V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

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Splurgles23
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V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Splurgles23 » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:35 am

I'm trying to decide whether to return to WLRK or apply to a lit boutique (like KVN, SG). If anyone has insight on either of the 2 questions below, I'd really appreciate your feedback:

1. I know WLRK is busier and more demanding that other top Big Law firms. But how does it compare to other top litigation boutiques? My sense is that top Big Law will require around ~2200-2400 hours/year, and that WLRK will require even more. But what's the breakdown of WLRK v. lit boutiques? Or are they both roughly the same in terms of demanding the partners will be, facetime reqs, the sheer number of hours billed?

2. In terms of WLRK v. lit boutiques, is either one more likely to give more substantive experience to junior associates than the other (on the litigation side of WLRK, obviously)?

Opinion

Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Opinion » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:39 am

I’ve had to make this same choice before. Both WLRK and SG/KH will work you decidedly more than top
Biglaw firms...think 2500+ at the base. The substantive experience is pretty unparalleled though, and at least you’re compensated for the brutal hours (which aren’t as bad when you’re doing work you like and actually get to semi-run cases yourself as a very junior litigator)

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Skers
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Skers » Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:55 pm

Opinion wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:39 am
I’ve had to make this same choice before. Both WLRK and SG/KH will work you decidedly more than top
Biglaw firms...think 2500+ at the base. The substantive experience is pretty unparalleled though, and at least you’re compensated for the brutal hours (which aren’t as bad when you’re doing work you like and actually get to semi-run cases yourself as a very junior litigator)
Stockholm syndrome right here.

Splurgles23
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Splurgles23 » Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:07 pm

Opinion wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:39 am
I’ve had to make this same choice before. Both WLRK and SG/KH will work you decidedly more than top
Biglaw firms...think 2500+ at the base. The substantive experience is pretty unparalleled though, and at least you’re compensated for the brutal hours (which aren’t as bad when you’re doing work you like and actually get to semi-run cases yourself as a very junior litigator)
Right, what I'm wondering about is the difference between WLRK on the one hand and SG/KH on the other. Or is it pretty much roughly the same?

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quiver
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by quiver » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:33 pm

What are your long-term career plans?

Splurgles23
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Splurgles23 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:41 pm

Not yet sure what I'd like to do long-term. I love my clerkship (writing bench memos, researching hard legal questions), and obviously no junior-associate position at a firm will be comparable to that, but I'd still like to work somewhere that's relatively "intellectual." But I'm not so invested in appellate work that I wouldn't take the pay bump of a WLRK/SG over Gibson Dunn, for example. I guess the two driving factors are substantive as opposed to grunt work early on (whatever the type), and pay. That's why I'm interested in the firms I mentioned, and curious about billing req's at those places relative to each other.

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quiver
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by quiver » Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:09 pm

Splurgles23 wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:41 pm
Not yet sure what I'd like to do long-term. I love my clerkship (writing bench memos, researching hard legal questions), and obviously no junior-associate position at a firm will be comparable to that, but I'd still like to work somewhere that's relatively "intellectual." But I'm not so invested in appellate work that I wouldn't take the pay bump of a WLRK/SG over Gibson Dunn, for example. I guess the two driving factors are substantive as opposed to grunt work early on (whatever the type), and pay. That's why I'm interested in the firms I mentioned, and curious about billing req's at those places relative to each other.
The billing will be about the same between WLRK and SG/KH/etc. Other top-tier lit boutiques may "require" slightly less hours, depending on the practice. Although WLRK will provide excellent experience relative to other biglaw firms, the slight edge in substantive experience goes to the lit boutiques (especially those doing primarily civil work) by virtue of their cases and staffing. The pay is pretty much public, so you can weigh that for yourself.

The reason I asked about long-term plans is because it may be a deciding factor here. If you said, for example, you wanted to be an AUSA in a few years, I'd say WLRK. If you said you wanted the best shot at partner, I'd say the lit boutique. If you said something else, that's also important. Neither path would foreclose anything, but they each have different strengths for long-term plans.

If I read your OP to mean that you have an offer to return to WLRK, then the best course is probably: (1) talk to a junior associate you're comfortable with at WLRK about your questions; and (2) throw out some apps to lit boutiques, interview, and see if you like them.

Splurgles23
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Splurgles23 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:31 pm

quiver wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:09 pm
Splurgles23 wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:41 pm
The billing will be about the same between WLRK and SG/KH/etc. Other top-tier lit boutiques may "require" slightly less hours, depending on the practice. Although WLRK will provide excellent experience relative to other biglaw firms, the slight edge in substantive experience goes to the lit boutiques (especially those doing primarily civil work) by virtue of their cases and staffing. The pay is pretty much public, so you can weigh that for yourself.

The reason I asked about long-term plans is because it may be a deciding factor here. If you said, for example, you wanted to be an AUSA in a few years, I'd say WLRK. If you said you wanted the best shot at partner, I'd say the lit boutique. If you said something else, that's also important. Neither path would foreclose anything, but they each have different strengths for long-term plans.

If I read your OP to mean that you have an offer to return to WLRK, then the best course is probably: (1) talk to a junior associate you're comfortable with at WLRK about your questions; and (2) throw out some apps to lit boutiques, interview, and see if you like them.
Thank you, this is very helpful!

bigboutiqueassoc

Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by bigboutiqueassoc » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:51 pm

I'm at a firm like one of those that you name, with roughly similar selectiveness / business model / etc, but a bit larger while remaining definitely not a biglaw firm (you can probably narrow it down to 3-5 firms from that). Agree with quiver on all points, except to say that I think there is probably some regional and firm-to-firm difference on the hours requirements - I've typically averaged between 2000-2400 hours so far (3-4 years in), while a friend of mine at WLRK has reported being closer to 2800-3000, at least for the first couple years. Haven't spoken to them a ton since. Have an acquaintance at SG, and while I haven't had any specific conversations with this person, share quiver's understanding that the hours expectations there are similar.

EJsliast
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V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique

Post by EJsliast » Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:26 am

I have an interview with a lit boutique coming up. It’s a newer one that pays market and has large bonuses. However, I think the firm has grown quickly in the past year I remember I was researching the firm last year and it had 25 fewer attorneys.

Are these elite lit boutiques able to sustain the crazy bonuses they pay or was it just a short-term ploy in order to get talented associates to buy into the boutique?

I think KVN at one point had crazy bonuses too, but now seems to just match market, so I’m wondering if that’s the future trajectory of newer boutiques.

Obviously money isn’t the only reason to consider an offer, but not sure I’d go to a boutique if it didn’t have that added bonus

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BlendedUnicorn
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:21 am

EJsliast wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:26 am
I have an interview with a lit boutique coming up. It’s a newer one that pays market and has large bonuses. However, I think the firm has grown quickly in the past year I remember I was researching the firm last year and it had 25 fewer attorneys.

Are these elite lit boutiques able to sustain the crazy bonuses they pay or was it just a short-term ploy in order to get talented associates to buy into the boutique?

I think KVN at one point had crazy bonuses too, but now seems to just match market, so I’m wondering if that’s the future trajectory of newer boutiques.

Obviously money isn’t the only reason to consider an offer, but not sure I’d go to a boutique if it didn’t have that added bonus
I have no way of knowing but elite lit boutiques generally continue to pay above market bonuses even after they’re established. But it’s tough to say how many actually make it to that point and stay elite, so you have to do your due diligence and make a call about how much potential it actually has.

swing
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique

Post by swing » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:19 am

EJsliast wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:26 am
I have an interview with a lit boutique coming up. It’s a newer one that pays market and has large bonuses. However, I think the firm has grown quickly in the past year I remember I was researching the firm last year and it had 25 fewer attorneys.

Are these elite lit boutiques able to sustain the crazy bonuses they pay or was it just a short-term ploy in order to get talented associates to buy into the boutique?

I think KVN at one point had crazy bonuses too, but now seems to just match market, so I’m wondering if that’s the future trajectory of newer boutiques.

Obviously money isn’t the only reason to consider an offer, but not sure I’d go to a boutique if it didn’t have that added bonus
If the firm you're talking about is Selendy & Gay, then yes, it will be able to sustain its trend of shattering market raises/bonuses.

lolwat
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by lolwat » Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:21 pm

Lit boutiques vary widely.

Depending on what your goals are, I would suggest doing some research and look at ones with real track records where people actually stay and make partner, etc. I think SG Is one of those. WW+E too I think. Just haven't seen a whole lot of turnover at their SoCal offices at least even as they grew. Others--well I know several firms that pay really well but have turned over large numbers of attorneys, support staff, etc. in only a few years, and this is like <25 attorney firms.

Or if you're into the startup kind of thing, look into new ones with powerhouse litigators that will likely be able to sustain their salary/bonuses for quite some time. There seems to be a new one popping up every week.

Most of these firms get the kind of high-end business that make their bonuses sustainable. Although, in my opinion, there are a few that might not be able to... but the one I'm thinking of has done so thus far, I think, so who knows. If they're bleeding money, they've still got enough in the coffers for the time being. I believe their entire business model is to keep associates billing 2500+ at rates that can sustain that kind of compensation though, and they're only matching and not beating market.

Opinion

Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Opinion » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:38 am

I work at an elite boutique that doesn’t have billable hours (elite as in above NY market total comp), and I haven’t worked at WLRK or a similar 2400+ hour requirement place, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Imo, I’d take a non-billing boutique over Wachtell anyway, even though total comp is probably a bit lower (but still much higher than Cravath scale). There are 2 in Chicago that I know of, 1 in Cali, and 1 in NY. I’m sure there are more out there.

With regard to substantive work, first years are already taking deps, with guaranteed dep experience by 2nd year. Mid-levels and seniors make showings at trials, usually doing directs. Cases are staffed leanly and you work closely with partners. Fit is paramount since the firms are very small, and nobody is treated like a cog or a tool, which sounds like is the case at WLRK.

If you want to go in-house or AUSA, or basically want to exit at all, do WLRK and grind for 3 years. If you want to be a trial lawyer/career civil litigator/appellate litigator, do boutique and don’t look back. Shoot for non-billing ones. If you can get KVN/Susman/WLRK, you can get Bartlit and co.

Guest

Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Guest » Wed Mar 06, 2019 2:20 pm

OP, I'm curious as to whether you ended up applying, what your current thoughts are, etc. I'm in a similar situation as you.

Splurgles23
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by Splurgles23 » Thu Mar 07, 2019 10:49 am

Dinged at Kellogg and Susman last week or two. Have a few West Coast interviews lined up. My feeling is that the hours requirements for these types of firms is pretty much the same, but the pay starts to vary once you're past the initial 1-2 years. The other things that does matter is the type of litigation. The sense I got from Susman is that it really is plaintiff heavy.

lolwat
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Re: V5/WLRK or Lit Boutique?

Post by lolwat » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:39 am

I think Susman seems like a step above some of the other boutiques in terms of hours worked (especially West Coast ones). It's like the difference between billing 2400 and 2700, which on paper doesn't sound horrible, but every extra hour past around 2200-2300 tend to start feeling worse and worse because you're dipping more and more into night and weekend hours. I guess it might not feel as bad if you seriously love the job (which most people that stay at those boutiques seem to) and don't mind the work.

And yes, Susman is fairly plaintiff heavy, which is part of why they're able to sustain the kind of salaries and bonuses they give out.

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