Working in a Satellite Office

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Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:07 pm

Can anyone who works in a satellite office in a secondary-market for a D.C or NYC based firm discuss their experience? Interviewing with a couple of satellites that will pay market and regional based firms that will pay slightly below market and having a tough time deciding between them. TIA

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:18 pm

Personally I have had a good experience (work in a southern office of a major DC/NYC-based firm). What you'll find is the "culture" of a firm is largely influenced by geography and it's going to be impossible to generalize beyond that. The Chicago office of a DC/NYC firm is going to feel a lot different than an LA/Denver office. As you're interviewing, make sure you're asking about culture, communication/collaboration with HQ, all the standard questions.

Independently, look into firm health, both for the firm as a whole and the satellite office. What you'll find is that the HQ of a firm (even if it's not a DC/NYC firm) is generally the most stable, and if a firm is starting to look shaky, satellite offices can be the first to collapse.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Personally I have had a good experience (work in a southern office of a major DC/NYC-based firm). What you'll find is the "culture" of a firm is largely influenced by geography and it's going to be impossible to generalize beyond that. The Chicago office of a DC/NYC firm is going to feel a lot different than an LA/Denver office. As you're interviewing, make sure you're asking about culture, communication/collaboration with HQ, all the standard questions.

Independently, look into firm health, both for the firm as a whole and the satellite office. What you'll find is that the HQ of a firm (even if it's not a DC/NYC firm) is generally the most stable, and if a firm is starting to look shaky, satellite offices can be the first to collapse.



Same situation and I agree with the above. May also be good to ask if most of their clients are in the region and how that shapes their practice. My department has maybe 10% local clients, which means we are finding the sophisticated work wherever it is, but can be bad for juniors to get in-person client contact/be brought to pitches. A department with mostly local clients could mean they are using lower local rates, which can be bad for long term as rates inevitably get higher, but has the benefit of a good reputation in the area/easier for you to get those clients as you may go for partnership.

I second what was said about asking about communication/working across offices. Working with a partner in the HQ office will certainly make you feel less like a satellite.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:51 pm

I was told that it was much more difficult to make partner at a satellite firm than the HQ office or big regional firms in the area? Is this true?

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was told that it was much more difficult to make partner at a satellite firm than the HQ office or big regional firms in the area? Is this true?



Only to the extent that it might be harder to get clients, or some slight advantage of getting a powerful partner in the HQ to be your cheerleader for the partnership. If there is a compelling business reason ($$ book of business) to make you a partner in Miami or wherever, they will do it.

Another thing I'll add is that with smaller offices there is generally less opportunity to move between departments your first year, so maybe have a strong sense of what practice area you want to be in. Adding another first year associate to a lit department of 40 people is easy, but not as much for a lit department of four.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was told that it was much more difficult to make partner at a satellite firm than the HQ office or big regional firms in the area? Is this true?



Only to the extent that it might be harder to get clients, or some slight advantage of getting a powerful partner in the HQ to be your cheerleader for the partnership. If there is a compelling business reason ($$ book of business) to make you a partner in Miami or wherever, they will do it.

Another thing I'll add is that with smaller offices there is generally less opportunity to move between departments your first year, so maybe have a strong sense of what practice area you want to be in. Adding another first year associate to a lit department of 40 people is easy, but not as much for a lit department of four.


I would stay away from satellite offices as much as possible, though there are exceptions. They are satellite offices for a reason - most satellite offices, if smaller than say 150 associates, will tend to have high attrition rates - meaning a lot of second/third years will be asked to let go. If a firm is slow, and if the main and satellite offices share work, associates in the satellite office will be the first ones to get let go. I worked at Cleary DC before an it was brutal in litigation and antitrust. They make money by having the junior associates do doc review and make the associates leave pretty early on. But by the time you leave, you don't have any marketable skills because you've been stuck doing doc review the whole time. So you'll be set up to fail. That said, I have heard that Covington's NY office is better than its DC office in terms of culture. So it can be firm-specific.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was told that it was much more difficult to make partner at a satellite firm than the HQ office or big regional firms in the area? Is this true?



Only to the extent that it might be harder to get clients, or some slight advantage of getting a powerful partner in the HQ to be your cheerleader for the partnership. If there is a compelling business reason ($$ book of business) to make you a partner in Miami or wherever, they will do it.

Another thing I'll add is that with smaller offices there is generally less opportunity to move between departments your first year, so maybe have a strong sense of what practice area you want to be in. Adding another first year associate to a lit department of 40 people is easy, but not as much for a lit department of four.


I would stay away from satellite offices as much as possible, though there are exceptions. They are satellite offices for a reason - most satellite offices, if smaller than say 150 associates, will tend to have high attrition rates - meaning a lot of second/third years will be asked to let go. If a firm is slow, and if the main and satellite offices share work, associates in the satellite office will be the first ones to get let go. I worked at Cleary DC before an it was brutal in litigation and antitrust. They make money by having the junior associates do doc review and make the associates leave pretty early on. But by the time you leave, you don't have any marketable skills because you've been stuck doing doc review the whole time. So you'll be set up to fail. That said, I have heard that Covington's NY office is better than its DC office in terms of culture. So it can be firm-specific.



Would you call a 100-attorney office in Palo Alto a "satellite office"? I wouldn't. At least in my firm, that office is there because some of the firm's biggest and most profitable clients are there, deals are there, client-related litigation happens in courts there, and the office is arguably as important as any other office. Even if it's 1/5 of the size of the NY or DC or Chicago offices. Even in other markets (say, Seattle, or Los Angeles), the offices are there for a good reason. Just because they're small doesn't make them expendable.


As for the making money on doc review, I think that's increasingly a thing of the past. Our junior associates are doing far less doc review. Clients are wising up to the fact that you can bring in outside doc reviewers charging $50/hour instead of paying $500/hour to have some first-year associate do exactly the same work. I (lit associate) didn't exclusively do doc review as a first year, and that was several years ago.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 14, 2018 4:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I would stay away from satellite offices as much as possible


My experience has been great at a satellite office OP, but there are pluses and minuses to be considered.

Anonymous User wrote:They are satellite offices for a reason - most satellite offices, if smaller than say 150 associates, will tend to have high attrition rates - meaning a lot of second/third years will be asked to let go.


I'm sorry, but what?! This is the most out of touch thing I have read in months. Nobody in their right mind would consider an office with 150 attorneys and all the staff making their work possible as either small, a satellite, or full of expendible people as you have let on.

OP, I'm a litigation junior at an actual satellite office (~10 attorneys, a city similarly sized to Denver/Seattle/St. Louis/Las Vegas/Atlanta) for a large firm that has more than 1,000 attorneys spread between 1 and 2 dozen offices, and I am receiving far more substantive experience than my peers at the larger offices. I am one of the only juniors here, but am treated more like a midlevel - lots of motion drafting, discovery strategy, and depo support. Sure, there's some doc review, but it's rarely needle in a haystack stuff or mindless click-and-tags. It's usually connected to higher-level discovery strategy, depo prep, and narrowing down the viable issues in a case. If an attorney here wants the lower-level work done, they'll farm it out to an associate at one of the larger offices because those offices have the numbers to support that type of work and they would rather me be involved substantively as their local support.

The personal relationships everyone has here are second to none firmwide due to the small size of the local team. If the firm tried to cut anyone at this office, the local partners would fight tooth-and-nail to keep them. What is an easier sell: cutting one junior associate out of a pool of 150 juniors at the big office, or cutting one junior associate out of the pool of 2 juniors at a satellite? Satellite offices hire because they have an actual substantive need for an associate. Main offices hire to meet projections.

That being said, if you are looking to hide/coast for a couple/few years and get out, you might want a large office. You can't really hide or coast at a satellite office because there's nowhere to hide. But if you want an opportunity to stand out and get great experience, it might be one of your best options. Also keep in mind that interviews at satellite offices are more of a two-way interview than interviews at a large office because of the small group size. Make sure you will get along with the people you interview with, because you don't have 100 or more additional people to choose from!

And finally, the partnership and client issues already mentioned are definitely real concerns that you should put some serious thought into. Most clients we take cases for are not local, so it will be difficult to build a book of business that isn't handed down to you. Depending on the size of the city, it can be hard to find clients that are willing to pay the biglaw billing rates. You will also travel more for cases, depos, client meetings, secure rooms, etc. because the clients are elsewhere and the cases/courts are elsewhere.

As I said, lots of pluses and minuses to be considered. If I had the chance to join a much larger local office of a firm here locally, whether biglaw or regional, I wouldn't take it. But your decision may very well be different.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 14, 2018 4:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Can anyone who works in a satellite office in a secondary-market for a D.C or NYC based firm discuss their experience? Interviewing with a couple of satellites that will pay market and regional based firms that will pay slightly below market and having a tough time deciding between them. TIA


Since you are anonymous, can you share region? You might get some market-specific advice if you do.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:24 am

I've worked at both a HQ office and satellite office (different firms). My thoughts, both from my own experience and what I see going on currently at my satellite vs our firm's hq:

Generally speaking, it's probably right that it's going to be harder to make partner. There just isn't the volume of work at small satellites to support service partners, except for the service partners who are already there. And if you do make partner, it's hard to stick around and make equity partner (assuming you're not at one of the few true all equity firms left).

On the other hand, I think it's easier to stick around to mid or senior level with poor hours, at least in my office. If there are only 2 people in your class, they can't fire you with a slow year. It's a lot easier to mechanically cull people in larger offices. Though if you get stuck in an abnormally large class for a satellite a number of your classmates (including potentially you) are going to be out sooner rather than later.

I know and interact with the seniormost partners every day. That was not my experience when I worked at a HQ office. It's a lot more collegial and less formal, even though my HQ office stint was at a pretty informal firm. It's just a different level when you're 50 or less. And from people I know who are at really small satellites (like 20 or less), that's just like an entirely different job. It's a lot easier to hide (or fall through the cracks) in a large office.

All of this is subordinate to my final point: it really, really varies from satellite to satellite. I know satellite offices that are hyper-profitable and feed the rest of the firm work. That's a really good situation to be in, because generally the partners in the satellite are looking to (and have the power to) expand locally. There are other satellites where the opposite is true, and you'll be mostly servicing clients of the other, bigger offices, with little opportunities for career advancement. Try your best to figure out what bucket the firms in question fall into.

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Wild Card » Sun Jul 15, 2018 1:52 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was told that it was much more difficult to make partner at a satellite firm than the HQ office or big regional firms in the area? Is this true?



Only to the extent that it might be harder to get clients, or some slight advantage of getting a powerful partner in the HQ to be your cheerleader for the partnership. If there is a compelling business reason ($$ book of business) to make you a partner in Miami or wherever, they will do it.

Another thing I'll add is that with smaller offices there is generally less opportunity to move between departments your first year, so maybe have a strong sense of what practice area you want to be in. Adding another first year associate to a lit department of 40 people is easy, but not as much for a lit department of four.


I would stay away from satellite offices as much as possible, though there are exceptions. They are satellite offices for a reason - most satellite offices, if smaller than say 150 associates, will tend to have high attrition rates - meaning a lot of second/third years will be asked to let go. If a firm is slow, and if the main and satellite offices share work, associates in the satellite office will be the first ones to get let go. I worked at Cleary DC before an it was brutal in litigation and antitrust. They make money by having the junior associates do doc review and make the associates leave pretty early on. But by the time you leave, you don't have any marketable skills because you've been stuck doing doc review the whole time. So you'll be set up to fail. That said, I have heard that Covington's NY office is better than its DC office in terms of culture. So it can be firm-specific.


Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm an Antitrust enthusiast who was hoping to start in DC, but will start in NY instead.

One would hope that a "Band 1" practice group of a smaller office of an elite firm would offer junior associates better training, but...

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Re: Working in a Satellite Office

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 15, 2018 8:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Can anyone who works in a satellite office in a secondary-market for a D.C or NYC based firm discuss their experience? Interviewing with a couple of satellites that will pay market and regional based firms that will pay slightly below market and having a tough time deciding between them. TIA


Since you are anonymous, can you share region? You might get some market-specific advice if you do.


Sure, I am looking at Miami and to a (much) lesser extent Atlanta



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