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Hey all, 

For one reason or another I started to think about "firm perks". I realized that when I had interviewed as a summer student I would be brought on tours of the firms and as a "selling point" would learn about all of the perks the firm had. For example "we have Nespresso machines and unlimited pods on every floor!" or "We have box seats at x-arena and you can get tickets for events!". I discovered that, when interviewing as an associate I didn't get a tour and I was definitely not told about some of these cool perks (and I know that all of the places I interviewed, including the one I ended up with have some great ones!) 

Anyway - I thought I'd start the thread for those on the forum to share some of the best perks they've experienced at firms. It's nice to know what people are (or are not) getting. 

For myself - one of the best perks is the firm paying for after-hours food and, if necessary, my cab-ride home at night one of the great things is there is not a cut off time to take the cab - the policy is "if you don't feel safe, take the cab" - it doesn't need to be midnight for it to be justified (of course I'm sure if I took advantage of this I would be spoken to, but it's nice to know that if I'm here really late I can cab home if need be).  

At my old firm a great perk was drink night Thursdays - the firm supplied beer/wine/liquor and snacks every Thursday at 5pm for professionals to socialize. 

Another thing I've "heard" about on Bay Street is a Business Development budget that associates are given where they can expense going out to restaurants under "BD". I don't have such a thing at my firm, but I cannot believe how many times I've gone out with my colleagues for a drink and they'll say "no no, it's on the firm, we'll call it BD". I'm kind of jealous about that one. 

Any others?

Edited by TheScientist101
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Nespresso pods is not a selling point. Tell your firm to get a real machine.

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Articling student at a mid-size full service firm outside of Toronto:

The associates/students have weekly lunches. There are also cocktails on Friday afternoons, for anyone who wants to join (staff included - although I find that very few of them take advantage of this). Actually, the firm is pretty generous with food overall - I find I usually have two or three lunches a week paid for, for one reason or another (either due to the generosity of a partner, or because I know the right associate with credit card privileges).

As an articling student, the biggest thing has been having all of my articling fees paid for (including bar exams, paid study period, and reimbursement for the cost of my robes). The firm also has a very generous mileage fee policy (mostly, I think, as a way of ensuring that students jump at the opportunity to drive into the city for minor errands), considering that we don't generally charge mileage as a disbursement, and is willing to pay for memberships for students in various local organizations.

We also have a killer health/dental plan (which has been a godsend for our family, having claimed about three grand in the last two months).

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Assorted "Perks" of working in Biglaw:

  • Unlimited Free Coffee/Tea (of varying quality, depending on the firm - the quality of the coffee at my old place was much inferior to what I get in-house)
  • Free lunches and soft drinks (when I started, that seems to have been phased out, but maybe there's one or two who still do it).
  • boozy dinners/lunches with clients/students
  • golf tournaments
  • xmas parties
  • firm retreats
  • BD accounts
  • late meals
  • late cab rides
  • travel
  • conferences
  • hockey/basketball/baseball tickets
  • Medisys/Medcan/other private health care membership (usually reserved for partners/counsel/senior lawyers) - you know you've made it when they start caring about your health.  
  • free smartphone
  • fitness membership 

The obvious caveat is that most of those "perks" come with strings attached (hence the quotation marks).  Sure, it's cool that the firm will pay for my dinner when I'm working late, but I'm working late.  It's cool that there are endless boozy dinner with clients/students, but of course, they're dinner with clients/students.  Business travel is fun, but it's work.  The free coffee is nice, but it's a way to extract a few more minutes a day of billable time out of me by keeping me from going downstairs to starbucks.  Not that they aren't appreciated - the job would be a whole lot worse without them - but they're sort of tainted perks. 

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19 minutes ago, maximumbob said:

Assorted "Perks" of working in Biglaw:

  • Unlimited Free Coffee/Tea (of varying quality, depending on the firm - the quality of the coffee at my old place was much inferior to what I get in-house)
  • Free lunches and soft drinks (when I started, that seems to have been phased out, but maybe there's one or two who still do it).
  • boozy dinners/lunches with clients/students
  • golf tournaments
  • xmas parties
  • firm retreats
  • BD accounts
  • late meals
  • late cab rides
  • travel
  • conferences
  • hockey/basketball/baseball tickets
  • Medisys/Medcan/other private health care membership (usually reserved for partners/counsel/senior lawyers) - you know you've made it when they start caring about your health.  
  • free smartphone
  • fitness membership 

The obvious caveat is that most of those "perks" come with strings attached (hence the quotation marks).  Sure, it's cool that the firm will pay for my dinner when I'm working late, but I'm working late.  It's cool that there are endless boozy dinner with clients/students, but of course, they're dinner with clients/students.  Business travel is fun, but it's work.  The free coffee is nice, but it's a way to extract a few more minutes a day of billable time out of me by keeping me from going downstairs to starbucks.  Not that they aren't appreciated - the job would be a whole lot worse without them - but they're sort of tainted perks. 

Concerning travel, how often do associates at a 'big-law' firm in Toronto get to travel within Canada or internationally for work? Is the frequency of travel dependent on the area of practice and do firms pay cover first class tickets and hotel accommodation? 

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Just now, harveyspecter993 said:

Concerning travel, how often do associates at a 'big-law' firm in Toronto get to travel within Canada or internationally for work? Is the frequency of travel dependent on the area of practice and do firms pay cover first class tickets and hotel accommodation? 

FIRST CLASS?!

Please, God, I hope the answer is "no".

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7 minutes ago, harveyspecter993 said:

Concerning travel, how often do associates at a 'big-law' firm in Toronto get to travel within Canada or internationally for work? Is the frequency of travel dependent on the area of practice and do firms pay cover first class tickets and hotel accommodation? 

In IP you travel a lot. Almost always your experts, inventors and/or fact witnesses are not in Canada. Firms usually have a cap on business class travel - some firms its on flights that are over 3, 4 or 5 hours - at my firm business class (note - on some airlines is different from "first") is only covered if you are going over seas (which, again, happens a lot). 

 

*Edit* - I posted this and then was reminded of a story I was told while interviewing at a firm for a summer spot - I had asked what was one of the most unique tasks my interviewer had been given as a student. He replied that he once had to deliver urgent documents to be signed in Costa Rica. Literally, he hopped on a flight to Costa Rica the signee met him at the air-port, signed, and then he hopped on the very next flight out to file the documents in Canada.

I know that sounds insane but I've discovered that situations like these happen more often than you would think. Just a few months ago we were having problems couriering an affidavit that had to be urgently signed to a witness in California. An associate had to fly out there just to make sure the affiant swore it (not by us btw b/c we aren't licensed to do that in California) and then hop on a flight back to make sure we made the filing deadline. 

Edited by TheScientist101
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2 minutes ago, harveyspecter993 said:

How come?

Because it means I'm in the wrong market (and first-class international airfare could easily put you back eight or nine grand each way).

 

But, I also didn't consider that you might have meant "business" rather than "first," which to me is more palatable because only peasants ride economy.

Edited by Mountebank
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2 minutes ago, harveyspecter993 said:

Concerning travel, how often do associates at a 'big-law' firm in Toronto get to travel within Canada or internationally for work? Is the frequency of travel dependent on the area of practice and do firms pay cover first class tickets and hotel accommodation? 

It does depend to a certain extent on practice, seniority and firm focus - don't go betting on it as a new call.  But I have a friend who spend 4 months in Montreal on a big litigation file, another who spent a similar span on the other side of the world on another big file - in both cases living in nice hotels and sampling the local restaurant scene.  When I was in private practice, my firm had a large US focus, so I did a lot of travel in the states on business, maybe 3 or 4 times a year (mostly short trips to NY or Chicago, but some other places as well) - if your firm had mostly a Canadian client base, then that might not be an option.  

I would not count on flying first class - absent extenuating circumstances that would be a non-starter unless you were a heavy hitter.  I usually made a point of finding deals in terms of hotels, but it's not like I was staying (or expected to stay) at the Holiday Inn - I did once stay at the Waldorf Astoria for a conference, let's just say, I understand why it's being renovated.  It's about being reasonable.

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9 minutes ago, harveyspecter993 said:

How come?

Price.  It's the difference between dropping $700 on a trip to London vs. almost $7000 for the same trip.  Hard to justify paying $6300 for your comfort. 

Firms want you to think like an owner.  Would you pay $7000 out of your pocket for a trip to London?  If not,  how can you justify asking the partners to dip into their pockets? 

Edited by maximumbob
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Just now, maximumbob said:

Price.  It's the difference between dropping $700 on a trip to London vs. almost $7000 for the same trip.  Hard to justify paying $6300 for your comfort. 

Is business class acceptable then or do firms really expect associates to fly economy?

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8 minutes ago, harveyspecter993 said:

Is business class acceptable then or do firms really expect associates to fly economy?

That IS the business class difference.  Yes, you're expected to fly economy.  Partners too., absent special circumstances.  

Edited by maximumbob

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Personally, I don't understand the discussion because I always elect to travel by ship (or canal boat, as the case may be) when on firm business.

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19 minutes ago, maximumbob said:

That IS the business class difference.  Yes, you're expected to fly economy.  

I'm scared to ask if premium economy would be acceptable.

Edited by harveyspecter993

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1 minute ago, Mountebank said:

Personally, I don't understand the discussion because I always elect to travel by ship (or canal boat, as the case may be) when on firm business.

Well, sure, the firm yacht is always the preferred choice. 

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40 minutes ago, TheScientist101 said:

I posted this and then was reminded of a story I was told while interviewing at a firm for a summer spot - I had asked what was one of the most unique tasks my interviewer had been given as a student. He replied that he once had to deliver urgent documents to be signed in Costa Rica. Literally, he hopped on a flight to Costa Rica the signee met him at the air-port, signed, and then he hopped on the very next flight out to file the documents in Canada.

See, people say that the public sector isn't glamorous, but I have a story just like this! Except instead of "flight" it was "drive", and instead of "Costa Rica" it was "Sarnia".

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2 minutes ago, harveyspecter993 said:

I'm scared to ask if premium economy would be acceptable.

The price is still hard to justify.  At the end of the day, you have to be able to explain to the head of your group or the firm CFO why you're spending his or her money on your comfort - because, remember, the owners of the firms aren't some anonymous shareholders, they're the people in the office next to you.  it's their money you'd be spending.  I wouldn't be comfortable telling the head of my old group that I'd spent 3 times more than I had to on my comfort, at least not without a good reason.  

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4 minutes ago, maximumbob said:

The price is still hard to justify.  At the end of the day, you have to be able to explain to the head of your group or the firm CFO why you're spending his or her money on your comfort - because, remember, the owners of the firms aren't some anonymous shareholders, they're the people in the office next to you.  it's their money you'd be spending.  I wouldn't be comfortable telling the head of my old group that I'd spent 3 times more than I had to on my comfort, at least not without a good reason.  

Fine. I'll settle for free coffee. Man, this thread has been a real downer.

Edited by harveyspecter993

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