One shot at Biglaw?

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Oban
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One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Oban » Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:13 pm

So lets say you strike out at OCI, or go to a TTT school and are shut out of biglaw, and are glad to take a 40-60k small/shit law job, be it meaningful work or Personal Injury. Do you ever really have a chance at biglaw? Or is the only way to get right after law school? Can TTT graduates get experience and eventually network their way to Biglaw/150K plus salaries or are they pretty much stuck(not necessarly that bad) earing 60-100k for years.

thompson
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby thompson » Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:18 pm

Oban wrote:So lets say you strike out at OCI, or go to a TTT school and are shut out of biglaw, and are glad to take a 40-60k small/shit law job, be it meaningful work or Personal Injury. Do you ever really have a chance at biglaw? Or is the only way to get right after law school? Can TTT graduates get experience and eventually network their way to Biglaw/150K plus salaries or are they pretty much stuck(not necessarly that bad) earing 60-100k for years.

Pretty much stuck, with the exceptions being a) you make it to a highly regarded group in a smaller firm (think, Chambers rated), or b) you're a partner with a portable book

philo-sophia
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby philo-sophia » Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:26 pm

thompson wrote:
Oban wrote:So lets say you strike out at OCI, or go to a TTT school and are shut out of biglaw, and are glad to take a 40-60k small/shit law job, be it meaningful work or Personal Injury. Do you ever really have a chance at biglaw? Or is the only way to get right after law school? Can TTT graduates get experience and eventually network their way to Biglaw/150K plus salaries or are they pretty much stuck(not necessarly that bad) earing 60-100k for years.

Pretty much stuck, with the exceptions being a) you make it to a highly regarded group in a smaller firm (think, Chambers rated), or b) you're a partner with a portable book


And the problem here is that your book of clients won't really be "portable" if you're talking about bringing them from a small firm to a big firm because most will not be able/willing to pay the much higher hourly rates for the same attorney they've always had.

Oban
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Oban » Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:47 pm

What about networking, i'd imagin lawyers who work hard enough can build connections to get out of the minor leagues.

nylaw23
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby nylaw23 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:21 pm

Either become an expert in an area of law or work your way up to a top job in the government so that you are either highly valued for your knowledge or experience.

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jcl2
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby jcl2 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:29 pm

The exception would be if you work for the government, especially the federal government, but even with state or local government I think you have a much better chance of lateraling to a biglaw firm a few years down the road than you would if you start with a small firm. I know it happens somewhat frequently in my state with assistant AGs anyway.

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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:59 pm

What if you work at a small firm 2L summer, and some how score a federal clerkship for the year after you graduate? Will any big firms hire clerks that did their 2L summer associateship at a small firm?

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rayiner
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby rayiner » Fri Oct 16, 2009 3:07 pm

Killself.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Fri Oct 16, 2009 7:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What if you work at a small firm 2L summer, and some how score a federal clerkship for the year after you graduate? Will any big firms hire clerks that did their 2L summer associateship at a small firm?


I don't think it matter what you did your 2L summer if you do a federal clerkship. However, if you couldn't get a summer associateship you probably won't get a clerkship (unless you are one of those really big exceptions that was top 5% at a t14, on law review, and still somehow got shut out this year -- assuming the reason wasn't that your personality sucks (unlikely)).

From small firm (i.e. shitlaw, not prestigious small firm) to biglaw, it is possible, it's just exceedingly rare. I mean if you go out there at some shitlaw firm and then somehow win against biglaw in a case there was no way in hell you should have won (just because you were that good), then it might be possible. I'd say your odds are probably better just hoping to win the lottery though..

I think the killself post is probably TCR here.

thompson
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby thompson » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:28 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:However, if you couldn't get a summer associateship you probably won't get a clerkship

This is the correct response.

If you think OCI this year was competitive, clerkship applications for the c/o 2011 are going to be off-the-wall.

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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:50 pm

thompson, what about if you did get a summer associateship, but at a small firm? Do they look at the prestige of the firm, or just want to make sure that you're doing something legal related?

thompson
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby thompson » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:thompson, what about if you did get a summer associateship, but at a small firm? Do they look at the prestige of the firm, or just want to make sure that you're doing something legal related?

Clarify please. Are you talking about a 2L summer at a small firm, and then somehow getting into BIGLAW through 3L OCI / after you graduate?

If that's what you meant, then I still just don't think there's a chance. The thing that a lot of students haven't realized is a) how bad it is out there, b) how many "top students" there actually are, and c) that law firm (partners) just don't care about what's "fair" or "unfair. If you don't get BIGLAW through 2L OCI, you're not getting it at all unless you satisfy one of my conditions from my last post (Chambers-rated practice at a midlaw firm, or partner with a book that can somehow move to biglaw rates).

There are SO many top students graduating, and so LITTLE demand currently for more bodies. Laid off as a first year associate? Sorry, you could have the skills to be the best lawyer in the world but the facts on the ground are indicating that the market is so "buyer-oriented" that they'll just gloss over those laid off. Didn't get biglaw through OCI? What's changed now? You summered with a midlaw firm -- even a prestigious one? Okay, why does that change the rubric for a hiring partner. You're not really going to learn anything over that summer, and firms are filling their projected need with their own summers.

I realize after typing all that, that your question may have been more along the lines of "assume I work midlaw 2L, and get a clerkship, and am applying for post-clerkship jobs". I'll repeat what another poster said which is that if you're not getting biglaw as a 2L, you're not getting a clerkship after 3L -- sorry, it's just going to be insanely competitive. If you did somehow pull it off, then I don't think they'll really care at all what you did 2L summer so long as it was a legal job. But again, you're assuming too much when you think someone who didn't get biglaw is going to get a clerkship.

(if you were talking about a 1L SA position, going into 2L OCI, then really all they want is you doing something legal related. In context though, I don't think that's what you were talking about.)

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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:21 am

Before ITE, I'd agree that it's virtually impossible to go from a non-prestigious small firm to biglaw. But we have to remember that in non-ITE times, the people who got shutout of biglaw got shutout because they didn't have the credentials for biglaw to begin with. I doubt there were any median people at CCN in those years during small law because they struck out at OCI and then wanted to lateral. But now we do, and I think this generation will be looked upon differently when the lateral markets opens up (hopefully) a few years down the line.

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nealric
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby nealric » Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:30 am

I think this generation will be looked upon differently when the lateral markets opens up (hopefully) a few years down the line.


Unfortunately, I think that's too rosy of an assessment. The problem is you won't necessarily have developed the types of skills biglaw firms are after working at a small firm. There will be no incentive to dig into the lateral market when truckloads of 2Ls are still rising every year.

What about networking, i'd imagin lawyers who work hard enough can build connections to get out of the minor leagues.


You likely won't meet the right people from a small firm. Unless it's a good boutique type of firm, you won't be dealing with biglaw lawyers or engaging in a biglaw-type practice. If for some reason you do meet a biglaw attorney at a cocktail party, they won't be impressed at your uncontested divorce skills.

IMO, if you end up at a small firm, work to build the best practice you can in the small firm world.

thompson
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby thompson » Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:50 am

nealric wrote:Unfortunately, I think that's too rosy of an assessment. The problem is you won't necessarily have developed the types of skills biglaw firms are after working at a small firm. There will be no incentive to dig into the lateral market when truckloads of 2Ls are still rising every year.

This is absolutely correct. The c/o 2011 is not going to be "viewed differently", partners aren't going to take pity on you because the economy happened to be bad. The demand for legal services is NOT GOING TO RETURN to the levels we saw at the peak for many, many, many years -- if ever. The fact of the matter is that those who were shut out of OCI, or who were laid off, are damaged goods -- and hiring partners aren't exactly having to scrape around for quality candidates to fill their few positions with.

I know this isn't what people want to hear, but it's true. At a smalllaw, or midlaw firm, you're not learning what a biglaw firm wants. And, you're too expensive for what you CAN do, when law firms can just go to schools, drop their GPA cutoff by .1 points and hire however many percent more associates they need.

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nealric
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby nealric » Sat Oct 17, 2009 12:13 pm

The demand for legal services is NOT GOING TO RETURN to the levels we saw at the peak for many, many, many years -- if ever.


I agreed with you up until this point. Nobody knows what the demand for legal services is going to be in the future. Yes, it will probably take several years to come back, but the "if ever" statement is a bit ridiculous save for the possibility of nuclear war or something. There were bubbles before and there will be bubbles again.

thompson
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby thompson » Sat Oct 17, 2009 12:25 pm

nealric wrote:
The demand for legal services is NOT GOING TO RETURN to the levels we saw at the peak for many, many, many years -- if ever.


I agreed with you up until this point. Nobody knows what the demand for legal services is going to be in the future. Yes, it will probably take several years to come back, but the "if ever" statement is a bit ridiculous save for the possibility of nuclear war or something. There were bubbles before and there will be bubbles again.

Fair enough. But I do think it's going to be many, many years before we see it again. Long enough to be "if ever" for the current classes of law students. By the time it does recover, there will be plenty more law students to take up the slack.

bradley
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby bradley » Sat Oct 17, 2009 1:19 pm

thompson wrote:
nealric wrote:Unfortunately, I think that's too rosy of an assessment. The problem is you won't necessarily have developed the types of skills biglaw firms are after working at a small firm. There will be no incentive to dig into the lateral market when truckloads of 2Ls are still rising every year.

This is absolutely correct. The c/o 2011 is not going to be "viewed differently", partners aren't going to take pity on you because the economy happened to be bad. The demand for legal services is NOT GOING TO RETURN to the levels we saw at the peak for many, many, many years -- if ever. The fact of the matter is that those who were shut out of OCI, or who were laid off, are damaged goods -- and hiring partners aren't exactly having to scrape around for quality candidates to fill their few positions with.

I know this isn't what people want to hear, but it's true. At a smalllaw, or midlaw firm, you're not learning what a biglaw firm wants. And, you're too expensive for what you CAN do, when law firms can just go to schools, drop their GPA cutoff by .1 points and hire however many percent more associates they need.


This is probably true, but makes absolutely no business sense. If the economy returns in 2 years and firms are hiring again, why wouldn't they want to take the T14, top 5% LR students who have worked at a small firm for two years? Since firms love hiring people with two years work experience prior to law school, why wouldn't they want to hire people with two years of legal-related work experience after law school? Doesn't make sense to me.

thompson
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby thompson » Sat Oct 17, 2009 1:44 pm

bradley wrote:This is probably true, but makes absolutely no business sense. If the economy returns in 2 years and firms are hiring again, why wouldn't they want to take the T14, top 5% LR students who have worked at a small firm for two years? Since firms love hiring people with two years work experience prior to law school, why wouldn't they want to hire people with two years of legal-related work experience after law school? Doesn't make sense to me.

My feeling is that it's a two-fold reason: (1) fresh associates are cheaper (think, $15-30k/year) and (2) the skills learned in smalllaw aren't necessarily the same as those needed in biglaw.

I'm not saying it would never happen, I just think that those who will go from small -> big will be the very rare exception, rather than the rule. More to the point though, there's a lot about the biglaw model that doesn't make business sense -- like planning your hiring decisions two years out.

Without rambling too much, also consider that at most biglaw firms (at least on the lit side, not sure about how it differs on the tx side) the work you do for the first few years could best be described as... well, minimally thought-provoking.

Anyways, I think that there will be some lucky people out there. But I think the vast majority of those who believe that all will be dandy in three years, and that everyone who graduated from law school in the meantime who would have made BIGLAW in years past will now certainly make it in the future are fooling themselves. One, the demand isn't going to be there. But more than that, firms are going to look at non-biglaw grads and laid-off jr. associates as damaged goods. Is this fair, or does it make sense? Nope. But there are just SO many qualified students / non-laid off associates out there that they can fill their ranks twice over with the undamaged goods and not even have to look at those who got a raw deal.

adamlippes
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby adamlippes » Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:02 pm

My feeling is that it's a two-fold reason: (1) fresh associates are cheaper (think, $15-30k/year)


Absolutely false. Fresh associates are money-losers for firms, and midlevels are money makers. There is no equation under which fresh associates are cheaper.

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nealric
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby nealric » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:56 pm


Absolutely false. Fresh associates are money-losers for firms, and midlevels are money makers. There is no equation under which fresh associates are cheaper.


There is such an equation, it just doesn't work out ITE:

2600 hrs billed x $350/hr = $910,000.

Using very conservative numbers:

Even assuming 1/4 of the associate's hours gets written off and billing rate is only $250, the associate is bringing in $487,500 in revenue. Count $75k in recruiting cost (summer program and other recruiting expenses) + $100k overhead and they make $152,500 off the associate's first year.

Granted, some firms (non-vault or lower down the vault rankings) couldn't make that math work. Some non-vault secondary market firms were probably only getting 1800 billable and collecting on fewer than 1500 even in a good economy. For those firms, 1st year associates were net losers before things tanked.

ITE, the math works out much differently. It won't be unheard of for an '09 associate to bill 1,600. Writeoffs are probably even higher because clients are more stingy, so they might only collect on 1,000 hours at $250/hr. The associate then only brings in $250,000. Counting in Summer program costs and overhead, the associate is a money loser. With the same assumptions as above, the firm loses $85k in the associate's first year. In reality, it's probably even worse than that because those hours could have been taken by someone else.

Generally midlevels are more profitable because of higher billing rates and fewer written off hours. However, someone without biglaw experience is probably still going to have a lot of written-off hours even if they have a few years of other experience. The firm probably can't get away with billing that person out at a midlevel rate (especially if they are paying them as a 1st year).

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Matthies
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Matthies » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:39 pm

nealric wrote:
I think this generation will be looked upon differently when the lateral markets opens up (hopefully) a few years down the line.


Unfortunately, I think that's too rosy of an assessment. The problem is you won't necessarily have developed the types of skills biglaw firms are after working at a small firm. There will be no incentive to dig into the lateral market when truckloads of 2Ls are still rising every year.

What about networking, i'd imagin lawyers who work hard enough can build connections to get out of the minor leagues.


You likely won't meet the right people from a small firm. Unless it's a good boutique type of firm, you won't be dealing with biglaw lawyers or engaging in a biglaw-type practice. If for some reason you do meet a biglaw attorney at a cocktail party, they won't be impressed at your uncontested divorce skills.



I don’t agree with this, I know several biglaw partners, including named partners, I met through my dealings with the bar association and inns of court, a few well enough to be on a first name basis and have their home phone numbers in cell. If you’re a rainmaker at a firm you tend to be active in the community and legal community because you need to keep your name out there and your representing the firm. Likewise large firms encourage their associates to get involved in the bar association because it always looks good to be able to say last four bar association presidents have come from X firm. I’d say in my Inn of 100 or so people at least 25 are from the largest firms in the city.

You can get brought in from a smaller firm by a partner at a larger firm, but as nelric says you need to be good at something the firm needs, and that usually means speclizing in something other than family law or personal injury.

I will say this, I was surprised at how many lawyers I met who left biglaw to start their own firms mid career. That did not seem to make sense to me at first. I later learned why, there tends to be two types of lawyers out there, those create rain (business) and those that rely on others in the firm to create the business. Those that create rain learn that by mid career if they are bringing in a good book of business they can leave the firm, start their own firm and make more money because they are not splitting PPP 125 ways (note NYC biglaw yyea, but Denver big law, no). Those that can’t make rain don’t have much choice, and it’s a catch 22 because you’re not that valuable to firm that way either.

Its still an entrupunural business, you can only do busy work for so long before you have to take part in brining business in our you’re out. Of the partners I know at big firms only about 25% of their day is legal work, the other 75% is supervising junior attorneys, creating business (by creating business I don’t necessarily mean finding new clients, a big part of that is finding reasons to convince your current clients to do some legal work) and keeping clients happy.

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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:52 pm

2600 hrs billed x $350/hr = $910,000


2600 billed was insane even at the height of the boom. 1800-2200 billable is the realistic range.

Associates also cost substantially more than their listed salary. You have their share of the overhead snd the amortized recruiting costs, but you also have their benefits, which tend to be pretty spectacular. Health insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) match, meals, business travel, etc.

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nealric
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby nealric » Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:25 pm

I don’t agree with this, I know several biglaw partners, including named partners, I met through my dealings with the bar association and inns of court, a few well enough to be on a first name basis and have their home phone numbers in cell. If you’re a rainmaker at a firm you tend to be active in the community and legal community because you need to keep your name out there and your representing the firm. Likewise large firms encourage their associates to get involved in the bar association because it always looks good to be able to say last four bar association presidents have come from X firm. I’d say in my Inn of 100 or so people at least 25 are from the largest firms in the city.


Perhaps I over-generalized. I think it depends quite a bit on market and practice area. From what I have observed, the smaller the market, the farther networking will go for you (speaking strictly from the standpoint of someone trying to get in as a junior associate).

While I think you are totally right about someone in a niche practice area in Colorado (such as yourself), temporary document reviewers in NYC are not going to be interacting in any meaningful way with Marty Lipton no matter what professional association they join. If you are doing no-fault PI or uncontested divorce, it won't help knowing people who do securities work. I'm afraid a lot of people who strike out from getting biglaw won't end up in practice areas that are desirable to biglaw.

100% agreement about the rainmaker comment.

2600 billed was insane even at the height of the boom. 1800-2200 billable is the realistic range.

Associates also cost substantially more than their listed salary. You have their share of the overhead snd the amortized recruiting costs, but you also have their benefits, which tend to be pretty spectacular. Health insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) match, meals, business travel, etc.



2600 was not at all uncommon at V20 firms in NYC. 2200 was considered bare minimum. 2600 is actually fairly low at Wachtell or Cravath.

Notice that I accounted for $175k of overhead in my calculations in addition to salary.

ziggysmarley
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Re: One shot at Biglaw?

Postby ziggysmarley » Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Associates also cost substantially more than their listed salary. You have their share of the overhead snd the amortized recruiting costs, but you also have their benefits, which tend to be pretty spectacular. Health insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) match, meals, business travel, etc.


Meals and business travel are usually billed to the client.




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