How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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I don’t know a damn thing about actual litigation.

Either you picked the wrong law firm, or your supervisors detected the attitude you've shown on this site that your heart isn't really in it, and they're saving the good assignments for the associates with a future. I certainly didn't have a problem sending second-year associates I trusted to take depositions—and in one instance, I would have had a tough time arguing that he wasn't yet qualified, because I was just a third-year associate running the day-to-day case.


Well, Ted, maybe I should have been practicing law back in 1986. Here, fourth years take depositions and sixth years run cases. Of course, it is possible that I just lack your supernatural legal ability.

The Law Fairy

I do think Ted's right to some extent, that it does depend on the firm. I work for BigLaw (I won't say who, but they are listed in Vault) and I think I've actually learned a decent amount about litigation. And a big chunk of that, yes, is things like discovery and motion practice -- all of this is part of litigation. As a first year, I have already had the chance to argue in court and put in appearances for petitions -- I've even taken the reins for a couple of small petition matters and been completely in charge of the matter all myself. As I said, I work for a rich and reputable large firm -- so it's not the case that you can't get good experience working for BigLaw.

That said, I think the myths you mentioned also depend on who you talk to. I went to a super-snooty law school where the myths went to another level: academia/judiciary vs. practice. People who want to "make" the law instead of being mindless law-drones got clerkships and went into academia (because, you know, it's just so easy to do that kind of thing). Lazier or weaker minds got the consolation prize -- a common refrain amongst law students despairing over a B+ was "oh, don't worry. Worst case, you'll end up making [obscene amount of money no one our age deserves to make] at [big firm]." Practice -- be it in BigLaw or public interest -- was seen as less the "real" practice of law. I think these myths are all ridiculous, as you say. They're built up by insecure people, and unfortunately, our practice is dominated by these types. There are some people who need to create artificial gradations of quality where the justification for the hierarchy does not exist. Academia isn't better than practice. BigLaw isn't better than small law. Private practice isn't better than public interest or government work. It's all about finding where you're happy, and finding work that still lets you sleep at night. People who tell you any different have their own issues.


I think Law Fairy is correct that it depends on the firm, but I also think Stan's experience is not uncommon. When I interviewed at a big firm, I asked questions about how experienced, on average, an associate would have to be before conducting a deposition. The answer- two to three years. And even then, it had to be special circumstances.

I have one case where the co-defendant is represented by a big firm. The partner takes depositions, the 5th year associate hands the partner exhibits. I'm just amazed that someone is willing to pay for that, and that the associate finds it satisfying.


Do you want people to think you do interesting and complicated work over at BigLaw? Or would you rather actually do interesting and complicated litigation work at a (the horror!) insurance defense firm? Because while prestige seems like it ought to be nice, in some respects, getting to actually litigate (especially before you're really comfortable doing it!) is exhilarating.


I found the most interesting sentence in your article to be the third: "He is a very intelligent guy, and he did well in law school, but for whatever reason he ended up in a smaller city in a fairly small law firm."

Believe it or not, there are lots of very intelligent people who did well in law school and actually chose not to work for Big Firm in The City. Nothing sinister or amazing happened. There are just a lot of people who don't find Big Firm credentials to be worth anything. Lots of them (including me) went to top tier law schools. I'm not saying Podunk Law is better (objectively, morally, or otherwise) than Big Firm, but it baffles me why the consistent assumption of your articles is that quality law students inevitably want to go to Big Firm. I guess I don't necessarily speak for everyone either, so maybe there really is a vast majority that goes through law school dreaming of Big Firm employment.


d-day wrote: "Do you want people to think you do interesting and complicated work over at BigLaw? Or would you rather actually do interesting and complicated litigation work at a (the horror!) insurance defense firm?"

I don't want to speak for Stan, but if he's anything like me, he wants to do interesting work and get paid a BigLaw salary for it. That's all I ask, but alas, I have to settle for "interesting" for now, and perhaps salary later. This was a trade-off I made knowingly; Stan knew about it too I'm sure.

And don't get me wrong - he's free to gripe about it, having made his choice for money and prestige over actual courtroom experience. I'd never say that just because he knew how it would be that he's precluded from griping.

Stan, it'll happen for you eventually, the trial work, that is; and until it does, you can comfort yourself by knowing that you'll be able to afford a much nicer suit for your first trial than I can for mine.

And seriously, what's the rush? You're learning interesting things and honing your legal reasoning and writing skills every day - nothing to sneeze at, believe me. The myth of how awesome courtroom experience is, is just as pervasive as the myths about the BigLaw experience, methinks.

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