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BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:08 pm
by Philip_Marlowe
I'm a senior associate at a biglaw firm where I'll be up for non-share partner next fall (for those familiar with biglaw it's the only firm where I can guarantee that will happen because anyone with a pulse at my year gets it). I'm feeling pretty burned out and have started looking for an in house role. It's challenging to find the right fit under normal circumstances and the pandemic has very much exacerbated that but based on what I'm seeing and the interview responses I'm getting I'm confident I'll be able to find something that's at least a good fit if not my dream job within the next few months.

I've been getting conflicting advice on whether I should go ahead and leave now as a senior associate or to try and suck it up for another year so that I leave with the "partner" title. Sticking around would really only be worth it if it resulted in meaningfully better exit options and it's not clear to me that those options would actually change. I don't think I have it in me to stick it out for another 3+ years when it's clear that the exit options would be meaningfully better (senior NSPs and SPs seem to regularly get deputy GC roles at megacorps or GC roles at portfolio companies).

I know there are a number of current and former biglaw lawyers who regularly post here so i'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts.

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:58 pm
by Super Hans
If you're finding promising opportunities now, I'd probably be inclined to accept and bail on BIGLAW sooner than later. One thing I regret not taking advantage of is that the firm actually seemed willing to help "outplacement"--get their likeable folks into good jobs with clients.

It's impossible to know the future. It sounds like I was in a similar position to you at the firm. It was clear I wasn't going to make (real) partner, unless some unexpected event finally ingratiated me with some high-rollers. I basically was trying to game how long I could coast at a substantial salary before getting fired. I started interviewing with lesser firms--kind of sad, though the base salary was the same. I got a couple of offers and supposed I could use one to keep the BIGLAW gravy train rolling on another few years at best. I also applied for a really interesting civil service job, a long-shot and also a huge cut in compensation. They made me an offer, and I accepted. In the few weeks between jobs, I took a big vacation, and from the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from New York, I got news of the bottom falling out of the economy. This was 2008.

So in my case, I was really lucky: I think I would've ended up unemployed for a significant period had I stayed with the private sector. Meanwhile, I'm sure desperate people started flooding the government with resumes at this point, making that soft landing elusive.

The "partner" label is nice for your bio, but those in the know are aware of how different firms apply these. I'm also amused, from my position in government, with how very young lawyers get appointed to very senior positions. Their official bios say things like "X was a litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore", when this person spent 18 months at the firm and no doubt performed important duties like entering notices of appearance and ordering sushi for the team--before becoming general counsel of some cabinet department or the like.

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 2:38 pm
by Lee_WSP
Super Hans wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:58 pm The "partner" label is nice for your bio, but those in the know are aware of how different firms apply these. I'm also amused, from my position in government, with how very young lawyers get appointed to very senior positions. Their official bios say things like "X was a litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore", when this person spent 18 months at the firm and no doubt performed important duties like entering notices of appearance and ordering sushi for the team--before becoming general counsel of some cabinet department or the like.
It's all about the inter vivos transfers. :sharebeer

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 2:47 pm
by anon_investor
Philip_Marlowe wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:08 pm I'm a senior associate at a biglaw firm where I'll be up for non-share partner next fall (for those familiar with biglaw it's the only firm where I can guarantee that will happen because anyone with a pulse at my year gets it). I'm feeling pretty burned out and have started looking for an in house role. It's challenging to find the right fit under normal circumstances and the pandemic has very much exacerbated that but based on what I'm seeing and the interview responses I'm getting I'm confident I'll be able to find something that's at least a good fit if not my dream job within the next few months.

I've been getting conflicting advice on whether I should go ahead and leave now as a senior associate or to try and suck it up for another year so that I leave with the "partner" title. Sticking around would really only be worth it if it resulted in meaningfully better exit options and it's not clear to me that those options would actually change. I don't think I have it in me to stick it out for another 3+ years when it's clear that the exit options would be meaningfully better (senior NSPs and SPs seem to regularly get deputy GC roles at megacorps or GC roles at portfolio companies).

I know there are a number of current and former biglaw lawyers who regularly post here so i'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts.
I was a senior associate in big law that went in house a few years ago. I likely going to end up of counsel or a partner if my boss retired. I would say just go when you find a good opportunity. Your trading your life and burn out for money. For me, I had 2 young kids and the big law life was not great for that. So happy I left. But I did take my time interviewed at a few mega corps and only left after the right opportunity came.

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 3:07 pm
by HockeyFan99
I’d consider going now. Longer in private practice is not necessarily better if you want to transition, since you can become too senior/expensive for some positions and aren’t going to have any in house experience that will make you attractive for more senior roles, especially those that require real management experience.

At least that’s what hiring has looked like at my company, including on my team. With about two dozen hires over the past three years we’ve hired a lot of law firm associates - probably about half, maybe a bit over - but never once a partner, and all positions that involved managerial responsibilities went to attorneys with prior in house experience.

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 3:31 pm
by Firemenot
Philip_Marlowe wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:08 pm I'm a senior associate at a biglaw firm where I'll be up for non-share partner next fall (for those familiar with biglaw it's the only firm where I can guarantee that will happen because anyone with a pulse at my year gets it). I'm feeling pretty burned out and have started looking for an in house role. It's challenging to find the right fit under normal circumstances and the pandemic has very much exacerbated that but based on what I'm seeing and the interview responses I'm getting I'm confident I'll be able to find something that's at least a good fit if not my dream job within the next few months.

I've been getting conflicting advice on whether I should go ahead and leave now as a senior associate or to try and suck it up for another year so that I leave with the "partner" title. Sticking around would really only be worth it if it resulted in meaningfully better exit options and it's not clear to me that those options would actually change. I don't think I have it in me to stick it out for another 3+ years when it's clear that the exit options would be meaningfully better (senior NSPs and SPs seem to regularly get deputy GC roles at megacorps or GC roles at portfolio companies).

I know there are a number of current and former biglaw lawyers who regularly post here so i'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts.
I’m in-house at Fortune 100ish size company and have been for 15 years. So I’ve been involved in a lot of hiring. The partner tag means 0 where I’m at. Don’t factor that in. The longer you wait the harder it will be to go in-house. We target people with 3-7 years experience in a law firm. 5 is probably the sweet spot. Experienced enough to hit the ground running. Not so experienced that can’t train.

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 3:52 pm
by anon_investor
Firemenot wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 3:31 pm
Philip_Marlowe wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:08 pm I'm a senior associate at a biglaw firm where I'll be up for non-share partner next fall (for those familiar with biglaw it's the only firm where I can guarantee that will happen because anyone with a pulse at my year gets it). I'm feeling pretty burned out and have started looking for an in house role. It's challenging to find the right fit under normal circumstances and the pandemic has very much exacerbated that but based on what I'm seeing and the interview responses I'm getting I'm confident I'll be able to find something that's at least a good fit if not my dream job within the next few months.

I've been getting conflicting advice on whether I should go ahead and leave now as a senior associate or to try and suck it up for another year so that I leave with the "partner" title. Sticking around would really only be worth it if it resulted in meaningfully better exit options and it's not clear to me that those options would actually change. I don't think I have it in me to stick it out for another 3+ years when it's clear that the exit options would be meaningfully better (senior NSPs and SPs seem to regularly get deputy GC roles at megacorps or GC roles at portfolio companies).

I know there are a number of current and former biglaw lawyers who regularly post here so i'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts.
I’m in-house at Fortune 100ish size company and have been for 15 years. So I’ve been involved in a lot of hiring. The partner tag means 0 where I’m at. Don’t factor that in. The longer you wait the harder it will be to go in-house. We target people with 3-7 years experience in a law firm. 5 is probably the sweet spot. Experienced enough to hit the ground running. Not so experienced that can’t train.
I am in-house at a Fortune 50 company, and my experience is about the same. Most of the higher level positions are filled via internal promotion.

Re: BigLaw senior associate - wondering about timing for move in house

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 4:09 pm
by Firemenot
Two other pieces of advice:

1. Look for a company with a long potential growth trajectory. Doesn’t have to be explosive growth. Slow and steady is good too. You need growth for comp package to pay. My options growth each year is generally worth more than my base salary. And I’m in a very non-sexy industry.

2. Boss is everything. I’ve been fortunate that both of my direct bosses (and both GCs) have been great. Makes all the difference.