Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:05 pm

Kochel wrote:
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.

Thank you for posting. For those of us moving into big law, do you have any recommendations on ways to position ourselves for maximum exit strategies other than doing a good job/networking? Any specializations that seem particularly promising? I worry that specializing in M&A work (assuming it picks up) will make it difficult to move in-house..

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:03 pm

underdawg wrote:what percent of people are happy, anyway? 40%?

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


Probably depends on where they practice. I'd imagine the number would be closer to a 100% for PI (I guess the exception making it less than 100% would be chumps that went into PI merely for loan forgiveness and are now stuck in it). Biglaw, on the other hand, I'd be surprised if there 20-80% were even at the "meh" stage (i.e. partners are mostly going to be pretty happy, but I'm not so sure how many associates actually enjoy working 70 hours a week and not being exposed to much responsibility for a very long time).

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby underdawg » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:17 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
underdawg wrote:what percent of people are happy, anyway? 40%?

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


Probably depends on where they practice. I'd imagine the number would be closer to a 100% for PI (I guess the exception making it less than 100% would be chumps that went into PI merely for loan forgiveness and are now stuck in it). Biglaw, on the other hand, I'd be surprised if there 20-80% were even at the "meh" stage (i.e. partners are mostly going to be pretty happy, but I'm not so sure how many associates actually enjoy working 70 hours a week and not being exposed to much responsibility for a very long time).

i meant people in general about life in general

no way PI is close to 100%. there can be asshole coworkers, long ass hours, asshole bosses, clinical depression, etc.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby clintonius » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:45 pm

Also, biglaw partnership =/= happiness. Partners work their asses off, too, and personal life suffers for it just as it does with associates. They just happen to be making a shit ton more money doing it.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Kochel » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Kochel wrote:
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.

Thank you for posting. For those of us moving into big law, do you have any recommendations on ways to position ourselves for maximum exit strategies other than doing a good job/networking? Any specializations that seem particularly promising? I worry that specializing in M&A work (assuming it picks up) will make it difficult to move in-house..


There's no one-size-fits-all plan. A lot depends on how early in the process you decide that you can't see yourself at the firm for the long haul. You should think about matching your practice interests with non-Biglaw opportunities. There are a number of practice areas that aren't very reliable for in-house work: tax, trusts, ERISA, bankruptcy, M&A, even litigation. There are in-house lawyers in those areas, but not nearly as many as are needed for other types of corporate work.

Second, review your Biglaw firm's specialties. Learn which of them see lots of associate turnover. For instance, highly regulated industries (financial services, transportation, telecom) always need in-house lawyers with regulatory expertise; these specialties make for good exit avenues. Which clients of the firm have hired former associates? If your firm is well regarded in a particular field, then companies in that field will know what to expect when they see your resume. And there will always be some demand for corporate generalists who can offer a variety of skills (such as contract negotiation, securities work, small-scale M&A, governance).

Still, you want to be thinking about this early. There are plenty of people who specialize in a non-portable field too early, and who then are either trapped in Biglaw or adrift once Biglaw spits them out. Not to scare anyone, though; for some, Biglaw can be both a happy and permanent home. :D

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Jones, Dow » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:24 pm

all the happy lawyers i know are professors or work in smaller gigs.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Mrs. Jack Donaghy » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:44 pm

My friend's girlfriend loves being a lawyer. She works at a large firm in NYC.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby KG_CalGuy » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:50 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.....


I'd say my dad is a fairly happy guy, but his trajectory may not have been typical. He went to USD got a job with a mid-size firm that began to aggressively expand in the late 1990s and is now fairly high up there in the NLJ250. He coached soccer for my sisters and I when we were young, came to most of my school events, and usually enjoys his job. So yes, there are some happy lawyers in BigLaw.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:51 pm

I think you need to be the type of person that likes to work. The people that choose to become lawyers because they think its an easy way to make money are bound to be disappointed.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:59 pm

I fully expect to get a biglaw gig, work for 4 years or so and live frugally in order to pay off my $200k in loans. Then, at the end of year 4, realize I am cold and alone with a pretty crappy (though lucrative) life and /killsel.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Apr 10, 2010 11:46 am

Kochel wrote:There's no one-size-fits-all plan. A lot depends on how early in the process you decide that you can't see yourself at the firm for the long haul. You should think about matching your practice interests with non-Biglaw opportunities. There are a number of practice areas that aren't very reliable for in-house work: tax, trusts, ERISA, bankruptcy, M&A, even litigation. There are in-house lawyers in those areas, but not nearly as many as are needed for other types of corporate work.

Second, review your Biglaw firm's specialties. Learn which of them see lots of associate turnover. For instance, highly regulated industries (financial services, transportation, telecom) always need in-house lawyers with regulatory expertise; these specialties make for good exit avenues. Which clients of the firm have hired former associates? If your firm is well regarded in a particular field, then companies in that field will know what to expect when they see your resume. And there will always be some demand for corporate generalists who can offer a variety of skills (such as contract negotiation, securities work, small-scale M&A, governance).

Still, you want to be thinking about this early. There are plenty of people who specialize in a non-portable field too early, and who then are either trapped in Biglaw or adrift once Biglaw spits them out. Not to scare anyone, though; for some, Biglaw can be both a happy and permanent home. :D

Thank you very much for the response. I am not 100% big law isn't for me, but I want to keep as many options open as possible. As I get married and have kids, it may become apparent that it is not for me. So, I should gravitate more towards general corporate work, investment work and regulation of financial institutions rather than deal work to ensure more exit opportunities? How does one investigate turn-over rate in a department and which clients scoop up associates? Purely word of mouth?

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:05 pm

The additional issue you have to consider is the likelihood of even being hired, given that the "legal" economy is probably 5 years away from a real turnaround. When you talk to older attorneys (say, those who finished school earlier than 2005), they entered into a vastly different world upon graduation. Go back even further in time and the result is even more stark.

So just remember to take certain considerations with a grain of salt. Speak especially to those who have graduated in the past 5 years, and get a sense of the field as it stands now. Remember, you'll be a less attractive candidate to firms, the gov't, etc, than the countless attorneys who have been laid off in the past 3 years, who have oodles of experience and the same prestigious degree you've worked hard to earn.

And plus, happiness isn't something you can gauge by numbers or percentages. The key is to try to do something that either (1) you enjoy, or (2) gives you enough free time and income to do what you enjoy.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:19 pm

I know happy lawyers. The happiest tend to be solo practitioners or small firm partners. It's a major reason why I want to go solo after I pay off my debt. I'd like to build that practice in to a small firm one day. I will probably try and get hired by biglaw solely to pay off my debt; I'm coming from a T14, but I don't plan on staying longer than it takes to pay off my loans and save some starting capital for my own firm. I posted this anonymously since I'm admitting my "only use biglaw for the money and then run away" plan. :lol:

I feel like I'm the only person who actually WANTS to strike out on his own. Most look at going solo/small partnership as a last resort... basically the result of extended unemployment. Anyone else actually want to do this, or am I the only one?

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I know happy lawyers. The happiest tend to be solo practitioners or small firm partners. It's a major reason why I want to go solo after I pay off my debt. I'd like to build that practice in to a small firm one day. I will probably try and get hired by biglaw solely to pay off my debt; I'm coming from a T14, but I don't plan on staying longer than it takes to pay off my loans and save some starting capital for my own firm. I posted this anonymously since I'm admitting my "only use biglaw for the money and then run away" plan. :lol:

I feel like I'm the only person who actually WANTS to strike out on his own. Most look at going solo/small partnership as a last resort... basically the result of extended unemployment. Anyone else actually want to do this, or am I the only one?


No, it's just that everyone else realizes what an uphill battle (if not impossible) solo practice is, at least in the legal world post-crash. And (1) what makes you think you are guaranteed a biglaw job anyway even at T-14, and (2) do you realize how long it will take you to pay off your debt?

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I know happy lawyers. The happiest tend to be solo practitioners or small firm partners. It's a major reason why I want to go solo after I pay off my debt. I'd like to build that practice in to a small firm one day. I will probably try and get hired by biglaw solely to pay off my debt; I'm coming from a T14, but I don't plan on staying longer than it takes to pay off my loans and save some starting capital for my own firm. I posted this anonymously since I'm admitting my "only use biglaw for the money and then run away" plan. :lol:

I feel like I'm the only person who actually WANTS to strike out on his own. Most look at going solo/small partnership as a last resort... basically the result of extended unemployment. Anyone else actually want to do this, or am I the only one?


This is actually my plan as well. I want try out biglaw for a couple years and repay my student debt, hope that the economy recovers enough that I can exit into a PDs office for another year or two (to get actual experience), and then open up shop with my own firm.

swester- it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.

There is a lot of bitching about how saturated the market is in terms of lawyers and everyone blames the ABA for accrediting so many schools, etc, etc. But just think about every other industry out there that doesn't have any protections from outside competition. E.g. just look at how many bars or restaurants there are in any given city.

Starting up a solo is really no different then starting up any other type of small business (except you have a good amount of protection from other competition that bars or restaurants don't). Roughly 50% of all small businesses fail in the first year, and there is no reason to suspect opening up a law firm would be much different, so it's definitely a risk. However, no one gets anywhere big in life without taking any risk. It's not like sticking around at a large firm isn't a risk on its own because the odds are really far against you that you will ever make partner and when you get canned with little practical litigation experience it is not like it's going to be easy to find another firm to hire you.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:46 pm

swester wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I know happy lawyers. The happiest tend to be solo practitioners or small firm partners. It's a major reason why I want to go solo after I pay off my debt. I'd like to build that practice in to a small firm one day. I will probably try and get hired by biglaw solely to pay off my debt; I'm coming from a T14, but I don't plan on staying longer than it takes to pay off my loans and save some starting capital for my own firm. I posted this anonymously since I'm admitting my "only use biglaw for the money and then run away" plan. :lol:

I feel like I'm the only person who actually WANTS to strike out on his own. Most look at going solo/small partnership as a last resort... basically the result of extended unemployment. Anyone else actually want to do this, or am I the only one?


No, it's just that everyone else realizes what an uphill battle (if not impossible) solo practice is, at least in the legal world post-crash. And (1) what makes you think you are guaranteed a biglaw job anyway even at T-14, and (2) do you realize how long it will take you to pay off your debt?


(1) Reading comprehension. I wrote: "I will probably try and get hired by biglaw". I even bolded "try" for emphasis. So, if you read a little closer, you'd see that I certainly don't think I'm guaranteed anything.

(2) I do realize how long it'll take me to pay off my debt. I'll have somewhere between 80k and 90k in debt. I'm hoping that, by living pretty conservatively, I can be free and clear within two years IF I can get hired at market in biglaw.

And to comment on the uphill battle/impossibility, I don't doubt the difficulty. But, I have a couple family friends who work as solos and make good livings. I've also worked for a solo who made a great living and absolutely loved her work. It is *NOT* impossible, but it is certainly not easy. It has to be something you want to do and are willing to work at 24/7 -- just like starting any business.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I know happy lawyers. The happiest tend to be solo practitioners or small firm partners. It's a major reason why I want to go solo after I pay off my debt. I'd like to build that practice in to a small firm one day. I will probably try and get hired by biglaw solely to pay off my debt; I'm coming from a T14, but I don't plan on staying longer than it takes to pay off my loans and save some starting capital for my own firm. I posted this anonymously since I'm admitting my "only use biglaw for the money and then run away" plan. :lol:

I feel like I'm the only person who actually WANTS to strike out on his own. Most look at going solo/small partnership as a last resort... basically the result of extended unemployment. Anyone else actually want to do this, or am I the only one?


This is actually my plan as well. I want try out biglaw for a couple years and repay my student debt, hope that the economy recovers enough that I can exit into a PDs office for another year or two (to get actual experience), and then open up shop with my own firm.

swester- it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.


Ok, thanks for clarifying. Now, explain to me where that $160k/yr entry-level job exists outside of the glossy school brochure. And even $20k a year for COL is pretty low, especially if you plan on living in or around an urban environment (where most Biglaw is based anyway).

This is the sort of terrible financial short-sightedness that gets law grads into trouble all the time. I think even the most pro-TLS's around here would agree, banking on $160/k a year within 5 years out is just absurd.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:56 pm

swester wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I know happy lawyers. The happiest tend to be solo practitioners or small firm partners. It's a major reason why I want to go solo after I pay off my debt. I'd like to build that practice in to a small firm one day. I will probably try and get hired by biglaw solely to pay off my debt; I'm coming from a T14, but I don't plan on staying longer than it takes to pay off my loans and save some starting capital for my own firm. I posted this anonymously since I'm admitting my "only use biglaw for the money and then run away" plan. :lol:

I feel like I'm the only person who actually WANTS to strike out on his own. Most look at going solo/small partnership as a last resort... basically the result of extended unemployment. Anyone else actually want to do this, or am I the only one?


This is actually my plan as well. I want try out biglaw for a couple years and repay my student debt, hope that the economy recovers enough that I can exit into a PDs office for another year or two (to get actual experience), and then open up shop with my own firm.

swester- it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.


Ok, thanks for clarifying. Now, explain to me where that $160k/yr entry-level job exists outside of the glossy school brochure. And even $20k a year for COL is pretty low, especially if you plan on living in or around an urban environment (where most Biglaw is based anyway).

This is the sort of terrible financial short-sightedness that gets law grads into trouble all the time. I think even the most pro-TLS's around here would agree, banking on $160/k a year within 5 years out is just absurd.


Well even if my summer firm no-offers me I think I'll be competitive for clerkships, so I'm not too worried about it. Anyway, it seems like firms were a lot more conservative this year with hiring for 2L SAs so I suspect there will be a lot less no-offering going around as well (firms typically try to avoid that because having really shitty offer rates make them look bad -- see, e.g., abovethelaw).

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby 270910 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Anyway, it seems like firms were a lot more conservative this year with hiring for 2L SAs so I suspect there will be a lot less no-offering going around as well (firms typically try to avoid that because having really shitty offer rates make them look bad -- see, e.g., abovethelaw).


TITCR. 2Ls have a lot to worry about these days, but I think 'no-offers' are pretty low on the list. NALP confirms that firms were absolutely brutal in reducing their summer programs, and I've heard a lot of buzz that some firms are actually feeling a bit too lean these days.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Renzo » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote: it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.


Outed as someone who has never had to pay their own bills before. Where the fuck are you going to live on $20K a year?

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:08 pm

Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote: it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.


Outed as someone who has never had to pay their own bills before. Where the fuck are you going to live on $20K a year?


I know, hilarious. I still find it remarkable that people who can score so high on a logical reasoning test have such financial shortsightedness.

And $160k/yr? Those glossy brochures have sure done their job.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:14 pm

swester wrote:
Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote: it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.


Outed as someone who has never had to pay their own bills before. Where the fuck are you going to live on $20K a year?


I know, hilarious. I still find it remarkable that people who can score so high on a logical reasoning test have such financial shortsightedness.

And $160k/yr? Those glossy brochures have sure done their job.



You do realize that the guy has referenced his summer gig--presumably with a market paying firm--yeah? Particularly for current 2Ls, if you have a SA with a market firm lined up, presuming $160k starting is no longer a silly thing to do, because the no-offer problem probably isn't going to be that bad this year.

Also, to those saying that living on 20k/year in an urban area isn't possible: you've outed yourselves as people who have never had to live poor, apparently.

Based on my current living numbers in Chicago:

Rent, including internet: $775/month
Utilities: $50/month
Food: $250/month
Phone: $100/month
CTA pass: $86/month
Misc necessities: $100/month

Total: $1,361 a month, or $16,332/year; leaving you with $305 spending money per month for entertainment. Is it a glamorous life? No. Is it plausible for someone who wants to have paying off loans as #1 priority? Sure.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby ChrisC » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:44 am

ToTransferOrNot wrote:
swester wrote:
Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote: it will take me roughly 1.89 years to repay my student loans on a $160K /year salary after you figure out taxes and $15-20K /year for COL.


Outed as someone who has never had to pay their own bills before. Where the fuck are you going to live on $20K a year?


I know, hilarious. I still find it remarkable that people who can score so high on a logical reasoning test have such financial shortsightedness.

And $160k/yr? Those glossy brochures have sure done their job.



You do realize that the guy has referenced his summer gig--presumably with a market paying firm--yeah? Particularly for current 2Ls, if you have a SA with a market firm lined up, presuming $160k starting is no longer a silly thing to do, because the no-offer problem probably isn't going to be that bad this year.

Also, to those saying that living on 20k/year in an urban area isn't possible: you've outed yourselves as people who have never had to live poor, apparently.

Based on my current living numbers in Chicago:

Rent, including internet: $775/month
Utilities: $50/month
Food: $250/month
Phone: $100/month
CTA pass: $86/month
Misc necessities: $100/month

Total: $1,361 a month, or $16,332/year; leaving you with $305 spending money per month for entertainment. Is it a glamorous life? No. Is it plausible for someone who wants to have paying off loans as #1 priority? Sure.


Exactly. Those critical posters also overlooked the possibility of a spouse or significant other adding income to the equation. And if the poster has a summer associateship, there's a pretty good chance he'll get hired at market.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby eye » Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:54 am

swester wrote: Remember, you'll be a less attractive candidate to firms, the gov't, etc, than the countless attorneys who have been laid off in the past 3 years, who have oodles of experience and the same prestigious degree you've worked hard to earn.


I don't have the reference, but I read an article written by a big-law partner turned professor stating that firms actually prefer fresh graduates over someone that has experience in a niche area. Fresh graduates are easier to mold into the corporate culture.

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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:01 pm

eye wrote:
swester wrote: Remember, you'll be a less attractive candidate to firms, the gov't, etc, than the countless attorneys who have been laid off in the past 3 years, who have oodles of experience and the same prestigious degree you've worked hard to earn.


I don't have the reference, but I read an article written by a big-law partner turned professor stating that firms actually prefer fresh graduates over someone that has experience in a niche area. Fresh graduates are [strike]easier to mold into the corporate culture[/strike] cheaper and more easily kicked around.




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