log-in-remotely thing. NY is slowly moving away from facetime uber alles.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:45 pm

OP here.

With all that's been said, I think my takeaway is that, as consistent with general advice, biglaw >> midlaw as an entry position. While midlaw varies from firm to firm, I generally don't get the sweet benefits, e.g. gym memberships, reimbursed meals after certain time, etc. (though even if some midlaw offers this, i think most (e.g. 120k-130k starting salary ones) don't). Maybe I'll get more hands on experience over the next 2 years as opposed to my biglaw peers. Who knows. One other benefit I'm experiencing, though, is that all partners really take the time to teach. I can go into any of their rooms and ask questions that I can't figure out (e.g. why are we providing a substantive response to special interrog as opposed to objecting etc.?). I think (?) in biglaw this also varies and dependent on your group, but mainly you won't get that same mentorship... (correct me if im wrong).

But it seems (from the responses) that I work just as many hours as biglaw. I get paid drastically less. My raises will also be lower.

One other thing I didn't mention is that maybe 1/3 of my cases require me to deal with insurance handlers (i.e. insurance defense?). Have to ask for authorization for any motions, approve draft responses to discovery, etc. Some of them don't understand litigation and thinks we can simply request plaintiff to dismiss us from the case because preliminary evidence suggests we are not to blame...

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Mullens » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:55 pm

Why aren’t you billing all the stuff in #1? That’s all billable imo and partners don’t exactly like underbilling...

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Calbears123 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:02 pm

QContinuum wrote:To be clear, I agree that regularly staying late in the office is a NY thing. I should have made that clear in my original post.

Still, as I noted in a later post ITT:
QContinuum wrote:Some spend a bit less time in the office, but those folks will have to log back in at home, so they aren't actually working any less.

BigLaw hours are generally a little better outside NY, but as other posters ITT have clarified, "better" doesn't mean you simply get to head out at 6:30 and stop checking your work email. You get to head out, yes, but you'll still be expected to log back in and work for a couple of more hours from home in the evening.

And even in some NY firms/groups, it's increasingly okay to leave by 6:30 and do the log-in-remotely thing. NY is slowly moving away from facetime uber alles.


NY associate here and this is true for my group, most of us are gone by 6:30 unless there is a closing that night or we are truly slammed.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:52 pm

Mullens wrote:Why aren’t you billing all the stuff in #1? That’s all billable imo and partners don’t exactly like underbilling...


OP here.

I'm not sure if what constitutes billable at my firm is widely applicable to other mid-law firms. But in any case, I was told not to bill it because 1) the partner will already bill his time for discussing the facts with me. We shouldn't bill them twice. The time i spent reviewing files and creating the said timeline is certainly billable, just not the time spent answering some factual questions. 2) Same with getting up to speed. Ex-associate already billed client for reviewing these files. I was told I shouldnt bill client again for reviewing the same files. 3) Research basic civil procedure law isn't billable because client expected us to know it already, or it isn't fair to bill it to this client if I will be able to use that knowledge without needing to research, thus not billing, to the next client.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Mon Mar 18, 2019 7:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mullens wrote:Why aren’t you billing all the stuff in #1? That’s all billable imo and partners don’t exactly like underbilling...


OP here.

I'm not sure if what constitutes billable at my firm is widely applicable to other mid-law firms. But in any case, I was told not to bill it because 1) the partner will already bill his time for discussing the facts with me. We shouldn't bill them twice. ... Ex-associate already billed client for reviewing these files. I was told I shouldnt bill client again for reviewing the same files.

Yeah, in BigLaw the client would definitely get billed "twice." (Of course, it's not actually "double billing" because, in fact, two attorneys are working on the case. Just like it's not "triple billing" or "quadruple billing" if three or four lawyers have a meeting to brainstorm strategy or do trial prep or attend a conference call with the other side.)

Again, in some cases the partner may write off the associate's time to keep the client happy. Writeoffs and discounts are common. But the associate would certainly be instructed to bill the time as an initial matter.

Anonymous User wrote:3) Research basic civil procedure law isn't billable because client expected us to know it already, or it isn't fair to bill it to this client if I will be able to use that knowledge without needing to research, thus not billing, to the next client.

The "windfall for the next client" thing is just how it works. After all, the current client could very well benefit from a windfall thanks to work you did for a previous client. Of course, in the unusual case where one does research that's equally applicable to two client matters at the same time, then the research time is (and should be) allocated between the two matters. But in BigLaw, we aren't going to perform research for Client A for free merely because, hypothetically, that research could also help Client B in a hypothetical future matter two months down the pike. Sure, Client B might end up with a windfall, but then Client A might also benefit from a windfall from research previously performed for, say, Client D. What goes around comes around.

Also, maybe this isn't the thinking in midlaw, but in BigLaw, it's generally expected that most matters will involve some degree of novelty. That's why clients are willing to pay the rates. So generally there will always be some research involved.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby RaceJudicata » Mon Mar 18, 2019 7:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mullens wrote:Why aren’t you billing all the stuff in #1? That’s all billable imo and partners don’t exactly like underbilling...


OP here.

I'm not sure if what constitutes billable at my firm is widely applicable to other mid-law firms. But in any case, I was told not to bill it because 1) the partner will already bill his time for discussing the facts with me. We shouldn't bill them twice. The time i spent reviewing files and creating the said timeline is certainly billable, just not the time spent answering some factual questions. 2) Same with getting up to speed. Ex-associate already billed client for reviewing these files. I was told I shouldnt bill client again for reviewing the same files. 3) Research basic civil procedure law isn't billable because client expected us to know it already, or it isn't fair to bill it to this client if I will be able to use that knowledge without needing to research, thus not billing, to the next client.


In my view, all three explanations are bullshit. Particularly 1 and 3.

All of that work should be billable. Whether it’s charged to client is a different story - and not really your concern as a first year.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Loquitur Res » Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:18 pm

I work mid-law/ regional big-law. Just to echo other responses--I would 100% bill for all of the tasks you mentioned.

Also, i'm a first-year in a transactional/corporate group and typically work 8-6. Generally have weekends free and bill around 125-155 per month. Make $100k plus great benefits (in a small market).

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:43 am

OP here.

Sounds like other firms bill these.... wtf is wrong with my firm?

Ex-associates told me my review is based on billable (read: post-write-offs) hours. Is that true for you biglaw/midlaw/anylawthat'snotmyfirm? So, if i did 160, get written off and end up with 130 for the month because partner wants to please client, my review is based on the 130...

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:48 am

OP Here.

Another thing: do you guys ever do research on something you're not assigned to? E.G. out of no where, while i was bored with draft discovery responses, I decided to do some research on another case (without being instructed to). After 3 hours, I think I found a strong basis for a demurrer for a claim. I draft email to partner about my idea.

Is there too much work in biglaw for this to ever happen? (I.E., just Do what you're told?) This is the first time I've done this. I would've not billed it if it didnt amount to anything result (as in, i researched for nothing; had I simply asked the partner in 20 seconds, he could've told me the answer kind of thing...). But since (I think) I found something, I'll bill it (which of course, if the partner thinks we won't pursue, he can simply write it off. At least I think that's how my firm works...).

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:do you guys ever do research on something you're not assigned to? E.G. out of no where, while i was bored with draft discovery responses, I decided to do some research on another case (without being instructed to). After 3 hours, I think I found a strong basis for a demurrer for a claim. I draft email to partner about my idea.

No, I never work on client matters I haven't been assigned to. That could arguably be considered an ethical issue.

If you have downtime, you can use it to solicit additional work; read Law360 or other legal updates; do pro bono work; do firm/biz dev-related activities like writing a public memo or article or prepping a presentation on a new regulation or court decision; or, y'know, simply relax and browse the Interwebs.

Anonymous User wrote:Ex-associates told me my review is based on billable (read: post-write-offs) hours. Is that true for you biglaw/midlaw/anylawthat'snotmyfirm? So, if i did 160, get written off and end up with 130 for the month because partner wants to please client, my review is based on the 130...

I think the general rule is that "raw" billables (pre-writeoff) are used to determine whether an associate has hit their minimum (to stay employed/get a bonus/etc.), but realization rate (post-writeoff) is used, especially as associates get more senior (i.e., not generally for first-years), to evaluate the quality of their work (along with reviews from seniors).

I think there are a few firms that differ on this, particularly toward the "lower" V100/AmLaw 200.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:27 pm

You should probably start billing on most, if not all, of the activities you mentioned and, while you’re at it, start networking with alums from your school at biglaw firms in preparation to make a relatively early jump (1-2 years).

Remember, the goal is to have that coffee before the position at that person’s firm gets posted.

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Re: Is my first year mid-law experience substantially different than big-law?

Postby Auxilio » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:55 am

Another thing I would note re:windfall etc. You might have to spend more time researching simpler issues like civ pro etc.--but that's part of why you bill out at a lower rate than the 8th year. Having to spend longer to do something is already built into the cost to the client in my opinion.



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