Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Beyond the Caricature: The Benefits and Challenges of Large-Firm Practice


I am the arch-villain of Professor Schiltz's article-not just a partner at a big firm, but the Hiring Partner. Because I have spent part of my career in government service and teaching, I may be uniquely positioned to react to Professor Schiltz's article. After get- ting out of law school in 1976, I clerked for a federal judge for a year and then went to a big firm in Washington, D.C. In 1980, 1 became an Assistant United States Attorney, working as a criminal prosecutor for three-and-a-half years. I then went to Vanderbilt Law School where for two years I taught criminal law, criminal constitutional law, evidence, and antitrust. In 1986, I came to Dechert Price & Rhoads where I have been ever since, except for four months in the fall of 1995 during which I acted as Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that conducted the Ruby Ridge hearings. While at Dechert, I have done a lot of high impact pro bono litigation. Because I have acted as co-counsel in these cases with various public interest organizations, I have first hand knowledge of how these organizations operate as well. Finally, for the last eight years, I have been on my firm's Hiring Committee and for the last two years the Chair of that committee.

I am concerned that, in an apparent effort to paint the darkest possible picture of life at a big firm, Professor Schiltz has overstated the minuses and understated the plusses of working for a big firm. Moreover, he has blamed the big firm for an imbalance between work and the rest of one's life when the real culprit (if there is one) is an individual's drives and needs-traits that are by no means restricted to large-firm lawyers. Professor Schiltz's position is especially dangerous because he may influence law students not to go to a big firm when a big firm may be the best place for them to start-if not to finish-their law careers. I firmly believe that a first rate big firm is the best place for a new lawyer to apprentice-to learn how to be a law- yer. Big firms also present the best opportunity to do sophisticated, cutting-edge, intellectually challenging work. You may have been following the Microsoft trial that has dominated the news over the last few months. The government is represented in that case by David Boies, who was up until 1997 a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore-a big firm-and now a partner in a small firm he started. Microsoft is represented by Sullivan & Cromwell-a big firm. If this case represents the kind of practice to which you aspire, go to a big firm. There are few other places that can give you the chance to do this kind of work.