Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

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JennBNYC
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Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby JennBNYC » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:36 pm

So, I have a pretty simple question...does anyone know a lawyer who is satisfied/happy?

I read these boards and see endless posts about how miserable lawyers are because of debt, long hours, mind-numbing work, having "no life," etc. It kind of begs the question, well, then why would one want to be a lawyer? Yea, yea..models and bottles....but really...

Are there ANY happy lawyers out there who are satisfied with their jobs, able to find a work/life balance, pleased with the decision to go to law school?

Money is important to me, but I don't want to be miserable for the rest of my life either.....

dakatz
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby dakatz » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:45 pm

JennBNYC wrote:So, I have a pretty simple question...does anyone know a lawyer who is satisfied/happy?

I read these boards and see endless posts about how miserable lawyers are because of debt, long hours, mind-numbing work, having "no life," etc. It kind of begs the question, well, then why would one want to be a lawyer? Yea, yea..models and bottles....but really...

Are there ANY happy lawyers out there who are satisfied with their jobs, able to find a work/life balance, pleased with the decision to go to law school?

Money is important to me, but I don't want to be miserable for the rest of my life either.....


In order to make my decision between my final two choices, I've been calling attorneys from both schools. Most of these attorneys work in big or mid sized firms. Out of about 20 people, only 1 said he truly hated it, and that was because he didn't really want to go to law school but did anyway. The others all said that, while the work can be stressful, they ultimately find it rewarding. The majority opinion was that law is like any other job: some days you go home and hate your job, and other days you go home thinking that it is what you were meant to do. Most, if not all, said to look into secondary markets, as opposed to NY/Chicago/DC firms, because the demands on your life aren't quite as great, and it allows you to have a bit more of a balance.

You need to keep in mind who posts on the internet. One is much more likely to post on the internet that they hate their job, then run to their computer to tell others how rewarding it may be.
Last edited by dakatz on Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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fathergoose
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby fathergoose » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:47 pm

My older brother works big law and is happy. He doesn't seem to mind the hours and he enjoys the opportunities it gives him.

eldizknee
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby eldizknee » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:58 pm

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Last edited by eldizknee on Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

270910
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby 270910 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 6:49 pm

I know a bunch that love it. Even some who went to law school for no particular reason.

The miserable ones are REALLY miserable, and have enough power / money / respect to make a lot of noise about it. There aren't many jobs out there that don't have a mix of satisfaction levels.

Being a lawyer is adversarial, so that means by definition more stress. You know better than anyone else how your body will react to it.

sbs42
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby sbs42 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 6:57 pm

I've been struggling with the same question. I know one (ex) lawyer who hated it but she was also "pressured" to go to law school. The one I know who loves his job has gone through multiple wives and alcohol rehab. Keep the happy stories coming.

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clintonius
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby clintonius » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:04 pm

The people on the panel I saw at the NYU ASW said they were happy, so it must be true.

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scgoaliface32
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby scgoaliface32 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:08 pm

My boss is fairly young, has his own small firm w/ 3 associates and loves it. Like really loves it. As in when I ask him if he did anything fun for the weekend or holiday he answers "work" and is totally serious. He and his wife are expecting pretty soon and they seem very happy. Went to a T2 school and makes enough for a nice condo, nice clothes, and a NICE car. So it can be done!

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jlnoa0915
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby jlnoa0915 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:13 pm

My bosses are both happy and satisfied with what they do, though the one is typically very stressed but that is because he focuses more on criminal and admin law, as well as has more clients then he knows what to do with.

Renzo
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Renzo » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:41 pm

I know plenty of Biglaw lawyers who are happy. There are actually people in the world who think having to work hard is fulfilling as opposed to degrading.

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nealric
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby nealric » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:32 pm

My dad is in biglaw and loves his job. My uncle is in house and loves his job. I know plenty of other happy lawyers.

However, one distinct trend is that younger lawyers tend to have significantly less job satisfaction (this is backed up by empirical data- I believe ATL reported on a survey a while ago to that effect).

Kochel
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Kochel » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:42 pm

I guess I'll be the first lawyer to respond: I'm pretty happy. But I'm an in-house corporate lawyer, with 8-6 hours (no weekends), with relatively little stress, and pay that approximates what a senior Biglaw associate gets. (I'm in the financial services sector, where bonuses can still be very high.)

But I was decidedly not happy when I was in Biglaw: the hours were usually terrible, and when they weren't, worrying about why they weren't supplied its own misery. Also, rather early on in one's Biglaw career it becomes crucial to establish and maintain the right political connections with key partners. Biglaw is terrible about helping one manage one's career development. Those who survive to become partner do so because they're very skilled at the politics, they manage to keep their heads down and bill like machines, or both.

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nealric
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby nealric » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:44 pm

I guess I'll be the first lawyer to respond: I'm pretty happy. But I'm an in-house corporate lawyer, with 8-6 hours (no weekends), with relatively little stress, and pay that approximates what a senior Biglaw associate gets. (I'm in the financial services sector, where bonuses can still be very high.)

But I was decidedly not happy when I was in Biglaw: the hours were usually terrible, and when they weren't, worrying about why they weren't supplied its own misery. Also, rather early on in one's Biglaw career it becomes crucial to establish and maintain the right political connections with key partners. Biglaw is terrible about helping one manage one's career development. Those who survive to become partner do so because they're very skilled at the politics, they manage to keep their heads down and bill like machines, or both.


Thanks for the input.

At what point did you transition in house? How did you find your position? Which practice area were you in when you were at your firm?

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romothesavior
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby romothesavior » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:48 pm

eldizknee wrote:I know a lawyer and he loves it. Said he'll practice until he dies. He also encouraged me to not worry about loans because "lawyers make so much money it doesn't matter". I LOL'd at this advice.


Doesn't it suck getting advice from older lawyers sometimes? I have talked to a lot of them recently and while some of them really understand what is going on in the legal market (aka, the ones who are involved in hiring or big law), it seems like many are clueless as to how bad current students have it. They have no concept of how much debt students currently have to go into in order to get their degree, mostly because when they went to LS in the 70s/80s, when it was a hell of a lot cheaper. They also seem to have no concept of the lack of jobs.

I got a similar feeling at an ASD a few weeks ago. All of the members of the alumni panel were 07 or 08 graduates, and they all talked about how much they loved their jobs, loved the school, yadda yadda. And most said things like, "Don't worry about the debt, you'll be fine." Well ya know what? You are all a bunch of unrepresentative, top 20% of your class law-review types from the legal market hey-day. Things have changed in the last few years.

But anyways, to OP: while many lawyers are unhappy, I think the vast majority enjoy it. Most lawyers I have spoken with have echoed one another in saying they find their work highly rewarding.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:57 pm

JennBNYC wrote:So, I have a pretty simple question...does anyone know a lawyer who is satisfied/happy?

I read these boards and see endless posts about how miserable lawyers are because of debt, long hours, mind-numbing work, having "no life," etc. It kind of begs the question, well, then why would one want to be a lawyer? Yea, yea..models and bottles....but really...

Are there ANY happy lawyers out there who are satisfied with their jobs, able to find a work/life balance, pleased with the decision to go to law school?

Money is important to me, but I don't want to be miserable for the rest of my life either.....


Yes, and yes. Most of them don't work in biglaw though, and it should be no surprise that the jobs that most people on this board are aiming for is biglaw.

You'll find a lot of happier lawyers in PI, and a better work/life balance. Same is true with most fed government. E.g. in the USAO office out here the attorneys literally work 9-5 jobs and never spend a minute more. It doesn't pay like biglaw, but that's usually the trade off with just about any job (i.e. you will either get more money and be miserable in terms of hours worked and general work/life balance, or you will get a lot less money but get a lot better hours).

Kochel
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Kochel » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:58 pm

nealric wrote:


At what point did you transition in house? How did you find your position? Which practice area were you in when you were at your firm?


I moved in-house after 4 years in Biglaw. I'd been forced to specialize in investment work after my first year at the firm; fortunately, that proved to be a good exit strategy. (In the big picture, though, the pressure on junior associates to specialize is arguably a bad thing.) I called up a headhunter one day and within weeks had a good offer from my current firm. This was several years ago. The in-house market ITE is just as crappy as Biglaw; my company has laid off lawyers, including one who reported to me. Still, in-house hiring will eventually pick up, and, for corporate lawyers at least, in-house work can offer compelling advantages over Biglaw drudgery.

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nealric
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby nealric » Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:00 pm

You'll find a lot of happier lawyers in PI, and a better work/life balance. Same is true with most fed government. E.g. in the USAO office out here the attorneys literally work 9-5 jobs and never spend a minute more in the office. It doesn't pay like biglaw, but that's usually the trade off with just about any job (i.e. you will either get more money and be miserable in terms of hours worked and general work/life balance, or you will get a lot less money but get a lot better hours).


That's great, except you can't bank on Federal jobs. They are in many cases harder than Biglaw to get- and tend to hire after biglaw. So if you do get an offer from biglaw, have to roll the dice to go after government jobs.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:03 pm

nealric wrote:
You'll find a lot of happier lawyers in PI, and a better work/life balance. Same is true with most fed government. E.g. in the USAO office out here the attorneys literally work 9-5 jobs and never spend a minute more in the office. It doesn't pay like biglaw, but that's usually the trade off with just about any job (i.e. you will either get more money and be miserable in terms of hours worked and general work/life balance, or you will get a lot less money but get a lot better hours).


That's great, except you can't bank on Federal jobs. They are in many cases harder than Biglaw to get- and tend to hire after biglaw. So if you do get an offer from biglaw, have to roll the dice to go after government jobs.


You can't bank on biglaw anymore either...

My point was simply that there are legal jobs out there that don't suck in every aspect except compensation.

EDIT- that's actually not even a bad thing that 3L honors hiring is well after biglaw permanent associate offers. You can pretty much lock up an offer after your second summer and then roll the dice on 3L honors. If it doesn't work out, worst case is that you end up working at a law firm for $160K /year. Not a bad worst case scenario at all.

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nealric
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby nealric » Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:47 pm

You can't bank on biglaw anymore either...

My point was simply that there are legal jobs out there that don't suck in every aspect except compensation.

EDIT- that's actually not even a bad thing that 3L honors hiring is well after biglaw permanent associate offers. You can pretty much lock up an offer after your second summer and then roll the dice on 3L honors. If it doesn't work out, worst case is that you end up working at a law firm for $160K /year. Not a bad worst case scenario at all.


You can't bank on biglaw, but you get hired in biglaw first. I suppose you could theoretically go for Honors after biglaw, but it would mean you have to renege on an already accepted offer from your firm (you can no longer hold out until December to accept biglaw).

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TCScrutinizer
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby TCScrutinizer » Fri Apr 09, 2010 6:15 am

Renzo wrote:I know plenty of Biglaw lawyers who are happy. There are actually people in the world who think having to work hard is fulfilling as opposed to degrading.


Dear God, yes. Thank you. No one ever seems to understand this.

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dp73816
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby dp73816 » Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:47 am

My uncle works in corporate litigation/defense in South Florida and really enjoys it. Though he is very busy and it can be stressful, it affords him a lifestyle that very few could ever imagine.

I guess that's what happens when you find yourself on the good end of a Ford-Firestone case settlement...hell, walking on hot coals would've been justifiable then :lol: .

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underachiever
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby underachiever » Fri Apr 09, 2010 8:25 am

I know tons of lawyers, from big law partners, associates through mid markets and "ambulance chaser", and most (over 80% love/like) what they do. Most who hate it either get out quick, or are stuck b/c of life commitments to the $...see family/loans/lifestyle

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DavidYurman85
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby DavidYurman85 » Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:15 am

My girlfriend is happy. She enjoys her work, her colleagues are about as socially acceptable as you can get for a law firm, and she has a decent quality of life (we're able to vacation and she isn't in the office super late). She's at a big law firm and claims that it's the "hidden jewel" because of the BL world.

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JennBNYC
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby JennBNYC » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:05 am

Wow, thanks for the insight, everyone! I would have jumped back into the thread earlier, but I never got any notifications that anyone replied (guess I forgot the little check box), and I figured there really weren't any happy lawyers. :lol:

It’s great to hear from such a range of people (actual lawyers, students, prospective students, those who know lawyers, etc.). As some people pointed out, there are alternatives to Big Law, and even if you are in Big Law, some people are content there. I guess I was just hoping to hear that I’m not necessarily dooming myself to a life of misery, haha.

Actually, on that note, I’m currently miserable at my job, which doesn’t pay well anyway. Not like I’m sacrificing a fulfilling job with a great paycheck! :wink:

Once again, thanks for the feedback!

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underdawg
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby underdawg » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:50 pm

what percent of people are happy, anyway? 40%?

i'd venture 20% happy, 20% content, 40% "meh", 20% hate life




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