Law School Discussion

Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?

Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« on: December 11, 2008, 03:52:34 AM »
I'm reading Bitter Lawyer and it can't be this bad.  What other yuppie job doesn't have long hours and a little bit of junior abuse?

Talk Is Cheap

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Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2008, 10:23:17 AM »
Probably none. All young hires at any professional job get worked to death and razzed by their higher-ups.

Biglaw is honestly sounding less and less appealing the more I hear, but that's not to say anything else is that much better. We should all expect to work hard.

Not like I have a realistic chance at Biglaw, but hey...dare to dream.

Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2008, 10:58:50 AM »
Dare to dream about being abused and mistreated? 


I would answer the question with a hearty "Ja wohl!" even though the information upon which this answer is based is purely anecdotal.

My brother went from T10 to NY Biglaw in 2001 and here is his tale.  He was (note past tense) in securities law at a white shoe firm until this past month.  Obviously, this year he was a partner hopeful.  The past 7 years have been sheer misery.  He's worked for partners who were insulting and abusive, but I think that's the least of it.He has been on call for literally 7 years.  Partners will call in the middle of the night and he will have to go to work.  We've been out drinking at 1am on a Saturday and he's gotten messages on his blackberry to come to the office immediately.  A car shows up to pick him up 30 minutes later.   He's had to cancel at least two vacations to visit his wife's family (in Europe) because the partner literally called 3-4 hours before the flight and needed something done the next day.  Note that these vacations were planned months in advance and he had to eat the tickets... I can assure you that he doesn't purchase non-refundable tickets any more. When he asked the partner he worked for if they could avoid these situations in the future he was told "look, we pay you for this.  If you don't want to do it, we'll find someone else"  and something to the effect of "there are hundreds of newly minted top law grads flowing into the city every year.  You're nothing special." 

What happened after 7 years of this?  He was told that he was not going to make partner in September.  In November, he was laid off.


Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2008, 12:13:35 PM »
What happened after 7 years of this?  He was told that he was not going to make partner in September.  In November, he was laid off.

Dude, that is harsh. I'm sorry for your brother.

nealric

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Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2008, 12:25:47 PM »
I believe it depends very much on the firm and the market.

NYC V20 work is going to be very different from AMLAW 200 work in Texas. I've talked to young associates who have essentially worked every waking hour since they graduated, and young associates who maintain a pretty good work/life balance. IMO the absolute worst places are going to be the middling NYC biglaw firms (i.e. The White & Cases of the world). If you go to Cravath, at least you have good exit options to make up for constant work. If you go to a lower V100, you will likely be working less. Many of those middling NY Biglaw firms give you the hours of Cravath but without the prestige.

A separate potential problem is being trapped in Biglaw. If you are seriously in debt from student loans, but start living the 200k/yr lifestyle, you can put yourself in a situation where you can't leave no matter how much you want to. Add to that the potential for a layoff (and financial ruin). I think that can seriously fuel the misery.

Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2008, 12:46:28 PM »
Yeah, it is hard not to get trapped in Biglaw in NY.  The fact is that $200k doeesn't go that far in NY, even if you're outside of Manhattan.

I sort of understand your reasoning about working for Cravath or nobody... I mean, if you can get that work.  I'm not sure I totally agree, at least as far as I understand what you're saying.

I think it's a bit harsh to say that once you're out of the V20 you're getting the hours without the prestige.  Even the prestige of V100 in a major market affords you the opportunity to go to V100 in a secondary market later on.  It's not like if you don't make partner at a V5 firm you will never work again.  Firms are greedily lapping up associates from places like Heller Ehrmann (was this firm even in the V top 75?) which dissolved earlier this year.  In fact, HE refugees can be found turning up in V100 firms in major markets.

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Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2008, 12:56:33 PM »
Quote
I think it's a bit harsh to say that once you're out of the V20 you're getting the hours without the prestige.  Even the prestige of V100 in a major market affords you the opportunity to go to V100 in a secondary market later on.  It's not like if you don't make partner at a V5 firm you will never work again.  Firms are greedily lapping up associates from places like Heller Ehrmann (was this firm even in the V top 75?) which dissolved earlier this year.  In fact, these people can be found turning up in V100 firms in major markets.
 

It was more of a personal judgment rather than a universal one. I didn't mean to imply that V20 firms have no prestige or exit options. I just feel that the exit options for a lower V20 are closer to those in the lower side of the V100 than they are to Wachtell or Cravath. Of course, maybe I'm just subconsciously justifying my decision to go to a firm that is lower in the vault rankings  :)

Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2008, 01:05:23 PM »
I'm not really sure how to compare them, but I'd say the following.  Firms at the lower end of the V100, more often than not, pay market.  They have substantially lower entrance hurdles than those at the top of the V100 (that's putting it mildly).  This means, it's been my experience at the lower V100 as a non-lawyer, that if you go to a V100 with a JD from a top school, you will be valuable.  On the other hand, if you're from T5 at a V25 firm, you're just ordinary. 

This is not a good time to be ordinary.

And, if the pay is the same, what's the difference?  Is the work really sooooo much better in the V20?  Maybe, but there's a pretty huge downside.

All that said, I think the hours can be pretty insane even at the bottom of the V100 if you're in a major market.

nealric

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Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2008, 01:39:09 PM »
Quote

dude...  white & case is middling?  i mean coming from some places yeah, but come on....

I don't mean middling in the grand scheme of things. Any firm in the Amlaw 200 is far from middling in the grand scheme of things. I meant in the context of elite NYC Biglaw firms.

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Re: Does BigLaw Deserve Its Bad Rep?
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2008, 04:13:44 PM »
Assuming I could get biglaw, I would only go if it weren't in NY...somewhere where cost of living is cheap[er].
For the young, single, and friendless, it might be a fair trade-off being rode to death and on call all the time, in exchange for the money. Assuming you spent as little of it as possible...