Law School Discussion

Top firm in major market versus lifestyle in secondary market?

Top firm in major market versus lifestyle in secondary market?
« on: October 15, 2008, 06:28:47 PM »
I'm a 2L who had decided to target secondary markets but then threw in a few firms in a major market because I wanted to use up all of my OCI bids.  I'm 30 and married, and we really like the idea of going somewhere that we can buy a house right away and have a nice lifestyle.  We might even want to have a child soon.  Here is the decision I'm faced with:

1. Extremely prestigious firm in major market. Wonderful exit options.  People seem genuinely happy working at this firm in terms of work/life balance... moreso than at many other firms ranked so highly.  I don't hate the city or anything, but real estate is so expensive, and public schools are bad.  We wouldn't be able to be as financially comfortable, but on the other hand, this firm gives out 100% offers to their summer class.  So a practically guaranteed awesome job is hard to turn down.

2.  Top firm in a secondary market.  Great exit options within that market.  But has a sweatshop reputation within the community.  People seem nice but a bit cookie-cutter.  Could afford a nice house within close driving distance in a city we would rather be in.

3.  Third best firm that's based out of this secondary market.  Really liked the people at the interviews... felt that I would fit in well here.  Firm has a reputation for being a distinctly better place to work than option #2.  But they laid people off earlier this year.  Same plusses about nice house, etc.

4.  Small (about 50 peole), relatively new office of major national firm in the secondary market.  People in the office seem happy, but people at the firm as a whole do not.  THey seem very invested in growing this office.  I have concerns about whether I'd have the opportunity to try enough different types of work in an office this small.  Same plusses about nice house, etc.

Any advice/opinions welcome!  Still waiting to hear from some firms, but I've pretty much given up hope on them, other than one litigation boutique that I won't hear from until probably next week.  If I get that one, I'll snap it up, but it would only be for half the summer anyway.  And I'm not sure what percentage of their summers (they only hire 2 or 3 a year) get offers, but I think it might not be as many as is typical.

Re: Top firm in major market versus lifestyle in secondary market?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2008, 07:03:31 PM »
That is funny I am in a very similar situation and I am accepting option 1.  Most people I have talked to about it have also advised me that way.

Re: Top firm in major market versus lifestyle in secondary market?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2008, 07:41:45 PM »
I'm sort of in the same boat, although, not married, no plans for kids. I'm basically between a good firm with a non sweat shop rep in a big market and a lifestyle firm in a smaller market. It is good that we have choices, but it doesn't make them any easier.

Honestly, if you decide on the secondary market, I think option 3 is better than option 2. You feel like you will fit in. You liked everyone you met. You have a family and they have less of a sweatshop reputation. The layoffs are scary, but if they are in a practice area that is cyclical and you don't have interest in (real estate for example) then you might be OK.

If you have real trouble, you can try what I did. Make a list of things that are important to you in your job. Weight each one so the sum of the weights is 1.00. Then, for each firm give a score of 1 - 10 for each category. Multiply each score by the weight for that category. Sum each category for each firm. Highest score wins. For example:

QOL (.5)
Like People (.25)
City (.25)

Firm A:
QOL 7, 7*.5 = 3.5
Like People 7, 7 * .25 = 1.75
City 10 * .25 = 2.5
Total = 7.75

Firm B:
QOL 10, 10*.5 = 5
Like People 8, 8 * .25 = 2
City 5 * .25 = 1.25
Total = 8.25

Firm B wins.

This is a technique we used a lot in my old job when we had to make important decisions. They were much more complicated, but the process was the same. It sounds like a lot of work, but it can really help put things in perspective. You might even make a decision while you are making up the list as to what is important to you.

Of course, when I did this, the scores came out exactly the same.

I think, in your situation, the last thing you should be thinking about is firm "prestige." While it may be a factor, I think you and your family's happiness ought to come first.