Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Career Advice

Need some career advice. IP attorney in big law for 12 year reg4509/23/18
I would say you are in a god position to consider going solo hairypalms09/23/18
Thanks. Good advice. reg4509/23/18
I think you should try in house. Who cares if the salaries nycatt09/26/18
I hear what you're saying, but convincing my wife to move is reg4509/26/18
We moved near our parents and not have mega free babysiting. nycatt09/27/18
Your client base is less than you make. And it’ll shrink dingbat09/24/18
I'm trying to avoid a disaster. Making less is something I reg4509/24/18
Only if you have the cojones for solo practice. It won't isthisit09/24/18
I see loads of solo IP shops on the internet practicing trad reg4509/24/18
Do you know what all those small firms can do that you can†dingbat09/24/18
What are the skills required to consistently generate busine reg4509/24/18
Ask three rainmakers and you’ll get four opinions. Also dingbat09/25/18
I agree with Dingbat. If you don't already know at 12 years isthisit09/25/18
I see loads of solo IP shops on the internet practicing trad reg4509/24/18
What other areas of law do you suggest? reg4509/24/18
Doesn't matter I suggest. What matters is what you can actua isthisit09/25/18
Curious, why not go in house? grinder09/24/18
Didn't really pursue it. Salaries also seem kind of low. reg4509/24/18
Salary seemed kinda low is the first thing that came to mind wutwutwut09/25/18
My hours are below standard. Not enough work around. reg4509/25/18
Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining, and sorry to hear about it wutwutwut09/26/18
Nothing to be sorry about. It just is the way it is. reg4509/26/18
One aspect that I'm considering is working like the Dickens reg4509/26/18
Out of curiosity, what's your UG and primary tech area for p wutwutwut09/27/18
Not chem. reg4509/27/18
Above you mention "Have a client base of 150k per year". I wutwutwut09/26/18
Originating and doing all work on my client base. For a han reg4509/27/18
Question for OP, when you say “transactional IP” do you justdoingok09/24/18
It's 3/4 pros and 1/4 licensing. reg4509/24/18
I think you could be marketable to other biglaw firms or in justdoingok09/25/18
Depends on your location. Are you in the Bay area or NYC? So wallypancake09/26/18
NYC reg4509/26/18
Good thread!! bizzybone131310/18/18

reg45 (Sep 23, 2018 - 6:10 pm)

Need some career advice. IP attorney in big law for 12 years - not partner - making 200k. Have a client base of 150k per year for the last 3 years. Main motivation for leaving feeling way too underappreciated.

Small firms were not offering much above 100k and % of billed.

Went through motions of going solo - insurance/office/etc. - all add up to under 2k per month. Have savings to cover all for the next 3-4 years. No debt.

Should I jump to my own. (Is it crazy to leave big law for your own shop?)

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hairypalms (Sep 23, 2018 - 7:24 pm)

I would say you are in a god position to consider going solo. You have some clients, or at least the prospect of clients joining you. You have no debt. Likelihood is you are not making partner at this stage. I presume you are of counsel. If the hours/office politics, [fill in the blank] aren't killing you, I would stick it out for a couple more years, bank more money all with the goal of launching a solo practice. Start prepping. Get your computer system and file management system up and running. Prepare your letterhead, business plan, forms, etc. Buy your copy machine, fax machine, get a phone number, etc. Buy your desk set and bookcases. Coast for a year or two - who cares if your hours slide. I have considered going solo in the future, but I am in house right now and it's pretty decent. You might want to consider going in house if you can. QOL is much better than BigLaw and my total comp is about $200k.

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reg45 (Sep 23, 2018 - 8:14 pm)

Thanks. Good advice.

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nycatt (Sep 26, 2018 - 3:35 pm)

I think you should try in house. Who cares if the salaries are low to start. Money isn't every thing. But, if you go up the corporate latter, salaries can be better than a top associate or small firm partner makes. Plus, if you live in a lower cost of living part of the country, it will feel like you got a giant raise. I moved to Florida from NYC and feel pretty rich, but make a bit less money, and am way less stressed (although my executive wife makes the same NYC money). The stress of working at a big firm sucked for me; so glad its over. I am not a solo, but know that the stress of a solo is just as bad as big firm stress, but of a different kind.

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reg45 (Sep 26, 2018 - 4:00 pm)

I hear what you're saying, but convincing my wife to move is highly unlikely.

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nycatt (Sep 27, 2018 - 6:56 pm)

We moved near our parents and not have mega free babysiting. If you are not near your parents and have kids, you will see that moving near at least one set has huge benefits and wont have a problem convincing your wife. If you are already near your parents, you are probably stuck :)

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dingbat (Sep 24, 2018 - 5:09 pm)

Your client base is less than you make. And it’ll shrink significantly when you strike out on your own.

Going solo will probably be a disaster.

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 5:49 pm)

I'm trying to avoid a disaster. Making less is something I'm willing to put up with it in the end I make more. My current firm is not oriented to transactional IP. So longer-term there may not be a future for me there.

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isthisit (Sep 24, 2018 - 5:26 pm)

Only if you have the cojones for solo practice.

It won't be easy and I don't know how feasible a small IP shop is but if you're willing to branch out into other areas of law than you can make a go at it. It may be years before you make what you're currently making.

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 5:54 pm)

I see loads of solo IP shops on the internet practicing trademarks, parents, licensing. My firm constantly talks about being undercut by the small boutiques and only large clients are less price sensitive but still require discounts. Some boutique shops seem to do ok based on the publicly available filings. But you never know the real story.

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dingbat (Sep 24, 2018 - 9:01 pm)

Do you know what all those small firms can do that you can’t?

Generate business.

12 years of practice and a (probably non-portable) book of business of 150k means you don’t have the most important skill solos need, which is the ability to generate business

Your best chance is to find rainmaker who sucks as a lawyer. Of course, finding one smart enough to know she/he sucks and dumb enough to venture out on their own requires a minor miracle

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 10:01 pm)

What are the skills required to consistently generate business?

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dingbat (Sep 25, 2018 - 12:19 am)

Ask three rainmakers and you’ll get four opinions.

Also, different firms have different business models, for which the answer could be quite different.

The wrong time to figure it out is when you’re starting your own firm. Experiment at your current firm. Set a goal for yourself.
You’ve been bringing in $150k. Set a target if $200k over the next 12 months. $250k the year after. If you can’t, don’t go solo.

Ask senior partners for advice, get them to teach you. Show an interest in the business side of the business

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isthisit (Sep 25, 2018 - 8:00 am)

I agree with Dingbat. If you don't already know at 12 years than you just don't have that skill. But you can learn it. Ask the firm's rainmakers and see if they'll share their knowledge with you. I'm sure they would since people love talking about themselves and what makes them better.

Trial and error at your current firm until you succeed or get canned.

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 5:54 pm)

I see loads of solo IP shops on the internet practicing trademarks, parents, licensing. My firm constantly talks about being undercut by the small boutiques and only large clients are less price sensitive but still require discounts. Some boutique shops seem to do ok based on the publicly available filings. But you never know the real story.

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 6:45 pm)

What other areas of law do you suggest?

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isthisit (Sep 25, 2018 - 8:03 am)

Doesn't matter I suggest. What matters is what you can actually do and reasonably learn.

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grinder (Sep 24, 2018 - 7:49 pm)

Curious, why not go in house?

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 8:07 pm)

Didn't really pursue it. Salaries also seem kind of low.

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wutwutwut (Sep 25, 2018 - 9:06 am)

Salary seemed kinda low is the first thing that came to mind when reading "attorney in big law for 12 years - making 200k", except switch the word "kinda" out for "unbelievably".

Aren't biglaw 3rd years around 200k?

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reg45 (Sep 25, 2018 - 9:12 pm)

My hours are below standard. Not enough work around.

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wutwutwut (Sep 26, 2018 - 10:14 pm)

Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining, and sorry to hear about it.

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reg45 (Sep 26, 2018 - 11:03 pm)

Nothing to be sorry about. It just is the way it is.

I developed a book of business, but it was unappreciated. So I took my foot of the gas and coasted. I need to develop more clients and rather than giving them to the firm, I'm thinking opening up my own shop. The question that I have is if that is a good idea.

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reg45 (Sep 26, 2018 - 11:11 pm)

One aspect that I'm considering is working like the Dickens to bring in business of all IP types and grow from solo to 3-4 attorney small firm and try to be acquired in 5 years by a bigger firm.

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wutwutwut (Sep 27, 2018 - 12:18 am)

Out of curiosity, what's your UG and primary tech area for prosecution? If chem or something like it, there are probably in-house opportunities with pharma companies in your area that pay a lot more than you have in mind for in-house compensation. Particularly given your transactional experience.

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reg45 (Sep 27, 2018 - 7:27 am)

Not chem.

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wutwutwut (Sep 26, 2018 - 11:55 pm)

Above you mention "Have a client base of 150k per year". I assume you mean you're also doing this 150k work (vs. just "originating" it) and also assume you're doing considerable work on other files (else you wouldn't be getting paid 200k).

Look at that client base critically - how much of that 150k would follow you if you go solo?

A minor portion? A major portion?

If it's a majority, and if I thought I could generate more, and especially if I had several years' float (I'm assuming this is not just bare minimum living expenses over the estimated business overhead), I might go for it.


As for your Dickensian firm, maybe. But that smells a lot like hoping for a lottery win. Maybe I'm cynical. Firm consolidations do tend to go in cycles, so maybe if you grow enough work for 5 (counting yourself) you could get lucky and catch a wave.

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reg45 (Sep 27, 2018 - 7:40 am)

Originating and doing all work on my client base. For a handful of others' clients I have been doing all the legal work for the last 7+ years.

(The legal business sucks. If I could turn the clock back, I would have gotten an MBA instead.)

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justdoingok (Sep 24, 2018 - 10:45 pm)

Question for OP, when you say “transactional IP” do you mean prosecution or IP licensing/M&A? Having a good deal of the latter experience makes you marketable to other big law (at the of counsel level) or in house.

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reg45 (Sep 24, 2018 - 10:58 pm)

It's 3/4 pros and 1/4 licensing.

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justdoingok (Sep 25, 2018 - 5:50 pm)

I think you could be marketable to other biglaw firms or in house with this background as IP counsel and support to M&A. Salaries aren’t the entire story to in house comp. Some companies have bonuses, stock options or grants that could put comp on par with big law (but perhaps not with biglaw bonuses).

I wouldn’t go solo these days as strictly IP pros. Too competitive and not enough clients. Also, if you enjoy the IP Transactional work you are not likely to see a lot of that as a solo.

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wallypancake (Sep 26, 2018 - 11:48 am)

Depends on your location. Are you in the Bay area or NYC? Solo may be the way to go, though it is still a questionable move. Are you in Omaha? Going solo not a good idea. Need more information from OP.

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reg45 (Sep 26, 2018 - 2:09 pm)

NYC

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bizzybone1313 (Oct 18, 2018 - 7:16 am)

Good thread!!

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