Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

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Alpha
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Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:05 pm

Feel free to ask me anything, be it my time at biglaw, my reasons for leaving, or my current work as a lit midlevel at my boutique firm mostly complex tech/pharma litigation (patent, trade secret, or complex commercial with high tech or pharma focus).

omegaweapon
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by omegaweapon » Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:58 pm

In retrospect, are you glad you did biglaw?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:16 pm

omegaweapon wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:58 pm
In retrospect, are you glad you did biglaw?
Absolutely - I learned a lot (both good and bad habits), it's a good marketable resume line in boutique work where clients traditionally also look at biglaw when they hire a firm, and (strategically) it's good to know how biglaw thinks on the occasions I do plaintiff side work and know biglaw will be on the other side.

done
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by done » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm

what market?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm

done wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm
what market?
TX

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HenryHankPalmer
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by HenryHankPalmer » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:26 am

Alpha wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm
done wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm
what market?
TX
Would you say that your firm hires primarily through OCI or BigLaw refugees like yourself?

What is the largest difference between BigLaw lit practice and a boutique?

How much of your work is substantive (writing something besides discovery responses/taking depos/actually speaking in court/trial work, etc.)?

Do you have a hard science background?

What does patent practice in Texas look like post-TC Heartland? RIP EDTX, right?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:52 am

HenryHankPalmer wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:26 am
Alpha wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm
done wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:32 pm
what market?
TX
Would you say that your firm hires primarily through OCI or BigLaw refugees like yourself?
We don't do OCI, and really don't do new grad at all (though I have a feeling we may open up to idea of a stub year or first year, in right scenario). We run pretty lean, so it's tough for us to take a new grad - we'd prefer that someone else's clients pay for the training, frankly.

What is the largest difference between BigLaw lit practice and a boutique?
I think there are a ton, but a lot of it varies based on the specific biglaw firm and specific boutique, but I think one thing that is pretty true regardless of specific biglaw firm and boutique is that biglaw is relatively highly structured. You have defined resources, assets, and support staff. Boutique is a bit less structured and a bit more ad hoc. And generally, a lot more autonomous. At our firm, you won't succeed if you have to be told what to do next or don't take initiative to deploy resources to solve problems. Sometimes that means having to learn about about something that you otherwise wouldn't. For example, what is the right doc review vendor for a particular case (because it is not always Relativity nor is it always particular company Y). And, at least at my firm, there is a strong "big kids rule" in play. No one is going to check on you to see how progress is coming on something, if you need help, or if you are swamped so bad you may miss a deadline. Some thrive in this environment, and some don't.
How much of your work is substantive (writing something besides discovery responses/taking depos/actually speaking in court/trial work, etc.)?
It depends on where you are at in the case - probably 2 years ago or so, when some of my cases began, it was pretty heavy on discovery, including preparing discovery and responding to it. But that is also around depositions. But, here we have a very flat hierarchy. We don't put school year on our website, and I couldn't tell you when most of my colleagues graduated. I've done doc review for a colleague that I think is younger than my class year, and I've had a partner do depo prep kits for me. But as an example of the substance level - I was primarily in charge of the infringement case for two parallel litigations, and managed everything from infringement discovery, to expert depo prep and defense, to trial prep, setting trial strategy including determining what we keep and drop, and then being able to present our expert witness at a bench trial portion of our second case.

When I left biglaw, I could tell you exactly how many depositions I had taken. Now, I have no clue. My next step in progression there is expert depositions (not defense). I've argued evidentiary motions, procedural motions, and pre-trial motions in federal court.

That, frankly, is the biggest difference between biglaw and boutique (though I know some people at boutiques that still see a bit more of a biglaw model, so it's not categorical). But generally, I have far, far more experience than a comparable 5-6th year at a biglaw firm.
Do you have a hard science background?
Yes and no - I have a b.s. in abstract math. It's not PTO-qualifying, and not EE, so many firms would take that as a negative. But, I think stronger trial boutiques (which we consider ourselves to be), care more about the ability to explain technology to lay people than understanding it inherently and easily. We hire experts to be the experts, but I will say everyone here is very, very intelligent and adept at learning technology (high tech to pharma) that is not in their wheelhouse or part of their prior undergrad history. That said, I am working on studying for the FE exam, as passing that makes you patent bar eligible. I'll get around to that probably after the SCOTUS ruling on PTAB - as I definitely don't want to go through all that effort for non-existent IPRs.
What does patent practice in Texas look like post-TC Heartland? RIP EDTX, right?
RIP EDTX as we know it, for sure. But, there are still some major players HQ'ed in EDTex, so it will never truly go away. That said, I see the local counsel bar out there scrambling to be experts in things other than patent lit - so it will definitely have an impact on that economy. Frankly, I think the biggest impact is that it all but wipes our ANDA lit in EDTex, and while the high tech is in a state of decline and future is a bit uncertain, the ANDA work simply is not going to go away anytime in the future.

But, for lead counsel firms, the EDTex thing is not that big of an issue - everyone's always maintained a nationwide practice.

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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by BearCat » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:27 pm

How does the future look for lit boutique associates who may not make partner?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:32 pm

IPeeLaw wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:27 pm
How does the future look for lit boutique associates who may not make partner?
I can't speak to this generally, but at my firm we are not up or out. That said, the entire partnership (outside of named partners) are non-equity, so the move to partnership is not as difficult for the firm to give out and is treated much more like a reward. So, it more seems as though attorneys will end up as partner after they fix issues, will continue to spin wheels trying, or will leave the firm either because they haven't made partner yet or because their work does not justify their continued association with the firm (That is, they aren't leaving simply because a decision is made they won't make partner, but because the issues with their work outweigh the benefits. Basically, a termination decision on performance generally.)

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pozzo
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by pozzo » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:41 pm

Did you do BL in the same market?

Are they other paths to your firm that don't lead through BL?

If so, what are they and how do those associates fare relative to former BL folks like yourself?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:46 pm

pozzo wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:41 pm
Did you do BL in the same market?

Are they other paths to your firm that don't lead through BL?

If so, what are they and how do those associates fare relative to former BL folks like yourself?
Yes - did BL in the same market.

And yes - our firm isn't exclusively BL entrance, but if the attorney is not coming from BL, it will be from a peer boutique or from a very strong personal referral. And those associates fare well. The firm is fairly close knit and relies heavily on team-oriented mentality and ability to mesh well with everyone else - it's the key to the successes we've had. So, people generally naturally do well because of the vetting that goes into hiring. Some more tenured associates were pushed out over last year or two that simply did not have the team mindset, e.g. would sit in their office and not do much work, while others are getting crushed, and not offer to help at all (even if not their case).

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beep
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by beep » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:10 pm

When you say boutique, how big of a firm are we talking? Totally understand if you can't be specific in fear of outing.

Did you have lots of pharma/patent experience from your biglaw firm before coming in? If not, how did you pitch your interest in working in that area?

How did you find out about the firm you moved to? Did you use a recruiter?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:15 pm

beep wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:10 pm
When you say boutique, how big of a firm are we talking? Totally understand if you can't be specific in fear of outing.

Did you have lots of pharma/patent experience from your biglaw firm before coming in? If not, how did you pitch your interest in working in that area?

How did you find out about the firm you moved to? Did you use a recruiter?
Under 40, roughly

I was exclusively patent before hand, but had not done pharma. Biglaw really cabins that out, from what I've seen so would be tough to get in without pharma-type degree.

And yeah - I had a recruiter inform me of opportunity. I oddly knew someone working there, but did not think they were hiring, so I didn't reach out to them until after found out about opportunity from recruiter.

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fee difficult
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by fee difficult » Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:51 pm

How did you get involved in trade secrets? I'm looking to start in biglaw patent lit but I'm wondering how one "unlocks" the more niche stuff like trade secret, antitrust, etc.

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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by gorillawarfare » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:24 pm

Dumb question, but what is EDTex?

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MKC
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by MKC » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:38 pm

gorillawarfare wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:24 pm
Dumb question, but what is EDTex?
A Texan with Erectile Disfunction
Spoiler:
Seriously though it's the Eastern District of Texas (Federal Court)

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:22 pm

fee difficult wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:51 pm
How did you get involved in trade secrets? I'm looking to start in biglaw patent lit but I'm wondering how one "unlocks" the more niche stuff like trade secret, antitrust, etc.
Antitrust can be implicated in patent lit, but most often only in the ANDA settlement/FTC issues (and really there it's more regulatory/class action than true antitrust, in terms of cause of action) and with standards-setting organizations in the tech patent world. So, you can see it arise, and it's useful to know the body of law that intersects patent and antitrust, but I don't think you see a lot of random anti-trust and patent from a single firm, that is completely detached from each other.

Obviously, trade secret is mutually exclusive of patent, but the best way is to be up on the DTSA and understand that the client may present a case to you, and the options vary on how to respond - be it patent, trade secret, or copyright.

Bottom line, if you are going to start in biglaw patent lit, the best is to stay read up on antitrust in the context of patent, and to stay up on DTSA law. You can then value-add, as situations present themselves, to these issues.

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fee difficult
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by fee difficult » Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:41 am

Alpha wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:22 pm
fee difficult wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:51 pm
How did you get involved in trade secrets? I'm looking to start in biglaw patent lit but I'm wondering how one "unlocks" the more niche stuff like trade secret, antitrust, etc.
Antitrust can be implicated in patent lit, but most often only in the ANDA settlement/FTC issues (and really there it's more regulatory/class action than true antitrust, in terms of cause of action) and with standards-setting organizations in the tech patent world. So, you can see it arise, and it's useful to know the body of law that intersects patent and antitrust, but I don't think you see a lot of random anti-trust and patent from a single firm, that is completely detached from each other.

Obviously, trade secret is mutually exclusive of patent, but the best way is to be up on the DTSA and understand that the client may present a case to you, and the options vary on how to respond - be it patent, trade secret, or copyright.

Bottom line, if you are going to start in biglaw patent lit, the best is to stay read up on antitrust in the context of patent, and to stay up on DTSA law. You can then value-add, as situations present themselves, to these issues.
Appreciate the info. Did you find your way in trade secret at the boutique, or did you bring the skills with you from the big firm?

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:32 am

fee difficult wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:41 am

Appreciate the info. Did you find your way in trade secret at the boutique, or did you bring the skills with you from the big firm?
The DTSA was passed after I moved from the big firm, so that's probably where I picked most of it up aside from the advising piece (i.e. advising clients on how to properly protect trade secrets legally, like having appropriate NDAs, etc.). I don't think trade secrets are naturally a distinct practice group, so there never was a ton of active education, except to the extent all of my clients have always been tech-oriented, so you naturally want to have a base of knowledge to address their questions/concerns/business. But it wasn't really something I focused on much until DTSA, mainly because the groups or firms I've been at are generally federal practice-oriented, and so when there was a new federal cause of action, it seemed more likely to be something I'd run into or want to use (for something like removal, for example).

Pharoahe Monch
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Pharoahe Monch » Fri Nov 27, 2020 11:29 pm

Alpha wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:05 pm
Feel free to ask me anything, be it my time at biglaw, my reasons for leaving, or my current work as a lit midlevel at my boutique firm mostly complex tech/pharma litigation (patent, trade secret, or complex commercial with high tech or pharma focus).
to the extent you're comfortable sharing - how do the hours and pay compare to biglaw?

Story
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Story » Sat Nov 28, 2020 11:35 am

Are you familiar with the actual quality of other lit boutiques? A lot of boutiques have very good reputations, and I wanted to know if that was hype or reality.

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Alpha
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Re: Ex-Biglaw, Current Lit Boutique Midlevel: AMA

Post by Alpha » Mon Nov 30, 2020 3:35 pm

Pharoahe Monch wrote:
Fri Nov 27, 2020 11:29 pm
Alpha wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:05 pm
Feel free to ask me anything, be it my time at biglaw, my reasons for leaving, or my current work as a lit midlevel at my boutique firm mostly complex tech/pharma litigation (patent, trade secret, or complex commercial with high tech or pharma focus).
to the extent you're comfortable sharing - how do the hours and pay compare to biglaw?
For hours:

Hours, honestly, are comparable or sometimes higher. That said, they feel different. I can easily work 200 hours in a month (or whatever it is) when I'm taking deps, at trial, or even just managing an aspect of the case and doing all things necessary to make sure my piece of the pie is successful.

That's different, for me, from hours that are "Do X" or very task-oriented. When I am not given ownership of something, doing work towards that thing feels much more grinding/painful.

For pay:

Big law is and will be the gold standard of stable pay. But, there is a reason that some plaintiffs' side attorneys end up being the richest. May base is less - probably about 4-5 class years less, and does not move in a lockstep way (and much more likely to be COL pay increases yearly vs. bigger yearly jumps). But, the bonuses.. are different. Depending on the boutique, bonuses can be a bit more modest to truly breathtakingly big. Depends on the firm and the year. I get a sense that boutique or smaller firms that do defense side/bill hourly won't see this.

In both instances, it is that on plaintiff side, the upside of your compensation is based on success of you and the firm. I'm good with that. And I've had bonuses that are well more than a full years' salary. And I've had years where they are less than a 3rd year in big law. One year, the firm did not distribute them because we didn't bring in cash sufficient to do so. Never in financial worry or anything, but this is the life of plaintiff side.

Ultimately, I enjoy the type of law I practice more this way. I enjoy having more responsibility, and doing so earlier. For that, even if I would always make less than biglaw, I'd make the same decision every single time. But, it's a nice bonus that my upside is even higher (though less certain) than in biglaw.

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