"Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

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nickelanddime
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Wed Aug 20, 2014 5:46 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.


I can only share experience with my firm, as I don't have that much knowledge of other similar firms' business models. It may be the case that partnership odds at Susman (to pick one other similar firm) are better than biglaw, but at my firm, the partners were pretty clear that associates should not consider partnership a realistic option anymore. I don't think they stopped all internal promotion, but I think something like 5 people have made partner since 2008. The firm has become a stable set of partners with a rotating set of associates, most of whom stay 5 years or less.

I think the partnership odds were much better in the early- mid aughts, when the firm was still expanding. It has been in a holding pattern for the past decade or so in terms of size, and partnership chances have accordingly shrunk.

nickelanddime
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:09 pm

Bump. Taking additional questions and job search advice.

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cookiejar1
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby cookiejar1 » Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:36 pm

What are your personal thoughts re: Irell and do you think this new Hueston Hennigan firm is going to be bad ass?

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nothingtosee
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nothingtosee » Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:42 pm

You said exit options weren't any better than BigLaw.

Was that across the board true, or were there any options (eg. USAO) that seemed better/worse coming from your boutique.

Also, do you think you actually learn "how to lawyer" better at a boutique than a big firm?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:09 pm

Thanks for making this thread.

I'm wondering why you were traveling so much. I don't know any big law associates where that has been a problem, especially not 1st/2nd years.

nickelanddime
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:10 pm

cookiejar1 wrote:What are your personal thoughts re: Irell and do you think this new Hueston Hennigan firm is going to be bad ass?


I have no insider knowledge, but it doesn't look great. I know that the WCC partners at my firm had a lot of respect for Hueston and Camp. I wouldn't be surprised if Irell does in fact become a lot more specialized after their departure.

I think Hueston Hennigan will be a very good firm while Hueston is there. WCC is a practice that is especially dependent on big names, and I just don't know enough about the other attorneys there to know if the firm will survive past his retirement. If you are an associate that wants 4-5 years of good experience before taking your shot at a USAO, I think it's probably a good place to go - and probably very similar to Bird Marella or Caldwell Leslie Proctor in LA.

ETA: I also bet that Irell will not be a very pleasant place to work in the short-term. Losing that many lawyers at once will probably create a certain level of chaos that is tough to manage.
Last edited by nickelanddime on Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

nickelanddime
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:19 pm

nothingtosee wrote:You said exit options weren't any better than BigLaw.

Was that across the board true, or were there any options (eg. USAO) that seemed better/worse coming from your boutique.

Also, do you think you actually learn "how to lawyer" better at a boutique than a big firm?



Yes, I do think that you learn more skills more quickly at a boutique than biglaw. When you are the only associate on a matter, you necessarily have more independence and responsibility in moving things forward. But obviously there's a cost in terms of stress and hours.

Exit options: I think exit options from good boutiques and good biglaw firms will be very similar across the board. My impression is that pre-law-firm credentials (school + clerkships) and connections are the most important thing for early-to-mid-level associates. To the extent that you *may* be able to stand up in court a year or two earlier at a boutique, that will help. But I don't think that will be expected of any 4th or 5th year, for example.
Last edited by nickelanddime on Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:22 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Thanks for making this thread.

I'm wondering why you were traveling so much. I don't know any big law associates where that has been a problem, especially not 1st/2nd years.


Maybe because we only had 1 office. Most of the associates were traveling a ton.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:45 pm

nickelanddime wrote:
bizzybone1313 wrote:Would you go to law school again knowing what you know now??


Yes, because I very much like being a lawyer.


I hope you kids caught this when you were taking notes on this thread. The only reason to ever consider law school is because you want to become a lawyer.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby daleearnhardt123 » Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:01 pm

What are your thoughts on qualifications for an "elite lit boutique." Most of us assume that SCOTUS clerks can, more or less, walk right into one. But how far removed from that height may one fall and still be competitive?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:14 pm

daleearnhardt123 wrote:What are your thoughts on qualifications for an "elite lit boutique." Most of us assume that SCOTUS clerks can, more or less, walk right into one. But how far removed from that height may one fall and still be competitive?


You're probably better off looking at bios for the firms that interest you rather than relying on me. At my firm, honors at HYSCCN + COA or our district court clerkship would get you a serious look. We also loved people that did biglaw for a year and then clerked and came to us as 3rd years for two reasons: we perceived them as (1) actively rejecting biglaw (and therefore being more interested in what we had to offer) and (2) knowing how to function in a law firm environment.

Personality is huge. The most common reasons that we dinged people were arrogance and lack of assertiveness. (Even though I'm not sure the latter can really be accurately gauged through an interview)

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby 15 styx » Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:47 pm

I’ve only been a JA for a few months (since the bar) but already I can relate to much of what you noted….mainly the insane workload. Partners don’t tell me to disregard work from other partners, they just dump it on me. When I’ve casually mentioned my workload to the partners I mostly work with they just say, that’s’ a lot. Then they just move on…. no one is throwing me a pity party (perhaps you can relate).

Overall, Partners are nurturing and nearly without exception pleasant to work with. Not sure of how one classifies my firm (perhaps elite boutique or on the cusp) close to 100 attorneys and we primarily deal with litigation. Pay is around 10k below market (large top ten metro). If I receive a $15k bonus in ’15 I’d be happily surprised. First year (in my case, three months) it was one week’s pay.

If I were doing all of this for $60k and/or had a huge tuition nut, I’d slit.

What you noted earlier, I had almost no supervision and was calling most of the shots on my matters. At what stage did calling your shots occur?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby fats provolone » Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:25 pm

nickelanddime wrote:
flawschoolkid wrote:Why no biglaw, either then or now?

Frankly, i originally bought into the law school notion that selectivity/ prestige in employers would lead to job satisfaction. I also worked in investment banking/consulting prior to law school, and did not like the hierarchical nature of my company - and thought biglaw would be more of the same.

Following my clerkship, I may try to go to biglaw. However, even though my job was difficult in many respects, I'm not sure that biglaw is any better for my personality.

I'm not sure I'm cut out for private practice at all. I don't think I can consistently work those hours, and especially while being "on call," and retain my mental and physical health. Plus, I kind of want to do something useful for the world, and I'm not sure biglaw will get me there.

i would strongly discourage you from biglaw

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:35 pm

fats provolone wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:
flawschoolkid wrote:Why no biglaw, either then or now?

Frankly, i originally bought into the law school notion that selectivity/ prestige in employers would lead to job satisfaction. I also worked in investment banking/consulting prior to law school, and did not like the hierarchical nature of my company - and thought biglaw would be more of the same.

Following my clerkship, I may try to go to biglaw. However, even though my job was difficult in many respects, I'm not sure that biglaw is any better for my personality.

I'm not sure I'm cut out for private practice at all. I don't think I can consistently work those hours, and especially while being "on call," and retain my mental and physical health. Plus, I kind of want to do something useful for the world, and I'm not sure biglaw will get me there.

i would strongly discourage you from biglaw


Do you think any of the negative aspects of my previous employer would be any better in biglaw? It's possible, of course, that things would only get worse.

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fats provolone
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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby fats provolone » Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:56 pm

the infrastructure is better. and there are more people on your teams so it's a little easier to balance your workload / delegate. but the weird partner power dynamics are still there, as is the "never a good time" for time off, being on call 24/7, etc.

but in particular i was referring to the "do something useful/important" part

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:21 pm

Just wanted to provide an update on my job search - I've interviewed with a few big firms so far (I applied to other small firms and haven't heard anything). It's really been a mixed bag. Some people are very impressed with the firm and the experience that I got, whereas others are skeptical about my ability to fit in as a biglaw mid-level. Part of it is that I've clerked for 2 years. Part of it is that they recognize I made a very conscious choice not to do biglaw and don't really buy my explanations for why I'm now interested in it. I'm not sure I've been convincing enough in my response to this line of questions.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:13 am

No offense, but I wouldn't believe someone like you would be a good fit for biglaw. You seem smart enough and capable enough to want to do something meaningful with your career. In other words, you're exactly the type of person who would start working in biglaw and immediately want to leave. The kind of work you would be doing, even as a midlevel, is likely to be a lot more mind-numbing than what you would get in a good boutique (from what I've heard). Also, I think you would hate having to work with a bunch of juniors and forcing them to do doc review. Not only are they incredibly dull (and understandably so, given what they have to do all the time), but a lot of them are looking to jump ship and you might be forced to redo a lot of stuff for them.

I suppose the grass is always greener, because I would have given anything to switch to a boutique firm before I found my most recent job (fed gov).

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sun Feb 15, 2015 10:36 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:No offense, but I wouldn't believe someone like you would be a good fit for biglaw. You seem smart enough and capable enough to want to do something meaningful with your career. In other words, you're exactly the type of person who would start working in biglaw and immediately want to leave. The kind of work you would be doing, even as a midlevel, is likely to be a lot more mind-numbing than what you would get in a good boutique (from what I've heard). Also, I think you would hate having to work with a bunch of juniors and forcing them to do doc review. Not only are they incredibly dull (and understandably so, given what they have to do all the time), but a lot of them are looking to jump ship and you might be forced to redo a lot of stuff for them.

I suppose the grass is always greener, because I would have given anything to switch to a boutique firm before I found my most recent job (fed gov).



Fair points. I think I've decided that I'd rather go back to another boutique; I'm just not sure I can get hired by one. Congratulations on the new job.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby RSN » Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:02 am

Thanks for doing this thread, some really interesting insights here. Curious -- you said back in August you would have taken a full ride at CCN if you could do it again. What would you have done differently/aimed for in your first few years if you had no debt?

Also, how's your COA clerkship going?

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:16 pm

LetsGoMets wrote:Thanks for doing this thread, some really interesting insights here. Curious -- you said back in August you would have taken a full ride at CCN if you could do it again. What would you have done differently/aimed for in your first few years if you had no debt?

Also, how's your COA clerkship going?


The COA clerkship is excellent. I work a lot - I'm usually at work until 8 M-F and probably work the equivalent of one day most weekends. But I'm treated very well by my judge and the work is interesting.
Although I'll hopefully appreciate the additional credential at some stage in my career, I'm not actually sure the 2nd clerkship adds nearly as much value as the first. I think the most important things that you learn in any clerkship is how to write for your audience. In that regard, the experience of a COA clerkship is not so different than DCt.

The CCN full ride question is an interesting one. First, I'm not entirely sure I would have been able to get any of the three jobs I've had so far because I am probably a marginal HYS candidate. Assuming I would have been able to get these jobs, I would have done exactly the same thing up to this point. But the debt is impacting my search for my next job in a very real way: I want to go to the government, and I hope that I have the experience and credentials to do so coming off this clerkship. I've applied to a few federal/state government and public interest positions, but am not optimistic about those processes wrapping up in a timely manner. I suspect that I might get a law firm offer in March or April (if I can manage to tell more convincing lies about why I'd be a good biglaw midlevel) while I still have government applications pending. At that point, I'm not sure I'll be able to pass up the security of a guaranteed job to continue on in the process for my preferred jobs. If I didn't have debt, I'd probably be a lot more willing to roll the dice.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby bruinfan10 » Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:29 pm

nickelanddime wrote:
cookiejar1 wrote:What are your personal thoughts re: Irell and do you think this new Hueston Hennigan firm is going to be bad ass?

I think Hueston Hennigan will be a very good firm while Hueston is there. WCC is a practice that is especially dependent on big names, and I just don't know enough about the other attorneys there to know if the firm will survive past his retirement. If you are an associate that wants 4-5 years of good experience before taking your shot at a USAO, I think it's probably a good place to go - and probably very similar to Bird Marella or Caldwell Leslie Proctor in LA.

Are those the other two boutiques that split off from Irell in the 80s? I wonder if they had a name partner as big back then as Hueston is now, or clients the equivalent of GlaxoSmithKline, et al. My impression from reading the Recorder and Law360 is that the only other splits/new form formations of this magnitude were Keker, Boies, Quinn, etc. But maybe that was just hype.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby rpupkin » Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:44 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:
cookiejar1 wrote:What are your personal thoughts re: Irell and do you think this new Hueston Hennigan firm is going to be bad ass?

I think Hueston Hennigan will be a very good firm while Hueston is there. WCC is a practice that is especially dependent on big names, and I just don't know enough about the other attorneys there to know if the firm will survive past his retirement. If you are an associate that wants 4-5 years of good experience before taking your shot at a USAO, I think it's probably a good place to go - and probably very similar to Bird Marella or Caldwell Leslie Proctor in LA.

Are those the other two boutiques that split off from Irell in the 80s? I wonder if they had a name partner as big back then as Hueston is now, or clients the equivalent of GlaxoSmithKline, et al. My impression from reading the Recorder and Law360 is that the only other splits/new form formations of this magnitude were Keker, Boies, Quinn, etc. But maybe that was just hype.

I read it as mostly hype. Remember that Keker and Quinn weren't big names when they started their firms. It took 10-20 years before their firms reached first-tier status. And Hueston is a big name but he's not David Boies. I think nickelandime is right: Bird Marella and Caldwell Leslie Proctor are the best comparison points.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby bruinfan10 » Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:04 pm

rpupkin wrote:
bruinfan10 wrote:
nickelanddime wrote:
cookiejar1 wrote:What are your personal thoughts re: Irell and do you think this new Hueston Hennigan firm is going to be bad ass?

I think Hueston Hennigan will be a very good firm while Hueston is there. WCC is a practice that is especially dependent on big names, and I just don't know enough about the other attorneys there to know if the firm will survive past his retirement. If you are an associate that wants 4-5 years of good experience before taking your shot at a USAO, I think it's probably a good place to go - and probably very similar to Bird Marella or Caldwell Leslie Proctor in LA.

Are those the other two boutiques that split off from Irell in the 80s? I wonder if they had a name partner as big back then as Hueston is now, or clients the equivalent of GlaxoSmithKline, et al. My impression from reading the Recorder and Law360 is that the only other splits/new form formations of this magnitude were Keker, Boies, Quinn, etc. But maybe that was just hype.

I read it as mostly hype. Remember that Keker and Quinn weren't big names when they started their firms. It took 10-20 years before their firms reached first-tier status. And Hueston is a big name but he's not David Boies. I think nickelandime is right: Bird Marella and Caldwell Leslie Proctor are the best comparison points.

I get the opposite impression. Hueston was reputedly the #1 pick for US Attorney in C.D. Cal, he was a lead Enron prosecutor (right alongside our almost-Attorney General Kathy Ruemmler), and his clients are insanely high powered. I'm sure the older Irell spin-offs are fine shops (if those are the firms nickel pointed out--I had never heard of them by name), but I have trouble believing their formation came with this big a splash.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby rpupkin » Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:36 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:I read it as mostly hype. Remember that Keker and Quinn weren't big names when they started their firms. It took 10-20 years before their firms reached first-tier status. And Hueston is a big name but he's not David Boies. I think nickelandime is right: Bird Marella and Caldwell Leslie Proctor are the best comparison points.

I get the opposite impression. Hueston was reputedly the #1 pick for US Attorney in C.D. Cal, he was a lead Enron prosecutor (right alongside our almost-Attorney General Kathy Ruemmler), and his clients are insanely high powered. I'm sure the older Irell spin-offs are fine shops (if those are the firms nickel pointed out--I had never heard of them by name), but I have trouble believing their formation came with this big a splash.

Hueston is a huge WCC name, no doubt. But remember that Boies wasn't a specialist like Hueston is--Boies could attract clients (and other partners) in patent, antitrust, general commercial lit, etc. And that's what makes Keker and Quinn (and Susman and Bartlett Beck and Kellogg Huber) what they are: general lit boutiques doing high-level litigation across a variety of areas. I doubt Hueston is interested in that kind of thing. I mean, he just left it at Irell.

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Re: "Elite Litigation Boutique" burnout taking questions

Postby nickelanddime » Tue Feb 17, 2015 8:15 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:I get the opposite impression. Hueston was reputedly the #1 pick for US Attorney in C.D. Cal, he was a lead Enron prosecutor (right alongside our almost-Attorney General Kathy Ruemmler), and his clients are insanely high powered. I'm sure the older Irell spin-offs are fine shops (if those are the firms nickel pointed out--I had never heard of them by name), but I have trouble believing their formation came with this big a splash.


I don't know if those firms were Irell spin-offs - I just know of them as small firms with good reputations in LA and for WCC nationally. And I'm sure that they did not create as big of a splash - in part because they were founded prior to ATL.

Look, I bet Hueston Hennigan will be a very interesting place to practice. I just think there's a lot of luck that goes into building a huge name quickly. Hueston Hennigan will probably suffer in comparison to some of the other boutiques because it will likely not be able to offer outsize compensation - you can really only do that as a litigation firm if you take on plaintiff-side work and that doesn't seem to be its practice. (I also vaguely remember reading Hueston as having said that he left in part because of "rate flexibility," which means that he wants to charge lower rates than irell.)

As a side note, Hueston is a big name. But there are tons of other big names.

Now I need to poll the audience: I'm planning to spam some smaller (approx. 10 attorney) firms that don't have a "Careers" page. How can I tastefully acknowledge that mine is an unsolicited application when sending my materials to a partner? Is the "informational interview" dance the only way? What about starting the email with something like "I recognize that your firm doesn't have openings often, but I hope that you keep me in mind should one arise?"




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