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I know Fed and FCA clerks who have then gone on to both U.S. and Canadian big law.

 

 

As I said, it was second hand info - and it was info from the people who were having trouble finding jobs (who can be relied upon to gripe).

 

Also, you get a bit of institutional memory which sets expectations unnaturally high initially - people who say things like... "oh I remember a few years back you clerks used to have a job lined up 3 or 4 months into the clerkship"  or  "DOJ used to hire everyone without interviews, shame about the hiring freeze"  etc...

Edited by kurrika

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Perhaps Uriel can help to answer this question, but I've heard that the partnership tract is easier to achieve in Canadian big law over US. Can anyone shed some light on what the reasons for this may be? Is it due to the structural differences in firms? The amount of $$ paid to associates in NYC? The nature of the work? Culture? 

 

That was my impression just from the sheer leverage ratios.  There are Toronto firms leveraged 1:1 or 2:1 associate-to-partner.  Those ratios are off by a factor of 10 in New York.  I didn't apply for New York jobs, rightly or wrongly, largely based on my belief that partnership was much easier to attain here.

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If making partner is a main priority and you are considering TO vs. NYC I think you need to look beyond NYC firms ranked in the top half of the NLJ 250 because many American firms still have a relatively straightforward associate to partner structure. 

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Making partner at tier 1 NYC firms is similar to making it to VP or higher in a large-cap corporation and the pay corresponds accordingly. If you look at PPP for some of the top NYC firms it is staggering.

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Honestly, most Vault-firm associates I know don't even want to make partner at a big NY firm.  The hours and lifestyle, even for partners, is brutal.  They make a lot of money, but most people I know would be much happier (or at least believe they would be much happier) making $150-250k in-house, working 9-6, than making 5x that as a partner in a V50 firm, which is a much more stressful, long-hours, always-on-call position.

 

Of course, a lot of this may also be adaptive preference.  Making 7 figures as a partner at a V50 firm is not really possible for the vast majority of associates, even if they wanted to and worked hard for 10+ years to make it.

Edited by nerfco

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See above. Ask me anything. I will not offer any identifying information.

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What is the work/life balance like? How much time do you spend at the office in a week? What is your billable target?

 

I sometimes hear that lawyers in TO work as much as lawyers in NY, and I wonder if that's true, or if the hours really are cray in NY.

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Our firm averages around 1900 billable hours. That includes a lot of people lining up their exit options and are checked out, so I think the real average for those who are giving it their all is probably more like 2100. There is no target. You'll still get a bonus at the end of the year no matter how many hours you bill. We don't do layoffs--we did stealth layoffs during the recession ("aggressive performance based reductions") but that was a unique circumstance.

I spend roughly 50-60 hours of the week at the firm. I generally don't work weekends or at home (but it has happened, and I have thrown really late nights). Different practice areas are also busier or slower. For instance, M&A is almost always crazy, while everyone else goes up and down.

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It's a bit idealistic to suggest that a firm doesn't do layoffs.  Pretty much any biglaw firm has various versions of "the talk."  That said, if you do good work and enough of it (something around 2000 hours/year billable), you are reasonably likely to last 4-6 years at most firms, barring some major Latham & Watkins-style firings.  And even then, you can lateral to another biglaw firm at that point, although most people have paid off their debts and want to do something else around that point, at which point they start looking at in-house, government, or other options.

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Eh? I can't speak to other firms, but if we didn't do layoffs in 2008, I doubt we'd do them barring a crisis as serious. That said, mass layoffs did happen in NY back then, most notoriously at Latham and Watkins, and recently at Weil Gotschal. The "talk" that nerfco is referring to is essentially the one where all law firms sit you down around 4th year, and then again around 7th year and up, to tell you whether you are on track for partner. If not, it is a subtle hint for you to leave. We usually give people plenty of time to find other employment (true for most of our peer firms I think), but we DO expect people to leave if they don't make partner (also true across the board). Up-and-out is still going strong.

Edited by 7ED
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Thanks for doing an AMA!

 

I spend roughly 50-60 hours of the week at the firm. I generally don't work weekends or at home (but it has happened, and I have thrown really late nights). Different practice areas are also busier or slower. For instance, M&A is almost always crazy, while everyone else goes up and down.

 

Were you a lot busier when you first started working for you firm? Or has 50-60 hours consistently been your average?

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I am not representative as I have a clerkship coming up. As a result, the firm has had trouble staffing me due to the timeline. I averaged 60-80 hours a week (one particularly brutal week saw 100 hours billed) for about a month, and then I had 20-40 hour weeks. I would say 50-60 hours is the average for most junior associates here though, subject to practice group distinctions. One of our particularly heavy hitting non-M&A specialty groups is so overstretched and overworked that the juniors are basically billing 70-80 hours most weeks, and that is always true for basically all M&A groups at the major firms. The poor work-life balance means more people leave, which makes the group even harder to staff, which increases attrition still further, and so on and so forth. The silver lining to groups like that is that they tend to be the very tippety top of the market, and people leave after only 2-3 years to high responsibility jobs elsewhere because you cant get that kind of training or experience anywhere else. The tradeoff is you will have no life while doing it.

Edited by 7ED
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I believe I read on here earlier (possibly from yourself even) that firms in NY specialize in either solicitor work or barrister work. Is this true? It would mean if I wanted to work in litigation in NY I'd have specific firms to apply to, and for solicitation other firms to apply to?

 

Lastly, if the above is true, is the hours, billables, docketing, etc comparable among solicitor and litigation firms? Pay is the same? (i.e starting roughly 160k with raises annually and bonuses?)

 

Thanks!

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Eh? I can't speak to other firms, but if we didn't do layoffs in 2008, I doubt we'd do them barring a crisis as serious. That said, mass layoffs did happen in NY back then, most notoriously at Latham and Watkins, and recently at Weil Gotschal. The "talk" that nerfco is referring to is essentially the one where all law firms sit you down around 4th year, and then again around 7th year and up, to tell you whether you are on track for partner. If not, it is a subtle hint for you to leave. We usually give people plenty of time to find other employment (true for most of our peer firms I think), but we DO expect people to leave if they don't make partner (also true across the board). Up-and-out is still going strong.

 

People are often pushed out more forcefully than this in V10 firms in NY at annual reviews.  Typically, they'll often tell you that you should really look for other jobs and so on.  Then, perhaps six months later, they might officially let you go, which usually means that you get three-month (paid) to find a new job, where you may or may not have to go in to work at all.  After that three months, if you still haven't found anything but are on good terms, they'll sometimes agree to let you remain on the website but sometimes not.  These layoffs are usually termed as being "performance-based," but it's still a layoff.  I know people who were let go in this manner from the majority of the V10.

 

Layoffs outside of the review cycle, such as the massive (~ 50% of the associates in the firm) LW 2008 layoffs are quite rare and make ATL or other law tabloids.  Performance-based layoffs are much less rare (perhaps 5-10% of the associate classes in years 4 and up at most CSM-style firms), but don't really make any waves because it's just business as usual.

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I believe I read on here earlier (possibly from yourself even) that firms in NY specialize in either solicitor work or barrister work. Is this true? It would mean if I wanted to work in litigation in NY I'd have specific firms to apply to, and for solicitation other firms to apply to?

 

Lastly, if the above is true, is the hours, billables, docketing, etc comparable among solicitor and litigation firms? Pay is the same? (i.e starting roughly 160k with raises annually and bonuses?)

 

Thanks!

 

There's no solicitor/barrister distinction in the United States.  Nearly every biglaw firm is going to do both corporate work and litigation, as well as a number of other practice areas (tax, bankruptcy, etc).  You can check Chambers & Partners for specific practice-area rankings if you want, but unless you're doing something especially niche, most large firms will have the practice. 

 

There are a couple biglaw firms that are litigation boutiques and don't have corporate work (e.g. Williams & Connolly), but they're more the exception than the rule among Vault firms.

Edited by nerfco
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People are often pushed out more forcefully than this in V10 firms in NY at annual reviews.  Typically, they'll often tell you that you should really look for other jobs and so on.  Then, perhaps six months later, they might officially let you go, which usually means that you get three-month (paid) to find a new job, where you may or may not have to go in to work at all.  After that three months, if you still haven't found anything but are on good terms, they'll sometimes agree to let you remain on the website but sometimes not.  These layoffs are usually termed as being "performance-based," but it's still a layoff.  I know people who were let go in this manner from the majority of the V10.

 

Layoffs outside of the review cycle, such as the massive (~ 50% of the associates in the firm) LW 2008 layoffs are quite rare and make ATL or other law tabloids.  Performance-based layoffs are much less rare (perhaps 5-10% of the associate classes in years 4 and up at most CSM-style firms), but don't really make any waves because it's just business as usual.

Don't think there is any disagreement. Just a difference of perspective. I see a 9 month grace period to find a new job, all whilst paid, a pretty sweet deal. I wouldn't call these layoffs though. up-and-out is just how the market is structured. It is what you expect going in, you either make partner, or you leave.

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Usually the big full service firms (think v10) are pretty well rounded in everything, but if you want to do litigation in NY, some supposedly "full service" firms have far stronger litigation arms than they have corporate. Paul Weiss and Gibson Dunn are the ones that jump to mind. Pay/bonuses are generally the same, but there are some minor variations between firms (Susman Godfrey, high powered lit boutique, pays insane bonuses and has a shorter partnership track; Williams and Connolly is DC only, but it doesn't pay bonuses in favor of a higher starting salary that shafts senior associates but benefits juniors). Hours/billables can really vary. Quinn Emmanuel and Boies Schiller (lit firms) will work you to death beyond the usual 2000 billables area.

 

I believe I read on here earlier (possibly from yourself even) that firms in NY specialize in either solicitor work or barrister work. Is this true? It would mean if I wanted to work in litigation in NY I'd have specific firms to apply to, and for solicitation other firms to apply to?

 

Lastly, if the above is true, is the hours, billables, docketing, etc comparable among solicitor and litigation firms? Pay is the same? (i.e starting roughly 160k with raises annually and bonuses?)

 

Thanks!

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Recent admit to both NYU & UofT. I am interested in biglaw (either Toronto or NY), but unsure of living in the US for the rest of my life (in that I may want to end up in Canada in the future). I know that the general consensus is "go to school where you want to practice", but do you have any other advice you'd be willing to share as someone who has worked NY biglaw? 

Edited by Legendary

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Don't think there is any disagreement. Just a difference of perspective. I see a 9 month grace period to find a new job, all whilst paid, a pretty sweet deal. I wouldn't call these layoffs though. up-and-out is just how the market is structured. It is what you expect going in, you either make partner, or you leave.

 

I agree that it's not a bad deal at all, and didn't mean to suggest that it was.

 

But, I think if you tell people outside of biglaw that you were told to a find a new job within the next 9 months (paid), they'll think of it as a layoff of some sort. It's what you and I might expect, but those who don't have a concept of CSM-style biglaw (as contrasted with firms like Williams & Connolly, Wachtell, Bartlit Beck, etc.) won't know to expect that without being told.

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Recent admit to both NYU & UofT. I am interested in biglaw (either Toronto or NY), but unsure of living in the US for the rest of my life (in that I may want to end up in Canada in the future). I know that the general consensus is "go to school where you want to practice", but do you have any other advice you'd be willing to share as someone who has worked NY biglaw? 

Close call. I'd have gone with NYU in your position, but reasonable minds can disagree on this one. Its pretty easy to move from NY biglaw to Toronto, especially if you do transactional, but you do have to jump the accreditation hoop before you move.

 

I would have picked NYU because it is so hard to know what you'll want to do 4-5 years down the road, and biglaw in NY gives you the widest set of geographic/career exit options. It makes sense to have a plan, but the chances of that plan actually turning into reality seems pretty slim just because life seems to happen. Who knows, you might like NY, you might find a significant other in the USA. But if you are 100% set on staying in Canada, then it is a far closer call. Don't know what to tell you here mate.

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