Lawyer, Law School, BigLaw FAQ

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Swag22, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. Swag22

    Swag22 Senior member

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    Pay starts low in government or pay starts low getting hired in-house from government?

    Edit: Or both
     


  2. Bona Drag

    Bona Drag Senior member

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    In government.
     


  3. crazyquik

    crazyquik Senior member

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    Thanks for the reply

    and it pretty much says that getting a solid in-house position straight out of law school is a long shot. Can anyone clarify that perception?


    What you don't realize is that newly minted attorneys really don't know how to practice law, or give counseling (because they know theory, not practice). There is no required residency in law, like there is in medicine.

    So someone has got to 'subsidize' the next few years of your life after you get out of law school. Here, you have a couple options:
    1 - work for a BIGlaw firm, if you can. You bill by the hour, and (historically) there was enough drudgery work that *had* to be done by someone, so junior associates would do it because their billing rates were lower. In the process, they learned what the senior associates and partners were doing, why they were doing it, etc. Also, much of what you do will be reviewed several times by people higher up than you.

    2 - work in small law firm. Some corporations will take in-house lawyers from small firms, although it's not as likely. Here, you're not going to make as much money your first few years of practice (perhaps equal or less than government work) because, again, your clients aren't going to be paying enough to subsidize your education.

    3 - government. For most government jobs I've seen, they acknowledge that you don't know anything, and thus require you to sign a 3 year contract with them, so you don't flee as soon as you learn something. Here, the taxpayer subsidizes your further education. What better way to learn tax defense than to work for the IRS? What better way to learn criminal defense than to be a prosecutor? Etc. If you screw up, it's not like your corporate client is out millions of dollars.

    Most corporations don't have the sort of work you can learn on. When someone from another department calls up and wants to know if they can run this ad or modify this contract, you've got to give them counsel on whether that is wise. If they get hit with a nationwide class action against one of their products, and you're in the general counsel's office managing litigation for a certain state or region, you've got to be able to talk with the local counsel or national counsel and plan and coordinate some strategies. Someone fresh out of lawschool would be about worthless for either of those.

    In-house is largely about division of labor; they are only going to offer the services to the rest of the company that are not cost-effective to outsource to law-firm specialists. Corporations aren't going to keep around a lot of fresh law graduates, because it would cost too much to train them. They are, you know, running a business.

    I suppose you could clerk for a judge, and then become a permanent clerk, and do that for several years before trying to move in-house. However, I don't know anyone that's done that and I don't see it as being very realistic. I've only known one permanent clerk who left, and she became an appellate specialist at a boutique law firm.

    Also, in-house counsel are less likely to wear suits or even sport coats, a good consideration for anyone on this site [​IMG] But if business casual is your highest aspiration, go for it!
     


  4. Flambeur

    Flambeur Senior member

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    This obviously used to work better when the economy was chugging along, but I know that some T14 graduates went straight into finance. It obviously wasn't easy, but if you could demonstrate prior business experience or analytical ability, you used to be able to get in somewhere as an associate.

    Some of my friends from the tier 2 or so schools ended up working in Big4 - tax, compliance, etc.
     


  5. crazyquik

    crazyquik Senior member

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    This obviously used to work better when the economy was chugging along, but I know that some T14 graduates went straight into finance.

    No joke, that's what's causing a lot of biglaw firms to shed associates at the moment. They used to be able to depend on associates quitting for in-house (better hours) or finance (better pay) gigs. The business model depends on attrition, either natural or forced.
     


  6. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    3 - government. For most government jobs I've seen, they acknowledge that you don't know anything, and thus require you to sign a 3 year contract with them, so you don't flee as soon as you learn something. Here, the taxpayer subsidizes your further education. What better way to learn tax defense than to work for the IRS? What better way to learn criminal defense than to be a prosecutor? Etc. If you screw up, it's not like your corporate client is out millions of dollars.


    Also, in-house counsel are less likely to wear suits or even sport coats, a good consideration for anyone on this site [​IMG] But if business casual is your highest aspiration, go for it!


    Apart from a job for 3 years what is the upside to this contract one has to sign with the government?

    Anyway I knew the general counsel for the DC office of a consulting firm I used to intern at, he was always impeccably dressed though the office was very business casual.
     


  7. crazyquik

    crazyquik Senior member

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    Apart from a job for 3 years what is the upside to this contract one has to sign with the government?

    Anyway I knew the general counsel for the DC office of a consulting firm I used to intern at, he was always impeccably dressed though the office was very business casual.


    Depending on what branch:
    - good experience
    - might get to do meaningful work on important stuff
    - potentially a lot of negative power if you're a paper-shuffling buerucrat (if you like being able to say "no" a lot).
    - great exit options for some positions
    - ability to sink Presidential appointments
    - government benefits
    - job security
    - half the hours
    - watching people quake in your presence when you tell them you're a federal prosecutor/IRS agent/Dept of Justice attorney, etc. Doesn't work the same if you tell them you're assistant counsel overseeing waste management though [​IMG]
     


  8. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    Pay starts low in government or pay starts low getting hired in-house from government?

    Edit: Or both

    I have the perfect law school for you, and it is now ranked 12th nationally in its own poll!!!!

    http://abovethelaw.com/2009/02/coole...velops_mor.php
     


  9. crazyquik

    crazyquik Senior member

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    You don't even need an undergraduate degree to go to Cooley. It is much more sinister than a diploma mill.
     


  10. Tardek

    Tardek Senior member

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    No one has really answered my question about the lifestyle, work-life balance, daily hours etc??
    Thanks for the reply Reading this through this thread has almost killed my aspirations of becoming a BigLaw attorney, and my new goals is going in-house at a large corporation. The one thing that kills me though is the belief I have that I won't be able to land that in-house position without years of BigLaw work. I read through this : http://www.mortgagebankers.org/files...useCounsel.pdf and it pretty much says that getting a solid in-house position straight out of law school is a long shot. Can anyone clarify that perception?
    So then in-house straight out of law school is pretty much not happening. Do in-house positions look for employees anywhere else besides large firms? (Are there any other routes to get to in-house without having to put in time at a large firm?)
    I was going to reply to these, but then I read this:
    What you don't realize is that newly minted attorneys really don't know how to practice law, or give counseling (because they know theory, not practice). There is no required residency in law, like there is in medicine. So someone has got to 'subsidize' the next few years of your life after you get out of law school. Here, you have a couple options: 1 - work for a BIGlaw firm, if you can. You bill by the hour, and (historically) there was enough drudgery work that *had* to be done by someone, so junior associates would do it because their billing rates were lower. In the process, they learned what the senior associates and partners were doing, why they were doing it, etc. Also, much of what you do will be reviewed several times by people higher up than you. 2 - work in small law firm. Some corporations will take in-house lawyers from small firms, although it's not as likely. Here, you're not going to make as much money your first few years of practice (perhaps equal or less than government work) because, again, your clients aren't going to be paying enough to subsidize your education. 3 - government. For most government jobs I've seen, they acknowledge that you don't know anything, and thus require you to sign a 3 year contract with them, so you don't flee as soon as you learn something. Here, the taxpayer subsidizes your further education. What better way to learn tax defense than to work for the IRS? What better way to learn criminal defense than to be a prosecutor? Etc. If you screw up, it's not like your corporate client is out millions of dollars. Most corporations don't have the sort of work you can learn on. When someone from another department calls up and wants to know if they can run this ad or modify this contract, you've got to give them counsel on whether that is wise. If they get hit with a nationwide class action against one of their products, and you're in the general counsel's office managing litigation for a certain state or region, you've got to be able to talk with the local counsel or national counsel and plan and coordinate some strategies. Someone fresh out of lawschool would be about worthless for either of those. In-house is largely about division of labor; they are only going to offer the services to the rest of the company that are not cost-effective to outsource to law-firm specialists. Corporations aren't going to keep around a lot of fresh law graduates, because it would cost too much to train them. They are, you know, running a business. I suppose you could clerk for a judge, and then become a permanent clerk, and do that for several years before trying to move in-house. However, I don't know anyone that's done that and I don't see it as being very realistic. I've only known one permanent clerk who left, and she became an appellate specialist at a boutique law firm. Also, in-house counsel are less likely to wear suits or even sport coats, a good consideration for anyone on this site [​IMG] But if business casual is your highest aspiration, go for it!
    This is really good advice. To clarify, most people with in-house counsel jobs are highly qualified in their field or they are really good buddies with someone important. It is always either one or the other. An in-house job revolves around problems arising, forming a strategy to defeat the problem, and often retaining a law-firm to do that job for you if you don't have the ability to run a case yourself. You will have several law firms vying for the task and you will need to analyse their strategies and pick the one with the highest probability for success. As crazyquick says, you just do not have the expertise you need straight out of law school. I graduate this year (and we have a practical training requirement here) and outside of my expertise, while I know the theory, I know enough to know that there are massive gaps in my practical knowledge of how to get shit done. You might as well forget going straight to in-house. You need to take a job in a firm, preferably mid- or top-tier, or in the government, and work there for a few years while you attain mastery in your field. Then, if you want to make the big bucks you have to move on to something else, either start your own niche company or start joining the boards of the companies you've hopefully impressed. There is one other option that nobody else seems to have mentioned: academia. If you can impress some of your professors enough to get a teaching job, and write for a few respected journals during your schooling and get published, you may be able to become a respected name in your field based purely on your theoretical knowledge of the law.
     


  11. TC (Houston)

    TC (Houston) Senior member

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    Just another data point from Texas . . . Most of the people I know who work in large law firms seem to enjoy their work. I never understood these complainers. By the time you show up for your first day of work, the firm has invested tens of thousands of dollars in you. Then for several years you have the benefit of great training and the opportunity to build valuable relationships, all the while getting paid handsomely to do it. If you decide somewhere along the way that you would rather do something else, you do with no strings attached. It just doesn't sound that bad to me.
     


  12. hipcathobbes

    hipcathobbes Senior member

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    There is one other option that nobody else seems to have mentioned: academia. If you can impress some of your professors enough to get a teaching job, and write for a few respected journals during your schooling and get published, you may be able to become a respected name in your field based purely on your theoretical knowledge of the law.

    This is a good extra option, if you have the grades and if you are good at making and writing creative scholarly arguments.
     


  13. Flambeur

    Flambeur Senior member

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    Just another data point from Texas . . . Most of the people I know who work in large law firms seem to enjoy their work. I never understood these complainers. By the time you show up for your first day of work, the firm has invested tens of thousands of dollars in you. Then for several years you have the benefit of great training and the opportunity to build valuable relationships, all the while getting paid handsomely to do it. If you decide somewhere along the way that you would rather do something else, you do with no strings attached. It just doesn't sound that bad to me.

    what's your specialty?
     


  14. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

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    What is pay like at an in-house position?

    Good. Not necessarily partner-level good, but you won't be hurting if it's a large company.


    Actually, it's one of those "it depends" things. It varies a lot by industry and type of in-house position. But my general impression is that the pay at lower-level in-house jobs is (relatively speaking) pretty bad, but can become pretty good at more senior level.s
     


  15. TC (Houston)

    TC (Houston) Senior member

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    what's your specialty?


    I do primarily M&A and public and private securities offerings.
     


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