Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

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Which offer would you accept?

Regional Powerhouse
9
47%
National Firm
10
53%
 
Total votes: 19

Anonymous User
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Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:50 am

Hi all - I have a fortunate dilemma. I have offers from a top national firm (~V50) and a regional powerhouse, both in my home market. The two are, essentially, equally respected and have similar exit ops if I stay here. My family and friends are here so I will not be leaving the area, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Regional Firm - 1850 billable requirement, starting pay ~$140k, would be practicing in the firm's HQ, decent chance at partner, does a blend of local/national work
National Firm - 2000 billable requirement, starting pay ~$190k, smaller satellite office, unlikely to make partner, does more national/international work

I would be fine moving in-house or to the government after a few years at the firm but wouldn't be opposed to chasing partner at the regional firm if I enjoy it there. I'm tempted to go with the regional firm as the quality of life seems like it would be a bit better but I wonder if I'm potentially shooting myself in the foot long-term by not going to the best firm. At the same time, choosing a law firm seems far different from choosing a law school.

Which would you take?

Anonymous User
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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:22 am

I’ve made this decision recently. The money is great at the satellite, but I chose the regional powerhouse because:

1) I was at a satellite before and you feel so disconnected sometimes (I’m assuming you’re not in a major market (DC, Boston, Chicago, etc.), so I’m not sure how connected the satellite will be. My satellite had 80 attorneys and I still felt like we were ignored by HQ; and

2) as you mentioned, partnership odds at a regional satellite are not great. I want the option of possibly making partner without having to bend over backwards for clients willing to pay the national firm hourly rate.

If you want to stay in the region, who cares about the national firm at the end of the day?

Anonymous User
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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:53 am

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to hear that I wouldn't be alone in choosing the regional firm. I won't be in a major city (think Indy/Minn/StL/etc.) so I figure that limits long term opportunities to some extent anyway.

While in the satellite office did you still get good/interesting work that allowed you to develop? I do wonder if it would be easier to go National -> Clerk/Regulator -> Regional than the other way around if I wanted to mix things up but still stay in the area. The extra pay early on to start knocking out student loans would be helpful too.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to hear that I wouldn't be alone in choosing the regional firm. I won't be in a major city (think Indy/Minn/StL/etc.) so I figure that limits long term opportunities to some extent anyway.

While in the satellite office did you still get good/interesting work that allowed you to develop? I do wonder if it would be easier to go National -> Clerk/Regulator -> Regional than the other way around if I wanted to mix things up but still stay in the area. The extra pay early on to start knocking out student loans would be helpful too.


I'd take the national firm and lateral later. If you have offers at both, I'm sure the other firm will want you two years later. You'd also make a bunch more money to start.

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:28 pm

I'd probably lean regional, but it depends on the type of work each is doing (more than just local/national/inernational), how much of a true satellite the national office is, your debt, what your long term plans are, etc.

I would not assume that you'll be able to lateral to the regional firm in a few years. That will depend largely on whether that firm has a need in your practice area at the time.

There are also wide variances between types of satellites. Some are true satellite offices where you have no room for advancement and you're basically stuck servicing other offices' clients for 3-10 years before getting pushed out at some level (my current satellite is like this - no one has made equity partner in the last decade). Others are more or less independent with the ability to keep and promote their own for the long run, and you'll get good opportunities for client contact, etc. The latter will generally be better for your career than the former.

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'd probably lean regional, but it depends on the type of work each is doing (more than just local/national/inernational), how much of a true satellite the national office is, your debt, what your long term plans are, etc.

I would not assume that you'll be able to lateral to the regional firm in a few years. That will depend largely on whether that firm has a need in your practice area at the time.

There are also wide variances between types of satellites. Some are true satellite offices where you have no room for advancement and you're basically stuck servicing other offices' clients for 3-10 years before getting pushed out at some level (my current satellite is like this - no one has made equity partner in the last decade). Others are more or less independent with the ability to keep and promote their own for the long run, and you'll get good opportunities for client contact, etc. The latter will generally be better for your career than the former.


Thanks for this. Both firms have large practice groups in what I want to do so I'm not too worried about that part. What questions would you focus on, or where would you look, to find out more about how the national firm's office operates?

QContinuum

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby QContinuum » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for this. Both firms have large practice groups in what I want to do so I'm not too worried about that part. What questions would you focus on, or where would you look, to find out more about how the national firm's office operates?


Re the national firm's office, some of the information you can probably collect from their website (e.g., number of partners made in recent years in the satellite office, and whether those partners (if any) were homegrown or laterals (either from other offices or other firms)).

Other information you can get by reaching out to attorneys at the office (I'd recommend talking to junior/midlevel associates over partners). Like, ask them about the kinds of clients/types of projects they get to work on. Whether they typically "collaborate" with a larger office, or if they have a lot of independent work. Things like that.

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unlicensedpotato

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby unlicensedpotato » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:13 pm

Lacepiece23 wrote:
I'd take the national firm and lateral later. If you have offers at both, I'm sure the other firm will want you two years later. You'd also make a bunch more money to start.


I would take the money to start and see how it goes. Particularly if the satellite has consistent work, your hours in the office may not be that different between the two firms in order to hit your target.

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to hear that I wouldn't be alone in choosing the regional firm. I won't be in a major city (think Indy/Minn/StL/etc.) so I figure that limits long term opportunities to some extent anyway.

While in the satellite office did you still get good/interesting work that allowed you to develop? I do wonder if it would be easier to go National -> Clerk/Regulator -> Regional than the other way around if I wanted to mix things up but still stay in the area. The extra pay early on to start knocking out student loans would be helpful too.


I got good experience at the satellite. But most of my work was done with partners/associates in distant offices, making the work feast or famine at times. And for the more local work, it was always less sophisticated (my friend at a regional biglaw firm said his firm did mostly regional/local work -middle market m&a- and that his work was more sophisticated). I’d assume it has to do with my rates vs the local firm’s rates (I billed at $350 MORE an hour than the local biglaw associate).

Also, no one has mentioned this, but 2000 hours at a national firm paying market in a city like St. Louis is going to be tough.

I didn’t have a billable requirement, but the most I billed in a year was 1750.

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smokeylarue

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby smokeylarue » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:16 pm

Partnership - your chances at partner will not be good at either firm. I am assuming this regional firm has at least 100 attorneys? Yeah, your chances at partner are not going to be "decent". So I would disregard that factor.

Exit options - almost assuredly will be better at the national firm. And if you want to move firms for whatever reason, you can always lateral down from a national firm. Lateraling from regional firm to national firm is MUCH harder and closes some doors probably.

Lifestyle - Not guaranteed, but your work life balance will PROBABLY be better at the local firm. If you think you'll be at a law firm LONG TERM, then this is arguably the most important. However satellites of Biglaw firms are often not as terrible as their big city headquarters, so the national firm might be comparable in work life balance? 1850 hrs vs. 2000 hrs is a noticeable difference though, so probably the local firm will be more "chill".

Compensation - goes without saying, not even a contest. If the gap is already $50k in your first year (this is a massive difference to me, most regional biglaw firms are usually semi-close in terms of first year pay at least), think of all the money you'll be missing by year 4 or 5, the gap will only get bigger as you get more senior.

All in all, unless you are obsessed with becoming a partner or working at the same firm for over 5 years, then you should go to the national firm and not look back.

QContinuum

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby QContinuum » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Also, no one has mentioned this, but 2000 hours at a national firm paying market in a city like St. Louis is going to be tough.


Wanted to chime in to highlight this. The 2000 hour requirement is not bad because of the work it'd entail, it's (potentially) bad because of the potential difficulty of finding enough work to bill that much. Suggest OP really try to dig in to see how associates at the office feel about making hours. It'd be awful to start at the national firm for the pay and get canned in short order for not making hours.

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:12 am

I think the suggestion that exit opportunities are better at the national firm satellite office is wrong.

I was sold the “you can’t move up” line when I joined a v10 and found within a few years that anyone from a regional powerhouse (or even a crappy firm I had never heard of) could lateral in pretty easily. That satellite office is probably staffed mostly by people they picked from the regional powerhouse. Ask that regional powerhouse where their associates who leave go.

The regional powerhouse also probably has a much better alumni and client network in your market than the satellite office. If the regional powerhouse is an AmLaw 100 national firm, I bet it has much more cachet in the “real” legal world than you expect. (Vault rankings don’t matter much once you’re out of law school.)

Npret

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Re: Regional Powerhouse or National Firm

Postby Npret » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:05 pm

Personally I would go for the money for a few years. Find out about making the hours.
I’m skeptical about predicting the chances of making partner anywhere and using that as a basis for decisions.



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