How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

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roranoa
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How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby roranoa » Thu May 05, 2011 7:43 am

I heard that working as a litigator at Biglaw is tough
but not that tough compared to guys doing transaction work.

I saw on a post by 3rdyrLitigator that on busy days he leaves work a 9-10pm or something. (I consider that not so bad)

But what about people doing M&A and all that? Do they work as much as investment bankers, getting only an average of 4hours of sleep a year?

This is pretty serious to me in choosing a career path b/c frankly I don't think I have the stamina to take on 20 hours of work a day.

Can anyone tell me what it's like doing transaction work at BigLaw?

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Cavalier
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby Cavalier » Thu May 05, 2011 9:16 am

Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.

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quakeroats
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby quakeroats » Thu May 05, 2011 9:27 am

Cavalier wrote:Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.


Please. A first-year residency requires 110-120 hours a week. That will take a toll. 60-70 hours a week is easy, provided you enjoy what you're doing.

Kochel
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby Kochel » Thu May 05, 2011 9:46 am

My wife and I both worked in Biglaw as corporate associates for a few years after law school (while dating/engaged/married). It was no piece of cake. For each of us, there were periods of insanity where we would be working 7 days a week and not coming home before 10 p.m., often working well past midnight. These periods usually wouldn't last more than a few weeks--typically, it's when one or more deals are on a fast-track requiring round-the-clock client service. Then there would be periods of relative sanity where we'd be coming home at 8 p.m. and maybe working only one day of the weekend. Naturally, when one of us was in a slower period, the other usually wasn't. It was very difficult, even though we were both young and had adequate stamina and professional zeal. Neither of us found the eventual decision to move in-house difficult, though, and after several years of in-house work neither of us has had to work past 10 p.m. more than a handful of times.

Aside from the effects on one's social life, the workload is stressful but exciting. Junior associates aren't expected to know everything instantaneously, though they are expected to learn and master details quickly. If you're doing actual deals continuously (M&A, securities offerings, etc.) there will be much more volatility to the work, but you'll be able to build on your previous deal experiences, and if you persevere, within three years you'll be supervising junior associates. But there are other areas of corporate work, including regulatory work, where the volatility in hours is lower, but where the sheer volume of work can be just as stressful.

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kurla88
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby kurla88 » Thu May 05, 2011 9:53 am

No one works 20 hour days on average, come on.

If one of these was significantly easier than the other, everyone would be doing it. They're just different kinds of work. Transactional work is more sensitive to the boom and bust cycles, and in general seems to have significant ebb and flow, while litigation is more stable, but litigation also has intense periods if you're about to go to trial or something.

I don't think either offers a better lifestyle, so try and figure out what kind of work actually sounds more appealing to you.

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holeinone600
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby holeinone600 » Thu May 05, 2011 9:59 am

Kochel -

Regarding your reference to transactional practice areas with varying amounts of volatility...could you name the practice areas where the volatility is lower vs those where the volatility is worse (M&A)? Thanks

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Cavalier
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby Cavalier » Thu May 05, 2011 10:10 am

quakeroats wrote:
Cavalier wrote:Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.

Please. A first-year residency requires 110-120 hours a week. That will take a toll. 60-70 hours a week is easy, provided you enjoy what you're doing.

Try reading my post next time. The key word is "can." If 60-70 hour work weeks didn't take a mental toll on some people, we would not be hearing about the allegedly brutal big law hours. Obviously some people enjoy big law work and aren't bothered by the hours, but that isn't the case for everyone. Also, medical residencies are now supposed to be only 80 hours per week, and they are the prerequisite to a job with higher pay and fewer hours (not the case with big law).

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PKSebben
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby PKSebben » Thu May 05, 2011 10:20 am

Cavalier wrote:
quakeroats wrote:
Cavalier wrote:Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.

Please. A first-year residency requires 110-120 hours a week. That will take a toll. 60-70 hours a week is easy, provided you enjoy what you're doing.

Try reading my post next time. The key word is "can." If 60-70 hour work weeks didn't take a mental toll on some people, we would not be hearing about the allegedly brutal big law hours. Obviously some people enjoy big law work and aren't bothered by the hours, but that isn't the case for everyone. Also, medical residencies are now supposed to be only 80 hours per week, and they are the prerequisite to a job with higher pay and fewer hours (not the case with big law).


I regularly work 60-70 hour weeks and have done well over 80 on several occasions. I worked 10+ everyday in Feb. That was in lit. The transaction guys in my class have similar hours, it's just less predictable. I know when I'm walking into a month where I'm working every day. The next two weeks, I'll be pulling 80 hour weeks -- my work load is already set.

But those transactional guys get calls at 5pm on a Friday to prepare a closing binder. They get it done and then wait for changes ALL NIGHT. Go home and get three hours of sleep; come in on Saturday but shit the deal is off for the day -- everyone go home. Three hours later -- everyone back to the office, that deal is on. Work on binder until Sunday 2am until negotiations are off. Go home. Email to come back in at 6am, deal is back on again and they need it to close by Monday market open. Everyone goes fucking crazy ape shit and misses the deadline anyway. True story. Sounds awful.

I have friends in transactional real estate, PE, and M&A and all of them report similar stories. Perhaps the transactional couple might have some insight to what discrete areas might be less nuts.

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quakeroats
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby quakeroats » Thu May 05, 2011 10:45 am

Cavalier wrote:
quakeroats wrote:
Cavalier wrote:Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.

Please. A first-year residency requires 110-120 hours a week. That will take a toll. 60-70 hours a week is easy, provided you enjoy what you're doing.

Try reading my post next time. The key word is "can." If 60-70 hour work weeks didn't take a mental toll on some people, we would not be hearing about the allegedly brutal big law hours. Obviously some people enjoy big law work and aren't bothered by the hours, but that isn't the case for everyone. Also, medical residencies are now supposed to be only 80 hours per week, and they are the prerequisite to a job with higher pay and fewer hours (not the case with big law).


I'd make the case that 60-70 hours cannot take a toll at least in the ways we normally talk about one thing causing another. At most I'd say working 70 hours per week clarifies what would otherwise be more diffuse dissatisfaction with work. Add to this that 40 hours is widely viewed as standard and that many young lawyers went to law school by default and have no interest in the work and you get our current situation. The 70 hours aren't the problem, the l-hate-this-and-I-have-to-do-it-almost-twice-as-often-as-everyone-else-does view is. So yes, 70 hours spent doing what you don't like can take a toll, but no more than 40 will absent a social understanding that one is spending much more time on average doing unappetizing activity. If 20 hours per week were suddenly standard, we'd have the same conversation about the perils of a 40-hour big-law nightmare.

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PKSebben
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby PKSebben » Thu May 05, 2011 10:57 am

quakeroats wrote:
Cavalier wrote:
quakeroats wrote:
Cavalier wrote:Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.

Please. A first-year residency requires 110-120 hours a week. That will take a toll. 60-70 hours a week is easy, provided you enjoy what you're doing.

Try reading my post next time. The key word is "can." If 60-70 hour work weeks didn't take a mental toll on some people, we would not be hearing about the allegedly brutal big law hours. Obviously some people enjoy big law work and aren't bothered by the hours, but that isn't the case for everyone. Also, medical residencies are now supposed to be only 80 hours per week, and they are the prerequisite to a job with higher pay and fewer hours (not the case with big law).


I'd make the case that 60-70 hours cannot take a toll at least in the ways we normally talk about one thing causing another. At most I'd say working 70 hours per week clarifies what would otherwise be more diffuse dissatisfaction with work. Add to this that 40 hours is widely viewed as standard and that many young lawyers went to law school by default and have no interest in the work and you get our current situation. The 70 hours aren't the problem, the l-hate-this-and-I-have-to-do-it-almost-twice-as-often-as-everyone-else-does view is. So yes, 70 hours spent doing what you don't like can take a toll, but no more than 40 will absent a social understanding that one is spending much more time on average doing unappetizing activity. If 20 hours per week were suddenly standard, we'd have the same conversation about the perils of a 40-hour big-law nightmare.


That might be right. But even 70 hours doing what you like necessarily takes time away from your family and friends and I think each person has their own comfort level with that. I only really start losing it once I start hitting 80 hours. That's physically exhausting. Very late nights also ruin me -- I'd rather do 9-9/10 every day than a 9 - 4am day and adjust the rest of the days. I never recover from those long days until I get a couple days off.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby rundoxierun » Thu May 05, 2011 11:03 am

It think the biggest problem is that people think that these great 40 hr jobs with decent pay exist in any appreciable quantity. The analysts in my group at the company I work for now regularly work 60 hrs plus travel for about 45-50% of the "biglaw " starting base of 120k+bonus in my market. Sure there are people who only work 45 hrs a week, but they have no hope of upward mobility and when there are layoffs they are first to go.

I only know a few people who make over 80k and work less than 60 hrs/wk. These people are exceptions.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby alumniguy » Thu May 05, 2011 11:14 am

Current 3rd year transactional associate here. Generally, I would agree that transactional practice is more unpredictable than litigation practice in terms of structuring your day. There is no correlation between number of hours and whether one is a transactional or litigation associate. Hours is dependent on whether the group is busy or not. There will be litigators that bill 2400+ hours and transactional attorneys that do the same. It really comes down to whether or not you prefer transactional work or litigation.

My limited experience with litigation is that it, especially with respect to juniors, the assignments generally have much longer lead times. Most junior litigators are going to be doing a large amount of document review and related tasks (drafting privilege logs, dealing with discovery dispute). Another significant portion will be case law research. Usually, these tasks do not have quick turn around time. It doesn't mean that litigators don't work as many hours, it simply means that it is much easier for litigators to be much more effective as the office because they frequently always have something to work on.

Transactional work is much different. First, the life of a "deal" is much shorter than a "case." This means that deadlines are quicker. Further, both sides to a deal typically want the deal done ASAP (contrasted to a litigation where there is usually a party looking to string things out) and there is less tolerance for delays. Certainly delays happen all the time, but it isn't like litigation where both parties decide they need an extension and jointly request that the judge grant a 3 week extension to the discovery timeline. If the deal is scheduled to close in the first quarter of the year, then the lawyers do their very best to get it done.

There is also more unpredictability in hours because deals frequently die (as PKSebben alluded). Deals die and restart on occasion. I would say it more common that a deal dies completely than a deal dieing and coming back to life. Typically, as a junior you are doing diligence work and there may be a lot of work that needs to be done at the front end of a deal. Accordingly, you are more likely to experience the effects of starting/stopping than mid-levels or seniors.

Another factor is that you don't have much control on when the other party is going to get a mark-up of the document back to you to review. Frequently, each side tries the old standby of dumping documents on the other side on Friday afternoon, thus trying to ensure that there won't be work on the deal for them over the weekend. However, if you get a document on Friday afternoon, it typically means you have to at least get a jump start on reviewing/responding over the weekend. In my experience you aren't expected to turn the document around by Monday morning, but you'll have to have something to show the partner by end of the business day on Monday/Tuesday AM at the latest. Further, because you are dependent on the other side to provide comments/mark-ups, there isn't a steady flow of work to be done on a deal as a transactional lawyer. You'll likely have other tasks to do on the deal or other deals to attend to, but there usually holes in the day where you'll be stuck without billable work.

The point is that the tighter time frames is what makes transactional work more unpredictable than litigation. The fact that litigators know well ahead of time (due to the court calendar) when the busy days will be is also a factor. My experience has been that while hours are more predictable in litigation, I don't really like the work of doing document review, researching and writing motions. I much prefer interacting with clients and working on different types of deal docs and thus, I take the unpredictability in stride. Is it frustrating at times? Certainly. However, my experience is that when a deal closes, most associates have a few days of less work and get to check out early before the next deal starts to get busy.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby roranoa » Thu May 05, 2011 12:31 pm

alumniguy wrote:Current 3rd year transactional associate here. Generally, I would agree that transactional practice is more unpredictable than litigation practice in terms of structuring your day. There is no correlation between number of hours and whether one is a transactional or litigation associate. Hours is dependent on whether the group is busy or not. There will be litigators that bill 2400+ hours and transactional attorneys that do the same. It really comes down to whether or not you prefer transactional work or litigation.

My limited experience with litigation is that it, especially with respect to juniors, the assignments generally have much longer lead times. Most junior litigators are going to be doing a large amount of document review and related tasks (drafting privilege logs, dealing with discovery dispute). Another significant portion will be case law research. Usually, these tasks do not have quick turn around time. It doesn't mean that litigators don't work as many hours, it simply means that it is much easier for litigators to be much more effective as the office because they frequently always have something to work on.

Transactional work is much different. First, the life of a "deal" is much shorter than a "case." This means that deadlines are quicker. Further, both sides to a deal typically want the deal done ASAP (contrasted to a litigation where there is usually a party looking to string things out) and there is less tolerance for delays. Certainly delays happen all the time, but it isn't like litigation where both parties decide they need an extension and jointly request that the judge grant a 3 week extension to the discovery timeline. If the deal is scheduled to close in the first quarter of the year, then the lawyers do their very best to get it done.

There is also more unpredictability in hours because deals frequently die (as PKSebben alluded). Deals die and restart on occasion. I would say it more common that a deal dies completely than a deal dieing and coming back to life. Typically, as a junior you are doing diligence work and there may be a lot of work that needs to be done at the front end of a deal. Accordingly, you are more likely to experience the effects of starting/stopping than mid-levels or seniors.

Another factor is that you don't have much control on when the other party is going to get a mark-up of the document back to you to review. Frequently, each side tries the old standby of dumping documents on the other side on Friday afternoon, thus trying to ensure that there won't be work on the deal for them over the weekend. However, if you get a document on Friday afternoon, it typically means you have to at least get a jump start on reviewing/responding over the weekend. In my experience you aren't expected to turn the document around by Monday morning, but you'll have to have something to show the partner by end of the business day on Monday/Tuesday AM at the latest. Further, because you are dependent on the other side to provide comments/mark-ups, there isn't a steady flow of work to be done on a deal as a transactional lawyer. You'll likely have other tasks to do on the deal or other deals to attend to, but there usually holes in the day where you'll be stuck without billable work.

The point is that the tighter time frames is what makes transactional work more unpredictable than litigation. The fact that litigators know well ahead of time (due to the court calendar) when the busy days will be is also a factor. My experience has been that while hours are more predictable in litigation, I don't really like the work of doing document review, researching and writing motions. I much prefer interacting with clients and working on different types of deal docs and thus, I take the unpredictability in stride. Is it frustrating at times? Certainly. However, my experience is that when a deal closes, most associates have a few days of less work and get to check out early before the next deal starts to get busy.


This is a really helpful post! Thanks!

So I guess what you're saying is that I should worry more about the unpredictability of the hours than the absolute amount of it right?

But then what is the average period for working on a deal? Because I'm guessing that while working on a deal one has to pull(at least stay awake) 20 hours a day right? I mean, for me, if I have to work with less than 4 hours of sleep for more than 30 days...I don't think I could do it. I mean I can, but I probably won't be able to concentrate well enough to do a good job.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby roranoa » Thu May 05, 2011 12:38 pm

Kochel wrote:My wife and I both worked in Biglaw as corporate associates for a few years after law school (while dating/engaged/married). It was no piece of cake. For each of us, there were periods of insanity where we would be working 7 days a week and not coming home before 10 p.m., often working well past midnight. These periods usually wouldn't last more than a few weeks--typically, it's when one or more deals are on a fast-track requiring round-the-clock client service. Then there would be periods of relative sanity where we'd be coming home at 8 p.m. and maybe working only one day of the weekend. Naturally, when one of us was in a slower period, the other usually wasn't. It was very difficult, even though we were both young and had adequate stamina and professional zeal. Neither of us found the eventual decision to move in-house difficult, though, and after several years of in-house work neither of us has had to work past 10 p.m. more than a handful of times.

Aside from the effects on one's social life, the workload is stressful but exciting. Junior associates aren't expected to know everything instantaneously, though they are expected to learn and master details quickly. If you're doing actual deals continuously (M&A, securities offerings, etc.) there will be much more volatility to the work, but you'll be able to build on your previous deal experiences, and if you persevere, within three years you'll be supervising junior associates. But there are other areas of corporate work, including regulatory work, where the volatility in hours is lower, but where the sheer volume of work can be just as stressful.


This is some great insight! I always wanted to know how married lawyers manage their personal life at BigLaw.

Didn't the lack of time spent with your spouse affect your relationship? Or was it really not that bad because you both understand what your jobs require?

Also, this is a very different question but, how much of a salary hit did you have to take when you moved to in-house? I'm guessing it was quite significant considering number of hours reduced, but how much exactly?

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby alumniguy » Thu May 05, 2011 12:43 pm

roranoa wrote:This is a really helpful post! Thanks!

So I guess what you're saying is that I should worry more about the unpredictability of the hours than the absolute amount of it right?

But then what is the average period for working on a deal? Because I'm guessing that while working on a deal one has to pull(at least stay awake) 20 hours a day right? I mean, for me, if I have to work with less than 4 hours of sleep for more than 30 days...I don't think I could do it. I mean I can, but I probably won't be able to concentrate well enough to do a good job.


I've found unpredictability to be more of an issue than incredibly long hours. Generally, lawyers don't work 20 hour days. Period. It isn't sustainable and work product suffers. I'm guessing that 15 hours days...9am to 12am or 1am are more typical for extended periods of time. This happens rarely as well. This is deal closing or you have several deals on your plate type hours. More likely are 9am to 9pm or 10pm. Assume you bill 2400 hrs a year (which is high, but several attorneys do regularly bill this much). If we divide by 46 weeks (52-4 (vacation) - 2 (holidays)), then you're talking an average of 52 hours a week. Certainly you don't get to bill every hour you are in the office, but people aren't consistently day-in-and-day-out billing or working 15 hour days. Will you likely have some bad stretches over the first few years of your career, of course. You're more likely to have several months of 200+ hours of billing followed by a month of 150 or less hours. The early year months (January into February and sometimes March) and summer months (mid-July into early September) are typically slower in transactional practices. But all of this talk about working 20 hour weeks is ridiculous.

The real issue I've found is that when you work until 12am or 1am, you get home and you are not ready to go to sleep. You end up watching tv for an hour or talking on the phone. You need time to wind down from the day's work. So you are not maximizing your sleep time.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby FlanAl » Thu May 05, 2011 12:49 pm

tagging and thanking you guys for the fantastic insight!

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby AreJay711 » Thu May 05, 2011 12:56 pm

quakeroats wrote:
Cavalier wrote:Since I'm a current student I feel like a 0L offering law school advice, but to my knowledge, neither litigation nor transactional demands 20 hour days on average, but you might be forced do work extremely long hours during particular events (a trial in litigation, a deal in transactional). A lot of it depends on the firm and the practice area; M&A allegedly is the worst. A person of ordinary health should have the physical stamina for big law; the real problem is the mental toll that working 60-70 hours per week can take.


Please. A first-year residency requires 110-120 hours a week. That will take a toll. 60-70 hours a week is easy, provided you enjoy what you're doing.


I've watched Grey's Anatomy and the majority of that time they are either sleeping, fucking, gossiping, or just kinda walking around shooting the breeze. Doesn't look that bad, bro

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby Kochel » Thu May 05, 2011 1:25 pm

roranoa wrote:This is some great insight! I always wanted to know how married lawyers manage their personal life at BigLaw.

Didn't the lack of time spent with your spouse affect your relationship? Or was it really not that bad because you both understand what your jobs require?

Also, this is a very different question but, how much of a salary hit did you have to take when you moved to in-house? I'm guessing it was quite significant considering number of hours reduced, but how much exactly?


When we started dating, my wife was a junior associate but I was still in school. It was difficult for me to deal with her limited availability. Obviously, once I started at the firm it was easier to understand, but on the whole it was more difficult because when she was less busy, I was more busy. I think we both knew from the beginning that working at firms wasn't to be permanent; this helped to offset the stress somewhat. And we've lived happily ever since.

We made our in-house transitions before Biglaw went to the 160K scale. At the time, the pay cut was pretty modest, and pay has gotten progressively better. Pay is now more like that of senior associates, but with good upside and none of the Biglaw negatives.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby Kochel » Thu May 05, 2011 1:29 pm

holeinone600 wrote:Kochel -

Regarding your reference to transactional practice areas with varying amounts of volatility...could you name the practice areas where the volatility is lower vs those where the volatility is worse (M&A)? Thanks


I'm not the world's expert, but there are some fields that are usually less volatile: Investment Management, health care (unless you're just doing health care deals), and pretty much every other regulatory field. But even if you want to steer yourself towards one of those areas, I'd suggest you still dip your toes into the more hardcore transactional practices--you'll get good experience and skills that will translate readily into many other areas.

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby DoubleChecks » Thu May 05, 2011 1:41 pm

very helpful -- tagging (easier to see updates than bookmarks lol sry)

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby roranoa » Thu May 05, 2011 2:24 pm

Kochel wrote:
roranoa wrote:This is some great insight! I always wanted to know how married lawyers manage their personal life at BigLaw.

Didn't the lack of time spent with your spouse affect your relationship? Or was it really not that bad because you both understand what your jobs require?

Also, this is a very different question but, how much of a salary hit did you have to take when you moved to in-house? I'm guessing it was quite significant considering number of hours reduced, but how much exactly?


When we started dating, my wife was a junior associate but I was still in school. It was difficult for me to deal with her limited availability. Obviously, once I started at the firm it was easier to understand, but on the whole it was more difficult because when she was less busy, I was more busy. I think we both knew from the beginning that working at firms wasn't to be permanent; this helped to offset the stress somewhat. And we've lived happily ever since.

We made our in-house transitions before Biglaw went to the 160K scale. At the time, the pay cut was pretty modest, and pay has gotten progressively better. Pay is now more like that of senior associates, but with good upside and none of the Biglaw negatives.


One more question about in-house.

While most people leave BigLaw within 6-7, maybe 8 years if they don't make partner or of counsel, how long can you typically stay in-house? Also how are promotions decided upon?

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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby Kochel » Thu May 05, 2011 3:27 pm

roranoa wrote:


One more question about in-house.

While most people leave BigLaw within 6-7, maybe 8 years if they don't make partner or of counsel, how long can you typically stay in-house? Also how are promotions decided upon?[/quote]

By and large, in-house legal departments function much like other corporate groups, and therefore couldn't be much different from the Biglaw structure. They're pyramidal, with direct reporting relationships and all the resulting office politics.

Once you land an in-house job, you generally will be able to stay there for as long as you want (assuming good performance). However, just as with most other corporate jobs, there are no guaranteed promotions, and you might in fact be promoted only a few times in your entire career. Since attrition is generally rather low, there will not be frequent opportunities for promotion: whether you do get promoted will depend on both your skills/performance and on whether your superiors and senior management like you. Raises, too, are not automatic and are definitely not lockstep. Bonuses are much more tied to the performance of the company, and are therefore more volatile.

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quakeroats
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby quakeroats » Thu May 05, 2011 4:42 pm

Kochel wrote:
roranoa wrote:


One more question about in-house.

While most people leave BigLaw within 6-7, maybe 8 years if they don't make partner or of counsel, how long can you typically stay in-house? Also how are promotions decided upon?

By and large, in-house legal departments function much like other corporate groups, and therefore couldn't be much different from the Biglaw structure. They're pyramidal, with direct reporting relationships and all the resulting office politics.

Once you land an in-house job, you generally will be able to stay there for as long as you want (assuming good performance). However, just as with most other corporate jobs, there are no guaranteed promotions, and you might in fact be promoted only a few times in your entire career. Since attrition is generally rather low, there will not be frequent opportunities for promotion: whether you do get promoted will depend on both your skills/performance and on whether your superiors and senior management like you. Raises, too, are not automatic and are definitely not lockstep. Bonuses are much more tied to the performance of the company, and are therefore more volatile.


Very few make it 6 or 7 years. At that point you're on the partnership track, and most people have the good sense to know if they aren't going to make it.

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nealric
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby nealric » Thu May 05, 2011 9:45 pm

I'm a first year Tax associate. Tax is 90% transactional at my firm (we only do a touch of controversy work).

The hours are much, much better than what other people are talking about. Most of my weeks are between 50-60 hours, with a few 45 hour weeks and a few 65 hour weeks. That's good enough to be on track to bill in the low 2000s for the year (which is considered completely acceptable). One thing I've noticed is that the corporate first years have to spend a lot more time waiting around for work than I do. For the most part, If I am at work and not at lunch or taking a break I am billing. I rarely have to work weekends. When I do, it's just a few hours in the morning. Although I'm "on call" via blackberry, I've never had to disrupt my plans because of it. At worst, I have to spend five minutes to respond to an email.

People who want "lifestyle" and biglaw should be advised to pick a niche practice area. Do IP, ERISA, Tax, Trusts & Estates, Labor, or whatever else your firm might offer.

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PKSebben
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Re: How tough is it working at BigLaw? (doing transaction work)

Postby PKSebben » Thu May 05, 2011 10:15 pm

nealric wrote:I'm a first year Tax associate. Tax is 90% transactional at my firm (we only do a touch of controversy work).

The hours are much, much better than what other people are talking about. Most of my weeks are between 50-60 hours, with a few 45 hour weeks and a few 65 hour weeks. That's good enough to be on track to bill in the low 2000s for the year (which is considered completely acceptable). One thing I've noticed is that the corporate first years have to spend a lot more time waiting around for work than I do. For the most part, If I am at work and not at lunch or taking a break I am billing. I rarely have to work weekends. When I do, it's just a few hours in the morning. Although I'm "on call" via blackberry, I've never had to disrupt my plans because of it. At worst, I have to spend five minutes to respond to an email.

People who want "lifestyle" and biglaw should be advised to pick a niche practice area. Do IP, ERISA, Tax, Trusts & Estates, Labor, or whatever else your firm might offer.


Thanks very much for your input and glad to see you're still around. I've always wondered what the tax dudes did. They're on another floor and I always imagine them dressing like Keynes and Hayek from the rap. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk

Also, I imagine they'd rap too.




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