Small Law Firms

Here at Above the Law, we frequently sound gloomy notes about going to law school. In the past week or so, for example, we’ve written about one recent law school grad on food stamps and another one with almost no employed classmates. We’ve discussed the bleak market for legal jobs and the crushing burden of student loan debt.

As I’ve said before, our criticism of law school does not spring from malice. Rather, we want people to make an informed decision about whether to invest three (or more) years of time, and $100,000 (or more) in money, in pursuit of a law degree.

In today’s post, we’d like to talk about the other side of the coin: law school success stories. Let’s hear from people who went to law school and have no regrets — or even view going to law school as the best decision they ever made. Perhaps you might be one of them?

We’ll prime the pump with a few law school success stories, to get the conversation going….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Success Stories: Submissions, Please”

Well, I’m back in New York. It’s cold, it’s rainy, there’s no barbecue, and I’ve been sober for hours. Austin, I miss you already.

But I wasn’t in Austin to have tremendous fun, good food, and become introduced to this new concept of “closing” that doesn’t really exist in NYC. There was a conference to attend, and I’m here to report on how to get a job at a small law firm.

Because chances are, the career counselors at your law school aren’t really going to be able to help you.

At NALP 2012, I attended a panel called: “Raising Your School’s Profile in the Land of Opportunity: The Smaller Firm Market.” I figured the room would be overflowing, considering smaller firms are the only firms where hiring is on the rise. But the panel was just regularly attended, not “holy God, missing this would be a dereliction of my duty” attended (only panels with the words “social media” in the name needed overflow seating). The presenters were knowledgeable, and the attendees were eager to learn, but it seems that way too many schools are still stuck in a Biglaw or bust model that isn’t responding to the new hiring realities for most students….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “NALP 2012: Does Your School Even Know How to Get You a Small Firm Job?”

This week, I was introduced to an IP lawyer. Yawn. Another IP lawyer churning out trademark and copyright applications. Meeting one of them these days is no different than going to a lawyer cocktail hour and meeting yet another “commercial litigator.” (Translated: “I do general irrelevant crap. Where’s the guy with those little spinach things?”)

But I quickly saw in his email that this wasn’t just another IP lawyer:

“My area of practice is intellectual property, but with a twist: I represent technology companies in transactions involving the licensure, commercial exploitation and/or research & development of technologies — that is about 50% of my practice. The other 50% is representing digital marketing agencies, digital production companies, and related businesses in all of their IP and corporate needs. I handle a great deal of work in the area of data privacy rules & regulations, compliance with FTC rules for digital advertising, and matters involving outsourced technology transactions.”

Interesting. Next step is meeting this guy face to face, mainly so I can understand what that email just said. I realize he doesn’t want referrals from every guy in his garage with the next great invention, but although I think I know, I want to learn how and from where he gets his referrals, and how he built his practice.

There’s been a lot written about niche practices. A lot of it has been written by non-practicing lawyers, or those with a niche that they’ve had for five minutes. Although today’s kids would rather hear from those idiots than someone who’s been doing it themselves for a while, I’ll do what I do every week, and offer some advice that may make you less miserable, and cause you to think differently about your practice….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Practice: The Danger and Pleasure of a Niche Practice”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Writing on the Wall”

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….

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

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: They Literally Fought the Law, and the Law(yer) Won”

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.”

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