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Fourth-year Bay Street Litigation Associate - AMA


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#201 Uriel

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 07:51 AM

DAMN YOU COPYRIGHT C 

 

I'M HELPING THE CHILDREN

 

WHY DON'T YOU CARE


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#202 Dubs604

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 06:28 PM

First-year associate: You pull three all-nighters in a week, your boss is horrible and you don't have any friends.  You're still single and you have no time to meet anyone.  You're not sure you'll ever do the kind of work you're interested in... but there's an opening for a really interesting, really stable government counsel position right down the street from where you want to live!  And the pay actually isn't that different...

 

Although I don't pull three all-nights in a week (I've maybe pulled three all-nighters in total since articling), I find that most alternative opportunities are more like this:

 

...there's an opening for a really interesting, really stable [government counsel/start-up legal counsel/law society staff lawyer/junior in-house legal counsel] position close to where you want to live.... but the pay is actually quite different and would entail a base salary haircut of $20,000.

 

That's obviously not taking into account stock options, RRSP matching, pension, beer allowance, or whatever other cool benefits might be included.  It's just a tough sell at this point.  Maybe in a couple years...



#203 Jaggers

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 07:43 PM

That's obviously not taking into account stock options, RRSP matching, pension, beer allowance, or whatever other cool benefits might be included.  It's just a tough sell at this point.  Maybe in a couple years...

 

When I went in house, they calibrated it so that the total package was roughly similar to what I was making on Bay St. Three years of large guaranteed increases later, I'm far behind, but it was worth it. And I still make a huge amount of money compared to most people.


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#204 Adrian

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 05:54 AM

When I went in house, they calibrated it so that the total package was roughly similar to what I was making on Bay St. Three years of large guaranteed increases later, I'm far behind, but it was worth it. And I still make a huge amount of money compared to most people.

 

I had a similar experience.  Not necessarily that the compensation was calibrated, but my total compensation was roughly similar and now I am far behind. 



#205 Uriel

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 02:40 PM

I know of an in-house lawyer that actually managed to port over his annual Biglaw partnership draw as a salary.  They certainly got the right guy to handle their negotiations.

 

I actually don't get a lot of cool opportunities pitched to me; generally just other Bay Street firms looking for a lateral.  

 

The second-most common thing I get is, "don't you want to get out of Toronto? This GTA firm is growing fast and needs an experienced litigation associate. Sure, it's just over half of your current salary but you'll have a partnership review in a couple of years and business is booming!"

 

I'm kind of glad those come across my bow from time to time.  Not tempted to take any of them, but I imagine a lot of people would be.


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#206 erinl2

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 02:45 PM

know of an in-house lawyer that actually managed to port over his annual Biglaw partnership draw as a salary.  They certainly got the right guy to handle their negotiations.

 

The situation that Uriel cited isn't that unusual, depending on the employer and the level of experience. If you're going in at a high level, and at a large employer, e.g., one of the big five banks, you're likely to end up doing just as well, and at the very top, you'll do better than you would had you stayed at the firm. Obviously, those top positions are few and far between and you have to have specific expertise and a great reputation.


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#207 Uriel

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 02:48 PM

And "specific expertise" can be tailored to the company.  Energy regulation for a utility; employment law for a manufacturer; secured transactions for a financial institution... it doesn't have to be straight-up corporate law to be invited over as an executive.



#208 TheGazeboEffect

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 05:11 PM

I actually don't get a lot of cool opportunities pitched to me; generally just other Bay Street firms looking for a lateral.  

 

Would you mind expanding on this? I've never understood what the selling-point is for lateraling. The Bay St firms have generally the same starting pay, and they all seem to increase in lock-step at the same rate, so (in my mind) that must mean either:

 

1) They're doing it for money - but if money is the selling point for lateraling then they must be offering that associate more than what he/she is currently making, and since the the firms' lock-step pay is approximately the same, the salary offered must be above and beyond the 'normal' rate (i.e. the 3rd year associate who laterals into a firm is making more than the other 3rd year associates at that firm).

 

OR

 

2) They're doing it because their chances of partnership are better at the second firm - but in that case, how does a 3rd year associate already know their chances aren't great at their current firm, and further, how in the world would they expect to have a better shot at partnership with a firm they've never worked at? If the answer is "the second firm tells them," why would the second firm do that for a lawyer who has never worked for them?



#209 Uriel

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 05:40 PM

Yeah, you've generally got it.  You're just leaving out all the non-monetary reasons people leave their employer, which is understandable given the way most people think of the job.

 

A few scenarios:

 

  • Most of my articling class has quit, and my law school buddies are in my practice area at [Firm X]
  • If I have to work with [partner] for one more day I'm going to murder someone
  • [Firm X] is the best firm for that area of law in the country
  • If I go to [Firm X] I'll work directly with [godlike partner]
  • From a business perspective, I'd be a lot more comfortable investing in [Firm X] as a partner
  • I don't want to be on Bay Street forever, and [Firm X] has the kind of clients I want to exit into
  • Too many rivals in the department at this year of call; I'd be the only partnership candidate for three years at [Firm X]
  • I'm still buying into the prestige thing and I feel [Firm X] is better regarded
  • I'm going to quit Bay Street before partnership anyway and I'm just bored
  • This place is fine but I don't love it, I'll probably quit before partnership. Maybe going to [Firm X] will be inspirational
  • I'm going to [Firm X] out of spite over [event*] 
  • I don't want to be here when [impending catastrophe / strategic shift / restructuring / merger] happens
  • How did I become the person in charge of [awful practice area / terrible client / disorganized partner]?  Nuts to this.

 

* Bonus payment, poor raise, pressure on mat leave, lack of pat leave, preferential treatment to other associate, denied disbursement, HR siding with other staff member in feud/bullying/harassment, fee writedown, dispute over business decision (failure to hire student back, opening/closing offices, terminating other staff, etc.) poor boardroom cookies, etc.


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#210 Diplock

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 05:44 PM

Would you mind expanding on this? I've never understood what the selling-point is for lateraling. The Bay St firms have generally the same starting pay, and they all seem to increase in lock-step at the same rate, so (in my mind) that must mean either:

 

1) They're doing it for money - but if money is the selling point for lateraling then they must be offering that associate more than what he/she is currently making, and since the the firms' lock-step pay is approximately the same, the salary offered must be above and beyond the 'normal' rate (i.e. the 3rd year associate who laterals into a firm is making more than the other 3rd year associates at that firm).

 

OR

 

2) They're doing it because their chances of partnership are better at the second firm - but in that case, how does a 3rd year associate already know their chances aren't great at their current firm, and further, how in the world would they expect to have a better shot at partnership with a firm they've never worked at? If the answer is "the second firm tells them," why would the second firm do that for a lawyer who has never worked for them?

 

Man, you must have a really hard time making sense of professional sports.


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#211 Uriel

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 05:48 PM

TIL I am basically an elite athlete


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#212 HitEmWithTheHeeeiiiinnnnnn

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 10:19 AM

Next year, I will be articling with a 35 lawyer, full service, business law firm far from Toronto in a centre with approximately 185,000 population. My grades improved substantially in the 2nd semester of 2nd year.  I hated law school with a passion and nearly dropped out after receiving some poor grades in the first semester of 2L.  I decided if I was going to fail, I was going to do so knowing it was because I truly wasn't good enough.  So I buckled down, and studied 8 hours a day in the 2nd semester of 2L and finished that semester with an 81% average (for that semester).

 

I am summering in a small firm doing primarily personal injury and civil litigation.  I've worked on a number of significant class proceedings and medical malpractice files in addition to the run of the mill personal injury files and your typical business disputes.  When it came time to apply for articling, I felt like I had the ability to make it on Bay street, but that I clearly didn't have the experience or the numbers to be competitive.  My first week on the job I knew I had found my calling.  I love my job and the feelings that caused me to take multiple hours to read 5-10 pages in 1L and 2L are completely gone.

 

I am, of course, aware of the refrain, "it's difficult, but not unheard of, to transition from a small-medium sized law firm to a large bay street firm." What does someone like me need to do to make the jump to a large bay street firm, outside of keeping my average up in 3L?  Would it make sense to tell my story in a cover letter? Or should I let the numbers speak for themselves and spent most of the page discussing what I can bring to the firm?



#213 Jaggers

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 10:27 AM

Your grades can be a dealbreaker, but they won't get you in the door at a Bay St firm any more. Once you're articling, it's all about experience. So get the type of experience Bay St firms want, and you can pitch them. I would say the one thing that would catch anyone's eye is on-your-feet experience in civil litigation files. Chase that work all you can while articling.



#214 HitEmWithTheHeeeiiiinnnnnn

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 10:46 AM

Your grades can be a dealbreaker, but they won't get you in the door at a Bay St firm any more. Once you're articling, it's all about experience. So get the type of experience Bay St firms want, and you can pitch them. I would say the one thing that would catch anyone's eye is on-your-feet experience in civil litigation files. Chase that work all you can while articling.

 

 

Essentially, be a keener, and get into the courtroom whenever I can? I would imagine this would mean:

  1. oral motions where I will be permitted to do some or all of the heavy lifting.  
  2. getting into Examination for Discoveries.

I suppose I could pick out a few firms who do what I want to do, give them a call and find out, very specifically, the type of work they do the most of, areas of growth etc...  And then try to steer the files I get in on in that direction.

 

I mean, I think these large firms have people involved in recruiting who could better answer this question for me, and with information straight from the horses mouth of the firm(s) I am interested in.



#215 Jaggers

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 10:50 AM

Essentially, be a keener, and get into the courtroom whenever I can? I would imagine this would mean:

  1. oral motions where I will be permitted to do some or all of the heavy lifting.  
  2. getting into Examination for Discoveries.

I suppose I could pick out a few firms who do what I want to do, give them a call and find out, very specifically, the type of work they do the most of, areas of growth etc...  And then try to steer the files I get in on in that direction.

 

I mean, I think these large firms have people involved in recruiting who could better answer this question for me, and with information straight from the horses mouth of the firm(s) I am interested in.

 

In your first year or two, if litigation is your goal, any type of litigation experience is relevant. And getting into the courtroom is where Bay St juniors typically lag behind smaller firm juniors. So if you are able to gain experience doing those motions (undertakings and refusals are often where you get started...), doing discoveries, cross-examinations on affidavits, etc., you will stand out from the pack and just might catch someone's eye if their litigation department is hiring.

 

To build an actual specialty, where someone would hire you based on your knowledge of an area of law, takes much longer than that. If that's your plan, prepare for the long haul at the firm you article at (assuming you get hired back).


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#216 Diplock

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 10:57 AM

You'll get better answers from other people, with more relevant experience, than me. But I think the most important thing Uriel said here in a while (important to my perspective, because no one else had said it before, and it significantly reframed the way I view many posts here) is that employment in a large firm (or anywhere else, really) isn't a test, or an award, or a scholarship. In other words, when you say you believe you've found your calling and that you have the ability to make it ... I'm sorry, but those aren't relevant considerations. To be more specific, even if you somehow convince a potential employer that's true, and they 100% believe you, it's not going to matter. No one cares if you've "earned" Bay Street or not. They really don't. From an employer's perspective, you are either the employee best suited to doing the job they need someone to do, or you aren't.

 

So, whatever else you do, remember to view your goal from that perspective. And I can't offer you easy advice for how to translate that information into action. I imagine your odds of being seriously considered for any 0-year call associate position are minuscule. Firms tend to fill those needs from within, and the advantage in doing so is that between two entirely green possible associates, one at least knows how your firm works and the other doesn't. Your best bet (which is still not a great one) is to lateral in after several years. But now I'm repeating more what I've learned here than what I know from experience - so I'll let those with more cred say the rest.



#217 HitEmWithTheHeeeiiiinnnnnn

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 02:07 PM

In your first year or two, if litigation is your goal, any type of litigation experience is relevant. And getting into the courtroom is where Bay St juniors typically lag behind smaller firm juniors. So if you are able to gain experience doing those motions (undertakings and refusals are often where you get started...), doing discoveries, cross-examinations on affidavits, etc., you will stand out from the pack and just might catch someone's eye if their litigation department is hiring.

 

To build an actual specialty, where someone would hire you based on your knowledge of an area of law, takes much longer than that. If that's your plan, prepare for the long haul at the firm you article at (assuming you get hired back).

 

 

The firm I will be at has around 4 lawyers who do criminal law, including one extremely well respected criminal law specialist.  The only issue is that there is a rotation, so I won't be able to spend 10 months with 10-25% of my workload on criminal law, but I will be able to take advantage of just over 3 months doing some criminal law.  I'll have to find out whether there is even a segment of the rotation that involves the criminal law group, I'm assuming its the litigation portion.



#218 HitEmWithTheHeeeiiiinnnnnn

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 02:20 PM

You'll get better answers from other people, with more relevant experience, than me. But I think the most important thing Uriel said here in a while (important to my perspective, because no one else had said it before, and it significantly reframed the way I view many posts here) is that employment in a large firm (or anywhere else, really) isn't a test, or an award, or a scholarship. In other words, when you say you believe you've found your calling and that you have the ability to make it ... I'm sorry, but those aren't relevant considerations. To be more specific, even if you somehow convince a potential employer that's true, and they 100% believe you, it's not going to matter. No one cares if you've "earned" Bay Street or not. They really don't. From an employer's perspective, you are either the employee best suited to doing the job they need someone to do, or you aren't.

 

So, whatever else you do, remember to view your goal from that perspective. And I can't offer you easy advice for how to translate that information into action. I imagine your odds of being seriously considered for any 0-year call associate position are minuscule. Firms tend to fill those needs from within, and the advantage in doing so is that between two entirely green possible associates, one at least knows how your firm works and the other doesn't. Your best bet (which is still not a great one) is to lateral in after several years. But now I'm repeating more what I've learned here than what I know from experience - so I'll let those with more cred say the rest.

 

I don't think I'm approaching it from the perspective you've assumed.  I think my perspective is that with my passion and drive, I have a legitimate shot at demonstrating, with concrete examples from my articling term, that I am objectively a better candidate that any of a particular firm's graduating class.  In addition, I am certain that situations arise where a firm may need to go outside their graduating class for someone with particular experience, or because they've taken on a significant new project(s) and just don't have the horses.

 

I wasn't asking for anyone to pat me on the back or tell me what the odds were.  I was asking for advice on what an articling student could do to demonstrate the requisite skills and experience necessary to make the transition from a regional firm to a high-end national firm.  What I could do as an articling student, or as an associate with an eye to advancing. 

 

At the end of the day, I don't need to be at a 7 sisters firm.  It's not the size of the firm I am interested in.  It's the work they do and who their clients are.  I want clients who say, "I want the best litigator in the country."  I want to get as close as I can to that.


Edited by HitEmWithTheHeeeiiiinnnnnn, 24 August 2016 - 02:21 PM.


#219 Diplock

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 05:24 PM

I'm going to try one further reply, even though (I'll just put this out there) based on your tone and what I know about my own, I suspect you're not going to like me.

 

The idea that abstract merits like "passion" and "drive" are even demonstrable, much less that you're able to demonstrate them, to a superior degree, over and above candidates already articling on Bay Street is ridiculous. Maybe if you just got back from the Olympics, which you trained for while studying for your bar exams, you'd have a case to make that you are "driven" beyond the norm. But people who expect their commitment to shine through in some meaningful way tend to grossly under-estimate just how strong the competition really is. We're talking about people who show up every day at 7:30am and their students are already there. We're talking about people who know, from experience, that their own students are mailing in completed memos that were assigned on Saturday at 2am on Sunday night, and then still showing up at 7:30am. If you walk into an interview with a pitch about your passion and your drive, and how you bring something special based on that, you sound like an idiot. And you can hate me for saying it, but you're better off for hearing it.

 

I'll let Uriel or someone else talk about when and if major firms are ever hiring from entirely outside their candidate pool for 0-year call associates. I don't want to pretend to be an authority there. But be aware, most of the advice you are hearing about how to possibly lateral in (difficult though it is) assumes you've developed some experience and practiced for a couple of years. Doing it right after articling is almost unheard of.

 

The main reason I'm posting again is that you invoked the criminal law practice group where you're articling, and also wanting to be the best litigator, in the same context, and then somehow segued back to Bay Street. I'd strongly encourage you (if you haven't already) to consider whether you haven't unreasonably mashed different ideas of what "the best" looks like into some kind of Harvey Spectre caricature. I'm sure the best M&A lawyers in Canada are on Bay Street. I'm sure the best tax lawyers are there also. But the best litigators, as a wide category? I'm sure some of the best are there, sure. I'm also sure the best are found in many other places. Good personal injury lawyers are terrifying, and make a fortune, and would never want to be on Bay. The best criminal defence lawyers are all self-employed. I could go on. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, but considering (a) how hard, and unlikely, it is to lateral back to Bay Street, and also (b) how it sounds as though your ideas of what that means aren't even necessarily fully accurate ... maybe you owe yourself a bit of reflection on the topic generally?

 

Let's put it more bluntly. I don't know you, and you don't know me. But based on the experience you are attracted to, and the attitude you are flailing around with, it strikes me as currently far more likely that you'd be a great criminal defence lawyer than a great whatever-the-fuck litigators do on Bay Street. And you can dismiss that observation if you want to, but it may be the best free advice you've received all year.


Edited by Diplock, 24 August 2016 - 05:25 PM.

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#220 Jaggers

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 05:37 PM

I'll let Uriel or someone else talk about when and if major firms are ever hiring from entirely outside their candidate pool for 0-year call associates. I don't want to pretend to be an authority there. But be aware, most of the advice you are hearing about how to possibly lateral in (difficult though it is) assumes you've developed some experience and practiced for a couple of years. Doing it right after articling is almost unheard of.

 

I already made two posts about the way in! The people I've seen lateral to Bay St from smaller firms had concrete litigation experience. They have experience on their feet in commercial litigation matters and can jump right in to files without much training. I'm not going to say it's easy or that it happens a lot, but if you're applying to a posting for a Bay St junior litigation associate, that's what can set you apart from the various Bay St associates who will also be applying. 

 

No one cares about drive or passion. And as long as your grades are good enough, no one cares about them either.


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#221 maximumbob

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 05:48 PM

For what it's worth, I have seen situations where firms have hired lateral new calls.  So it does happen. But, it generally only happens where they had a need and no one competent was interested in filing it from the articling student class.  What this means in practice is that if you're looking to lateral into tax, competition, environmental law or some other specialized area, there may be opportunities.  If you're looking to lateral into "corporate law" or "litigation" where there is typically a deep pool of interested articling students  in a given year, it's going to be a harder sell.  Not impossible, but just unlikely. At least as an articling student

 

Totally different story when you're a lateral with a few years under your belt - as Jaggers is pointing out.  Because the reality is that in litigation, and a few other areas (real estate is another), the skills are generally transferable.  Whether it's a $20K small claims fight or a $20M commercial dispute, the skills are the same.  So you do see a fair number of laterals into (and out of) Bay Street after the first couple of years in litigation.  Ditto real estate (indeed, I know one partner who prefers laterals because they have more experience taking control of files).  Mind you, this also works against the new call lateral - why hire you when we can hire some first or second year with some experience under his or her belt (to Diplock's point, no amount of passion and drive can compete with -"I drafted the first cut of the factum in the celebrated Smidlap case" or "I helped my client get a million dollar settlement from her landlord in a slip and fall case").  

 

All of which is to say, if you want to sell yourself to bay street (or one of the high end litigation boutiques that does "Bay Street" files, because Diplock's right that it's a deep pool - case in point, at some point last year Marie Henein argued an appeal at the FCA on what is likely to be a leading corporate tax transfer pricing decision. The taxpayer uses Oslers AND Blakes - it's a fucked up case - but brought Henein in for a particular aspect of the appeal.  Her factum was brilliant) find yourself a decent litigation position and start racking up the experience.  


Edited by maximumbob, 24 August 2016 - 05:50 PM.


#222 summermarie

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 11:24 PM

Just curious, do you know what Myer-Briggs type you are? You can take the test here: http://16personalities.com

I've read that INTJ is the "lawyer type"


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#223 Uriel

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 02:14 PM

So sceptical that you might be a robot, but hey, I never restricted the exercise to biological inquisitors.  I took the test ages ago in a clinical atmosphere (I guess before its iffiness was widely recognized?) and came up ENTP, with a very close call between E/I.

 

JANUARY 2017 UPDATE: Thread title no longer accurate


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#224 Diplock

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 04:14 PM

So sceptical that you might be a robot, but hey, I never restricted the exercise to biological inquisitors.  I took the test ages ago in a clinical atmosphere (I guess before its iffiness was widely recognized?) and came up ENTP, with a very close call between E/I.

 

JANUARY 2017 UPDATE: Thread title no longer accurate

 

This was such a shameless bump to your ... pinned ... topic ... Ah, screw you.

 

Potential ways in which the thread title may no longer be accurate:

 

1. You're now a fifth year associate.

 

2. You made partner and are no longer an associate.

 

3. You got fired.

 

What's up buddy?


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#225 maximumbob

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 04:41 PM

This was such a shameless bump to your ... pinned ... topic ... Ah, screw you.

 

Potential ways in which the thread title may no longer be accurate:

 

1. You're now a fifth year associate.

 

2. You made partner and are no longer an associate.

 

3. You got fired.

 

What's up buddy?

He saw the light and became a tax lawyer. 


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