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Old 28-11-2022, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
To all the young lawyers or lawyers to be dreaming about the big international firm move. I hope to offer you some perspective.

In terms of background, I am an oxbridge grad and a former JLC. I joined the disputes team in a JLV in a very prominent international firm after my JLC stint. The firm I joined was known for having the cream of the crop, many other JLCs were in the team apart from me.

It started enough. The salary was great - 20k+ even as a fairly junior associate. Fairly good work as there was an SC, and the network was also helpful in providing work.

Unfortunately, the firm then underwent a redirection where profitability took on paramount importance. The disputes team had expanded to more than 20 members, all high paying, and it was difficult to justify that continued expense. Soon, we heard of some more senior members being asked to leave, some were sent on secondment to be put on pasture. We were told to keep our head down and we would be taken care of amidst all of this.

But as things transpired, the axe ultimately fell. A few of us were told individually that the firm could no longer sustain all of us. We were given some time to find an alternative practice or to in house, and to be fair if the preference was for the latter, the partner did his best to assist with referrals and connections.

It was a sobering experience - from feeling like the cream of the crop all my career to being discarded. By this time I was a fairly senior associate, and it was difficult to find any firm willing to take anywhere near my salary. The Big 4 generally prefer to promote and push up their own associates. International firm roles at this seniority in disputes are few and far between. As for smaller firms, the conversation always becomes about how much book once had. How good I am with the law, or the fact I am JLC, didn't seem to matter.

A few of us ended up at a mid size firm to some media attention. It was a sobering experience. Apart from the lower salary, the "local" way of dong things, the lack of international standards, even the reduced insurance coverage, made me feel like a fish outside water. The quality of work is also greatly diminished.

This is not so much a lament but a caution to all the younger lawyers out there. Don't be taken in by cravath rates. Economics always dictate in the end. The right question is - how can the firm afford my 35k/m salary, and what are the prospects for me 5 years down, or even next year?
International firms are much more ruthless and usually have an "up or out" culture. That's how they stay so profitable in the first place. Unlike local firms, they don't promote you to partner just because you have reached a certain seniority and are reasonably competent. Nor can they afford to keep around a bunch of expensive senior associates indefinitely. So they will periodically cull their ranks and keep only the best, with the merely average (or even above average) being managed out.

That doesn't mean international firms are a bad place to be in, though. Even in the Big 4, there is no guarantee of making EP just because you reach a certain level of seniority. So you are better off going to an international firms, making a ton of money for X years, and then moving back to whichever local firm will take you once you reach your expiry date.
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