2022-05-18 Which Type of Law Firm Is Best for You and Your Career: Main Offices of Large National Firms, Branch Offices of Large National Firms, Midsized Firms, Boutiques, or Newer Fast-Growing Firms?
[00:00:00] Okay, so we're going to get started. So today's webinar is one of my favorite topics about the type of firm that people should join because there's a lot of reasons that I liked this topic so much, but one of, one of the, I'll just tell you a quick story. And I think I've told this before.
But one of the things I've noticed is out of all the people I went to law school with, and that I kinda met early in my career, the people that went to large law firms and the biggest law firms in the main offices of the large national law firms, most of them, not all of them, but the substantial majority of them are no longer practicing in law firms.
And the people that started in smaller law firms, meaning they were in some cases, I don't know if the word is blessed, but they were lucky enough to get jobs in law firms that weren't big law firms. Those people actually ended up getting staying in the practice of law. And 20, 30 years later, they're still practicing the law firms and having good careers and the people that went to work and large law firms weren't able to do when you're looking for a position, you're typically choosing between these different types of firms. You're talking about main offices of large [00:01:00] national law firms, branch offices of large national law firms. Mid-sized law firms boutique law firms. And. Faster growing law firms.
And so what I'm going to do today is I'm going to talk about each of these different types of firms. And then after that, I will take questions. And I typically take lots of questions on these calls. And I'll take as many questions as anybody has, whether it's about this or anything else they to this.
I believe that the type of firm that you select whether early in your career or even a little bit later can have a major impact on your career. And it's extremely critical. It's most people, when they make job choices, they make them without an understanding the differences in the types of firms and impact and the impact those choices will have on the course of their career.
And and they affect both partners and associates, but I believe and from what I've seen in my career, that that the choice you make your career will actually often fail and not get started because of this reason, rather than, more so than any other type of reason.
[00:02:00] And the differences in these firms can revolve around the power dynamics in terms of how the law firms distribute power. Am I going to attorneys who work there and they impact your compensation the job security your side of job satisfaction the training opportunities and the future movement.
You'll have the ability to view in the future. So I'm going to discuss those and I'm also going to discuss the pros and cons and a chart and at the end of the webinar. And then and it's very important. I think that you're aware of this and really that you make career decisions in line with the types of firms, because it's going to it can really have a major impact on what happens to you.
And and it can impact you many times a good attorney will end up having a bad career because of these choices or a good attorney can have a good career making the right choices. So the first choice that you have the first option is working in a main office of a large established law firm, which is in many cases, what people always are aspiring to.
But as a recruiter I see, people trying to get into these firms all the time. They [00:03:00] typically get the most applications. They are often very old, so a lot of times they may be, a hundred plus years old. And and a lot of cases, they're no different. The names are always the same and are very.
Very similar. There's a lot of reasons people want to join these types of firms and why you may want to join one. If you're a law student or a fear even a partner in a law firm, I call partners all the time that are, could be in their fifties or sixties about working in one of these firms with, at a smaller firm.
And many times they, most of the time, they're there to jump at the chance. And the reason people want to work in the largest and the most prestigious firms is because often because they have very important work, so they typically will represent the largest clients with the most money to spend.
But the biggest matters they'll often pay the highest salaries almost all the time. The profits per partner are how partners compare firms and how associates often compare these firms. So they often have the highest profits per partner. They have big brands. So when you're a client and you want to if you're a client and one of these firms, clients just as [00:04:00] S associates and partners are very proud of the name of the firm that they work at.
So our clients, so clients will throw around the firms that represent them all the time and clients will actually fall into tiers based on bragging rights. So the size of the firm, so they can be. Very good places to work and to hire. And then for associates the largest firms typically provide very good training.
The reason the biggest offices of the biggest firms provide the best training is because they typically have the most important work. And because they have large matters and large clients, those clients can afford to have them spend a lot of money writing long briefs and doing research or fact checking documents or working on very distinct aspects of things.
And then there's typically there'll be a whole level of junior associates checking even more junior associates work who be checked by mid-level associates and senior level associates. And the work becomes very detailer at it's expected to be a very high quality and and learning to serve large demanding clients and really to work at the highest levels of [00:05:00] legal profession.
And and so that's one of the real benefits of working in these large firms. They also offer a lot of career mobility. You can always if you go to one of these major firms it's much easier to go to a smaller firm or a sized firm many times because those firms are hiring you based on knowing that you've received a certain level of training from those firms in that the longer you've been there, the more that the product and the way you're thinking is going, you're going to be standardized.
So just. Going to a good law school means something. It means something even more to go to work in a large brand named firm, and stay there for a period of time. Because if you do that, then future employers are gonna know that you have a certain level of training just going to, sometimes people think I went to Yale law school and then I didn't do anything for three years.
So I worked at public interests and stuff. Law firms are going to think I'm a good attorney. And that the fact is that where you went to law school after you get out and you've worked in an employer for a few years, this is actually much more irrelevant than where you've gotten the training because the law firm trains you to do the work.
And then the bigger [00:06:00] the clients, the law firm has the more detailed oriented it, the more training you're going to have. So the way to explain that, just in a kind of a brief way is when if you're at a law firm and that law firm is representing apple well, apple has the ability to write checks of, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a month to any law firm without blinking.
And I, and and because of that, the work that the law firm does is going to be very, they're going to put in a lot of hours and a lot of detail. I'm thinking about things at a much deeper level than a small law firm might with with a smaller client with a limited budget. And so that's the advantage you get.
And if an attorney can do very well in these types of law firms in the large law firms work hard and they get a set of brakes and there are many breaks many times to make that happen. I would say it's very common for people to succeed based on those. It can compare to just, the quality of the work and it can be very rewarding if you can make it to the top of those firms.
So there, there's definitely a potential to make very large income at those types of [00:07:00] firms and to do very well. But at the same time, because those law firms have so many people that want to work there and they have such big clients that are willing to pay large legal fees. And it's so hard to get ahead there.
These law firms are often very grueling places to work. They don't need you. You, they, they can find someone like you often very easily, so they don't offer a lot of job security. And they also don't offer a lot of long-term benefits to anyone except a very few few people that are able to get ahead.
And the people that kind of end up in the inner circle and and the rule of thumb and what affects most people is that working in these firms really can make many attorneys very unhappy. And it's because there's so little prospect for advancement. There's so many hours required.
The work is often very stressed. There's lots of deadlines. And and it can be very dehumanizing for a lot of attorneys to work in these firms. And I would say for junior associates, many times and mid-level, and even senior associates, the dehumanization [00:08:00] is more the rule than the exception because the competition is hard there.
And it's, so there's so much work in there. So now you're competing against very competitive people both socially in terms of how they can undermine you and so forth. And but also in other ways as well. Many people give a long lots of their life to these firms. And and then they spend years afterwards trying to rehabilitate their selves and often not having much to show for it.
I've seen, I've had instances. I'm not going to say if it's a man or a woman, but I remember not too long ago, I talked to a candidate and they said something like, I went into this big law firm to interview and they said, you, you seem like a vibrant, very healthy person. Like you should not.
You can, be a lot happier than spending the next several years of your life working here, you should work someone else or working at other type of employer. And that person was very offended. They I'm not going to say if they said it was sexist or whatever, cause I don't want to get in trouble, but they thought that was a pretty mean thing to say, but it's true.
These firms They have very high expectations and they can afford to have it. And the clients deserve it. The pain, a [00:09:00] lot of money. And but it can be very stressful for people. It can be very dehumanizing, meaning, you just working very long hours without a lot of sleep.
And and it can it can hurt people. I've known several people that I knew personally that were, dad in their their late thirties and all through their forties from working in very demanding jobs. And and many times you meet people that have been doing this for 15, 20 years and they look like, they look like sailors.
They're just, they're all broken up and stuff. And there's addiction issues and frustration and so forth. And many times people have want to do entirely different careers and aren't happy now, that's of course it's not everyone by any stretch of the imagination, because there are people that do very well with us and and actually this sort of thing makes them stronger.
It makes them better. It makes them vibrant. I think that it's a certain personality type. I was, one of the things that's interesting is there's different types of people. And I was talking to I don't know what my daughter over the weekend and and about the difference between introverts and extroverts.
So an extrovert is going to be very. Reading and thinking about things and staying home and [00:10:00] doing those sorts of things and not going out and socializing and going out and socializing and being in public spaces and doing stuff actually makes them uncomfortable. Whereas someone who's an extrovert is going to be very uncomfortable, staying home and reading and doing nothing.
They actually are only get power from being around other people. So it's like that with law firms. There are people that are a hundred percent suited to this. And when you talk about the negatives of the hours and the work and so forth, it's not always a negative thing. It can be a very positive thing for some people.
And the learning that you do, you're not going to ever many times get exposed to that much work and get developed your skills. And it, so it's very good, especially when you're younger. But one of the things that's important to understand, I think, and this is a lesson that I tell a lot of people is when you get out into the world, like after 10, 12 years of practice most attorneys that start out in large law firms are not going to be making as much now.
That's not all of them. But most of them aren't going to be making as much as even first-year associates are making and the largest law firms and even [00:11:00] the ones that started the largest law firms, because what you're essentially doing when you join a major law firm is your front. Your compensation to the front of your career.
So you're taking all the money you might make later on if you were to go to a smaller law firm and make partner and and in your you're, front-loading that kind of right away into the beginning of your career, because the odds are not always, but the odds are not in your favor that you're going to make as much money in the future.
So you're getting all that. You're doing all that right now. And then at some point you may have to leave the large law firm. But the thing that's important is that, when you start your career to a large major law firm you're likely to you're starting your career with a limited amount of gas in your tank.
And and you're likely to burn through this gas a lot faster than than if you started out at a smaller affirmed many times. And so the example I gave right at the beginning of this webinar was that there's a lot of attorneys that will start their careers and and at these big firms and we'll be gone, they'll, they will no longer be practicing law at 2, 3, 4 years.
Whereas in the ones that start at the smaller [00:12:00] firms spend a lot, don't and and again, a lot of these attorneys that I've known have experienced lots of health issues heart attacks, cancer psychological problems and certainly lots of addiction issues and so forth.
In re in return, they get the experience. They also get salaries and but the understanding that many times, there's not a lot of stability in those jobs. And in it, for many people, it's, these sorts of firm firms are not conducive to to a long-term career in the practice a lot.
And I'm not, that's not for everyone, of course. But a lot of people do leave these firms after a few years and they often feel very disillusioned and broken and a lot of them will never practice law again. One of the things that reminds me of is I remember when I was in college there were these people that that that I knew pretty well.
And one of them was a guy from a a small town in Oklahoma that had been like the valedictorian of his high school. And it was a really excited guy. And then another one was I don't know, from a small town in Ohio where he'd also been like a valedictorian and and they both got to [00:13:00] my college and and within, two or three semesters flunked out and got in.
But, they, because I got such bad grades and they were very unhappy. And and so they went into this environment that was just so demanding for them and where they couldn't have done, but they didn't do as well. And there's been other studies that a lot of times you know it Ivy league schools, a lot of people will go and they'll major at in these very complex sciences.
And and they may, they may be people that were in the lower half of the class in terms of their sat scores and so forth. And and then those people will actually drop out of the sciences and then major in liberal arts at a very high rate. Whereas if they'd gone to a college where they were, their grade or their sat scores and stuff were higher and compared to the average student, cause everything's greater, not a curve, they wouldn't have flunked out.
So one of the things is when you go to these firms, sometimes you may think you're very lucky working in them, but they can for some people they can actually do a lot of harm and partners are often very stressed in these firms as well because they're stressed to produce [00:14:00] lots and lots of revenue.
They're constantly told they have to raise their billing rates at levels that seem almost insane. They're told they can only bring in certain types of clients that depending that we'll spend an incredible amount of money, like at some firms, they may not take a litigation case unless there's million dollars in fees involved.
And and so it can be very difficult for partners as well at these firms. And and so the billing rates many times the larger the firm, the more conscious. There's always going to be partners who will hoard work and and not give it to other partners. So if a partner doesn't have any work, they'll be in trouble.
There's often management systems that can change or soft sorts of things. And I remember when I was an associate this partner that I worked for said he would give anything to be an associate again, cause it was so much easier than being a partner and the largest established firms, I typically run very tight economic models.
So they, because they've been around for a long time, they've been constantly fine tuning all of their economic models and getting as much sufficient efficiency and everything [00:15:00] out of their attorneys as they possibly can, and to get as much revenue from clients and partners and associates and other people they that's really how they operate and and what they need to do, what they do.
And that, that can be very stressful if you're working in one of those firms. The other thing is the profit model the the law firm model, these they've evolved over decades. What that means is it means that they have made it fewer people. Are going to ever be eligible for partner. And the control of the money is very tightly controlled.
There's a very few people at the top that are controlling the money and the access to opportunities. And they they figure out all sorts of games to prevent you from becoming partner and to prevent partners from making a lot of money. And and they become more impersonal with more systems and bureaucrats.
And and you, that can become very difficult places to work. And they're not necessarily entrepreneurial as they are almost very efficient government offices where there's not a lot of opportunities. They often have a lot of benefits, but there's also a lot more politics, gamesmanship bureaucracy and so forth and other types of firms.
And that, that's how it works. Now. One thing [00:16:00] I will say the point of this whole section is that if you do want to work in a large law firm, the firm's main office is typically the best place to work. And the reason for that is because most of the people that are gonna make decisions about who's going to become partner and so forth are often most often in the main office.
And the connections that you need are often, most often going to be in the main office. There, it can be impossible in some firms to make a partner if you don't ever work in the main office. And and you're not gonna really know, especially with the most established law firms who you're not going to know the people that are going to have the power to necessarily make you a partner.
So that's one of the things to understand about the main offices is that you'll typically have a lot more control over your career. The other thing about main office is the main offices are less likely to close. Obviously the branch offices branch office is open and close all the time.
One partner many times is the main source of business in a big branch office. And if they leave, they can pretty much take the whole office with them. So those are [00:17:00] some things to understand. So the branch offices of large established law firms are also good places to work and get early experience.
But at the same time they can be very challenging environments as well. One of the upsides is that because there, it's not the main office, many times you can have more of a work-life balance. You may be, are immune to kind of the politics happening in the main office and and the work-life balance.
Often happens because sometimes they may just be servicing a local client or some local clients where the work isn't as demanding or they're matched, will be partners that have been transplanted there from a local office as well. And it's often many times easier to get hired by a branch office in the main CA and then the main office the hiring standards, not as many people often want to work there.
Many times you can actually advance faster in a branch office to become partner because you may not be as part of the same scrutiny under the same scrutiny as a powerful main office partners. And they may want to occasionally make partners just to say they have in a branch office, which could be helpful.
[00:18:00] And so sometimes can work to your advantage, but more often than not the opposite is true. So there's been for example beginning in the 1990s, a lot of New York law firms in the early two thousands started opening offices and Silicon valley and that sort of thing. And and before that in Los Angeles it became very difficult to make partner in those branch offices, for example.
And and the other downside of a branch office has many times there's a lot limited range of work. If the work has to be sourced locally many times you may the work may be a lot more limited. And that means you're not going to get the same experience, training and opportunity for advancement.
So sometimes branch offices, but literally they could have, just a few attorneys in them. Sometimes they attorneys are even working from home. It's they can be both good and bad places, but sometimes they're very large branch offices. More often than not with national firms branch offices, we're able to build up but branch office associates often do not get the same work or chance for billable hours as the main office counterparts, which can hurt their ability to get ahead.
[00:19:00] In a branch office it could be the fact that they may only do one type of litigation. Lots of New York law firms, for example, in Silicon valley will hire this is just an example of a one firm hired opened a bunch of associates to work in an antitrust case that, dragged on for years.
It was the only case in the whole office. And so that. If everyone's only working on one type of case and that's going to hinder their their ability to get ahead. They're also often in danger of closing down or laying people off. So they can they'll often be there for just a few clients and and these clients can disappear.
Whereas, in the main office, they may have a lot more depth. And so it's there tends to be more layoffs and branch offices many times, and there are the main offices. The other big drawback is that partners in most branch offices, aren't really part of the power center of the firm. And so what that means is a lot of the decisions are coming out of the main office.
So the partners and the branch offices many times are just hired from local firms that may have been rated when that, when they wanted to set up a firm, when they wanted us to have an office there. And those partners may feel very [00:20:00] little control over their compensation another aspects of things of their lives.
And so there's actually more insecurity among partners, branch offices partners and branch offices also tend to not have come up through the ecosystem. So they'd never started as associates. They were hired laterally. And so those types of attorneys were unhappy. The previous firm, they're more likely to be unhappy at their current firm and leave.
And so that's another thing to think about. And a lot of times partners in the branch offices just never feel like they're part of the real firm. They almost feel like they're hired guns and this isn't always the case. Of course, especially. Major law firms with major branch offices, but it definitely can happen.
And it main office partners will often deny it. But a lot of these branch offices do have what I would consider a second class citizens. And and there's a lot of sometimes resentment and insecurity. And then another issue is that the branch office partners, and again, this is not always the case, but as a general rule, you're more likely to get unreliable lateral partners with a history of leading firms.
Then you may end the branch office. The branch office [00:21:00] typically has a lot more hiring part power and so forth. Then the then the than the, less hiring part power than the main office. And so they, the branch offices typically have a harder time attracting the same talent as the main office may.
And and then because they're hiring a lot of times, lateral partners, a lot of the lateral partners that are hired will go there representing that they have a certain amount of business. The business may not always materialize. And then when the business doesn't materialize then those partners will be insecure.
They won't have work. The associates won't have work and it can be a CATA environment for associates and other. And for career advancement, so that's also a negative thing. And then finally a lot of branch offices never make partner. This is, I don't know if this is the case anymore.
But Simpson Thatcher as an example, which is a great law firm and just, and has never had the need to make people partner and it's Los Angeles office. It's nothing wrong with that. But certainly the partners there from New York and connect to others in power.
And then of course not all branch offices of largest hellish firms have these problems. A lot from bending existence over 50 [00:22:00] years, some of the branch offices or of law firms are considered even better than the main office. It, it doesn't really matter Quinn Emanuel is an example and change his power center from LA to arguably New York.
And it doesn't, a lot of the law firms can be can get can become very powerful as branch offices and just not always the case. And they can always, sometimes they can grow very aggressively. It just depends on who they hire and that sort of thing. Then the next option of course, is mid-size firms.
There's a lot of different types of midsize firms but in general, midsize firms are going to be found in the most regional markets. They offer a lot of advantages from a happiness perspective and the style of life perspective the ability to advance in your career. I think that midsize firms are great.
I think that attorneys are often very happy there. They can often have very good careers inside of mid-sized firms. And I think it's a lot of the attorneys that don't get into major firms get jobs at mid-sized firms and end up being very happy and staying there.
I think people tend to stay much longer at midsize firms. I think that people have [00:23:00] much more options, many more options to advance in midsize firms. And I think it's the general rule. I think a lot of the careers are more they have longer careers and so I've noticed that many times attorneys that joined mid sized firms will join those firms out of law school.
They may not have been at the top of their law score, whatever. And if they're stable people and they commit to the law firm, they're often practicing at those law firms a decade later. And in contrast, I've noticed that if an attorney goes to a top law school and gets really good grades, for example, and goes to work at an at large international firm, the odds are very good.
They won't be practicing there. So I think that from a style of life standpoint, and also for us from a career stability standpoint and for the idea of sticking with. The law firm for a long period of time. I think that many times mid-sized firms are good places. And I think that what happens in larger firms too, is that larger firms will often because there's so many applicants and so forth, they'll often develop cutoffs.
So law schools do this too. So like the top 10 [00:24:00] law schools will have these kinds of cutoffs where they're all looking for the same people, which are, don't know, one 70 and your L side with 3.7 grade point average and look use those as cutoffs for the most part. Or I dunno if that's the correct number, but some law school admissions name is telling me that not too long ago that's whoever one's looking for, people above that.
Law firms are the same. They have the major law firms, the largest ones will have grade cutoffs per school. They'll have all sorts of screening mechanisms and things. Whereas a mid-sized law firm may not. That's one thing also a mid-sized law firm may not pay as much or have as much opportunity, but they they, their clients are, they want their client, they want stability.
They're less they're not working for large faceless, huge corporations or as big as corporations. And they typically will do more of an effort sometimes to keep people around and to protect the people that are there. Their clients are often less demanding. And then. They're just often very good places to work.
I can't say enough good things about them. I deal with these types of firms at these firms all the time and whether it's in Rochester or Las Vegas, Sacramento, and [00:25:00] orange county and all these sorts of markets. And and I can tell you from the, been doing this a long time, I've found that most of the time, these attorneys are much happier and seemed much more balanced and more secure in their jobs.
And a lot of times the attorneys in the largest park it's now, I don't know why that is. I could give you a lot of reasons that I suspect it is. I think it's probably because they don't pay as much and there's not as many people that can replace the people with the clients probably aren't as demanding the the partners themselves aren't as trying to make as much money.
I don't know. But I do know that when I talk to these attorneys, they seem more committed to the practice of law. They seem less talking about how they need to go in house. They seem less stress. Often much money is not the first thing they think about. So they think about that.
So there's just a lot of positive things that come about. It's not always the case. But as a general rule that's true. And of course there's large, there's mid-size firms in large cities as well. And they're in New York or in Los Angeles and Chicago. And it's the same thing.
[00:26:00] I think that there's also often a lot more employments to security there. And many times better work environments. And then at the largest law firms in those cities now, again, I'm not, I can't lump every large law firm into that and I can't lump every mid-sized law firm into that. I'm talking about generalities.
There are some mid-sized law firms in LA that are considered just some of the worst places in the world to work in. And there's also some large law firms in LA that are considered great places to work in. But it's just, it's it depends, but unproductive partners, many times mid-sized law firms are often kept on much longer after they would have been let go and larger firms.
And in addition mid sized law firms also tend to have lower billing rates. So it's easier for younger clients or younger attorneys to bring in business younger attorneys and midsize firms often also get better experience. So they are able to make, do things earlier and often they'll actively involve you in business development activities and take an interest in showing you how to generate business.
So I was talking to a midsize, a very well-known mid-size law firm in LA recently. And their pitch was [00:27:00] pretty good. It was like, we have this, we have all these different niches and corporate law and so forth. And we actually show our junior and mid-level attorneys, how to go out and bring in clients.
And they were serious about it. They had this whole system, they followed and they would show them how to go develop their books of business. And then I had a an attorney that works for me and went to Berkeley on full scholarship for law school. And he worked for me before he went to law school and he joined them right out of I think firms called Sheppard Mullin, but he joined them right out of law school and became a partner there, several years later and stayed there and he was very happy.
And so I think that, mid-sized firms can be great places. And and in these firms I think a lot of times people feel like they're family as opposed to being just treated as workers or commodities that are easily replaceable with a shelf limited shelf life and so forth. And the law firm actually wants to see them grow.
And and of course there's drawbacks. A lot of them pay less the law firm that I mentioned Chevron Mullen, I don't think does, but a lot of them do. And sometimes for the most part, they're not going to have access to the most sophisticated work. So the largest law firms will often have [00:28:00] access to the most sophisticated work.
They'll often have a very difficult time remaining competitive in their respective markets. And some are going to be overly dependent on a few clients for their work. So that's also part of it. And it's generally going to be very difficult to move from a mid-size firm. But not that difficult, depending your practice area to move from a mid-size to a large firm, but it depends on the economy and the practice area.
So right now, if you're in a mid sized law firm doing corporate you're not going to have too much of a difficulty. If you had a very prestigious litigation mid-sized law firm and you have great qualifications, you're not going to have too much problems, but it just always depends. But these firms will always provide stability for associates many times to move much more so than a lot of smaller firms.
And and just, as I have said, several times, I find the attorneys there much more much happier most of the time, but not all the time. And then they are in a lot of larger firms and some of these firms also have very well known niche practices. So in in big cities, there's [00:29:00] always a bunch of them that may do real estate or IP and so forth.
And the biggest drawback of those firms though, is that they're always at risk of merging so they could theoretically they could merge into a larger law firm if they get very good in their niche or if they they have the quality of attorneys that you would find in the larger law firm.
And the quality of clients they're always under assault and people are trying to merge them. They're trying to pick off their partners. And there's always discussions about merging so far. So you, it, depending on the firm, you may actually have a lot less employment stability there because there is a lot of pressure on the midsize firms, especially the good ones to merge, but it all depends on the practice here.
And it depends on the management. There's a lot of midsize firms that say they would never merge some of them sometimes that's true other times it's not. So it just depends. The other thing is a boutique law firms. They can often offer significant advantages. These firms are more likely to get exposure to clients and and the people that work there the attorneys there better experience in their career the attorneys will often [00:30:00] also get more interesting work than they might otherwise get in a larger firm.
And the attorneys at smaller law firms may also get closer to partners and others in charge and and have very good long-term relationships. So a lot of people become very interested in working at a boutique firm. And when you use the term boutique, really what you're talking about are from.
Are very well-respected for whatever they do and they're small. But there's also often a lot of disadvantages to working in boutique firms. And I'll talk about that because it can be very risky depending on the boutique firm. Depending on the firm. Sometimes they have very good names.
They've been around a long time. But their work may also be generated by just a few attorneys as opposed to a team of attorney. So if you go to a firm with eight people in it, and there's two names on the letterhead, maybe one or two of those names would be the ones that are generating all the business.
So that can lead to issues. The people that are generating the work in boutique firms will often be want to take all the money that's coming in. So there's not a lot of opportunity for for new partners unless you're bringing in your own work. So if you go to work in a major national law [00:31:00] firm, that's doing a lot of work for giant national clients.
What'll happen is just the work from those clients will create a partnership opportunities, even if you don't have business which is nice, but but a lot of these boutique firms you will need business. And and then one of the things that I've noticed, I see boutique firm start and go out of business all the time.
And usually the reason is. It's always a money issue. So partners, the people in the boutique firms that the partners will fight over the money that's there or not enough money will come in more times than not there's fighting over the money. And the work environment can often become abrasive.
In the firm, the firms can break up, people can lose their jobs, the firms can go away. All sorts of things can happen. And again, the ones that have been around a long time, there's some very good ones that doesn't necessarily happen and be making a partner in a a large boutique firm can often not always, but be more difficult because again, a large law firm can make you a partner, even if you don't have business because they're institutional clients but smaller law firms don't have this luxury.
So you're going to need to learn how to make an economic contribution to grow the [00:32:00] firm, which is usually going to be they're doing things like bringing in clients for the most part. And these boutique firms will often pay a lot less in larger law firms and this pay gap can be massive.
You may be talking about 50% of the salary of a large law firms sometimes. And so it's hard for these boutique firms unless they have very sophisticated work from some clients it's very hard for them to attract top talent. But there are some, there's cheek firms. I saw this one in, I think it was in Minnesota the other day that had all these.
People that went to Yale doing appellate work. I couldn't believe it. And it was in Minnesota of all places. So there's very good ones all over the country. There's good ones in almost every city out there. But but a lot of times the people that are working there may be in danger of losing their jobs, if the cases go away.
And I've seen a lot of them lay off other associates. I've seen a lot of times these boutique firms will have lower billing rates and they'll pay less because the clients can pressure them. And and sometimes because they're smaller the clients will also give them problems with collections and this will create compensation [00:33:00] issues for the people there.
And then finally it can be very difficult for attorneys to lateral up and move to better firms, unless it's a very good a boutique firm. And there are some, by the way, they have incredible names. There are there are in every practice area, whether it's IP or healthcare there's ones that can be very good.
And the problem, but teak firms which is also a strength is that sometimes the training can be very good. So you could go to work at a boutique firm where you might be working for someone directly that is just an incredible attorney with a very good reputation. Or you could go to boutique firm where.
You're working for someone or you're, that doesn't have a good reputation is teaching you bad habits and so forth. The training can be all over the map. The larger law firms and the training that happens there is often a much more trusted than a boutique firm, but that's not always the case.
And again, there are some very good boutique firms out there. The point is that everyone knows that if you spend several years in Skadden you're going to come out and, have a very good understanding of whatever branch of law you're in. It had been taught very good habits.
But you're you also that may not happen in a boutique firm. They're not, the name [00:34:00] may not be as well known. It may be in an island locally, but it may not be known in other parts of the, the country what happens all the time. I would not daily, but pretty much daily and most major cities is dissatisfied partners from a major law firms will break off and start their own boutiques.
They may bring an associate or two partners may break off with one client and so forth and try to start a boutique. And the problem with that is. There's really nothing wrong with that. You can certainly do very well if you join one of these takes. But when when a new firm is starting like this the people that are starting, it don't have experience necessarily running a law firm or a business.
And and so they suddenly need to do all the work that is, whether it's leasing real estate or bringing in clients or collections and all the stuff that the firm may have done for them before. And so that can be very difficult. So I've seen lots of boutique firms, people with people breaking off a major firms, they get started and then they go out of business.
But then again most this is the important thing to understand. Most major law firms [00:35:00] started off as boutique firms. So if you get in the right boutique firm at the right time, you can have a great ride and be part of a huge national law firm eventually. And when I joined I joined a firm that became a a major national law firm that was fairly small at the time, so it can happen to a lot of people.
The next thing is FA newer, fast growing firms. So a newer, fast growing firm would be just a brand new firm that started sometimes you'll hear about them. They're pretty much in most major markets. They will generally create a buzz and you'll hear about them and they'll have a new way of marketing themselves, and everyone will start thinking about joining them.
They will they, many of them will become. Large law firms, they typically will have some sort of thing that sounds great about them. Whether it's, you can come to work in shorts or everyone, there's no titles, everyone's a partner. Who knows, but they always have these different kinds of ways of appealing to clients.
They'll talk about different ways of billing or that they're just it's never changing. It's always in the same, but they'll grow somehow. They'll grow based on being very good in a certain practice and so forth. And and the thing is that the law firms [00:36:00] growth is well managed.
The attorneys are, can be advanced rapidly. They can have access to lots of work and they've been given responsibility that they wouldn't otherwise have been given. And and that's great. So that's. And I think a lot of times people will like those firms and I'm in the, and the growth of the firm is generally going to occur because the firm is doing something right that the market needs whether that means that they're generating money from it or, creating an advancement or doing something that's a little bit different.
And and then people like on the negative side it's very common for these firms to collapse because a lot of times when they're newer and fast growing running a firm as a business, so one of the reasons it's so hard to make partner and to get ahead and to get jobs at the largest law firms is because they have all these systems in place.
And smaller law firms, especially new ones need to learn how to set up those systems. And the law firms will not necessarily have the skills needed to grow and manage them. And therefore it's common for them in fizzle out. And a lot of these law firms will fail and not succeed.
And and if you join one of them you may have issues. Certainly you could you're good have problems in your career. But the other thing [00:37:00] that happens is as the law firm becomes more successful, people will leave sometimes large law firms to join them with the expectation of quick rewards and becoming a partner and sharing in the profits.
The people there as you become successful will suddenly want share the profits. And then a lot of times what happens is the place that joined that was all fun to begin with becomes toxic and ends up disbanding. And these firms can also become very overextended they'll lease very fancy office space and stuff.
They'll hire more people that they can afford. The work quality will suffer and and the clients won't pay and people will stop, the they'll have other problems, the financial problems will start. And then these firms will often merge into other firms. So this is a Sally the different the chart that I promised you at the beginning of the webinar you can see here that the pros of the main offices of the large firms your best opportunities are basically there.
The prestige, the work, the salaries, the training there's a lot of advantages. The brand names can make rainmaking easier. You can [00:38:00] have not only ability to lateral other firms, but if you ever want to go in house, it can be much easier. In house from a main office of a large established firm because the in-house company is also buying that name.
So they'll think why are attorneys from this big firm? And, maybe they couldn't the that. So there's definitely a lot of advantages to working in the largest law firms. The cons are typically that you're, because of their salaries, they can hire a lot of people and they don't need to provide you job security.
They don't have to advance you because they can hire people, even if, without advancing them. The partners, it's very difficult for partners in many times to to keep business and to generate business because of the the amount of work and so forth that there could be a lot of unhappiness for the people there.
The saying dehumanizing conditions isn't necessarily accurate, but when I say dehumanizing conditions, I mean that people that are working, 16, 18 hours a day for months on end seven days a week, consider that dehumanizing. You can look at that a lot of different ways.
It could be, they're getting really good experience, but, it's, it depends on how you think about it. They also can [00:39:00] often be quite political bureaucratic and impersonal, meaning by impersonal meaning the law firm doesn't necessarily need you and and the bureaucratic nature can make it many times an unpleasant place for some people that want that more human connection and want to feel connected to the organization.
But at the same time, the benefits, especially when you're young and starting your career can be very good. The branch offices of firms are often, but not always less political. It can be much easier to get hired at the branch office because the people hiring you are often also laterals and they could become power centers and thrive.
They can also often be you can also often get or become a partner much easier there if they need to make them for whatever for certain reasons, just for appearances sake. But the big problems with branch offices are, they can often close down very quick. There can often be very limited advancement opportunities.
The work is often you're not many times not going to be working for the same clients. The most sophisticated clients and work may go to the main office. The work can be chaotic due to partners that were [00:40:00] hired laterally that don't always work out and may want to leave again. And and then you may sometimes depending on the branch office, you may feel like a second citizen and a second rate citizen.
I did talk a lot about mid-size firms. I like mid-size firms. I think that from what I've seen there tends to be a lot of more stability there than that even boutique firms and smaller firms and fast-growing firms. But they are often in danger of merging which I think is which especially in keeps happening.
I think that they often provide a lot more job security while they are number driven. I think it's less and I think that they're often we'll work on a lower salary salaries, less important things. And so a lot of times people did not like them.
And then talked a lot about boutique firms and th the, boutique firms, a big thing, I would say there is, it really depends on the boutique and the practice area that it's in and the location and the history. So if you take all that into account it may be a good place.
There's some very good boutiques, for example, and maybe an employment. There's some very good plaintiff's boutiques. There's some very good boutiques for different types of for [00:41:00] all sorts of different types of law. Depending on the firm, the boutique may be your absolute best option to join.
And there can be some, you can also work sometimes with some very good attorneys there, and then newer, fast growing firms can be an incredible opportunity they're in every city. So if you do a search for a news articles and try to read about new firms or new, started by people breaking off from different firms and so forth you can often find those firms they can offer you very exciting work.
They can often be much easier to get hired at. They can offer more advancement opportunities many times because they don't have everything and stone and and they can often end up being very successful. The drawback of any law firm that's a boutique. I knew her fast-growing from many times is that people that are running them often do not have the managerial skills to do so they don't make the right business decisions. They will not always do them with committees and so forth. They can be vulnerable to mergers. But a lot of times it's a business decision and the ways of thinking about business and matters that can [00:42:00] actually end up hurting the firm and hurting your prospects there.
And it's not that the people there are doing anything wrong, it's just that they haven't had the opportunity to learn how to do things, attorneys make decisions and they make them they can have the types of decisions you make can have a massive impact on your career.
I've given you a little bit to think about, and I would argue that that even despite what I've said, there's a lot more that you could think about in terms of everything that I've said, because every firm and every city has a. A lot of a lot to teach and a lot can happen. One example is Meg Whitman.
She joined eBay when it was the top player in the online auction space, meaning it was already very successful. It was already growing very fast. Its user base was growing. It was a great business model, had a huge number of users. And and she got a great example because she was there while all this was happening.
But honestly I mean she, I'm sure she's a great executive, but the company was growing regardless of whether or not she was there more and more people were coming onboard to trade. Everyone was, it was the only game in town and so [00:43:00] forth. And it wasn't her idea to start the company and it was already growing like crazy when she got there, but she got all the credit.
And she got the reputation for being this incredible leader because she happened to be there. When this company was exploding and already doing well Marissa Meyer, she was a Google when it was already also growing. She was one of the first people there. So she had those, a lot of credit that she gets for that.
And and, but it was already getting a massive amount of market share. And she got the reputation for being an incredible executive because she was at the company while it was growing, which was based on an algorithm. And know the, a lot of reasons Google group, but obviously just the most popular search engine.
It wasn't her idea to start the company. And the company was hard to growing when she got there and she got the reputation for being an incredible. Because she was there and but the second chapter of both these careers turned out differently both of them ended up joining comedies or problems, and neither was able to turn these companies around because they didn't cause the problems and they didn't cause a success, their existing companies when they were there.
Anyway. They both Russ Meyer, Chris joined a Yahoo that continued to have problems. And I [00:44:00] think Meg Whitman joined HP unbelief. And but anyway, they w they everyone thought that they, when they joined these companies, that their presence would suddenly make these companies go turn around and their stock prices rose as if they had caused the success of their previous companies.
And and they had great reputations when they were growing companies that were growing long before they got there, but they lost their reputations when they are unable to fix a sink and ship. Not that they are necessarily caused the problems that happened and they shouldn't have, but but then of course, webinar after webinars started describing the weaknesses and shortfalls of these executives.
So the thing is that you can start your career at a fast, moving from a great firm or a one that's growing. And in your success, as an attorney will often be dependent on the type of firm you join. And it's very interesting, like what'll ha what happens to you will often be caused by the management of the firm, though.
That are made by other people, by people bringing in clients by the capital work you're given by the opportunities you're given. All these things will determine what happens to you. It's not necessarily [00:45:00] you, that's making things happen. It's your decision about where to join? So Marissa Meyer, great decision to join Google.
Same thing would make Whitman, probably not as good a decision to join these failing companies or companies that were going down. So you need to be in the right environment. I've done a lot of presentations and articles about environments before. So I have another one called union. Something about, you need to find your tribe and all sorts of things, but your decision about what type of employer to join is huge.
It's one of the most important decisions you will make in your career. It's it's hugely important. One of the things I counsel people against, but of course it's not always a bad decision, but I see people going house all the time. And what happens when people go in house is the management of companies changes.
Like clockwork. It's, if some companies go through three or four CEO's in a year or, or they keep changing. And when the CEO changes, they often get, they push out the legal department and a new CEO brings in their own legal department. And it's just, all these changes happen that you can't control in house.
And the resumes of [00:46:00] people that go in house are typically littered with company after company, after period of unemployment after a period of unemployment and move from state to state. And, and that's not always the case of course, and not everything ends up that way, but sometimes the company you joined because you don't have control over it, it can be very harmful.
It's the same thing with law firms. If you join a the wrong law firm, all sorts of bad things can happen to you. You can end up in a very bad position. You can, you can you can, lose your job. You can have a very bad experience practicing law.
You can be a very unhappy and not want to practice law anymore, or it could be the opposite. You could end up having a great experience and being very happy. And and sticking with a practice law and sticking with a firm you're out for the rest of your career. It's the people that around that end up shaping you and it's the organization you're part of that ends up shaping you.
And this is what I think is one of the things that I think is just hugely important because if you're joining a large law firm and you're unhappy, they're like, what does that, what is the taste that leaves in your mouth about practicing law? How much does it make you want to continue practicing law?
How much does that want to make you join a new [00:47:00] firm? Or if you joined a mid-sized firm and you have a very good experience and you stay there, how much does that make you want to stay practicing law? So I think that the decision you make is massively important. Now, one thing I did say in this webinar that I don't think it's always true is that a lot of times people join these huge firms and have very dehumanizing experiences.
And that simply is not the case for tons and tons of firms. I know people that have joined, every one of the top 10 largest and most prestigious firms in the country that have had incredible great experiences there. Cause those dependent on the practice group you're with it's depends on the people you're with is dependent on all these different factors.
And so those factors will make a massive impact on how you feel like who you're working with whether or not you feel a sense of commonality with them, whether or not you feel. But they're not the work's interesting to you, whether or not you feel raised up by the environment or pushed down by the environment.
I had this experience several years ago and it was it taught me a lot and I really thought a lot about it. And I've been thinking about it, like in a [00:48:00] bunch of different ways since but I went to this that I was invited to this dinner in Beverly Hills or something by this guy that had had spent he, he started these will estate seminar companies or something that I didn't know about, but someone else that I knew invited me to this.
And he wanted to sit down and talk to everyone about after he sold these real estate companies, real estate seminar companies, which I think he did for a lot of money, like hundreds of millions of dollars. He wanted to figure out the meaning of life and went and spent I dunno, several years, like traveling the world and going to meeting with the Dalai Lama and all these kinds of the Pope and all these, big kind of I don't know if you know the Pope, but all of these big religious people and gurus in India and stuff, because he wanted to figure out like what it all means and what is the big meaning?
And self-improvement if thing that I don't know, but he spent all this time studying this. And so what he eventually his message was, and it took me a while to figure it out. And actually then I had a lunch later on with someone that worked for him. Cause I was trying to figure out what it is, but basically the [00:49:00] idea was.
That the people become are happy and successful. And and in bridge, depending on the groups of people and the type of people they spend their time with, which I thought was very interesting. That was his whole religious message, but he come up with, and so it's like that with the employer you join.
So your career is going to be really defined and you will be happy or successful or not successful depending on the types of people and group you spend your time with. And it doesn't mean that a boutique firm is better than a major law firm or a major law firm is better than a mid-size or vice versa, but it means that finding that right mix of what works for you is extremely important.
I thought that was very interesting then, the other thing I thought about was it was the whole idea of no wires. People are so concerned about colleges. Why are people so concerned about law schools and why are people so concerned about all this stuff? Like, why does the law school, you went to matter?
Why does the, you know, why does the college you went to, why does the law firm you work for matters? And I think the reason it matters and and I never really understood it, I think for one [00:50:00] part, I think people, there's an ego thing that I think people think, oh, if I go to this school, it means I'm, there's something inherently better about me than if I go somewhere else.
But I don't think it's necessarily that I think what it's ultimately about is the people that you're around. So if you go to. If you go to Stanford law school, you're going to be around very smart people that are going to think about the world in a certain way. That's probably going to be a lot different than people that are going to think about the world.
If you go to a a small loss from a small law school. And I don't, I'm not gonna say anything negative about any law school, but a small law, local law school in some city. Because those people that are going to small local law school or working at night, maybe they're trying to get ahead and there, they have certain views about their career as a people that are going to maybe Stanford or thinking about their career and their future and what they're going to do in a lot different way.
Just as someone that goes to Yale law school they come out and they think what's the most important thing for them. And what's the most acceptable is to, do public interest work and to maybe teach or be a [00:51:00] judge or to go into politics or do all these sorts of things where someone that goes to Michigan or Virginia.
And I think the most important thing is to work at a big law firm in New York or Washington DC on average. So the people that you're around are really going to affect the type of person you become and the type of law firm you're in is going to affect the type of person you become and how happy you are practicing law.
When you interview at a law firm one thing that I think is always important to ask whether it's a large firm or a small firm or anything is to say. You know what happened to the, who's, what do people tend to do when they leave here? What's happened to the last couple of people that have left and understanding what people do.
Once they leave a firm is very important because because sometimes people will leave and have horrible experiences and other times people will leave and go on to better things and they'll be very happy or sometimes people will rarely leave. So understanding, like what is that environment do to the people that work there?
Obviously Stanford law school probably does something different to people. And [00:52:00] then then NYU, where everyone from NYU would love to go to work in a big New York law firm. People from Stanford are gonna grow, it's just, it's dependent on the environment that you're in same thing with law firms.
And so that's something that I would recommend thinking about and just really doing your best to find the type of law firm that matters. That makes the most sense to you. So I will take a quick break just for a couple of maybe one or two minutes. And then when I come back, I'll ask answer questions about this or anything you would like to know about your career.
And and typically when we do these questions, we stay for the whole as long as people have questions. We'll do that and I will be back and just a couple minutes.
Okay, so let's get started now with questions. I'm just going to stop the share real quick. Why open a word document? Can you give me a second here? I'm going to see. And this is my favorite part of the week is answering these questions. So I love the questions, any questions you guys have? So I'm going to start with the last, most recent question. most recent question is this probably a pretty [00:53:00] popular question and foreign lawyers work in the us without an LLM and are taking the bar exam. And the answer to that is not as an attorney.
So you cannot work as an attorney in the U S as within, without an a