"Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

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FSK
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby FSK » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:04 pm

Do 6/7th years still get forced out, or do they want to exit for other reasons?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby DELG » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:05 pm

seespotrun wrote:
txdude45 wrote:Are we playing guess the firm, or picking this person's brain for information about boutique life?

I thought we were asking passive-aggressive, rhetorical questions.

Which character flaws, exactly, lead to you being unable to hack it in an elite environment?

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:11 pm

Great thread, OP. Incidentally, I just had a friend who was working at an "elite" litigation boutique leave law altogether, so that's definitely something that happens! He had a really cool startup opportunity, so I can't blame him.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:13 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Were you not allowed to take time off or did you personally think it wasn't a good time. Even slaves got sunday off.


I could have taken time off and just didn't think it was a good idea. Part of it was my own lack of comfort, even after I knew I was getting out, with telling people that I needed a breather or pushing back on client deadlines. In my defense, it is difficult when there is actually nobody else that can step in and do things for you because there is nobody else working on the matter. (The partners are spread extremely thin and have almost zero substantive knowledge of matters until a few days before things are due.)

In retrospect, I would have certainly been better off (happier and more efficient to boot) if I had taken a day off from time to time.

I really just didn't manage my work-flow all that well - I kept jumping from fire-drill to fire-drill, and thought that I had to keep working every day just to keep my head above water. The extensive travel also did not help.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby minnbills » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:17 pm

What kind of work were you doing? Do you have an idea of what partners were making?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:17 pm

flawschoolkid wrote:Do 6/7th years still get forced out, or do they want to exit for other reasons?



I never heard even rumors about anyone getting forced out. The associates were all, in my view at least, fantastic lawyers, and the firm probably would be content to continue working them into the ground forever.

They mostly wanted to leave because they didn't see a long term future for themselves at the firm, or wanted to go into something slower paced. Many of them wanted to go into government.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:18 pm

minnbills wrote:What kind of work were you doing? Do you have an idea of what partners were making?



I ended up splitting my time fairly evenly between white collar and vanilla commercial lit. No idea what partners were making.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby DELG » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:21 pm

flawschoolkid wrote:Do 6/7th years still get forced out, or do they want to exit for other reasons?

Is this even a real thing anywhere

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:41 pm

BTW, I'm not going to respond to PMs or questions about which firm (or even which market). I recognize this diminishes my usefulness to a certain extent, but given the relatively small number of associates at my firm, my profile would make me pretty outable. In fact, I will likely already be recognizable to any associates at my firm and my law school classmates.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:09 pm

nickelanddime wrote:BTW, I'm not going to respond to PMs or questions about which firm (or even which market). I recognize this diminishes my usefulness to a certain extent, but given the relatively small number of associates at my firm, my profile would make me pretty outable. In fact, I will likely already be recognizable to any associates at my firm and my law school classmates.


You don't need to justify it. People who are thinking OUT THE FIRM! will learn all firms are like this.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby Dignan » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:20 pm

nickelanddime wrote:
sideroxylon wrote:any interest in moving to a different type of boutique? Or do you think there's too much burn-and-churn in all of them?


Yes, definitely, although I don't quite know what I'm going to do yet.

I'm curious: what do you expect would be better at a different litigation boutique? Your experience sounds similar to those of others I've talked to who have worked at "elite" litigation boutiques. I suppose you could get better pay at a different boutique but, based on the few associates I know who work at boutiques that pay above market, their hours sound even worse than what you experienced. (And it sounds like you were most bothered by the demands on your time.) Would you be hoping for a better mix of personalities?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby DELG » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:31 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:BTW, I'm not going to respond to PMs or questions about which firm (or even which market). I recognize this diminishes my usefulness to a certain extent, but given the relatively small number of associates at my firm, my profile would make me pretty outable. In fact, I will likely already be recognizable to any associates at my firm and my law school classmates.


You don't need to justify it. People who are thinking OUT THE FIRM! will learn all firms are like this.

I will have you know I just finished an SA at a firm that was NOTHING like what is being described ITT. Accepted my offer on the spot. Cannot wait to rejoin those chill and sociable bros on their work moderately/play moderately grind.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:31 pm

Dignan wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:
sideroxylon wrote:any interest in moving to a different type of boutique? Or do you think there's too much burn-and-churn in all of them?


Yes, definitely, although I don't quite know what I'm going to do yet.

I'm curious: what do you expect would be better at a different litigation boutique? Your experience sounds similar to those of others I've talked to who have worked at "elite" litigation boutiques. I suppose you could get better pay at a different boutique but, based on the few associates I know who work at boutiques that pay above market, their hours sound even worse than what you experienced. (And it sounds like you were most bothered by the demands on your time.) Would you be hoping for a better mix of personalities?



I agree that things would not necessarily be better at another boutique or big firm (although I think we had a few particularly toxic partners that may not exist at other places).

The problems with the public sector job search that exist in law school still exist while clerking. I have debt, and I'm just not sure I can stomach being unemployed into next summer and after my clerkship ends. (And I'll probably only have savings to last for a month or two post-clerkship.) I might have to just go back to a firm and be blindly optimistic that things will be better. I don't really see that many other options for someone in my financial situation.

And to slightly clarify: it's not just that I was bothered by the hours and personalities. I just didn't see any payoff to working long hours for unpleasant people in terms of partnership chances or exit options (in other words - my firm was no better than biglaw in those respects).
Last edited by nickelanddime on Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:33 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:BTW, I'm not going to respond to PMs or questions about which firm (or even which market). I recognize this diminishes my usefulness to a certain extent, but given the relatively small number of associates at my firm, my profile would make me pretty outable. In fact, I will likely already be recognizable to any associates at my firm and my law school classmates.


You don't need to justify it. People who are thinking OUT THE FIRM! will learn all firms are like this.


There are probably some firms that are worse than others, but yes, all firms will be at least moderately unpleasant for associates.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:36 pm

nickelanddime wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:BTW, I'm not going to respond to PMs or questions about which firm (or even which market). I recognize this diminishes my usefulness to a certain extent, but given the relatively small number of associates at my firm, my profile would make me pretty outable. In fact, I will likely already be recognizable to any associates at my firm and my law school classmates.


You don't need to justify it. People who are thinking OUT THE FIRM! will learn all firms are like this.


There are probably some firms that are worse than others, but yes, all firms will be at least moderately unpleasant for associates.


There are definitely places that are worse than others. And there are even trends (V20 worse than below, NYC worse than real America). But what you describe can become your life at any big firm. The wrong partner claims you as his bitch? Ur fucked.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby KidStuddi » Mon Aug 18, 2014 11:13 pm

nickelanddime wrote:The problems with the public sector job search that exist in law school still exist while clerking. I have debt, and I'm just not sure I can stomach being unemployed into next summer and after my clerkship ends. (And I'll probably only have savings to last for a month or two post-clerkship.) I might have to just go back to a firm and be blindly optimistic that things will be better. I don't really see that many other options for someone in my financial situation.

And to slightly clarify: it's not just that I was bothered by the hours and personalities. I just didn't see any payoff to working long hours for unpleasant people in terms of partnership chances or exit options (in other words - my firm was no better than biglaw in those respects).


You seem like you're (understandably) motivated in large part by money, so why COA clerk at all (as opposed to just a lateral move or waiting out the public sector job search while collecting paychecks)? Just trying to understand whether it was just something you were interested in doing or whether you perceived some economic advantage in it.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Tue Aug 19, 2014 10:57 am

KidStuddi wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:The problems with the public sector job search that exist in law school still exist while clerking. I have debt, and I'm just not sure I can stomach being unemployed into next summer and after my clerkship ends. (And I'll probably only have savings to last for a month or two post-clerkship.) I might have to just go back to a firm and be blindly optimistic that things will be better. I don't really see that many other options for someone in my financial situation.

And to slightly clarify: it's not just that I was bothered by the hours and personalities. I just didn't see any payoff to working long hours for unpleasant people in terms of partnership chances or exit options (in other words - my firm was no better than biglaw in those respects).


You seem like you're (understandably) motivated in large part by money, so why COA clerk at all (as opposed to just a lateral move or waiting out the public sector job search while collecting paychecks)? Just trying to understand whether it was just something you were interested in doing or whether you perceived some economic advantage in it.


I don't know that there's any economic advantage in COA. It was just a quick way to get out, that also gave me the ability to leave on a good note and without burning any bridges. Everyone understands why someone like me would leave within a year to clerk, but leaving so quickly to another firm or job would have ruffled some feathers.

I also didn't feel like I had the time and energy to devote to a serious job search. I was afraid that if I lateraled to another firm, I would end up in a situation that was just as bad. Finally, I didn't think that staying would necessarily lead to the exit options I wanted, and I didn't think I had it in me to bill 3000 hours a year with no end in sight.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby run26.2 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 11:32 am

Thanks for creating this thread. I haven't seen another like it.

Do you think your experience would give you a leg up, relative to biglaw associates, in going out on your own? Seems like it would, both in terms of substantive experience and degree of client contact.

Did you ever see anyone do that, or move to another firm and take clients with them?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:30 pm

run26.2 wrote:Thanks for creating this thread. I haven't seen another like it.

Do you think your experience would give you a leg up, relative to biglaw associates, in going out on your own? Seems like it would, both in terms of substantive experience and degree of client contact.

Did you ever see anyone do that, or move to another firm and take clients with them?


I didn't see anyone do that - but I know that it's happened in the past. Always at the partner level though.

After 1 year, no. If I had stayed 3 -5 years, I would probably have the substantive experience to hang my own shingle but probably not the ability to generate the same type of clients that I worked with last year. our clients chose us over firms like cravath and covington - there's no way they would hire a no-name like me, even if they knew how relatively uninvolved our partners were. I'm guessing the people making the decisions on the client side took comfort in the fact that they were hiring one of the "best" firms, and I can't imagine they'd give that up even for significant cost savings.

I know I've painted a fairly negative picture overall, but I also wanted to more generally describe the positive aspects of working at my firm, or some place like it: the substantive experience is really fantastic.

No micromanagement, the partners trusted me completely to handle just about everything, I had speaking roles at settlement conferences and presentations to USAOs, etc. More often than not, I told the partners what I thought our best strategy was, and then just went out and did whatever I needed to effectuate it. I think I mentioned this above, but I was almost never bored with what I was doing, which is stark contrast to my biglaw friends at my level. None of the associates at my firm knew how to run a document review, because thats just not something we did on a large scale - whenever it came up, we had to call our biglaw friends to figure out wtf to do.

Last but not least, all of the associates that I worked with were fantastic in a way that I don't think happens in biglaw. There were no midlevel or senior associates stepping on my neck in an attempt to make partner - because of the way in which most matters were staffed, we were never in competition with each other or put in a position to try to manage one another, and I think that makes a huge difference.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby KidStuddi » Tue Aug 19, 2014 10:54 pm

nickelanddime wrote:I don't know that there's any economic advantage in COA. It was just a quick way to get out, that also gave me the ability to leave on a good note and without burning any bridges. Everyone understands why someone like me would leave within a year to clerk, but leaving so quickly to another firm or job would have ruffled some feathers.

I also didn't feel like I had the time and energy to devote to a serious job search. I was afraid that if I lateraled to another firm, I would end up in a situation that was just as bad. Finally, I didn't think that staying would necessarily lead to the exit options I wanted, and I didn't think I had it in me to bill 3000 hours a year with no end in sight.


Makes sense. I mostly just wanted to say how 180 your swagger is to consider landing COA clerkship an insignificant expenditure of time or energy. Good luck on the transition.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:50 am

KidStuddi wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:I don't know that there's any economic advantage in COA. It was just a quick way to get out, that also gave me the ability to leave on a good note and without burning any bridges. Everyone understands why someone like me would leave within a year to clerk, but leaving so quickly to another firm or job would have ruffled some feathers.

I also didn't feel like I had the time and energy to devote to a serious job search. I was afraid that if I lateraled to another firm, I would end up in a situation that was just as bad. Finally, I didn't think that staying would necessarily lead to the exit options I wanted, and I didn't think I had it in me to bill 3000 hours a year with no end in sight.


Makes sense. I mostly just wanted to say how 180 your swagger is to consider landing COA clerkship an insignificant expenditure of time or energy. Good luck on the transition.



One of my professors really went to bat for me - I emailed her and told her I was thinking of trying to get out and she called a judge who had an unexpected opening (and who had reached out to her to fill the spot). I had the clerkship within a week of reaching out to my professor. I'm sure it would be have been much more difficult if I had applied through the normal process.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby rpupkin » Wed Aug 20, 2014 2:02 pm

nickelanddime wrote:And to slightly clarify: it's not just that I was bothered by the hours and personalities. I just didn't see any payoff to working long hours for unpleasant people in terms of partnership chances or exit options (in other words - my firm was no better than biglaw in those respects).

I understand that your firm's partnership promotion model changed and that it is now more difficult to make partner than it once was, but is it really the case that the partnership prospects are "no better than biglaw"? Based on my own experience in a big law environment, and based on what I know from friends at other big law firms, partnership prospects are abysmal. In an entering class of, say, 30 associates, perhaps one or two will make partner. It seems like more and more big law firms are adding partners through lateral hires; internal promotion is becoming increasingly rare.

Based on what I've heard about the practices of most "elite litigation boutiques," you're certainly not guaranteed to become a partner if you stick around for six or seven years, and most hired associates are not going to become a partner for one reason or another. But unless your boutique did something really extreme (like stop all internal partnership promotion), I find it hard to believe that partnership prospects are no better than big law. With a 1:1 associate-to-partnership ratio, it seems like one's odds have to be at least somewhat better.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:14 pm

rpupkin wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:And to slightly clarify: it's not just that I was bothered by the hours and personalities. I just didn't see any payoff to working long hours for unpleasant people in terms of partnership chances or exit options (in other words - my firm was no better than biglaw in those respects).

I understand that your firm's partnership promotion model changed and that it is now more difficult to make partner than it once was, but is it really the case that the partnership prospects are "no better than biglaw"? Based on my own experience in a big law environment, and based on what I know from friends at other big law firms, partnership prospects are abysmal. In an entering class of, say, 30 associates, perhaps one or two will make partner. It seems like more and more big law firms are adding partners through lateral hires; internal promotion is becoming increasingly rare.

Based on what I've heard about the practices of most "elite litigation boutiques," you're certainly not guaranteed to become a partner if you stick around for six or seven years, and most hired associates are not going to become a partner for one reason or another. But unless your boutique did something really extreme (like stop all internal partnership promotion), I find it hard to believe that partnership prospects are no better than big law. With a 1:1 associate-to-partnership ratio, it seems like one's odds have to be at least somewhat better.


It is becoming increasingly hard to make someone a true partner (profit sharing partner) without them having a mobile book of business to justify it. Rainmakers don't want to share their profit with a bunch of glorified associates. Remember, botiques have to compete with DLA Piper who will let that rainmaker eat what he kills.

It may be that associates at botiques get experience that will help them in client development and therefore their chances are better. But I see no reason for a flat structure to inherently produce more partners from their associate ranks.

But I'm spitballing here.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby rpupkin » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:25 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:And to slightly clarify: it's not just that I was bothered by the hours and personalities. I just didn't see any payoff to working long hours for unpleasant people in terms of partnership chances or exit options (in other words - my firm was no better than biglaw in those respects).

I understand that your firm's partnership promotion model changed and that it is now more difficult to make partner than it once was, but is it really the case that the partnership prospects are "no better than biglaw"? Based on my own experience in a big law environment, and based on what I know from friends at other big law firms, partnership prospects are abysmal. In an entering class of, say, 30 associates, perhaps one or two will make partner. It seems like more and more big law firms are adding partners through lateral hires; internal promotion is becoming increasingly rare.

Based on what I've heard about the practices of most "elite litigation boutiques," you're certainly not guaranteed to become a partner if you stick around for six or seven years, and most hired associates are not going to become a partner for one reason or another. But unless your boutique did something really extreme (like stop all internal partnership promotion), I find it hard to believe that partnership prospects are no better than big law. With a 1:1 associate-to-partnership ratio, it seems like one's odds have to be at least somewhat better.


It is becoming increasingly hard to make someone a true partner (profit sharing partner) without them having a mobile book of business to justify it. Rainmakers don't want to share their profit with a bunch of glorified associates. Remember, botiques have to compete with DLA Piper who will let that rainmaker eat what he kills.

It may be that associates at botiques get experience that will help them in client development and therefore their chances are better. But I see no reason for a flat structure to inherently produce more partners from their associate ranks.

Agreed. I wouldn't think that a boutique would produce more partners, overall, from their associate ranks. But it's a percentages thing. When you have really small entering classes (often just two or three associates) and a 1:1 ratio, it seems like a starting associate would have a somewhat better chance than a counterpart at a big law firm office with a large entering class and a 5:1 ratio.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:18 pm

But boutiques are also smaller - would they feel the need to add as many partners along the way?




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