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Author Topic: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions  (Read 24885 times)

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« on: July 06, 2009, 03:47:08 PM »
I may not respond right away for obvious reasons but I will address all the questions in the order in which they were received.

ETA: Any other current or former BigLaw Associates out there reading this feel free to jump in and add your 2 cents as well. I think it's important to give pre-laws and law students an idea of what they can realistically expect on a day to day.




FYI, see the following quote for background:

My grades are fine, but probably preclude W&C and Cravath-type firms, so please don't suggest them.  Right now, I'm looking at these places:

Quinn Emmanuel (they sound great, and I heard they're a bit of a sweatshop, which is all the better ITE)
Boies Schiller
Kirkland (probably NYC more than Chicago)
Gibson Dunn
Crowell and Moring (I heard good things from others)

Any other suggestions?

If I'm really interested in a firm like Quinn, would they mind if I interviewed in multiple offices?

(speaking for NY offices only):

Gibson Dunn if you want to work day and night around the clock.

Crowell Moring if you don't want to work day and night around the clock but get the same pay. (excluding bonuses of course)

Kirkland, more towards Gibson Dunn environment but not quite as bad (debatable though).

Haven't worked with people or know any people at Boise or Quinn so I can't speak to those two.





Hey, Sands.  Just a quick question (probably a little off topic, sorry):  I understand that people work around the clock at these big firms, but is the work really that tedious?  Is it really that boring?  If you're in litigation, does it really come down to just doing document review round the clock?

I don't mind working hard; I just want to also do some interesting work.  I understand I'm going to be pulling time doing things that aren't quite so "sexy."  But, when it's all said and done, I want to get good experience and do some interesting work while learning what it really takes to be a lawyer.

Can you speak to that a little bit?


If it's ok with Officious I'll respond to that in this thread.

NY is a different beast than most other markets for reasons I can expand on later, but just wanted to throw that out up front as a threshold matter.

That being said, in a NYC BigLaw firm as a junior associate,  you can expect to work long hours on conducting and/or running doc reviews just because that is typically the name of the game for NY practice.  When I say long hours, I mean that you can expect to bill 180 to 200 hours/month on doc review related work for months at a time. (I had a few months that ran 200+ which starts to enter zombie territory)

You asked if the work is tedious and boring.  Short answer: yes.  Doing doc review at BigLaw typically entails running a doc review of anywhere from 1 or 2 to up to 100 or more document reviewers, aka Contract Attorneys.  For example, I was on one where there were 2 partners, 2 sr. associates, one other fellow junior associate and myself.  We had a team of about 40 Contract Attorneys reviewing documents from 9am to 8pm Monday thru Saturday. This lasted for about 6 or 7 months.

Part of your duties as a jr assoc involves quality control of the contract attorneys which means being present to answer questions and check their work after documents are reviewed.  This is the tedious part.  Contract attorneys will review the documents for relevance to a number of different criteria and also for privileged communications between the other side and their attorneys.  All of this information is done through various doc review program software. Each firm has their own favorite type.  After the documents are reviewed at the first level, then you, as the junior associate, will have to do Q.C. to check if a document that is, for example, tagged as privileged actually is privileged.

Like I said, tedious.

That's the initial phase of the litigation however.  As documents are reviewed and discovery begins to give us more clues to the puzzle, then you actually get into the "sexy" work of drafting motions, legal research, etc.  But it all starts with the doc review and discovery.  Before you do doc review/discovery you really don't know what is out there that can help your case or theories that you may have.  What starts off as a breach of contract claim between two large corporations, for example, can quickly turn into a trademark infringement claim involving multiple third parties who are now dragged into the litigation through impleader.

Getting back to the "sexy" work, the drafting of motions in NY is usually done by the sr. associates and signed off by the Partners.  Sometimes the sr. assoc's kick down the work to those of us jr. assoc's so then you can get your feet wet in actual motion practice in either federal or state court (usually federal). I can expand on that aspect as well but I'm trying to stay on point to your question as much as possible and still give a meaningful answer.

Lastly, you mentioned getting good experience and doing meaningful work as a lawyer.  Well I have good news and bad news.  Bad news, I can tell you right now, although it is the norm in Biglaw, there is NOTHING meaningful about doc review.  And what I mean by that is, there is NO substantive development as an attorney whatsoever from running a doc review.  During doc reviews, you'll have many-a-night where you'll be sitting up at midnight long after the office has cleared out wondering to yourself why you needed to go through 3 years of law school and a bar exam just to do something that you could literally train your kid brother to do in 15 minutes.

That's the bad news.

Good news is there is a way to get good experience and do meaningful work as a junior associate in Biglaw and its name is Pro Bono.  As a 1st year associate, I appeared in both federal and state court, representing clients on a variety of issues from death penalty cases to criminal defense work to civil litigations.  I have visited clients in federal prison (an interesting experience), state and county jails and other detention centers.  I have helped single mothers living in battered women's shelters get some much needed benefits from the City of New York. - All of this has been from pro bono work.

So I know that was lengthy but hopefully that sheds some light on what you guys are getting into.  Let me know if you guys have any other questions.

That was a great response.  Thanks!  The only downside is that now I have many, many more questions (as I'm sure most of the other posters reading this).  However, I don't want to steal from this thread.  Perhaps, when you're free you can start a thread where we can just throw questions at you.  It's nice to get some inside perspective on what a lot of us aspiring for.
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Charles H. Houston

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2009, 04:10:50 PM »
What % of work is doc review then?  It sounds like almost all of your hours are billed there?  Does it actually make a difference what market you are in?

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 04:32:17 PM »
What % of work is doc review then?  It sounds like almost all of your hours are billed there?  Does it actually make a difference what market you are in?

Good question. It all depends on what comes your way and what practice group you are assigned to within the Litigation Department of your firm. 

I should have clarified up front, I am in Commercial Litigation, sometimes referred to as "General Litigation" at some firms because it can span different practice areas.  For example, I do general run of the mill commercial litigation cases (where most of the doc reviews take place), IP litigation cases (which can also get into substantial and quite complicated doc reviews), securities litigation cases (which tend to involve doc reviews in response to SEC inquiries) and every now and again the bankruptcy folks will throw a little work my way but I'm not really too well versed on bankruptcy matters (although I probably should be considering this economy).


Now, within the Litigation Dept, if I was assigned to the Labor & Employment practice group for example, then I would effectively have 0 hours of doc review work b/c they don't really do that stuff.

So I don't want to paint the picture that you will automatically spend 90% of your time running doc reviews b/c that may not be the case, depending on what practice group you are in within litigation.

Now all this time I've been talking about "Litigation" which is one of two sides to any biglaw firm. The other side is the "Transactional" side, aka "Corporate."  They don't do "doc review" but they have their own version of tedious doc review work known as "due diligence," which as I understand it is basically reviewing contract language for really big deals for many hours at a time. 

But to answer your question with my own experience, during my first year I would venture to guess that I probably billed about...60-70% of my billable time (pro bono is non-billable) on doc review.  The other 30-40% of billable time was billed to various legal research, motions, drafting of documents, attending depositions, attending court, etc.
 

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Charles H. Houston

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2009, 04:38:34 PM »
I've got plenty of questions, but we'll start with some of these:

You spoke about gaining experience by doing pro bono, is this something that is just unique to your firm?  Or, since you know others at big firms, does this happen at other firms?

Knowing what you know now, is there somewhere else you would've chosen to work at for your first job?

Do you know what life is like for those first year associates doing transactional work?  

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2009, 04:47:07 PM »
tag

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2009, 05:12:11 PM »
I've got plenty of questions, but we'll start with some of these:

You spoke about gaining experience by doing pro bono, is this something that is just unique to your firm?  Or, since you know others at big firms, does this happen at other firms?

This happens at every firm because the bar requires it.  In order to keep your license in NY, you must complete at least 20 hours of pro bono work each year.  Most firms in the City (if not all) follow the NYC Bar Association's pledge of at least 50 hours per year per lawyer.  I can tell you I did well over 100 hours of pro bono work in my fist year as an associate.  Some firms do this more than others. I advise you to ask any firm that you interview with what their Pro Bono program is like and how it is structured.  Does it provide random assignments here or there or will you be involved in actual cases where it's just you and the client face to face?


Knowing what you know now, is there somewhere else you would've chosen to work at for your first job?


LOL.  I think it's safe to say that pretty much all of us here in NY would have looked into other options if we had known that the economy was going to kill BigLaw like it did.  :D

That being said, I interned for a few federal judges in law school but I do kinda wish I had actually clerked for my first job out of law school.  Other than that, I'm happy with the choice I made to enter BigLaw even though the economy bent us over.


Do you know what life is like for those first year associates doing transactional work?  

My transactional knowledge is admittedly limited, however I do have several friends who are transactional associates and they have interesting high and low periods and odd hours.  I think that they are most busy before deals go through. For example my buddy who is in the Real Estate department will coast for a while, but then when a deal is about to close, he's up every day all night around the clock.  Plus they have odd hours due to overseas clients.  Many of the deals take place with Asian clients or European clients, so depending on which side they're either up really really late or up really really early on conference calls overseas.

Interesting work, but not my cup of tea.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
Charles H. Houston

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2009, 05:25:16 PM »
You mention that Employment and Labor litigation people do not spend as much time on doc review. Does this mean that a jr associate in l and e would do more substantive legal work (motions, deps, court appearances etc.)? I want to be the chicago version of alan shore/denny crane... what practice area do you recommend I do to get there (just kidding, I don;t expect an answer)? Alas, I am 0L RA for a professor at the law school I will be attending this fall (Chicago), do you think that will give me a leg up on getting a 1l summer firm gig in biglaw (preferably kirkland or skadden, HA) (for the few that will be hiring ANY 1LS, which i know will be few and far between)?

Thanks

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2009, 06:22:52 PM »
You mention that Employment and Labor litigation people do not spend as much time on doc review. Does this mean that a jr associate in l and e would do more substantive legal work (motions, deps, court appearances etc.)? I want to be the chicago version of alan shore/denny crane... what practice area do you recommend I do to get there (just kidding, I don;t expect an answer)? Alas, I am 0L RA for a professor at the law school I will be attending this fall (Chicago), do you think that will give me a leg up on getting a 1l summer firm gig in biglaw (preferably kirkland or skadden, HA) (for the few that will be hiring ANY 1LS, which i know will be few and far between)?

Thanks

Perhaps.  I really don't know what my Labor & Employment colleagues spend their day to day billable time on, but I know that the bulk of it is not doc review like ours is.   

Re getting a leg up, anything is possible.  The more people you know in this profession the better chances you have of running across somebody who can help you get a foot in the door of some place you want to be.  It's all about who you know...and more importantly, who they know.

caveat: summer gigs during your 1L summer are very rare.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
Charles H. Houston

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2009, 06:46:02 PM »
I went into LS wanting (regional) "big"law, and still do, although probably don't have the grades for it. Am I a pitiable creature, or free to discover enlightenment in other areas of the law?

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Jr. BigLaw Associate in NY Taking Questions
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2009, 07:21:08 PM »
I went into LS wanting (regional) "big"law, and still do, although probably don't have the grades for it. Am I a pitiable creature, or free to discover enlightenment in other areas of the law?

Hard to say without more facts.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
Charles H. Houston