Satellite office or stay put?

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Anonymous User
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Satellite office or stay put?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:51 pm

I’m a 3rd/4th year corporate/commercial lit associate at a well-established local “big” firm in my small/medium-sized market. I have the chance to join the a new office of an elite lit boutique (think top 10 on Vault’s boutique list) in that market. What do I do?

Pros:

-with bonus, nearly $100k pay raise starting in 2021 (wouldn’t be joining until Septemberish);
-broader range of work, including Corp lit, bankruptcy, and cross border stuff;
-managing lawyer of this new office (of counsel) seems cool and like we’re aligned on work/life balance issues, no face time, etc.;
-organized staffing/workflow compared to my current firm;
-chance to help make (or break) a new office;
-1800 hour billable requirement (idk if that’s average however);

Cons:

-new, small office in a pandemic; they claim to be committed to this office and are actively hiring for it now, but still feels risky;
-lower chances of partnership, presumably; I have a legitimate shot at my current firm (and partners there do very well), but it’s still unlikely and I’m not sure that I want that lifestyle anyway;
-current firm is well insulated from the pandemic/downturns, so there’s good job security for probably the next year or so at least.

I no longer have debt and would like to make more money if I can early on, and maybe move into government or something later if I don’t find a decent firm with a good lifestyle.

Thanks for any input.

Anon-non-anon

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Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by Anon-non-anon » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:00 am

Neither seems like the clearly better choice. I think you just have to weigh which of those factors you care about more.

Is it possible your current firm would take you back if you left and it didn't work out? I've seen that happen, especially where ppl try to go in a different direction then change their mind. It'll be hard to know that, but it could change the calculus a bit.

I'd probably stay put if an attempt at gov is not too far out, but could be good to get more independent experience the boutique would likely offer.

JusticeJackson

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Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by JusticeJackson » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:08 pm

100k raise for 1800 hours a year at a top 10 lit boutique sounds too good to be true. Like I just pulled up the Vault list of lit botiques and if anything the firms on the list I know anything about are known for working their associates hard.

Anonymous User
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Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:08 pm

Anon-non-anon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:00 am
Neither seems like the clearly better choice. I think you just have to weigh which of those factors you care about more.

Is it possible your current firm would take you back if you left and it didn't work out? I've seen that happen, especially where ppl try to go in a different direction then change their mind. It'll be hard to know that, but it could change the calculus a bit.

I'd probably stay put if an attempt at gov is not too far out, but could be good to get more independent experience the boutique would likely offer.
They’d maybe bring me back, but I wouldn’t count on it. Without giving too much away, I’m not worried about having a lawyer job in my market (for reasons not attributable to me) should it not work out.
JusticeJackson wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:08 pm
100k raise for 1800 hours a year at a top 10 lit boutique sounds too good to be true. Like I just pulled up the Vault list of lit botiques and if anything the firms on the list I know anything about are known for working their associates hard.
I mean, that’s apparently the bonus threshold. They may still work associates to the bone. I’m hopeful this wouldn’t be bad given that it’s a small and fairly specialized outpost. But yeah, that salary increase is hard to turn down...my current firm and its peers start close to NYC biglaw first year, but as you get into mid-level territory, the salary and bonus scales diverge in a huge way.

ChickenSalad

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Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by ChickenSalad » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:44 pm

Not sure there’s a clear winner here. But I’d approach the new job skeptically to avoid a grass is greener situation. If they are hiring in a small office, there is work and fewer people to spread it between. So you’re taking on whatever associate work comes in for your group. You aren’t going to bill 1800

Your perceptions about the office managing attorney at a top 10 boutique in a new office being on the same page as you re: work life balance is way way (way) off. I can say that without knowing the firm or the attorney. Also you don’t know who will be giving you the lions share of your work so, even if you are correct on this, his views on that are likely irrelevant

The ability to do a range of different work is probably interesting while you’re at the boutique but is largely irrelevant for your plans to go work for the gov. Restructuring and corporate work isn’t really big for gov attorney hiring to my knowledge. I’m not aware of jobs tailored to those practices but maybe someone here with more knowledge can weigh in

If you want to go to gov work within the next 2-3 years, the 100k extra pretax and COL is probably the biggest factor imo

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Anonymous User
Posts: 350613
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:16 pm

ChickenSalad wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:44 pm
Not sure there’s a clear winner here. But I’d approach the new job skeptically to avoid a grass is greener situation. If they are hiring in a small office, there is work and fewer people to spread it between. So you’re taking on whatever associate work comes in for your group. You aren’t going to bill 1800

Your perceptions about the office managing attorney at a top 10 boutique in a new office being on the same page as you re: work life balance is way way (way) off. I can say that without knowing the firm or the attorney. Also you don’t know who will be giving you the lions share of your work so, even if you are correct on this, his views on that are likely irrelevant

The ability to do a range of different work is probably interesting while you’re at the boutique but is largely irrelevant for your plans to go work for the gov. Restructuring and corporate work isn’t really big for gov attorney hiring to my knowledge. I’m not aware of jobs tailored to those practices but maybe someone here with more knowledge can weigh in

If you want to go to gov work within the next 2-3 years, the 100k extra pretax and COL is probably the biggest factor imo
I think my perception of the managing attorney is accurate; he was doing the exact type of work I do now that can be pretty miserable (lots of TRO/heavily expedited trial stuff with zero notice). He made it clear that this office isn’t doing that type of work and that he doesn’t care about face time. So it’s not that I expect to be billing a chill 1800 hours, but that two significant stressors at my current job may not be as bad. Your point about workflow/everything that comes in is well-taken.

I should clarify that it involves some other work that is pretty transferable to some gov jobs, but I don’t want to say more than that.

But yeah, if I hang with this job for a couple years, that’s probably ~$200k saved up that I wouldn’t have staying put. That’s the primary benefit for me.

I’m also a little concerned about the office’s possible lack of support/training. The managing attorney is pretty young and it’s the only office in our state.

JusticeJackson

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Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by JusticeJackson » Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:40 pm

Do you know any associates at the firm? I’m half guessing I do based on how a friend of mine describes the firm he joined about a year ago. I’m willing to put you in touch with my friend, who’s a good guy and I’m sure would be up for talking about it. We’d probably have to “out” each other, but I’m willing to do it if you’d like me to.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:04 pm

I would stay put. I worked in a satellite office of around 50 attorneys (35 partners). The partners in our secondary market weren’t that busy, so a lot of our work came from other offices. It’s somewhat hard to build the necessary relationships when you only know someone via email/phone (especially with an old school partner). I visited our HQ regularly and tried to build rapport, so I was able to make it work. However, because our firm’s revenue was calculated office by office, there were months when I’d bill 40-50 hours because the HQ was not going to meet budget and they needed to allocate resources there.

I ended up leaving because I didn’t enjoy the experience. When lateraling, I specifically told recruiters I did not want to work at a satellite unless a substantial portion of my practice group was concentrated in that office.

I’m assuming it’s different at a more boutique firm, and obviously you won’t know how the firm’s finances/politics function until you start working there, but I wanted to just provide some info re: working at an outpost.

Some people will obviously have different (more optimistic) stories.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350613
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Satellite office or stay put?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:30 am

JusticeJackson wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:40 pm
Do you know any associates at the firm? I’m half guessing I do based on how a friend of mine describes the firm he joined about a year ago. I’m willing to put you in touch with my friend, who’s a good guy and I’m sure would be up for talking about it. We’d probably have to “out” each other, but I’m willing to do it if you’d like me to.
I appreciate the offer but I think I’m just gonna turn it down. Gut feeling that I’m not right for it, even though it hurts to turn down the money.
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:04 pm
I would stay put. I worked in a satellite office of around 50 attorneys (35 partners). The partners in our secondary market weren’t that busy, so a lot of our work came from other offices. It’s somewhat hard to build the necessary relationships when you only know someone via email/phone (especially with an old school partner). I visited our HQ regularly and tried to build rapport, so I was able to make it work. However, because our firm’s revenue was calculated office by office, there were months when I’d bill 40-50 hours because the HQ was not going to meet budget and they needed to allocate resources there.

I ended up leaving because I didn’t enjoy the experience. When lateraling, I specifically told recruiters I did not want to work at a satellite unless a substantial portion of my practice group was concentrated in that office.

I’m assuming it’s different at a more boutique firm, and obviously you won’t know how the firm’s finances/politics function until you start working there, but I wanted to just provide some info re: working at an outpost.

Some people will obviously have different (more optimistic) stories.
Appreciate the insight. I can see the benefit of a satellite office but those concerns make a lot of sense.

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