“Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation Forum

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.

“Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Poll ended at Fri Jul 05, 2024 8:49 am

“Elite” Firm in Non-Preferred Locale
5
20%
Biglaw Firm in Preferred Locale
20
80%
 
Total votes: 25

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

“Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 8:49 am

I’m a rising 2L at or near the top of my lower T14 class, and I’m comparing several offers.

How much different is long-term career outlook coming from a firm like MTO or W&C compared to more “standard” but still well regarded biglaw lit groups? I have an offer from the one of the former and could definitely live in LA/DC, but it isn’t my ideal location. I have lit group offers at biglaw firms (think K&E or that ilk) in Chicago, my home market where I want to live long-term. The firms I’m considering in my home market are all chambers band 1 general litigation.

Do I go where I want to be geographically, or does the more “elite”shop open doors that I’d be silly to let stay closed? It feels like a resume line that’s nice to have but otherwise not incredibly different?

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 9:01 am

For what it's worth I did this with a clerkship and I was miserable for the year because of location. But at least it was one year. Could not imagine leaving my ideal market just for prestige. But maybe there are some who value prestige above location happiness.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 10:53 am

This feels like a pretty personal decision. Different people have different levels of interest in living away from home, building a new life and connections somewhere else, etc. You have to answer that for yourself. You are probably headed for a clerkship anyway where there is a decent shot you would spend a year somewhere else unless you limit your applications to CA7, so you could find out for yourself then how you like it - then after the clerkship you wouldn't be locked into your 2L summer firm.

For what it's worth, if you want to be a litigator in Chicago, you're not really going to get much more "elite" than the lit share partners at Kirkland.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 1:54 pm

I think that careers are long and that in the long term, where you end up is much more about you and what you put into it than the difference between an “elite” firm and more standard biglaw firm.

I mean, yes, the butterfly effect is kind of a thing where your career can take different directions depending on things like working for one partner rather than another. But that kind of thing is entirely unpredictable. Being happier in Chicago than California is not.

The Lsat Airbender

Gold
Posts: 1778
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:34 pm

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Sun Jun 30, 2024 2:29 pm

If you want to be in Chicago long-term then I wouldn't waste time anywhere else. You'll get a mulligan anyway after clerking, just in case you get cold feet.

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 5:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2024 8:49 am
I’m a rising 2L at or near the top of my lower T14 class, and I’m comparing several offers.

How much different is long-term career outlook coming from a firm like MTO or W&C compared to more “standard” but still well regarded biglaw lit groups? I have an offer from the one of the former and could definitely live in LA/DC, but it isn’t my ideal location. I have lit group offers at biglaw firms (think K&E or that ilk) in Chicago, my home market where I want to live long-term. The firms I’m considering in my home market are all chambers band 1 general litigation.

Do I go where I want to be geographically, or does the more “elite”shop open doors that I’d be silly to let stay closed? It feels like a resume line that’s nice to have but otherwise not incredibly different?
You should definitely try to work in Chicago, because you want to work there. But why not try for an elite shop in Chicago? Did you apply to Bartlit Beck and other places like that?

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 5:44 pm

I summered at either MTO or W&C, and also in Chicago at either K&E or Sidley. I think you should strongly consider summering at MTO/W&C. It's good that you're thinking about long-term fit, but right now you're talking about spending a summer somewhere. You'll get disproportionate value out of knowing folks (including other summers) at either of those firms even if you don't come back. You can almost certainly end up at K&E/Sidley/Mayer/Latham in Chicago after 3L or post-clerkship (especially if you have ties), and your odds of ending up at Bartlit Beck post-clerkship are that much higher with another boutique on your resume.

As for the longer-term decision, I tend to agree that you shouldn't go to a coast just for prestige. But yes, there's likely a positive influence on your career trajectory from starting at MTO/W&C/etc. At a boutique you're getting better substantive experience, a better name brand, and a more consistently strong alumni network. Biglaw is necessarily higher variance, and even though you'll likely be better than the average biglaw lit associate, it's harder for outsiders to evaluate that.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 5:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2024 5:38 pm
You should definitely try to work in Chicago, because you want to work there. But why not try for an elite shop in Chicago? Did you apply to Bartlit Beck and other places like that?
Bartlit doesn't have a summer program.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 30, 2024 7:02 pm

^ second the suggestion about Barlit if you’re aiming for both prestige/boutique lit and Chicago. Assuming you clerk straight out of law school, you could apply for their post-3L pre-clerkship summer program. Otherwise, you could always try to lateral after Kirkland or apply for a post-clerkship role.

Want to continue reading?

Register for access!

Did I mention it was FREE ?


Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 2:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2024 5:44 pm
I summered at either MTO or W&C, and also in Chicago at either K&E or Sidley. I think you should strongly consider summering at MTO/W&C. It's good that you're thinking about long-term fit, but right now you're talking about spending a summer somewhere. You'll get disproportionate value out of knowing folks (including other summers) at either of those firms even if you don't come back. You can almost certainly end up at K&E/Sidley/Mayer/Latham in Chicago after 3L or post-clerkship (especially if you have ties), and your odds of ending up at Bartlit Beck post-clerkship are that much higher with another boutique on your resume.

As for the longer-term decision, I tend to agree that you shouldn't go to a coast just for prestige. But yes, there's likely a positive influence on your career trajectory from starting at MTO/W&C/etc. At a boutique you're getting better substantive experience, a better name brand, and a more consistently strong alumni network. Biglaw is necessarily higher variance, and even though you'll likely be better than the average biglaw lit associate, it's harder for outsiders to evaluate that.
I agree with this. I summered at one of the elite firms you mentioned despite a resume that I thought made me not competitive. I then got a fancy clerkship. The resume line helped. From that clerkship, I interviewed for (but did not get) a scotus clerkship. It'd be too glib to credit all of that to my choice of summer firm, but I'm a million percent sure that I wouldn't have gotten my clerkships if I'd summered at pretty much any other firm.

You can quibble with whether it's worth chasing after these gold stars. In general, I think the answer is "not necessarily." There's more to life than prestige. But at the same time, you have to keep in mind that junior lawyers are extremely fungible, and there's value in standing out.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 3:46 pm

Biglaw partner at the LA/DC office of a Chicago-based firm. I would stay in Chicago. Biglaw is hard enough without being in a city you don't particularly like, and DC and LA are definitely cities that are not for everyone. This is a minor point, but Chicago is also the best economic value proposition for biglaw out there - you are making NYC market salary to work in one of the cheapest COL biglaw markets. You'll be well-positioned to save for (and buy) a house in a nice neighborhood as an associate, which will be much more difficult in DC or LA.

The Lsat Airbender

Gold
Posts: 1778
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:34 pm

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Tue Jul 02, 2024 4:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2024 3:46 pm
This is a minor point, but Chicago is also the best economic value proposition for biglaw out there
Many would argue Texas but I think they aren't accounting for flood/fire insurance on their McMansion

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 4:29 pm

I faced this same sort of decision as a rising 2L - elite boutique/V10 in NYC that was top notch in what I wanted to do vs. the top firm for that work in my home market (not NYC/DC, but still quite large/sophisticated). I went to my career services office, and they said if you know you want to end up at a firm like [home market firm] in the long run why not just start there? There's not much experience outside of some very niche corporate practices that you can't also get there. It's better to start building your network at home and the firm you want to be at long term rather than trying to lateral in later. Nobody is going to care about the big NYC firm name when you're up for partner, lateralling, or trying to bring in clients. And who knows what the market will even be like in a few years - you may not even be able to get a spot at [home market firm].

I ended up taking the advice from the head of career services and haven't looked back. I've been adverse to the types of firms I was considering in NYC and I don't see the associates there having any different experiences from me.

Register now!

Resources to assist law school applicants, students & graduates.

It's still FREE!


Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 4:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2024 2:25 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2024 5:44 pm
I summered at either MTO or W&C, and also in Chicago at either K&E or Sidley. I think you should strongly consider summering at MTO/W&C. It's good that you're thinking about long-term fit, but right now you're talking about spending a summer somewhere. You'll get disproportionate value out of knowing folks (including other summers) at either of those firms even if you don't come back. You can almost certainly end up at K&E/Sidley/Mayer/Latham in Chicago after 3L or post-clerkship (especially if you have ties), and your odds of ending up at Bartlit Beck post-clerkship are that much higher with another boutique on your resume.

As for the longer-term decision, I tend to agree that you shouldn't go to a coast just for prestige. But yes, there's likely a positive influence on your career trajectory from starting at MTO/W&C/etc. At a boutique you're getting better substantive experience, a better name brand, and a more consistently strong alumni network. Biglaw is necessarily higher variance, and even though you'll likely be better than the average biglaw lit associate, it's harder for outsiders to evaluate that.
I agree with this. I summered at one of the elite firms you mentioned despite a resume that I thought made me not competitive. I then got a fancy clerkship. The resume line helped. From that clerkship, I interviewed for (but did not get) a scotus clerkship. It'd be too glib to credit all of that to my choice of summer firm, but I'm a million percent sure that I wouldn't have gotten my clerkships if I'd summered at pretty much any other firm.

You can quibble with whether it's worth chasing after these gold stars. In general, I think the answer is "not necessarily." There's more to life than prestige. But at the same time, you have to keep in mind that junior lawyers are extremely fungible, and there's value in standing out.
Would third this proposition. If you're the kind of person who cares about "prestige," the added marginal utility of having an elite name like that can genuinely make a difference in the early stages of your career, even if you do lose out on a (minimal) amount of time to start building your network in your home location. I made this same decision to go to a Susman/W&C type of place and experienced the same benefits of clerkship + network boost.

The sentiment that junior lawyers are fungible is completely spot on. The reality is that the big firms like Kirkland literally have hundreds of summers. If you have the credentials to get the offer now, you can always go back later with the added distinction of these "elite" markers that your peers may lack.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 03, 2024 8:06 pm

OP here.

Thanks all! I'm midst second looks at the moment and this has all been really helpful in trying to think things through.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 04, 2024 1:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2024 8:06 pm
OP here.

Thanks all! I'm midst second looks at the moment and this has all been really helpful in trying to think things through.
Also, assuming you're at NU because you said "T14" in your original post, there are definitely people in the years above you who've made this same decision. Ask around and you'll get directed to those people in no time. It's always better to get personal insights in addition to anonymous online advice from people who (although generally well-informed) do not know your personal circumstances in more detail.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 05, 2024 9:39 am

I had the same situation as OP and stuck with a top Chicago BL firm because my goal was to work at a top firm in Chicago. It's a pretty simple decision and boils down to what OP ultimately cares about: living where they want to live, or prestige. It does seem based on this thread that several Internet strangers will think OP is cooler for working at a higher ranked firm, though, so I certainly empathize with OP that it's a tough call.

Get unlimited access to all forums and topics

Register now!

I'm pretty sure I told you it's FREE...


Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 05, 2024 3:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 05, 2024 9:39 am
I had the same situation as OP and stuck with a top Chicago BL firm because my goal was to work at a top firm in Chicago. It's a pretty simple decision and boils down to what OP ultimately cares about: living where they want to live, or prestige. It does seem based on this thread that several Internet strangers will think OP is cooler for working at a higher ranked firm, though, so I certainly empathize with OP that it's a tough call.
One of the above posters here. "[L]iving where they want to live, or prestige" aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. It seems like the latter also made a difference to you since you chose a "top" firm.

It's not that the "prestige" by itself is worth something, but rather that prestige can serve as valuable currency—especially during early career stages where most associates are relatively interchangeable (even when most have "top" credentials like graduating with good grades from a top school). In my experience, the added benefit of having the "prestige" boutique genuinely made a difference in my clerkship outcomes and other career opportunities.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2024 5:35 am

Genuinely curious what you mean by this - so you’re crediting a more prestigious boutique with getting you a better clerkship and the ability to interview (but not get) a SCOTUS clerkship? Anything else? Frankly that seems pretty silly to me. Clerking is entirely judge dependent as far as the experience goes. And as a prestige signal, sure maybe you get a more prestigious clerkship. But to what end? To go back to a firm? Maybe even a top firm in your preferred locale? You know, like OP already has the option of doing?

Glad that you are so satisfied with the added prestige but you haven’t provided any specifics of a tangible difference in outcome. But I hope the satisfaction of interviewing to clerk on SCOTUS sustains you.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2024 6:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2024 5:35 am
Genuinely curious what you mean by this - so you’re crediting a more prestigious boutique with getting you a better clerkship and the ability to interview (but not get) a SCOTUS clerkship? Anything else? Frankly that seems pretty silly to me. Clerking is entirely judge dependent as far as the experience goes. And as a prestige signal, sure maybe you get a more prestigious clerkship. But to what end? To go back to a firm? Maybe even a top firm in your preferred locale? You know, like OP already has the option of doing?

Glad that you are so satisfied with the added prestige but you haven’t provided any specifics of a tangible difference in outcome. But I hope the satisfaction of interviewing to clerk on SCOTUS sustains you.
Getting a legitimate chance at a SCOTUS clerkship just by going to one firm over another seems pretty significant.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2024 7:42 pm

The obvious complications here are that (1) you may be able to split and (2) many people who clerk do not return to their summer firm.

Re the prior poster, I'm fairly skeptical that your 2L summer makes a difference to clerkships (as someone who clerked for/hired clerks for a feeder), but insofar as it ever does, that's obviously material. The only summer programs that I think are really overrepresented among feeder clerks are Susman and Kellogg, but those are splits and it's probably correlation not causation.

Communicate now with those who not only know what a legal education is, but can offer you worthy advice and commentary as you complete the three most educational, yet challenging years of your law related post graduate life.

Register now, it's still FREE!


Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2024 10:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2024 5:35 am
Genuinely curious what you mean by this - so you’re crediting a more prestigious boutique with getting you a better clerkship and the ability to interview (but not get) a SCOTUS clerkship? Anything else? Frankly that seems pretty silly to me. Clerking is entirely judge dependent as far as the experience goes. And as a prestige signal, sure maybe you get a more prestigious clerkship. But to what end? To go back to a firm? Maybe even a top firm in your preferred locale? You know, like OP already has the option of doing?

Glad that you are so satisfied with the added prestige but you haven’t provided any specifics of a tangible difference in outcome. But I hope the satisfaction of interviewing to clerk on SCOTUS sustains you.
I'm the poster I think you're referring to. I sense sort of a hostile tone, but I'll chalk it up to perhaps your being in law school or early in your practice and just say this:

Evaluating legal talent is super, super hard, so people need some basis upon which to differentiate applicants. In my lived experience, going to an elite summer firm like MTO or W&C was one such basis for certain judges. Clerking for one of those judges was, in turn, a differentiating basis for at least one justice. That wouldn't have been obvious to me in OP's shoes, so I'm sharing the data point. If, like you, OP considers it "silly," that's fine, but I'd want the perspective if I were in his/her shoes.

User avatar
Lacepiece23

Silver
Posts: 1397
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Lacepiece23 » Sun Jul 07, 2024 4:16 am

I’m a decade out. Plaintiffs lawyer. Wife is up for partner in biglaw. I used to chase experiences and stuff. I’ve got like five trials to verdict and a 100 deps at this point.

My advice is to just try and make it to be a decade out. That’s when you really start litigating anyway. Many of my classmates that picked top shops or elite options are sitting at mid sized firms burned out.

The ones still trucking went to like a v50, literally the best option is likely the lowest on the v50 list that pays Cravath not in a major market.

If I had elite credentials, I’d leverage them into that gig.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 07, 2024 11:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2024 10:25 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2024 5:35 am
Genuinely curious what you mean by this - so you’re crediting a more prestigious boutique with getting you a better clerkship and the ability to interview (but not get) a SCOTUS clerkship? Anything else? Frankly that seems pretty silly to me. Clerking is entirely judge dependent as far as the experience goes. And as a prestige signal, sure maybe you get a more prestigious clerkship. But to what end? To go back to a firm? Maybe even a top firm in your preferred locale? You know, like OP already has the option of doing?

Glad that you are so satisfied with the added prestige but you haven’t provided any specifics of a tangible difference in outcome. But I hope the satisfaction of interviewing to clerk on SCOTUS sustains you.
I'm the poster I think you're referring to. I sense sort of a hostile tone, but I'll chalk it up to perhaps your being in law school or early in your practice and just say this:

Evaluating legal talent is super, super hard, so people need some basis upon which to differentiate applicants. In my lived experience, going to an elite summer firm like MTO or W&C was one such basis for certain judges. Clerking for one of those judges was, in turn, a differentiating basis for at least one justice. That wouldn't have been obvious to me in OP's shoes, so I'm sharing the data point. If, like you, OP considers it "silly," that's fine, but I'd want the perspective if I were in his/her shoes.
Different anon, but +1 to this. Just another datapoint, obviously, but I summered (and now work) at a similar firm and it was extremely helpful in getting my clerkship. My judge commented on it in my interview as a big plus and encouraged me to go back after graduation for the training.

No harm in taking the job for the summer and seeing where you'll be once clerkship apps shake out. And if you need to fill a year or two gap and want to be in Chicago, it's pretty likely you'll be able to go back to the firms you had a summer offer from and get a full-time position.

Anonymous User
Posts: 429940
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: “Elite” Litigation versus Biglaw Litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 08, 2024 8:12 pm

Lacepiece23 wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2024 4:16 am
I’m a decade out. Plaintiffs lawyer. Wife is up for partner in biglaw. I used to chase experiences and stuff. I’ve got like five trials to verdict and a 100 deps at this point.

My advice is to just try and make it to be a decade out. That’s when you really start litigating anyway. Many of my classmates that picked top shops or elite options are sitting at mid sized firms burned out.

The ones still trucking went to like a v50, literally the best option is likely the lowest on the v50 list that pays Cravath not in a major market.

If I had elite credentials, I’d leverage them into that gig.
As a biglaw litigation partner who picked a firm in the V75 over K&E and Quinn, I couldn't agree more.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

Now there's a charge.
Just kidding ... it's still FREE!


Post Reply Post Anonymous Reply  

Return to “Legal Employment”