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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 consists of two partners, Michelle Maratto Itkowitz and Jay B. Itkowitz. Jay founded his law practice in 1982. Michelle Maratto joined the practice in 1997. Today, Michelle Maratto Itkowitz heads Itkowitz PLLC. We currently have three associate attorneys. There are other non-attorney staff members - paralegals, technologists, an accounting team, a marketing department, and a human resources manager.

  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 a firm calendar-review meeting or researching from home count toward your 190 hours. This is not as onerous as the hours 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 timelines 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 in your second year:

    • All of the above activities, plus -
    • Drafting simple, and increasingly more complicated, motions
    • Arguing the motions you draft (maybe)
    • Attending depositions
    • Greater interaction with clients
    • Routine, and increasingly more complicated, settlement negotiations
    • Trial prep
    • Legal Project Management

    In your third year:

    • All of the above activities, plus -
    • Harder motions
    • Defending depositions where appropriate
    • Inquests
    • 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 goal is to develop as an attorney.

    We are committed to teaching. We teach and write extensively for our clients, the legal profession, and other professional groups. We regularly create and share original and useful content on real estate and law, including booklets, videos, podcasts, and articles. As the “Legal Expert” for LandlordsNY.com, the first social platform exclusively for landlords and property managers, Michelle Maratto Itkowitz answers member's questions, guest blogs, and teaches. Michelle recently developed a six-part, seven-hour continuing legal education curriculum for Lawline.com entitled "New York Landlord and Tenant Litigation". Over 16,000 lawyers have purchased Michelle's and Jay’s earlier CLE classes from Lawline.com, and the programs have met with the highest reviews. Jay and Michelle are currently co-authoring a chapter on lease remedy clauses for the New York State Bar Association, Real Property Section, Commercial Leasing Committee.

    The benefit of all this content creation and sharing redounds greatly to our associates. They often participate in creating this content and it is available to them as a resource. Moreover, we have a great computer system. We have many documents automated so they are easier to draft. We have a great database of samples. We create internal manuals on various topics that contain extensive checklists. Finally, we are always here to answer your questions.

  5. Why do you hire entry levels?

    I had dinner with a partner from a 100-attorney firm about a year 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 rejects." 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 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.

  6. Do you ever hire laterals? What if I am a lateral and am willing to take an entry-level job?

    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.

  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?

    Itkowitz PLLC employs Legal Project Management. Project management is classically associated with manufacturing, construction, technology development, and other fields. When project management principles are imposed upon the practice of law, you get Legal Project Management. The definition that we have developed at Itkowitz PLLC for Legal Project Management is:

    Legal Project Management (“LPM”) 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.

    Every matter starts with the firm seeking to determine the client's true goals for the engagement. Then there is an in-depth analysis phase where we gather factual information and conduct legal research. Then, we typically present the client with what we call a Legal Project Management Letter. The LPM Letter presents the client with various options. For each option, we methodically list six pieces of information: the option’s pros, cons, costs, timeframe, risks, and percentage likelihood of the option advancing the client’s goals. The client makes an informed choice, and we execute that choice. By the time we reach the execution phase, because of all this structured preparation, there is more realistic approach to allocation of resources, budgeting, cost control, and deadline management. After execution, there is an outcome. Because the client is making educated, informed choices, the client is not surprised by the outcome. The results of that outcome are taken into consideration, the client’s goals are re-clarified, and the cycle of analysis, choice, execution and outcome begins anew.

    LPM attempts to change the paradigm from clients and attorneys working asynchronously, to lawyer-client teams that work together effectively and efficiently. We have been developing this transformative method of practicing for over five years. Our clients appreciate it very much. We have taught various continuing legal education classes on Legal Project Management, including for the New York City Bar Association and for Lawline.com.

    Our website contains a lengthy section on LPM, as well as an e-book.

  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.

  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 - honestly - 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, deploying the same high-level software utilized by most Am-Law-100 Firms and the United States Department of Justice. We 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 PLLC 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 PLLC 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.

    You might imagine that we use that room as a conference room or for special guests – and we do sometimes. But on a daily basis we utilize it for our own support staff and as a common area for the attorneys.

  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
    • Group Life and Long Term Disability Insurance fully paid for by Itkowitz PLLC
    • TransitCheck
    • We pay your salary while you are serving jury duty
    • Some free CLE
    • We pay your annual fee for OneMedical, if you want to join it
    • Free weekly yoga class (your attendance counts toward your hours requirement)

  14. What are the expectations with respect to attire?

    Business extremely 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 on the backs of our doors. This makes life much easier.

  15. What is the support staff like?

    There are two well-trained paralegals. We do not have secretaries. An example of how things work is as follows: an associate drafts an affirmation, then the paralegal (working in close conjunction with the attorney) makes the litigation backs, gathers the exhibits, assembles the papers, serves the document, does the affidavit of service, and e-files it.

  16. Can I ever work from home?

    Eventually. The first year or so it is important for you to be present in the office. However, we give you the capability to sign in remotely.

  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 five associates at a time, and those associates stay for an average of two years each (specifically, 20.1 months). This accounts for the fact that we have had 18 associates in the last eight years, excluding the two that are here now.

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

    American University Washington College of Law 1
    Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law 2
    Brooklyn Law School 4
    Columbia Law School 1
    Emory University School of Law 1
    Fordham Law School 2
    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 1

  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.

    Consider the six associates who left here in 2013. They all departed to jobs that met the following criteria: almost all their new jobs had higher salaries; all were bigger organizations than Itkowitz PLLC; the jobs were in more specialized areas that these young lawyers hoped to break into; and they were jobs that none of our associates could have been candidates for as entry levels. This job propelled them. This is a great incubator job. Here is where the six associates went:

    • Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford P.C. (50 lawyers, litigation, multi-state offices) (2 of our associates who left in 2013 went to this firm)
    • Wachtel Masyr & Missry LLP (40 lawyers, real estate transactional) (This person has since parlayed the Wachtel job into McDermott Will & Emery, an 1,100 attorney firm, where she does transactions. She did her first closing here)
    • Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney Ltd. (100 lawyers, litigation)
    • 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

    And here are places other former Itkowitz PLLC associates’ careers have taken them:

    • Nixon Peabody
    • McDermott Will & Emery
    • Loeb & Loeb LLP
    • Baker Hostetler (3 people have gone directly from Itkowitz PLLC to this firm – two became full associates)
    • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
    • Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
    • Pepper Hamilton, LLP
    • Cozen & O'Connor
    • Robinson & Cole
    • Hiscock & Barclay, LLP
    • Metropolitan Transportation Authority - In House Counsel Department
    • NBC In House Legal Department
    • Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP
    • Kaye Schuler

    At the end of 2014, an associate left for a national firm opening a New York City office, prompting me to place an ad.

  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 sports 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.

    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.

    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.

  22. Who are your clients?

    We represent people and businesses in all capacities in the real estate industry including: owners, developers, brokers, property managers, condo boards, co-op boards, architects, contractors, sub-contractors, landlords, tenants, 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. We list elsewhere on the site the names of the organizations that we represent, which we believe people will recognize because they are large. 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. Your firm does an incredible amount of publishing and speaking, how do you manage that? And do you really expect me to read your whole website before the interview?

    The basis of our marketing, which is robust, is content marketing. That means that we seldom talk to the marketplace about how great we are. Why bother? Millions of law firms are saying the exact same thing. Instead, we create and disseminate articles on information that is useful to the real estate industry. We often partner with other organizations in doing so. We believe that in today’s complex world, the stronger law firm is that which freely shares information, as opposed to that which hoards it. The writing comes out of our work – which is daily research, writing, and solving real problems. When we see a trend that no one else is addressing, when several clients ask the same thing over and over, when an organization comes to us and asks for programing – we know it is time to create new content.

    If you want to really understand the law firm you are applying to, spend less time on our biographies and instead read through some of the Teaching and Publishing section of the site, the Accomplishments section, and the Legal Project Management section. The truth is that you are never going to read all of it because there are over 250 entries and even the short ones link to longer articles, booklets, podcasts, videos, and the full texts of many legal decisions. You don’t need to make a career out of learning about us. But you do have an opportunity with us that you will not with other firms – you can really know us well through all this content.

  25. 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 our managing partner, 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 all the lawyers. 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 20 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.

  26. 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 these questions. We simply do not feel comfortable conducting the first interview via phone or video conference.

  27. 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 sat for 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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 more 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.

  30. 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.