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What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:00 am
by Anonymous User
Current COA clerk (2/9/DC; HYS) beginning to think about next steps. Summered at a major office of a major firm and enjoyed it very much.

When I talk to other clerks, a lot have mentioned trying to go to lit boutiques. I'll admit I'm mystified. What's the concrete appeal of a place like Susman Godfrey, Kellogg Huber or the like? My understanding is that compensation isn't *that* much higher than regular old biglaw, but the hours are significantly worse. From the outside, it looks very much like this type of job is something "preftigious" that people chase for the wrong reasons.

Am I totally off base? Looking to learn.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:16 am
by FascinatedWanderer
Kellogg will pay you $400k your first year out of your clerkship. That is significantly better than normal biglaw firms.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:31 am
by A. Nony Mouse
No personal experience, but my understanding was that the boutique places actually give you substantive responsibility right off the bat, more so than the big shops, so people who actually want to litigate and do things prefer them. People tout them as
Helpful for, for instance, going AUSA because you will get more pertinent experience. (Again, can't confirm any of this myself.)

Also I suspect there's a different kind of culture at a small place self-consciously promoting itself as super trial-focused (not sure all boutiques do this, but some seem to), which could appeal to some folks.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:30 am
by Anonymous User
A. Nony Mouse wrote:No personal experience, but my understanding was that the boutique places actually give you substantive responsibility right off the bat, more so than the big shops, so people who actually want to litigate and do things prefer them. People tout them as
Helpful for, for instance, going AUSA because you will get more pertinent experience. (Again, can't confirm any of this myself.)

Also I suspect there's a different kind of culture at a small place self-consciously promoting itself as super trial-focused (not sure all boutiques do this, but some seem to), which could appeal to some folks.


This is all accurate. I'm at a top boutique, and every single associate has taken a deposition within the first two years, and half have been to trial (including several who did direct or cross at trial). I don't think a single friend my year at big law has even been to a deposition, let alone participated in one or in trial.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:30 am
by Anonymous User
You'll probably never try a case in biglaw even if you make partner.

Idk if this is true for all lit boutiques, but if you're a partner you're gonna first chair a case.

If you want to try big ticket cases, lit boutiques is the way to go.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:58 pm
by quiver
Anonymous User wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:No personal experience, but my understanding was that the boutique places actually give you substantive responsibility right off the bat, more so than the big shops, so people who actually want to litigate and do things prefer them. People tout them as
Helpful for, for instance, going AUSA because you will get more pertinent experience. (Again, can't confirm any of this myself.)

Also I suspect there's a different kind of culture at a small place self-consciously promoting itself as super trial-focused (not sure all boutiques do this, but some seem to), which could appeal to some folks.


This is all accurate. I'm at a top boutique, and every single associate has taken a deposition within the first two years, and half have been to trial (including several who did direct or cross at trial). I don't think a single friend my year at big law has even been to a deposition, let alone participated in one or in trial.

Yeah, this. Generally speaking, you get much more substantive experience while making the same amount (or more, in certain lit boutiques). It should be noted, however, that there are different types of lit boutiques--plaintiff-side civil, defense-side civil, white collar, appellate, or a mix--so experience and compensation may vary.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:21 pm
by nealric
There's a reason why jobs at top lit boutiques are substantially harder to get than random litigation jobs. The main benefit is that you actually get substantive experience- pay is just an added benefit. It's not uncommon for biglaw associates to spend their entire tenure at the firm doing nothing but discovery. There's zero chance of that happening at an elite lit boutique. You are much more likely to be marketable if and when you decide to lead the firm and/or will have much more of the skills necessary to start your own firm.

As for hours, I wouldn't assume that the hours are substantially worse. It really depends on where you end up. Most of the hours difference is likely going to be from the fact that you will probably actually see trials as the boutique- and you will put in some serious hours immediately before and during a trial.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:22 pm
by Anonymous User
The biggest thing for me is getting paid biglaw salary while working in a small law environment. Granted, some lit boutiques are enormous (i.e., susman). But for the small ones out there, I feel it helps cultivate better relationships between coworkers, leading to better quality of life. I can depend on my colleagues to cover for me if I want to go on vacation, write a motion etc. Not so much in biglaw.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:36 pm
by lolwat
Agree mostly with what people have said already.

I do think people at lit boutiques probably often work more hours than their biglaw counterparts, but that's often the downside of being at a small place and getting substantive experience.

Of course, you'll probably want to research whatever particular boutiques you're looking into. Mine does similar kinds of high-end work as other elite boutiques, but the way they run things is... well... let's just say odd, and not for everyone.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:40 pm
by dixiecupdrinking
I think the answer to this question is likely to become clearer to you if and when you return to a big firm as a junior associate.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:18 pm
by pi.radians
lolwat wrote:Agree mostly with what people have said already.

I do think people at lit boutiques probably often work more hours than their biglaw counterparts, but that's often the downside of being at a small place and getting substantive experience.

Of course, you'll probably want to research whatever particular boutiques you're looking into. Mine does similar kinds of high-end work as other elite boutiques, but the way they run things is... well... let's just say odd, and not for everyone.


Can you elaborate on the odd way they run things? I'm going to a boutique next summer and I want to know what to look out for.

Re: What's the appeal of lit boutiques?

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:33 pm
by lolwat
pi.radians wrote:
lolwat wrote:Agree mostly with what people have said already.

I do think people at lit boutiques probably often work more hours than their biglaw counterparts, but that's often the downside of being at a small place and getting substantive experience.

Of course, you'll probably want to research whatever particular boutiques you're looking into. Mine does similar kinds of high-end work as other elite boutiques, but the way they run things is... well... let's just say odd, and not for everyone.


Can you elaborate on the odd way they run things? I'm going to a boutique next summer and I want to know what to look out for.


Probably not without outing myself. I'd say you should probably watch out for:

1. Who brings in the business and how cases are staffed. Some boutiques have numerous rainmakers and will survive independently of one. Others rely heavily on one name partner and if that single person got hit by a bus tomorrow, the firm will go down in flames. Boutiques that keep the name of old deceased name partners and continue on without them often are the former.

2. How the firm, workflow, etc. is managed. Is it a free market system or is everything flowing through a managing partner or what.

3. Whether you actually are getting (or will get) the type of substantive experience you would like to get. I would say that at a lit boutique or trial firm, you should be getting all sorts of varied experience with discovery, writing briefs and arguing motions (within your first few years), preparing for and taking depositions (within your first few years), attending and contributing substantively to trials and second-chairing trials, etc. If you're getting pigeonholed in terms of work and it's not your own choice, something could be amiss.

4. What your long-term prospects might be at the firm. Some boutiques advertise that they expect/want everybody to make partner after 6 years or whatever. At others, you might never make partner but it's not an up-or-out model like biglaw.