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.
September 9, 2013
- What is the current composition of the firm? Who will I be working for and with?
- How many hours a week am I expected to be at work? To bill?
- What will I be doing?
- How are cases staffed? How are assignments handed out?
- It sounds like I will have a great deal of responsibility; will I have enough supervision, or will I be left on my own?
- 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?
- How will I get feedback? Is there a formal review process?
- What is the technology like at the firm?
- What is the environment at the firm really like?
- Where will I sit? What are the facilities like?
- What benefits do I get?
- What are the expectations with respect to attire?
- What are the support staff like?
- Can I ever work from home?
- Is the advertised salary negotiable? Do you give end-of-year bonuses? What kind of raises can I expect?
- Where can I go after Itkowitz PLLC?
- Does the firm have an internal mission statement?
- I have looked at Itkowitz PLLC before and the number of lawyers fluctuates, why?
- How is the firm's ethics record?
- You are a New York City law firm; do you favor Northeast Law Schools?
- Why have you chosen to interview me? And what will my interview be like? Describe the hiring process.
- Do you currently have any open entry level associate positions? I am currently in a clerkship or a fellowship that will last for about a year, but would like to apply now, does that make sense?
- 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?
- But what if by the time I am in New York City and available for an interview, you have filled all your current associate positions?
- Do you do on campus interviews at my school? Should I apply before I graduate? Do you take summer associates?
- Do you hire laterals? What if I am a lateral and am willing to take an entry-level job?
- How do I apply?
- How many people am I competing with for this job? I applied before and no one contacted me, should I apply again?
What is the current composition of the firm? Who will I be working for and with?
The firm currently consists of two partners, Jay Itkowitz and Michelle Maratto. Our the last five years, the number of associates has varied from as few as two to as many as ten associates. There are approximately a dozen other non-attorney staff members - paralegals, technologists, an accounting team, a marketing department, and a human resources manager. You will have the chance to meet nearly everyone during the interview process. The firm is still small enough that we can answer that you will be working, at some point or another, with almost everyone.
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 the obligatory afternoon cake in the conference room for a co-worker's birthday or researching from home count toward your 190 hours. This is not as onerous as the hours requirement at large law firms, but neither does it make for a nine-to-five job.
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
- Electronic 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
- 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
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.
It sounds like I will have a great deal of responsibility; will I have enough supervision, or will I be left on my own?
You will be adequately supervised. Every day will be a training experience.
- We conduct formal weekly trainings on a variety of topics. In fact, you can watch one of our trainings. On February 28, 2012 Itkowtiz partners Jay Itkowitz and Michelle Maratto, along with some Itkowitz associates, gave a live continuing legal education presentation to 200 students for Lawline.com entitled, Learning Motion Practice in an Apprentice Profession - Everything you Need to Know to Make Motions Right. Course description: "This nuts and bolts presentation is an essential tool that you will want to watch, then watch again, then watch a third time if you are at the beginning of your career litigating before the New York State Courts. Or if you are a firm that hires entry level associates - you will keep this video handy and show it often." Praise for the course from Lawline.com customers includes: "Wow, I wish I could have watched this course right after finishing law school, it would have saved me a ton of headaches! All novice lawyers should to consider themselves lucky to now have this resource." Zara W., New York.
- See some actual internal flyers regarding weekly trainings offered at the firm.
- 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.
- Here is an example of an informal training protocol: whenever there is a deposition, the attorney taking the deposition takes an entry level associate with him or her to watch the deposition, whether or not that associate is assigned to the case. The entry level associate who attends is also required to handle the pre and post deposition checklist items.
- The firm has drafted many teaching materials for courses that we teach and these serve also as helpful internal firm training materials.
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 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 to effectively and efficiently 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'ss 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 Assessment begins anew.
All of our associates are taught to approach their work with this method.
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 of how you work and learn with other attorneys. 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.
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 a Blackberry, and is supported by our team of top-notch technologists, who frequently run computer trainings. 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.
What is the environment at the firm really like?
The environment is generally casual, collegial, organized. But, frankly, if you are a very sensitive person, then this is not the job for you. Periodically tensions can run high in an environment like this -- we are a small shop with great clients. These clients expect as much from us as they would from a large firm; more, actually. The work is demanding. The pressure can be intense with high standards and tight deadlines.
The following comment comes from an actual former associate here: "The reality of a small firm is that everyone interacts with everyone else. Unlike a large firm, there is nowhere to 'hide' and be just a 'cog'. Additionally, because it is a small firm, everyone must shoulder their share of responsibility. You must stay on top of things, and if a ball gets dropped, you will need to answer for it."
The upside is that the pressure is a function of challenging work, not challenging people. It being a small group of carefully selected people, there is no "back stabbing" or other non-productive nonsense here.
Where will I sit? What are the facilities like?
You will have your own little office with a window. We can show it to you on the interview. We will never cram two attorneys into one office or put a J.D. at a workstation. (Many firms, large and small, do.) We occupy a newly renovated 8,700 square-foot floor. If you want to get a sense of the place, please see the link to the Empty Walls Itinerant Art Initiative.
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
- We pay your salary while you are serving jury duty
- We typically provide you access to enough free CLE to meet your bi-annual requirements
- Discounted gym memberships available
- Free weekly yoga class (your attendance counts toward your hours requirement)
What are the expectations with respect to attire?
Business extremely casual. We do not dress up every day. Client meetings are scheduled in advance. So 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. And we have a discount deal with an environmentally friendly dry cleaner that picks up and drops off at the office.
What are the support staff like?
There are three well-trained paralegals. We do not have secretaries. An example of how things work is as follows: an associate drafts a letter and prints it out and gives it to a paralegal to scan and mail; or, an associate drafts an affirmation, then the paralegal (working in close conjunction with the attorney) makes the litigation backs, copies the exhibits, assembles the papers, serves the document, does the affidavit of service, and files it.
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, and we currently have more senior associates who work from home when they have large research and writing assignments or document review projects.
Is the advertised salary negotiable? Do you give end-of-year bonuses? What kind of raises can I expect?
The advertised salary is not negotiable. We do not give end of year bonuses, the salary is all you can expect for the year.
Raises are hard to predict right now in this ever changing environment. But we are not avoiding the question - we brought it up. We can tell you that, over the last five years, we started most entry levels at $60k and by two years later most we at or above $100k. Again, however, there are no guarantees here whatsoever.
Where can I 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.
It almost never fails. Consider the last four associates who left here in 2013. They all departed to jobs that met the following criteria: almost all their new jobs had higher salaries (see how our salaries progress in the previous paragraphs); 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 four associates who left in 2013 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)
- Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney Ltd. (100 lawyers, litigation)
- New York City Department of Parks, Assistant Counsel, General Counsel's Office (what a great job!)
And Here Are Places Other Former Itkowitz PLLC Associates Have Gone After Itkowitz PLLC:
- Loeb & Loeb LLP
- Baker Hostetler (3 people have gone directly from Itkowitz PLLC to this firm - one is a full associate, two were staff attorneys)
- 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
Does the firm have an internal mission statement?
There are five things that we are trying to achieve at Itkowitz PLLC.
- To deliver the highest quality legal services to our clients, expeditiously and in a cost-effective manner.
- To be the absolute best in the industry at what we do.
- To be ethical - in all things, at all times.
- To make a lot of money.
- 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.
I have looked at Itkowitz PLLC before and the number of lawyers fluctuates, why?
We are a smaller group in 2013 than we have been in the previous fee years. This is a very good thing. We "right-sized" before Weil made it fashionable, dumping underperforming clients and not replacing associates as they left by attrition. Thus, in 2013 we are lean and mean. We work only for good paying clients, who pay our full rates within a few weeks of being invoiced or, in the case of nearly half the practice that functions under Legal Project Management alternative fee arrangements, ahead of time. We actually significantly increased billing and collections in 2013, while cutting salary and other overhead in half. We are proud that our business is successful.
As this is written in the Fall of 2013, it seems that we are hiring again. We do not believe in growth for growth's sake, however. It is not actually that hard to cobble together tens or even hundreds of lawyers and call yourself a mid-sized or large firm, but that does not mean that you are offering more value to the client. We want only to be better and further the five goals discussed above in our mission statement.
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.
You are a New York City law firm; do you favor Northeast Law Schools?
We do not favor any particular law school. We like any law school that produces great people. Our last fifteen associates' law schools were:
- 2 Notre Dame
- 1 Vanderbilt
- 1 University of Minnesota
- 1 American
- 2 Fordham
- 4 Brooklyn
- 1 University of Maryland
- 1 Columbia University
- 1 University of Michigan
- 1 Cardozo
- 1 Emory
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.
- Typically, three times per year 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.
- 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 Maratto. 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.
Do you currently have any open entry level associate positions? I am currently in a clerkship or a fellowship that will last for about a year, but would like to apply now, does that make sense?
Always apply if you are looking for a job and you think that you might want to work here. We accept and process applications on a rolling basis and are often hiring.
Because of our careful recruitment and intensive training processes we have not had any associate leave here unhappy or get fired for years. However, we promote the job to highly qualified applicants by pointing out and embracing (rather than running from) reality - that this job has proven over and over again to be a stepping stone to a great next job, a job the applicant couldn't have attained from an entry level posture. That fact, coupled with the fact that people leave for other legitimate reasons - for example, "My wife took a job in Asia and I am going with her," - all lead to inevitable turn over in a law firm of this size.
Thus, recruitment is an exciting and essential part of our regular routine around here.
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. Again, 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.
But what if by the time I am in New York City and available for an interview, you have filled all your current associate positions?
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.
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 have passed the exam, just sat for it.
An exception to this would be the April 2013 ad for an entry-level associate. In this case we will fully consider applicants from the Class of 2013, as long as they are scheduled to take the bar this summer.
Do you hire laterals? What if I am a lateral and am willing to take an entry-level job?
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. Moreover, we have, within the firm in sufficient numbers, partners and senior associates to train and supervise the entry levels. Hiring a lateral for an entry-level position does not make sense for either the firm or the candidate.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.
How many people am I competing with for this job? I applied before and no one contacted me, should I apply again?
We place, on average, two ads per year for new associates. 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 tenth 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 of the associates here today applied more than once before we called them. What changed in the interim between their first and second applications? A lot of things can change. Your academics, moot court experience, and law journal experience, obviously, cannot change. However, your presentation, writing credentials, 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.
-- End of FAQ's --
We told you - No one will ever tell you more about a potential job than we will. Managing Partner, Michelle Maratto, is in charge of attorney recruitment. Thank you for your interest in Itkowitz PLLC and good luck on your career journey.