Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

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acr440
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Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:53 pm

Spending the next year as a paralegal before LSE grad program and then hopefully law school. Received job offer recently from small litigation boutique in NYC that pays 42k and time and half for overtime. I have other interviews set up for next week at a few V50 firms and just applied to some positions at bigger investment banks/funds that I think will pay more.

Any benefit in trying to paralegal at bigger firms(more perks or atmosphere) or should I just take the position?
or
Holding out for better pay elsewhere?

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runinthefront
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby runinthefront » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:00 pm

why would you do a graduate program and then go to law school?

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Skool
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby Skool » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:18 pm

First off, remember that a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.

Secondly, I would get a sense of how much overtime you're talking at the small firm. 20 hours a week? Money wise is that going to put you ahead of the big law jobs?

How much mentorship is there at either? How much substantive work do you get from either (cite checking (expert reports and briefs), client interviewing, factual (as opposed to legal)) research projects, etc.? Will you get to attend depositions and trials? Networking opportunities? Are people nicer at one or the other? Do you want any of these things?

Work life balance? I doubt it exists too much at your big firm, but ask around at the small firm.

You should be asking not just pay questions, but experience questions since you're looking to go to law school.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:21 pm

runinthefront wrote:why would you do a graduate program and then go to law school?


I have a strong interest in public interest law and human rights law. I have already been admitted into the MSc Human Rights program at LSE, but they gave me a deferment because I did not want to take out loans. So I am working as a paralegal to come up with some money. Also, spending a year studying in London will be a great experience that I do not want to pass up.

Do you think there is a difference between working at a small litigation boutique in NYC vs one of the bigger firms?

EDIT: Just wanted to add, that "going straight to law school" is not assured I may want to work another year or two before.

everton125
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby everton125 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:04 pm

acr440 wrote:
runinthefront wrote:why would you do a graduate program and then go to law school?


I have a strong interest in public interest law and human rights law. I have already been admitted into the MSc Human Rights program at LSE, but they gave me a deferment because I did not want to take out loans. So I am working as a paralegal to come up with some money. Also, spending a year studying in London will be a great experience that I do not want to pass up.

Do you think there is a difference between working at a small litigation boutique in NYC vs one of the bigger firms?


While I take one of the earlier posters point that your experience in BigLaw vs. your experience at a Lit Boutique should be taken into consideration, if your aim is to save up money, then I can't understate how important overtime is when determining the salary of a paralegal. While a paralegals base salary is generally fairly low (around 43K in NYC), it is fairly easy to work enough overtime in BigLaw so as to make 70 - 80K a year. In fact, it is not at all impossible to start pushing 100k a year if you get on a trial or two. I, for example, made around 95K per year over the last two years working at a BigLaw firm, albeit my higher salary was in large part the result of a five month period where I averaged around 80 hours of billed time per week, and my tendency to work around 55 or 60 hours a week on average otherwise.

In practice, this means that the number of overtime hours you work can matter a heck of a lot more than a difference in base salary of $2000 - $5000 dollars. If I were you, I would push the lit boutique to give you an idea of how much overtime you will be working, as I imagine it might be more difficult to rack up 20 hours of overtime a week (which equates to a salary of around 80K a year assuming a 43K base) at a lit boutique than in BigLaw. At least at my firm, the litigation paralegals have a lot of freedom to take on more hours and ensure they are working as much overtime as they want to. Note, however, the same can't be said for the corporate paralegals at my firm, who work much more limited hours.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:38 pm

Skool wrote:First off, remember that a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.

Secondly, I would get a sense of how much overtime you're talking at the small firm. 20 hours a week? Money wise is that going to put you ahead of the big law jobs?

How much mentorship is there at either? How much substantive work do you get from either (cite checking (expert reports and briefs), client interviewing, factual (as opposed to legal)) research projects, etc.? Will you get to attend depositions and trials? Networking opportunities? Are people nicer at one or the other? Do you want any of these things?

Work life balance? I doubt it exists too much at your big firm, but ask around at the small firm.

You should be asking not just pay questions, but experience questions since you're looking to go to law school.


Thank you for responding these are definitely some good points.

I will be 1 of 2 paralegals and the majority of the job is reviewing briefs for cite checking and just as a general second pair of eyes. During the interview process both current paralegal and partner confirmed the opportunity of overtime that would boost my salary to the top of my range, but its not as assured as bigger firms I interviewed with where the entire group does structured products for a bank. They often don't go to trial but they often do arbitration, and I will often be asked to sit in and take notes when needed.

Being only 1 of 2 paralegals I think the mentorship opportunities would be better than larger firms, and the lawyers have graduated from top schools , clerked for fed appeal and district courts, and worked at some larger firms before joining.

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Ron Mexico
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby Ron Mexico » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:42 pm

Go wherever pays more. Paralegal job is a paralegal job.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:57 pm

Ron Mexico wrote:Go wherever pays more. Paralegal job is a paralegal job.



I don't think its that simple because im not balancing competing offers. I am balancing an offer against remaining unemployed in hopes of better base salary.A paralegal job is not a paralegal job. I have interviewed for paralegal position within environmental law groups, capital markets groups, financial institutions, public interest, etc and they can be very different.

I think most of the comments about the importance of overtime has been really instructive. My fear is that I will accept this position and hear back from better paying job, but that's not assured. Perhaps I should just count my blessings, and accept position...

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Skool
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby Skool » Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:32 pm

If I were you, I'd accept and take the position that's offered. Again, a bird in hand....

Then I would interview for the big law position and really ask good questions about culture, fit, substance of the work, etc.

Then if they offer you the position, investigate pay, weigh the cons and benefits, including potentially burning a bridge where you just accepted, and then make your decision based on what's best for you. When interviewing, let the big firm know that while they are your first choice, you have another offer with a deadline of X date. You'd appreciate it if they could render a decision before then.

I've actually been in a similar position with a PI firm. They were super understanding when I reneged. (Within a week of accepting). Reneging was the 2nd or third best professional move I ever made. Not sure if that would be your experience here.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 12:38 am

Skool wrote:If I were you, I'd accept and take the position that's offered. Again, a bird in hand....

Then I would interview for the big law position and really ask good questions about culture, fit, substance of the work, etc.

Then if they offer you the position, investigate pay, weigh the cons and benefits, including potentially burning a bridge where you just accepted, and then make your decision based on what's best for you. When interviewing, let the big firm know that while they are your first choice, you have another offer with a deadline of X date. You'd appreciate it if they could render a decision before then.

I've actually been in a similar position with a PI firm. They were super understanding when I reneged. (Within a week of accepting). Reneging was the 2nd or third best professional move I ever made. Not sure if that would be your experience here.


Yes I think this is definitely an option, and it would be reneging. I would only really do this should base pay be different. How did you find the time to interview for the other job?

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Skool
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby Skool » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:29 am

I got the second interview invite before receiving the first offer. I hadn't started work at the first job yet.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:12 pm

Skool wrote:I got the second interview invite before receiving the first offer. I hadn't started work at the first job yet.


yea, I don't think this would be possible for me since they want me to start right away

SFSpartan
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby SFSpartan » Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:16 pm

acr440 wrote:
Skool wrote:If I were you, I'd accept and take the position that's offered. Again, a bird in hand....

Then I would interview for the big law position and really ask good questions about culture, fit, substance of the work, etc.

Then if they offer you the position, investigate pay, weigh the cons and benefits, including potentially burning a bridge where you just accepted, and then make your decision based on what's best for you. When interviewing, let the big firm know that while they are your first choice, you have another offer with a deadline of X date. You'd appreciate it if they could render a decision before then.

I've actually been in a similar position with a PI firm. They were super understanding when I reneged. (Within a week of accepting). Reneging was the 2nd or third best professional move I ever made. Not sure if that would be your experience here.


Yes I think this is definitely an option, and it would be reneging. I would only really do this should base pay be different. How did you find the time to interview for the other job?


Assuming both firms are in NYC, why don't you just make up a doctor's appointment (or come up with some similarly vague/unquestionable reason to leave work)?

UpandDown97
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby UpandDown97 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:28 pm

Something to consider to is what will put you in position for a job down the road. Human rights law is so vague and limited that you may end up in Big Law. Which job would get you closest to the type of Big Law you want? I understand that firms will invite back paralegals to be associates even if grades are lower. Something to consider.

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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby ach24 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:45 pm

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Last edited by ach24 on Fri Jul 31, 2015 10:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Skool
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby Skool » Thu Jun 25, 2015 2:04 pm

acr440 wrote:
Skool wrote:I got the second interview invite before receiving the first offer. I hadn't started work at the first job yet.


yea, I don't think this would be possible for me since they want me to start right away
This is not that complicated. If you really want to gun for the big law firm, ask them to schedule your interview ASAP, then ask them for an expedited decision. This sort of thing happens all the time.

You accept the offer you have in the mean time. You can also negotiate your start time at the small firm too. It's not crazy at all to say, I have a trip planned, I need to deal with my housing situation, I can't start next week, but I can start two weeks from now. People above mentioned having a doctors appointment. You can find the time.

Mentorship doesn't depend on number of attorneys. It really depends on the people and, to an extent, your skills at seeking it out. I will say, though, that one year will not give you the mentorship you likely seek -- it will build a relationship that you can turn into a good mentoring situation, but usually that's not enough time to get to know someone well enough for them to really be there and guide you.
To some extent this is true. A year is enough for a foundation and certainly enough for letters of recommendation and a good reference in the short and medium term.

Any longer relationship requires you to stay in touch through lunch dates, emails etc. You'll have to put some work in, but it's not that hard; whether you work there still or not, people want to help you and be a part of your success. And the most valuable thing you can do for your self at this point in your career is probably not money, but putting yourself in an environment where you can build this kind of relationship. Both for ongoing mentorship, but also to get your work product up to snuff.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:49 pm

Skool wrote:
acr440 wrote:
Skool wrote:I got the second interview invite before receiving the first offer. I hadn't started work at the first job yet.


yea, I don't think this would be possible for me since they want me to start right away
This is not that complicated. If you really want to gun for the big law firm, ask them to schedule your interview ASAP, then ask them for an expedited decision. This sort of thing happens all the time.

You accept the offer you have in the mean time. You can also negotiate your start time at the small firm too. It's not crazy at all to say, I have a trip planned, I need to deal with my housing situation, I can't start next week, but I can start two weeks from now. People above mentioned having a doctors appointment. You can find the time.

Mentorship doesn't depend on number of attorneys. It really depends on the people and, to an extent, your skills at seeking it out. I will say, though, that one year will not give you the mentorship you likely seek -- it will build a relationship that you can turn into a good mentoring situation, but usually that's not enough time to get to know someone well enough for them to really be there and guide you.
To some extent this is true. A year is enough for a foundation and certainly enough for letters of recommendation and a good reference in the short and medium term.

Any longer relationship requires you to stay in touch through lunch dates, emails etc. You'll have to put some work in, but it's not that hard; whether you work there still or not, people want to help you and be a part of your success. And the most valuable thing you can do for your self at this point in your career is probably not money, but putting yourself in an environment where you can build this kind of relationship. Both for ongoing mentorship, but also to get your work product up to snuff.


After looking into it further, I'm not sure chasing a big firm is worth the trouble. There is great talent at the small firm where I already have a job, and from my interviews the industry average in NYC 42K. I was contacted by Goodwin Proctor and Linklaters for an interview, but Goodwin was only offering 42k and I doubt Linklaters is different. The only other place I interviewed at that offered more was Wachtell, which was 44k, but I did not get that job. The only other places I have an outstanding application at that might pay more is Goldman and Blackstone. Should those opportunities arise then I will use the many tactics stated in this thread and find the time to interview.

Yea, I was not won over by previous posters comment about 1 yr vs 2 yr for mentorship. I don't see anything magical in 2 years and putting off LSE is not an option. Although I agree that mentorship is important, money is important too because it is going to pay for LSE should scholarship opportunities not come through.

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DFTHREAD

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fobstory.jpeg
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acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:32 pm

Desert Fox wrote:go to grad school in germany, isnt that shit free?

If I spoke German I'd be there in a heartbeat.

UpandDown97
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby UpandDown97 » Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:44 am

acr440 wrote:
runinthefront wrote:why would you do a graduate program and then go to law school?


I have a strong interest in public interest law and human rights law. I have already been admitted into the MSc Human Rights program at LSE, but they gave me a deferment because I did not want to take out loans. So I am working as a paralegal to come up with some money. Also, spending a year studying in London will be a great experience that I do not want to pass up.

Do you think there is a difference between working at a small litigation boutique in NYC vs one of the bigger firms?

EDIT: Just wanted to add, that "going straight to law school" is not assured I may want to work another year or two before.


What is human rights law?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:41 pm

There can be significant differences among paralegal experiences. Also, one year is enough time in which to form relationships & in which to determine whether or not law school is still of interest to you--at least with respect to litigation if you accept your current offer.
Better to take the current offer since you are unable to make the two year commitment typically sought or required by large law firms.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:55 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Better to take the current offer since you are unable to make the two year commitment typically sought or required by large law firms.


Thanks for the reply. This too was also a concern for me. The vast majority of the positions I interviewed for asked for a two-year commitment, and even those that did not ask still preferred that I stay for two years. The current offer--which I accepted yesterday--was among the latter.

acr440
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby acr440 » Tue Jul 07, 2015 12:22 pm

Started my second week of work and Goldman called about initial talk. I feel kind of rotten for replying. Is TLS community sure this is normal?

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby iamgeorgebush » Tue Jul 14, 2015 1:38 am

Did you commit to your current position for at least one year? Even if you did, I bet the small firm would understand if you took a job with Goldman Sachs (depending on what kind of position it is --- is this an analyst position, a paralegal position, or what). I say at the very least, it can't hurt to interview with Goldman.

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celtslaw
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Re: Paralegal at big firm or small firm?

Postby celtslaw » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:14 pm

acr440 wrote:
Skool wrote:
acr440 wrote:
Skool wrote:I got the second interview invite before receiving the first offer. I hadn't started work at the first job yet.


yea, I don't think this would be possible for me since they want me to start right away
This is not that complicated. If you really want to gun for the big law firm, ask them to schedule your interview ASAP, then ask them for an expedited decision. This sort of thing happens all the time.

You accept the offer you have in the mean time. You can also negotiate your start time at the small firm too. It's not crazy at all to say, I have a trip planned, I need to deal with my housing situation, I can't start next week, but I can start two weeks from now. People above mentioned having a doctors appointment. You can find the time.

Mentorship doesn't depend on number of attorneys. It really depends on the people and, to an extent, your skills at seeking it out. I will say, though, that one year will not give you the mentorship you likely seek -- it will build a relationship that you can turn into a good mentoring situation, but usually that's not enough time to get to know someone well enough for them to really be there and guide you.
To some extent this is true. A year is enough for a foundation and certainly enough for letters of recommendation and a good reference in the short and medium term.

Any longer relationship requires you to stay in touch through lunch dates, emails etc. You'll have to put some work in, but it's not that hard; whether you work there still or not, people want to help you and be a part of your success. And the most valuable thing you can do for your self at this point in your career is probably not money, but putting yourself in an environment where you can build this kind of relationship. Both for ongoing mentorship, but also to get your work product up to snuff.


After looking into it further, I'm not sure chasing a big firm is worth the trouble. There is great talent at the small firm where I already have a job, and from my interviews the industry average in NYC 42K. I was contacted by Goodwin Proctor and Linklaters for an interview, but Goodwin was only offering 42k and I doubt Linklaters is different. The only other place I interviewed at that offered more was Wachtell, which was 44k, but I did not get that job. The only other places I have an outstanding application at that might pay more is Goldman and Blackstone. Should those opportunities arise then I will use the many tactics stated in this thread and find the time to interview.

Yea, I was not won over by previous posters comment about 1 yr vs 2 yr for mentorship. I don't see anything magical in 2 years and putting off LSE is not an option. Although I agree that mentorship is important, money is important too because it is going to pay for LSE should scholarship opportunities not come through.


If you want biglaw, then having a biglaw firm's name on your resume will help you out tremendously. A paralegal job is NOT the same across the board. Biglaw hiring partners don't really care if you worked in a boutique firm, but they love it if you have experience in biglaw. It shows that you a) had the credentials to work at the highest level in the paralegal field b) you are competent enough to work with biglaw attorneys and likely picked up useful skills; and c) you know what practicing law looks like and are committed to the law (unlike all the K-JDs who have never even seen the inside of a firm before 2L).




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