2022.04.18 Why Law Firms Are Hiring More and More Staff Attorneys: Should You Work as a Staff Attorney
[00:00:00] All right. So this is a discussion today about working as a staff attorney and it's actually a pretty important discussion and a webinar because I think a lot of people decide at different points in time that being a staff attorney is something that they'd like to do. And there's obviously strengths and weaknesses to doing that.
After the webinar, I we'll be taking questions about this. I do have a hard stop today. So I will be leaving a little bit early, but I'll take questions, my questions as I can let me get started. I speak with a lot of staff attorneys and major law firms and and sometimes staff attorneys are even called the associates and they may even call them partners or associates or counsel and stuff on the firm website.
But th the conversations a lot of times are fairly, not always, but sometimes it can be very depressing because someone literally could be called a, an associate on a website, but then you find out they're a staff attorney. And then many times they'll earn as little as one fourth of what their counterparts are doing.
And they could even be from top 10 law schools and they may have better titles and so forth, but they often have a lot of difficulty meeting the [00:01:00] expenses. It's funny almost when you talk to some of them, because they're like, I have these huge student loans of like $300,000, but yet here I am like reduced to any peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
And and I don't know if that's true, but at the same time, it's, it can be very difficult. Being a staff attorney can often cause somewhat of a black mark on your record if you're called a staff attorney, it can make it a little bit more difficult for you to be marketable to major firms as a full-fledged associate counselor partner.
And there's a lot of reasons for that. But the real reason is, the, that the law firms, once they find out you're a staff attorney and they know what your compensation is they wonder, like, why would they give you a title, a real title meaning associate or, and so forth if you're willing to work for.
So if you're willing to work without a title and you're willing to work very cheaply, and you're also willing to do many times a work, that's not as challenging and people wonder why would you take such a job? And then a lot of times these firms will think maybe there's something wrong with your work or how committed you are.
And and more. And so the law firm will think we want to hire [00:02:00] people who are actually working as associates, partners in councils, inside of law firms, as opposed to people better staff attorneys, because. Being a staff attorney, to some extent, what it does is that it suggests that maybe you don't want to, you don't want real hours.
You don't want real responsibility and money, as opposed to the sophistication, the work and stuff you're doing is more important to you. And so I think that there's a, there's definitely a trend in hiring staff attorneys, lots of major law firms, hire staff attorneys. A lot of times what they do is they.
Because as the rates of associates continue to the salary associates increases faster than inflation. They the salaries of staff attorneys if they can keep those much lower, it actually saves the firms money. And many times they don't charge much a very, a lot different amounts for staff attorneys than they do full-time associates.
But the thing I've learned is if you hear of a title and it's different then an associate sometimes they'll call you a special associate or. Managing associate and other things typically that person is not an [00:03:00] associate. And then and then councils inside of law firms are also when someone calls you counsel, they're often more and more likely to be staff attorneys and a good percentage of younger and older partners inside of law firms are often staff attorneys as well.
Not all, but it's it does happen. And the staff attorney positions have been really multiplying like mad. There's there, they, more and more firms are hiring staff attorneys. And it's th the numbers are, I even the most prestigious firms have lots of staff attorneys now, and it's, it, didn't used to be like that.
And so that's what I'm going to be talking about today. I'm going to talk about four things today. First, I'm going to talk about why they're more staff attorneys and why this Tran trend is gaining momentum and unlikely to slow down. Secondly I'm going to discuss some of the disadvantages that law firms have when they hire a staff attorneys.
Third, I'm gonna talk about the advantages of working as a staff attorney and why people should do that. And I do think there are some very good advantages to Oregon staff attorney, even though what I've said so far, and [00:04:00] fourth, I'm going to set out the disadvantages of being a staff.
So the first thing is, why are large and small firms hiring medium-sized firms, hiring more staff attorneys? And why is this trend likely to continue? The first reason is that law firms are under a lot of pressure to keep billing rates down if they want to hold onto certain types of clients and appear into peer pure cost effective.
If a law firm has partners have business and law firms the law firm partners with business and the law firms with large institutional clients are under a lot of pressure to keep the billing rates down. And the only way they can do that, a lot of times with a lot of competition is by obviously by figuring out ways to do that.
So when when a partner is talking to a potential or existing client, the conversation often goes something like this, the partner may say, the client may say, what's your billing rate? And the partner may say my billing rate is just something very high. It could be like $1,300 an hour, but then the partner will also say, but I try to save you as much money as possible.
We have staff attorneys and others who may be. Only a few hundred dollars an [00:05:00] hour and we're going to do everything we can to keep your bills down and we take keeping your bills down very seriously and so forth. And then they may say things like one of our staff attorneys used to work as a cat-scan as an associate and would bill out a Fort, and rebel out of four times, we're billing them out to you for and so forth.
And we can save you a great deal of money and not sacrifice quality. And then of course, the client will say, that's great to hear and we're sensitive, but our bills and that sort of thing. So this sort of thing goes on all over each day. And and law firms love making the pitch and staff attorneys and the ability to keep expenses down can really help.
And and so even though the, they can help retain clients. And so even though there may be very high billing rates for partners and associates law firms can make it look like they're doing everything in their power to save money for clients, by using staff attorneys for a lot of the work. And it allows law firms to look like the good guys and that they're saving the client money.
And and law firms do not just use this tactic for new clients. They can also use it with new institution, with existing clients and finding new way to save them [00:06:00] money and can, it can help them as well. Law firms will often. Started staffing a letter when they get, bring in very large cases or routine matters, which can include things like labor and employment.
Sometimes trademark law in different practice areas the law and they'll still send clients bills that look, look a lot better because they include a lot of low cost hours. And this makes a law firm look like they're evolving to keep costs down and and helps. And then again, there's certain practice areas that don't necessarily justify hiring anyone by staff attorneys because there's a lot of downward pressure on billing rates and and the work may also be one-off in nature.
What that means is there's different practice areas where the law firm can never be assured of a continual flow of work. And and because of that, the law firms, if they do want to bring in work, they're competing with a lot of other people that in law firms that can do the work at a much cheaper cost.
And and so the law firms, the law firm bringing staff attorneys. So trademark is one of the main ones. It's a practice here where there's different types of [00:07:00] trademarks. So there's obviously trademark litigation, which can be very sophisticated, but then there's also like transactional related to trademark.
And and that's a practice area where there are many times it was a lot more staff attorney jobs in our associate counsel and partner jobs inside of large law firms. The reason for that is because performing, do, writing a trademark or doing a trademark search typically can be done by attorneys.
Don't have a lot of experience. It's often very one-off in nature, meaning that the law firm isn't doing it repeatedly for the same clients. And and it also often happens only when the economy is doing well. So when the economy is doing well, there's often a lot of trademark work and then when the economy's not doing well, the trademark work will often slow down.
And even the large firms they often do not have enough work to keep it. Attorney busy when things get slow. So that so that is one reason they bring in staff attorneys because it's easier to let them go. And even in the largest firms, even in largest IP firms, a lot of the trademark attorneys, especially the ones that are doing a lot of the transactional [00:08:00] things are trademark attorneys.
And and and smaller law firms are often doing a lot of that work and they will do the work very cheaply. And again, there's relatively few of these jobs. And so when law firms have them they typically will receive an overabundance of lots of highly qualified applicants.
So if a law firm has a trademark job, they'll receive because there's not many of them and especially regular associate jobs, so receive a lot of applicants. And so they'll realize they realized very quickly that they often don't need to play full freight. They don't need to pay the trademark attorneys who so it's money as they pay attorneys.
And other practice here is because there's so many people that are trying to do the work and accepting these positions as staff attorneys. That's one of the drawbacks of doing trademark work, I think, and then applying it to another one. It's in a lot of respects. Employment is becoming a commodity.
Now there's different types of employment work, there's employment contracts. There's there's but there's general employment litigation, which could be something as simple as Someone's working in McDonald's and then decides to assume [00:09:00] McDonald's for discrimination or something. So a lot of these trademark or a lot of these employment cases are done by very small firms that charge very low rates and even the largest employers, whether it's a giant company or, regardless we'll hire comp law firms to do the work very cheaply.
So if a large law firm wants to do that work, typically they'll have to reduce their costs. And many times we'll use staff attorneys can contract attorneys to do that. And there's some exceptions to that. There's like employment class actions, for example, and there's high profile employment litigation matters.
And but law firms are generally under a lot of pressure to keep their bills raw low. And this means that having low rates for employment litigation and day to day employment counseling is something that they need to do. There's also a lot of employment specialists inside of law firms and smaller law firms willing to do the work at low cost.
That's another thing that you need to understand is that there's just a lot of competition. And then the firms that are in competition with. Ah, large law firms for routine work. We'll often reduce the rates. And one of the [00:10:00] things by the way that large law firms do is the larger they get.
The more, a lot of firms will start out like litigation firms. They'll start out doing a lot of employment defense, and then as they grow and start doing more commercial litigation and entrenched in other practice areas, they start getting rid of their employment work because it's, it doesn't pay as much.
And and that the costs are often being driven very low. So a lot of large law firms are actually getting out of this. We'll get out of this work completely. Litigation is another one where lots of staff attorneys are used. There's there's a lot of people doing litigation. So litigation is the most popular practice area that there is.
And there's so many attorneys doing it, that law. Often find they don't need to staff a lot of their cases with associates because there's lots of very motivated and smart people that are willing to do a discovery motions writing and various things as staff attorneys. So they can have the hours and things that they want.
And there are, there is a lot of work in litigation that doesn't require a ton of isn't that [00:11:00] complex. And so litigation by far is the most popular practice area. And in litigation, there's a lot of pressure to keep those down, to do briefs, document reviews and so forth at the lowest possible cost.
Staff attorneys often prefer to work as staff attorneys so they can work more predictable hours. Lots of large law firms will hire huge pools of staff attorney for various litigation cases because they've learned that these matters can often settle go away. And they create the potential for mass layoffs and associates in many offices.
There's lots of law firms by the way that have gone out of business. When these cases settled very quickly and a lot of them settled. So if litigation cases will settle with a lot of times, litigation cases will several of them may settle in a row and then the law firm is left without any work to do and may have loans and things, and they go out of business.
It's happened a lot of times. And what law firms do to have. A lot of morale issues and bad headlines that come with mass layoffs as they hire less permanent staff attorneys to do a lot of the work. Another practice area is patent prosecution. It's the [00:12:00] same thing. It's becoming a practice here where there's lots of staff attorneys inside of law firms.
There's a lot of downward pressure on the billing rates of patent attorneys and large law firms. And a lot of that work has also become very fixed fee in nature. What can happen is if someone has the skills to write a patent, it's not like they obviously need a team of attorneys to do it. They can many times hire a lot of staff attorneys to help them with the work.
And so those staff attorneys will do the work for the attorneys and and that can be, or we do the work for the firm and that can be very helpful for the firm. And we'll keep the bills down. So like in a major New York law firms, if you go and you look at the largest law firms in New York and Nathan, the largest law firms in Los Angeles, very few of them in big cities, very few of them will do patent prosecution.
And when they do a lot of times, they are using staff attorneys and a lot of work in in, in smaller law firms when they do patent work is a fixed price. So meaning they both charge $30,000 for a patent. Whereas if it was done on an hourly basis, it could cost a hundred thousand. So the clients are all like we'll have these people do it instead of, taking our [00:13:00] chances with hourly billing because it works out for them.
And a lot of large companies have figured that out and they tend to use they tend to use smaller firms, a lot of cases. I Even Amazon and Microsoft and stuff, we use very small firms in some cases I've even seen patent prosecutors that are our patent agents that aren't even patent attorneys doing patents for major companies and just doing a solo practitioner.
So it's just something that, you need to understand when you're you're talking about when you're thinking about patent work and there's a lot of over abundance of patent attorneys in some areas. But in most areas there really there aren't a lot of patent attorneys. And it's another practice here where for whatever reason, patent attorneys tend to leave a lot.
They tend to not have a lot of employment stability at firms. I know their practice area is immigration. This is a practice area in which law firms are increasingly hiring a lot more staff attorneys. There's a lot of pressure on to lower billing rates for immigration work. A lot of immigration only law firms will.
Pay very low salaries. And [00:14:00] there's a lot of immigration attorneys in many cases, I've seen immigration firms even pay lower than what the average college graduate makes, but law firms, even large ones get a lot of requests for people to do that work. Sometimes if they have a large company that kind of wants full service and a lot of different things done the company, the law firm will hire staff attorneys to do it.
So they don't have to pay them the same thing as their associates may pay because of work is typically priced a lot lower. And a lot of that is also fixed fee work and a lot of immigration work. It's also quite routine and doesn't require expensive attorneys. Law firms, a lot of times do not have a lot of difficulty finding hiring immigration attorneys and they often see no reason to hire associates, councils and others for those roles.
And then many times that another thing that law firms will do is they'll be experimented with new practice area. Law firm may decide to start a new practice here. It could be something like data privacy or who knows, or many times a corporate law firm may start at an immigration. Litigation law firm, or an insurance defense law firm will try to start corporate that it a practice area.
And so a lot of times when they're experimenting, when you [00:15:00] practice. They may bring an attorney staff attorneys because the firm isn't yet confident that having a new practice area is going to justify hiring full-time associates. So these practice areas include like corporate like again, a insurance defense firm decides they want to become they want to start a corporate practice or litigation does they may start off with a staff attorneys have, because they don't know how long the work is going to last.
So they may have one client that says we do our corporate work and a partner says sure. And then has to figure out how to do it. And so they do it that way. Data privacy, technology transactions, a lot of firms who did the same thing there. So that's another thing that's how it works.
So the third thing is that when the law firm uses staff attorneys that can really can help increase profits for partners. So that's one of the reasons that law firms like them law firms, just as you look at people, look at law schools based on their ranking and partners look at law firms based on the profits per partner.
And so the attorneys who generate the most revenue and the partners we have the most business will often go to the firms that have the highest profits [00:16:00] per partner, which should make sense. But it's not necessarily but it's just something, to understand. So ball firms always are under a lot of pressure to have.
Very high profits per partner that makes them seem more prestigious. And then it, the highest profits for partner firms are also often considered the most procedures for law firms as well. A law firm can many cases, depending on the difference between what they charge and pay their staff attorneys, they can make a lot more money than with associates because they can the clients are going to be paying lower rates for the work so they can work.
They can the firms can bill more hours. The clients tend to look much more closely and then they dispute higher billing rates as opposed to lower billing rates. So that's something to think about. And then law firms also save money because the work can be done more cheaply by staff attorneys as well.
So associates costs a lot of money as you full salary partners and counsel. And it's also a large money commitment to hire them and to keep them around when business slows down. It's much easier to apply a staff attorney go than it [00:17:00] is to allow an associate go in most cases.
And you have to worry about that. And then then the billing rates of. Staff attorney has also many times actually a lot lower but not that much lower than associates. So they could, sometimes it may bill them at $10 or $20 less. But they're just staff attorneys and not real associates so they can be paid 50% less or more but may only be able out at 25% less or even even a lower five or 10%, sometimes in the law firms can then pocket the difference.
And then this is, what I would call salary arbitrage. It allows the law firms to earn a lot of money that they might not otherwise earn. And the other thing is that law firms can quickly hire and fire staff attorneys. So to the ability to rapidly scale up and then scale down, what that means is that law firms can increase their profits rapidly during high stakes litigation.
And when clients are demanding certain types of work and then law firms didn't necessarily need to commit to hiring associates, partners and others and to keeping them on payroll indefinitely, and then they can scale up and scale down as quickly as they like [00:18:00] law firms can also maintain other practice here is where clients are rate sensitive, which is things like immigration employment and patent prosecution.
So that can make the law firm profitable. And instead of having to get rid of those practice areas, which a lot of firms do, especially with higher billing rates, they can keep them. And and so they do not need to exit them and they can keep them around. And that's a mistake. I think that a lot of big law firms make is that.
They want to position themselves as only doing, high-end high fee work when they could still be making money from that type of work as well. And then the other thing that, you need to think about is law schools and it gets even worse when the economy's good. But when the economy's good and attorneys are getting jobs then then law schools will hire.
We'll both pump out even more people. And then when it slows down a lot of times, a lot from so slow, the law schools will slow down, but most major markets are overrun with attorneys. There's so many attorneys in the market and it's not it's an all markets. And and most markets that law firms are hiring, really do have an oversupply of attorneys.
Now it's not to say they have the attorneys that they want, [00:19:00] but there's so many attorneys out there that are looking for jobs and new attorneys that it can be very difficult for attorneys, many times, even from the best schools to find the positions they want. And people, places like Washington DC are just, tons of attorneys there, there's a lot of attorneys in those major markets and there's a lot of attorneys.
So many that a lot of times law firms will get hundreds of applicants for a position and law firms. Aren't stupid. They realize it because there's so many attorneys interested in these position They don't necessarily need to offer them the prospect of upper, no bandsmen and can even hire them a staff attorneys.
Some people will take it. I've had instances where w in Washington, DC, as a, just an example that comes to mind where I've been working with people that are working in very small firms and want to have a big firm name on their resume. And they might be making, let's say hypothetically $200,000 a year, and they get an offer to be a contract attorney at a big firm and at a salary that's half or not half, but much less, and they're excited about it, so because they want to they want to get that from in their resume. So the [00:20:00] nice thing about I think being a, for the law firms perspective is that if they have this big pool of talent out there and they have practice groups where they don't necessarily want to hire full-time people they can keep their they can check a talent for the positions that they have without necessarily having to hire full-time attorneys and worry about that.
And then there's other types of attorneys that don't necessarily fit the mold. They could have gone to a bad law school that might be too senior. They may be coming, not from a, there may be another, they may be a contract attorney. They may become from in house. They may have been out of school for a long time and taking them or taking a long break.
And and they can many times be hired as contract attorneys without upsetting the apple cart and the way the apple cart works is the law firms will hire the best associates that can attract. And they'll work very hard for several years with the prospect of making partner.
And then as they get more senior, that her is thinned out as people are fired, leave or asked to leave and so forth. And then once the attorneys leaves there's an opening. And they may go to a smaller firm, another practice setting. And then the attorney will very rarely be welcomed [00:21:00] back because they've gone off this competitive track inside of the law firm.
And so new associates are typically coming in and going, going from the junior and mid levels to become more senior. And and then as they become more senior and they become partners are expected to generate business many times and and more and more business.
And so there's just a pattern, whichever one. It's aware of, and the fit partner doesn't generate business and the law firm, let them go and then generating the hard grits, new partners and so forth. So it's always worked like this, and this is how it will always work. And law firms can make money from different types of attorneys when they're no expectations of that person will be advanced.
And and they don't have to put different types of attorneys necessarily on that treadmill. Now they have to be careful. They don't want to create a firm of all those types of people, but for the most part if they hire staff attorneys, they can put, they can hire people that don't have the typical qualifications that may have gone in house.
Not want to be a partner left they'll practice law for a long time, not have the best credentials or taking an extended break and they can put them in that competitive role. And and that they can do that [00:22:00] without upsetting the upward mobility and competitive pressure among associates, partners, and others.
And so the firm can hire staff attorneys and and without kind of diluting its brand, and we'll still have good talent to draw on for various matters. So hiring staff attorneys will also law firm to integrate those people into its ecosystem. And then it provides opportunities that might not otherwise exist to keep its billing rates lower.
And and then also it's a good opportunity if you don't have kind of the ideal. Qualifications and the other thing too, that's important and for different people. And and I do think there's a trend more towards this and less, but a lot of attorneys now demand a lot of flexibility, meaning their working arrangements and so forth.
They want lower hours. They want a better lifestyle. And many highly qualified young attorneys will demand that. And and so they've concluded that's more important to them than money or prestige. And the idea that. Even 20 years ago, the highly qualified attorney with really good qualifications with wanting to become a staff attorney and not be part of this whole system would to a lot of people just be [00:23:00] crazy.
But today there's really, I don't think there's there's, they're not even really it's not really even considered a bad thing many times. I It's or not even thought of negatively. I A lot of people do it and law firms see very intelligent people working on matters. And they'll often hire very qualified staff attorneys and they'll hire them more cheaply than traditional attorneys and also allow them to work limited hours and so forth.
And so that, that can be very scheduled and a lot of staff attorneys. And I'll talk about this in a little bit, if you're a staff attorney, you can basically say I'm going to come in at nine on Monday and leave at five and on every day. And that's it. And I don't care what doesn't matter is I'm not staying late.
And then you can, as a staff attorney where you can't necessarily do this and associate, and then the other thing that's important too, is that a lot of law firms clients don't even know the difference between the staff attorney and it's often just confidential. I toyed with the idea of this because I didn't want to upset any law firms, but it's important to understand that a lot of law firms don't make a huge distinction, which in staff, fraternities and associates and and I've even seen [00:24:00] Law firms that have, getting call their staff attorneys, associates on their website, but internally they're called differently.
And I don't know about the ethics of that. And I it certainly seems a little suspect to me. But again, they've been doing the same thing with partners for decades. They call an income partner the same as an equity partner, for instance, And so with staff attorneys, the law firm can often pay them differently and give them no expectation of advancement and then charge charged the same rates as associates clients, and then law firms can, certainly justify that.
I by the fact that the person is just as qualified to do the work I don't know, but okay. And then the other thing too, is a lot of associates, partners and councils are often not going to be around long anyway. And and the nice thing about hiring a staff attorney is that the title is honest.
And and it's honest with the expectation that they're never going to be advanced and most staff attorneys are hired with the expectation that, once your hardest staff turn, you're always going to be a staff attorney and the raises and things would be separate from regular attorneys.
And and the law firm doesn't often need to hire [00:25:00] people. There's anything other than staff attorneys, because the background may suggest they're not gonna advance anyway. And and so the law firm believes that her and them as a staff attorney as opposed to a associate and so forth is doesn't give them a bad impression that they're going to be advanced when they may not be.
And you could even argue that in a lot of cases, that's more, it's more. I'm still higher than that way. From another role I've seen some interesting things. I've seen, like people are hired staff attorneys. I've seen people hired a staff attorneys that for example, may have gone in house very early in their career.
As a first year to go to work for I don't know, Senator or something, and then want to come back to the law firm. And the law firm will see no way, because we don't trust you to stick around. And we don't think of law firms in your long-term interest to harm as a staff attorney or someone that has wants to switch practice areas.
Many times the law firm will say, okay, we'll hire you as a staff attorney because we don't trust you to stick around. So a lot of times the decision even with the best attorneys has made to call them a staff attorney because of things like that, or if they want flexibility and so forth. And then the, the thing that I like is that older [00:26:00] and more hierarchal law firms, meaning the oldest and biggest law firms are often much more likely to benefit from hiring and staff attorneys, because there's just not enough room at the top.
So the largest Synovus law firms often have tapped out their partnership ranks and may have very interesting little interest in making new partners. They would prefer to have as many workers as possible and as few people try and do advance as possible. What that means is they typically do not want to have lots of new partners in their firm.
They just would prefer to have. People there that, that aren't going to advance, it we'll make the existing partners money. And so having fewer people to advance means that there's not, they won't have to share profits with the partners level. And it makes them feel safer.
A lot of times closely help firms that are very small meaning that have a small partnership. There are law firms out there that have, one or 200 attorneys, or even more that have maybe one or two partners that are the owners of the firm. And everyone else is maybe call the partner, but they're not really a partner.
And so those kinds of law firms often like to hire staff trainings as well. And often a lot of older ones. And then the other thing that [00:27:00] is good about hiring staff attorneys is it keeps the morale, the actual associates high. It makes the associates in law firm feel there's going to be less competition.
It gives them a sense of authority. There are, and they're also threatened many times when the law firm attempts to hire a new associates staff attorneys means oftentimes that there's less competition because the staff attorneys should have told the outset they're never going to advance. Allows a law firm also to give what might be termed busywork to staff attorneys mean things that can be repetitive in nature, that don't require a lot of insight and aren't as fun to do.
And they can delegate this work. It can include things like document review, discovery, proofread, and other tasks to staff attorneys, and then leave more desirable projects to the regular associates. And then the other thing is lots of staff attorneys who require less training and coddling. If a law firm hires staff attorney they often don't have to worry about training them this much and coddling them as associates and others.
They can give them prov projects that aren't as complex and that require a lot of training. They may, the staff attorney oftentimes has already has a lot of experience in the practice area. So may [00:28:00] not need a lot of training. And and they're not as concerned about making the staff attorney feel good about their job and so forth as well.
They can it's not as much of a challenge there because they, there's not the sense of permanence a lot of times. And then. Law firms also feel many times they have a lot more control over staff attorneys and their associates, councils and partners. The staff attorney will often have, and that has many employment options and a full it, and then a full associate which means that the law firm can have a lot more control.
So I was talented, young associate upset with the quality of their work or their treatment by others in the firm can simply pick up and go to another firm. But the staff attorney doesn't always have that choice. It's much harder in many cases to get a staff attorney job, even though they pay less.
And and so law firms have a lot more control and and they liked that the law firms also can give staff attorneys many times the parents who have commitment and potential for upper mobility without actually giving it to them. So what that means is but most staff attorneys are salaried and not contract.
And the attorneys that are establishing yourself and blue bear study jobs and the potential for a lot of upper mobility, but a lot of times they don't they, the staff attorneys, so for [00:29:00] their part, like the predictable income of their positions, but they also, and they also believe that they do a good job.
They can meet a fancy to being partners with an associates in their law firms. However, in reality most cases when a law firm lays off people the staff attorneys are often the first to go. The law firms almost never advanced staff attorneys to associates or partners. And then some of the disadvantages of a law firm hiring staff attorneys are there's also a lot of disadvantages.
So one of the things is that law firms need to be careful because there are also a lot of negative ramifications. The first thing is that a lot of staff attorneys are angry about their second status. So even though many times when they get the job, it's something that they really want. The, they may also be a little bit upset.
They often want raises. They talk negatively about the firm and are constantly in many cases looking for new jobs. So when a law firm hires a staff attorney they're often they're most often offered a staff job because of the same attorney would not be able to otherwise call fire, got a real associate partner job in the law firm.
And then and the majority of instances, not all. And again, I don't want to say all, [00:30:00] but in more than half the job as a staff attorney a gift. They're they're lucky to get the job in a lot of cases and there's of course, attorneys who want nothing more than that.
And and it's increasingly comma. It is a minority. So when a law firm hires a staff attorney the attorneys most often offered a staff attorney job because they wouldn't be able to necessarily qualify and get a real associate or a partner role in their accounts on the same law firm. And and so the staff that trainer job is kind of gift.
But but what happens is the staff attorneys will quickly, most of them will quickly decide that they're just as valuable, if not more valuable than a better title attorneys work in the firm with them. And they know that what other people are making and they resent it. And then the associates inside a law firm often done a lot of these attorneys to feel included, including what's going on inside the law firm.
And this hurts the staff attorneys as well. So if the staff attorney becomes increasingly aware of the second class citizens, They start to resent it. And even though the secretary may belong to a great school or working in a great firm they start they don't feel great about it.
And this is especially true of [00:31:00] the staff attorneys older. They may resent taking orders from junior associates and when they've been working in the same job for a long time and may even have been, just the junior associate was 10 years ago, And they can become angry.
And and then they often are asked to be paid more and and it's just becomes an uncomfortable roles, especially when they hire someone to be established, trans, very motivated gets in, wants to advance. And so what they do is they'll go to the partners all the time and they'll say, I want to be advanced, or I want to see if I can get a raise or kind of become a real attorney.
And then the partners will obviously something like, I'll see what I can do. And continually postpone these uncomfortable conversations. And and honestly not much ever happens with that. Staff training would come angry and started looking for jobs. And and a lot of times you staff attorneys are very negative about their law firms.
And not happy even though when they got the jobs, they were very happy for them. And they desperately want higher paying jobs, more prestige and feel like equals and so forth. And then they start exploring other career prospects. And and then often because they're so unhappy [00:32:00] people can see that.
And the work quality suffers and then they develop a bad attitude. And then then the law firm lets the attorney go and that often happens. It's very common. And I've seen this pattern repeat itself in more times than I can count. And it's not the case for every staff attorney, but often is.
And law firms need to be very careful about the sort of staff attorneys they hire and make sure that the people that they hire, how they want this role. And then and then the people are unconcerned. Those who are the best attorneys or staff turned, some are those who are unconcerned with prestige and advancement and don't care what others think I will be back in one second.
I just have, there's a problem with this camera. It looks like I can get some.
Sorry about that. Okay. Let me keep going here one second. And it's generally for the law firms, usually the best idea not to hire someone who's taking a job as a last resort, so that they're probably gonna be. And then the other thing that you know, having it about staff attorneys that oftentimes having them can lower staff in a training route.
So staff attorney will offer a lower the morale on the regular training, some staff because many staff transport feel like second class [00:33:00] citizens, and they have gripes weekends for law firms. They can really end up affecting those around them, which are other staff and associates and other staff attorneys with this lower morale.
And so this lower morale may bring everyone down. It can affect the quality of the work that law firm is doing. The commitment of the attorneys, young attorneys may see people working as staff attorneys who went to great schools and once worked at great firms associates and wonder that this is their future as well.
And so they won't like that. And then and then having staff attorneys from mountain that affect morale, it can also take the steam out of the engine because a lot of times law firms will want to have people around them working that are very motivated. There's, there are some law firms, a lot of them actually that will never hire staff attorneys and they do it because they don't want, they want to have that sense of commitment and competition among the associates and people working there.
And and they believe that it's more makes things more competitive creates higher morale better. Work's done. People are watching each other. And that's something that, a lot of law firms won't tolerate, they don't want to, to disturb that sense of competition among the people working on.[00:34:00]
So there are a lot of advantages of being a staff attorney. A lot of attorneys want to be staff attorneys and don't have any problem taking these jobs. In fact, I've seen a lot of staff attorneys want to leave major firms to get staff fraternity jobs and other law firms. And here's what. The first thing is that staff attorneys jobs can often offer much better hours.
And so a lot of these jobs are nine to five or 10 to six or 10 to four. And that sort of thing. And actually not 10 to four, but it probably tend to six. And then attorneys want to have a predictability of showing up and leaving a certain time. It's one reason that a lot of them go in house and so forth.
They like that predictability. And then unlike an associate job where there's never a break and the training may be working seven days a week. Now the staff attorney job can often offer the opportunity to work predictable hours and collect the paycheck while still practicing law. That can be.
Very helpful for them. And in fact, in the best of circumstances, a staff attorney may earn more money per hour working as a staff attorney, then as an attorney with a better title inside of a law firm. And and there's also no certain type of person enjoys this more than others. A lot of times mothers for example, when you have time with your kids, we'll do [00:35:00] it, but it's also often men who just want more time with their family or to pursue other outside interests.
And it can definitely offer a lot more flexibility and there are people that love these jobs and and for that reason, because they, you get the best of both worlds. You get to work in a law firm, you get exposed to the matters, but and, but you could control over your time and schedule, which is one of the reasons people, a lot of people don't like law firms.
The other thing is being a staff attorney can also offer a lot less pressure. Staff attorneys are there to do the work. They're not under pressure to bill a lot of hours and bring in business or anything in the store. They don't need to worry about politics or impressing certain people or anything like that.
And and they're just not the same pressure. And and so they their lives are much more manageable many times. And it's very close. As I said earlier, to be an in house counsel that an attorney can do the job without actually having to work inside of. The other thing is that a staff attorney job is typically easier to get than a lot of these, some of these jobs.
Now there are places where it's very difficult in markets where it might be very difficult to get a staff at your new job, but the bar is often a little bit [00:36:00] lower than it might be otherwise to get a job in a major law firm. So if you're a staff attorney, you can often get a job in a major law firm without having the qualifications you would need.
If you wanted to get a job there as an associate or partner or counsel which is nice. And it gives you the opportunity to work in a law firms that you might not otherwise get the opportunity to work in. I told you the story a little bit earlier in this webinar about someone I worked with that really wanted to work in a big law firm, even though they were an associate and a smaller law firm and wanted to work in a big law firm, even though it paid a lot less as a staff attorney than it would have paid otherwise.
There's often a lot less competition for these jobs and you can certainly get these jobs much more quickly which is nice. And if you went to a poor law school and you didn't do well in law school, or you've taken up too much time off, or you're too senior, don't have experienced in a major law firm and so forth, all these different things I spoke about earlier, I'm not summing a major law firm coming from in-house working with the government fire and so forth.
You could still get a position as a staff attorney at a major law firm. And and it's gonna allow you to pick up the work [00:37:00] habits and be exposed to more sophisticated work. And many times become a much better attorney because of that, which is nice. And you may have a lower salary and lower advance potential, but it can also be a little bit easier.
Many times staff attorneys are moved into permanent roles, have to get a really good job and but they can definitely be easier to get. And and a lot of times staff attorneys don't even have to integrate with many people that get the job, which is also nice. Instead of having these series of callbacks and everything, you can not get a job very quickly within a few days of your first interview.
The other thing is that there is a slight potential for advancement. Now there is of course a potential for advancement. And when I call it slight, it's most, a lot of law firms have ironclad policies that staff attorneys can never be associates, but they don't all have them. And even ones that say they have ironclad policies have been known to modify those policies for people that are really exceptional.
So it's definitely not unheard of for staff attorneys to transition to full-time associate roles inside of law firms. If you have the dedication and smarts and connect to the right people those same law firms, mouth in advance, you I've seen ISTEP attorneys [00:38:00] advanced before, but it just, I will say that it doesn't happen that often.
In most instances to be advanced, you're still gonna need to have the sort of law school and other qualifications that meet with the law firms with the law firm, traditionally considers a cutting off for hiring attorneys. There are exceptions to this, generally to be advanced, you're going to need to meet the firms threshold hiring criteria for regular associates.
Now, the other thing is staff attorneys often get to do work. That's just as challenging work as other attorneys in the firm. So they may be given work that is equally challenging. And and that's another nice thing, especially if you show that you can do the work and you have the smarts. And a lot of attorneys that are staff attorneys get, get the exact type of work that they want to do, meaning that could be very challenging work. And they enjoy that. And there are a lot of benefits to being a staff attorney. So the disadvantages as I said earlier you're almost never advanced.
You can be, but it's rare. And so you don't get the title. You can't always count on the same speed of income advancement. And many times once you do become a staff attorney, you're going to be frozen in your future income in one place. And you're [00:39:00] really going to receive much income other than inflation adjusted, raises the staff attorney.
If they do receive a raise, it's often not going to be equivalent to what associates and others are receiving. And and many staff attorneys really don't have any interest in being on the treadmill. And advancing. So that's actually okay. But oftentimes a lot of them do resent, not being able to advance.
And I talked to a lot about that earlier, so they may not like that. And the other problem being a staff attorney is in some cases, not at all but you could be a second class citizen inside the law from your end. You're not gonna have the same level of respect or the prestige ladders of their trainees in the firm.
And and this is something that kind of also goes along with a staff attorney title. So because of your second class citizen staff status, your opinions and work you may not get as be given as much weight and you may not receive the best assignments. And when establishing does do good work, they they often have to tolerate others taking credit for it.
And then inside of law firms, many times everyone knows who the staff [00:40:00] attorneys are, the secretaries, the receptionists, the paralegals and the partners. And they're often given, smaller offices, sometimes cubicles or interior offices less support, not treated with as much respect and so forth by paralegals and others.
And and then. A lot of times they often have less tolerance for the personality quirks of staff attorneys. So just getting angry at others in the office that they might have for a really good associate or partner. And they may not even be invited to all the firm functions and sometimes you're not allowed to contact clients at the firm.
They are often not on court pleadings or invited to closings or have the same role or kind of the best jobs. And and often given work that no one else wants to do. These are some of the potential drawbacks is not say that every firm does that. I Certain law firms go out of their way to be very nice staff attorneys.
So you have to work where you're comfortable. But a lot of times the staff attorney is constantly reminded of their second class status. And and a lot of secretaries may tolerate that. But some people may not be happy with that and it doesn't apply to all [00:41:00] firms. It may apply to it, but it does apply a lot from what.
Incomes and other issue, if that's important to you they're often paid less than even junior associates and yet often doing more sophisticated work than junior associates. I've even seen staff terms with 20 years of experience working as full-time staff attorneys paid less than first-year associates.
They may resent that the and they can be paid oftentimes even half of what a first-year associate has paid or even less than that. And it's often the biggest thing that I don't like about being a staff attorney that I think is the biggest drawback. And I think those are a lot of strengths, but I also think it's a big drawback because this is from my perspective, just in doing the kind of role that I do in the legal profession.
But it's often very difficult for staff attorneys to get anything other than a staff attorney position in a major law firm, after being a staff attorney. So most epiphanies can never be anything other than a staff attorney in a law firm. After I haven't been a staff attorney. It happens, but it's rare.
Once the attorney takes the role of staff attorneys, they tend to brand themselves as people who are willing to work for less money and less prestige and who are less concerned with advancement [00:42:00] than their peers. And most major law firms really do not want the risk of hiring a staff attorneys because they feel they, they may not be worthy positions.
So anytime you work as a staff attorney, you raised some of these types of questions. Did you take the staff fraternity job because you don't want to work hard? Did you take it because it was the best job that you get? Did you take it because you don't care about money or advancement and these kind of brand you're in a negative way for law firms?
There's just something you need to understand because when you're looking for a position none of us would necessarily be a concern if there were a lot of competition for jobs, but there is a lot of competition and law firms aren't often going to bother with people, my whole name have to ask these questions because the firm just can't hire don't necessarily want to hire people with that baggage.
The other thing is a lot of staff attorneys do resent their roles. But that means that they can be angry about the roles of staff attorneys and have some resentment about their jobs. They may be mad that they're paid less and not treated as well. They may made to feel second class citizens in some cases are different from work because of this resentment they're often unhappier than they would be if [00:43:00] they were working in a major firm as an attorney with a better title and.
So it's just very important to consider before you take a job as a staff attorney, because if you feel resentment in your role, your ma may never be happy where you are and having that resentment is going to hurt you. And and so a lot of staff that are constantly looking for new positions feeling excluded and reminding of their status on a daily basis, say everyone's like that.
I think there are some people that are, have very advanced egos and and they know that, it doesn't matter. And they don't, they, the time that they get there with their families and often to do things they that they understand that there's a trade-off and they don't care, but a lot of people do feel unhappy, don't feel valued and don't like it.
And and that's unfortunate. And I do when I speak to salvage attorneys, a lot of them do seem desperate to get new positions. And that's too bad. It's not the end of the world, but they often want to get out of their firms. And the resentment, they feel often in my opinion, outweighs a lot of times the pressure that overworked associates may experience that drives [00:44:00] them to look for new positions.
So that resentments even worse than the pressure. I dunno. But the other thing to think about too, is that a law firm doesn't have the same investment staff attorneys. So they're often the first to go and things slow down. Unlike associates who are. Often the product of huge investments in recruiting training and grooming law firms don't make that investment with staff attorneys.
Law firms will often spend great sums of money sending you attorneys on retreats conferences and assisting them with business development. But not don't often include their staff attorneys in this. And they they don't necessarily invest as much money in their staff attorneys as they do their regular attorneys.
And because there's less than the best men and because they're often thought of a second class attorneys, law firms are also more likely to let staff attorneys go when things slow down when they may not let regular associates go. So letting go of an associate is more likely to upset the morale, but there's an affirm that letting go of a staff fraternity, it's just something to be aware of and think about.
And when there's layoffs and so forth in a law firm, staff attorneys are often the first to go before the associates. So those are the the, [00:45:00] what it's about and opinion. I do think that the role of a staff attorney instead of a law firm does involve a lot of choices that law firm and staff translate into balance.
I don't think. I do think it's a positive thing. I don't, if it was mean, and I was working as a staff attorney, I would do so if I knew that that was a career choice services, short-term career choice for me, I don't know that I would make that as a long-term career choice unless I understood all the positives and negatives.
And can definitely add to a lot of problems on both sides if it's not adequately thought up. Okay I will take questions here. Just give me one second. And one second and I'll come back.
The first question is what's in between associate lawyer and a staff attorney. Th the biggest difference is between associate Larner staff. Attorney is really just that the associate is typically is meaning is associated with the firm. There's a prospect that the person could if they work hard and do a good job, could become a partner.
Their salaries are typically going to track whatever the class year is for. The law firm that's paying them. So if a law firm pays its first year associates, [00:46:00] $10 a second year associates, $12 than the, I'm just joking in terms of the price, the rates, but that's what the associate lawyer will get.
The staff attorney typically has a lot more lower will have lower compensation but they'll also have different requirements. So an associate is really expected to work as many hours as they're given work for. Whereas this. We'll have a fixed schedule. The staff attorney may have a lower salary, but it will also have, but also have a fixed hours.
Associates may be given increasingly challenging work as they get more senior. And as a staff attorney gets more senior by, they may often be doing the same thing. And and then law firms that hire staff attorneys are typically hiring they're called staff attorneys because there's not necessarily the expectation or a promise or even opportunity for advancement.
So if the staff attorney is not advancing then then that's the situation that the rent. So that's how that. Okay, let's see here. What are the benefits of working as a staff [00:47:00] attorney? The benefits of working, let me just cut and paste this four person here. The benefits of working as a staff attorney are that staff attorneys will typically get the will have the ability to set their own.
They have they'll have a fixed schedule, so they will often work from nine to five. They will th they won't have the same high, low, the same pressure in terms of reviews, whether or not you're going to get better and so forth. So if they do a good job, they will often stay in their job for a long time.
A staff attorney also may not have the same pressures associated with the work. So there's not the expectation to travel. There's not the expectation to bring in business. There's not the explanation to work long hours and weekends. And so those are some of the benefits and a lot of cases, a staff attorney, if you look at how much they're making per hour compared to an associate or someone else, that's a more full-time role.
A lot of times they're even making more money. So those are the benefits. And then the other benefit is that there's not it's just not as competitive an environment to be a staff attorney. So a lot of [00:48:00] people do prefer to be a staff attorney. And and then some of the other benefits that I spoke of earlier in the presentation where To the fact that a staff attorney has the ability to to, to work many times at a more prestigious firm than they might not normally work out.
How much does a staff attorney make Steph attorneys salaries can be all over the map. The right answer to that that that is, is they make as much as the law firm feels like they need to pay them. If you are, if a law firm has a staff attorney opening they will often pay April often be much less than an associate opening.
One of the things I did speak about a little bit earlier was that staff attorneys are often hired to do work on almost like a contract basis, meaning they're they're they're hired to they're hired to do to do work that may not be as sophisticated a lot of times is what the associates do.
So that could be things like trademarks or discovery, or different aspects of work that we're the law firm and that they may need experience, but not a lot of experience or very sophisticated experience. So many times staff attorneys are paid [00:49:00] less and they're paid less because it allows a law firm to profit from the work that the staff is doing.
If that makes sense. Okay. Okay. Let me see here. Here.
Okay. It hurt my career as a lawyer in the future. If I work as a contract attorney now let me just start, let me just pull this question here. So yes, it can depending on you doing that. So there's a couple of different schools of thought to that. So if you work as a contract attorney, now, a lot of times the law firms will assume that that you either could not get a job, so you could not get a job not get a job as a full-time attorney, as a, as a, it was a full associate or whatever also, or they may assume that you didn't want to work full time, not want to work full time,
work full time. They may also assume that you I don't know, couldn't, you, you want flexibility for example, or, I dunno, want flexibility, and they're also going to assume that you're willing to work for less money than [00:50:00] I'm willing to work for less money.
And then a typical associates standard bene typical. So if you're willing to work for less money, the idea is why would they may also assume that, your career is an extremely important
and or you did not know how to find a job, how to represent yourself.
So those are some of the problems Ms. Working a contract attorney. Now, does it mean that's going to limit you for your whole career? No. Because your legal career if you graduate from the, at the age of I don't know, 25 from law school, I you could be practicing for another 60 or 70 years.
Literally people practice into their nineties it's not gonna hurt your long-term career. It'll hurt your short-term career. I'll just tell you a funny story. I was driving down the highway this weekend with my kids and I saw this sign that said something like going out of business.
It was this big rug store, everything must go half off and, and so I was like, wow, that's crazy. I, it was a huge rug store, like the size of a like a big furniture store. So I pulled over with my kids and I went in there and sure enough, it was like it was a fake [00:51:00] going out of business sale.
So I was like, all right, whatever. So I walked out of the store and this guy came up to me and he was very old. And and he said, assists they're going out of business on, I said, no, this is not a real sale. This is a. Yeah, that they're pretending because it was fake. It was like they weren't really going out of business.
They were just pretending like they were to drive traffic to the store. It was very common furniture stores and drug stores. And is that full attempts to do that. But anyway, so I started talking to him and he was an attorney and had been practicing for 155 years or something. And still very active.
So I run into attorneys all the time that are in their seventies and eighties and even nineties practicing. So just because you work as a contract attorney now doesn't mean your career is over and everyone develops at different rates. Certain people will get their stride or enthusiasm for the practice of law earlier than others.
So it's nothing you really need to worry about. I don't think. You should really worry too much about any of that. And if it was me and you need to take a contract trainee job, that's fine. Just realize going into it that it's going to make it a little bit harder for you to get positions [00:52:00] in the future.
And my advice to anyone that's considering doing this as a career. I have a couple pieces of advice. The first is that there are people that do nothing, but be contract attorneys and as contract attorneys, they ended up having very good careers. I know one guy that when he turned 40, he'd been a contract attorney since he was 24 and graduated from law school, made a lot of money doing it.
I don't know how he made so much money, but he made, he retired with, savings of, into the seven figures by living cheaply. don't know well into the seven figures,