Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

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Renzo
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Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:23 am

Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Renzo » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:15 pm

ChrisC wrote:
ToTransferOrNot wrote:
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.

I have lived very poor. But I had a job that didn't require me to look expensive. I don't see any allowance for maintaining a business wardrobe in you budget.

Also, you really think you can spend no more than $250 a month on food in a job that keeps you at the office until well after dinner most nights? You're not going to be sneaking home for ramen, and you won't be employed very long if you're always telling partners you can't go to lunch with them at Nobu because you're on an $8 dollar-a-day budget.

There is a substantial amount of money required just to maintain the appearance of belonging in a firm. Now, if one had a spouse that was contributing to household expenses, that's a little different than just living poor.

ToTransferOrNot
Posts: 1928
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:44 pm

Renzo wrote:
ChrisC wrote:
ToTransferOrNot wrote:
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.

I have lived very poor. But I had a job that didn't require me to look expensive. I don't see any allowance for maintaining a business wardrobe in you budget.

Also, you really think you can spend no more than $250 a month on food in a job that keeps you at the office until well after dinner most nights? You're not going to be sneaking home for ramen, and you won't be employed very long if you're always telling partners you can't go to lunch with them at Nobu because you're on an $8 dollar-a-day budget.

There is a substantial amount of money required just to maintain the appearance of belonging in a firm. Now, if one had a spouse that was contributing to household expenses, that's a little different than just living poor.


You bring your food with you to the office: eat at your desk on late nights. Not a difficult concept. This is a basic key for healthy living in addition to cheap living. Same goes for lunch. Not to mention, many firms (the one I'm going to be at included,) pay for your dinner if you're there past a certain time. $250 a month was a high estimate for food--it is considerably more than I currently spend (and I'm long past my ramen days).

The "lunches at Nobu" aren't at all frequent for younger associates, fall under the "entertainment expense" rubric, and are going to be billed to clients, more often than not. Not to mention such lunches are often (though not always) deductible, as long as significant business is discussed at the lunch.

Wardrobe expense I can grant you, though the misc expense $100/month was designed to cover a significant amount of the dry cleaning expense that goes with wearing dry-clean only stuff. That said, contrary to popular belief, associates do not need to be wearing $1,000 suits every day. You need one or two of those for client meetings; aside from that, more reasonable suits will suffice.

None of this is to say that I honestly believe any fresh-out-of-law-school grad is going to live like this. I'm certainly not going to--my napkin sketches point to $30-40k/year. I figure:

Base pay: $160k
Pre-tax input to employer-matched 401k: $12k (I think $1k a month is the max)
Taxes: 60% (ah, I love Illinois, and I vote against my own self-interest whenever I put pull the handle for a dem)
After-tax pay: $59,200 (This is almost certainly a low-ball estimate, because I don't think taxes get up to 60%, even in Illinois)
---
Rent: $1,300 including utilities and internet (I'm going to allow myself this upgrade--I'm still going to live with a roommate after I graduate because living alone is just incredibly inefficient, but I will probably look for a nicer place in a more interesting part of town, i.e. Lincoln Park)

CTA pass: $86 (owning a car in Chicago is pointless, I'll be using the L to commute anyway, etc.)

Food: $350 (allowing myself an upgrade here to buy higher-quality meat)

Entertainment (including eating out): $500

Wardrobe expenses: $200

Phone: $100

Misc: $200

Total: $2,736/month; $33k/year, which leaves me $26k/year for loan payments: a little over 7 years for repayment, which gets me done in time for the up-or-out. When one considers that I'm putting in the max to the matching 401k, not accounting for pay raises or bonuses, and using a 60% tax rate (and an 8.2% interest rate on the loan), this is a very pessimistic outlook: 4-5 years is more realistic, and I consider my expense projections, especially $500/mo for entertainment, to be ridiculously high.

I expect I'll actually be done with repayment in 4 years.

green_esqs_n_ham
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby green_esqs_n_ham » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:42 am

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?


I'm with you. I realized this before I went to law school (I was lucky to work for a great solo lawyer in college). Most of the attorneys I know are happy, at least as happy as other middle aged people are about their careers. When they are stressed, sometimes they jokingly tell me I can still escape, but I know they aren't being literal.

I'm headed straight to a small firm after law school. I have substantial loans, but it seems that new IBR payment program should make it manageable. My bigger concern is building up my practice.

Renzo
Posts: 4265
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:23 am

Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Renzo » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:02 pm

ToTransferOrNot wrote:
Total: $2,736/month; $33k/year, which leaves me $26k/year for loan payments: a little over 7 years for repayment, which gets me done in time for the up-or-out. When one considers that I'm putting in the max to the matching 401k, not accounting for pay raises or bonuses, and using a 60% tax rate (and an 8.2% interest rate on the loan), this is a very pessimistic outlook: 4-5 years is more realistic, and I consider my expense projections, especially $500/mo for entertainment, to be ridiculously high.

I expect I'll actually be done with repayment in 4 years.

This budget is reasonable and fairly realistic for a recent grad. And you're right, there might be some ways to save a little bit on top of this projection, but I don't think it's realistic to say you could cut a third out of it (to get it to the $20k/yr figure). The rent is realistic for Chicago, but as a general matter, anyone living in DC or NYC (and maybe SF, but i don't know the city well enough to say) is going to have to spend more.

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nealric
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby nealric » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:58 pm

Wardrobe expense I can grant you, though the misc expense $100/month was designed to cover a significant amount of the dry cleaning expense that goes with wearing dry-clean only stuff. That said, contrary to popular belief, associates do not need to be wearing $1,000 suits every day. You need one or two of those for client meetings; aside from that, more reasonable suits will suffice.


The idea that you NEED even a single $1,000 suit is patently absurd. I know biglaw partners who don't own a single suit costing more than $300-$400. These are law firms, not high-fashion design companies. In fact, there was a summer at my firm who always wore very high-end high-fashion suits. He stood out in a bad way (was eventually no-offered). Furthermore, the vast majority of firms have gone business casual. I only know of one big firm (Bigtex) where suits every day are the norm for associates.

As a summer, my cleaning expenses were a grand total of $20 in laundromat fees. Wrinkle-free shirts FTW.

MPMP
Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:32 pm

Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby MPMP » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:09 pm

I know a partner for a decent sized firm in a secondary market who enjoys it. I also know people who work in the restaurant industry or are bartenders who hate their jobs, and sometimes they only work about 25-30 hours a week for somewhat decent money.

Renzo
Posts: 4265
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:23 am

Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby Renzo » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:30 pm

nealric wrote:
Wardrobe expense I can grant you, though the misc expense $100/month was designed to cover a significant amount of the dry cleaning expense that goes with wearing dry-clean only stuff. That said, contrary to popular belief, associates do not need to be wearing $1,000 suits every day. You need one or two of those for client meetings; aside from that, more reasonable suits will suffice.


The idea that you NEED even a single $1,000 suit is patently absurd. I know biglaw partners who don't own a single suit costing more than $300-$400. These are law firms, not high-fashion design companies. In fact, there was a summer at my firm who always wore very high-end high-fashion suits. He stood out in a bad way (was eventually no-offered). Furthermore, the vast majority of firms have gone business casual. I only know of one big firm (Bigtex) where suits every day are the norm for associates.

As a summer, my cleaning expenses were a grand total of $20 in laundromat fees. Wrinkle-free shirts FTW.

No one needs $1000 suits. But not all firms are 'business casual', so chinos and wrinkle-free shirts aren't always going to cut it.

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JCougar
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby JCougar » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:45 pm

When I lived in Chicago for graduate school, I probably got by with a COL budget of $12,000/year. I was pretty good with finding a cheap place to live near the train, and shopped at Aldi for groceries, but it can be done. I don't see how working for a firm would bring on that many more expenses, as I've already factored in dry-cleaning costs related to my internships into the $12,000.

And no, you don't need $1000 suits in the professional world. You're perfectly fine going to Marshall Field's and getting a good-looking suit on sale for $400-$500. As for the rest of your work wardrobe, explore the clearance rack. You can get plenty of great-looking shirt/pants combos for under $100. If you go to Burlington Coat Factory or TJ Max, you can save even more and get the exact same stuff, and look great. I do it right now, and people consider me a somewhat snappy dresser here at work. The only thing that's worth spending money on is shoes, as I've found the best shoes last twice as long, if not longer than the cheaper kind. I've got 4 pairs of Johnston & Murphy's (black, burgundy, light brown, dark brown) and a pair of dress-casual Cole Haan's. I've had each pair for over three years (some even longer) and they still look close to new.

Unless you go out and have to buy a Porsche or blow $500/weekend at the clubs, there's no reason you could possibly need more than $30,000 per year for living expenses. And you could very plausibly and easily live off of $20,000 and still work at a firm.

ToTransferOrNot
Posts: 1928
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:13 pm

Unfortunately, we don't all have body types where buying clearance and such is really plausible. I've never found a cheap 15.5-16"/38 extra-long dress shirt, for example; at least not one that doesn't almost immediately take on that disgusting yellowish color around the pits/neck.

Similarly, for jackets, I need a 42 chest, but the sleeves need to be the size that normally come with a 45 long. Finding a 42-long jacket that has enough material in the sleaves to extend out, as well as enough material in the coat length itself, is nearly impossible.

There's no such thing as a 37/33 Chino/Khaki. Besides, a good number of people look absolutely absurd if they aren't wearing slacks or jeans--Khakis/Chinos don't work at all for a lot of people, myself included.

Of course, I also think that dress shirts without a jacket look ridiculous on everyone who isn't on the low end of the "normal weight" BMI.

Bleh.

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zeth006
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Re: Happy Lawyer...oxymoron?

Postby zeth006 » Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:32 am

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.


That's a comfort. :)




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