Over the last few weeks, I have been researching law firms and businesses with in-house legal departments. I checked each firm to see if they hired anyone from my alma mater or a comparably ranked school. I also checked the firms’ rankings both in certain specialties and their overall profitability.
Then I tried something more difficult – finding employee turnover rates and overall employee satisfaction. This information is important to me but is pretty much impossible to get without deeper digging and contacting people. The career counselor I talked to gave me some names of people who may be able to get more detailed information. If there was one thing I learned in law school, it was to find the negative information yourself because you should never trust the numbers on a company’s sales presentations and recruiting materials.
After the jump is a small sample of the prospective firms I researched, listed in no particular order.
In-House Biglaw – Everyone that practices in my specialty knows about this Fortune 500 company. Its legal department employs at least 100 attorneys internationally and is headed by some of the best transactional lawyers in the country. Those who are fortunate enough to get hired can be assured of job security, unparalleled employee benefits, exemplary mentorship and superb exit options. My sources tell me that their hiring is mostly done internally and you have to know certain people to even be considered for an interview. While strong credentials are a must, I hear that they are willing to consider a dark horse candidate if they have a strong reputation among their specialty group. The major problem is that if you are hired, you may be required to travel to a distant land. Unfortunately, the company’s website does not list their in-house attorneys so I will have to troll Linkedin to see if any alumni have worked there.
Solo Stephanie – “Solo Stephanie” is a longtime veteran and a respected member of the local plaintiff’s bar. During her prime, she went against the big boys and made fools of them at trial. But I was surprised that she lives modestly for someone of her reputation. To my knowledge, she has never had an associate but I hear she has a part-time legal assistant. But if she has a big case, all she has to do is make a few phone calls and she can assemble a legal strike force. Over the years, we have chatted during bar functions and other social events and I offered my services for minimal pay in exchange for picking her brain.
Middling Midlaw – This law firm is known for its transactional practice and certain niches but has reorganized not too long ago. My sources tell me that the firm plans to expand in my practice area, so I should try to get to know the firm’s gatekeepers as soon as possible. A few years ago, they were known for treating their associates well and having a stable partnership track. In light of their reorganization, I don’t know if this will still be the case. This firm does not currently have any attorneys from my school but has hired a few experienced alumni in the past.
Biglaw With Connections – For the last few years, this firm has tried to establish itself as the leader in my niche specialty. This firm sponsors many conferences and specialty bar association events. Their partners and associates publish many articles every year. Unfortunately, this firm does not recruit at my school and has no alumni currently working there. The firm has hired alumni in the past but probably on a non-permanent basis. I track the firm’s specialty team members from time to time and noticed that there is some level of turnover among the associates. I happen to know the firm’s specialty practice leader and we keep in touch from time to time. But if I want to get noticed, I’ll have to be more aggressive about showing him what I am professionally capable of. I am concerned that if this firm hires me, the powers that be will force me to move to one of their more desolate offices.
Big Dream Biglaw – This firm is highly respected but has also been the butt of some really cruel jokes on Above the Law. All I can say is that they have a world-class litigation and transactional practice. I have not done a lot of research on this firm but it appears that they have a dominant presence in just about every specialty, including my niche. Unfortunately, I have no connections with this firm, although I noticed that one of their partners used to be an adjunct professor at a school I visited a few years ago. And to my knowledge, this firm has not hired from my school in the past. With that being said, I do not anticipate that this firm will take me seriously. But I plan to keep this firm in mind and plan to meet a few of their attorneys in the future for advice and possibly referrals. But for now, this Biglaw firm will remain a big dream.
Boutique With Benefits – This boutique is a local powerhouse in my specialty area. I know several partners who have been very helpful over the years both with substantive legal advice and career guidance. They have even sent referrals my way. But I think this firm and I will be nothing more than friends. I plan to work with their people on a per-case basis, particularly when it comes to difficult matters. But any attempt to pitch a job to them might result in our good relationship taking an awkward turn.
As you can tell, I don’t have a “Biglaw or bust” mentality. I’m looking at all of my options and considering the pros and cons of each. I am leaning towards reputable firms because they get the challenging cases from reputable clients. I will continue to research and track these firms to see if any opportunities arise. Even if I don’t get hired by any of the above firms, I hope the people I meet during the journey can one day introduce me to others who are.
Shannon Achimalbe was a former solo practitioner for five years before deciding to sell out and get back on the corporate ladder. Shannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.