THE STANKOWSKI REPORT #28: Should I Jump Ship to Another Firm?
by Stan Stankowski
So, the other day an old friend of mine approached me and told me that his firm is looking for some associates and that I should apply. In his opinion, I was a lock for a position and I would be happier at that firm.
Not wishing to appear interested, I asked him why I would be happier at his firm. Like a ninja he leapt upon the opportunity and informed me that:
(1) he works less than I do;
(2) his firm has a considerably shorter partnership track;
(3) a person can actually make partner at his firm; and
(4) in general, the lawyers at his firm are more fun than those at my firm.
First, I can attest to Number 4. He is quite correct, the lawyers at this firm are much more fun than the lawyers at my firm. Second, I can attest to Numbers 2 and 3; that firm’s partnership track is considerably shorter than the one at my own firm and people do actually make partner there. I will call bullshit on Number 1. My friend works quite a bit.
Still, three out of four ain’t bad. So, why would I not jump at a chance to go to a firm that has a bunch of lawyers who are more fun than the ones I work with, has a shorter partnership track and a better chance of making partner? (Of course, I haven’t said “No,” so it might be more accurate to ask why would I hesitate to make the move.)
I could take the easy way out and say that it is because I make more money where I am at now. However, it isn’t all that much more money. I could also say that my partners make more than his … but this isn’t valid either. My firm has 16th-year associates. And my friend’s partners make a hell of a lot more than I do. So money really isn’t the whole answer.
In all honesty, I think the answer is that my friend’s firm is an insurance defense firm. Insurance defense, as we are all taught in law school, is only a half step above criminal law or plaintiff’s work. In practice, we all deride the other big firm down the street by referring to it as a “glorified insurance defense shop.” Some lawyers, when referring to insurance defense lawyers, make sure to identify them as “insurance defense lawyers.” Even worse, as a “typical insurance defense lawyer.”
So, as you see, again, a prestige gap emerges. [Cue Ted to inform me that I did not attend a top five law school.] I have heard insurance defense lawyers disparaged my entire legal career. How could I join their ranks?
Pretty easily actually. I just met a collection attorney who clears 300k and leaves work at 4:30. He graduated from an unaccredited law school. He has no prestige. He seems really happy.
With this in mind, I decided to create a list comparing the practice of an insurance defense attorney to my own, just to see why “insurance defense lawyers” are so run down. I broke potential differences, other than those discussed above, into five categories:
Insurance Defense (“ID”): Cold, callous, monolith insurance companies. They call my friend directly when they need representation.
Stan’s Cutting Edge Practice (“SCEP”): Cold, callous, monolith companies. I talk to paralegals when I need documents.
ID: The same things over and over again with the occasional novel issue.
SCEP: The same things over and over again with the occasional novel issue.
ID: Depositions six months out, first chairing trials in two years.
SCEP: Depositions after three years, you’ll make partner without first-chairing a trial.
ID: As noted above, not much in the legal community, though laymen see insurance defense lawyers as, well . . . lawyers.
SCEP: Parts of the legal community know that I did well enough in law school to get a job with firm x. Laymen see me as, well, a lawyer.
ID: My friend has his own secretary and shares a paralegal with one other associate.
SCEP: I share a secretary with another lawyer. I share my paralegal with about four.
It was at this point that I realized that perception and reality are often not one and the same. This list would indicate that the wise decision would be to leave my own firm and become an insurance defense attorney. I haven’t done it yet.
Of course, when my parents told me that Santa Claus was not necessarily “real,” I didn’t believe them. I thought they were jealous because Santa Claus gave me better presents than they did.
About the Author: Stan Stankowski is the pseudonym of a lawyer working as an associate in a litigation firm somewhere in the South. For more details, read his introductory post, as well as Evan Schaeffer's introduction. The collected Stankowski Reports are here.