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US biglaw attorneys taking questions [merged]


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#26 connorma

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 10:55 AM

Partnership is basically off the table. Many colleagues who have left have gone to other firms (if <5 years of call) and government/in-house if more senior. Most Canadians from Canadian law schools tend to go back to Canada. They usually land at the top litigation boutiques, good government posts, or outside of the practice of law. 

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? 



#27 nerfco

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 01:15 PM

With regards to clerking, I would note that the Appropriations Act means that Canadian citizens (as opposed to dual citizens) can't get paid for US federal clerkships in the lower 48.  Accordingly, for most Canadians, a US (federal) clerkship is off the table.  (Of course, you can get a $50k bonus for it from a biglaw firm, but that money isn't usually paid until after you return to biglaw.  Thus, you'd have to have your own funds to live on the for year of clerking.)


Edited by nerfco, 29 September 2014 - 01:17 PM.


#28 kenoshakid

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 01:34 PM

With regards to clerking, I would note that the Appropriations Act means that Canadian citizens (as opposed to dual citizens) can't get paid for US federal clerkships in the lower 48.  Accordingly, for most Canadians, a US (federal) clerkship is off the table.  (Of course, you can get a $50k bonus for it from a biglaw firm, but that money isn't usually paid until after you return to biglaw.  Thus, you'd have to have your own funds to live on the for year of clerking.)

 

One NYC firm told me that they paid the bonus even if you clerk in Canada.



#29 Jaggers

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 01:37 PM

They do.



#30 Rashabon

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 01:49 PM

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? 

 

PPP. Profits per partner. US firms are more concerned with PPP and the track there is more deeply entrenched as well.

 

They don't want you touching their dollars. Toronto is slowly moving in that direction but it isn't as bad as New York is.



#31 nerfco

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 01:57 PM

One NYC firm told me that they paid the bonus even if you clerk in Canada.

 

Yes, this is correct (at least for the Supreme Court--I have no personal information about lower Canadian courts). I was referring to US clerkships.



#32 kenoshakid

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 02:11 PM

Yes, this is correct (at least for the Supreme Court--I have no personal information about lower Canadian courts). I was referring to US clerkships.

 

Oh, I wasn't disagreeing. I was just pointing out that it's an acceptable alternate to clerking in the US for free.

 

ETA: The guy I talked to also was of the opinion that ONCA and FCA would be fine, in addition to the SCC. Nothing lower, though.


Edited by kenoshakid, 29 September 2014 - 02:12 PM.


#33 erinl2

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 04:16 PM

 The guy I talked to also was of the opinion that ONCA and FCA would be fine, in addition to the SCC. Nothing lower, though.

 

The guy's opinion is incorrect. Federal Court clerks also get the bonus from NY firms.



#34 kenoshakid

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 04:31 PM

The guy's opinion is incorrect. Federal Court clerks also get the bonus from NY firms.

 

Could it vary between firms? To be fair he was in the corporate department and admitted he wasn't 100%.



#35 erinl2

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 06:27 PM

Could it vary between firms? To be fair he was in the corporate department and admitted he wasn't 100%.

 

Anything could vary between firms. My point was that what he said, as a general statement, is incorrect.


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#36 aspiringsolo

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 07:06 PM

Anything could vary between firms. My point was that what he said, as a general statement, is incorrect.

 Lots of firms give bonuses for provincial courts of appeal, Ontario Superior Court (no matter the city) and the FC/FCA/SCC. 



#37 aspiringsolo

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 07:08 PM

Just FYI for the benefit of law students that wouldn't otherwise know --- NYC has much higher salaries and lower taxes (I think) but the bonuses are significantly higher than this in Canada.  Pulling 2000 hours in Toronto will generally net you $20,000 as a first-year call.  (The math goes 10% of salary for making target and another 5% for every 100 hours after that.)  Of course, Toronto being Toronto, only $12,000 of that will get through Her Majesty and make it into your pocket.

 

It depends on the firm, as well.  I have known people that have done so much great work, such insane hours and brought in enough clients that they have reportedly doubled their associate salary through a more holistic bonus structure.

 

 

This is my understanding also. Bonuses in NYC have tended to be at or near this scale for the past few years. Prior to the financial crisis, they were much higher than this scale and thus higher than Toronto. 



#38 aspiringsolo

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 07:10 PM

PPP. Profits per partner. US firms are more concerned with PPP and the track there is more deeply entrenched as well.

 

They don't want you touching their dollars. Toronto is slowly moving in that direction but it isn't as bad as New York is.

 

Lots of factors, but profit maximization is the priority for the firms in NYC. So there is a long (10 years) partnership track and then two categories of partner (income and then equity if you hang around for long enough). Toronto is moving in this direction (as I understand it) but it is still possible at some places to make partner. 



#39 erinl2

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 07:11 PM

 Lots of firms give bonuses for provincial courts of appeal, Ontario Superior Court (no matter the city) and the FC/FCA/SCC. 

 

I'm not sure why you are quoting me. You seem to be making the same point as I was. :)



#40 aspiringsolo

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 07:15 PM

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

 Of course, my general point is that it is hard to get down to the US without summering as an FC/FCA clerk vs. SCC where Sullivan and Cromwell will recruit you directly from the SCC (without previously having summered). I know a lot people who did FC/FCA and had a hard time going back to their biglaw firms. I know some were just fine, of course, but there were others who had a problem because of the unenthusiastic reaction to clerking that many Canadian firms have. 



#41 kurrika

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 08:06 PM

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, 29 September 2014 - 08:08 PM.


#42 Uriel

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 09:52 AM

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.



#43 pineapple21

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 10:02 AM

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. 



#44 RBK

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 10:16 AM

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.



#45 nerfco

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 02:26 PM

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, 02 October 2014 - 02:26 PM.


#46 7ED

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Posted 12 March 2016 - 11:02 PM

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


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#47 conge

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:00 AM

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.



#48 7ED

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 08:15 AM

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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#49 nerfco

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 10:50 AM

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.



#50 7ED

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 01:29 PM

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, 15 March 2016 - 01:31 PM.

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