Career Center

The Career Center is featuring a special series this summer for law students who want to excel as summer associates and ultimately secure permanent offers. Starting today and continuing throughout the summer, we will feature tips to help you manage your assignments, juggle conflicting demands, account for your time, handle feedback and criticism, and much more. These tips, focused on helping you navigate your law firm and summer associate internship, are provided by Frank Kimball, a principal of the Kimball Partner Group – a Lateral Link company, and an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner.

Today’s tips focus on how to maintain an attitude that will help you win over the partners at your firm and put you on the fast track to success. While not known for offering useful legal guidance, Elle Woods from Legally Blonde: The Musical offers great advice to summer associates: “Be positive.” You have already passed the first test, by initially securing the summer associate clerkship. Now you need to show off your dazzling personality — or at least demonstrate that you are at least tolerable during late-night doc review projects that await your future.

Keep the following tips in mind, whether you are working on a legal memo or hanging out at a partner’s summer house in the Hamptons….

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Welcome, summer associates!

Summer is almost here, which means summer associates will begin working at major law firms around the world. Will you be summering at one of the law firms profiled below? If you are a Biglaw summer associate and want to know what firm associates really think about the firm you are clerking at, check out the Career Center for great insight on all the leading firms.

  • Formal training and mentoring are big at this firm, but some associates still feel ill-prepared to handle the actual work they are assigned. As one of the first U.S.-based firms to expand internationally, it can be “sink or swim,” according to Lateral Link members, and there is virtually no chance at becoming partner here. Still, the firm is considered a market leader with respect to family leave and has one of the highest average percentages of new female partners.
  • Associates at this top-tier firm, known for its intellectual property practice, enjoy the collaborative work environment as well as the manageable work hours. It is a free-market system when it comes to work assignments, but associates in the firm’s satellite offices warn that work may be hard to come by relative to the associates in the main office. With a five- to six-year partnership track and a minimum billable requirement of 1,750, becoming partner is a realistic goal for most associates here.

More profiles, after the jump.

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Some firms handled the great recession with grace and poise, while others need lots of improvement if they ever want to receive a Miss Congeniality award in the near future. Check out the blurbs below, as well as the firm profiles at the Career Center, to see which firms are pageant contenders and which firms are just pigs with a little lipstick on.

  • This firm is known for its prestigious bankruptcy practice and has handled several newsworthy bankruptcies during the economic crisis. Associates here receive lots of quality work and direct client contact; however, Lateral Link Members warn that some clients have unrealistic demands on associate availability and deadlines. On the plus side, since associates are pretty self-sufficient with getting their own work, the firm is not very strict about minimum billable hours.
  • While some Lateral Link Members describe the compensation model at this firm as “laughably low in comparison to other firms,” face time expectation at the firm is minimal, and associates say there is “lower stress” than at other large firms. Pro bono work is also encouraged, and the firm counts the first 100 pro bono hours towards billable hours and bonus consideration. As a result of its pro bono commitment, 99% of associates firm wide participated in some form of pro bono work last year.

More profiles, after the jump.

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Not all of the players in the Biglaw scene are based in New York City. Check out the firms below that established their roots outside the Big Apple. True, total compensation at these firms is sometimes lower, and you may not earn the respect of Partner Emeritus — but the majority of associates surveyed who work at these firms seem to enjoy the lifestyle and opportunities their respective firms offer. You can view the profiles of other firms at the Career Center to see how associates rated their experiences in the past year at each firm.

  • This Boston-based firm has been around for more than 150 years and continues to grow. While the firm is typically a follower and matches market in terms of associate compensation, Lateral Link Members lament that the firm operates within a “black box,” and management is not very transparent with decisions. Still, associates appreciate the “wonderful formal training” offered, as well as the responsibility they receive.
  • Making partner at this firm, based in Seattle, is an achievable goal, according to most of the associates we surveyed. Even if you do not make partner your first go-around, there is no up-or-out policy, and the firm has a very flexible partnership policy. While associate compensation is lower relative to other Biglaw firms, the firm is one of the few law firms consistently recognized on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”.

More profiles, after the jump.

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Try and guess which firm is highlighted in the blurbs below, and click on the link for each firm to view the full profile. Want to know what the associates on the inside think about their firms? Check out the updated firm profiles at the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.

  • While a Biglaw firm in terms of profits, prestige, and compensation, this firm should really be considered a litigation boutique. Associates here do not receive bonuses, but they don’t mind because the “base salary is higher than market.” Not only is compensation higher relative to its peers, but the firm is also one of the “best law firms to work for” according to its associates.
  • This firm has defended more securities class action lawsuits than any other U.S. law firm, and has an impressive patent prosecution and defense success rate to boot. Speaking of boots, the firm finally loosened its bootstraps in terms of compensation, and associates are now enjoying the salaries of pre-2009 levels.

More profiles, after the jump.

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Spring bonuses, salary thaws, hiring increases — 2010/2011 marked a turning point in the economy, as well as the business of Biglaw. Check out the firm profiles below to see which firms spread the new wealth around, and which firms remained cheap. And be sure to see how your firm or other firms fared in the past year by checking out the updated profiles at the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.

  • This Texas powerhouse once represented Enron, but is still highly regarded for its energy practice. Associates praise the firm for the amount of responsibility they receive and say the firm is very respectful of their “personal time.” This firm was one of the first Texas-based firms to give its associates spring bonuses.
  • The product of a merger between a U.S. firm and a U.K. firm, this firm now totals 1,400 lawyers in 60 locations and 43 countries. After thawing its salaries in March 2010, the firm revised its salary structure so that 12-15% of associate compensation would be paid out as a “base bonus.” Despite the salary bump, associates here still experience some “uncertainty” in light of the firm’s previous layoff history during the economic downturn.

More profiles, after the jump.

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Back in 2009, when killing lockstep was all the rage, a number of large law firms announced that they would be moving to some form of a merit-based compensation system. Now that we’re a few years into those systems, how many firms have stuck with the plan? And which systems do associates prefer?

Of the 86 distinct Biglaw firms at which survey respondents work, 63% of the firms pay base salaries on a lockstep system, and the remaining 37% of firms use a merit-based system or hybrid-lockstep system for paying base salaries. The vast majority of respondents, 70%, say they prefer the lockstep model for base salaries because of its transparency and predictability.

For year-end bonuses, 70% of the firms utilize a merit-based or hybrid-lockstep system, while 30% have a lockstep system based either on class year or billable hours. According to 62% of respondents, the most preferred type of year-end bonus allocation system is a merit-based or hybrid-lockstep system.

After the jump, find out how various combinations of compensation systems measure up against market.

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In the first part of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on helping you to achieve a work-life balance in your daily schedule, we provided tips aimed at managing your work to help free up time for your personal life. Today, we feature tips aimed at helping you maintain your personal life. Striking the right balance between your personal life, professional life and social life is essential to leading a successful and comfortable life.

On to the tips for maintaining your personal life…

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Coming off a successful year in which some firms even saw record-setting revenues and profits, many Biglaw associates are now the busiest they have been in recent memory. While this uptick in work may initially be a welcome relief for some, in the long run associates often find themselves struggling to balance an increased workload with life outside the firm.

Today’s Career Center “Tip of the Day” features advice on maintaining work-life balance. Despite what you may have heard, work-life balance isn’t just a program for new mothers. Sure, many law firms aim their work-life policies — like parental leave, reduced hours schedules, and flexible working arrangements — at parents. But the fact is that everyone needs to balance work and life, regardless of whether or not you have kids and whether or not you work at a firm that promotes work-life balance, if you plan to make a career out of Biglaw while staying relatively happy and sane.

We collaborated with Biglaw associates to provide practical tips for helping you to achieve a work-life balance in your daily schedule. The first set of tips is aimed at managing your work to help free up time for your personal life. Next week, we will feature tips aimed at helping you maintain your personal life. Of course, these tips come with the caveat that the nature of Biglaw means that at times the “life” portion of the equation can be non-existent. For example, if you are on trial or closing a deal, you may be expected to work around the clock. But eventually your trial will end or you will complete your deal, and you will have the opportunity to regain some semblance of a life. These tips are geared toward helping you do that.

On to the tips for managing your work…

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In the first four parts of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how to evaluate a counteroffer, we covered the importance of re-evaluating your current employment situation, assessing what the new firm is offering, analyzing the counteroffer of your current firm, and considering the ramifications (both tangible and intangible) of accepting the counteroffer and reneging on the new firm. Our final tip focuses on recognizing buyer’s remorse for what it actually is: fear of the unknown.

On to tip #5….

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