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Careers at Itkowitz PLLC

What follows are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about what it is like to be an associate at Itkowitz PLLC and our hiring process.

  1. What is the current composition of the firm? Who will I be working for and with?

    Itkowitz PLLC is Michelle Maratto Itkowitz’s law firm. Her husband and law partner, Jay B. Itkowitz, has a role in the firm as well. We typically have two entry-level associates.

    There is a team of four support staff people who have (thank G-d) been with us through thick and thin. The longest tenure in this group is twenty years and the shortest is almost five years. Our paralegal is a career paralegal, with a post-graduate paralegal certificate from an Ivy League school. There are two technologists who have both been with us for about a decade. You will see below that we are a very forward-thinking firm when it comes to tech. We also have an accounting/human resources specialist who keeps everything working smoothly.

  2. How many hours per week am I expected to be at work? To bill?

    You should expect to be at work, on average, for 40 hours per week, depending on what is going on.

    Associates are expected to enter all their work activities into the time-keeping program, whether those activities are training, administrative tasks, or legal work. There is no “billable hours” requirement. The job is more about completing the tasks that you are assigned then hitting a certain target number of hours.

  3. What will I be doing?

    For an entry-level position, the following are examples of what you will be doing at first:

    • Reading extremely long leases and contracts
    • Reading extremely long leases and contracts
    • Routine court appearances, mainly for calendar calls and compliance conferences
    • Drafting letters
    • Routine, and increasingly more challenging, communications with opposing counsel and clients
    • Preparing pleadings
    • Responding to discovery demands
    • Organizing facts and data, making timelines and spreadsheets
    • Attending client meetings and depositions and taking notes
    • Electronically Stored Information (“ESI") discovery work
    • Preparing materials that partners need for depositions, oral arguments, trials, etc.

    The following are some examples of what you will likely be doing within the year:

    • MORE legal research
    • Drafting simple, and increasingly more complicated, motions
    • Arguing certain motions that you have drafted
    • Inquests
    • Defending depositions on cases you are very familiar with
    • Defending depositions on cases you are very familiar with
    • Trial prep

    Within two years:

    • More legal research
    • Harder motions
    • Second seating trials

  4. It sounds like I will have a great deal of responsibility; will I have enough training and supervision, or will I be left on my own?

    You will be more than adequately trained and supervised. Every day will be a learning experience. In fact, this is a great job to have if your primary goal at this stage in your career is to develop as an attorney.

    Michelle Itkowitz is committed to teaching. Michelle teaches and writes extensively for the legal profession as well as for other professional groups. Law is an apprentice profession. It always has been. It has to be; there is too much to know, with more to know all the time. Experienced lawyers have to teach new lawyers, and we are happy to do so.

  5. I see that your firm focuses on New York City landlord and tenant litigation. I did not concentrate in real property classes in law school. Nor did any of my clinics or jobs focus on real estate litigation? Is that a problem?

    Not in the least. You will be trained. We understand what we are getting when we hire entry-levels.

  6. Where do your associates come from and how long do they stay? Why do you hire entry levels?

    We do not favor any particular law school. Our last eight associates' law schools were:

    • Emory University School of Law
    • University of Virginia School of Law (2 of the 8)
    • Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
    • Brooklyn Law School (3 of the 8)
    • University of Ohio

    Since I (Michelle Itkowitz) founded this firm in 2013, I have had eight associates, and those associates have stayed for an average of just over two and one-half years each (the average is 31.8 months). Our system is designed for you to leave happily in about 2.5 years. At that point, a mid-sized or a large firm will be offering you a huge salary for a position that you did not have access to before you did your 2.5 years here. This job has launched so many great careers. At that point, I go out and get the next promising new lawyer. As a super-nichey boutique, I do not have a strong need for mid-level lawyers (but mid-sized and big firms do!). My system works for everyone.

    We prefer to hire recent law graduates who are a natural match for an entry-level position. Entry-level associates are integral to our firm's delivery of superior client service in a value-driven model. It is healthy to train someone up to one’s own standards (read about the training more below). And the energy and enthusiasm an entry level brings to the table are unmatched. When entry levels are closely supervised and properly trained, they are an excellent part of a legal team.

  7. What is the technology like at the firm?

    The technology at Itkowitz PLLC is excellent, truly as good as you will find at any firm, of any size, anywhere. Each Itkowitz team member has a state-of-the-art desktop and is supported by our team of top-notch technologists. Itkowitz PLLC employs seamlessly integrated practice management software, document management software, and document generation software, which allows the firm to be a "paperless" office. Itkowitz PLLC is a fully e-discovery capable firm.

    Itkowitz PLLC does not have technology for technology's sake, rather we have good stuff that works and makes life easier. Our experience has always been that the technology pays for itself by helping us efficiently provide excellent service to our clients. Most small firms simply do not invest the significant time and money in technology that Itkowitz does.

  8. Where will I sit? What are the facilities like? Can I ever work from home? Tell me about training an entry-level associate in a largely remote working environment.

    As I (Michelle Itkowitz) write this in July 2021, it is an interesting time to be an associate attorney in a New York City law firm as the world emerges from the Pandemic.

    We have an office. But we never go there anymore. We work remotely now. I am not sure when, if, or how that will change. The practice of law has gone remote. From the articles I read, it does not seem like big law has internalized this and I see that many associates are feeling pressure to go back to the office. This is often described as a generational battle. Gen X and Baby Boomers want to be in the office every day and Millennials and Gen Z want to work remotely, at least some of the time. Indeed, before I did the re-write of this “Careers” section in July 2021, I was one of those Gen X-er’s who thought remote work was for lazy-pants. The Pandemic, however, has changed my opinion on remote work, primarily because I have never been so productive in my career as I have been since the Pandemic. As a landlord and tenant lawyer in a pandemic, I was never more in demand than I have been since April 2020. Thankfully, I have been able to rise to the challenge of a heavier case load. The bottom line is that I have managed to effectively process so much more work since I went remote. When you take out the time, expense, and pressure of commuting and everything that goes with it, you can do more work, if you are disciplined.

    Furthermore, transitioning to remote work has not been so challenging for me for the following reasons. First, as we mentioned above, we have a great technological backbone to this firm. Absolutely everything was already in the cloud, as it should be. If you work for a law firm that still has a file room and you cannot access all aspects of a case file online, you need to quit and send someone a memo telling them that 1982 called and wants its business model back. Second, I have never had a practice where clients come in and see me. My clients tend to be high net worth individuals and organizations who would not typically come and sit in a waiting room behind plate glass, waiting for a receptionist to let them in to a big messy corner office filled with overflowing files and some shellacked awards on the wall (speaking of 1982). If I really must get together with a client, which is rare, I will go to them.

    Having said all that, there are definitely some upsides to reporting for duty in an office. It is nice to see other humans, some people do not like living and working in the same physical space, and if you work from home, you do not get to go to the Indian food lunch buffet in midtown (OMG I have missed that so much). I am not negating the upsides of an in-office work environment. I am, at this time, merely concluding that the downsides outweigh the upsides, and thus I am opting to keep us remote for the foreseeable future.

    I have given a lot of thought about how to train an entry-level associate in a remote environment. Here are some of those thoughts:

    • Associates still learn by shadowing, but now it’s virtual shadowing. It is important to include associates in client phone calls and virtual court appearances as frequently as possible.
    • In the pre-Pandemic days, you used to go to court and wait your turn. I always tried to sit in the front row so I could watch other people’s cases. I feared that this would be lost now that so much court is on Microsoft Teams. But the more things change, the more they say the same. Increasingly, I sign on at the appointed time for my virtual court appearance and sit there muted with the video off and watch the judge handle the seven cases in front of mine! It’s just like the old days only better, because now I can hear and see everything the judge is doing. While I am often tempted to do other things during these long waits, I would encourage associates to watch attentively.
    • Sometimes when an associate gives me a first draft, I just take it and finish it. But that must be balanced with a certain number of occasions where I, instead, redline the document and give comments, so that the associate can move the piece forward. People learn more from doing things themselves. I think this is especially important in a remote environment. • Sometimes when an associate gives me a first draft, I just take it and finish it. But that must be balanced with a certain number of occasions where I, instead, redline the document and give comments, so that the associate can move the piece forward. People learn more from doing things themselves. I think this is especially important in a remote environment. • Sometimes when an associate gives me a first draft, I just take it and finish it. But that must be balanced with a certain number of occasions where I, instead, redline the document and give comments, so that the associate can move the piece forward. People learn more from doing things themselves. I think this is especially important in a remote environment.
    • When we used to be in the office, I would go into the associate’s office about once a week during the late afternoon with a cup of tea and just complain. Complaints about the clients, the adversaries, the state of the universe…So in the remote environment I suppose I will call the associate for my tea and complaining sessions. It is important for the associate being trained to see what the supervising attorney is really thinking, to see what she is really afraid of, to she what she is contemplating doing next in a case and why. This can still be achieved over the phone.
    • There will still be opportunities for in-person work. At one point, during the height of the Pandemic, which I truly believed should be conducted in person. I thought the case would be more likely to settle if the parties sat at the same table. All the parties cooperated, and we put on our masks and got through it in person. Also, there will always be a role in my practice for important in-person strategy sessions via the three-martini lunch.

    The bottom line is everybody is redefining their relationship to work in the post-Pandemic era and we all just have to play it by ear.

  9. How will I get feedback? Is there a formal review process?

    We do not have a formal review process. In an environment as small as this one, you will not be wondering what your strengths and weaknesses are. That becomes apparent very quickly. We give a great deal of feedback, both positive and constructive. Law is an apprentice profession, and continual feedback is part of the natural process. Look at it this way - it is in the firm's interest to capitalize upon your strengths and to help you improve upon the areas in which you need growth.

  10. What is the environment at the firm really like? How would you describe the company culture?

    Honestly…it’s nice here.

  11. What benefits do I get?

    Among other benefits, employees of Itkowitz PLLC get United Healthcare-Oxford Healthcare, after three months on the job, and the employee pays thirty percent (30%) of the premium. We will provide you with greater details on all of the benefits once we make you an offer and you are deciding whether to take the job.

  12. How much time off do I get?

    Associates start with four weeks off to be taken as paid vacation or sick time. Obviously we honor all the federal holidays

  13. Is the advertised salary negotiable? Do you give end-of-year bonuses?

    The advertised salary is not negotiable. We do not give end of year bonuses; the salary is all you can expect for the year.

  14. What can you tell me about how you manage your cases at Itkowitz PLLC? You mention Legal Project Management on the website - what is it?

    Legal Project Management is the discipline of managing resources to achieve a client’s realistic goals in a legal case, while honoring the constraints of the matter - such as time, money, and the status of relevant law.

    The Michelle Itkowitz version of Legal Project Management works in the following way. A case is subdivided into a series of manageable stages (or "Scopes of Work"), for each of which there is a cycle of assessment, client choice, execution, and outcome. With LPM's in-depth assessment phase, the client and firm are focused on information gathering, risk assessment, and critical thinking from the inception of each Scope of Work, so that the client is better able to make choices. By the time we reach the execution phase, there is more realistic approach to allocation of resources, budgeting, cost control, and deadline management. Because the client is making educated, informed choices, the client is not surprised by outcomes. When each Scope of Work is completed, new information feeds right back into the next Scope of Work, and the assessment begins anew.

    All our associates are taught to approach their work with this method.

  15. Does the firm have an internal mission statement?

    These are the things that we are trying to achieve at Itkowitz PLLC:

    1. At the conclusion of every engagement, the client must have the opinion that they received value from our representation. Our goal is to have only happy customers.
    2. We want a surfeit of potential good clients and good cases, so that we may choose whom we work with and what we work on.
    3. We always want to remain above reproach in all things, from an ethics perspective.
    4. We want our work to be respected by our colleagues, opponents, judges, and the public in general.
    5. We want our associates, paralegals, and other team members to enjoy their time here and to grow professionally from the experience of being here.
    6. We want to give back to the profession through teaching.
    7. We want to maintain a high price point and archive a healthy profit margin.
  16. Who are your clients?

    We represent tenants and landlords, in both residential and commercial matters. We are proud to serve all kinds of clients - individuals, big and small businesses, family businesses, start-ups, non-profits, and government, in this exciting niche area at the center of real property law. We also frequently work closely with corporate counsel, real estate transactional counsel, and estate counsel who bring us in to consult on the rent regulatory aspects of their deals.

  17. Itkowitz PLLC is a small firm; do you anticipate it remaining so?

    Yes, we will remain a small firm.

  18. How is the firm's ethics record?

    We are proud to say that we have never made a claim to our insurance carrier, nor has anyone here ever been disciplined in any way by the Bar Association. Our ethics record is spotless.

  19. How is the firm's ethics record?

    Our associate hiring process goes like this.

    We place an advertisement for an associate position with 50 law schools on Symplicity and with approximately a dozen minority bar associations.

    Applicants who do not follow the application process required by the job advertisement are eliminated immediately. Following instructions is important in this field. The remaining resumes are subjected to a detailed analysis using a standardized point system that gives credit for: presentation, academics, writing, moot court, work experience, bar admissions, school, and other factors.

    We ask the top ranked individuals for two writing samples. Before we read the samples, an administrative person redacts the names from the writing samples, so that as we read, we have no idea what a person’s gender is, whose name begins with A and whose with Z. Then we read the samples closely and rate them using a standardized point system that gives credit for: communication, complexity, persuasiveness, brevity, clarity, organization, topic sentences, format, etc.

    After rating the writing samples, we ask the top writers to come in for an interview where they meet with Michelle Itkowitz. Michelle has prepared a list of a super-psychological-scientific interview questions to ask the candidates. It is important that we know what you would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Honestly, the questions are straightforward, and most are simply designed to get you to talk. If you have made it to this point in the process, you are qualified for the job. Michelle's task at the interview is simply to determine who is likely to be the best fit for the job. Thus, there are no correct or incorrect answers to the questions. We do not do second interviews anymore.

    If we are going to offer you the job, we will ask for your references and speak with them. We also ask for a copy of your law school transcript.

    It is a long and hard process - for the firm - NOT for the candidate. But there is nothing more important to this firm than hiring the best people, so it is well worth the trouble.

    If we average the number of responses to the last five associate ads that we placed, we get 182 resumes every time we place an ad.

  20. Why do you give so much information about the job?

    Wrong question. The question should be – why doesn’t every firm answer these questions ahead of time? We got tired of wasting interview time telling people the answers to the same questions over and over. We prefer to be efficient and transparent.