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Career Advice/ Help

Alright JDU, I think I know what the overwhelming response w jd4hire01/31/18
I say do it. Here's why. I don't practice anymore for a n thedarkscrivener01/31/18
I don't practice either, but I've seen a lot of both plainti wolfman01/31/18
Thanks for the response and noting principle vs. principal. jd4hire01/31/18
jd4hire, I wouldn't make the jump unless I had a firm commit blakesq01/31/18
OP, just remember that you want the guy who owns the busines inho2solo01/31/18
How long have you been practicing and how did you land that lolwutjobs01/31/18
6.5 years. Sheer luck. Casual acquaintance from law school jd4hire01/31/18
Lol that is like my dream come true! In any event, without k lolwutjobs01/31/18
I say you call Yakov Smirnov, Esq. and offer to partner up, ambulancechaser201301/31/18
I’d much rather own my own civil defense firm than own a P ambulancechaser201301/31/18
As someone who is in your position right now, I'd take that shikes01/31/18
I think you need more information about salary, percentages, therover02/02/18
Thanks all. In addition to reading advice here, I have spok jd4hire02/02/18
Just an update...had the meeting and it went very well. Sho jd4hire02/15/18
It got real. Was extended an offer. Moderate salary bump. jd4hire02/16/18
congrats! I would totally take it. The insurance companies w onehell02/16/18
Congratulations! You will learn a lot. Be prepared to lear jeffm02/16/18
On a side note, isn't it common practice for Plaintiff's att jeffm02/16/18
Yeah I think the OP mentioned that he would still have to tr onehell02/16/18
Whatever you don't track is, naturally, at your own peril. jeffm02/16/18
Ah yes, those cases. I don't understand why lawyers can' onehell02/16/18
You are right. I had a stint at a 2-attorney firm where we jeffm02/16/18
PLaintiff’s attorney’s fee. In Cali that’s for provin ambulancechaser201302/16/18
Bringing this thread to a close on my end. Accepted the off jd4hire02/21/18
you sound like me, without the plaintiffs firm offer yet hah lawyergreg02/27/18

jd4hire (Jan 31, 2018 - 9:48 am)

Alright JDU, I think I know what the overwhelming response will be, but need to hear it as my mind is reeling with a number of thoughts.

I was approached by a friend at a plaintiff's firm. The firm is, if not the best plaintiffs firm in the state, damn close thereto. They regularly bring in million dollar plus verdicts with quite a few getting into the 8 digits. They try cases if they don't have the value they want. And when they try a case, they go all out - mock trials, witness consultants, etc. The friend is a family member of the main principle and I went to law school with them. The principles are upper 60s. While they may slow down in the next few years, I imagine they will be involved for years to come. My friend will undoubtedly inherit the firm at some point down the road. Based on the past three decades and the results the firm has obtained, I believe they will receive significant referrals for years to come.

Friend approached me about the possibility of coming on board as they have numerous "low value" cases (250k - 750k) that need to be worked up and resolved, whether through trial or otherwise. Principles were aware of the conversation and if I'm interested, want to set up a meeting to speak. I know the principles decently well and recently saw them last week at a bar event where they both said things along the line of "we love seeing you in court, but really wish it weren't doing defense work." I have no doubt they both like me.

I've always told myself that I'd like to do plaintiff's work. I do some now, but truly low value with cases ranging from 5k - 50k. My desire to do plaintiff's work is multi-faceted: (1) more likelihood of trying cases; (2) potential to make significantly more money; (3) no billable time (unless chasing attorneys fees on a random case under some unique theory); and (4) no need to attend all the insurance defense conferences in an effort to get business.

The bulk of my practice is insurance defense. Of my insurance defense work, it breaks down to about 40% medical malpractice, 40% professional liability (engineers, realtors, appraisers, insurance brokers), and then I have some random general liability defense cases. My firm treats me very well and I work with a great group of people. Compensation is good for my area (90k salary with bonuses upwards of 20k), always could be more. Raises are at least 3k per year and can be as high as 5k (they gave me 6k this year as they were really happy with me). They have spoken a fair amount of me being on partnership track. I could be crazy, but absent me screwing up in a significant way, I do think I'd make partner in 2-5 years. I brought in one carrier that has sent some decent cases. Not enough to open my own place, but billed ~ 160k this year from the various files. Notwithstanding, I generally believe the partners here make anywhere from 150k - 400k. That's based on conversations I had with a partner who's on their way out and I have no reason to doubt it.

Anyone who made the witch from ID to plaintiffs willing to chime in? Am I an idiot if I don't jump on this? General thoughts? I'll be monitoring and will answer any random questions that fellow JDUers have. Thanks in advance.

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thedarkscrivener (Jan 31, 2018 - 10:56 am)

I say do it. Here's why.

I don't practice anymore for a number of reasons, but that's a different thread. I worked for two litigation firms, one plaintiff and one defense, and BY FAR the better one to work at was the plaintiff firm. A lot of that was that the other attorneys at the defense firm were unrelenting a**holes, but, again, different thread. The entire practice of law is completely different at both.

The defense firm was all about billable hours. Work 10-12 hour days. Pad those court memos. Depose those 14 witnesses for six weeks. It got really frustrating for me to see how purposefully inefficient they were making everything, and it was really stressful to have to keep track of all my time in 6-minute increments.

At the plaintiff firm I still had to keep track of what I worked on during the day, but not nearly as strictly. The focus was all on being as efficient as possible because when everything is on contingency, the less you work, the more you get paid. It was just such a less oppressive environment. There were still some long days if we had trial, but the work-life balance was so much better. No expectation to work late or on the weekend if we didn't have to.

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wolfman (Jan 31, 2018 - 11:14 am)

I don't practice either, but I've seen a lot of both plaintiff's side injury lawyers and ID injury lawyers; almost uniformly, the plaintiff's side guys have been relaxed and poised, while the ID guys looked harried and miserable, if competent. Caveat: these were somewhat serious case; I dunno what Yakov Smirnov Esq. slinging no-fault fender-benders looks like, but that doesn't sound like the kind of job you are looking at.

However, I have also seen some pretty spectacular blowups of plaintiff's firms (one guy went from one of the biggest players in the state to a liquidation bankruptcy very quickly; I'm sure he hid money someplace, but still... he had all his sons and daughters and sons in law working for him; the sons work elsewhere now; I don't think the daughters and SILs have jobs).

Also, there can be issues working long-term for a family business where it is not YOUR family; you need to get paid well and save the money.

Lastly, I never point out stuff like this, but: a principLE is a moral rule of conduct, a logical or intellectual maxim that guides thinking, or something similar; a principAL is a person who has a significant ownership stake in a business/law firm, etc (also a school principAL runs your local junior high - it's the same idea, although he/she doesn't own the school, but you get my drift). If you know this already, well and good, forget I said it, but if you forgot about it, keep it in mind - I know lawyers who would really look down on someone for making that mistake.

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jd4hire (Jan 31, 2018 - 11:31 am)

Thanks for the response and noting principle vs. principal. It's one of those words I struggle to remember. And while I generally catch it, obviously didn't here. Thanks for the reminder. As I mentioned, my mind is reeling with thoughts. I'm struggling to get any work done. I just keep thinking about the possibilities - good and bad.

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blakesq (Jan 31, 2018 - 2:05 pm)

jd4hire, I wouldn't make the jump unless I had a firm commitment on what sort of $$$ you will make at the plaintiff's firm. Have you asked your friend what you will be paid? If so, what did he say?

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inho2solo (Jan 31, 2018 - 2:38 pm)

OP, just remember that you want the guy who owns the business to be you PAL.

I don't have a lot on your current picklement except to say it sounds like you're in a good place no matter what decision you make.

Why not at least have the sit down and see what they're proposing (I guess one worry could be, do they envision you only ever doing the low value cases, i.e. high value is "family only")?

If they plan to transition you to bigger cases and you'll have a shot at equity it seems the potential upside is better there (noting lower end partners at your current firm are only making 150k).

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lolwutjobs (Jan 31, 2018 - 3:58 pm)

How long have you been practicing and how did you land that carrier?

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jd4hire (Jan 31, 2018 - 4:06 pm)

6.5 years. Sheer luck. Casual acquaintance from law school became a "litigation specialist" with them. I called him up and said "hey, we do ID work." He said, "hey, we need a new firm in your jx." Two weeks later we got our first case. Soon after I flew out to meet him and his crew. We like them, they like us.

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lolwutjobs (Jan 31, 2018 - 5:02 pm)

Lol that is like my dream come true! In any event, without knowing what the comp structure is like at the other firm, it is hard to advise. Just a shame you couldn't take the carrier with you. Losing that carrier would be my biggest hang up

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ambulancechaser2013 (Jan 31, 2018 - 6:20 pm)

I say you call Yakov Smirnov, Esq. and offer to partner up, Smirnov & jd4hire LLP. Trial Lawyers. Just land another carrier.

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ambulancechaser2013 (Jan 31, 2018 - 6:21 pm)

I’d much rather own my own civil defense firm than own a Plaintiffs’ Firm, even if legit. Money today is better than money down the road in my opinion.

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shikes (Jan 31, 2018 - 9:28 pm)

As someone who is in your position right now, I'd take that and run. You're very likely to get a raise and a % of settlement/verdicts. ID tops out pretty easily, plaintiff's work has unlimited potential. If you like litigation, you will have a much better chance to try a case as a plaintiff's attorney than as defense work (unless you are very senior at firm obviously, SOMEONE has to be on the other side of the v).

I personally don't think this is close. At minimum take the interview and hear them out.

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therover (Feb 2, 2018 - 8:19 am)

I think you need more information about salary, percentages, their case pipeline (how secure is it, where do they get cases from?).

That being said, a top established plaintiffs firm likely has a strong pipeline and referral system in place to get cases of that value. I would assume compensation would be good and that the potential would be great.

I think there’s much more upside to plaintiffs work than ID. More and more carriers are moving even large defense cases in house to staff counsel. This will continue. More are utlitizing stringent bill review guidelines, making it more difficult to get paid for what needs to be done on a case. Who knows how long the carrier you brought in will last? Some new claims supervisor will come in and change things. I’ve seen it happen many times.

Interested to hear how you make out.

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jd4hire (Feb 2, 2018 - 10:50 am)

Thanks all. In addition to reading advice here, I have spoken with a former associate, a partner at a former firm I used to work at, and a plaintiff's attorney in the area. Based on all of this, I'm moving forward with meeting the two principals. I'll be armed with pointed questions and will emphasize that I'm in a good place, but that I have always wanted to make the switch to plaintiff's work.

I'll see what this yields and I'll report back. As to compensation, when speaking in the initial call my friend said something along the lines of "any other things you're curious about?" To which I replied, "at some point if we move forward we'll need to discuss compensation, but we can address that a little further down the line." He agreed, but said if it's a fit and all parties want to move forward we'll be able to "make it work for you."

Have a good weekend.

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jd4hire (Feb 15, 2018 - 11:26 am)

Just an update...had the meeting and it went very well. Should hear back from them in 1-2 weeks. Still don't know the entirety of my feelings and this all could be cart before the horse as there is no offer currently. They did take salary/benefit information and said they'd be in touch soon. I got the strong feeling that my friend, principal's son, will have significant say in decision. Both principals noted that they are looking to surround heir apparent with good competent attorneys to continue the legacy after they retire. One principal explicitly said, "we need strong attorneys at this point to continue the firm and later be partners when X takes over the firm and we're gone."

I'll update when I get info. Mind is still torn but as I sit here worrying about billable hours due to an unexpected two-day absence from a funeral and being out of the office yesterday for the interview, plaintiff's work does sound nice. I do think, however, I might actually spend more time working there. Work doesn't bother me though, keeping track of time and billing does.

On an unrelated note, do any of you ever feel compelled to sign off with your name and then think "WTF, this is an anonymous forum why would I sign my name."

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jd4hire (Feb 16, 2018 - 1:05 pm)

It got real. Was extended an offer. Moderate salary bump. This would be a long term play as opposed to a short term one.

Gave me through the weekend to think it through.

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onehell (Feb 16, 2018 - 3:06 pm)

congrats! I would totally take it. The insurance companies will only continue to bring work in-house, scrutinize every bill from the outside ID firms, etc. Plaintiff work, being contingency-basis, is of course riskier, because such firms can always run into significant cash-flow issues. But if the firm is as well-established as you describe and your buddy is the heir-apparent to the helm, then 10 years from now your name could be on the door and you might be one of the most well-regarded PI lawyers in the state.

Or your state might enact some kind of draconian tort reform or your buddy isn't as good a leader as his predecessors, or the two of you have a falling out, or the old partners bleed the place dry on their way out the door, and you're out on the street. There are risks inherent in every decision but in this case, the potential benefits are large. This sounds like the sort of place where you could spend the entire rest of your career, a place that could truly become (in part) yours. Plus you prolly get some good feels from fighting for the little guy.

I'd like to know what it's going to take to buy out the old guard partners when they finally do retire, as there's a decent chance you're gonna end up partner and get asked to chip in to buy them out when the time comes. But that would presumably require access to the partner agreements which you are likely not presently in a position to demand. So on the whole, this sounds like a risk worth taking.

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jeffm (Feb 16, 2018 - 2:18 pm)

Congratulations! You will learn a lot. Be prepared to learn that the Plaintiff's fast lane is full of great, but dysfunctional and miserable, attorneys. Learn all you can, and don't rack up debt. If you become burned-out, you might need a low cost of living to make your break.

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jeffm (Feb 16, 2018 - 3:19 pm)

On a side note, isn't it common practice for Plaintiff's attorneys to still have to track time these days? I remember we had to do it in order to have proof that the fee was not unconscionable.

In the high-stakes plaintiff arena, there are malpractice attorneys who play on the sidelines, waiting for unhappy or concerned plaintiffs to come to them for 2nd opinions. Fee scrutiny is big for attorneys who sue attorneys.

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onehell (Feb 16, 2018 - 3:24 pm)

Yeah I think the OP mentioned that he would still have to track time, but not as precisely or religiously as a place that lives and dies by the billable hour.

A time-based recovery would be unusual for this kind of place. Not unheard of, but unusual. Usually the basis for their recovery is contingent fee, not fee-shifting. But every once in awhile, it comes up, like in the context of discovery sanctions and whatnot. So ya gotta keep some record of your time, but not to the same extent as defense side.

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jeffm (Feb 16, 2018 - 3:31 pm)

Whatever you don't track is, naturally, at your own peril. The rules prohibit collecting an unconscionable fee. As I stated, attorneys sue PI attorneys regularly, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and unconscionable fees, etc. - at least, they do in Houston, and I suppose it's pretty much the same in every big city. But yeah, that's a lot different than getting paid by the hour. The pressure is certainly much greater there than it is just documenting your files to prepare for a defense in a breach of fiduciary duty case.

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onehell (Feb 16, 2018 - 6:03 pm)

Ah yes, those cases.

I don't understand why lawyers can't seem to learn the very simple lesson that you don't get to take a third of a million dollar case that settles on a demand letter, no matter what your retainer says. This was literally the first thing they taught in law school ethics class as the textbook example of an unreasonable fee.

I mean I get it. You didn't know it was gonna settle so easy and you took a big risk taking it on. But just because your client won the lottery, doesn't mean you did.

Avoiding those kinds of bar complaints and such doesn't require religious perfect timekeeping, it requires a moderate level of time keeping and a healthy amount of just not being stupid/corrupt.

I agree that if it looks like a case is gonna settle easy, then you'd better track your time better. But that's going to be rare. Unless they either admit to liability or you're up against a lawyer who is known for stonewalling in discovery and from whom you might end up asking for sanctions, I think it's usually OK to keep relatively rudimentary time records in the plaintiff's side, contingent-fee PI world.

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jeffm (Feb 16, 2018 - 6:29 pm)

You are right. I had a stint at a 2-attorney firm where we used to actually defend a very high profile attorney from these types of cases, and he faced them all the time. He was working some seriously big cases and was a walking target. I am sure he still is. Some things will never change. That's a very seedy world.

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ambulancechaser2013 (Feb 16, 2018 - 3:24 pm)

PLaintiff’s attorney’s fee. In Cali that’s for proving up a request for admission on liability and FEHA employment cases, not general P.I.

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jd4hire (Feb 21, 2018 - 3:05 pm)

Bringing this thread to a close on my end. Accepted the offer and gave notice today. Giving notice to in excess of 10 partners is no fun. All took it amazingly well. Managing partner even offered that if I change my mind anytime in the next year to pick up the phone and that I would be welcomed back with open arms. I thought this was very kind and a nice compliment.

All were very understanding of my decision and one even suggested that he had a similar opportunity that he passed on and now questions what could have been.

As for time tracking, it will be the exceedingly rare case that requires it. This is a 100% pure PI plaintiff work firm. Very little opportunity to recover fees, and, based on my understanding, is the only time they track their fee.

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lawyergreg (Feb 27, 2018 - 1:18 pm)

you sound like me, without the plaintiffs firm offer yet haha. 2 years out of law school, doing ID. doesnt suck, isnt great at all, just very okay... check in in a year and let us know how you like the change, and if it's more or less money in the long run you think

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