HeavenWood wrote:You get a bit less house for your dollar in Livingston/Millburn compared to Lower Merion/Radnor, and taxes are higher, but I would say there's a huge overall difference in COL. Cherry Hill is a great value (median home price is half that of Livingston, and if I understand correctly, housing stock is fairly similar, albeit somewhat less upscale overall). Philly has a lot more upscale suburban enclaves than just those two you listed (Moorestown/the Haddons, Medford, Lower Moreland, Upper Dublin, Whitemarsh, Media Area, etc).
Remember PA income tax is a flat rate with no deductions. So for a family (people with lots of deductions) tax liability is higher in PA.
So PA + Philly is around 6.5-7% flat on ALL income. (3% PA + 3.5 nonresident/3.9% resident)
Jersey allows some deductions and 160k + bonus comes up to about 3.6% based on their progressive income rate. No city tax.
ETA: Actually you can get a credit for property tax paid as an income deduction (or 18% of rent paid) so the rate may end up being lower.
So let's call 3% savings and that's $4800 or about $400 a month. Should make up the difference in property/rent price if not more.
I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure you'll still be paying NY state income tax if you're living in Jersey, at a rate just under 7%. If you're actually in NYC this obviously goes up with the ~3% municipal income tax.
I chose Philly biglaw over NYC for a couple of reasons. You're more likely to maintain that nice salary for longer. In a NYC firm, you can be far less confident about sticking around for 5-7 years. And even if you do last that long, New York firms aren't exactly known for their quality of life. If you're at MLB/Dechert this (and many of the other reasons for choosing Philly over NYC) applies less, but likely you'll be working significantly fewer hours per year in Philly.
I have no illusions about the difficulty of making parter, but with leverage ratios of roughly 1:1 at a number of top firms in town, it's actually doable in Philly for a decent percentage of those who want to pursue partnership. Also, with such a ratio, the staffing structure for the vast majority of your assignments will be you and a partner.
A huge factor for me was that I like city living, and being able to walk to work. In New York, this simply would not be possible without taking a massive chunk out of my paycheck to rent an absurdly small apartment. Once you get outside the Rittenhouse area, Center City is amazingly affordable. If I get bored with Philly's cultural offerings, I hop on the train and go to NYC or DC. As a junior associate in NYC working NYC hours, I doubt one would want to have a 45+ min commute.
I've met surprisingly few NYC laterals in Philly firms. It seems like they often want you to have at least 4-5 years of experience, since local firms recognize that in NYC the level of responsibility given to junior associates is typically less that what's routine in Philly. Obviously if your goal is to be in NYC long-term, start there. If you care that the deals/case you work on wind up on the front page of major newspapers, go to NYC. In terms of the work itself, it's not clear that a $2bn deal is inherently more interesting than a $100mn deal. Likewise, on the lit side, Philly firms partake in a range of fascinating, complex cases litigated in the E.D.PA and elsewhere, and your involvement will likely be somewhat significant. It's not the kind of work that will make you an attractive lateral to a NYC V10 or set you up for an in-house position on Wall Street, but there are plenty of great exit options if you start here. Just ask mid-levels at Philly firms where their former colleagues have gone after leaving the firm.
Basically, I'm from Philly and wanted to be in Philly long-term; any possible short-term benefits of being in New York didn't outweigh the downsides: longer hours, annoying commutes, ridiculous rents for city living, overall higher stress, etc.