Eight Real vs. Fake BigLaw Criteria

Bitter Contributor Columns, Lawyer 33 Comments

It seems like everyone works at a “Big Law Firm” these days. The term gets thrown around like Jenna Jameson at a Marine keg party.  And the incessant and fraudulent usage of the term is diluting the potency of its meaning. In other words, I’m sick and fucking tired of all these wannabe BigLaw douchebags pretending to work at legit, top-tier firms when they don’t. If you don’t satisfy the criteria set forth below, you don’t work in BigLaw. You just work at a law firm that’s big. There’s a difference.

1: Name Recognition

Real BigLaw: After stating the name of your firm, you never need to explain what you do. All lawyers, and 50% of educated professionals, have heard of it. In other words, the name speaks for itself. Or as a wannabe BigLaw tool might say, “Res ipsa loquitor.”

Fake BigLaw: After stating the name of your firm, you’re met with a curious stare which invariably prompts you to rattle off the firm’s oh-so-impressive resume, the number of lawyers who work there and the various satellite office locations.

2: Location, Location, Location

Real BigLaw: Your firm is either based in New York or has a major presence there. End of story.

Fake BigLaw: Your firm isn’t based in New York and doesn’t have a major presence there. End of story.

3: Practice Area

Real BigLaw: Your primary practice areas are corporate law and litigation. And no matter what, you don’t do insurance defense work.  Not even a little. You don’t have a goddamn “admiralty” practice either.

Fake BigLaw: You do lots of insurance defense work, but you tell people it’s litigation, which it is, technically. But it’s really insurance defense.

4: Recruiting

Real BigLaw: Your father’s rich friend with lots of local juice can’t get you a job there. At least 50% of the first-year associates were summer associates too.

Fake BigLaw: They’ve never heard of the acronym OCI. The hiring coordinator doubles as a litigation partner (and probably teaches Civil Procedure at the local law school). The few law students who work there in the summer are called “clerks.”

5: Cash Money

Real BigLaw: The firm’s top partners are rich. For real. Like fuck-you rich. They make $2,000,000 or more per year, have multiple homes and fly first class without upgrade stickers or frequent flier miles.

Fake BigLaw: Partners are six-figure working stiffs who quietly idolize real BigLaw partners. They have one house, and if they live in a major city, it ain’t that great. As for flying, it’s coach all the way. They’d prefer to fly business, of course, but they need to standby for the upgrade.

6: Making Partner

Real BigLaw: Making partner is a life-changing event. In other words, it’s a big fucking deal. That means only scary-smart, myopic, workaholic freaks actually make it. That means regular, well-adjusted people (i.e., people who actually want to have a semblance of a normal life) don’t have a shot.

Fake BigLaw: Making partner is slightly more exciting than hitting a game-winning jump shot in a Tuesday night Lawyers’ League hoop game. Basically, if you’re there long enough and haven’t been sued for malpractice, you’re in. Why? Because making it ain’t that big a deal.  The pay difference between senior associate and junior partner is $50K tops.

7: Clients

Real BigLaw: Your clients are on the cover of Fortune Magazine.

Fake BigLaw: Your clients read Fortune Magazine.

8: Resumes

Real BigLaw: No matter how smart you are (or think you are), you’re not the smartest or most-qualified person in your class. Or on your goddamn floor.

Fake BigLaw: You think everyone else in your class and in your firm is an idiot and wonder why the fuck you’re not working at a real BigLaw firm.

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  • BL1Y

    Definitely not the smartest person on my floor, but I still think they’re all idiots.

  • Bill Dugan

    Real BigLaw:  Has plenty of good looking paralegals and secretaries who are very visible and available for after hours activities of the partners’ choosing.  Fake Big Law:  Has a 57 year old paralegal who was considered hot during the 1976 Bi-centennial celebration in NY City, and was rumored to have boned the entire US Olympic Hockey team in Lake Placid when they won the Gold Medal in 1980.

  • Big Law Snob

    Nice.  Finally, someone has outed all those fake big firm D-Bags who act they like work at Cravath because their firm has 150 associates. Good work, Mister Bitter.

  • Alma Federer

    Big Firm people are elitist.  Look at Dugan, trying to put down the women if they’re not at the Cravaths of the world.  Where does Dugan work?  Is he at Cravath or Sullivan and Cramwell?  Probably not.  And what about BL1Y?  I cant believe any reputable firm would hire him.  If they did, they’re counting the days to invoke the WARN Act with him and other yokels who walk around thinking their sh**t does not stink because they are working for a big firm.  There are PLENTY of good firms run by WOMEN.  Those are the best ones to work for.

  • Ex-BigLaw

    No one really thinks like this (well, ok, very few).  WHO CARES what size your firm is?  If you’re doing interesting work, making good connections, and getting paid at or above market, life is good, and if you’re doing scut work, it sucks, in either case whether you’re at a 1000+ lawyer firm or a 100 lawyer firm.  (And either can happen in either place – in fact, you’re far less likely to get interesting substantive work in the first few years at the biggest of firms.) If I had it to do over again, I would have gone medium or small-firm if not plaintiff side.
    —Ex-AmLaw 10

  • Top Tier Tim

    Ex-BigLaw:  People DO think like this.  I sure do.  I work at a top 5 firm and I’m always amazed when I hear someone bragging about working at “a big, fancy NY law firm” only to find out they do class action suits or insurance defense.  There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you’re into, just don’t pretend to be going through the same thing as people working at legitimate, prestigious sweatshops!

  • Sharikov

    I was always told size doesn’t matter…or were they just humoring me?

  • Anon Female

    size does matter.

  • Izzy Mandelbaum

    You think you’re better than me?

  • Anonymous

    this post made me throw up a little ….get over yourself…dickwad mister bitter

  • White Shoe Prick

    Izzy: I think it’s apparent that Mister Bitter feels superior to you.  While even I find this guy insufferable, I do think he makes a good point.  There is a difference between a REAL big firm and firm that’s just big.  But what he doesn’t address is… Who cares?

  • BL1Y

    You mind, White Shoe Prick?  Some of us are trying to have a civilization here.

  • some perspective

    One comment – since when is $2 million a year “fuck you rich”?  I would certainly like to make that (and I’m not anywhere near it as a BL 3rd year), but really, “fuck you rich”?  I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous

    Note:  Editors are a-wipes!  A woman can say that size does matter (hinting to the obvious of a man’s apparatus), yet these dillweed editors are editing out a armless comments about a woman’s BOOBIES to referring to the same issue; all while using the F*** word themselves in the text of the article?  Come on!  What a-holes!

  • Magic Circle Jerk

    There is only one criteria for biglaw (though v100ish is conceivably relevant).
    Does the firm pay MARKET Salaries to its associates?

    1st- 160k





  • Bill Dugan

    The other criteria is the babe factor.  If you have enough 10’s on staff, you are in the big-time.  Only about 6 law firms qualify in NYC, and they seem to already qualify under the more standard size criteria.

  • real anon

    What about the top litigation boutiques? Do they count?
    And if you think 2 mill is fuck you rich – you have no idea what “rich” actually means.  “Fuck you” rich is what those asshole hedge fund managers (used) to make.  “fuck you” rich is flying your gulfstream to sail yacht for a few weeks around the s. pacific – two million does not get you that

  • Realist

    Two mill a year or more for 30 years, invested well, is a lot of money.  I dare say f*** you rich.
    Boobies should not be edited out.

  • Anon

    Agree with post about minimum salary.  Should have been included in list!

  • Anon

    Real Anon @2:35: Wow, you must be a real playa, dude.  You know what f-you rich means.  2 mill’s chump change to you.  You da man!

  • real anon

    I detect a hint of, dare I say, bitterness….

  • anon.

    Let me put it out there . . .Is AM LAW 101-200 Big Law?

  • pd7

    “You just work at law firm’s that big.”
    There are major grammatical errors in your intro…the intro of your article about how elite you are…

  • BL1Y

    2 mil (er…1 mil after taxes) is enough to get rid of all my student debt and pay my rent for the next 20 years.  I think with that amount of money I could tell a lot of people to go fuck themselves.

  • Dreamsofglory

    If you have time to blog and submit articles to bitterlawyer.com, can you possibly consider yourself BigLaw?

  • Anon

    Why is everyone so pissed at Mister Bitter?  He’s 100% on the money.

  • Anonymous

    Jenna Jameson jst had twins – awesome

  • Anonymous

    Dude, she had twin headlights long before she was pregnant, man.

  • AJ

    As an ex-Cravather…I can say this is RIGHT ON.

  • anon

    welld one

  • barry

    ever since a stint clerking in nyc, i have cracked up at the self-consciousness of nyc megafirm lawyers.  95% of them are brutally unhappy at work and hate their lives.  but they make bank!  the fact is that the envy of non-megafirm lawyers pales in comparison with the misery of megafirm lawyers.  most of the rest of us would rather just be mostly miserable, even for less money.  so to you megafirm dolts, keep telling yourselves that everyone else wants what you have; it will deaden the pain that is your only thing you can count on in your bleak lives.

  • Stevo

    Barry:  You’re on the money, my man.  These bigfirm idiots are so proud of their little snotty club, but deep down, they hate it.  The only power they have is: exclusion.
    Sounds like a great life.  Congrats, Mister Bitter.  I bet you’re real happy.

  • Hannah Palindrome

    Or as a wannabe BigLaw tool might say, “Res ipsa loquitor.”
    LOL or JLO…snort