Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

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lessthanjake
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby lessthanjake » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:09 pm

c3pO4 wrote:
lessthanjake wrote:
As an initial point, I don't know why you would compare DC PI to NYC BigLaw. You are biasing the results by comparing two cities with different costs of living. It's true that most BigLaw is in NYC, but there's plenty of BigLaw jobs in DC, too, just as there are plenty of PI jobs in NYC. Pick one city and go with it.


I dont think it biases the results. NYC is the primary place where people get BigLaw jobs. DC is the primary place where people get government PI jobs. So if your sights are set on BigLaw, chances are you'll get that job in a place with a massive CoL, but if your sights are set on gov PI, chances are you'll get a job in a place with a lesser CoL. This has to be factored in when thinking about the differing salaries.

The point of this was never to argue that PI in NYC is similar monetarily to NYC BigLaw. The point was that the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily significantly more lucrative than the typical PI job. One of the main reasons for this is precisely that the typical PI job is NOT in NYC.


So ignorant. NYC biglaw is not the "typical" private practice job. Also, saying most biglaw jobs are in NYC is meaningless and stupid. Most people are considering biglaw vs PI in the same city, and most PI is not DOJ while most biglaw is similar. You have convinced nobody of anything.



First off, some reading comprehension here is necessary. You're quoting me saying that "the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily..." and acting like I was saying that NYC BigLaw jobs are typical in general. "Typical" in that sentence is an adverb modifying NYC. Read it again with that in mind.

With that said, when did I ever say it was the typical "private practice job?" I have implied it is the typical BIGLAW job. Given that BigLaw is defined various ways, but typically as the v100 or nlj250 and the majority of firms in these are from NYC, this is not a controversial statement, but rather pure fact.

And your insistence on latching onto the idea of me mentioning the DOJ is bordering on absurd. The DOJ is certainly an elite job in terms of PI prestige. It is not, however, a particularly elite PI job in terms of compensation. Notice that my other example of an entry level attorney in a Florida State Attorney's office actually had better take-home pay once cost of living was factored in. If anything, my use of a DOJ job in DC as an example made PI work seem LESS lucrative because DC has a high cost of living. You can argue against what I am saying (I certainly do not claim to know everything on this topic), but insisting on saying "THE DOJ IS NOT A NORMAL PI JOB!" as a way of arguing that PI is less lucrative than I'm making it sound is simply NOT a valid argument.


EDIT: As for most people looking for BigLaw and PI in the same city, that might be true. I think it depends on the age of the graduating student. For someone who is already married/settled down, your statement is likely true. However, younger law students have much more flexibility in where they are willing to go for work. I know that for me, I will go wherever my ideal job is post-law school rather than trying to find a job in my ideal location. Given that thought process, my OP makes plenty of sense.
Last edited by lessthanjake on Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lessthanjake
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby lessthanjake » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:18 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:
lessthanjake wrote:The point of this was never to argue that PI in NYC is similar monetarily to NYC BigLaw. The point was that the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily significantly more lucrative than the typical PI job. One of the main reasons for this is precisely that the typical PI job is NOT in NYC.

I'm sorry to say that you're quite mistaken about what is a typical PI job if you think it's working for the federal government in DC.


Point out to me in what you just quoted the place where I said that the typical PI job is working for the federal government in DC. I did not say that.

I previously mentioned that the typical place people get GOVERNMENT PI jobs is in DC. I do not have the numbers on this, but I would wager that there are more government PI jobs in DC than anywhere else, so I don't see the problem with that statement.

Furthermore, I will mention once more that my argument IN NO WAY hinges on the pay of federal jobs in DC. In fact, the high cost of living in DC combined with the only marginally higher compensation compared to other government/PI jobs makes federal jobs in DC actually a relatively weak example of good PI compensation. There are tons of examples of better compensation in less expensive areas, one of which I gave in my OP (it does seem unclear whether you bothered to read that far, given your reply).

c3pO4
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby c3pO4 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:19 pm

lessthanjake wrote:

First off, some reading comprehension here is necessary. You're quoting me saying that "the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily..." and acting like I was saying that NYC BigLaw jobs are typical in general. "Typical" in that sentence is an adverb modifying NYC. Read it again with that in mind.

With that said, when did I ever say it was the typical "private practice job?" I have implied it is the typical BIGLAW job. Given that BigLaw is defined various ways, but typically as the v100 or nlj250 and the majority of firms in these are from NYC, this is not a controversial statement, but rather pure fact.

And your insistence on latching onto the idea of me mentioning the DOJ is bordering on absurd. The DOJ is certainly an elite job in terms of PI prestige. It is not, however, a particularly elite PI job in terms of compensation. Notice that my other example of an entry level attorney in a Florida State Attorney's office actually had better take-home pay once cost of living was factored in. If anything, my use of a DOJ job in DC as an example made PI work seem LESS lucrative because DC has a high cost of living. You can argue against what I am saying (I certainly do not claim to know everything on this topic), but insisting on saying "THE DOJ IS NOT A NORMAL PI JOB!" as a way of arguing that PI is less lucrative than I'm making it sound is simply NOT a valid argument.


silly 0L

your point is what exactly? you make more money in public interest than biglaw?

brilliant fool.

lessthanjake
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby lessthanjake » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:28 pm

c3pO4 wrote:
lessthanjake wrote:

First off, some reading comprehension here is necessary. You're quoting me saying that "the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily..." and acting like I was saying that NYC BigLaw jobs are typical in general. "Typical" in that sentence is an adverb modifying NYC. Read it again with that in mind.

With that said, when did I ever say it was the typical "private practice job?" I have implied it is the typical BIGLAW job. Given that BigLaw is defined various ways, but typically as the v100 or nlj250 and the majority of firms in these are from NYC, this is not a controversial statement, but rather pure fact.

And your insistence on latching onto the idea of me mentioning the DOJ is bordering on absurd. The DOJ is certainly an elite job in terms of PI prestige. It is not, however, a particularly elite PI job in terms of compensation. Notice that my other example of an entry level attorney in a Florida State Attorney's office actually had better take-home pay once cost of living was factored in. If anything, my use of a DOJ job in DC as an example made PI work seem LESS lucrative because DC has a high cost of living. You can argue against what I am saying (I certainly do not claim to know everything on this topic), but insisting on saying "THE DOJ IS NOT A NORMAL PI JOB!" as a way of arguing that PI is less lucrative than I'm making it sound is simply NOT a valid argument.


silly 0L

your point is what exactly? you make more money in public interest than biglaw?

brilliant fool.


You seem insistent on misrepresenting everything I am saying. I have never argued that you make MORE money in PI than BigLaw, but rather that, due to student loan costs, higher taxes, and higher cost of living, BigLaw (specifically BigLaw in NYC) is not as much more lucrative than PI jobs as it might seem at first glance. It is unclear to me what about this you are arguing with because you have not really latched onto anything but misrepresentations.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:30 pm

lessthanjake wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:
lessthanjake wrote:The point of this was never to argue that PI in NYC is similar monetarily to NYC BigLaw. The point was that the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily significantly more lucrative than the typical PI job. One of the main reasons for this is precisely that the typical PI job is NOT in NYC.

I'm sorry to say that you're quite mistaken about what is a typical PI job if you think it's working for the federal government in DC.


Point out to me in what you just quoted the place where I said that the typical PI job is working for the federal government in DC. I did not say that.

I previously mentioned that the typical place people get GOVERNMENT PI jobs is in DC. I do not have the numbers on this, but I would wager that there are more government PI jobs in DC than anywhere else, so I don't see the problem with that statement.

Furthermore, I will mention once more that my argument IN NO WAY hinges on the pay of federal jobs in DC. In fact, the high cost of living in DC combined with the only marginally higher compensation compared to other government/PI jobs makes federal jobs in DC actually a relatively weak example of good PI compensation. There are tons of examples of better compensation in less expensive areas, one of which I gave in my OP (it does seem unclear whether you bothered to read that far, given your reply).

Listen, if you read my earlier post, you'll see that I fundamentally agree with your point, and as a 0L felt the same as you did, but that there are other considerations, which you are not taking into account, that in reality make BigLaw more attractive than you are making it out to be. I'm just saying that you chose NYC as your BigLaw example, which is probably the American city with the highest taxes and highest cost of living, and there is little reason to do that and then use another city for your public interest example unless you are trying to convince yourself of your own argument.

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wiseowl
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby wiseowl » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:35 pm

What does this thread have in common with McDonalds?

lessthanjake
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby lessthanjake » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:53 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:
lessthanjake wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:
lessthanjake wrote:The point of this was never to argue that PI in NYC is similar monetarily to NYC BigLaw. The point was that the typical NYC BigLaw job is not necessarily significantly more lucrative than the typical PI job. One of the main reasons for this is precisely that the typical PI job is NOT in NYC.

I'm sorry to say that you're quite mistaken about what is a typical PI job if you think it's working for the federal government in DC.


Point out to me in what you just quoted the place where I said that the typical PI job is working for the federal government in DC. I did not say that.

I previously mentioned that the typical place people get GOVERNMENT PI jobs is in DC. I do not have the numbers on this, but I would wager that there are more government PI jobs in DC than anywhere else, so I don't see the problem with that statement.

Furthermore, I will mention once more that my argument IN NO WAY hinges on the pay of federal jobs in DC. In fact, the high cost of living in DC combined with the only marginally higher compensation compared to other government/PI jobs makes federal jobs in DC actually a relatively weak example of good PI compensation. There are tons of examples of better compensation in less expensive areas, one of which I gave in my OP (it does seem unclear whether you bothered to read that far, given your reply).

Listen, if you read my earlier post, you'll see that I fundamentally agree with your point, and as a 0L felt the same as you did, but that there are other considerations, which you are not taking into account, that in reality make BigLaw more attractive than you are making it out to be. I'm just saying that you chose NYC as your BigLaw example, which is probably the American city with the highest taxes and highest cost of living, and there is little reason to do that and then use another city for your public interest example unless you are trying to convince yourself of your own argument.


There IS a reason for using different cities though. The reason is that the majority (or at the very least a plurality) of biglaw placements from top law schools are into NYC firms, while public interest jobs tend to be taken all over the place. Simply put, if you want BigLaw no matter what, chances are you'll end up in NYC. If you want public interest no matter what, you will likely end up in a place with a much lower CoL.

From a more personal perspective, I can't see myself DEFINITELY doing well enough in law school to ensure getting into a non-NYC biglaw firm (other markets are supposedly much harder to crack), so if I did BigLaw, I'd assume itll be in NYC. Meanwhile, if I did PI, I'd purposely decide to do it in a place with a low CoL. You can't choose to do BigLaw is a really low CoL place. First, the pay goes significantly down in smaller, less expensive markets. Secondly, the places that do still pay at or near market price with a lower cost of living seem to be MUCH more competitive and thus not something anyone can count on getting. Lastly, there are very few prestigious biglaw firms in less expensive markets.

I understand what you're saying about comparing apples and oranges but I think the point is misguided. Realistically, most students set on BigLaw will end up in NYC. Meanwhile, most students set on PI will end up in a smaller, less expensive market, likely near where they grew up. It seems logical to compare the most likely BigLaw outcome with the most likely PI outcome. One of the advantages of PI is the ability to do it in a smaller market; I would argue that its actually unfair to discount that by assuming both are set in the same place.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:04 pm

Okay, I see your point and you've convinced me. Perhaps my perspective on this is skewed due to living and going to school in NYC.

I'd still keep in mind that BigLaw is not just more "lucrative," in monetary terms, but also more secure than a PI career these days. For me, it didn't come down to "$160k or $50k with LRAP" so much as "lining up a $160k job now or hustling to get an illusive $50k job after graduating," and "getting out of debt within 3-4 years or worrying about it for ten." Not sure how you'd express that value in monetary terms, but you do have to account for it.

ETA: I want to highlight that public interest people tend to be worried. Hiring at the firms has picked up but it is still bottoming out in the government and non-profit sectors. This is at NYU, which is known for having strong PI job placement. There's a good deal of uncertainty and lots of extremely qualified candidates will be competing for jobs. Given this state of affairs, it's difficult for me to overstate the psychological advantage of having a BigLaw job more or less lined up.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby concurrent fork » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:15 pm

boosk wrote:
concurrent fork wrote:the utility of living/working in Manhattan.


What do you mean by this exactly?

I was talking about utility as a measure of satisfaction. For a lot of people, it wouldn't make sense to equate living in northern VA to living in Manhattan. They might place substantial value (rational or not) on living among NYC cultural attractions/restaurants or playing out their desire to feel like they are on an episode of Sex and the City.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby leobowski » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:22 pm

duckmoney wrote:
That's a bit more reasonable. The $40k / yr job in Tampa is probably a better example of a PSLF job than the DoJ.

I thought the whole point of OP's post was to analyze the earning potential of PSLF jobs compared to biglaw jobs, and see just how much LRAP brings them in line with each other. If he wants to argue that being a state attorney in Tampa won't leave you that much poorer than being a slave biglawyer in New York, he's probably right, and I'm glad he crunched some numbers to show us. If he wants to argue that being a state attorney is Tampa is better than working for one of the good, six-figure paying firms in the skyscrapers across from the courthouse, then he's just being silly.



I would much rather be a state attorney in Florida (basically a prosecutor) than work at a big firm. I have the option to do either after my clerkship. The hours are much better and the work is much more interesting.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:25 pm

I think this is a little too pessimistic about the $$ potential of a firm path.

First, a high salary is not just about how much money you ultimately take home. You feel a sense of pride knowing that you are in the upper echelons of earners in the US. I believe a first-year associate is already in the top 5%. There is also a social effect. If salary comes up in , let's say, a dating context, no one says "my after tax income is X". It is "I earn X" which refers to your pre-tax, pre-loan income. Most city dwellers admire young professionals with "bigtime" downtown jobs working on wall st and whatnot. Biglaw lawyers are part of that.

Second, some exit options are still quite lucrative. The whole "take an easy job in-house" is really for people that are burnt out and sick of grinding away for the almighty dollar. If you are still chasing money you could lateral, stay as "of counsel", or transfer to finance or some other highly paid field. It is possible for NY transaction lawyers to transition into banking if they make the right connections. "Of counsel", while it does not have as much respect as partnership, still pays a pretty good salary that far exceeds PI work. If you do good work and are profitable to the firm, they probably will not force you out. And eventually you could form a small boutique like firm after you have established yourself in any given subfield.

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boosk
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby boosk » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:28 pm

concurrent fork wrote:or playing out their desire to feel like they are on an episode of Sex and the City.


That's why we're all here right?

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby ahnhub » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:35 pm

On a related note: how is student debt treated for tax purposes? Do you get any kind of a break?

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leobowski
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby leobowski » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:45 pm

ahnhub wrote:On a related note: how is student debt treated for tax purposes? Do you get any kind of a break?


Interest can be deducted IIRC.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby 09042014 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:46 pm

ahnhub wrote:On a related note: how is student debt treated for tax purposes? Do you get any kind of a break?


You get a deduction up $2,500 for interest paid. But it's phased out between 60K-75K. So after 60K it gets reduced and after 75K you no longer get it.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby ahnhub » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:49 pm

leobowski wrote:
ahnhub wrote:On a related note: how is student debt treated for tax purposes? Do you get any kind of a break?


Interest can be deducted IIRC.


Egads, just $2500 a year and it starts to phase out if you make 65K+. That's....not all that good.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby 2LLLL » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:14 pm

How many entry-level (i.e. fresh out of law school) attorneys did the federal government hire last year? I'd imagine it's fewer than 200. And if you're working at a less glamorous agency (read anything other than DOJ and the FinReg agencies) your starting salary is a lot closer to $50-60k than $100k.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby PDaddy » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:34 pm

Notice that, on the show Suits, Mike Ross lives a relatively meager lifestyle for a BigLaw associate even without Harvard loans to pay off, though his grandmother's care is probably the tradeoff. He seems to have enough money to put away some decent coin in the bank, pay his bills, take care of his grandmother, and eat and go out once or twice per week.

I think the show is pretty accurate from that standpoint. If he actually had Harvard loans (in addition to his grandmother's care expenses), he would have a lot less money in the bank. Yet he bails Trevor out of Jail, etc., foots the bills for bottles of Dom, and was about to pay the $11,000 bill for that 1A party he hosted. Incidently, Harvey paid the bill for him...nice!

Most BigLaw associates who want to put at least a little money in the bank cannot expect to live a lavish lifestyle.

Everyone I know in BigLaw got somewhere between $10-30K for bonuses, as opposed to just $7K. But that's probably because they got in before things went really bad.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby target » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:27 pm

Can Biglaw lawyers do IBR? Not that they need to or anything, but just curious.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby bk1 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:40 pm

target wrote:Can Biglaw lawyers do IBR? Not that they need to or anything, but just curious.


I think you technically could do the 25 year IBR (not 10 year PSLF since biglaw wouldn't qualify) but your payment would be high and you wouldn't be actually paying on your loans so you wouldn't actually get the loans paid off until you had done it for 25 years (at that point you would have paid way more than you would by just paying it off normally).

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby chrisihat » Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:23 am

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Last edited by chrisihat on Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

09042014
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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby 09042014 » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:40 am

bk1 wrote:
target wrote:Can Biglaw lawyers do IBR? Not that they need to or anything, but just curious.


I think you technically could do the 25 year IBR (not 10 year PSLF since biglaw wouldn't qualify) but your payment would be high and you wouldn't be actually paying on your loans so you wouldn't actually get the loans paid off until you had done it for 25 years (at that point you would have paid way more than you would by just paying it off normally).


And the pay is so much that 15% of income (minus poverty level) is probably about what'd you pay on a 10 year plan anyway.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby duckmoney » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:07 am

leobowski wrote:
duckmoney wrote:
That's a bit more reasonable. The $40k / yr job in Tampa is probably a better example of a PSLF job than the DoJ.

I thought the whole point of OP's post was to analyze the earning potential of PSLF jobs compared to biglaw jobs, and see just how much LRAP brings them in line with each other. If he wants to argue that being a state attorney in Tampa won't leave you that much poorer than being a slave biglawyer in New York, he's probably right, and I'm glad he crunched some numbers to show us. If he wants to argue that being a state attorney is Tampa is better than working for one of the good, six-figure paying firms in the skyscrapers across from the courthouse, then he's just being silly.



I would much rather be a state attorney in Florida (basically a prosecutor) than work at a big firm. I have the option to do either after my clerkship. The hours are much better and the work is much more interesting.


Well good for you.

I was speaking strictly in respect to compensation. There are lots of reasons people would choose PI over biglaw, but especially in a place like Tampa, money isn't one of them.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby 03121202698008 » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:48 am

Desert Fox wrote:
bk1 wrote:
target wrote:Can Biglaw lawyers do IBR? Not that they need to or anything, but just curious.


I think you technically could do the 25 year IBR (not 10 year PSLF since biglaw wouldn't qualify) but your payment would be high and you wouldn't be actually paying on your loans so you wouldn't actually get the loans paid off until you had done it for 25 years (at that point you would have paid way more than you would by just paying it off normally).


And the pay is so much that 15% of income (minus poverty level) is probably about what'd you pay on a 10 year plan anyway.


There's a cutoff somewhere. If you put in the BigLaw salary after a few years (200K) it says you make too much to participate in IBR. Remember, you have to meet the qualifications for the entire 25 years to participate. Also, as of right now the forgiven debt is income at 25 years...

Edit: It looks like you lose eligibility when your payment would be higher under IBR. http://www.pffirewall.com/education/guide-income-based-repayment/.

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Re: Is BigLaw really much more lucrative than PI?

Postby FlanAl » Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:07 am

I don't think the comparing two different cities thing is that far off. Depending on your secondary market or whatever NYC is probably much more likely to happen than say Phoenix or Tampa big law. I don't think it is too far fetched for someone to be torn between the Phoenix DA and NYC big law. Yeah hiring doesn't work the same and they might not know that the DA is a sure thing but say they externed there 2L spring made connections and know they are going to start hiring soon.

In this scenario if you think about lrap, cost of living, quality of life and HOURS the DA might start looking better. Oh and did I mention HOURS?!?! how has that been completely ignored? Putting in 80hrs a week instead of 50hrs makes that wage gap way smaller.

If we're only talking about secondary markets then the hours distinction isn't as drastic but the lateral opportunities out of big law aren't as great as NYC and usually mean a substantial pay haircut vs. your salary continuing to increase in the public sector.




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