For years, it has been common knowledge that the vast majority of associates at most Biglaw firms will leave before becoming a partner. At many firms, it is not uncommon for fewer than one in ten entering associates to ultimately become a partner. As partnership tracks lengthen, the attrition rate goes even higher. The decision to leave a firm to form a private practice, for example, is becoming increasingly common.
We assume (hope?) that the high attrition is because Biglaw offers the most exit opportunities; i.e., the prospects of developing a career as in-house counsel, or joining a business unit of a company, or going into government, or joining to a small or midsize or boutique law firm, or maybe even leaving the law altogether to become a consultant, a blogger, a Lego artist, what have you. Just because you start your legal career with a law firm doesn’t mean your goal is to become a partner.
Often, associates who know that they will not become a partner seem content to just put in their time, try to keep their head down, and collect a paycheck while waiting for their firm to announce their intended bonuses. They rationalize that they know they will leave anyway, so why bend over backwards for the firm?
There are a lot of unhappy lawyers. We all know that. Part of their discontent is due to the fact that many young people go to law school who may not want to be lawyers, or do not take the time during law school to figure out what type of practice best fits their personality and goals. It was for this reason that I was so excited to learn about Steven Harper’s class for pre-law students. Getting to potential law students before they take on an obscene amount of debt is one way to prevent accidental lawyers.
But what about those individuals who actually want to be lawyers, but due to certain biases are not able to pursue their dreams? The answer is the same: get to them in college….
Thanks to all who participated in the Turkey Day survey. I am happy/jealous to report that an overwhelming 93.2% of small-firm respondents are able to take time off for holidays. And 76.6% do not need to do any work from home during the holidays. Half of survey respondents, however, are still required to check email during the holidays.
Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? What is not to love about a holiday that involves eating obscene amounts of food, lounging around, battling people at Black Friday sales, and working a short week? Unless, of course, you are Ted the Turkey.
As holiday season comes into full swing, I am reminded of my lawyer friends who are not able to celebrate because of work obligations. Many of my Biglaw friends lament the fact that they do not get to take time off for vacations or holidays. Is it any easier, however, for small firm attorneys? Indeed, with fewer attorneys, there are fewer people to share the workload. And even smaller matters have deadlines that often fall around the holidays.
If one of the reasons that Biglaw associates consider going to small firms is because of the greater flexibility to take time off for the holidays or vacation, it is my duty to prove (or disprove) this belief. Please take this survey and help us discover whether small firm practice truly means a better work/life balance, at least in this respect. Thanks!
If you’re a newly departed Biglaw lawyer, that silence you hear is the absence of the email from the firm’s office manager asking you how many Christmas, sorry, “holiday” cards you need to send out this year. And if you’re in the first year or so of your own practice, I bet you can’t wait for the prize — your first shipment of gold embossed “HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE LAW OFFICES OF LOOK AT ME I HAVE MY OWN CARDS” holiday cards.
Christmas down here in solo and small firm land is much different. There are fewer meticulously planned escapes from the firm’s boring holiday “party,” and there’s no more relying on “the firm” to spend the bucks on gifts for its clients and referral sources. Now they’re your clients and referral sources, so make a list, and check it twice….
Yeah, some people thought I might be nuts for leaving litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel. But the prospects of starting my own firm and building a practice from the ground up were too compelling to ignore. Nearly two and a half years have passed since Colt Wallerstein LLP opened its doors, and still not a day goes by when my partner and I aren’t humbled by our good fortune and our decision to “trade places”: that is, move from Biglaw to start a litigation boutique in Silicon Valley that focuses on high-tech trade secret, employment, and complex-commercial litigation.
I graduated from law school in 1999, and the legal market was very different then. Getting into a “top” law school pretty much guaranteed a job, and most of my law school friends and I had multiple offers and no real concern about landing a Biglaw job, if that’s what we wanted. Offer rates hovered around 100%, and of course the lucrative summers consisted mostly of long lunches at five-star restaurants, luxury box seats at baseball games, open bars, and very little work.
After writing months’ worth of columns for Size Matters, I now consider myself somewhat of a career coach for small-firm attorneys. It is the perfect coaching relationship: I give unsolicited advice to no one in particular and assume that my advice was followed and successful. Last night, I learned about another career coach (slash Headhuntress) who may be giving me a run for my money. Luckily for me, Wendy Doulton does not specialize in career coaching for small-law firms.
There is, however, someone who does (other than me). His name is RJon Robins. His website guarantees that clients will learn how to successfully start, manage, and expand their own small and solo practices. He also promises that he can show lawyers how to have fun while practicing, and how to write a bio that “doesn’t suck.” I was intrigued and decided to check out the website to see if RJon was going to get his own reality show and force me to get out of the advice-giving business….
I’ve been outed. My jealousy about never having sat in the front row of a courtroom gallery to take notes and hand documents to partners trying cases has now been discovered by the crack anonymous commenters. No, I never worked in Biglaw. No, they would never hire me. I didn’t have the grades, or the personality… I will forever regret not spending the first 5-7 years of my career hoping that the timesheet would evidence my ability as a lawyer and that I could brag at judicial receptions I was sent to for the purpose of meeting judges I never practiced before, about my (document review) work on a big corporate case (sorry, “matter”).
And so it appears that I am not a big fan of Biglaw — but that’s not true. Actually, Biglaw has been very good to me, and it can be good to you as a solo or small firm lawyer. Just don’t steal any of the embossed coffee cups, and consider some of these ideas….
When doing research for my columns, I spend a lot of time thinking about how small-firm attorneys can get the right kind of attention. I can easily find examples of getting the wrong kind of attention: Kim Kardashian, Conrad Murray, and that child-bride who married the guy from Lost. Then, I received an email from a young small-firm lawyer practicing in Winston-Salem who provided me with a positive counter-example.
Michael Wells, Jr. practices personal injury law, litigation, and estate planning at Wells Jenkins Lucas & Jenkins PLLC. Wells is the youngest lawyer at this ten attorney firm. One of the other ten is his father, Michael Wells, Sr. Early on in his career, Wells set out to distinguish himself from his highly successful father and he has succeeded. The lessons he learned along the way can provide a useful road map for young attorneys….
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
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