Biglaw lawyer taking questions

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3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Mon Aug 31, 2009 9:43 pm

amped wrote:
3rdYrLitigator wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
3rdYrLitigator wrote:I think biglaw can be a great place to start your career even if you don't envision it being a long term plan. It can also be soul-crushing and it's very very difficult to figure out which firm will end up being a great experience, and which one will leave you a complete husk after two years.


What do you mean by soul-crushing? Do you have any particular firms in mind that would be less "soul-crushing"?

Thanks :)


I mean that at times, the hours are brutal and the work can be insanely tedious. There are also partners out there who will take delight in making your life miserable for no other reason than to make your life miserable. I know some firms have reputations for being more brutal hours-wise or having a greater percentage of a-hole partners, but I'd rather not get into specific firms.


What? Why not? Please tell us about specific firms. That would be the most helpful info to come out of this thread. If you want, use the anonymous feature...we want to hear!


Because I have no first-hand information, and it's all the same firms everyone talks about as being sweatshops/terrible places to work. It's not exactly hard to get that information.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:33 am

Everyone says that writing skills are extremely important to lawyering. Do you agree? Do you get a chance to write a lot?

How much of your time as a first- and second-year lawyer was taken up by boring discovery? All the firms I have interviewed with talk about how much "real" work their young associates get to do, but I'm skeptical. I know the hours are long, and I'm fine with that--I don't really know who goes into biglaw and then is shocked that the hours are monstrous. I'm just worried that the work will be unbearably and consistently tedious.

When I go on a callback interview, does the firm only send the most enthusiastic young associates along to lunch? Or is everyone this chipper? What is the purpose of the luncherview anyway?

(anonymous b/c I am paranoid that employers will discover that I'm not actually that excited about doing two straight years of electronic discovery)

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:Everyone says that writing skills are extremely important to lawyering. Do you agree? Do you get a chance to write a lot?

How much of your time as a first- and second-year lawyer was taken up by boring discovery? All the firms I have interviewed with talk about how much "real" work their young associates get to do, but I'm skeptical. I know the hours are long, and I'm fine with that--I don't really know who goes into biglaw and then is shocked that the hours are monstrous. I'm just worried that the work will be unbearably and consistently tedious.

When I go on a callback interview, does the firm only send the most enthusiastic young associates along to lunch? Or is everyone this chipper? What is the purpose of the luncherview anyway?

(anonymous b/c I am paranoid that employers will discover that I'm not actually that excited about doing two straight years of electronic discovery)


As far as I'm concerned, your writing ability is the biggest thing you will be judged on (assuming you make your deadlines, aren't socially inept, etc.). Good writing gets you noticed, and it's the thing that has gotten me staffed on a number of projects.

I actually spent very little time doing discovery 1st and 2nd year, and I do more of it now than I did years 1 and 2. It just depends on the type of case, I was lucky to get staffed on cases that didn't have huge doc review components or had contract attorneys doing the work. I think in general you can expect up to half to two-thirds of your time to be doc review related early on, but it varies a lot from project to project.

I don't know how all firms do it, but generally we try to send younger associates out to lunch. The lunch interview is to get a feel for the candidate's personality, but usually isn't as important as the other interviews you do throughout the day.

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Alfonso Soriano
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Alfonso Soriano » Tue Sep 01, 2009 5:51 pm

3rd, thanks for taking questions.

For those of us looking to attend law school in the 50+ range as far as rankings are concerned, do you believe law firms won't be looking at us as much due to the economy and the fact that were from lower ranked schools? Do you also think that in a better economy we might be looked more down upon simply because of the ranking of our school?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:29 pm

Alfonso Soriano wrote:3rd, thanks for taking questions.

For those of us looking to attend law school in the 50+ range as far as rankings are concerned, do you believe law firms won't be looking at us as much due to the economy and the fact that were from lower ranked schools? Do you also think that in a better economy we might be looked more down upon simply because of the ranking of our school?


Well I do think the economy will make it harder for students from lower ranked schools. I don't understand the second part of your question, in a better economy firms will hire more students from lower ranked schools. Just looking at students who are getting called back at my firm right now, the only students I've seen come through have been from T20 schools and mostly T10 (though I have no idea when OCI is for the lower ranked regional schools).

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Alfonso Soriano
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Alfonso Soriano » Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:43 pm

3rdYrLitigator wrote:
Alfonso Soriano wrote:3rd, thanks for taking questions.

For those of us looking to attend law school in the 50+ range as far as rankings are concerned, do you believe law firms won't be looking at us as much due to the economy and the fact that were from lower ranked schools? Do you also think that in a better economy we might be looked more down upon simply because of the ranking of our school?


Well I do think the economy will make it harder for students from lower ranked schools. I don't understand the second part of your question, in a better economy firms will hire more students from lower ranked schools. Just looking at students who are getting called back at my firm right now, the only students I've seen come through have been from T20 schools and mostly T10 (though I have no idea when OCI is for the lower ranked regional schools).


You answered it how I posed it, thanks a lot.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:55 pm

What kind of hours do the partners work?

Is there a big culture of prep schools/Ivy backgrounds?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What kind of hours do the partners work?

Is there a big culture of prep schools/Ivy backgrounds?



I'd say partner hours are pretty similar to associate hours, or if there's a difference, there's not much of a difference.

I really have no idea if anyone went to a prep school, it's certainly not something that's talked about much and I kind of doubt it. As for Ivy undergrads, there are a fair share, but it certainly doesn't dominate. It's certainly not like everyone talks about the dorms at Exeter or something like that.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:54 am

It sounds like you've been a sought after junior, entering mid-level associate. Have you found that you do things differently than your peers who struggle? Is it just innate talent as a lawyer combined with diligence? Do you never turn away any work? Or are there little things you could share with us that might help us starting out as 1st year associates?

To summarize: what has contributed to your success as a junior associate, and what advice might you have for an entering 1st year associate.

Thanks for this thread.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:14 pm

Any idea what in-house lawyers can expect to make? I realize it varies...but I'd be interested in the ballpark for a major market in-house attorney with 3-5yrs experience in big law.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It sounds like you've been a sought after junior, entering mid-level associate. Have you found that you do things differently than your peers who struggle? Is it just innate talent as a lawyer combined with diligence? Do you never turn away any work? Or are there little things you could share with us that might help us starting out as 1st year associates?

To summarize: what has contributed to your success as a junior associate, and what advice might you have for an entering 1st year associate.

Thanks for this thread.


I don't think it's innate talent, I think it's mostly luck. There are a million little things an associate does, which either drive a partner crazy or make them sing your praises. For example, some partners give you an assignment and don't want to hear from you again until it's done, and by done I mean 100% or close to it. Some associates tend to need way more feedback from partners than I did early on. I'd definitely look at the partner's work to get a feel for style, and clarify things from senior associates, but I wouldn't go to a partner unless it was absolutely necessary, or I was done. On the other hand, some partners may get put off by me not coming to them with drafts etc, but I was lucky that my style worked with the partners I worked for. I guess the easiest way to do well is pretty simple, ask senior associates what works for what partner, and follow that. Surprisingly few younger associates do that, and instead flail around blindly for a while churning hours or asking a partner a ton of questions. Spinning your wheels an burning through hours is a quick way to get noticed very negatively. Partners will definitely take note if they give you a relatively simple assignment and you spend a ton of time on it. A perfectly acceptable response is, "X is not supported by the case law. Here are some related cases, but nothing is directly on point." The bane of an associate's existence is the non-existent case search where a partner asks for a case saying X and they go off and spend days researching a case that doesn't exist. As far as I've seen, they appreciate a summary of what you searched and found in a reasonable time a lot more than a huge bill with nothing to show for it.

I almost never turn away work and in this economy it would be insane for a younger associate to turn down work. I let my schedule/work load be known and if the partner wants to assign me more work, I make time for it. That does mean insane months, but I figure it's why they pay me what they do. I have had partners decline to assign work after I tell them what's on my plate. Fortunately, partners at my firm take that into consideration.

I'll also say, your writing skill is the most important thing to partners. It's what gets you noticed. My writing on here is usually done quickly, or late at night and is pretty much crap. However, when I'm writing a memo or a brief it's completely different and it's gotten me ahead. I get called on specifically to write briefs now, and the only way I got better was to do a ton of writing in school. Working quickly and efficiently is also important, but just comes with time.

I think that about covers what I can think of now, but I'll try and think of any other advice I would have for incoming associates.

Any idea what in-house lawyers can expect to make? I realize it varies...but I'd be interested in the ballpark for a major market in-house attorney with 3-5yrs experience in big law.


I think in my market low 6 figures is probably standard, 100-140K? I'm not quite sure but I'd be surprised if salaries were way out of that range (though it is a wide range).

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby bahama » Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Any idea what in-house lawyers can expect to make? I realize it varies...but I'd be interested in the ballpark for a major market in-house attorney with 3-5yrs experience in big law.


The range I have heard quoted by someone knowledgeable (HR/Finance) for attorneys going in house at good sized companies with 5-7yrs BigLaw experience is $150-$225k, including bonuses, in a major market. Base pay is $125-$185k. Roughly a $75-$100k pay cut overall (assuming 2008 pay & bonuses).

So, I would extrapolate $120-$180k including bonuses for 3rd-5th years, with their base salary being $100-$150k, based mostly on years of experience but with a slight boost from people coming from more prestigious firms or high demand practice areas. Numbers may be worse now due to large number of laid off associates looking to go in-house.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Posner » Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:50 am

That was extremely helpful 3rdYR - I look forward to any other input. As a summer associate, I never really tapped into senior associates for advice on what particular partners liked...I guess I got lucky. Any other tips on improving writing other than practice (i.e. books, etc.) would be great if you think of any.

Thanks for the input about in-house salaries.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Noble » Thu Sep 10, 2009 2:57 am

Thanks for the info.

1.) What type of personalities "make it rain"? Do you ever see timid, unlikeable, or boring people make partner? Or do they all have good personalities? I know this is poorly written but im typing this from my phone.

2.) How much does being personable/having a good sense of humor/good speaking ability/charisma help in a. OCI's and b. your ability to succeed in a firm?

3.) You've mentioned the value of "writing ability". What does this mean exactly? And do your reading/writing skills improve considerably in law school?

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pleasetryagain
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby pleasetryagain » Thu Sep 10, 2009 6:20 am

3rdYrLitigator wrote:

I'll also say, your writing skill is the most important thing to partners. It's what gets you noticed. My writing on here is usually done quickly, or late at night and is pretty much crap. However, when I'm writing a memo or a brief it's completely different and it's gotten me ahead. I get called on specifically to write briefs now, and the only way I got better was to do a ton of writing in school. Working quickly and efficiently is also important, but just comes with time.



What kind of writing are you doing? Meaning: are you writing blunt, factual statements or fanciful and articulate explanations? Do partners like verboseness or are they looking for concise, bullet pointed style writing (Im sure this is different for everyone but in your experience)? How long before you get to showcase some "real" writing ability i.e. not plugging words into a template?

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:25 am

I had a couple other thoughts after writing last night's post:

1) Everyone screws up. I made a few huge mistakes my first year. Everyone does it, and partners expect it. The difference will be how you handle it. Some people get very defensive, or shift blame, the best way is to own up, take responsibility, but always have a plan to fix it. If presented in that way "I screwed up, but here's what I can do..." I think partners will respect that. And if it has your name on it, you have responsibility for it, even if there are many other names on it too. You may think this is common sense, but it's definitely not from what I've seen. People blame their assistants for not typing something in correctly, which may be true, but that's definitely not an excuse.

2) Your mindset should be that your job is solely to make your partner look good (and as long as you have an ethical partner that will never conflict with your duties to your client). I spoke with some 1st years this year who were making some huge mistakes (after the partner gave them a talking to), and they really didn't have that focus before I spoke with them. A lot of the problems could have been avoided if they just thought "Will this make my partner look good or bad in front of either the other partners on the case or the client?" And it would have improved their work product.



Noble wrote:Thanks for the info.

1.) What type of personalities "make it rain"? Do you ever see timid, unlikeable, or boring people make partner? Or do they all have good personalities? I know this is poorly written but im typing this from my phone.

2.) How much does being personable/having a good sense of humor/good speaking ability/charisma help in a. OCI's and b. your ability to succeed in a firm?

3.) You've mentioned the value of "writing ability". What does this mean exactly? And do your reading/writing skills improve considerably in law school?


1.) All sorts, I've seen very unlikeable people make partner, but how they act around the client is anyone's guess. I think for the most part, you have to be able to relate with your client and vice versa, but remember that all sorts of unlikeable people are in charge of companies.

2.) A lot, if people like being around you and you do good work, you'll get chosen over someone they don't like being around who does good work. However, if your work sucks, it doesn't matter.

3.) I think my reading/writing skills have improved a ton since law school, but mostly from doing a lot of it repeatedly. By writing skills I mean your ability to take a case, dissect it, analyze it, and write a persuasive memorandum incorporating it.

What kind of writing are you doing? Meaning: are you writing blunt, factual statements or fanciful and articulate explanations? Do partners like verboseness or are they looking for concise, bullet pointed style writing (Im sure this is different for everyone but in your experience)? How long before you get to showcase some "real" writing ability i.e. not plugging words into a template?


Depends on the audience. If you think verbose = "real" writing ability, then you better do appellate work. In my experience district court judges don't really appreciate verbose fanciful language. I mean concise, coherent, and persuasive writing. I think that most trial level (district court) judges don't want to wade through the language, they want to see what the issues are, what the case law is, and why they should rule for you as quickly as possible. It's not bullet pointed, but it's definitely not flowery. I have worked for partners who like flowery language, and I usually give them the framework/arguments to build on, and that's worked for me thus far. Nothing that I've written has been template work, but it may not be the type of writing you're thinking of.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:57 am

Do you think your advice differs for a 1st year entering the corporate department? Just curious since your background is litigation. I wasn't sure if valued skill sets and "what it takes to succeed" varies much between practice groups.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:23 am

Do you have any idea what the transactional people are doing? When you are writing briefs, are they just plugging in "Goldman Sachs" to a merger contract template?

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby ruski » Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:48 am

another race question...

what about orthodox jews who cant work friday night/saturday. are there any at your firm/how would they be viewed as?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Sat Sep 12, 2009 12:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you think your advice differs for a 1st year entering the corporate department? Just curious since your background is litigation. I wasn't sure if valued skill sets and "what it takes to succeed" varies much between practice groups.


I really have little to no idea what corporate associates do. I'd like to think my advice is generally relevant, but when it comes down to it, I have no experience in that area.

Do you have any idea what the transactional people are doing? When you are writing briefs, are they just plugging in "Goldman Sachs" to a merger contract template?


Again, very little knowledge of corporate work. I'd imagine there's a lot of boring find-and-replace type work, but litigation has plenty of boring doc review so I'd imagine there's all sorts of interesting corporate work that I have no idea about.

another race question...

what about orthodox jews who cant work friday night/saturday. are there any at your firm/how would they be viewed as?


Well, as long as they could get the work done when it's due I don't think it'd be a big deal in certain practice groups. I haven't seen many things due Sunday, but Friday night... that may be tough in certain places. I'd be very nervous if I had to turn away work for any reason. If a partner can't give you work because you can't do it for whatever reason, eventually that partner will probably just go to another associate, not due to any kind of discriminatory intent, but just to get his/her work done. I've had plenty of late night Friday filings, so I really don't know how a partner would handle that.

I don't know if there are any orthodox jews. There are plenty of jewish associates/partners, but I don't know of anyone who can't work on Friday night/Saturday.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 12, 2009 3:28 pm

You said you make upwards of 160k now, would you say that you make dramatically more now than when you started as a first-year associate? Or just moderately so?

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:46 am

Inevitably, people make mistakes. Some are fatal, some are not. Could you share with us some of the more serious mistakes you've encountered, especially those that were fatal to a person's tenure, so we might avoid the same pitfalls? Whether they be from other firms, anecdotal, anything.

Do you think it's possible to have a happy marriage, active social life outside the firm, and be successful at a large firm assuming the firm expects around 1950-2150 billables (maybe 2300 at the worst). Of course, this is subjective, but I'm interested in your musings and observations from experience.

Thank you in advance.

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You said you make upwards of 160k now, would you say that you make dramatically more now than when you started as a first-year associate? Or just moderately so?


Not dramatically more, you can check out salary charts on above the law I think. As far as I know there are fairly accurate salary charts for most large law firms online.

Inevitably, people make mistakes. Some are fatal, some are not. Could you share with us some of the more serious mistakes you've encountered, especially those that were fatal to a person's tenure, so we might avoid the same pitfalls? Whether they be from other firms, anecdotal, anything.

Do you think it's possible to have a happy marriage, active social life outside the firm, and be successful at a large firm assuming the firm expects around 1950-2150 billables (maybe 2300 at the worst). Of course, this is subjective, but I'm interested in your musings and observations from experience.

Thank you in advance.


The worst mistake I saw was an associate tried to blame a relatively minor mistake on another associate. Problem was that the other associate had a paper trail showing it was the first associate's fault. Something minor turned huge and that first associate was let go.

Definitely possible, it's tougher but doable.

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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby SplitterPride » Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:17 am

If the partner you are working under is unusually cruel, is there a possibility to work with a different partner?

If the associate (s) you are working with are difficult people to deal with, can the firm allow you to work with a different set of associates upon request?

3rdYrLitigator
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Re: Biglaw lawyer taking questions

Postby 3rdYrLitigator » Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:02 pm

SplitterPride wrote:If the partner you are working under is unusually cruel, is there a possibility to work with a different partner?

If the associate (s) you are working with are difficult people to deal with, can the firm allow you to work with a different set of associates upon request?


It's possible but from what I've seen it's usually a tough spot to be in. You can always say you want to work on a different type of case, or to work with more partners, but usually someone has to work with the A-hole partner, and once they get your claws in you, it's hard to get away.

If you have problems with the associates, well sucks to be you, you have very little control over how other people get staffed (controlling your own staffing is hard enough).


On another note, I know people are in the middle of callbacks right now, and I thought I'd share what I see happening around my market. First, most large firms have cut back on their classes at least by half from a few years back. Secondly, they're being very very careful with their offers. It seems like many firms are assuming a 100% acceptance rate. What that means for you is that if you don't hear back from a firm for a while, it's not all bad. Most likely, they've given out X offers for X spots and are waiting to hear back. If they were going to cut you, they'd cut you. I read somewhere people speculating that firms will still do a ton of callbacks, I really don't see that happening in actuality. Callbacks are expensive, in associate/partner time alone each callback is a big expense, and right now, firms aren't spending without good reason. Lastly, unlike in past years, you really have to sell yourself in the callback. The competition you're up against is most likely a lot tougher than before, so any slip up could cost you the job. I'll say that my firm's standards have gone up ridiculously high this year, to the point that I probably wouldn't have gotten a call back.

I'm sure this isn't news to most of you, but I thought I'd share.




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