Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

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climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:23 pm

Barry_Spinoza wrote:Does your firm hire staff attorneys or other non-partner track lawyers? I've noticed a few of the elite boutiques hire staff attorneys who often graduated from a school local to the boutique's main office (e.g., Susman's SA's are almost exclusively UT/UH grads) and didn't clerk, but did extern for a semester or summer with an A3 judge. If you're aware of the role(s) played by these people, could you shed some light on their responsibilities and what gets them hired?


We have two general tiers of non-partner track attorneys below associates and partners:

1) Contract attorneys. These attorneys are paid hourly to review documents or complete document-related projects. For the uninitiated, that means coding documents based on tags related to the review, such as "responsive", "privileged", and/or "hot". The coding is done in specialized software. The actual work involves clicking a radio button appropriate to the code and then advancing to the next document. It is thankless work, but it's the backbone of modern, doc-intensive litigation.

I have worked closely with several contract attorneys in my time here. They are very capable attorneys who often have insights into the case beyond their job descriptions. Many are quite bored with the work. Contract staff can be transient and many only stay here for a year before moving onto their next project or adventure. My work re the contract attorneys involves writing detailed document review assignments, providing policy feedback on close-to-the line documents often related to attorney-client privilege, and doing quality checks of contract attorney work.

The contract staff I've worked with all have unique stories; few planned to be contract attorneys when they graduated law school. One quit his clerkship early for personal reasons and found us as a bridge job until his old position became available again. Another is a mom who works part-time so she can take care of her kids. Still another is a world traveler who saves up enough money to globe-trot before taking a lengthy sabbatical to explore some remote area. He's completed that cycle of work/save --> travel/spend a few times.

2) Non-partner-track salaried attorneys. We have a unique title for these attorneys that I believe is firm-specific, so I won't repeat it here. These attorneys are paid a salary and are bonus-eligible, based on hours billed. We have almost as many of them as we have associates at the firm. They do much of the same work as the contract attorneys, only at a higher level. They come to the firm via different paths. Some are hired out of law school, others were contract attorneys who performed well and were promoted, still more were associates or contract attorneys at other firms who lateraled here. Most went to regional law schools.

These attorneys can have lengthy tenures at the firm and there is little turnover. In my time here, we have not hired any new attorneys to this position, but we have hired several new associates. Most of these lawyers bill around 2000 hours/year, although there are outliers on either side of the hours equation. These lawyers are experts in database management or are experienced in high-level document review issues like search terms, de-duplication, custodian management, etc. I give these attorneys substantive legal assignments in addition to the document-review work. For example, I have asked these attorneys to, among other things, create timelines, identify documents that source a particular claim, and prepare fact-related summary materials for presentations to regulatory agencies. Some of these attorneys will even do first drafts of substantive legal memoranda. In that way, they can the the associates' associates, albeit with more experience and seniority. I sense that these attorneys are less bored with their work than the contract attorneys.

CJ.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby CJ. » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:14 pm

So you bill 3200 honest hours per year, but Boies is "bloated"?

climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:37 pm

CJ. wrote:So you bill 3200 honest hours per year, but Boies is "bloated"?


Good point. I'm at my strongest talking about what I know.

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stig2014

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby stig2014 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:41 pm

Thanks for taking the time to make this thread, OP.

Was working at a top-level lit firm something you knew you wanted to do, or did you just kind of fall into it after your clerkship? If it was a goal, what steps did you take during law school to make it a possibility?

climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Sat Apr 16, 2016 4:16 pm

stig2014 wrote:Thanks for taking the time to make this thread, OP.

Was working at a top-level lit firm something you knew you wanted to do, or did you just kind of fall into it after your clerkship? If it was a goal, what steps did you take during law school to make it a possibility?


No problem. I hope it is helpful.

Going into law school, I knew I wanted to be a litigation attorney in a high profile context but I had no good idea of what that would really look like. My plan was to clerk and then work at one of the big law firms in their litigation department. I did the things we all do to achieve those goals. I worked for good grades, made the flagship law journal, participated in moot court, networked with professors to get good letters of rec for clerkships, etc. Those efforts produced results that were also consistent with working at a boutique firm. That's just coincidence, though. I summered at one of the big firms and enjoyed it. Revenues at that firm came primarily from corporate work, but the litigation department did high profile work, especially trial work, which is what I'm most interested in. When I started clerking, I had every intention of going back to my summer associate firm. In fact, I had never heard of my firm before it recruited me out of my clerkship. Fortunately, my judges had, as had a few other mentors. I took the offer primarily because they paid more, but also because I didn't want to get stuck doing doc review and because, as I said in an earlier post, I wanted to win. So far it's worked out.

climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Tue May 29, 2018 3:23 pm

I started this thread a couple of years ago. I'm on the road today and thought I would check in. I'm in the same job as before, just two plus more years down the line. I remain optimistic about my practice and small firm life in general. I've also been through a couple more hiring cycles and can comment on recruiting. I'll check this for the next few hours if you want to post any questions.

TexasSplitter18

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby TexasSplitter18 » Wed May 30, 2018 10:33 am

Have partnership prospects been brought up? If you plan to pursue partnership, what steps do you plan to take (or what steps have you taken) towards that goal? On that note, what does business generation look like at your firm? I imagine the process of bringing in clients (and keeping them) is somewhat unique at your firm.

climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:12 pm

TexasSplitter18 wrote:Have partnership prospects been brought up? If you plan to pursue partnership, what steps do you plan to take (or what steps have you taken) towards that goal? On that note, what does business generation look like at your firm? I imagine the process of bringing in clients (and keeping them) is somewhat unique at your firm.


These are great questions. I typed out a fairly lengthy response but am concerned about revealing firm-identifying details. I'll just say that I don't know much about partnership, even though I'm now a fairly senior associate and could be up for a membership vote in 2-3 years. Partnership expectations and compensation are a black box. I've been told formally (during reviews) and informally that I'm on a track toward partner, but I think that's just a reflection of my hours. Business generation is something I need to learn more about. All of my work to date has been generated by clients that were brought in by more senior lawyers--even if the client calls me directly with an ask, their primary relationship is with someone else.

TexasSplitter18

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby TexasSplitter18 » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:20 pm

climbingcheddars wrote:
TexasSplitter18 wrote:Have partnership prospects been brought up? If you plan to pursue partnership, what steps do you plan to take (or what steps have you taken) towards that goal? On that note, what does business generation look like at your firm? I imagine the process of bringing in clients (and keeping them) is somewhat unique at your firm.


These are great questions. I typed out a fairly lengthy response but am concerned about revealing firm-identifying details. I'll just say that I don't know much about partnership, even though I'm now a fairly senior associate and could be up for a membership vote in 2-3 years. Partnership expectations and compensation are a black box. I've been told formally (during reviews) and informally that I'm on a track toward partner, but I think that's just a reflection of my hours. Business generation is something I need to learn more about. All of my work to date has been generated by clients that were brought in by more senior lawyers--even if the client calls me directly with an ask, their primary relationship is with someone else.


Interesting. I ask about business generation because I imagine that it isn’t as big of a point of emphasis at your firm compared to others, as it seems like you are more positioned to have clients come to you instead of vice versa. If that’s the case, do you think partnership prospects are more of a function of your billed hours (as partners are comfortable that the work will be there from existing clients or new clients that seek your firm out), or do you foresee your day-to-day work shift (e.g., making more of an effort to generate business) as you start pushing for partnership?

climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:26 pm

TexasSplitter18 wrote:
climbingcheddars wrote:
TexasSplitter18 wrote:Have partnership prospects been brought up? If you plan to pursue partnership, what steps do you plan to take (or what steps have you taken) towards that goal? On that note, what does business generation look like at your firm? I imagine the process of bringing in clients (and keeping them) is somewhat unique at your firm.


These are great questions. I typed out a fairly lengthy response but am concerned about revealing firm-identifying details. I'll just say that I don't know much about partnership, even though I'm now a fairly senior associate and could be up for a membership vote in 2-3 years. Partnership expectations and compensation are a black box. I've been told formally (during reviews) and informally that I'm on a track toward partner, but I think that's just a reflection of my hours. Business generation is something I need to learn more about. All of my work to date has been generated by clients that were brought in by more senior lawyers--even if the client calls me directly with an ask, their primary relationship is with someone else.


Interesting. I ask about business generation because I imagine that it isn’t as big of a point of emphasis at your firm compared to others, as it seems like you are more positioned to have clients come to you instead of vice versa. If that’s the case, do you think partnership prospects are more of a function of your billed hours (as partners are comfortable that the work will be there from existing clients or new clients that seek your firm out), or do you foresee your day-to-day work shift (e.g., making more of an effort to generate business) as you start pushing for partnership?


Judging by the experiences of associates who have been elected partner in the last few years, it's certainly true that hours/review are more important than business generation for partnership. I imagine that an associate could make a compelling partnership case by generating business, but I haven't seen that happen. I don't foresee any shift in my day-to-day as I get closer to my election, although I imagine there will be more pressure to take on additional work.

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runnergirl159

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby runnergirl159 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:26 pm

Do you know if it’s possible to get a position at a boutique litigation firm if you do a foreign clerkship? I’m Canadian, so even if I go to HYSCCN it’s going to be almost impossible for me to get a federal clerkship. I could try and get a clerkship in Canada though, but I’m not sure how that would be viewed.

climbingcheddars

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:40 am

runnergirl159 wrote:Do you know if it’s possible to get a position at a boutique litigation firm if you do a foreign clerkship? I’m Canadian, so even if I go to HYSCCN it’s going to be almost impossible for me to get a federal clerkship. I could try and get a clerkship in Canada though, but I’m not sure how that would be viewed.


I worked with a former Canadian law clerk (cour suprême) at my old biglaw firm. He was a very capable attorney. I recall there were a number of foreign law clerks--generally from common law jurisdictions like New Zealand, Australia, and the UK--in the firm's litigation practice. I don't have any experience on this from the boutique angle, though. Your judge or clerkship network might have a better read on things. Or you could just apply while you're clerking and hope your HYSCCN + cour suprême credentials get you an interview.



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