Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

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"Struggling" firm w/ better culture v. "nonstruggling" firm

"struggling" firm w/ better culture
10
24%
"nonstruggling" firm
31
76%
 
Total votes: 41

Anonymous User
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Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:35 pm

Curious to know what sort of reasoning and outcomes all of you would apply to this choice: picking between a "struggling" firm (think recent layoffs, salary freezes, deferrals) with great people and cultural fit, or a "nonstruggling" firm (no layoffs, no freezes, deferrals not too bad) that was ok culturally, but not as great a fit as the struggling firm.

Which would you pick and why? Would it matter for you that you wouldn't start until 2011? Is that wishful thinking?

All advice appreciated.

Pearalegal
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Pearalegal » Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:37 pm

Oh god, non-struggling.

You can find good people and a niche almost anywhere, but job security is NOT something that you can find anywhere.

Carlisle
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Carlisle » Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:38 pm

its not just your career, its your life. go with the better culture.

Pearalegal
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Pearalegal » Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:39 pm

Carlisle wrote:its not just your career, its your life. go with the better culture.


Yeah, your life. That you need to pay for.

Hopefully if you have any sort of a balance in your life, work won't be the only place you have social interactions.

Anonymous User
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:52 pm

This turned out to be my choice. I chose a sweatshop firm that is doing well over a non-sweatshop firm that has conducted some layoffs, had some deferrals, and shifted from lock-step. Granted the second firm isn't doing horribly, it just isn't doing as well as the sweatshop firm. They're both about the same "prestige" level and are good at the practice areas I'm interested in. If the economy turns around, I'll probably regret my decision but my risk averse side went with the solid sweatshop.

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TTT-LS
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby TTT-LS » Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:28 pm

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Last edited by TTT-LS on Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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M51
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby M51 » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:46 am

Anonymous User wrote:Curious to know what sort of reasoning and outcomes all of you would apply to this choice: picking between a "struggling" firm (think recent layoffs, salary freezes, deferrals) with great people and cultural fit, or a "nonstruggling" firm (no layoffs, no freezes, deferrals not too bad) that was ok culturally, but not as great a fit as the struggling firm.

Which would you pick and why? Would it matter for you that you wouldn't start until 2011? Is that wishful thinking?

All advice appreciated.


Are you a 3L? If you're a 2L, you won't start until 2011 earliest anyway. I'm confused.
If you're a 3L, I'd go with the one that lets you start earlier (unless you want a year long vacation). You don't want to get canned early. If you're a 2L, I think firms have learned their lesson and chances are slim that they'll overhire for summer 2010 (regardless of what their offer rates were this summer). There's no market pressure to hire a lot of SAs with some firms canceling their programs and even market leaders like Cravath and Skadden cutting expected SA class by more than 50% (and those two are just the two that are public about it, I'm sure once the #s roll in, we'll see several top firms drastically scaling back 2010 summer #s). As a 2L, I'd go with the one you feel more comfortable at.

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:11 am

OP here. Thanks for all of the replies so far.

TTT-LS - I hope I'm not being naive. I don't think I am. I am just trying to think in the long term. I'm not going into a firm with the idea of working for a few short years, burning out, and leaving. I don't know if I'm ready for partnership track yet, but I definitely want to work at a place at least 5-6 years and build a foundation and relationship at a firm. That's why culture is something I'm trying to consider as part of my long-term assessment of where I work. Of course, I wont' be able to get that far if the firm lays me off or defers me indefinitely. That scares me. I also don't know if it is worth a potential cut in compensation (firm has indicated that they will drop salaries as soon as someone else does) versus the "nonstruggling firm" place that has held up pretty well ITE in terms of compensation and stability.

M51 - I'm class of 2011, so 2L now. I'm not as much worried about no-offering, as I know the "struggling" firm is hiring a much smaller class size to start. I am worried about deferred start dates, even in 2011 (given the glut of new assoc. starting as a result of previous deferrals) and the cloud of potential salary cuts.

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Merrill
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Merrill » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:27 am

There's no way for you to know from the outside if a firm is struggling or not. Layoffs, salary freezes etc. may mean that a firm is taking steps to deal with an economy that's hurting everyone. The firm that's not taking steps may crash and burn because it's ignoring a financial crisis. The fact is that unless you have access to the firm's financial records, you have no idea.

Deferrals are unlikely for the class of 2011. Deferrals happened because summer classes ended up being too large for firms to support two years down the line. Most firms have cut back their summer programs this year to avoid this exact problem. (It's even possible they're cutting back too far). The squeeze that affected the current 3Ls at the associate offer phase is just hitting us earlier, at the summer hiring phase.

And (I'm sure I'll get flack for this) firms should drop first-year associate salaries. They can't charge clients enough to justify a first-year's $160k market.

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M51
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby M51 » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:
M51 - I'm class of 2011, so 2L now. I'm not as much worried about no-offering, as I know the "struggling" firm is hiring a much smaller class size to start. I am worried about deferred start dates, even in 2011 (given the glut of new assoc. starting as a result of previous deferrals) and the cloud of potential salary cuts.


Salary cuts are a legit concern, but if it's biglaw, a cut would still give you a lot of money.
You're already going to be fairly unhappy about several things in biglaw, regardless of how great the firm is. Do you really want to add to that list by picking a place that doesn't really sound like a good fit? You'll be spending more than half of your waking moments there for the next X years, and probably required to at least minimally socialize with these people at events, lunches, etc. ITE will pass, eventually, and deferred or not, you'll have a career, eventually. In the meantime, if you're looking at this for the long haul: You don't want to be somewhere you don't want to be. Reflexive principle? :P

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hyunseoki
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby hyunseoki » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:46 am

Pearalegal wrote:
Carlisle wrote:its not just your career, its your life. go with the better culture.


Yeah, your life. That you need to pay for.

Hopefully if you have any sort of a balance in your life, work won't be the only place you have social interactions.


I also think that job security takes precedence over social needs. Go with the non-struggling:D In the end, it's all about the money, right???

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doomswitched
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby doomswitched » Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:21 am

Merrill wrote:There's no way for you to know from the outside if a firm is struggling or not. Layoffs, salary freezes etc. may mean that a firm is taking steps to deal with an economy that's hurting everyone. The firm that's not taking steps may crash and burn because it's ignoring a financial crisis. The fact is that unless you have access to the firm's financial records, you have no idea.

Deferrals are unlikely for the class of 2011. Deferrals happened because summer classes ended up being too large for firms to support two years down the line. Most firms have cut back their summer programs this year to avoid this exact problem. (It's even possible they're cutting back too far). The squeeze that affected the current 3Ls at the associate offer phase is just hitting us earlier, at the summer hiring phase.

And (I'm sure I'll get flack for this) firms should drop first-year associate salaries. They can't charge clients enough to justify a first-year's $160k market.


+1

I agree with almost all of this. The first paragraph is spot on. I differ on on the "It's even possible they're cutting back too far" as I think they definitely are. I also differ on the claim that "firms should drop first-year associate salaries" but my disagreement is that only some firms should do so. Other firms can still pick up better talent with higher salaries.

Alexandria
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Alexandria » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:03 am

I'm right there with TTT-LS. I am SO glad that I picked the most stable firm, while I watch many of my friends struggling to find jobs as 3Ls, after their no-offers. While I'm also happy with my firm's culture, the luxury of worrying about that is something that only comes into play when you're comparing firms that can offer you the same basic thing... a great shot at permanent job prospects.

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edcrane
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby edcrane » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:19 am

Stability is crucial. Unless you absolutely cannot stand the people, I'd take the more stable firm.

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NewHere
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby NewHere » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:43 am

This is impossible to answer without knowing which firms you're talking about.

Cadwalader (struggling) vs. Wachtell (not struggling)

is a different story from

Cravath ('struggling') vs. tiny non-struggling IP firm.

Anonymous User
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:35 pm

I lost a summer position last year because I was going to be working at a major market midlaw firm that was extremely well respected and widely reputed as a good place to work. Unfortunately, their client base included a lot of banks.

I didn't get to summer there because the firm barely survived as it was. This has made my job search considerably more difficult, although not that much worse than my classmates who took V100 jobs and got deferred for a year. They are all in a bad situation too, and know it. Not counting the ones that got no-offered by firms that were in economic trouble.

Particularly if money (debt) is an issue for you, I can't in good faith recommend going for lifestyle over actually having a job if the choice is vicious/stable versus reasonably pleasant/unstable.

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:42 pm

which ny firm would you go to as a current 2L - latham or jones day?

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underachiever
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby underachiever » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:which ny firm would you go to as a current 2L - latham or jones day?


Jones Day

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NewHere
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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby NewHere » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:54 pm

which ny firm would you go to as a current 2L - latham or jones day?


That's a difficult decision. Do they both have the practice area(s) that you're interested in?

Latham apparently over-fired people, so it is likely that they won't be firing more people any time soon. On the other hand, do you want to work for a firm that is prone to over-firing?

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:which ny firm would you go to as a current 2L - latham or jones day?

That's a tough one. What practice areas are you looking at?
If you say lit, then maybe going with Jones Day - stabler, wouldn't be so bad.
If it's corporate, then maybe Latham might be worth a second look even given their prior history. That is a really tough one though. How big is JD NY office? I might be inclined towards them only b/c Latham has that God-awful rep right now, but they still seem to have great clients and work though...

Funny, I'm also agonizing between, among other firms, Jones Day SF (stable, great people, seems humane and MoFo (less stable ITE, great people, biggest rep in area/but seems to have rep now as sweatshop?). Not to hijack the thread, but anyone have thoughts on that too?

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote: Funny, I'm also agonizing between, among other firms, Jones Day SF (stable, great people, seems humane and MoFo (less stable ITE, great people, biggest rep in area/but seems to have rep now as sweatshop?). Not to hijack the thread, but anyone have thoughts on that too?


Maybe it's their other offices, but I always thought Jones Day was a huge sweatshop. That aside, I'd definately take a firm like Jones Day that might be more of a sweatshop but seems to be doing relatively well over a firm like MoFo or Latham. A no-offer or getting fired during your first year would be very damaging to career prospects, and at Jones Day you are arguably much less likely to have either of those things happen to you.

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Anonymous User wrote:
Funny, I'm also agonizing between, among other firms, Jones Day SF (stable, great people, seems humane and MoFo (less stable ITE, great people, biggest rep in area/but seems to have rep now as sweatshop?). Not to hijack the thread, but anyone have thoughts on that too?


Maybe it's their other offices, but I always thought Jones Day was a huge sweatshop. That aside, I'd definately take a firm like Jones Day that might be more of a sweatshop but seems to be doing relatively well over a firm like MoFo or Latham. A no-offer or getting fired during your first year would be very damaging to career prospects, and at Jones Day you are arguably much less likely to have either of those things happen to you.


thanks for your thoughts. Even if you plan on staying in Bay Area LT so exit options/overall local prestige are more important? My sense is that MoFo has the bigger name there, though the JD office is growing.

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:59 pm

i'm pretty familiar with jones day SF although i didn't get an offer from them. i agree that people at JD were very nice, but mofo definitely has the better exit options. JD is still virtually unknown in SF. it may have recently acquired a bunch of heller partners but it has nowhere the breadth of practices that mofo SF has. you will work equally hard at both so don't be misled into thinking one has better work/life balance. if i had to make this choice, i would choose mofo.

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Re: Struggling firm w/ better culture v. nonstruggling firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 28, 2009 2:31 am

Anonymous User wrote:i'm pretty familiar with jones day SF although i didn't get an offer from them. i agree that people at JD were very nice, but mofo definitely has the better exit options. JD is still virtually unknown in SF. it may have recently acquired a bunch of heller partners but it has nowhere the breadth of practices that mofo SF has. you will work equally hard at both so don't be misled into thinking one has better work/life balance. if i had to make this choice, i would choose mofo.


edited.




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