Jump to content
thebadwife

Tell me about Big Law. Why does it get such a bad rap?

Recommended Posts

5 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

BQ mentioned that he did some digital privacy work in the summer that I think is very interesting stuff. The big firms are doing some solid work in the technology and privacy sectors which is seldom done outside of a Biglaw environment. Now this is something that I want to hear more about, rather than the back and forth this thread has gradually devolved into. 

And in the privacy and technology area, this pandemic is about to become very challenging for the big firms' clients, and very lucrative for the big firms...

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, TheLawWon said:

As for having a high level of responsibility as a young lawyer, this is overrated in my opinion.  Having worked at a small firm where I was given a high level of responsibility with minimal oversight, it can be extremely overwhelming and it's honestly significantly easier and less stressful to act as the junior under the guidance and leadership of a senior lawyer.  The senior lawyer is usually more competent and it's ultimately his/her head that falls when things don't go right. You will also become a better lawyer yourself while working under good lawyers as a junior.   

This!

I've only ever practiced in small firms. I find it cuts both ways. I love being hands-on and having a lot of direct client contact as a junior because it will only make me better in the future, but also holy shit the stress of being in charge while you effectively know nothing is... a lot.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is also a fallacy in comparing "big firms" generally vs "small firms" generally. It's easier to look at a big firm as a collection of specialized medium sized firms. The work I do, and training/experience/exposure I get, at a big firm can be quite different from an equal year of call in a different area/group/department. 

Likewise, smaller firms are highly driven by clientele and individual partner managing strategies. 

Law is very much an apprenticeship profession, even if we don't necessarily structure it that way entirely. So it will naturally vary not only between firms of the same size, but within a firm as well. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, TKNumber3 said:

Law is very much an apprenticeship profession, even if we don't necessarily structure it that way entirely. 

10/10 A++. Could not agree with this more. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, TheLawWon said:

 

As for having a high level of responsibility as a young lawyer, this is overrated in my opinion.  Having worked at a small firm where I was given a high level of responsibility with minimal oversight, it can be extremely overwhelming  

I was in this exact situation at about a year out and can vouch for it being among the worst situations to find yourself in 

Have a question about a file? Too bad, sucker. You won't get assistance on the front end but there's sure as hell going to be a load of blame for you on the back end when the error you didn't know was there to be made presents itself. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that’s one problem that juniors who want a lot of responsibility forget about: you don’t even know what you don’t know. It takes years to learn what the “usual” issues are in most practice areas.

  • Like 1
  • Sad 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/20/2020 at 2:35 PM, hitman9172 said:

This touches on a motivation for some people to stay in big law. I've noticed many of my friends who didn't grow up well-off see the demands of big law as necessary to earn a lot of money and put their kids in the best spot down the road. I find myself thinking along those lines as well at times. I don't mind putting in the hours in the hopes of an eventual large pay-off to secure my family's future, but I don't think I'd ever want my kids choosing this career path (and hopefully they won't need to).

It saddens me that some parents actually delude themselves into believing that by being both avaricious and absent they will somehow "put their kids in the best spot down the road". 

  • Like 7
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/24/2020 at 5:22 PM, Toad said:

He just made partner this past Christmas

immediately went to lawandstyle announcements and couldn't find firms announcing partnerships around that time which match his description :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can we not actively work on outing someone's real identity on here?

If you're really curious, just ask. And if he's open to sharing, great. If not, is it the end of the world?

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, hmyo said:

immediately went to lawandstyle announcements and couldn't find firms announcing partnerships around that time which match his description :(

Don't be attempting to identify a member here. Uriel has always generously shared with members here. It isn't a secret where he works but don't be posting about it if you want to continue participating here. That goes for identifying publicly any member. 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/26/2020 at 11:18 AM, hitman9172 said:

I think that’s one problem that juniors who want a lot of responsibility forget about: you don’t even know what you don’t know. It takes years to learn what the “usual” issues are in most practice areas.

This is so true. Getting thrown in the deep end teaches you how to deal with being inexperienced and unprepared and still somehow managing to get by. But self-teaching has obvious limits...

A truly great junior experience, in my opinion, is among the most annoying: when you’re not allowed to do anything yourself, until experienced lawyers have total faith that you’re ready to go it alone  

I do say this being somewhat biased. For my first couple of years, I was barely allowed to send emails to clients on my own. Certainly any pleadings and opinions I was drafting would be reviewed. And if I was at a hearing I was there to provide support.

But because everything that I did as a junior was reviewed by partners first, and then our client second (usually in-house counsel with their own expertise), everything I do now from emails to oral advocacy was previously vetted, polished, and the product of incredible mentorship. Any error I made as a new call was under a microscope and that level of oversight led to me making far fewer errors as I gained experience, and as I developed my own expertise and began to work without oversight.

It reminds me of an anecdote from my first summer, before I went to Bay. Then, one of our articling students commented on how they attended at a motion near the end of articling and were up against an articling student on Bay, and they couldn’t believe it was the Bay student’s first solo motion when our student had done (maybe) hundreds. The student at my (then) firm was a verifiable idiot, and sure they were more comfortable in court solo than was the Bay student, but they also never had the opportunity to learn from senior counsel and become not-an-idiot. So, there’s a way to rationalize any experience but, in my opinion, those experiences that benefit from the most oversight and mentorship are most helpful in lawyer development. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

It saddens me that some parents actually delude themselves into believing that by being both avaricious and absent they will somehow "put their kids in the best spot down the road". 

I'll always remember an old Globe piece that interviewed a number of dads on Bay Street (in law, finance, and other professional fields) about being a dad and a professional and balancing work/life.  I think it may have been a father's day figure.

I think it was Awi Sinha (litigation partner at McCarthy Tetrault and all around hilarious personality if you've ever met him - and if you haven't you really really should). He made a point of saying that as a Bay Street Litigator he always wants to win. He wants to win bids for clients. He wants to win cases. And he wants to win fatherhood. If he heard about someone doing something awesome with their kids he wouldn't rest until he's done something equivalent or better. He applied his relentless thirst for competition to being the best dad.

Was an interesting take. It was also (from my POV) entirely and completely honest.

Edited by rglasgow

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, rglasgow said:

I'll always remember an old Globe piece that interviewed a number of dads on Bay Street (in law, finance, and other professional fields) about being a dad and a professional and balancing work/life.  I think it may have been a father's day figure.

I think it was Awi Sinha (litigation partner at McCarthy Tetrault and all around hilarious personality if you've ever met him - and if you haven't you really really should). He made a point of saying that as a Bay Street Litigator he always wants to win. He wants to win bids for clients. He wants to win cases. And he wants to win fatherhood. If he heard about someone doing something awesome with their kids he wouldn't rest until he's done something equivalent or better. He applied his relentless thirst for competition to being the best dad.

Was an interesting take. It was also (from my POV) entirely and completely honest.

Was he by chance the guy who ripped pages out of a library book in 1L? Was that where that rumour started?

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
On 5/24/2020 at 7:52 PM, Deadpool said:

I think what might be helpful to further this discussion, and for the OP, is to discuss the different practice areas in Biglaw - the actual work itself, hours involved, clientele, work-life balance, etc. 

In the past we've had posters talk in length about their practice areas which I think others found immensely helpful in making their own career choices - class actions (Uriel), taxation (Maximumbob, Mal, etc.), intellectual property (Scientist), labour and employment (Jaggers, Adrian, Erin, etc.), criminal (diplock, quincy, providence, etc.), family (artsydork), and so on. 

But we don't have enough posters pitching in on other type of "Biglaw" work done at these firms. This would be more useful to students. Tell them what practicing in commercial real estate or construction law is like. M&A. Securities. Privacy. Financial Services. Environmental. Municipal. Many law students are unaware of the fact that they will be put into a practice group after their call, so inform them on what their options look like. 

BQ mentioned that he did some digital privacy work in the summer that I think is very interesting stuff. The big firms are doing some solid work in the technology and privacy sectors which is seldom done outside of a Biglaw environment. Now this is something that I want to hear more about, rather than the back and forth this thread has gradually devolved into. 

I'm a junior associate in a medium-sized firm with a municipal law practice group that is quite large for what is a niche practice area. Municipal law tends to be dominated by boutique firms like mine along with some big firms (BLG/Weirfoulds) although most of the work is done in boutiques. I articled in a medium-sized municipality and then worked at a medium-sized firm before switching over to my current firm so I've experienced the difference. It is difficult to talk about what I do exactly because municipal law is so broad but I would say that what I mostly do are discrete segments of large files where a client will be in a different point of an a lengthy approval process (think 5 to 25 years).  How the approval process goes is that the Planning Act and related statutes (there are more than a dozen) establish a provincially led policy framework that different municipalities supplement based on local considerations. Each municipality has legally binding policies and by-laws which we must interpret, apply to amend, and then implement to allow a client to turn what may have once been raw land to a greenfield subdivision or to convert an abandoned factory into a condominium. This is done through an adversarial process where each party (developer vs. municipality) will call expert witnesses, including planners (policy, heritage, development, etc.), engineers, environmentalists, hydrologists, geologists, and many more to argue that our particular policy is the most appropriate in the situation. A policy might be that the maximum height, floor space index, or parking index may only be 35 storeys, 4.5., or 0.85 per unit which can make or break the economic viability of a development. Outside of residential development, there is a lot of energy (wind turbines, hydroelectric dams) and natural resource work (aggregate extraction). 

The difference between small firm and big firm files is night and day. At a big firm, you do the legal work for billion dollar developments involving the tallest condominium, largest subdivisions, and most significant energy/natural resource projects in Ontario. The matters you litigate significantly change the entire policy framework of municipalities. There is often a lot of controversy about how much developers influence policy and it is well-earned because there are circumstances where municipalities will rely upon developers (and their lawyers) to literally write their policies, which will have to include their minimum requirements, i.e., gratuitous land dedications, height/density limits, urban design, heritage protection, and etc. At a small firm, a lot of the work you will do will involve more simple matters like a site-specific appeal of a zoning by-law regulation to permit a small subdivision or infill condominium or the enforcement of municipal laws and regulations (noise, health, land-use, and so on).

My client split is about 55/40/5 government, developer, and individual, which is unusual because most firms tend to predominantly represent developers -- but that is our niche. In any event the billable work is quite good. Public sector clients generally get preferential rates. The work is consistent and billables are easy to collect because the clients tend to have deep pockets and value your work, but it is also difficult and stressful because different municipalities have vastly different policies; it takes a lot of time to be able to learn them; and the litigation is stressful because there is so much money at stake. In Ontario the planning process is a political football and with every new change in government there are drastic changes in the law, so you have to continually update your knowledge and relearn what you know.

One problem is that because not a lot of students go into the practice area, and those that do often switch to commercial real estate (which is less stressful I've been told) or go in-house in the public sector for a better work-life balance, there is a constant shortage of lawyers. This means that at (every) place I've worked at we have been chronically short-staffed and when your colleagues go on vacation the hours become pretty brutal. For that reason, it is a good practice area to get into if you are starting out and interested in the area because it is surprisingly easy to get a good position. I personally love the practice area and the bar, which tends to be very collegial because unlike civil litigation everyone knows each other. If anyone is interested I can talk more about specific things that I do, e.g., drafting contracts, advisory work, different types of litigation, and etc. 

Edit: If anyone is interested or knows someone, my firm is actually looking to hire another lawyer -- so PM me if you have experience/demonstrated interest in municipal law.

Edited by adVenture
  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Was he by chance the guy who ripped pages out of a library book in 1L? Was that where that rumour started?

Since that rumour has always been about U of T, doubtful. Awi is a McGill grad. ;)

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/6/2020 at 4:57 PM, hmyo said:

immediately went to lawandstyle announcements and couldn't find firms announcing partnerships around that time which match his description :(

I'm flattered.  :)

It would be wise for someone in my position to advise LS.ca a few months early or a year late to keep everyone on their toes.  As Erin says, I've probably met a few dozen LS.ca posters in my time for mentoring.  It's definitely not a secret where I work, and the firm knows who I am over here in turn.  There are, however, some visitors to this site from time to time -- not law students -- that would take pleasure in doxing any prominent member of the site, so we try to make them work for it.

Generally speaking, when someone needs some advice in person I'll ask them to reach out with a verified law school e-mail and introduce myself from my work address. And then I just try to read over everything I post to make sure I'd stand by it if my name was associated with it in real life.  

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...