Scott Douglass & McConnico? Forum

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Scott Douglass & McConnico?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jan 18, 2022 9:40 pm

HYS 1L here. Screener coming up with SDM in Austin. Interested in TX and trial lit. Any sense of what the firm is like? Seems like a more TX-oriented Susman (litigation oriented, short partner track, etc). Does approx top 1/3 after 1st semester have a shot?

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Re: Scott Douglass & McConnico?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:38 pm

Bumping this. Had a really good first round with them, they seem very interesting as a firm. Tiny class sizes, excellent partnership prospects, etc. Still unclear as to a few questions:

a) Do they pay market? Or at least market-ish? Glassdoor has them at $180k but I don't know how much to trust that

b) I had the sense that they're dominated by O&G work, which I'm okay with but worried about the long-term viability of. Is that accurate or is my perception off?

c) What is the view of them compared to the other Austin/general TX firms?

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Re: Scott Douglass & McConnico?

Post by Pneumonia » Tue Jan 25, 2022 12:07 am

(a) Traditionally SDM has paid 10k under market for first years, although the difference may have grown in recent years with all of the salary bumps at the big firms. The scale is compressed for successive class years, but the partner track is only about five years, and bonuses vary. But SDM's compensation is much closer to Biglaw dollars than to midlaw dollars.

(b) Yes, O&G is the dominant practice area. That work isn't going anywhere either, so I wouldn't harbor any long-term viability concerns. Reliance on fossil fuels will likely continue to decrease, but the idea that natural gas and platics will disappear in our lifetime isn't one worth declining the firm on. The firm also does a good deal of general trial work unrelated to O&G. Still, anyone personally opposed to O&G work as a matter of principle should avoid the firm, and likely the rest of Texas biglaw.

(c) SDM has a very, very strong reputation in Austin and in Texas generally. They are the premiere trial firm in Austin, or at least very competitive for that title, and they also do a lot of appeals before the Third Court and the Texas Supreme Court. They focus primarily on trial, though, and most of the attorneys are focused on trial rather than appeals. The comparison to Susman is inapt for a variety of reasons that I will discuss further below.

(d) Yes, median or higher at HYS is competitive with ties and a strong fit. SDM typically hires at least one 1L from HLS, and it is very often one of the Texas Club's rising co-presidents. If they interviewed you, you are competitive. They will make the summer hiring decision based on fit though, not grades. They routinely ding people who are top 10% at the T14, including literally top-of-of-the-class students from UT.

Here are a few further observations from someone who summered there several years ago.

The culture is work-hard play-very-hard, but I would not describe it as fratty (unlike, say, VE or KE). Everyone is friendly, and indeed many of the attorneys are personal friends with one another outside of work. The firm does yearly retreats that all of the attorneys attend. They seem not to hire anyone that wouldn't fit their culture of grabbing a beer after work most days of the week. It is more than dinging people who are obnoxious; instead they are looking for people who would affirmatively fit into the office culture.

Office politics are intentionally kept to a minimum, and the firm is very protective of that. Actual politics tend to be liberal. Compensation for partners is pretty much an open book, and the firm would be unlikely to hire or tolerate anyone that would see that as an opportunity for gamesmanship, complaining, overt envy, or the like. Partnership is a default guarantee at hiring, usually after five years, but sometimes a bit shorter or longer. All partners get equity, but it isn't distributed lockstep. Instead, it is distributed based on a rolling weighted average of the things that generate profits: billing hours and getting clients.

Unlike Susman, and unlike similarly-sized firms like AZA, SDM is not a profits-over-all kind of firm. The attorneys have lives outside of work. Sometimes trial and the nature of the practice interfere with that, but that isn't the model at SDM. They aren't hyperleveraged. The opposite, in fact. No one is billing Susman hours, at least not year after year. And associates certainly aren't expected to do that. Instead, the firm makes a genuine efforts to grow associates into the profession and into good partners.

If you get the summer offer, here are a few other things you should know:

(e) SDM no offers the majority of their summer associates every year. My year they hired about 10 summers and gave about 3 offers. They're pretty open about this practice, though, and they will let you split somewhere else as long as you can be at SDM a reasonable amount of time. The no offers aren't a reason to avoid the firm, certainly not as a 1L, but they are something to be aware of. To get an offer, you need to excel at both the social and professional activities (and there are plenty of each).

(f) The social activities consist of at-least weekly lunches, usually closer to three times a week. And there are after-work drinks more days than not. You should go to all of these. It is ok to miss one or two if you have a good reason, but missing them consistently (or being obnoxious or overly timid if you attend) will lead to a no-offer. You don't have to drink a ton, but many people do. Even if you are not drinking, you should do more than sit in the corner playing on your phone. You don't have to be the life of the party, but it helps. At minimum you should engage in conversations such that the attorneys there are left with the impression that they would enjoy hanging out with you again. I'm not sure how much the pandemic has affected this, but I would assume only minimally.

(g) The professional side cannot be phoned in. While the firm may not care excessively about grades, they do care quite a lot whether you are able to write well. It is a litigation shop, so memos, motions, and briefs are the typical work product. They will judge you on both quantity and quality at the end of the summer. You should aim to produce no fewer than 1.5 to 2 substantive documents per week of the summer associateship. At least one or two should be longer than 10 pages. The research and analysis should be polished--not just a collection of cases and ideas. You want to be producing work that could go to a client with minimal editing. And the writing should follow all of the typical advice on things like passive voice, topic sentences, general structure, etc. This amount and quality of work is a tall order for a 1L, especially someone who is participating maximally in the social activities. To do well, you should be going through multiple drafts of each document with your assigning lawyer such that the work product you have at the end of the summer is as clean as it can be. You also want to give the impression that you are working hard--don't be the laziest looking summer even if you are doing good work.

Overall, while I think it is a great place to work and easily one of the best firms in Austin (and thus Texas), it isn't for everyone. And not everyone who receives a full-time offer accepts (although most do). Obnoxious and grating personalities won't receive offers in the first place, nor will those who are entirely introverted or overly academic in their personalities. SDM probably also shouldn't be the first choice for people who want to just do good work and then go home. There are a lot of firms like that, but SDM isn't one of them. Instead, the firm culture is such that the attorneys are friends and are socially engaged with each other outside of work. And that makes sense. They hire for the long term, not to churn and burn. There is also more money to be made at other firms, but people who sweat the 10k difference in starting compensation or who find a meaningul difference between 600k/yr and 1.2m/yr are unlikely to be a good fit at SDM to begin with.

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Re: Scott Douglass & McConnico?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jan 25, 2022 2:31 am

Pneumonia wrote:
Tue Jan 25, 2022 12:07 am
(a) Traditionally SDM has paid 10k under market for first years, although the difference may have grown in recent years with all of the salary bumps at the big firms. The scale is compressed for successive class years, but the partner track is only about five years, and bonuses vary. But SDM's compensation is much closer to Biglaw dollars than to midlaw dollars.

(b) Yes, O&G is the dominant practice area. That work isn't going anywhere either, so I wouldn't harbor any long-term viability concerns. Reliance on fossil fuels will likely continue to decrease, but the idea that natural gas and platics will disappear in our lifetime isn't one worth declining the firm on. The firm also does a good deal of general trial work unrelated to O&G. Still, anyone personally opposed to O&G work as a matter of principle should avoid the firm, and likely the rest of Texas biglaw.

(c) SDM has a very, very strong reputation in Austin and in Texas generally. They are the premiere trial firm in Austin, or at least very competitive for that title, and they also do a lot of appeals before the Third Court and the Texas Supreme Court. They focus primarily on trial, though, and most of the attorneys are focused on trial rather than appeals. The comparison to Susman is inapt for a variety of reasons that I will discuss further below.

(d) Yes, median or higher at HYS is competitive with ties and a strong fit. SDM typically hires at least one 1L from HLS, and it is very often one of the Texas Club's rising co-presidents. If they interviewed you, you are competitive. They will make the summer hiring decision based on fit though, not grades. They routinely ding people who are top 10% at the T14, including literally top-of-of-the-class students from UT.

Here are a few further observations from someone who summered there several years ago.

The culture is work-hard play-very-hard, but I would not describe it as fratty (unlike, say, VE or KE). Everyone is friendly, and indeed many of the attorneys are personal friends with one another outside of work. The firm does yearly retreats that all of the attorneys attend. They seem not to hire anyone that wouldn't fit their culture of grabbing a beer after work most days of the week. It is more than dinging people who are obnoxious; instead they are looking for people who would affirmatively fit into the office culture.

Office politics are intentionally kept to a minimum, and the firm is very protective of that. Actual politics tend to be liberal. Compensation for partners is pretty much an open book, and the firm would be unlikely to hire or tolerate anyone that would see that as an opportunity for gamesmanship, complaining, overt envy, or the like. Partnership is a default guarantee at hiring, usually after five years, but sometimes a bit shorter or longer. All partners get equity, but it isn't distributed lockstep. Instead, it is distributed based on a rolling weighted average of the things that generate profits: billing hours and getting clients.

Unlike Susman, and unlike similarly-sized firms like AZA, SDM is not a profits-over-all kind of firm. The attorneys have lives outside of work. Sometimes trial and the nature of the practice interfere with that, but that isn't the model at SDM. They aren't hyperleveraged. The opposite, in fact. No one is billing Susman hours, at least not year after year. And associates certainly aren't expected to do that. Instead, the firm makes a genuine efforts to grow associates into the profession and into good partners.

If you get the summer offer, here are a few other things you should know:

(e) SDM no offers the majority of their summer associates every year. My year they hired about 10 summers and gave about 3 offers. They're pretty open about this practice, though, and they will let you split somewhere else as long as you can be at SDM a reasonable amount of time. The no offers aren't a reason to avoid the firm, certainly not as a 1L, but they are something to be aware of. To get an offer, you need to excel at both the social and professional activities (and there are plenty of each).

(f) The social activities consist of at-least weekly lunches, usually closer to three times a week. And there are after-work drinks more days than not. You should go to all of these. It is ok to miss one or two if you have a good reason, but missing them consistently (or being obnoxious or overly timid if you attend) will lead to a no-offer. You don't have to drink a ton, but many people do. Even if you are not drinking, you should do more than sit in the corner playing on your phone. You don't have to be the life of the party, but it helps. At minimum you should engage in conversations such that the attorneys there are left with the impression that they would enjoy hanging out with you again. I'm not sure how much the pandemic has affected this, but I would assume only minimally.

(g) The professional side cannot be phoned in. While the firm may not care excessively about grades, they do care quite a lot whether you are able to write well. It is a litigation shop, so memos, motions, and briefs are the typical work product. They will judge you on both quantity and quality at the end of the summer. You should aim to produce no fewer than 1.5 to 2 substantive documents per week of the summer associateship. At least one or two should be longer than 10 pages. The research and analysis should be polished--not just a collection of cases and ideas. You want to be producing work that could go to a client with minimal editing. And the writing should follow all of the typical advice on things like passive voice, topic sentences, general structure, etc. This amount and quality of work is a tall order for a 1L, especially someone who is participating maximally in the social activities. To do well, you should be going through multiple drafts of each document with your assigning lawyer such that the work product you have at the end of the summer is as clean as it can be. You also want to give the impression that you are working hard--don't be the laziest looking summer even if you are doing good work.

Overall, while I think it is a great place to work and easily one of the best firms in Austin (and thus Texas), it isn't for everyone. And not everyone who receives a full-time offer accepts (although most do). Obnoxious and grating personalities won't receive offers in the first place, nor will those who are entirely introverted or overly academic in their personalities. SDM probably also shouldn't be the first choice for people who want to just do good work and then go home. There are a lot of firms like that, but SDM isn't one of them. Instead, the firm culture is such that the attorneys are friends and are socially engaged with each other outside of work. And that makes sense. They hire for the long term, not to churn and burn. There is also more money to be made at other firms, but people who sweat the 10k difference in starting compensation or who find a meaningul difference between 600k/yr and 1.2m/yr are unlikely to be a good fit at SDM to begin with.
This is gold, thank you! Lots to think about.

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