law school graduates and lateral associates


We are very respectful of Big Law business models in many ways; however, one thing we simply find perplexing is why they would let a talented lawyer leave the firm because of a "numbers game" in the "making partnership derby". We do the exact opposite and make partnership decisions based on the quality of the associate rather than a numbers game.


If you are considering a career with us, to save yourself time, we suggest that you will get the most benefit by first reading the Introduction and the Facts About D&S before reading further. These will give a general understanding of the Firm. Once you have completed reading those items, we have the following additional things to say that are particularly relevant to associates who are considering a career with us:

Associate Involvement in Firm Management
Associates are deeply involved in firm management and sit on virtually all firm committees – other than the management committee.

Training Talent is a Core Mission
If we sit in the shoes of an associate, it would seem to us that possibly the most critical factor in a new job would be whether the associate will receive superb training.  Our intense commitment to training talent is a place where we show our associates just how much we are invested in their career development.  

Consider that the “best” thing for the client, the partner and even the associate is for the associate to do the same type of deal or matter over and over again.  That is how the associate gains expertise – how the client gains efficiencies – how the partner gets to not have to manage every detail.  Operational efficiency on steroids.  How perfect for everyone!  Not! 

What happens here is that after several years of doing the same thing, the associate’s brain becomes crippled.  The essence of being a “great” lawyer is that you get something to do that you have never done before and you rise to a higher level and figure it out. That is what being a great lawyer is.  Anyone can just do the same thing again and again.  

So we do the right thing – and force ourselves – force our clients – force our partners – force us all – to make sure that during roughly the first five years of an associate’s working with us that the associate do as much of “everything” as possible.  This means, in real estate, that associates handle purchases, sales, leases (from the landlord and the tenant side), finance (from the borrower and the lender side), ground leases, international deals, joint ventures and platform transactions, portfolio transactions, difficult and messy transactions, and much more.  

At the end of five years we expect our associates to have become true and complete and great lawyers who minds are trained to handle anything and everything.  Anything else is just courting career disaster.  If you become the best at a niche area of the law and that area goes out of fashion, what is it that you are going to do?  Your main asset – your brain – is not useful because it has not been trained on the most important ability – to be easily able to learn new things.  

Training into pure operational efficiency is perfectly logical for a law firm that does not expect lawyers to have long-term careers with the firm; however, with our mission to “attract, train and retain” talent we want our talent to be with us for the long haul.  And, accordingly, we cannot afford to have expedient but substandard training.  

All of us at D&S are behind this.  

More on Training Talent
We have many training programs, including our mentor/mentee program, DSU (Duval & Stachenfeld University) and associate marketing classes.

In real estate we handle hundreds of real estate transactions every year, which gives rise to our ability to provide superior opportunities to “learn by doing,” which is almost always the best way to learn.

In litigation, we are very flat, meaning that associates have opportunities to work directly with partners and, as soon as they are able, directly with clients and adversaries.

We do not believe that young associates need to “pay their dues” before getting meaningful work -- as soon as an associate can take the next step, we will want the associate to do so.

Business Training with NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate

As a Firm, we strive to provide additional value to our clients and to be lawyers that not only produce a superb legal product, but to also understand our clients’ businesses.  Therefore, in 2015, the Firm rolled out a new initiative geared towards expanding our associates’ training experience beyond the formal and informal legal training that they receive within the Firm.  Associates in the Real Estate Practice Group are given the opportunity to expand their industry and business-side knowledge by enrolling with the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate (one of the nation’s leading institutions providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs in real estate, and regularly ranked in the top ten in both those areas).  The Firm reimburses the costs of enrollment for our associates who pursue courses in the Real Estate Development and Real Estate Finance and Investment program areas.  In the first half of 2015, more than five of our associates in the Real Estate Practice Group have completed or enrolled in courses under this new initiative.

Partnership is the Associate’s to Lose
We are very respectful of Big Law business models in many ways; however, one thing we simply find perplexing is why they would let a talented lawyer leave the firm because of a “numbers game” in the “making partnership derby”.  We do the exact opposite and make partnership decisions based on the quality of the associate rather than a numbers game.  

We Work Hard to Make the Firm a Special Place to Work
We are very mindful of the fact that when we hire superstar associates – and then train them to be superstar lawyers – that every one of our competitor law firms is going to be soliciting them.  Indeed, our associates receive multiple calls and email solicitations from headhunters every single day.  Probably just about every associate could leave at night and have a new job the next day.  Such is our reputation.   With this backdrop, we know we have to make the Firm an excellent place to work and we in Firm management work hard to do exactly that.  

Compensation
We are not foolish enough to kid ourselves that money is not that important.  We know it matters and indeed it is one of our values that “money matters”.  Of course it is not even close to “everything” but it is one of the rewards for our hard and successful work.  For associates we have long been a market leader in compensation, even by New York City standards.  

D&S base salaries as of today are as follows:

  • First year $180,000
  • Second year $190,000
  • Third year $210,000
  • Fourth year $235,000
  • Fifth year $260,000
  • Sixth year $280,000
  • Seventh year $285,000
  • Eighth year $300,000
  • Ninth year $300,000

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