Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

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climbingcheddars

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Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:22 am

These threads were helpful for me back in the day. Hopefully I can offer some insights, especially to any clerks making final decisions about where they will work after clerking.

My background, made more vague in order to avoid being outed: HYSCCN --> DDC/SDNY/CDCA/NDIL Clerkship --> 2/9/DC Cir. Clerkship --> Associate at one of Susman, Kellogg, Keker, Bartlit, Bancroft, or Molo. I've been an associate for about a year and a half and can speak to life at the small firm, clerking, attrition, etc. I will not answer specific questions about my background.

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earthabides

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby earthabides » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:27 am

Being a non-us citizen I'm under the impression that it is very hard to get a clerkship. Can I get into litigation without a clerkship? at a boutique?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:31 am

earthabides wrote:Being a non-us citizen I'm under the impression that it is very hard to get a clerkship. Can I get into litigation without a clerkship? at a boutique?


In my experience, most litigation boutiques hire new associates almost exclusively from the clerk market. The exceptions I know of all involved a personal connection or another set of facts that cannot easily be replicated. If you click through the online profiles of litigation boutiques, you will see very few foreign-educated attorneys and most of the ones you do find will have clerked.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby October25 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:32 am

earthabides wrote:Being a non-us citizen I'm under the impression that it is very hard to get a clerkship. Can I get into litigation without a clerkship? at a boutique?


I'm in this same boat, actually. Wondering what the chances are coming out of a top 6 but not eligible for a federal clerkship. As far as I know non-citizens are still eligible for (most) state clerkships. These obviously aren't viewed as well as federal ones, but would they be better than nothing?

Also, can you speak to how Lit compares with other groups in terms of hours, work/life balance, and that kind of thing?

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earthabides

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby earthabides » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:39 am

climbingcheddars wrote:
earthabides wrote:Being a non-us citizen I'm under the impression that it is very hard to get a clerkship. Can I get into litigation without a clerkship? at a boutique?


In my experience, most litigation boutiques hire new associates almost exclusively from the clerk market. The exceptions I know of all involved a personal connection or another set of facts that cannot easily be replicated. If you click through the online profiles of litigation boutiques, you will see very few foreign-educated attorneys and most of the ones you do find will have clerked.


Okay thanks. Taking into account that I'm not foreign educated but will be from HYS is litigation possible at a regular biglaw firm?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby deepseapartners » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:40 am

Can you speak to the differences you see in your day-to-day work one year into your job as compared to a 3rd year litigation associate in some random V10 practice?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:42 am

October25 wrote:
earthabides wrote:Being a non-us citizen I'm under the impression that it is very hard to get a clerkship. Can I get into litigation without a clerkship? at a boutique?


I'm in this same boat, actually. Wondering what the chances are coming out of a top 6 but not eligible for a federal clerkship. As far as I know non-citizens are still eligible for (most) state clerkships. These obviously aren't viewed as well as federal ones, but would they be better than nothing?

Also, can you speak to how Lit compares with other groups in terms of hours, work/life balance, and that kind of thing?


My firm is decidedly not a lifestyle firm. Through the first quarter of this year, I am on pace to bill about 3200 hours for 2016--that's 64 hours billed/week. I billed just under that last year. I don't generally work very late into the night, I just work a long day every day. To bill ten hours in the day, I'm generally in the office about 12 hours and work another hour or so from home at night. I think this is a pretty standard experience for associates at my seniority level.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:51 am

deepseapartners wrote:Can you speak to the differences you see in your day-to-day work one year into your job as compared to a 3rd year litigation associate in some random V10 practice?


I was a summer associate at "some random V10 practice", so I can give you some perspective. The teams here are very small: Frequently one partner and one associate. Trial teams are a bit larger, but they are still siloed into smaller units. We just won at trial against a V10 firm that had over 30 people on its trial team, that I could tell, not counting contract staff and people who did not travel to the trial site. Our team was 10 lawyers, inclusive of local counsel. The lean staffing translates into more responsibility. On my matters, I frequently communicate with lawyers in the client's GC office about pending matters. Assignments come in with little direction (i.e., "please respond to this demand letter" or "please address this FINRA subpoena" or "draft the motion"). When I draft a brief, there is no senior associate review--it goes directly to the partner.

As far as how that cashes out into the day-to-day, I generally do a lot of primary writing. It's not unlike what I did when I was clerking. I do my own research, draft my own arguments, etc. When I report to someone more senior, it's a partner.

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deepseapartners

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby deepseapartners » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:06 am

climbingcheddars wrote:I was a summer associate at "some random V10 practice", so I can give you some perspective. The teams here are very small: Frequently one partner and one associate. Trial teams are a bit larger, but they are still siloed into smaller units. We just won at trial against a V10 firm that had over 30 people on its trial team, that I could tell, not counting contract staff and people who did not travel to the trial site. Our team was 10 lawyers, inclusive of local counsel. The lean staffing translates into more responsibility. On my matters, I frequently communicate with lawyers in the client's GC office about pending matters. Assignments come in with little direction (i.e., "please respond to this demand letter" or "please address this FINRA subpoena" or "draft the motion"). When I draft a brief, there is no senior associate review--it goes directly to the partner.

As far as how that cashes out into the day-to-day, I generally do a lot of primary writing. It's not unlike what I did when I was clerking. I do my own research, draft my own arguments, etc. When I report to someone more senior, it's a partner.

Thank you for your thorough response! I'm sure you were hired because you were able to take on that much responsibility from the get-go, but did you find it a bit off-putting at first? Or, b/c it resembled clerkship staffing at a day-to-day level so closely, did you take quickly to the accountability/responsibility level?

Also, do you know/would you suspect that working at Boies/Quinn/etc looks more like a massive V10 litigation practice or your very lean, responsibility-heavy practice?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby Budfox55 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:09 am

Do you find your work to be intellectually stimulating and fulfilling? Are you happy with your decision to go to law school, become a lawyer, and litigate?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:28 am

deepseapartners wrote:
climbingcheddars wrote:I was a summer associate at "some random V10 practice", so I can give you some perspective. The teams here are very small: Frequently one partner and one associate. Trial teams are a bit larger, but they are still siloed into smaller units. We just won at trial against a V10 firm that had over 30 people on its trial team, that I could tell, not counting contract staff and people who did not travel to the trial site. Our team was 10 lawyers, inclusive of local counsel. The lean staffing translates into more responsibility. On my matters, I frequently communicate with lawyers in the client's GC office about pending matters. Assignments come in with little direction (i.e., "please respond to this demand letter" or "please address this FINRA subpoena" or "draft the motion"). When I draft a brief, there is no senior associate review--it goes directly to the partner.

As far as how that cashes out into the day-to-day, I generally do a lot of primary writing. It's not unlike what I did when I was clerking. I do my own research, draft my own arguments, etc. When I report to someone more senior, it's a partner.

Thank you for your thorough response! I'm sure you were hired because you were able to take on that much responsibility from the get-go, but did you find it a bit off-putting at first? Or, b/c it resembled clerkship staffing at a day-to-day level so closely, did you take quickly to the accountability/responsibility level?

Also, do you know/would you suspect that working at Boies/Quinn/etc looks more like a massive V10 litigation practice or your very lean, responsibility-heavy practice?


It can be scary. I was very concerned after my first minor mistake about what the consequences would be. There's an attitude here that everyone is working hard and mistakes happen. As long as you are transparent about what you did and are willing to do the work to fix it, you're fine. The beauty of trial litigation is that the federal rules have all sorts of built-in safeguards. You can generally claw back the inadvertently produced doc, file an amended pleading, stipulate to some remedy with the other side, or get the court to enter an order nunc pro tunc. I haven't yet made a mistake that was not fixable--I don't know and don't want to think about what would happen then.

The other thing I had to get used to was being willing to ask what you think are very simple or stupid questions to very experienced, senior people. The brief, letter, motion writing was much easier, probably (as you say) because of clerking.

I don't know about Boies or Quinn. Both of those firms have fine reputations. To the extent people talk about them in my office, some say their teams are a tad bloated, but that could be our rah rah culture speaking rather than a considered criticism.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby Goldie » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:39 am

I know that good credentials and a clerkship seem to be a must for associates, but I'm curious how good the credentials/clerkships have to be? Does any COA clerkship (combined with magna cum laude at YHS) put you in the running?

What mix of trial and appellate work do you do?

While I may be willing to spend a few years in that type of fast-paced environment, I certainly wouldn't want to make a life out of that. What exit opportunities do you have after 2-3 years there?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:46 am

Budfox55 wrote:Do you find your work to be intellectually stimulating and fulfilling? Are you happy with your decision to go to law school, become a lawyer, and litigate?


There are moments that are intellectually stimulating, sure. But I don't think that's the main draw, at least it isn't for me. I could be intellectually stimulated in many less stressful professions. What's fulfilling about working here is getting a chance to win at battle against top competition. Companies and individuals come to this firm when they are in deep shit. I mentioned in an earlier post that we won at trial last month. If we had lost, the client, which employs almost a thousand people, would have had to file for bankruptcy within a year. It's hard to describe what winning at these stakes feels like. Maybe it's something like what a boxer feels after scoring a tenth round knockout? Maybe we are pugilists in ties (with apologies to Shonda Rhimes)? Even though I'm an associate, I feel that I had a fair hand in the victory. The client was elated with the outcome. That's about as much fulfillment as it's healthy to get from the workplace, imo. I can only hope every trial resolves so favorably.

To your second question, I think so. I'm not sure what my second option would have been or whether it would have been better. I think being a lawyer in litigation scratches an itch for me that it would be hard to reach otherwise.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:57 am

Goldie wrote:I know that good credentials and a clerkship seem to be a must for associates, but I'm curious how good the credentials/clerkships have to be? Does any COA clerkship (combined with magna cum laude at YHS) put you in the running?

What mix of trial and appellate work do you do?

While I may be willing to spend a few years in that type of fast-paced environment, I certainly wouldn't want to make a life out of that. What exit opportunities do you have after 2-3 years there?


The credentials you describe definitely put you in the running. I don't think it's as simple as checking the boxes to get the offer, though. Interviews here are much more about fit. We are a very small law firm and thus each hire is significant. There are many more qualified COA clerks than there are places at these firms. Our offer rate in my year was less then 20% and to my knowledge we only interviewed federal clerks and mostly COA clerks. I went on an interview lunch in one of the last two cycles with a feeder clerk who was not offered a position. At the same time, in one of the last two cycles, we offered a position to an 1/5/8/10/11 Cir. clerk who is clerking for a judge you've never heard of and who had more Ps than Hs on her transcript.

I do mostly trial and investigations/pre-litigation/arbitration. I've done a few appellate projects, but I'm less interested in the work.

Most associates leave for AUSA or other government positions. Some leave for other firms. Most leave within 3 years of starting.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby nothingtosee » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:01 pm

Is comp/bonus higher than normal NYC scale? Given the billable expectations...

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby Budfox55 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:12 pm

climbingcheddars wrote:
Budfox55 wrote:Do you find your work to be intellectually stimulating and fulfilling? Are you happy with your decision to go to law school, become a lawyer, and litigate?


There are moments that are intellectually stimulating, sure. But I don't think that's the main draw, at least it isn't for me. I could be intellectually stimulated in many less stressful professions. What's fulfilling about working here is getting a chance to win at battle against top competition. Companies and individuals come to this firm when they are in deep shit. I mentioned in an earlier post that we won at trial last month. If we had lost, the client, which employs almost a thousand people, would have had to file for bankruptcy within a year. It's hard to describe what winning at these stakes feels like. Maybe it's something like what a boxer feels after scoring a tenth round knockout? Maybe we are pugilists in ties (with apologies to Shonda Rhimes)? Even though I'm an associate, I feel that I had a fair hand in the victory. The client was elated with the outcome. That's about as much fulfillment as it's healthy to get from the workplace, imo. I can only hope every trial resolves so favorably.

To your second question, I think so. I'm not sure what my second option would have been or whether it would have been better. I think being a lawyer in litigation scratches an itch for me that it would be hard to reach otherwise.


Awesome. I'm a 0l and decided to leave finance to go to law school with the intention of litigating afterwards. I don't know if you've seen the corporate transactional thread on here, but its pretty depressing lol. Obviously it seems like you've been able to have more options than what most will have on this forum, but its refreshing to hear that you're enjoying it.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:23 pm

nothingtosee wrote:Is comp/bonus higher than normal NYC scale? Given the billable expectations...


Yes. My total 2015 compensation was about 25% more than it would have been if I had been paid on the NYC scale.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:32 pm

Budfox55 wrote:
climbingcheddars wrote:
Budfox55 wrote:Do you find your work to be intellectually stimulating and fulfilling? Are you happy with your decision to go to law school, become a lawyer, and litigate?


There are moments that are intellectually stimulating, sure. But I don't think that's the main draw, at least it isn't for me. I could be intellectually stimulated in many less stressful professions. What's fulfilling about working here is getting a chance to win at battle against top competition. Companies and individuals come to this firm when they are in deep shit. I mentioned in an earlier post that we won at trial last month. If we had lost, the client, which employs almost a thousand people, would have had to file for bankruptcy within a year. It's hard to describe what winning at these stakes feels like. Maybe it's something like what a boxer feels after scoring a tenth round knockout? Maybe we are pugilists in ties (with apologies to Shonda Rhimes)? Even though I'm an associate, I feel that I had a fair hand in the victory. The client was elated with the outcome. That's about as much fulfillment as it's healthy to get from the workplace, imo. I can only hope every trial resolves so favorably.

To your second question, I think so. I'm not sure what my second option would have been or whether it would have been better. I think being a lawyer in litigation scratches an itch for me that it would be hard to reach otherwise.


Awesome. I'm a 0l and decided to leave finance to go to law school with the intention of litigating afterwards. I don't know if you've seen the corporate transactional thread on here, but its pretty depressing lol. Obviously it seems like you've been able to have more options than what most will have on this forum, but its refreshing to hear that you're enjoying it.


Good luck to you!

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby orangered » Thu Apr 14, 2016 3:15 pm

How would you weight the usual factors (e.g., grades, prestige of clerkship(s), law review, school) in terms of importance for getting the job? Other than these factors, how can a candidate stand out?

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Thu Apr 14, 2016 4:21 pm

orangered wrote:How would you weight the usual factors (e.g., grades, prestige of clerkship(s), law review, school) in terms of importance for getting the job? Other than these factors, how can a candidate stand out?


The usual factors are important. I think paper qualifications are big part of how the firm advertises itself to clients and they are an important part of our culture. But there are associates who don't fit the mold. And it doesn't particularly matter what the mean is if you are individually successful. Let's focus on the outliers.

One of my friends here was hired in the last three years. He did not attend HYSCCN. He did not clerk on the court of appeals or graduate Coif from his law school. But he is very charming and has the kind of personality that instantly recommends itself as smart/intelligent. Hopefully that conveys an image. He networks well. By his telling, he met one of the managing partners at a happy hour thrown by the firm to recruit law clerks and talked his way into an interview. The managing partner he spoke with is responsible for bringing tens of millions of dollars of work into the firm each year. During my friend's interviews, he likely convinced the partners that he was both competent and someone that they would enjoy spending time with at the office. He got the job and has done fine.

Another friend participated in my firm's meager, little-advertised, half-summer program where she worked hard enough to convince a few key partners that she should get hired back after she graduated. She worked very hard that summer--close to 90-hour weeks--and meaningfully contributed to her teams. This friend plans to re-join the firm after she graduates next month and takes the bar, and she does not plan to clerk.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby Nagster5 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:22 pm

I've heard moot court looks good to firms for applicants interested in litigating. Is moot court a big plus, or does the near necessity of a clerkship somewhat negate any bonus it would normally give to aspiring litigators?

How much of a disadvantage would attending a mid-T14 be instead of HYSCCN?

Are your high billables par for the course, or are you billing more than other junior associates, understanding you have a pretty small sample size?

Thanks so much for this, very little info on these jobs out there.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Fri Apr 15, 2016 8:56 am

Nagster5 wrote:I've heard moot court looks good to firms for applicants interested in litigating. Is moot court a big plus, or does the near necessity of a clerkship somewhat negate any bonus it would normally give to aspiring litigators?

How much of a disadvantage would attending a mid-T14 be instead of HYSCCN?

Are your high billables par for the course, or are you billing more than other junior associates, understanding you have a pretty small sample size?

Thanks so much for this, very little info on these jobs out there.


A lot of people here participated in moot court and enjoyed some measure of success, so moot court is a shared experience. But I can't imagine us extending an offer to an otherwise unimpressive candidate just because he was a semi-finalist in Ames/Morris Tyler/Kirkwood/etc. I think moot court can be a good stress test to see if you'd prosper in this work. If you don't enjoy writing legal argument and standing up to tough questions, you would not like my day-to-day. Moot court also makes solid interview fodder because the subject-matter of the questions is legally substantive, the activity is prestigious-ish, and, as mentioned before, it's a shared experience. Moot court can also signal to your interviewer that you have harbored an interest in litigation for longer than the duration of your plane ride over, if signalling is an issue. If you're thinking about moot court and think you can do it without taking a hit to your grades, I recommend it. But, again, it's no panacea.

It's not just HYSCCN. Some associates here attended mid-to-lower-T14 schools, or even lower ranked schools. One of my friends attended a T25 and I've heard about a graduate of a T40 school (I think it's a T40, I can't be bothered to check the latest USN rankings) who worked in this office in the past. Keep in mind that candidates interview after graduation, generally when they are clerking. And many of the associate applicants practiced at another firm before clerking. Thus, candidates can be up to several years out from law school by the time they apply. That's not to say law school rank is unimportant, but it's significantly less important than the clerkship and other post-law school experience.

My billables are likely slightly over the mean for the firm, but they are not significantly higher. One of my friends had a several months' stretch where she billed ~160 hours/month and another has never billed over 200 hours in a month. These cases can be explained. One friend works almost exclusively in appellate work, where there are fewer fire drills and short-term projects that can add hours quickly. The other associate works for only one partner and is therefore able to manage his time better. Again, these associates' experiences are not the norm. I don't have a great sense of what the average associate bills, but I would be surprised if it were below a 2800 hrs/yr pace.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby Pulsar » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:21 pm

Is it your impression that these high hours expectations are shared by the other boutiques you listed in your first post? Or do the work/life cultures vary?

Obviously your direct experience is limited to one firm but any comment you might be able to make would be interesting. I'm thinking about going for one of those firms in particular but I'm not willing to hack 2800 hours/year.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby climbingcheddars » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:39 am

Pulsar wrote:Is it your impression that these high hours expectations are shared by the other boutiques you listed in your first post? Or do the work/life cultures vary?

Obviously your direct experience is limited to one firm but any comment you might be able to make would be interesting. I'm thinking about going for one of those firms in particular but I'm not willing to hack 2800 hours/year.


I think the hours expectations do vary. Unfortunately, it's hard to give more detail without giving away my employer. Why don't you PM me and identify the firm you're considering so that I can respond more frankly.

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Re: Litigation Boutique Associate, Taking Questions

Postby Barry_Spinoza » Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:13 pm

Does your firm hire staff attorneys or other non-partner track lawyers? I've noticed a few of the elite boutiques hire staff attorneys who often graduated from a school local to the boutique's main office (e.g., Susman's SA's are almost exclusively UT/UH grads) and didn't clerk, but did extern for a semester or summer with an A3 judge. If you're aware of the role(s) played by these people, could you shed some light on their responsibilities and what gets them hired?



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