Culture Shocks of Joining the Plaintiff Bar

  • January 31, 2022
  • Adil Abdulla

I recently moved from a defendant-focused firm with almost 100 lawyers to a plaintiff-side class action group with fewer than ten lawyers. Most of the differences were expected. For instance, the work was more rewarding and the hours were less, but there were fewer resources, fewer support staff, and the pay was lower. Anyone making this transition could have predicted those differences. But some differences are harder to see from the outside. This article summarizes three of the latter.

Before continuing, there is an important caveat: this is just one person’s experience, moving from one firm to one other firm. It may not be widely applicable.

There’s More Pre-Retainer Work

At a defendant-focused firm, especially one with institutional clients, it was common to insist on a retainer before doing anything. The client rarely had a choice to not litigate, and if there was no conflict, there was never a reason for the firm to refuse a case.

By contrast, at a plaintiff-side firm, especially when working on a contingency basis, the firm has to be more careful about choosing cases. This means spending a lot more time trying to find the best cases and then assessing whether they are viable–legally and financially–before signing a retainer. In some class action cases, you might even have to find a plaintiff.