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  #3031 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 04:54 PM
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I am not sure if you're working in the legal industry but the negative vibe stems from the nature of work involved and the fact that hours/salary, you're getting peanuts.

So what does the work entails? Why is it so bad? You can ask your friends in law but they include things like carrying boxes to courtroom as trainees, comparing word for word if two documents are different and counting the number of pages in a document manually.

There is no glam factor. As one poster has said, the banker completes the deal at 8pm then calls you in to handle the paper work before popping champagne with the client at after party. You are at their whim and fancy, and are expected to work round the clock to make sure the piece of work gets done. You don't get involved in any strategic or execution work unlike consultants and the corporate staff who implement them, you just make sure their memos are fine. You aren't a player, you are that kid who carries the ball for the golfers (entrepreneurs, corporate bosses) to play ball while at the same time having to take orders from their managers (bankers) and staff (corporate executives).
I have been reading this thread from the beginning and saw many comments like this where junior lawyers (particularly in the Big 4?) say they do very menial work. My question then is this - after 3 PQE, what makes them attractive to other firms as lateral hires?

Everyone says at the big firms you are but a cog in the wheel, but on the other hand this must give you greater exposure to more complex cases. Or is it really the case after 3 years you learn nothing (but how to check punctuation and carry boxes?!) Then why do international firms only hire from 'reputable' firms, when they know their associates have not done much? Or is it you only do menial work in the 1st year?

I ask because I just finished my RLT at a smallish firm and have been considering my future. Like many trainees in small firms I did "substantive" legal work like drafting submissions and affidavits (which may or may not be used la). Of course, our files are at a very different level from the big firms. But does this score any points in the next firm if I am looking to move up, as compared to Big 4 associates who apparently only do menial work? Then again, will I always be at a disadvantage because I dont have a brand name on my CV?

To the seniors out there, any thoughts on this? Any advice on how I may plan my progression / work to distinguish myself and gain employability?

So in summary my questions are
1. Why do big firms consider hiring 3 PQE associates from other big firms? If I'm from a small firm, would the bigger firms consider my experience in working files and hire me?
2. Any advice on how I can move from a small firm to a big firm?

Many thanks!

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  #3032 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 05:47 PM
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I have been reading this thread from the beginning and saw many comments like this where junior lawyers (particularly in the Big 4?) say they do very menial work. My question then is this - after 3 PQE, what makes them attractive to other firms as lateral hires?

Everyone says at the big firms you are but a cog in the wheel, but on the other hand this must give you greater exposure to more complex cases. Or is it really the case after 3 years you learn nothing (but how to check punctuation and carry boxes?!) Then why do international firms only hire from 'reputable' firms, when they know their associates have not done much? Or is it you only do menial work in the 1st year?

I ask because I just finished my RLT at a smallish firm and have been considering my future. Like many trainees in small firms I did "substantive" legal work like drafting submissions and affidavits (which may or may not be used la). Of course, our files are at a very different level from the big firms. But does this score any points in the next firm if I am looking to move up, as compared to Big 4 associates who apparently only do menial work? Then again, will I always be at a disadvantage because I dont have a brand name on my CV?

To the seniors out there, any thoughts on this? Any advice on how I may plan my progression / work to distinguish myself and gain employability?

So in summary my questions are
1. Why do big firms consider hiring 3 PQE associates from other big firms? If I'm from a small firm, would the bigger firms consider my experience in working files and hire me?
2. Any advice on how I can move from a small firm to a big firm?

Many thanks!
The answer is very simple: law is a prestige-driven industry, from client-to-lawyer, and between lawyer-to-lawyer.

The truth of the matter is there's not very much difference in the quality of LEGAL services between Big 4 LLP and Mid-tier LLP. Of course let's not compare with Chinatown LLP (where there is a tangible difference).

For the difference in price point, the client essentially getting (1) brand name, (2) 24-hour customer service. If you're the GC of the company, you will engage Big 4 external counsel to CYA (cover your a ss when things go wrong so that you don't get blamed for hiring incompetent externals).

Why do you think there's an inordinate number of legal directories ranking lawyers and law firms for every tom dick and harry area of practice? Because there's no other way to distinguish them! The other alternative is for the GC to just go to his law school friend who is a partner of so-and-so firm.

This illusion of prestige = quality trickles down to the hiring process, where the HR and hiring partners only go for candidates who have bigger names on your resume.

Most of the time, the actual Human Resources screeners at big firms are not legally trained. They are generically-trained ops people/support staff. They don't actually know the substance of your actual LEGAL experience and work. They probably have a general idea of the difference between different areas of practice, but they don't actually know, know what lawyers do. They are trained to filter CVs based on brand names only.

Its only when a candidate actually speaks to the actual LEGALLY-trained partner in the practice group / department he's hoping to get hired in, that the partner can actually see through whether a candidate's experience is fluff /BS or substantive, eg whether "assisted in $500m IPO" actually meant he was punching holes in the prospectus.

Unfortunately, much of the time, HR screeners are your only way to get your foot in the door.

To answer your questions, if you are disadvantaged coming from a mid-tier/small no-brand-name firm, you need to home in on your ACTUAL substantive experience. I'd say is 50% luck (luck meaning luck of opportunity, good timing and warm contacts). If you actually have a point-of-contact inside the firm, your chances are much better as you can impress the person responsible / partially-responsible for making the hiring decision.

If you don't its tougher but opportunities arise as and when. You just need to be mindful that by virtue of the HR screening process, you take far longer for your CV to get a 2nd look than someone whose CV screams "worked in Big 4 LLP: Legal 500 top ranked firm in XYZ practice area".

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  #3033 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 08:22 PM
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To #3033, thank you for your insightful answer! I am much encouraged.

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  #3034 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 08:29 PM
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Excellent discussion above.

Just to add why big four, baker, cc, has better mobility at the top to other internationals.
Just put it this way, law is still a prestige profession.

Within the industry, there are roughly 5 tiers of lawyers
(1) Chinatown, Telok Ayer, Aldephi law firms
(2) Small mid size (30-40 plus ppl)
(3) Large mid size (90-100 ppl)
(4) Big 4 + rodyk
(5) Baker, CC

Letís say from (1) you want to move to (5), very impossible.
Simply cos (5) hires based on reputation. At the end of the day they need to report to global situated at UK/US on their hiring profile. It always adds to the ranking if they hire someone from a reputable name / branding.

Thatís why once you go to a small firm, you usually end up in a small firm for the rest of your life or you prob can level up 1-2 notch, so Chinatown May jump to large mid size. But thatís about it. There are exceptions.
E.g now you donít have connections but maybe by marriage you end up having one then the rule doesnít apply.

Technically above tier 5, there are the true internationals, like Cravath, Simpson, Milbank that pays the truly top salary in the world, but would it be possible for tier 1 to jump there?
No. Even though you do more substantive work in Chinatown firms, but the work that big firms do - the deal size is so huge that even if you punch holes, check document for clause number referencing only, itís still a completely different exposure from what an associate in tier 1-3 does.
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  #3035 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 08:38 PM
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Excellent discussion above.

Just to add why big four, baker, cc, has better mobility at the top to other internationals.
Just put it this way, law is still a prestige profession.

Within the industry, there are roughly 5 tiers of lawyers
(1) Chinatown, Telok Ayer, Aldephi law firms
(2) Small mid size (30-40 plus ppl)
(3) Large mid size (90-100 ppl)
(4) Big 4 + rodyk
(5) Baker, CC

Letís say from (1) you want to move to (5), very impossible.
Simply cos (5) hires based on reputation. At the end of the day they need to report to global situated at UK/US on their hiring profile. It always adds to the ranking if they hire someone from a reputable name / branding.

Thatís why once you go to a small firm, you usually end up in a small firm for the rest of your life or you prob can level up 1-2 notch, so Chinatown May jump to large mid size. But thatís about it. There are exceptions.
E.g now you donít have connections but maybe by marriage you end up having one then the rule doesnít apply.

Technically above tier 5, there are the true internationals, like Cravath, Simpson, Milbank that pays the truly top salary in the world, but would it be possible for tier 1 to jump there?
No. Even though you do more substantive work in Chinatown firms, but the work that big firms do - the deal size is so huge that even if you punch holes, check document for clause number referencing only, itís still a completely different exposure from what an associate in tier 1-3 does.
Its inaccurate to lump baker with the likes of cc.


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  #3036 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 08:43 PM
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Its inaccurate to lump baker with the likes of cc.
Baker and CC are the same in terms of standing and reputation when a SG qualified lawyer from there wants to move over to Milbank, Cravath, STB.
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  #3037 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 10:21 PM
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Recently was talking to a couple of my associates

Some of my female associates were telling me that they wanted to date as many guys and choose the best.

Was quite surprised cos in my generation, you just date one, try to iron out your differences and get married.

I think what people donít realize is that once you want to keep choosing and nitpicking, by the time youíre 30, you end up not married.
Thatís why you feel frustrated, you keep drinking, binge eating and go out of shape.

My advice to associates out there - settle down early. Donít keep choosing or waiting for the right one to come. There isnít a right person.
Itís about working it out together.
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  #3038 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 10:47 PM
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Baker and CC are the same in terms of standing and reputation when a SG qualified lawyer from there wants to move over to Milbank, Cravath, STB.
I am doubtful of that.
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  #3039 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 11:31 PM
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Baker and CC are the same in terms of standing and reputation when a SG qualified lawyer from there wants to move over to Milbank, Cravath, STB.
Disagree. Milbank, Cravath etc. are US firms which pay the highest (but are also known to be rather 'heartless' and will fire underperforming partners without hesitation). US firms also don't have capacity to train, so they don't really take in fresh grads or low PQEs.

One level down are UK magic circle firms like CC, A&O. The top US firms generally hire from the UK magic circle firms.

One level down are the local big 4, who will generally try to jump to a UK magic circle firm, and then eventually jump from there to a US firm. Not easy.

Where is Baker? Generally the UK magic circle and US firms see Baker as not a 'true' international firm, but a local firm trying to be international. It's definitely below the level of UK magic circle, probably hovers somewhere around the big 4.
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  #3040 (permalink)  
Old 17-06-2018, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Excellent discussion above.

Just to add why big four, baker, cc, has better mobility at the top to other internationals.
Just put it this way, law is still a prestige profession.

Within the industry, there are roughly 5 tiers of lawyers
(1) Chinatown, Telok Ayer, Aldephi law firms
(2) Small mid size (30-40 plus ppl)
(3) Large mid size (90-100 ppl)
(4) Big 4 + rodyk
(5) Baker, CC

Letís say from (1) you want to move to (5), very impossible.
Simply cos (5) hires based on reputation. At the end of the day they need to report to global situated at UK/US on their hiring profile. It always adds to the ranking if they hire someone from a reputable name / branding.

Thatís why once you go to a small firm, you usually end up in a small firm for the rest of your life or you prob can level up 1-2 notch, so Chinatown May jump to large mid size. But thatís about it. There are exceptions.
E.g now you donít have connections but maybe by marriage you end up having one then the rule doesnít apply.

Technically above tier 5, there are the true internationals, like Cravath, Simpson, Milbank that pays the truly top salary in the world, but would it be possible for tier 1 to jump there?
No. Even though you do more substantive work in Chinatown firms, but the work that big firms do - the deal size is so huge that even if you punch holes, check document for clause number referencing only, itís still a completely different exposure from what an associate in tier 1-3 does.
Thanks for this too!

Aside from the above (progressing up the tiers as high as possible as a lateral hire), I'm considering 2 routes:
1. Find a niche I'm interested/good in > find a firm with said niche that will accept me > leveraging on niche to greener pastures
2. Continue on in tier (1), tier (2) type firms, and set up my own firm around 5-8 PQE.

Any thoughts?

Am particularly interested in the feasibility of the latter. The goal is to set up the firm with a few friends so it's a more rounded practice. I understand that the fees collected is generally lower, but my concern is whether it is enough to survive. Personally, I am willing to earn less for the ability to select cases and the caseload and the pride of having my own place. Is 5-8 PQE premature? Anything I should be taking into account?

Thanks!
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