Help! Question about NYC Big Law

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smr00
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Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby smr00 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:32 pm

Hi!

I need some info/advice that I was hoping members could help with.

My husband is going to work for a large NYC law firm after law school. He was deferred a year but will be starting with them as that is where he did his summer internship. I'm trying to get a feel for how this profession works.

1) I'm wondering if for the business/corporate law that he wants to practice if he is bound to NYC only? He tells me that he needs to work here since other cities don't have the same opportunity for business law - is LA or DC or Philly that much of a step down from NYC?

2) If he works for a few years, is he mobile? Can he transfer to another firm and use NYC as a stepping stone or will that be a detriment to his career? Will he have to make partner first and if so, when will he be able to be mobile? Basically I'm trying to figure out if I am going to be stuck living in the new york area for a while since that's where his job is.

swester
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:38 pm

smr00 wrote:Hi!

I need some info/advice that I was hoping members could help with.

My husband is going to work for a large NYC law firm after law school. He was deferred a year but will be starting with them as that is where he did his summer internship. I'm trying to get a feel for how this profession works.

1) I'm wondering if for the business/corporate law that he wants to practice if he is bound to NYC only? He tells me that he needs to work here since other cities don't have the same opportunity for business law - is LA or DC or Philly that much of a step down from NYC?

2) If he works for a few years, is he mobile? Can he transfer to another firm and use NYC as a stepping stone or will that be a detriment to his career? Will he have to make partner first and if so, when will he be able to be mobile? Basically I'm trying to figure out if I am going to be stuck living in the new york area for a while since that's where his job is.


My advice: Treasure what time you have left with him. Once he enters the realm of BigLaw, you won't be seeing much of him anymore. At least not for the first decade or so. I've never heard of a first year associate working less than about 75 hours/week on average, and weekends pretty much don't exist. But he will be making decent money, hopefully, which is some consolation.

smr00
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby smr00 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:45 pm

Does most of the work have to be done in the office or can it be done at home, especially on the weekends? Does it get better when they make partner???

Also, is NYC really the only place to make it big in business law or are there other cities that are at least comparable?

With all the long hours, I imagine that it is important to live close to work; however, NYC is so expensive. I wonder how many associates live in NJ due to expenses and just commute in...

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SteelReserve
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby SteelReserve » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:55 pm

Does most of the work have to be done in the office or can it be done at home, especially on the weekends? Does it get better when they make partner???


No, for the most part, it cannot be done at home. There is this concept in law firm culture known as "face time" It's basically the behavior that to get ahead you should be in the office before a partner comes in and after he leaves. But the thing is partners work just as hard as associates, just instead of focusing on memo writing they are generating business and interacting with clients.

Most biglaw people I know quit and moved to in-house, federal government, or smaller firm work. They took a substantial salary cut but ALL of them said it was worth it since biglaw enabled them to payoff their loans and after they quit, they were able to "have a life" and start a family and actually see their kids occassionally.

Also, the vast majority of biglaw associates do not make partner so I wouldn't even make that a concern. His exit options should be decent and working at a national firm means you can transfer nationally, but keep in mind he would have to study for and take another state's bar exam to make the move.

swester
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:00 pm

smr00 wrote:Does most of the work have to be done in the office or can it be done at home, especially on the weekends? Does it get better when they make partner???

Also, is NYC really the only place to make it big in business law or are there other cities that are at least comparable?

With all the long hours, I imagine that it is important to live close to work; however, NYC is so expensive. I wonder how many associates live in NJ due to expenses and just commute in...


I'm not trying to scare you, but it is a realistic assessment of what usual NYC BigLaw life is like. Long, long hours, especially during the first few years when competition is super-high among associates. Your husband won't want to be the guy who needs to rush out of the office at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon to see his family; he's up against psychotic 26 year olds who will gladly stay the night and earn a better performance review. I'm not sure what the telecommuting policy is like at the firm in question, but it's worth looking further into.

"When he makes partner" might as well be, "when he wins the lottery." There is simply no guarantee that he will be on the partner track, and even if so, it's a long road before reaching that level. Given the state of the economy, it is hard to gauge just how long it will be.

In terms of commuting, you'll probably get to see more of him if you live in the City. If he has an hour commute, he might be spending more nights sleeping in the office than you'd like.

Are there other cities with BigLaw comparable to NY? Sure, D.C., L.A., etc.

smr00
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby smr00 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:01 pm

SteelReserve wrote:
Does most of the work have to be done in the office or can it be done at home, especially on the weekends? Does it get better when they make partner???


No, for the most part, it cannot be done at home. There is this concept in law firm culture known as "face time" It's basically the behavior that to get ahead you should be in the office before a partner comes in and after he leaves. But the thing is partners work just as hard as associates, just instead of focusing on memo writing they are generating business and interacting with clients.

Most biglaw people I know quit and moved to in-house, federal government, or smaller firm work. They took a substantial salary cut but ALL of them said it was worth it since biglaw enabled them to payoff their loans and after they quit, they were able to "have a life" and start a family and actually see their kids occassionally.

Also, the vast majority of biglaw associates do not make partner so I wouldn't even make that a concern. His exit options should be decent and working at a national firm means you can transfer nationally, but keep in mind he would have to study for and take another state's bar exam to make the move.


I see. So after how many years do most make their exit?

If you go to another location within the firm, lets say there is an LA office, would you take a pay cut because the LA office was smaller than the NYC office? Could you still practice corporate law or does the location mandate what type of law you practice?

swester
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:02 pm

smr00 wrote:
SteelReserve wrote:
Does most of the work have to be done in the office or can it be done at home, especially on the weekends? Does it get better when they make partner???


No, for the most part, it cannot be done at home. There is this concept in law firm culture known as "face time" It's basically the behavior that to get ahead you should be in the office before a partner comes in and after he leaves. But the thing is partners work just as hard as associates, just instead of focusing on memo writing they are generating business and interacting with clients.

Most biglaw people I know quit and moved to in-house, federal government, or smaller firm work. They took a substantial salary cut but ALL of them said it was worth it since biglaw enabled them to payoff their loans and after they quit, they were able to "have a life" and start a family and actually see their kids occassionally.

Also, the vast majority of biglaw associates do not make partner so I wouldn't even make that a concern. His exit options should be decent and working at a national firm means you can transfer nationally, but keep in mind he would have to study for and take another state's bar exam to make the move.


I see. So after how many years do most make their exit?

If you go to another location within the firm, lets say there is an LA office, would you take a pay cut because the LA office was smaller than the NYC office? Could you still practice corporate law or does the location mandate what type of law you practice?


At the biggest firms, the practice areas will overlap at just about every major branch, so it doesn't matter too much where you are located if it is a hub city.

BetterCallSaul
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby BetterCallSaul » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:19 pm

1) NYC Biglaw is an excellent place to start if he wants to do business law. The work there is higher profile and worth more money than it is just about anywhere else.

2) After a few years he could take the his big law experience in nyc to another location. His experience definitely won't hurt him if he wants to go somewhere else.

You seem to care about quality of life, so don't let him convince you that making partner at this firm is a good goal--the previous posters are right, you'll never see him.

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nealric
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby nealric » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:20 pm

1) I'm wondering if for the business/corporate law that he wants to practice if he is bound to NYC only? He tells me that he needs to work here since other cities don't have the same opportunity for business law - is LA or DC or Philly that much of a step down from NYC?

2) If he works for a few years, is he mobile? Can he transfer to another firm and use NYC as a stepping stone or will that be a detriment to his career? Will he have to make partner first and if so, when will he be able to be mobile? Basically I'm trying to figure out if I am going to be stuck living in the new york area for a while since that's where his job is.


1) It's not NYC only, but NYC is really the place to be for high-level transactional stuff.

2) After 2-3 years he will be in a position to lateral to another firm (Assuming that market has picked up). 4-5 would put him in a position to go in house. It's certainly conceivable that he could leave NYC.


75 hours is on the high side. 55-65 is more typical, although 75 could be the case if he is working for a firm like Cravath or Sullivan Cromwell.

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SteelReserve
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby SteelReserve » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:21 pm

I see. So after how many years do most make their exit?

If you go to another location within the firm, lets say there is an LA office, would you take a pay cut because the LA office was smaller than the NYC office? Could you still practice corporate law or does the location mandate what type of law you practice?


When I say exit, I don't mean they go to another city to work for the same firm or in biglaw generally; I mean they go in-house working for a corp or into a division of the federal government, such as SEC.

Before "this economy" it was quite plausible to lateral to other offices, but it depends entirely on the needs of the firm and how the economy plays out. The hubby can't just say "you know I'd like to work for the firm but in LA instead." Also, either way the hours are the same.

Anywho, this is not meant to bother you about biglaw, it seems your primary concern is mobility and not so much the other aspects of the business and/or quality of life, and if the hubby is willing to take other bar exams, the economy improves, and the firm is open to lateral transfers, anything is possible. It really would be firm specific and you'll need to feel it out. I doubt you will be stuck in NYC forever if you don't want to!

swester
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:27 pm

nealric wrote:
1) I'm wondering if for the business/corporate law that he wants to practice if he is bound to NYC only? He tells me that he needs to work here since other cities don't have the same opportunity for business law - is LA or DC or Philly that much of a step down from NYC?

2) If he works for a few years, is he mobile? Can he transfer to another firm and use NYC as a stepping stone or will that be a detriment to his career? Will he have to make partner first and if so, when will he be able to be mobile? Basically I'm trying to figure out if I am going to be stuck living in the new york area for a while since that's where his job is.


1) It's not NYC only, but NYC is really the place to be for high-level transactional stuff.

2) After 2-3 years he will be in a position to lateral to another firm (Assuming that market has picked up). 4-5 would put him in a position to go in house. It's certainly conceivable that he could leave NYC.


75 hours is on the high side. 55-65 is more typical, although 75 could be the case if he is working for a firm like Cravath or Sullivan Cromwell.


True, the average could be more like 60 or 65, but there will definitely, without a doubt, be some 75 hr/weeks in there. I have friends who regularly pull close to 300 billable hours a month. They are generally miserable, and waiting for the opportune moment to transition elsewhere, but they sure are employed.

Remember - even 65 hours a week is a 9-5 job, every day of the week.

smr00
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby smr00 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:27 pm

Thanks for all the great help!

I am definitely concerned about quality of life but as I am also in a profession that doesn't care about quality of life, I can understand. I can understand if it's terrible for a few years but ideally I would like us to be able to relax and enjoy life after 5 years or so.

My biggest hang up is NYC. I don't think I could make it my home. I think I can suck it up and survive for a few years but its just not a place I could call home - the noise, the hectic life, the lack of peace, the fact that you don't drive to the grocery store and its expensive!

I don't want him to sacrifice his profession or ambition or even pay but i'd hope that after a few years we could go to a desirable city and that he would still be able to work really hard, make a lot of money and do what he likes to do in law, which is corporate focused.

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clintonius
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby clintonius » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:42 pm

swester wrote:Remember - even 65 hours a week is a 9-5 job, every day of the week.

Eight days a week
is not enough to biiiiiiill you
eight days a week
is not enough for partner track!

(read: math fail)

swester
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby swester » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:58 pm

clintonius wrote:
swester wrote:Remember - even 65 hours a week is a 9-5 job, every day of the week.

Eight days a week
is not enough to biiiiiiill you
eight days a week
is not enough for partner track!

(read: math fail)


Oh, damn! I guess I was being optimistic, for the OP's sake!

And I wasn't factoring in lunch, either. So with a half hour for lunch, it's a 9-6:30 job 7 days a week (plus 2 extra hours for those Sundays when the docs have to be reviewed for Monday morning trial!)

BigLaw and families just don't mix.

270910
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby 270910 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:15 pm

swester wrote:
clintonius wrote:
swester wrote:Remember - even 65 hours a week is a 9-5 job, every day of the week.

Eight days a week
is not enough to biiiiiiill you
eight days a week
is not enough for partner track!

(read: math fail)


Oh, damn! I guess I was being optimistic, for the OP's sake!

And I wasn't factoring in lunch, either. So with a half hour for lunch, it's a 9-6:30 job 7 days a week (plus 2 extra hours for those Sundays when the docs have to be reviewed for Monday morning trial!)

BigLaw and families just don't mix.


Throwing around numbers like this is dangerous. Surveys say that only like 5 firms, maybe even less than that, have associates WORKING (not billing) more than an average of ~60 hours per week.

Yes, there will be longer weeks. Fun fact: for the average to be even 65, there will be shorter weeks too!

It's a lot of work, it definitely doesn't mix well with family, but the exaggeration on this site can be really annoying.

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underdawg
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby underdawg » Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:16 pm

smr00 wrote:Thanks for all the great help!

I am definitely concerned about quality of life but as I am also in a profession that doesn't care about quality of life, I can understand. I can understand if it's terrible for a few years but ideally I would like us to be able to relax and enjoy life after 5 years or so.

My biggest hang up is NYC. I don't think I could make it my home. I think I can suck it up and survive for a few years but its just not a place I could call home - the noise, the hectic life, the lack of peace, the fact that you don't drive to the grocery store and its expensive!

I don't want him to sacrifice his profession or ambition or even pay but i'd hope that after a few years we could go to a desirable city and that he would still be able to work really hard, make a lot of money and do what he likes to do in law, which is corporate focused.

people in brooklyn drive all the time. it's no big deal

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clintonius
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby clintonius » Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:21 pm

swester wrote:
clintonius wrote:
swester wrote:Remember - even 65 hours a week is a 9-5 job, every day of the week.

Eight days a week
is not enough to biiiiiiill you
eight days a week
is not enough for partner track!

(read: math fail)
Oh, damn! I guess I was being optimistic, for the OP's sake!

And I wasn't factoring in lunch, either. So with a half hour for lunch, it's a 9-6:30 job 7 days a week (plus 2 extra hours for those Sundays when the docs have to be reviewed for Monday morning trial!)

BigLaw and families just don't mix.

On top of that, worked hours are typically longer than billed hours -- so if you bill 65 hours in a week, you are probably working 70-80. As far as disco_barred's comment goes, I have no idea what the averages are at most firms, but it's reassuring that not many seem to average that much work. There are certainly associates and partners at my firm (V10, though I'm an admin) who have families. How well they're able to balance that is anybody's guess, and probably varies from person to person.

270910
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby 270910 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:01 am

clintonius wrote:
swester wrote:
clintonius wrote:
swester wrote:Remember - even 65 hours a week is a 9-5 job, every day of the week.

Eight days a week
is not enough to biiiiiiill you
eight days a week
is not enough for partner track!

(read: math fail)
Oh, damn! I guess I was being optimistic, for the OP's sake!

And I wasn't factoring in lunch, either. So with a half hour for lunch, it's a 9-6:30 job 7 days a week (plus 2 extra hours for those Sundays when the docs have to be reviewed for Monday morning trial!)

BigLaw and families just don't mix.

On top of that, worked hours are typically longer than billed hours -- so if you bill 65 hours in a week, you are probably working 70-80. As far as disco_barred's comment goes, I have no idea what the averages are at most firms, but it's reassuring that not many seem to average that much work. There are certainly associates and partners at my firm (V10, though I'm an admin) who have families. How well they're able to balance that is anybody's guess, and probably varies from person to person.


People, do some math. If you bill 65 hours per week for 50 weeks in a year, that's 3,250 billable hours. THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN. 1,950-2,000 is a very common billable hour target.

If I recall correctly, the hours survey had Wachtell associates on top with associates WORKING (not billing) an average north of 65 hours per week, then a few firms (ala Cravath) just over 60 hours per week average, then the rest in the mid-to-high 50s.

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clintonius
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby clintonius » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:18 am

I imagine Quinn's on that list, too. They required >2800 billable hours for you to hit the max bonus in 2009 (but did pay out bonuses in smaller amounts down to 2000 hours).

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chadwick218
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby chadwick218 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:20 am

Even if he could practice this line of work elsewhere (which he very likely could), it will be nearly impossible at this point for him to land a job with another big law firm in another market! He's kinda stuck in NY until the market comes back and firms start hiring laterals again.

smr00
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby smr00 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:02 am

Are firms seeing a comeback already? How many years until expected market recovery?

Also, what types of salaries do lawyers that transfer out of biglaw to take on inhouse positions make? I guess I'm wondering what type of pay cut one has to endure. It seems like you need to work in biglaw to pay off all the loans, but between working in NYC, living in such an expensive place and paying off loans, there isn't much money left over in the way of savings...

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chadwick218
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby chadwick218 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:43 am

smr00 wrote:Are firms seeing a comeback already? How many years until expected market recovery?

Also, what types of salaries do lawyers that transfer out of biglaw to take on inhouse positions make? I guess I'm wondering what type of pay cut one has to endure. It seems like you need to work in biglaw to pay off all the loans, but between working in NYC, living in such an expensive place and paying off loans, there isn't much money left over in the way of savings...


OCI in 2010 is predicted to be similar to that of 2009 (possibly marginally better in a few markets). No one really knows when things will pick back up. OCI 2011 is the soonest that any law students can hope for a turnaround.

270910
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby 270910 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:20 pm

chadwick218 wrote:
smr00 wrote:Are firms seeing a comeback already? How many years until expected market recovery?

Also, what types of salaries do lawyers that transfer out of biglaw to take on inhouse positions make? I guess I'm wondering what type of pay cut one has to endure. It seems like you need to work in biglaw to pay off all the loans, but between working in NYC, living in such an expensive place and paying off loans, there isn't much money left over in the way of savings...


OCI in 2010 is predicted to be similar to that of 2009 (possibly marginally better in a few markets). No one really knows when things will pick back up. OCI 2011 is the soonest that any law students can hope for a turnaround.


Disagree. Deferred associates aren't stacking up the way they were for 2009 OCI, many firms weathered the storm well, reports on the ground suggest busyness, uptick in work, etc. Salaries are unfreezing, associates are being hired as laterals. I'd say OCI 2010 is looking like it will be better than 2009, possibly significantly so - but not as good as during boom times. Of course part of the problem is that we don't know how bad last year was.

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chadwick218
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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby chadwick218 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 1:11 pm

disco_barred wrote:Disagree. Deferred associates aren't stacking up the way they were for 2009 OCI, many firms weathered the storm well, reports on the ground suggest busyness, uptick in work, etc. Salaries are unfreezing, associates are being hired as laterals. I'd say OCI 2010 is looking like it will be better than 2009, possibly significantly so - but not as good as during boom times. Of course part of the problem is that we don't know how bad last year was.


disco_barred, we'll have to make a little non-economic wager. i predict that hiring will be up no more than 5% in 2010 over 2009. although things are beginning to thaw, i don't think that firms will be rushing out to hire people. firms have had to learn how to operate with less. i think that we are still a couple of years away.

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Re: Help! Question about NYC Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:03 pm

smr00 wrote:Are firms seeing a comeback already? How many years until expected market recovery?

Also, what types of salaries do lawyers that transfer out of biglaw to take on inhouse positions make? I guess I'm wondering what type of pay cut one has to endure. It seems like you need to work in biglaw to pay off all the loans, but between working in NYC, living in such an expensive place and paying off loans, there isn't much money left over in the way of savings...


To respond to a few points above:

1 - there really isn't a comeback yet, things just aren't getting worse. The hiring partner as my firm indicated that the firm is thinking about hiring again, but not at the same level as before. It's more like 8 years ago when each associate did the work of 1.5 associates.

2 - associates working at home is becoming more and more acceptable, however new first year associates are typically expected to work in the office. The comment as to face-time is 100% correct -- even on weekends. As many senior associates had to spend their weekends in the office when they were younger, they expect the same from current junior associates (pay back is a bitch). Also, the work typically given to 1Ls is too voluminous to bring home for the weekend. It isn't until you are a couple years senior that you can easily bring your work home for the weekend. As a side note, some of the senior associates with whom I work actually call the junior associates to see if they are at their desks or working from home, and change the work given to the summer associate depending on the summer associates location.

3 - As for salary cuts, there are many factors to consider. Depending on the type of company you move to, the salary cut can be anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of the law firm salary -- generally speaking biglaw firms pay you well for your life. Please take into account that this is only your base salary, and by salary I am not inlcluding bonuses. The discrepency can be even greater when you take into account bonuses which traditionally have steadily risen for each year you work at a law firm. By way of an example, I know several attorneys who left biglaw to work in-house. These associates generally left a job paying $200,000 + $40,000+ bonus and took a job with more reasonable hours making $125,000 + bonus (usually about half the base pay). The trade off was that they got to see there children, wife/husband, etc.

4 - As for not having "much money left over", you are totally correct. For the first few years, typical biglaw associates in NY do not have much money or much of a life. Things tend to balance out after a few years, and just as things are starting to balance out the associates tend to jump to in-house jobs.

5 - NJ does not really help as much as you think it would. The parts of NJ that are close to NY are approaching NY prices, and the places that are cheaper in NJ are generally further out and require longer commutes.

I am misusing the "anonymous" please warn me and do not "out me." I would prefer that you delete this post in its entirety than out me, as I know that people at this firm read TLS and know my avatar.




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