Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

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patiently impatient
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Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by patiently impatient » Sun Oct 20, 2019 11:34 am

I have received an offer to lateral from a respected big law firm (to the extent it matters, V50) a non-Susman, Cravath-paying boutique. I am excited for the opportunity but also realize that it's somewhat riskier (i.e., more pressure, less likely to have time to transition if I flame out). Has anyone taken a similar offer and regretted it? Alternatively, are there any pros I am missing outside of the greater substantive experience? I have read the other threads so please do not link them.

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jingosaur
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by jingosaur » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:28 pm

I did this. I don't regret the decision. The work I do is more substantive. I made the move as a secondq year corporate associate, so my day to day went from diligence and updating checklists to drafting pretty much all deal documents.

The big negatives are that many of the deals are much much smaller and the technology sucks. Working on more substantive stuff and have more exposure to partners has made me realize that I just dont like being a lawyer when at my big firm, I thought I just didnt like the stress and shitty culture so that I also a bummer

lolwat
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by lolwat » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:51 pm

There are lots to think about. Is this in litigation?

Also, boutiques can vary wildly in how they operate, so keep that in mind. (E.g., Boutique A might hire associates with the intent of making them partner as long as they don't flame out, while Boutique B might quite literally never make anyone an equity partner but just pay everyone fairly well.)

patiently impatient
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by patiently impatient » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:40 pm

lolwat wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:51 pm
There are lots to think about. Is this in litigation?

Also, boutiques can vary wildly in how they operate, so keep that in mind. (E.g., Boutique A might hire associates with the intent of making them partner as long as they don't flame out, while Boutique B might quite literally never make anyone an equity partner but just pay everyone fairly well.)
Thankfully, this boutique seems to fall into the former camp.I am currently a midlevel and equity partnership came up quite a bit. It seems obtainable but I suppose they could have just been blowing smoke up my ass.

I do have some concerns of workload. I currently bill in the ~2100 hour range and have no real desire to work more than that. How has that looked on your end?

patiently impatient
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by patiently impatient » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:42 pm

jingosaur wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:28 pm
I did this. I don't regret the decision. The work I do is more substantive. I made the move as a secondq year corporate associate, so my day to day went from diligence and updating checklists to drafting pretty much all deal documents.

The big negatives are that many of the deals are much much smaller and the technology sucks. Working on more substantive stuff and have more exposure to partners has made me realize that I just dont like being a lawyer when at my big firm, I thought I just didnt like the stress and shitty culture so that I also a bummer
Firm size does concern me. Do you find it tiresome seeing and interacting the exact same people every day of your life? I do appreciate some of the more social aspects of my bigger firm.

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jingosaur
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by jingosaur » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:18 pm

patiently impatient wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:42 pm
jingosaur wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:28 pm
I did this. I don't regret the decision. The work I do is more substantive. I made the move as a secondq year corporate associate, so my day to day went from diligence and updating checklists to drafting pretty much all deal documents.

The big negatives are that many of the deals are much much smaller and the technology sucks. Working on more substantive stuff and have more exposure to partners has made me realize that I just dont like being a lawyer when at my big firm, I thought I just didnt like the stress and shitty culture so that I also a bummer
Firm size does concern me. Do you find it tiresome seeing and interacting the exact same people every day of your life? I do appreciate some of the more social aspects of my bigger firm.
I have pretty much zero social life within my firm. I'm friendly with a few people, but I don't do much socially. We have about 60 attorneys and 100 employees total (including lawyers) and I'd say maybe 25 of them are younger than 35.

But I get to have a pretty solid social life outside of work which is much more valuable. My girlfriend is very social and I have a solid group of friends and my family lives nearby, so I don't really need the law firm lifestyle to be socially fulfilled.

lolwat
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by lolwat » Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:21 am

patiently impatient wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:40 pm
lolwat wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:51 pm
There are lots to think about. Is this in litigation?

Also, boutiques can vary wildly in how they operate, so keep that in mind. (E.g., Boutique A might hire associates with the intent of making them partner as long as they don't flame out, while Boutique B might quite literally never make anyone an equity partner but just pay everyone fairly well.)
Thankfully, this boutique seems to fall into the former camp.I am currently a midlevel and equity partnership came up quite a bit. It seems obtainable but I suppose they could have just been blowing smoke up my ass.

I do have some concerns of workload. I currently bill in the ~2100 hour range and have no real desire to work more than that. How has that looked on your end?
The firms that really talk about partnership, I think, are usually genuine about it. It's when partnership doesn't come up at all during interviews, or the boutique is something like 10-20 attorneys and pays really well, but you just know it's really the 2-3 founding partners running the show and everyone else with a "partner" title is non-equity and really just has that title for marketing and business development purposes.

Workload. What sense did you get from the interview that the workload would be like? I think billing 2100 is probably reasonable for a market-paying boutique, but at some, you'll probably be expected to do more. A litigation/trial practice can also demand more if they're actively trying cases, as you can probably imagine those are going to be some 300-hour months. Another thing to think about is how business development hours fit into your workload. I've been at more than one boutique and they all stress business development hard. They won't tell you it's required but then you'll get a talk here and there about how it's so important to be out in the community and they "highly suggest" you get into leadership positions on boards and committees and such... So you're billing 2100 but on top of that you're doing another 100-200 business development hours a year. Sometimes more if you're in leadership positions and having to organize conferences and what not.

Firm size and people. I don't find it tiresome interacting with the same people. If you like them, it's great. When you know you're going to be working hard, it really helps to know that you like the people you're about to be spending long days and hundreds/thousands of hours with over the next few months, and a team of people that know and regularly work with each other just does a whole lot better than a team of random good attorneys assigned to the same case. It really does mean you have to genuinely like these people though. Shit falls apart real quick if there's a problem.

It's up to you on social matters. Everybody is different there. I'm happy to have lunch with my colleagues and to attend firm-sponsored social events, but in general I'm the type to go home to my family after work instead of going out for drinks. I imagine you probably got a sense during your interviews about people and what they do outside of work and all.

Exit options. Are you looking to eventually exit again or, if forced to, the firm's reputation regionally and nationally could matter. You already have a v50 on your resume though so it's probably okay either way.

the op

Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by the op » Tue Oct 22, 2019 9:01 pm

lolwat wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:21 am
patiently impatient wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:40 pm
lolwat wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:51 pm
There are lots to think about. Is this in litigation?

Also, boutiques can vary wildly in how they operate, so keep that in mind. (E.g., Boutique A might hire associates with the intent of making them partner as long as they don't flame out, while Boutique B might quite literally never make anyone an equity partner but just pay everyone fairly well.)
Thankfully, this boutique seems to fall into the former camp.I am currently a midlevel and equity partnership came up quite a bit. It seems obtainable but I suppose they could have just been blowing smoke up my ass.

I do have some concerns of workload. I currently bill in the ~2100 hour range and have no real desire to work more than that. How has that looked on your end?
The firms that really talk about partnership, I think, are usually genuine about it. It's when partnership doesn't come up at all during interviews, or the boutique is something like 10-20 attorneys and pays really well, but you just know it's really the 2-3 founding partners running the show and everyone else with a "partner" title is non-equity and really just has that title for marketing and business development purposes.

Workload. What sense did you get from the interview that the workload would be like? I think billing 2100 is probably reasonable for a market-paying boutique, but at some, you'll probably be expected to do more. A litigation/trial practice can also demand more if they're actively trying cases, as you can probably imagine those are going to be some 300-hour months. Another thing to think about is how business development hours fit into your workload. I've been at more than one boutique and they all stress business development hard. They won't tell you it's required but then you'll get a talk here and there about how it's so important to be out in the community and they "highly suggest" you get into leadership positions on boards and committees and such... So you're billing 2100 but on top of that you're doing another 100-200 business development hours a year. Sometimes more if you're in leadership positions and having to organize conferences and what not.

Firm size and people. I don't find it tiresome interacting with the same people. If you like them, it's great. When you know you're going to be working hard, it really helps to know that you like the people you're about to be spending long days and hundreds/thousands of hours with over the next few months, and a team of people that know and regularly work with each other just does a whole lot better than a team of random good attorneys assigned to the same case. It really does mean you have to genuinely like these people though. Shit falls apart real quick if there's a problem.

It's up to you on social matters. Everybody is different there. I'm happy to have lunch with my colleagues and to attend firm-sponsored social events, but in general I'm the type to go home to my family after work instead of going out for drinks. I imagine you probably got a sense during your interviews about people and what they do outside of work and all.

Exit options. Are you looking to eventually exit again or, if forced to, the firm's reputation regionally and nationally could matter. You already have a v50 on your resume though so it's probably okay either way.
Wow. Thank you for this.

Workload. During the interview process, multiple people stressed that it is a no-face time firm. That being said, it is a firm that prides itself on trial work so I do expect to have those crazy 300-hour months. I guess if 2100 is standard, it should make other months much more manageable. Regarding biz dev, it is unclear and I am glad you raised it. One of the partners told me that they are not going to "force" me go to any local bar events, but looking at the other associates, they each seem involved in multiple associations.

People/Socialization. One of the primary reasons I am considering this firm is the connection I felt with each of the attorneys I met. I actually left feeling like I could enjoy hanging out with these people outside of work. I will be switching markets so having some ability to socialize with my peers, at least in the beginning, will be important to both my spouse and myself. I do not expect happy hours every Friday, but the occasional event goes a long way to forging the bonds that ultimately make a strong working relationship.

Exit Options. To extent possible as a litigator, I ultimately see myself going in-house. The firm is highly respected in the market, however, I would like to make one final market move in the future. The firm has an office in this third market but is much less well-known.

lolwat
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Re: Lateral: BigLaw to Boutique -- Any Regrets?

Post by lolwat » Wed Oct 23, 2019 2:34 pm

the op wrote:
Tue Oct 22, 2019 9:01 pm
Wow. Thank you for this.

Workload. During the interview process, multiple people stressed that it is a no-face time firm. That being said, it is a firm that prides itself on trial work so I do expect to have those crazy 300-hour months. I guess if 2100 is standard, it should make other months much more manageable. Regarding biz dev, it is unclear and I am glad you raised it. One of the partners told me that they are not going to "force" me go to any local bar events, but looking at the other associates, they each seem involved in multiple associations.

People/Socialization. One of the primary reasons I am considering this firm is the connection I felt with each of the attorneys I met. I actually left feeling like I could enjoy hanging out with these people outside of work. I will be switching markets so having some ability to socialize with my peers, at least in the beginning, will be important to both my spouse and myself. I do not expect happy hours every Friday, but the occasional event goes a long way to forging the bonds that ultimately make a strong working relationship.

Exit Options. To extent possible as a litigator, I ultimately see myself going in-house. The firm is highly respected in the market, however, I would like to make one final market move in the future. The firm has an office in this third market but is much less well-known.
Workload. This sounds pretty good. No face-time is actually pretty important for balancing your life. If true, it basically means as long as it's not crunch-time you're given the flexibility to work from home or take care of whatever you need to without people worrying about where you are. That can be hugely important when you otherwise will be working a ton. (At my firm, all I do is let people know I'm working from home or out of the office, and no one has ever questioned it.)

(Ultimately, though, as far as hours go just keep in mind every boutique is different, and you haven't identified which one (for good reason) so I can't give even a second or third hand assessment. I'd hate to suggest you'd only be working 2100 and then you get there and end up having to do 2500+.)

And yeah, that sounds like a firm that soft-requires business development--they won't "force" you to do anything but you'll probably get the sense they "really want" you to. There are ways to make that more palatable, and since you're switching markets it's actually a great thing to go out and meet other attorneys in the community, so maybe it's not such a bad thing anyway.

People/Socialization. Maybe you can just follow up to ask if they often have firm events and such. Usually by the time you get an offer people really like you and want you to join them, so they're willing to answer questions. My last boutique had nothing of the sort--anyone could set up a lunch or event if they wanted but that type of organization was up to us, and it was pretty hit or miss whether the firm would reimburse. My current boutique has a LOT of informal stuff people can (and many often do) go to. Lunches most days of the week, Friday happy-hour, and several bigger events every couple of months.

Exit Options. It's super tough to go in-house as a litigator either way (and I feel like in-house positions often come from connections and recruiters), so you're probably in no better or worse shape there. I'd be a little concerned about how possible it is to move to that third market, but that seems like something super down the road that maybe shouldn't be quite as much of a consideration here.

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