Class year downgrade Forum

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NyuIwantu

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Class year downgrade

Post by NyuIwantu » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:02 am

I've only worked for government but recently got offered a biglaw position. They want to downgrade my class year by two years since I don't have firm experience. I graduated in 2016 but they will pay me as a 2018 graduate. It makes sense to me, but is this standard?

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:19 am

They prob just want to pay you less, while testing your skills. I'd prob ask for just 1 year downgrade, to see if it's an option.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:53 am

NyuIwantu wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:02 am
I've only worked for government but recently got offered a biglaw position. They want to downgrade my class year by two years since I don't have firm experience. I graduated in 2016 but they will pay me as a 2018 graduate. It makes sense to me, but is this standard?
This is common. I even have a colleague who took a class year hit lateralling from a V50+ to a V20 (why I'm anon). She/he told me the class year hit was good thing because it allowed for more time to (1) ride the biglaw gravy train before hitting the up or out wall and (2) work with more people to build support for partnership vote.

If you only want to spend a couple years in biglaw before moving on, then I'd say push for a smaller (or no) class year hit. There's going to be a BIG difference between two years starting at 2016 vs. 2018 . But if you want to ride the gravy train as long as possible and/or make partner, there's less of an incentive to negotiate.

If you do want to negotiate, be prepared to explain why your government experience is comparable to a few years in biglaw.

NyuIwantu

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by NyuIwantu » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:19 am

Very helpful, thanks!

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by almostperfectt » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:41 am

Considering something other than the pay, I've seen some further analysis in this area. Not sure of my or the sources' biases, so take it with a grain of salt.

1. If you take a year cut, it gives you more time to develop, and you will be compared to associates with less experience. If you're skilled, this makes you look really good. If you're behind (like the firm is suggesting you are), then it gives you time to catch up.

2. Being junior to obnoxious mid level associates is actual hell. Every single thing people complain about in this forum is probably because of asshole mid level associates. If you have the opportunity to be the mid-level or generally more senior, it will massively increase your quality of life just based on hierarchies. Lawyers, especially in biglaw, are obnoxiously hierarchical and the class year will get you respect regardless.

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papermateflair

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by papermateflair » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:46 am

Just to back everyone else up, this is extremely common for laterals who aren't coming from "comparable" big law firms - at my firm, almost everyone who comes from somewhere other than a comparable big law firm takes a cut (government, accounting, smaller firm, etc.). One of my colleagues has struggled with the cut a little bit because their skills were actually directly transferable, so essentially they were doing 5th year work but being treated as a 3rd year for comp, and when it comes time for promotion it can be frustrating to see folks from your same actually class year (or a year behind!) going up while you're waiting because you took a 1-2 year cut. But on the bright side, they get to collect the automatic associate comp raises and special bonuses etc. rather than going into the black box of whatever comp looks like for counsel or non-equity partners.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by hdr » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:06 am

You shouldn't take a class hit if your gov experience is related to what you'll be doing in biglaw, e.g. DOJ/SEC for white collar. That's not a common request and you can probably get a better offer. But if you're going from a state AG to a general lit practice, for example, then you probably don't have much leverage.

There are no benefits to taking a class year hit. Up-or-out is basically dead and your class year isn't going to impact your long-term partnership prospects if that's your goal.

If you're going to a lower-ranked firm (V75-V100), you're more likely to deal with below-market raises and bonuses. Some firms deny raises to associates that don't meet their hours and a few have realization requirements. You don't want to get trapped at a significantly lower salary. That's less of a concern at better firms.

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jbagelboy

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by jbagelboy » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:10 am

almostperfectt wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:41 am
Considering something other than the pay, I've seen some further analysis in this area. Not sure of my or the sources' biases, so take it with a grain of salt.

1. If you take a year cut, it gives you more time to develop, and you will be compared to associates with less experience. If you're skilled, this makes you look really good. If you're behind (like the firm is suggesting you are), then it gives you time to catch up.

2. Being junior to obnoxious mid level associates is actual hell. Every single thing people complain about in this forum is probably because of asshole mid level associates. If you have the opportunity to be the mid-level or generally more senior, it will massively increase your quality of life just based on hierarchies. Lawyers, especially in biglaw, are obnoxiously hierarchical and the class year will get you respect regardless.
The second part of this doesn’t go away as a mid-level. You can still be stuck with a shitty senior associate or counsel or junior partner. And you bear the brunt and responsibility of both your own workload and any juniors who are reporting to you. There is something to be said for coming in at a higher place in the ‘hierarchy’, but complaints about biglaw and obnoxious supervisors are hardly limited to junior associates.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by attorney589753 » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:21 am

NyuIwantu wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:02 am
I've only worked for government but recently got offered a biglaw position. They want to downgrade my class year by two years since I don't have firm experience. I graduated in 2016 but they will pay me as a 2018 graduate. It makes sense to me, but is this standard?
One thing you might want to think about is what sort of work does a 2018 associate do vs. a 2016 associate. For example, if you get credit as a 2016 associate, will you be asked to supervise and manage things you've never worked on? Or is it directly comparable to your government experience?

To just reiterate some of the advice in this thread: Negotiating hard on the class year makes more sense if you think you'll only stay a year or two, taking the hit makes the most sense if you want to be there longterm because you'll likely look really good "in comparison" to folks in your class year. I might ask to split the difference and go with a one year hit instead of two. Also, you could ask for an accelerated review and mid-year bump if it goes well, but that requires trusting the firm and whether that's something they do. At most firms you'll be billed out based on the class year they give you, so the incentives are actually fairly aligned to bump you if you are performing at that level.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:28 am

Lateraled last year from government to big law. Took two years back. Asked for higher signing bonus to make up for that hit. I don't expect to stay in big law but I took the hit because 1) it was already 4x what I was making in government so I was happy and 2) since I am not planning to stay the signing bonus gives me the cash upfront.

I asked around and found out it's normal for government attorneys to take years back. If you want to ask questions let me know and I can message you.

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trebekismyhero

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by trebekismyhero » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:20 pm

This is common as others have said. I even had a friend take a 4 year class hit when going from in-house to big law. I understand what others are saying about being compared to juniors, but I really doubt this is how it is done in practice based on what I have seen. Most partners are just going to look at your class year and not what you're getting paid. I think after a few months they're probably going to think of you as a mid-level anyways so I would try and push back and see if you can only get one year class downgrade or at least a bigger signing bonus.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:36 pm

The move is to accept the haircut, then once you get a decent stint of biglaw under your belt, lateral as your class year. Imo the only reason to accept this is because you don't have a choice. Losing tens of thousands of dollars just for the hypothetical longevity and partnership chance is not a very good trade.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by NyuIwantu » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:48 pm

Thanks all. This is really helpful. It's a niche area of law and a small practice. There is only one other associate in the practice who I've dealt with in my government position and she seems fine and I'm not worried about that type of hazing.

Instead of fighting for a one year drop instead of two, I'm going to fight for more remote work. As others have said, the money just coming from government is already astronomical and the little bit of QoL I can retain by working remotely an extra day a week is worth more than the class year bump.

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12YrsAnAssociate

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by 12YrsAnAssociate » Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:07 pm

Two things.

First, I know a firm I was at sometimes did this even when they recognized the person they were bringing in had higher class year abilities, but for some reason needed to bring the person in at a lower level. E.g., client needs the lawyer to be at a certain rate or firm group has a specific budget.

Second, I took a pay cut for a move and while it bothered me a little it was ultimately the right decision, and it didn't derail my career. But right now you probably have more leverage to push back if you'd like to.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:59 pm

took a 2 year cut going from a plaintiff shop to biglaw. do it.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:27 pm

hdr wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:06 am
There are no benefits to taking a class year hit. Up-or-out is basically dead and your class year isn't going to impact your long-term partnership prospects if that's your goal.
Previous poster with the colleague who took the hit.

This is false, as I literally just explained for my firm. You raise a good point that if we're talking about a firm where you can coast as counsel/NEP (think K&E, etc.) for basically forever, there is no benefit to the class year hit. But up-or-out is not dead everywhere, so there is a benefit for those firms (feel free to quibble with the amount).

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:06 pm

V50 to v10 retool support group (tax/real estate/ebec) to bread and butter corporate role and no class hit. Recruiter thought I’d take a year hit but I was fine if it came. 2020 grad.

Class hits are expected sometimes but depends what role you are shifting from/to.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:15 pm

I’m at one of the tech firms.

We’ve had YHS grads at V20s take class year cuts to switch from PE to ECVC.

We’ve had senior level IP people take 4+ year cuts to switch into tech transactions.

We’ve had accounting firm folks take 2-3+ year cuts to move into tax.

It’s a lot more common than people think.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:41 pm

12YrsAnAssociate wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:07 pm
Two things.

First, I know a firm I was at sometimes did this even when they recognized the person they were bringing in had higher class year abilities, but for some reason needed to bring the person in at a lower level. E.g., client needs the lawyer to be at a certain rate or firm group has a specific budget.

Second, I took a pay cut for a move and while it bothered me a little it was ultimately the right decision, and it didn't derail my career. But right now you probably have more leverage to push back if you'd like to.
Agree with all of this. Some firms do this routinely when bringing in people from less well-known firms or other markets (e.g., the regular haircut Australian lawyers, sometimes with 5+ years of experience, take when starting as first or second years in NY). Once you get beyond about fifth year the expectations are quite different regarding what you can and can't do. I've seen a few cases of mid-level laterals who were moved on within three months of starting at a firm (with severance etc). This is not necessarily because they were bad, but because their experience had been slightly different. And sometimes it's been between peer firms or a move from a more highly regarded firm (think someone lateraling from S&C/Skadden to Cleary/Debevoise). Even if you're at a firm that says there's no up or out, people can get pissed off, often merely because you weren't told something or are accustomed to a different way of doing things.

As others have said, depends on how long you want to be in the game, what your drivers are, etc. If it's purely a money play, in raw dollar terms a first year today is making just under what a fourth year did ten years ago (with base and bonus, leaving aside special bonuses). Even adjusting 2012 salaries for inflation, it's more than what a third year was making then.

The cases to push are if you want to be in and out as soon as you meet a certain financial goal (in which case still beware of the hazards) or you think you're a cert for partner/counsel if you're up more quickly. (The fact that you're being offered a class year hit probably means that you're not.)

Careers are long and law firms are businesses, faced with cost pressures like everyone else. And laterals are vulnerable when the market turns or firms are concerned about their wellbeing. This may be a risk-averse take and you may be the greatest associate/attorney ever - but if you're like most other laterals, there are perils associated with being too aggressive.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by FF2020 » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:06 pm
V50 to v10 retool support group (tax/real estate/ebec) to bread and butter corporate role and no class hit. Recruiter thought I’d take a year hit but I was fine if it came. 2020 grad.

Class hits are expected sometimes but depends what role you are shifting from/to.
And the level at which you're moving. The marginal costs for firms between years one and three are fairly easy to take a risk on - but there's a reason that the biggest comp jumps on the Cravath scale are between years 3-4-5. Those are the years when you're at your most profitable for a lot of firms in more normal times (easy to staff either alone or with supervision, close to 100% realization whatever the size of the deal). But if you can't perform it becomes a bit more difficult.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Mullens » Tue Jan 25, 2022 12:34 am

I would not want to start as a 6th year without any law firm experience. That sounds like a recipe for getting let go super quickly. 6th years are widely expected to supervise multiple junior attorneys and run with things (whether it be full deals on the corporate side or portions of a case/matter) with limited supervision. I don’t know how you could do that without any firm experience.

Agree with the other poster that the best bet might be to take the class year hit and then lateral at your class year later (though you’re already pretty senior to do that).

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jan 25, 2022 7:10 am

This is something I've queried myself as a possible 5000 IQ move, to lateral into a lower class year. Yes, the pay might be comparatively less, but with a lower class year comes less pressure and responsibility, indicating you can "hide" for longer. If you're just someone who wants to cash in without being front and center it would mean you can survive for longer.

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Re: Class year downgrade

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jan 25, 2022 8:43 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:15 pm
I’m at one of the tech firms.

We’ve had YHS grads at V20s take class year cuts to switch from PE to ECVC.

We’ve had senior level IP people take 4+ year cuts to switch into tech transactions.

We’ve had accounting firm folks take 2-3+ year cuts to move into tax.

It’s a lot more common than people think.
Gunderson? I know a bunch of IP midlevels and seniors that took the haircut to join you guys. It was a great move on their part because (1) they ride the gravy train again and (2) they have excellent exit options in house with deep IP AND transactional experience.
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jan 25, 2022 7:10 am
This is something I've queried myself as a possible 5000 IQ move, to lateral into a lower class year. Yes, the pay might be comparatively less, but with a lower class year comes less pressure and responsibility, indicating you can "hide" for longer. If you're just someone who wants to cash in without being front and center it would mean you can survive for longer.
Right. Ride the train up twice. That said, if you lateral to a firm that treats juniors like dirt (as another poster has said) then making the switch from more autonomy/control as a senior to a lowly junior in a new practice area would be pretty rough.

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