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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. Much of what follows was created in collaboration with current associates. No one will ever tell you more about a potential job than we will.

  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 currently have three associate attorneys. One is a 10th year who has been with us for many years. Two are attorneys at the beginning of their careers. We have two well-trained paralegals. We have technologists, an accounting person, and a human resources manager.

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

    You should expect to be at work, on average, about 45 hours per week, depending on what is going on. This average is made up of months when you will work in excess of 45 hour weeks, for example, when you are involved in a trial, and months when you take three weeks off, for example, to get married or travel.

    There is no "billable hours" requirement. Associates are expected to enter into the time keeping program a record of all their activities while at work. Currently, the associates are required to record an average of 180 hours per month. Please note that those 180 hours are not "billable" hours, they are hours spent at work or working. Thus, things like researching from home count toward your 180 hours. This is not as onerous as the hourly requirements at large law firms, but neither does it make for a nine-to-five job.

  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
    • Legal research, legal research, legal research
    • 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
    • Preparing discovery demands
    • Responding to discovery demands
    • Organizing facts and data, making time lines and spreadsheets
    • Attending client meetings and taking notes
    • Electronically Stored Information (“ESI") discovery work
    • Preparing materials that partners need for depositions, oral arguments, trials, etc.
    • Legal Project Management

    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 the motions you draft
    • Inquests
    • Defending depositions on cases you are very familiar with
    • Greater interaction with clients
    • Routine, and increasingly more complicated, settlement negotiations
    • Trial prep
    • Legal Project Management

    Within two years:

    • More legal research
    • Harder motions
    • Taking depositions where appropriate
    • Second seating trials
    • Legal Project Management

  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.

    We are committed to teaching. We teach and write extensively for the legal profession as well as for other professional groups. Moreover, we have a great computer system and we have many documents automated so they are easier to draft, and we have a great database of samples, to help you with your work.

  5. I see that you firm focuses on real estate 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. Why do you hire entry levels?

    We prefer to hire recent law graduates (within a couple years of graduation) 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 your standards. 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 choice part of a legal team.

    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.

  7. 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 bring about the successful completion of the specific goals of 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 of our associates are taught to approach their work with this method.

  8. How are cases staffed? How are assignments handed out?

    Every case has a partner and an associate assigned to it. If and when the case needs further staffing, there are typically other associates assigned to the case as well, i.e. secondary associates. The secondary associates may come in and out of the picture, but the main associate on the case is there from beginning to end.

    We choose who the main associate on the case is by taking the following into consideration: whose case load is currently the lightest; who has worked on that type of case before and is, therefore, familiar with the area, or alternatively, who has not worked on that type of case before and needs to learn something about that area; whether the case requires a more senior associate or whether a more junior associate could handle it.

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

    We do not have a formal review process at this time. But 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 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. We also have a distinct advantage over large firms when it comes to technology. When a large firm decides to roll out a new piece of technology or an upgrade, it has to do so for hundreds of people in multiple locations. In contrast, Itkowitz is far more nimble when it comes to incorporating new technological initiatives, giving the firm the freedom to experiment and innovate with its technology.

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

    Honestly…it’s nice here.

  12. Where will I sit? What are the facilities like?

    We are at 26 Broadway, overlooking the New York harbor. We occupy a newly renovated 11,000 square-foot floor, on the 21st floor of the Standard Oil Building. In fact, our floor contains the old Rockefeller Board Room, which we restored – we call it the Great Room. The Great Room is 54’ x 24’, with 15’ ceilings and windows on three sides. It has a “working" fireplace.

  13. What benefits do I get?

    We can provide you with greater details on the following if you need to know it before accepting the job. In general:

    • United Healthcare-Oxford Healthcare after three months on the job and the employee pays thirty percent of the premium
    • TransitCheck
    • We pay your salary while you are serving jury duty
    • Some free CLE

  14. What are the expectations with respect to attire?

    Business casual. Emphasis on “casual”. We do not dress up every day. Client meetings are scheduled in advance. We only dress up when we have to be at a meeting or in court. We all keep suits in the closet. This makes life much easier.

  15. What is the support staff like?

    The paralegals are career paralegals, with post-graduate paralegal certificates. The tech people are very experienced as well.

  16. Can I ever work from home?

    It is important for you to be present in the office. However, we give you the capability to sign in remotely if necessary.

  17. 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.

  18. Where do your associates come from and how long do they stay?

    Since Michelle founded her firm, she has had an average of two associates at a time, and those associates stay for an average of two years each.

    We do not favor any particular law school. We like any law school that produces great people. Our last seven associates' law schools were:

    • Emory University School of Law
    • University of Virginia School of Law
    • Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
    • Brooklyn Law School
    • University of Virginia School of Law
    • University of Ohio
    • Brooklyn Law School

  19. Does the firm have an internal mission statement?

    Michelle Itkowitz defines the mission of her law firm, Itkowitz PLLC, as follows. We want to be the best landlord and tenant litigation and consulting firm in New York City.

    A student of strategic planning might point out that a good mission statement needs to state a measurable objective. Is “best” quantifiable? Here is how we define “best”:

    • We want every engagement to conclude with a client having the opinion that they received value from our representation. Our goal is no unhappy customers.
    • 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.
    • We want to remain above reproach at all times and in all things, from an ethics perspective.
    • We want our work to be respected by our colleagues, opponents, judges, and the public in general.
    • We want our associates, paralegals, and other team members to enjoy their time here and to grow professionally from the experience of being here.
    • We want to give back to the profession through teaching.
    • We want to maintain a healthy price point and archive a healthy profit margin.

    Most of these items can be tracked, and we do so. A mission statement is not useful if a group cannot clearly understand it and measure its progress against it.


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

    Yes, we will remain small. We are to law what a boutique furniture-making studio producing custom, hand-made heirloom pieces is to the furniture business. We are not IKEA. Or if you prefer a football analogy – we are to law what Special Teams are to a football team. We are a highly trained, tight-knit unit that comes in and gets the job done. There are less of us on the field, but we have a disproportionally large impact on the outcome of the game. To be sure – there is a place in the law, in furniture, and in football for the big organization. We are simply not that.

    Analogies aside, we are a boutique law firm and our business model is to deliver the finest quality work to clients who need it and can afford it, and to keep our overhead and the client’s fees low while doing it. We do not anticipate either being acquired by a larger firm (although they ask), or growing so big that Michelle cannot have her hands on every single case.

    It is not actually that hard to cobble together tens or even hundreds of lawyers and call yourself a mid-sized or large firm. In fact, that is the trend lately. But that does not mean that a firm is offering more value to the client. Often it only means that one practice group is leveraged against another, and that more partners need to figure out how to play nicely together.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. Can I bring in business? Or develop my own business while I am your associate?

    No. Michelle has too much business of her own. We are only interested in associates who want to work and learn. If you have a powerful need to either import your own existing clients or develop your own client base, this is the wrong job for you.

  24. Why have you chosen to interview me? And what will my interview be like? Describe the hiring process.

    Our associate hiring process goes like this.

    We place an ad for an associate position with 30 law schools on Symplicity and with approximately a dozen minority bar associations.

    All resumes go through two rounds of preliminary vetting. Those that remain after the preliminary vetting 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 interview your writing before we interview you. We ask the top ranked individuals for at least 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 who is a man or a woman, 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. You have to be able to write well to work here. Thus, we put this step in front of the interview process.

    After rating the writing samples, we ask the top writers to come in for an interview where they meet with Michelle Itkowitz. She 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.

  25. How do I apply?

    If you are not responding to a specific advertisement, then please follow the below procedure:

    Application Process: Send resume and cover letter to Michelle Maratto Itkowitz at managingpartner@itkowitz.com.

    • State clearly and exactly your bar status in the first paragraph of the cover letter;
    • Indicate where you saw the ad in the first paragraph of the cover letter;
    • Only email (do not call or fax or mail hardcopy);
    • Only send resume and cover letter (no writing samples, transcripts or references); and
    • Mention in the subject line of the email that you are applying for Job # AT-000C.
  26. How many people am I competing with for this job?

    If you average the last four associate ads that we placed, we get 209 resumes every time we place an ad.

  27. 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.