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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?

    The firm consists of two partners, Michelle Maratto Itkowitz and Jay B. Itkowitz. Michelle heads Itkowitz PLLC. We typically have three associate attorneys. We have paralegals, technologists, an accounting person, a marketing professional, and a human resources manager. You will have the chance to meet everyone during the interview process.

    We had three associates in February 2017. Two are leaving for greener pastures. We are hoping to replace them and maybe get one more. We are busy these days. So, we are looking for at least two, maybe three people.

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

    You should expect to be at work, on average, about 47.5 hours per week, depending on what is going on. This average is made up of months when you will work in excess of 47.5 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 190 hours per month. Please note that those 190 hours are not "billable" hours, they are hours spent at work or working. Thus, things like researching from home count toward your 190 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. We create and shares tons of original and useful content on real estate and law –- from booklets to videos to the many useful articles that can be found on the Teaching and Publishing blog. As the “Legal Expert" for LandlordsNY, the first online social networking platform exclusively for landlords and property managers, Michelle Maratto Itkowitz answers member's questions, guest blogs, and teaches. Michelle recently developed a seven-part, eight-hour continuing legal education curriculum entitled "New York Landlord and Tenant Litigation" for Over 16,000 lawyers have purchased Michelle's and Jay’s earlier CLE classes from Lawline, and the programs have met with the highest reviews.

    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?

    In general, we prefer to hire recent law graduates (within a couple years of graduation) who are a natural match for an entry-level position. We like to train people from the beginning. Entry-level associates are integral to our firm's delivery of superior client service in a value-driven model. Hiring a lateral for an entry-level position does not make sense for either the firm or the candidate.

    I had dinner with a partner from a 100-attorney a few years ago, and he asked me, "How can your firm take entry level associates? Aren't they a hassle? We get our associates from the big firm refugees." I answered, “Yes, it's a big responsibility, hiring entry-levels, but laterals often don’t know so much anyway, or they know just enough to be dangerous."

    New lawyers are an important element in the delivery of legal services in a value-driven model. And not just because they are a cheaper line-item on a client invoice. 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. The Itkowitz PLLC Legal Project Management protocol builds training into every phase of the work and encourages young lawyers to think.

    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 ("LPM") is a unique and better way for lawyers and clients to work together.

    Too often, clients pose goals, which they have not carefully considered, to an attorney, who then unilaterally dictates a plan of action. The attorney immediately gets to work, and the client awaits an outcome (and usually a massive bill). LPM attempts to change the paradigm from clients and attorneys working asynchronously, to lawyer-client teams that work together effectively and efficiently. We seek to collaboratively determine the client's true goals, and to a craft strategy to meet those goals as effectively as possible.

    So how does LPM change the delivery of legal services? A case is subdivided into a series of manageable stages (or "Scopes of Work"), for 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 the Outcome. When each Scope of Work is completed, new information discovered 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 desk top 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, deploying the same high-level software utilized by most Am-Law-100 Firms and the United States Department of Justice. Itkowitz litigated the first case on e-discovery sanctions in New York State Court.

    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. 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?

    There are (or will be) two well-trained paralegals.

  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?

    Over the last eight years, we have had an average of three associates at a time, and those associates stay for an average of two years each (specifically, 20.6 months).

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

    American University Washington College of Law 1
    Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law 2
    Brooklyn Law School 4
    Columbia 1
    Emory University School of Law 1
    Fordham Law School 3
    Hofstra University School of Law 2
    New York Law School 1
    University of Maryland School of Law 1
    University of Michigan Law School 1
    University of Minnesota Law School 1
    University of Notre Dame 2
    University of Virginia School of Law 2

  19. Where do your associates go after Itkowitz PLLC?

    One of the strongest recommendations for taking this job is that it will open up many doors for you that are not currently open to you as an entry level. We would love for you to spend your entire career here and maybe you will. But most lawyers today do not spend their entire careers at their first job, and we are only too honored that great people choose to begin their fantastic careers here. This is a great incubator job.

    Here are places our former associates’ careers have taken them (this list tracks 15 former associates since 2009; the more recent departures are on top):

    • Barclay Damon
    • Rosenberg & Estis
    • Wolf Halderstein
    • Wilson Harvey Browndorf
    • New York City Department of Parks, Assistant Counsel, General Counsel's Office (What a great job!)
    • New York City Department Citywide Administrative Services, Assistant General Counsel
    • Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford P.C. (2 of our associates who left in 2013 went to this firm; then one went to Harris Beach)
    • Wachtel Masyr & Missry LLP (This person has since parlayed the Wachtel job into McDermott Will & Emery, where she does transactions. She did her first closing here.)
    • Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney Ltd.
    • Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
    • Nixon Peabody LLP
    • Baker Hostetler (3 people have gone directly from Itkowitz PLLC to this firm – two became full associates; one left Baker for Akerman Senterfitt and then Ropes & Gray LLP)
  20. Does the firm have an internal mission statement?

    There are five things that we are trying to achieve at Itkowitz PLLC:

    1. To deliver the highest quality legal services to our clients, expeditiously and in a cost-effective manner.
    2. To be the absolute best in the industry at what we do.
    3. To be ethical - in all things, at all times.
    4. To be profitable.
    5. To have a good quality of life attend our careers. This means both that: (a) we enjoy being at work, and (b) our work schedules allow us to have sufficient time outside of work for satisfying overall lives.

  21. Itkowitz PLLC is a small firm, do you anticipate it remaining so?

    Yes, we anticipate remaining 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 often ask), or growing so big that the principals cannot have their hands on every single case. At Itkowitz PLLC, you are getting an Itkowitz.

    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.

  22. Who are your clients?

    We represent people and businesses in all capacities in the real estate industry including: landlords, tenants, developers, brokers, property managers, condo boards, co-op boards, architects, contractors, sub-contractors, sellers, buyers, lenders, and borrowers, to name a few.

    Our clients are large companies, medium-sized companies, small businesses, government agencies, family businesses, not-for-profits, and individuals. It runs the full gamut. I list elsewhere on the site the names of the organizations that we have represented at the bottom of the What We Do page that I believe people would recognize, because they are larger. This does not mean that we represent only large organizations.

  23. 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.

  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. We consider closely, however, graduates from any of the top 70 or so law schools.

    All resumes go through two rounds of preliminary vetting, where we look for things like glaring typos. 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. 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.

    Probably two-thirds of the candidates who attend a first interview are asked back for a second interview, where the candidate meets everyone. Therefore, if you come back, you will meet almost everyone that you would be working with. You will have as long as you like to ask the associates frank questions outside of the presence of the partners.

    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 grueling 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. As we look back on the list of 21 associates who have been through here in 8 years, as we think about what working with them was like, and as we watch their careers since they have left here – we are reminded that the effort has been worth it.

  25. I am not living in New York City right now, can we do a telephone or video conference interview? Will you pay for me to come to New York City for the interview?

    No, to both questions. We simply do not feel comfortable conducting the first interview via phone or video conference.

    In a sense, we have a rolling recruitment process. If we like your writing and ask you to come for an interview, the interview can be held the next time you are in New York City and it is convenient for you. If by the time you are in New York City and available for an interview, the firm has filled all its current associate positions, then interview with us anyway. If we are inclined to extend an offer to you, then when next we have an open slot, we will do so. If, at such time, you are available and want the job, then it will be a match.

  26. Do you do on campus interviews at my school? Should I apply before I graduate? Do you take summer associates?

    No, to all three questions. We have been invited to participate in on-campus interviews almost everywhere, but we do not see the utility in doing so. We do not take summer associates. We will not consider you until you have taken the New York State Bar exam. You do not have to know yet whether you have passed the exam, you just have to have taken it.

  27. 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

    • 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.
  28. How many people am I competing with for this job? I applied before and no one contacted me, should I apply again?

    If you average the last five associate ads that we placed, we get 490 resumes every time we place an ad. A bit less than half of those applications make it through the first two preliminary rounds to undergo in depth grading. We ask the top ten percent of those candidates who were graded to send writing. We ask about half of those who sent writing samples to come in for a first interview. At that point, you have a fifty percent chance of getting the job.

    Two associates hired previously applied more than once before we called them. What changed in the interim between their first and second applications? Many things can change. Your presentation, writing, work experience, bar admissions, personal interests and even your law school's ranking can all be enhanced over time. Also the market changes. Moreover, hopefully, we at the firm get better with time as well, and develop an ever-keener eye for the true gems out there.

  29. 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.