Small Law Firms

Tom Wallerstein

The attrition rate in Biglaw is legendary. Since the recession hit, associates are less likely to voluntarily abandon a six-figure job and more often believe that you don’t get up and go until they throw you out the door. On the other hand, since the recession hit, associates are less likely to have any choice in the matter should their firm feel the need to reduce headcount. But especially during the boom years when I began practicing, associates frequently left their firm gigs to do all manner of things, from going in-house, to starting a private practice, to hiking across the country, or moving to Nepal.

I worked in large and medium-sized firms for nearly a decade, and during my tenure, I saw an awful lot of associates come and go. Rarely if ever was I surprised to hear the news. In fact, I was usually surprised that others were surprised. In my experience, there are certain tell-tale signs that an associate is crafting a farewell email….

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Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

On Tuesday, you voted on the finalists, and now it’s time to announce the winner of our caption contest….

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I see no problems here.

Apparently I’m the crazy one here. None of my co-editors think it’s that cool or surprising that a law firm would take a company trip to the shooting range. Maybe it’s because I live in the Bay Area, and the only guns near me are the ones with which gangsters shoot each other.

It’s not like we’ve never mentioned attorneys who know their way around firearms before. We’ve covered the judge who reported pulled his piece in court, and the Supreme Court justices who went hunting together. But this is the first instance we’ve seen of any sort of institutional embrace of fun times with weapons.

Regardless, this New York-based boutique firm is taking the coolest field trip ever. And they aren’t just going to any shooting range, or shooting wimpy little .22′s…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Firm That Shoots Together, Stays Together”

Last week I asked if small-firm associates are screwed. According to the two who wrote to me directly, the answer is no. They both enjoy their small firms and are learning a lot from their small-firm partners/mentors. Interestingly, neither of them mentioned their future at the small-firm (i.e. what their chances are of making partner?) but instead focused solely on the present.

Nevertheless, I did not hear from any small-firm associates who said they are screwed. In other words, last week’s column did not go far enough in crushing the hopes and dreams of small-firm attorneys. Thus, this week I ask a (hopefully) even more depressing question: are small firms a good place for women attorneys who want to have a family?

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These muggers messed with the wrong attorney.

On Friday, a San Francisco lawyer single-handedly defeated a group of teenagers who tried to steal his cellphone, using only his Rockport shoes, some Jedi mind tricks… and the phone they tried to steal.

You do not want to mess with this badass Lawyer of the Day….

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Last week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and then vote on the finalists….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Caption Contest Finalists: Successful Troll Is Successful?”

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good New York to 190 post. As we’ve discussed before, associate salaries at New York law firms are long overdue for a raise. Starting salaries have stagnated in New York.

What’s worse, total associate compensation has gone down this year from last year, thanks to Cravath’s low bonus and the absence of spring bonuses. The buying power of a New York associate is pathetic.

But one new firm in New York seems poised to change that. The firm isn’t nearly as big as our salary market leaders, but the firm is leaving the stagnated Cravath salary scale in the dust…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New York to $180K. I’m Totally Serious.”

Lawyers often let themselves be abused by clients. After all, the clients pay the fees, and because they pay the fees, they are entitled to behave how they want. Part of being a lawyer is learning that you have to accept clients who treat you and your staff like garbage.

And I’ve never understood that.

Sure, lawyers have clients that are emotional, anxious, demanding, time consuming, or confused, but our job is to try and use the “counselor” part of “attorney and counselor at law,” and help them through the journey as best as possible. Why that has to mean we just take their crap to no end is a ridiculous notion.

Small-firm lawyers are more often the recipients of abusive clients. The fees are usually being paid by an individual or small company instead of by some insurance company in another state. Instead of dealing with a legal issue that affects a whole company, it’s often someone’s marriage, injury, arrest, or contract dispute — something personal. The client has more of a one-on-one relationship with a lawyer and sees that lawyer as the reason for success, and failure.

The reason lawyers think state bars go after small-firm lawyers more than Biglaw lawyers is simple — there are more of us, and Biglaw clients usually (but not always) don’t see the bar disciplinary process as a worthy forum for their issues.

So we get threatened more, asked for fees back more, and often feel under siege by bad clients….

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An actual greyhound wouldn't have been so destructive.

Hey, don’t look at me, I spent my weekend planting Mountain Fire andromedas in my garden.

A man in Nashville allegedly went on an epic rampage, and he used somebody’s desk at a local law office as a restroom.

Like a boss….

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There are a lot of different definitions of success. Especially in this economy. For instance, some people think I’m not “successful” because I’m a 33-year-old man with two Harvard degrees making a blogger’s salary with no savings or assets while being mired in debt. On the other hand, I’m judgment proof, bitches.

People value different things differently.

In this weekend’s caption contest, we see a lawyer who doesn’t value having eyes quite the way most people do, and he wants an entire interstate to know it….

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