Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 02, 2019 3:29 pm

What would you choose in this situation? Two offers on the table:
1. Biglaw and all the benefits/drawbacks that come with it. Chances of making partner are slim, and assume that based on the "up or out" model you'll last a year or two maximum before having to move.

2. Midlaw at $150k plus 20% of business origination, even if the business is not in your practice area and you don't do the work. You're promised that you'll be permitted to maintain lead on client relationships that you originate, and there is partner potential if you can grow your book into the high six figures.

Which would you go for and why?

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 02, 2019 3:31 pm

I'm in a very similar situation right now. Picking biglaw.

You can always go back to midlaw later.

User avatar
nealric

Moderator
Posts: 3182
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby nealric » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:45 am

Most likely biglaw, but it's hard to make that call based entirely off generalities. What practice area are you talking about, what connections do you have in the city where the midlaw firm is?

objctnyrhnr

Moderator
Posts: 1042
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:44 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Nov 04, 2019 3:16 pm

Honestly people often ask these types of questions which, IMO, boils down to a concern that biglaw will be “hard.”

Just sack up and start in biglaw. Once you do that, with a handful of exceptions, you can pretty easily go anywhere else. Doesn’t work the other way. There’s a reason that the biglaw stamp is so valuable—it’s precisely because it can be hard. But once you know you can succeed in biglaw, you’ll know you can succeed anywhere.

Also, it’s not always hard all the time. Just sack up and do it.

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:38 pm

I was faced with this decision a few years ago when I was a midlevel associate. I chose to stay in biglaw and made non-equity partner last year. I'm in a niche practice group so while odds of making equity partner are slim, "up or out" doesn't really apply to me. I would have a job here as long as I am willing to stick around. Also, I'm pretty sure I make more as NEP here than I would as partner at any midlaw firm that has my practice group.

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was faced with this decision a few years ago when I was a midlevel associate. I chose to stay in biglaw and made non-equity partner last year. I'm in a niche practice group so while odds of making equity partner are slim, "up or out" doesn't really apply to me. I would have a job here as long as I am willing to stick around. Also, I'm pretty sure I make more as NEP here than I would as partner at any midlaw firm that has my practice group.


Yep, this is also true at my firm and many others. It's not easy by any means, but there is definitely a path--particularly in more niche groups--to stick around as a non-equity partner or counsel making 300-500k in biglaw even if you don't have a book of business.

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:51 am

OP here. Assuming biglaw is the answer for a regular midlevel associate, change this hypothetical to include the fact that said associate is generally good at networking with potential clients but generally terrible at garnering favor with law firm partners

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1720
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby nixy » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:14 am

It sounds like you want to take the midlevel job and are looking for affirmation of that decision. If that's what you want, then go for it - there's no reason you have to take the biglaw option. I tend to think that doing biglaw for even a few years would probably be good experience (and money) and that you'd likely be able to get a similar option to the midlaw gig after that time. But if you know already that what you really want is to be in a position to build that book of business and profit from that, and your ultimate goal is something like the midlaw gig, I don't think it's wrong to take the midlaw gig at all. (I do think "there is partner potential if you can grow your book into the high six figures" sounds pretty vague and no more of a promise than you'd get in biglaw, though - who has recently become partner in the midlaw firm and what did they do to get there? Also, what has "good at networking with potential clients" resulted in so far - do you have a track record of bringing in business? And I'm not sure that midlaw partners will be any easier to gain favor with than biglaw ones, and you'll still need their support if you do go for partner.)

User avatar
nealric

Moderator
Posts: 3182
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby nealric » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Assuming biglaw is the answer for a regular midlevel associate, change this hypothetical to include the fact that said associate is generally good at networking with potential clients but generally terrible at garnering favor with law firm partners


I'm not quite sure how you would know that at this stage in your career.

One thing to keep in mind with client development: potential clients have to have needs that dovetail with your firm. If you are best buddies with in-house counsel from a giant megacompany, that might do you no good if your midlaw firm isn't on the approved counsel list. On the other side, you might have a small business owner who wants to hire you, but can't afford your biglaw firm's rates.

shock259

Gold
Posts: 1924
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:30 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby shock259 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What would you choose in this situation? Two offers on the table:
1. Biglaw and all the benefits/drawbacks that come with it. Chances of making partner are slim, and assume that based on the "up or out" model you'll last a year or two maximum before having to move.


I don't think this is really an accurate characterization of biglaw. The up or out model exists, but there are many, many mediocre or subpar attorneys that stick around for many, many years. In a lot of ways, I don't think firms do enough to weed out underperforming associates. Yes, you may get pressure to leave at some point in your career if you aren't going to be made partner. But it's often a very drawn out process, and it's often mutual. The quick firings are usually related to economics, which are outside of your control, or serious bridge burning.

There are always exceptions. But I think the vast majority of people leave biglaw after short periods of time on their own volition. Many stick around in a zombie-like state until something better comes along or until they burn out.

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:10 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:Honestly people often ask these types of questions which, IMO, boils down to a concern that biglaw will be “hard.”

Just sack up and start in biglaw. Once you do that, with a handful of exceptions, you can pretty easily go anywhere else. Doesn’t work the other way. There’s a reason that the biglaw stamp is so valuable—it’s precisely because it can be hard. But once you know you can succeed in biglaw, you’ll know you can succeed anywhere.

Also, it’s not always hard all the time. Just sack up and do it.

Similar situation except that I've been with my current firm for several years. I know how things work around here. The managing partner eventually wants to hand the keys over to me, assuming my skills keep growing.

But I have a complicated situation regarding an offer at a national firm. It may come in a few months. It would look great on my resume, but I don't know if I have the skills to cut it there.

Here, my quota is relaxed, and I guess I'm valuable enough for the boss to concede to lower quota AND a higher salary. We as a firm will even go fully remote next year. So there's lots of flexibility involved, which I love, but I won't really learn from a big firm with many seniors.

Both are rare opportunities for me... Not sure what to do.

barkschool

Silver
Posts: 1019
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2015 12:05 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby barkschool » Thu Nov 07, 2019 6:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Honestly people often ask these types of questions which, IMO, boils down to a concern that biglaw will be “hard.”

Just sack up and start in biglaw. Once you do that, with a handful of exceptions, you can pretty easily go anywhere else. Doesn’t work the other way. There’s a reason that the biglaw stamp is so valuable—it’s precisely because it can be hard. But once you know you can succeed in biglaw, you’ll know you can succeed anywhere.

Also, it’s not always hard all the time. Just sack up and do it.

Similar situation except that I've been with my current firm for several years. I know how things work around here. The managing partner eventually wants to hand the keys over to me, assuming my skills keep growing.

But I have a complicated situation regarding an offer at a national firm. It may come in a few months. It would look great on my resume, but I don't know if I have the skills to cut it there.

Here, my quota is relaxed, and I guess I'm valuable enough for the boss to concede to lower quota AND a higher salary. We as a firm will even go fully remote next year. So there's lots of flexibility involved, which I love, but I won't really learn from a big firm with many seniors.

Both are rare opportunities for me... Not sure what to do.


Has this managing partner had this conversation with you directly? Are you saying your current salary is higher than market?

Without more, I am not sure what kind of learning opportunities or resume boosters you need if you have a very clear path to partnership.

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:24 pm

barkschool wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Honestly people often ask these types of questions which, IMO, boils down to a concern that biglaw will be “hard.”

Just sack up and start in biglaw. Once you do that, with a handful of exceptions, you can pretty easily go anywhere else. Doesn’t work the other way. There’s a reason that the biglaw stamp is so valuable—it’s precisely because it can be hard. But once you know you can succeed in biglaw, you’ll know you can succeed anywhere.

Also, it’s not always hard all the time. Just sack up and do it.

Similar situation except that I've been with my current firm for several years. I know how things work around here. The managing partner eventually wants to hand the keys over to me, assuming my skills keep growing.

But I have a complicated situation regarding an offer at a national firm. It may come in a few months. It would look great on my resume, but I don't know if I have the skills to cut it there.

Here, my quota is relaxed, and I guess I'm valuable enough for the boss to concede to lower quota AND a higher salary. We as a firm will even go fully remote next year. So there's lots of flexibility involved, which I love, but I won't really learn from a big firm with many seniors.

Both are rare opportunities for me... Not sure what to do.


Has this managing partner had this conversation with you directly? Are you saying your current salary is higher than market?

Without more, I am not sure what kind of learning opportunities or resume boosters you need if you have a very clear path to partnership.

Yes, he talked to me directly about the direction of the firm. He wants to eventually transition into an of-counsel position or similar where he's no longer the one making the shots. We're a small firm with a few attorneys, so it wouldn't be a huge deal.

My current salary is not comparable to biglaw salary. I'd probably be making double (including bonus) if I had started in biglaw from year 1, but it's relatively chill where I am now. As you know, free time is a tangible benefit in this field. So compensation is a probably wash considering the amount of work I have to do.

My two concerns are (even if I make partner/owner), I wouldn't have had the biglaw mentorship and experience, and I'm not sure if I'd ever get this kind of chance again. My grades are trash, but I got an offer worth $200k that is in limbo because of a conflict issue.

I don't know if this is just a pride issue; i.e., does it matter if my resume has the prestige factor if I'm going to make a ton more anyway? Thanks for any input you have. I've been agonizing over this for months, seems like a critical decision.

BlackAndOrange84

Bronze
Posts: 370
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:06 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
barkschool wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Honestly people often ask these types of questions which, IMO, boils down to a concern that biglaw will be “hard.”

Just sack up and start in biglaw. Once you do that, with a handful of exceptions, you can pretty easily go anywhere else. Doesn’t work the other way. There’s a reason that the biglaw stamp is so valuable—it’s precisely because it can be hard. But once you know you can succeed in biglaw, you’ll know you can succeed anywhere.

Also, it’s not always hard all the time. Just sack up and do it.

Similar situation except that I've been with my current firm for several years. I know how things work around here. The managing partner eventually wants to hand the keys over to me, assuming my skills keep growing.

But I have a complicated situation regarding an offer at a national firm. It may come in a few months. It would look great on my resume, but I don't know if I have the skills to cut it there.

Here, my quota is relaxed, and I guess I'm valuable enough for the boss to concede to lower quota AND a higher salary. We as a firm will even go fully remote next year. So there's lots of flexibility involved, which I love, but I won't really learn from a big firm with many seniors.

Both are rare opportunities for me... Not sure what to do.


Has this managing partner had this conversation with you directly? Are you saying your current salary is higher than market?

Without more, I am not sure what kind of learning opportunities or resume boosters you need if you have a very clear path to partnership.

Yes, he talked to me directly about the direction of the firm. He wants to eventually transition into an of-counsel position or similar where he's no longer the one making the shots. We're a small firm with a few attorneys, so it wouldn't be a huge deal.

My current salary is not comparable to biglaw salary. I'd probably be making double (including bonus) if I had started in biglaw from year 1, but it's relatively chill where I am now. As you know, free time is a tangible benefit in this field. So compensation is a probably wash considering the amount of work I have to do.

My two concerns are (even if I make partner/owner), I wouldn't have had the biglaw mentorship and experience, and I'm not sure if I'd ever get this kind of chance again. My grades are trash, but I got an offer worth $200k that is in limbo because of a conflict issue. I don't know if this is just a pride issue; i.e., does it matter if my resume has the prestige factor if I'm going to make a ton more anyway?


barkschool has got it right. Biglaw is more of a credential than anything and a signal for being willing to work hard, and in your position you don't need a credential.

As an aside, the "muh Biglaw training" thing is way overblown. Biglaw associates don't get great substantive experience. Indeed, the fact that most Biglaw firms make increasingly fewer homegrown partners is in no small part due to the dearth of stand-up experience that Biglaw associates get. And the Biglaw approach to litigating cases (scorched earth research, discovery, etc.) can be actively detrimental outside of the context of the kind of defense-side litigation that huge clients are willing to pay anything for (i.e. a shrinking portion of the litigation work that's out there). (I'm assuming here you're on the lit side, but if you're in some kind of small-scale transactional practice I believe this would still be true.) It's true there are some great lawyers to learn from in Biglaw, but not all are great, and there are plenty of practitioners at Biglaw firms that are really just mediocre.

tl;dr—Unless you just have to have more money, I'd stay where you are.

ETA: Don't underestimate the human cost of another 200-400 hours more a year.

Anonymous User
Posts: 340208
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:09 am

BlackAndOrange84 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
barkschool wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Honestly people often ask these types of questions which, IMO, boils down to a concern that biglaw will be “hard.”

Just sack up and start in biglaw. Once you do that, with a handful of exceptions, you can pretty easily go anywhere else. Doesn’t work the other way. There’s a reason that the biglaw stamp is so valuable—it’s precisely because it can be hard. But once you know you can succeed in biglaw, you’ll know you can succeed anywhere.

Also, it’s not always hard all the time. Just sack up and do it.

Similar situation except that I've been with my current firm for several years. I know how things work around here. The managing partner eventually wants to hand the keys over to me, assuming my skills keep growing.

But I have a complicated situation regarding an offer at a national firm. It may come in a few months. It would look great on my resume, but I don't know if I have the skills to cut it there.

Here, my quota is relaxed, and I guess I'm valuable enough for the boss to concede to lower quota AND a higher salary. We as a firm will even go fully remote next year. So there's lots of flexibility involved, which I love, but I won't really learn from a big firm with many seniors.

Both are rare opportunities for me... Not sure what to do.


Has this managing partner had this conversation with you directly? Are you saying your current salary is higher than market?

Without more, I am not sure what kind of learning opportunities or resume boosters you need if you have a very clear path to partnership.

Yes, he talked to me directly about the direction of the firm. He wants to eventually transition into an of-counsel position or similar where he's no longer the one making the shots. We're a small firm with a few attorneys, so it wouldn't be a huge deal.

My current salary is not comparable to biglaw salary. I'd probably be making double (including bonus) if I had started in biglaw from year 1, but it's relatively chill where I am now. As you know, free time is a tangible benefit in this field. So compensation is a probably wash considering the amount of work I have to do.

My two concerns are (even if I make partner/owner), I wouldn't have had the biglaw mentorship and experience, and I'm not sure if I'd ever get this kind of chance again. My grades are trash, but I got an offer worth $200k that is in limbo because of a conflict issue. I don't know if this is just a pride issue; i.e., does it matter if my resume has the prestige factor if I'm going to make a ton more anyway?


barkschool has got it right. Biglaw is more of a credential than anything and a signal for being willing to work hard, and in your position you don't need a credential.

As an aside, the "muh Biglaw training" thing is way overblown. Biglaw associates don't get great substantive experience. Indeed, the fact that most Biglaw firms make increasingly fewer homegrown partners is in no small part due to the dearth of stand-up experience that Biglaw associates get. And the Biglaw approach to litigating cases (scorched earth research, discovery, etc.) can be actively detrimental outside of the context of the kind of defense-side litigation that huge clients are willing to pay anything for (i.e. a shrinking portion of the litigation work that's out there). (I'm assuming here you're on the lit side, but if you're in some kind of small-scale transactional practice I believe this would still be true.) It's true there are some great lawyers to learn from in Biglaw, but not all are great, and there are plenty of practitioners at Biglaw firms that are really just mediocre.

tl;dr—Unless you just have to have more money, I'd stay where you are.

ETA: Don't underestimate the human cost of another 200-400 hours more a year.

Thanks so much for your input. This puts my mind at ease a bit, especially where you say that biglaw practitioners are not necessarily good. In fact, maybe it's the smaller guys like us who have to be more conscious of the quality of work product because we don't have the brand name attached to us.

I don't do any litigation, FWIW. But clients in our field don't have unlimited budgets. So I can see where the squeeze between high billing rates and the budget can be detrimental.

BlackAndOrange84

Bronze
Posts: 370
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:06 am

Re: Biglaw vs. Partner Potential midlaw

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:20 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks so much for your input. This puts my mind at ease a bit, especially where you say that biglaw practitioners are not necessarily good. In fact, maybe it's the smaller guys like us who have to be more conscious of the quality of work product because we don't have the brand name attached to us.

I don't do any litigation, FWIW. But clients in our field don't have unlimited budgets. So I can see where the squeeze between high billing rates and the budget can be detrimental.


Glad to hear it. I wouldn't go quite so far as the third sentence in your post. You can see differences in quality in Biglaw vs. most smaller firms. Although I think a lot of times the biggest difference in quality is polish (which matters, though I think less so than the attention paid to it in much of Biglaw) rather than persuasiveness, good judgment (this is often what is most lacking), good research (i.e. not just covering lots of cases but really reading the cases, getting them right rather than plucking language out of context, and making/anticipating distinctions), or good writing. And my point was less about billing rates than how much time is billed and on what.



Return to “Legal Employment?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.