Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

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ruski
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby ruski » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:39 pm

dude how did you end up working 80 hours a week and only making 85k. i have friends in finance working 80 hours a week and they are raking in way over 100k. i also have friends making 80k, and they work closer to 50 hours a week, going up to 60-70 during busy times.

my advice would be to forget law school. try to leverage your experience and look for a better job now instead.

danielwebster
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby danielwebster » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:41 pm

Thanks a lot for contextualizing this. I actually followed the Google-Motorola deal closely, and this makes sense. Can you give me an idea of some of the issues lawyers think about when structuring such a deal?

As a consultant, some of the issues we think about are the performance of the company itself, its competitive environment, sector performance, demand factors, cost inputs, revenue streams, and other pieces of due diligence for valuation purposes. We also advise our clients on opportunities to make companies more profitable post-acquisition (we give them this perspective per-acquisition), and we sometimes actively work with portfolio companies post-acquisition for merger integration or to implement a new strategy.

(by the way, I include the stuff about consulting as a way to contribute something useful to this thread)

What are the issues in law?

Anonymous User
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP, I used to work in consulting and am now doing a JD/MBA (posting anonymously because I will share some pretty candid views on careers that I would rather not have traced back - I can PM you if you want to talk more). Here are my thoughts.

The Work Itself
I think the complaints about legal work are mostly overdone, especially if you are a detail-oriented kind of person. Many of the people I know who are truly miserable as lawyers are that way because they really want nothing to do whatsoever with the business world (artsy or literary folks, foreign policy junkies, etc). If you (like me) find the business world and deals actually interesting, I wouldn't worry on that front.

The biggest difference that takes getting used to is the detail orientation and degree of analness that law requires. In consulting, you often hear 80/20 (for those following along at home, that refers to the idea that 80% of the insight comes from 20% of the effort, so you might as well only do that 20%). Law firms pride themselves on being 100/100, or more accurately 100/200, since you'll do a whole bunch of useless work just on the miniscule off chance there's something there. Some people hate this. Some people don't mind this as much. Either way, it tends to be less of a feature of your life as you get more senior.

The other thing is that law, especially litigation (but also corporate) is a very solitary work environment. Sure, you will have calls with your client, or conferences with your team, but the vast majority of time is spent researching, writing, and drafting by yourself. It's nowhere near as interactive as consulting at any level. Some people miss the idea of working with a client day-in and day-out to solve his or her problems. Some don't. Either way, consider that.

Career Trajectory/Exit Options
You need to think about what you want to be long term. The biggest misconception about law is that it helps you do a lot of things. This is not true. You should not become a lawyer unless you think you want to practice law for most of your career, or get involved in a heavily legally-influenced business specialty where legal knowledge is not just helpful, but integral (think bankruptcy, certain types of real estate investing, etc).

This is not to say that lawyers don't end up doing other things, such as transitioning over to a business role in a company, becoming bankers, working for PE funds, etc. But this is usually a fortuitous accident rather than a well-planned trajectory. I have talked to several people in these positions (i.e., former lawyers who now do something else in the business world). While many of them said their legal training was helpful, virtually none recommended becoming a lawyer in order to get where they are - there are much easier ways (if your goal is finance, become a banker, if you want an operating role, stick with consulting, etc).

Consulting is considerably more flexible in terms of exit options (not necessarily better).

Lifestyle/Work-Life Balance
The hours in biglaw are not materially more than consulting, and are considerably less than finance, at least at junior levels. Two caveats, however.

Biglaw hours, particularly on the corporate side, are much more irregular and unpredictable. In consulting, there are rarely total fire drills. You know when the big milestones are, and you'll probably work late the week before, but it's decently easy to plan around. In biglaw, you can do nothing until 4pm then have something explode on your deal, and stay in the office all night. It's largely related to the fact that corporate law is deal-driven work (like banking).

The other thing is there's less of a sense that your hours decrease as you get more senior. Many partners at my summer firm worked as much as the associates. This is because partners at law firms are actually expected to do work. Sure, they also need to sell, but it's not like consulting (at least in my experience), where upwards of 80% of partner time was devoted to sales (and if you're good at sales, that means you don't need to work as much). Work does get more flexible as your get further up in a law firm (dial in to calls from home, mark up documents at home), but it's still a lot.

The obvious upside is biglaw has very little in the way of travel, even at the partner level.

Compensation
Comp is probably a wash within the professions themselves. That is, a partner at a consulting firm probably makes about the same as a partner at a law firm, and your chances of making partner are probably similar. I would say that consulting exit options probably compensate more highly than law exit options, just because it's skewed by the not-insignificant number of consultants who end up at PE firms or hedge funds.


Hope this is helpful. As I said, happy to talk more via PM, just post in the thread if you want to know more.



180 one of the best posts on TLS in the last month.

danielwebster
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby danielwebster » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP, I used to work in consulting and am now doing a JD/MBA (posting anonymously because I will share some pretty candid views on careers that I would rather not have traced back - I can PM you if you want to talk more). Here are my thoughts.

The Work Itself
I think the complaints about legal work are mostly overdone, especially if you are a detail-oriented kind of person. Many of the people I know who are truly miserable as lawyers are that way because they really want nothing to do whatsoever with the business world (artsy or literary folks, foreign policy junkies, etc). If you (like me) find the business world and deals actually interesting, I wouldn't worry on that front.

The biggest difference that takes getting used to is the detail orientation and degree of analness that law requires. In consulting, you often hear 80/20 (for those following along at home, that refers to the idea that 80% of the insight comes from 20% of the effort, so you might as well only do that 20%). Law firms pride themselves on being 100/100, or more accurately 100/200, since you'll do a whole bunch of useless work just on the miniscule off chance there's something there. Some people hate this. Some people don't mind this as much. Either way, it tends to be less of a feature of your life as you get more senior.

The other thing is that law, especially litigation (but also corporate) is a very solitary work environment. Sure, you will have calls with your client, or conferences with your team, but the vast majority of time is spent researching, writing, and drafting by yourself. It's nowhere near as interactive as consulting at any level. Some people miss the idea of working with a client day-in and day-out to solve his or her problems. Some don't. Either way, consider that.

Career Trajectory/Exit Options
You need to think about what you want to be long term. The biggest misconception about law is that it helps you do a lot of things. This is not true. You should not become a lawyer unless you think you want to practice law for most of your career, or get involved in a heavily legally-influenced business specialty where legal knowledge is not just helpful, but integral (think bankruptcy, certain types of real estate investing, etc).

This is not to say that lawyers don't end up doing other things, such as transitioning over to a business role in a company, becoming bankers, working for PE funds, etc. But this is usually a fortuitous accident rather than a well-planned trajectory. I have talked to several people in these positions (i.e., former lawyers who now do something else in the business world). While many of them said their legal training was helpful, virtually none recommended becoming a lawyer in order to get where they are - there are much easier ways (if your goal is finance, become a banker, if you want an operating role, stick with consulting, etc).

Consulting is considerably more flexible in terms of exit options (not necessarily better).

Lifestyle/Work-Life Balance
The hours in biglaw are not materially more than consulting, and are considerably less than finance, at least at junior levels. Two caveats, however.

Biglaw hours, particularly on the corporate side, are much more irregular and unpredictable. In consulting, there are rarely total fire drills. You know when the big milestones are, and you'll probably work late the week before, but it's decently easy to plan around. In biglaw, you can do nothing until 4pm then have something explode on your deal, and stay in the office all night. It's largely related to the fact that corporate law is deal-driven work (like banking).

The other thing is there's less of a sense that your hours decrease as you get more senior. Many partners at my summer firm worked as much as the associates. This is because partners at law firms are actually expected to do work. Sure, they also need to sell, but it's not like consulting (at least in my experience), where upwards of 80% of partner time was devoted to sales (and if you're good at sales, that means you don't need to work as much). Work does get more flexible as your get further up in a law firm (dial in to calls from home, mark up documents at home), but it's still a lot.

The obvious upside is biglaw has very little in the way of travel, even at the partner level.

Compensation
Comp is probably a wash within the professions themselves. That is, a partner at a consulting firm probably makes about the same as a partner at a law firm, and your chances of making partner are probably similar. I would say that consulting exit options probably compensate more highly than law exit options, just because it's skewed by the not-insignificant number of consultants who end up at PE firms or hedge funds.


Hope this is helpful. As I said, happy to talk more via PM, just post in the thread if you want to know more.


This was extremely helpful and exactly what I was looking for. Can you shoot me a PM?

Edit: also, I highly recommend this post since I'm sure I'm not the first person thinking of going consulting -> biglaw. Don't know what it takes to get a sticky around here, but this post is worth it.

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Bronte
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Bronte » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:04 pm

BaiAilian2013 wrote:I don't know how banking works, but lawyers often describe their work weeks in billable hours, not hours worked. 70-80 billable hours is brutal. That said, most of the lawyers I know aren't billing that most weeks; your hours do sound slightly worse.


Consulting is not banking. Hours worked are not billable hours.

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rayiner
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby rayiner » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:10 pm

danielwebster wrote:Thanks a lot for contextualizing this. I actually followed the Google-Motorola deal closely, and this makes sense. Can you give me an idea of some of the issues lawyers think about when structuring such a deal?

As a consultant, some of the issues we think about are the performance of the company itself, its competitive environment, sector performance, demand factors, cost inputs, revenue streams, and other pieces of due diligence for valuation purposes. We also advise our clients on opportunities to make companies more profitable post-acquisition (we give them this perspective per-acquisition), and we sometimes actively work with portfolio companies post-acquisition for merger integration or to implement a new strategy.

(by the way, I include the stuff about consulting as a way to contribute something useful to this thread)

What are the issues in law?


Something like the Google-Motorola deal is actually a very good example, because the legal issues are as big or bigger than the operational issues. Google isn't buying Motorola for its revenue streams, etc. Undoubtedly those things are a part of the equation, but ultimately Google wants Motorola for its intellectual property and because it offers Google the opportunity to vertically integrate and release Android devices where they control the whole stack. The hard parts of this transaction involve legal issues: how defensible are these patents? Is DOJ going to prevent vertical integration? There are a myriad of secondary legal issues too, given the nature of Google's Android business. Google licenses Android to a bunch of phone manufacturers, and is now buying a phone manufacturer. This will make Google's licensees very nervous. Google needs to be advised about their rights and obligations under these licenses, and plan for potential litigation if handset manufacturers get upset.

In such a transaction, Google's lawyers are going to analyze the agreements that exist between Motorola and third parties, and figure out Motorola's rights and obligations under the agreements. They're going to advise Google's executives about what these agreements mean for Google's business, and warn about any pitfalls in the agreements that might be triggered by the acquisition.

Since IP is such a huge portion of the deal, Google's IP counsel will do a lot of work figuring out the enforceability and quality of various Motorola patents, and analyzing the license agreements Motorola has with third parties. Google wants the IP to defend against patent litigation from third parties, and as a result Google wants to know what it can and can not do with the acquired IP.

Google's anti-trust counsel is going to give advice about the anti-trust implications of the acquisition. With AT&T getting push-back from the DOJ on anti-trust issues, Google is definitely concerned about how the government will view the transaction.

The M&A lawyers are going to have to implement a huge cross-border transaction. They'll have to coordinate with the other departments, and will serve as an intermediary between Google and Motorola in a lot of negotiations. They'll do their standard thing allocating risk within the transaction. If the deal goes south, what happens? How bears the costs? Given the number of things that can go wrong: regulatory, IP, etc (again, see AT&T and T-Mobile), there's a lot of work figuring out who will pay for what. Since Motorola is a public company and shareholders are being bought out, Google's M&A and securities counsel will advise about the conduct of the transaction to make sure that there isn't any material for shareholders lawsuits down the road.

The securities and credit lawyers won't have as much to do, because Google is paying cash, but the credit lawyers will have to go over all of Motorola's credit agreements to see what implications they have for Google.

Google's tax counsel is of course going to try to structure the transaction to save Google the most money. To the extent that Motorola execs might be pushed out, employee benefits & executive compensation attorneys are going to be involved. To the extent that buildings change hands, real estate attorneys are going to go over all the leases to figure out Motorola's rights and obligations under the leases. Environmental counsel will undoubtedly be involved given that Motorola Mobility has manufacturing operations.

Given the fact that both countries have international operations, all of the above legal issues will be multiplied to deal with the laws of all the various jurisdictions touched by the transaction.
Last edited by rayiner on Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Bronte
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Bronte » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:13 pm

Rayiner, consulting anon: great posting.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:18 pm

rayiner wrote:
danielwebster wrote:Thanks a lot for contextualizing this. I actually followed the Google-Motorola deal closely, and this makes sense. Can you give me an idea of some of the issues lawyers think about when structuring such a deal?

As a consultant, some of the issues we think about are the performance of the company itself, its competitive environment, sector performance, demand factors, cost inputs, revenue streams, and other pieces of due diligence for valuation purposes. We also advise our clients on opportunities to make companies more profitable post-acquisition (we give them this perspective per-acquisition), and we sometimes actively work with portfolio companies post-acquisition for merger integration or to implement a new strategy.

(by the way, I include the stuff about consulting as a way to contribute something useful to this thread)

What are the issues in law?


Something like the Google-Motorola deal is actually a very good example, because the legal issues are as big or bigger than the operational issues. Google isn't buying Motorola for its revenue streams, etc. Undoubtedly those things are a part of the equation, but ultimately Google wants Motorola for its intellectual property and because it offers Google the opportunity to vertically integrate and release Android devices where they control the whole stack. The hard parts of this transaction involve legal issues: how defensible are these patents? Is DOJ going to prevent vertical integration? There are a myriad of secondary legal issues too, given the nature of Google's Android business. Google licenses Android to a bunch of phone manufacturers, and is now buying a phone manufacturer. This will make Google's licensees very nervous. Google needs to be advised about their rights and obligations under these licenses, and plan for potential litigation if handset manufacturers get upset.

In such a transaction, Google's lawyers are going to analyze the agreements that exist between Motorola and third parties, and figure out Motorola's rights and obligations under the agreements. They're going to advise Google's executives about what these agreements mean for Google's business, and warn about any pitfalls in the agreements that might be triggered by the acquisition.

Since IP is such a huge portion of the deal, Google's IP counsel will do a lot of work figuring out the enforceability and quality of various Motorola patents, and analyzing the license agreements Motorola has with third parties. Google wants the IP to defend against patent litigation from third parties, and as a result Google wants to know what it can and can not do with the acquired IP.

Google's anti-trust counsel is going to give advice about the anti-trust implications of the acquisition. With AT&T getting push-back from the DOJ on anti-trust issues, Google is definitely concerned about how the government will view the transaction.

The M&A lawyers are going to have to implement a huge cross-border transaction. They'll have to coordinate with the other departments, and will serve as an intermediary between Google and Motorola in a lot of negotiations. They'll do their standard thing allocating risk within the transaction. If the deal goes south, what happens? How bears the costs? Given the number of things that can go wrong: regulatory, IP, etc (again, see AT&T and T-Mobile), there's a lot of work figuring out who will pay for what. Since Motorola is a public company and shareholders are being bought out, Google's M&A and securities counsel will advise about the conduct of the transaction to make sure that there isn't any material for shareholders lawsuits down the road.

The securities and credit lawyers won't have as much to do, because Google is paying cash, but the credit lawyers will have to go over all of Motorola's credit agreements to see what implications they have for Google.

Google's tax counsel is of course going to try to structure the transaction to save Google the most money. To the extent that Motorola execs might be pushed out, employee benefits & executive compensation attorneys are going to be involved. To the extent that buildings change hands, real estate attorneys are going to go over all the leases to figure out Motorola's rights and obligations under the leases. Environmental counsel will undoubtedly be involved given that Motorola Mobility has manufacturing operations.

Given the fact that both countries have international operations, all of the above legal issues will be multiplied to deal with the laws of all the various jurisdictions touched by the transaction.


Sounds like fun!!

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Bronte
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Bronte » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Sounds like fun!!


This raises a good point actually, whether sarcastic or not. If Rayiner's post doesn't sound interesting to you, you probably should not go to law school. Very, very few people graduate law school and do lots of cool one-on-one work helping underserved people battle the man. Lawyers either do big business work or go broke.

A great article on TLS would be a very detailed piece about what lawyers actually do--from the big picture of how transactions work down to the nitty gritty of the writing, research, diligence, and doc review. In particular, law is a field involving extreme detail-orientation, solitary technical writing, research, and document review, and esoteric financial and business details. If this doesn't sound like something interesting to you, you shouldn't go to law school, even if you get into the small handful of schools that are worth attending.

bdubs
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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby bdubs » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:48 pm

Bronte wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sounds like fun!!


This raises a good point actually, whether sarcastic or not. If Rayiner's post doesn't sound interesting to you, you probably should not go to law school. Very, very few people graduate law school and do lots of cool one-on-one work helping underserved people battle the man. Lawyers either do big business work or go broke.

A great article on TLS would be a very detailed piece about what lawyers actually do--from the big picture of how transactions work down to the nitty gritty of the writing, research, diligence, and doc review. In particular, law is a field involving extreme detail-orientation, solitary technical writing, research, and document review, and esoteric financial and business details. If this doesn't sound like something interesting to you, you shouldn't go to law school, even if you get into the small handful of schools that are worth attending.


TBF deal related transactional work is a big area of law, but it is far from the only area of law.

Anon JD/MBA - Shoot me a PM too, i'd like to hear about your experiences.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Bronte » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:57 pm

bdubs wrote:TBF deal related transactional work is a big area of law, but it is far from the only area of law.

Anon JD/MBA - Shoot me a PM too, i'd like to hear about your experiences.


My post was in regards to litigation as well. (Note the references to "writing and research," "doc review," etc.) "Litigation" is also corporate work. Together, corporate litigation, corporate transactional work, and other areas of business law (e.g., bankruptcy, IP, tax, etc.) make up the vast majority of legal work.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby rayiner » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:35 pm

Bronte wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sounds like fun!!


This raises a good point actually, whether sarcastic or not. If Rayiner's post doesn't sound interesting to you, you probably should not go to law school. Very, very few people graduate law school and do lots of cool one-on-one work helping underserved people battle the man. Lawyers either do big business work or go broke.


This is not completely true. One of the redeeming aspects of law is that you do actually get to help underserved people battle the man. Even at big firms like Latham and Skadden, attorneys average ~100 hours of pro bono per year (representing tens of thousands of dollars of attorney time). As much as it has been cut down and corporatized, law firms still believe that it's their duty to service the community to some degree.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby danielwebster » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:40 am

rayiner wrote:
danielwebster wrote:Thanks a lot for contextualizing this. I actually followed the Google-Motorola deal closely, and this makes sense. Can you give me an idea of some of the issues lawyers think about when structuring such a deal?

As a consultant, some of the issues we think about are the performance of the company itself, its competitive environment, sector performance, demand factors, cost inputs, revenue streams, and other pieces of due diligence for valuation purposes. We also advise our clients on opportunities to make companies more profitable post-acquisition (we give them this perspective per-acquisition), and we sometimes actively work with portfolio companies post-acquisition for merger integration or to implement a new strategy.

(by the way, I include the stuff about consulting as a way to contribute something useful to this thread)

What are the issues in law?


Something like the Google-Motorola deal is actually a very good example, because the legal issues are as big or bigger than the operational issues. Google isn't buying Motorola for its revenue streams, etc. Undoubtedly those things are a part of the equation, but ultimately Google wants Motorola for its intellectual property and because it offers Google the opportunity to vertically integrate and release Android devices where they control the whole stack. The hard parts of this transaction involve legal issues: how defensible are these patents? Is DOJ going to prevent vertical integration? There are a myriad of secondary legal issues too, given the nature of Google's Android business. Google licenses Android to a bunch of phone manufacturers, and is now buying a phone manufacturer. This will make Google's licensees very nervous. Google needs to be advised about their rights and obligations under these licenses, and plan for potential litigation if handset manufacturers get upset.

In such a transaction, Google's lawyers are going to analyze the agreements that exist between Motorola and third parties, and figure out Motorola's rights and obligations under the agreements. They're going to advise Google's executives about what these agreements mean for Google's business, and warn about any pitfalls in the agreements that might be triggered by the acquisition.

Since IP is such a huge portion of the deal, Google's IP counsel will do a lot of work figuring out the enforceability and quality of various Motorola patents, and analyzing the license agreements Motorola has with third parties. Google wants the IP to defend against patent litigation from third parties, and as a result Google wants to know what it can and can not do with the acquired IP.

Google's anti-trust counsel is going to give advice about the anti-trust implications of the acquisition. With AT&T getting push-back from the DOJ on anti-trust issues, Google is definitely concerned about how the government will view the transaction.

The M&A lawyers are going to have to implement a huge cross-border transaction. They'll have to coordinate with the other departments, and will serve as an intermediary between Google and Motorola in a lot of negotiations. They'll do their standard thing allocating risk within the transaction. If the deal goes south, what happens? How bears the costs? Given the number of things that can go wrong: regulatory, IP, etc (again, see AT&T and T-Mobile), there's a lot of work figuring out who will pay for what. Since Motorola is a public company and shareholders are being bought out, Google's M&A and securities counsel will advise about the conduct of the transaction to make sure that there isn't any material for shareholders lawsuits down the road.

The securities and credit lawyers won't have as much to do, because Google is paying cash, but the credit lawyers will have to go over all of Motorola's credit agreements to see what implications they have for Google.

Google's tax counsel is of course going to try to structure the transaction to save Google the most money. To the extent that Motorola execs might be pushed out, employee benefits & executive compensation attorneys are going to be involved. To the extent that buildings change hands, real estate attorneys are going to go over all the leases to figure out Motorola's rights and obligations under the leases. Environmental counsel will undoubtedly be involved given that Motorola Mobility has manufacturing operations.

Given the fact that both countries have international operations, all of the above legal issues will be multiplied to deal with the laws of all the various jurisdictions touched by the transaction.


Thanks a ton for this post. This was highly informative.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Bronte » Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:05 am

rayiner wrote:
Bronte wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sounds like fun!!


This raises a good point actually, whether sarcastic or not. If Rayiner's post doesn't sound interesting to you, you probably should not go to law school. Very, very few people graduate law school and do lots of cool one-on-one work helping underserved people battle the man. Lawyers either do big business work or go broke.


This is not completely true. One of the redeeming aspects of law is that you do actually get to help underserved people battle the man. Even at big firms like Latham and Skadden, attorneys average ~100 hours of pro bono per year (representing tens of thousands of dollars of attorney time). As much as it has been cut down and corporatized, law firms still believe that it's their duty to service the community to some degree.


I still don't think this refutes my point. Of course you can work on pro bono cases in big law, and I'm not at all making a point about the social responsibilities of law firms. I'm just saying that a lot of student go to law school without an awareness of the fact that most lawyers spend most of there time handling business and financial complexities.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:20 am

This raises a good point actually, whether sarcastic or not. If Rayiner's post doesn't sound interesting to you, you probably should not go to law school. Very, very few people graduate law school and do lots of cool one-on-one work helping underserved people battle the man. Lawyers either do big business work or go broke.

This is silly. In my secondary market, there are far more midlaw type firms and lawyers than biglaw. They may not represent Google and AT&T, but they are doing very well with local and regional businesses. There is life outside of fortune 500/Wall St, and those businesses need lawyers too.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Bronte » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:
This raises a good point actually, whether sarcastic or not. If Rayiner's post doesn't sound interesting to you, you probably should not go to law school. Very, very few people graduate law school and do lots of cool one-on-one work helping underserved people battle the man. Lawyers either do big business work or go broke.

This is silly. In my secondary market, there are far more midlaw type firms and lawyers than biglaw. They may not represent Google and AT&T, but they are doing very well with local and regional businesses. There is life outside of fortune 500/Wall St, and those businesses need lawyers too.


Again, this does not refute my point. The fact that in your secondary market there are more midlaw type firms (if true) does not bear at all on my point that most lawyers do business work. First, the midlaw firms in your secondary market likely make up an absurdly small fraction of the jobs available to graduating law students. The biggest firm in Seattle, for example, takes about 10 new associates a year. Second, as your post readily admits, those midlaw firms do business work anyway. Finally, I didn't say anything about regional businesses not needing lawyers or about most lawyers only working on Wall Street deals. That point is just a red herring.

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:31 am

I'd like some more information about biglaw lifestyle and how it compares to other similar professions as well, specifically finance and consulting/management.

Also, honest question: how hard is making partner compared to making VP or MD at a bank or getting promoted through the executive ranks at a company? Are partner chances actually very low or is it just par for the corporate world course? In other words, is biglaw "hard" or actually hard compared to comparably paying positions?

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Re: Lifestye Comparison Question for Biglaw Associates

Postby rayiner » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'd like some more information about biglaw lifestyle and how it compares to other similar professions as well, specifically finance and consulting/management.

Also, honest question: how hard is making partner compared to making VP or MD at a bank or getting promoted through the executive ranks at a company? Are partner chances actually very low or is it just par for the corporate world course? In other words, is biglaw "hard" or actually hard compared to comparably paying positions?


That a weird set of alternatives, because the three folks do very different work. If you're just looking at money/hours, I'd say big law has the least hours (largely because there is no travel, which blows) while making comparable money to consulting. Finance has the most hours, but you can make a lot more money than in law or consulting. Even comparing a junior partner and an MD, the MD will typically make 2-3 times as much.

Roughly speaking, making MD or PMD at GS isn't any easier than making partner at a V10 - finance guys are just a lot more optimistic than lawyers when talking about future prospects (unsurprisingly). Let's look at some boom numbers: http://www.businessweek.com/careers/bplc/2007/13.htm

Goldman hired over 1000 entry level employees, and had about 1,500 MDs company-wide. This is comparable to an NYC V10 (S&C, DPW, STB) which might have 100-110 entry-level hires each year and have 160-170 partners. These numbers are actually somewhat misleading, because every entry-level hire at S&C, etc, is a partner-track associate, and every partner has equity. At GS, people in the back-office are promoted to MD. Because those positions have much lower attrition, they account for a relatively smaller %-age of the entry-level hires, but a relatively larger %-age of the number of MDs. The MDs working in the back office are not bringing in huge paychecks.

Beyond that, the trajectories are quite different. MDs and even PMDs get pushed out aggressively. GS promotes 250-300 MDs in a good year (a ratio of promotions/entry-level hire of 0.25) while a V10 might promote 10-12 (a ratio of about 0.10). However, as mentioned, a lot of the MD promotions are not in high-paying positions. Moreover, MDs get pushed out relatively quickly, which is why the total MDs/entry-level hire ratio is similar to that in a law firm despite the higher number of promotions. Even PMDs get pushed out aggressively: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/ ... -partners/. About 100 are promoted every other year (much worse odds than making partner at a V10), but 30-60 are pushed out at the same time to make room. GS has just 375 PMDs for 1000 entry level hires. They make a lot more money than a V10 partner, average of about $8.6 million in the boom, but also don't last very long on average. Meanwhile once you make partner, you can reasonably expect to stick around until retirement.

MD at a place like GS is probably better compared to NSP (non-equity partner) at a place like Kirkland. Kirkland made 70 NSPs in 2011 and brought in 137 SAs that same year. They had about ~350 non-equity partners. Looking at the ratios (0.5 NSP/entry-level compared to 0.25 MD/entry-level), your odds of making NSP at Kirkland are quite a bit better than your odds of making MD at GS, and you're likely to stick around longer (1.5 MDs/entry-level versus 2.4 NSPs/entry-level). Of course, average compensation as an NSP at Kirkland is in the $400k range, while it's probably north of $1m for an MD at GS.




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