How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

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How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 9:35 am

I'm currently clerking and considering whether to pursue government work or big law firm work. I hear all kinds of stories about not having a life in big law. How true is that? Are you working every night and weekend? Or does it go in spurts? Do you get any vacation?

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:47 am

My good friend and I both just started our jobs a few months ago in DC. Him Govt, me biglaw. The difference in hours (and pay) is astounding. I make about twice as much as him, but I also work twice as much, just about. We're both really happy with our jobs, but the hours in govt., at least early on, are way, way better.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby thesealocust » Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:19 pm

It depends on a lot of factors, but all of the horror stories can be true.

Government jobs, on one end of the spectrum, can involve flex time (you work 9 days out of ever 10 day 2-day work week) and a nearly strictly enforced 40 hour work week (clocking in at ~2,000 hours per year). Big firm jobs, on one end of the spectrum, can involve billing nearly 3,000 hours per year - and you can never bill every hour that you work. At such firms there are often showers/cots for associates who have to spend the night, which is not an isolated occurrence. Projects also can come on very short notice, meaning you might show up at work on a Friday morning with noting to do and vacation plans for the weekend only to find yourself instead in the office for a few days straight.

Those are the extremes, and how it actually is for any given associate will depend on the firm, the region, the practice area, the partners you work for, etc. Likewise in government there are intense jobs (some judges are notorious for making their clerks work biglaw extreme type hours) and some extremely laid back / 9-to-5 ones.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby Citizen Genet » Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:50 pm

thesealocust wrote:It depends on a lot of factors, but all of the horror stories can be true.

Government jobs, on one end of the spectrum, can involve flex time (you work 9 days out of ever 10 day 2-day work week) and a nearly strictly enforced 40 hour work week (clocking in at ~2,000 hours per year). Big firm jobs, on one end of the spectrum, can involve billing nearly 3,000 hours per year - and you can never bill every hour that you work. At such firms there are often showers/cots for associates who have to spend the night, which is not an isolated occurrence. Projects also can come on very short notice, meaning you might show up at work on a Friday morning with noting to do and vacation plans for the weekend only to find yourself instead in the office for a few days straight.

Those are the extremes, and how it actually is for any given associate will depend on the firm, the region, the practice area, the partners you work for, etc. Likewise in government there are intense jobs (some judges are notorious for making their clerks work biglaw extreme type hours) and some extremely laid back / 9-to-5 ones.


Credited.

Typically, the amount of hours worked in either government or BigLaw will increase depending on the city you are in. Thus, DAs and Associates in Manhattan are usually working more hours than their counterparts in Des Moines. But the nature of a BigLaw billable means the increase can be exponential as your move into bigger markets. E.g. Going from Des Moines DA to Manhattan DA may mean about 400 more hours per years, while going from Des Moines firms to Manhattan BigLaw means taking on 400+ more billables per year, meaning an increase of about 600-700 hours per year. Obviously those numbers aren't meant to be accurate gauges or to suggest that there is some uniform equation for determining the increase form place to place; they're only there to demonstrate what I meant when I saw that working BigLaw in a major market puts an even greater strain on a person's time compared to government counterparts. But with that comes a nice paycheck.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby sadsituationJD » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:43 pm

But with that comes a nice paycheck.



Not really. Biglaw is not a 160 K a year job, it's two 80 K a year jobs. Lawyers, not being terribly good at math, often fail to realize this fact.

Divided out on a PER HOUR basis, many schoolteachers do better than lawyers, and have zero stress, total job security, and cupcake retirement plans/pensions. Cops too. Also, after you leave Biglaw you will never make anything close to 160 K again.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby glitched » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:54 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
But with that comes a nice paycheck.



Not really. Biglaw is not a 160 K a year job, it's two 80 K a year jobs. Lawyers, not being terribly good at math, often fail to realize this fact.

Divided out on a PER HOUR basis, many schoolteachers do better than lawyers, and have zero stress, total job security, and cupcake retirement plans/pensions. Cops too. Also, after you leave Biglaw you will never make anything close to 160 K again.


Lol if you think that teachers have zero stress, and total job security, you are out of your freakin mind.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby patrickd139 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:58 pm

glitched wrote:
sadsituationJD wrote:
But with that comes a nice paycheck.



Not really. Biglaw is not a 160 K a year job, it's two 80 K a year jobs. Lawyers, not being terribly good at math, often fail to realize this fact.

Divided out on a PER HOUR basis, many schoolteachers do better than lawyers, and have zero stress, total job security, and cupcake retirement plans/pensions. Cops too. Also, after you leave Biglaw you will never make anything close to 160 K again.


Lol if you think that teachers have zero stress, and total job security, you are out of your freakin mind.

Truth. The underlying point of his post is totally credited though.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby thesealocust » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:59 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
But with that comes a nice paycheck.



Not really. Biglaw is not a 160 K a year job, it's two 80 K a year jobs. Lawyers, not being terribly good at math, often fail to realize this fact.

Divided out on a PER HOUR basis, many schoolteachers do better than lawyers, and have zero stress, total job security, and cupcake retirement plans/pensions. Cops too. Also, after you leave Biglaw you will never make anything close to 160 K again.


Dollars per hour and available hours/total dollars are both relevant. Schoolteachers/plumbers/whatever might do better on a "per hour" basis than a big firm lawyer, but they'd often trade places in a heartbeat - at least for a time - because people want to have more money, not to feel smug about the rate at which they earned a smaller amount of money.

And that's to say nothing of stressful jobs with long hours that DON'T pay 160K per year. Lots of congressional staffers, prosecuting attorneys, judicial clerks, and small firm lawyers put in at or near bigfirm hours for a fraction of the pay. Even in the case of school teachers that is sometimes true, they spend an awful lot of time out of the classroom preparing lessons, grading, and tending to administrative tasks.

If I start a hedge fund dedicated to picking up pennies on the ground and earn my investors a 1,000% return, nobody will give a shit because we're talking about pennies. Likewise, even if there are professions that "earn more per hour" than an attorney at a big firm, that's cold comfort to somebody who wants or needs more money.

As for after leaving biglaw, that's just objectively false. First, many people leave one big firm and wind up at another with the same or better salary. Second, a huge number exit into corporations where they start with an at or near 6 figure salary + bonus + growth opportunity. Some of those even start above 160. Finally, even in the government, many of the positions exiting biglaw attorneys take have salaries that will approach if not exceed six figures.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby sadsituationJD » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:17 pm

Even in the case of school teachers that is sometimes true, they spend an awful lot of time out of the classroom preparing lessons, grading, and tending to administrative tasks.


Bullshit. My sister is a NJ public school English teacher. She has a "prep period' of 1.5 hours during the SCHOOL DAY to do whatever minor nonsense she needs to do- i.e grade papers and such. She also has a teacher's assistant who she shovels most of this nonsense shitwork to. She literally spends most of the day shopping on Amazon and facebooking people. The whole "we take papers home to grade" hogwash is clever PR by the teacher's union. This isn't 1955.

BTW my sister is 8 years in and makes 72 K (base of 65 plus an extra 7 K to coach field hockey 2 days a week). She works 7:45 am to 2:00 pm, 180 days a year. It's really damn-near a "part-time" job. She tutors in the summer for SAT prep and gets $25 an hour for that too.

So yes, she is doing better than most lawyers. The school even paid 100% of the cost of her master's degree.

Even at the highest levels, lawyers don't make very much compared to their clients (hedge funders and CEOs etc). The industry is basically a joke in terms of pay, despite public perception to the contrary.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby thesealocust » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:23 pm

sadsituationJD wrote: Even at the highest levels, lawyers don't make very much compared to their clients (hedge funders and CEOs etc).


Breaking news: The owners and high level officers of major successful businesses earn more money per year than the people they hire to service the business. More at 11.

Fun fact: big firm lawyers also earn more than 97 to 98% of the United States. By all means, bemoan their sparse compensation relative to the 1%.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby FlanAl » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:27 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
But with that comes a nice paycheck.



Not really. Biglaw is not a 160 K a year job, it's two 80 K a year jobs. Lawyers, not being terribly good at math, often fail to realize this fact.

Divided out on a PER HOUR basis, many schoolteachers do better than lawyers, and have zero stress, total job security, and cupcake retirement plans/pensions. Cops too. Also, after you leave Biglaw you will never make anything close to 160 K again.


Add in the benefit of IBR or if your school has a great LRAP (think gtowns where you pay no loans until you break 100k) and on the hour you're kinda crushing it. You'll probably get close to 160k but the GC's of those huge companies are stuck at like 300k a year.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby sadsituationJD » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:41 pm

Breaking news: The owners and high level officers of major successful businesses earn more money per year than the people they hire to service the business. More at 11.

Fun fact: big firm lawyers also earn more than 97 to 98% of the United States. By all means, bemoan their sparse compensation relative to the 1%.


Funny thing is, it really does grate on the Biglaw paper churners that their clients make upwards of 100X what they do. Plus the clients are "cool" and have majot juice, fly around making deals, etc, while Biglaw just churns bales and bales of boring makework shitpaper.

Look at like Drier LLP: http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal ... rtner.html

This dood wanted to play in the "big leagues" and have all kinds of fancy art and such in his office. Sorry paper pusher, you aren't A-Rod or Donald Trump.

A massive economic collapse is coming that will finish off Biglaw for good. Planning a life of being a drone doing boring cut n' paste paperpushing isn't a good idea.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:58 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:Even at the highest levels, lawyers don't make very much compared to their clients (hedge funders and CEOs etc). The industry is basically a joke in terms of pay, despite public perception to the contrary.

This is pretty dumb. At the "highest levels" are law firm partners making millions of dollars per year. You're comparing apples (starting salaries at law firms) with oranges (you don't honestly think hedge fund managers and CEOs get their jobs straight out of B-school, do you?). Also, there aren't that many CEO or hedge fund manager positions out there, and some of them are filled by people who got experience doing finance deals or with corporate governance by--wait for it--working at law firms. There are a few corporate associates at my firm each year who leave to take banking, investment, general counsel, or management roles in businesses that can lead to the very positions you mentioned.

I'm only discussing this because you were talking about the "highest levels" of pay. You shouldn't go to law school to become a hedge fund manager or a CEO. But you can't go anywhere today and plan on that outcome. Most lawyers don't make that kind of money, sure, but most people have no hope of making that much elsewhere anyway.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:27 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
Even in the case of school teachers that is sometimes true, they spend an awful lot of time out of the classroom preparing lessons, grading, and tending to administrative tasks.


Bullshit. My sister is a NJ public school English teacher. She has a "prep period' of 1.5 hours during the SCHOOL DAY to do whatever minor nonsense she needs to do- i.e grade papers and such. She also has a teacher's assistant who she shovels most of this nonsense shitwork to. She literally spends most of the day shopping on Amazon and facebooking people. The whole "we take papers home to grade" hogwash is clever PR by the teacher's union. This isn't 1955.

BTW my sister is 8 years in and makes 72 K (base of 65 plus an extra 7 K to coach field hockey 2 days a week). She works 7:45 am to 2:00 pm, 180 days a year. It's really damn-near a "part-time" job. She tutors in the summer for SAT prep and gets $25 an hour for that too.

So yes, she is doing better than most lawyers. The school even paid 100% of the cost of her master's degree.

Even at the highest levels, lawyers don't make very much compared to their clients (hedge funders and CEOs etc). The industry is basically a joke in terms of pay, despite public perception to the contrary.

All the schoolteachers I know would love to have such a cushy gig. I'll make sure to tell them about it when they're grading papers at home at night. They'll be really impressed.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby sadsituationJD » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:29 pm

Most lawyers don't make that kind of money, sure, but most people have no hope of making that much elsewhere anyway.


LOL. Kids coming out of Ivy undergrads in finance (top Ivy like Harvard/Yale/Pricneton not rotfl "ivy" like Cornell) can get trading jobs in the "pit" and make 500 K to sky's the limit in their mid 20s. They also work a much shorter day and are cool, unlike some Biglaw drone paper pushing geek slaving away 90 hours a week for what works out to like $25 an hour, which you can make with a G.E.D. and a lawnmower/chainsaw/old pickup truck.

Of course, those "pit" jobs require some real math chops, which lawyers (who tend to be not-so-bright lib arts and BS undergrad majors) can't hack. My friend's husband (yale man) makes 800 K to 1.2 million most years trading oil futures, his boss has had 20 million-plus years and is like 45 yrs old.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby anon168 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm currently clerking and considering whether to pursue government work or big law firm work. I hear all kinds of stories about not having a life in big law. How true is that? Are you working every night and weekend? Or does it go in spurts? Do you get any vacation?


I'm sorry, but this is a dumb question. And, in reality, the wrong question to be asking.

If given the choice, choose the career path -- be it biglaw or government work -- based on what you will enjoy the most, and excel at. Because if you don't enjoy what you are doing, no matter how minimal the hours are, you're going to hate your job, and your life.

I've known DOJ trial attorneys, AUSAs, SEC Enforcement attorneys, DHS/ICE attorneys, who've hated their jobs, but they have basically life time tenure and work nothing but 9-5 hours, 5 days a week and get all the silly federal holidays off. But they dread going to work, and many of them have no exit options.

Conversely, I know quite a few attorneys in the private sector (at biglaw and V50 firms) that really enjoy what they are doing. The hours are no doubt greater than the 9-5/5days you find in the public sector, but not always by a significant amount. But even when you ask them if the hours are a major drag, those that enjoy their careers will say, something to the effect of, "No, I hardly notice it because I like what I'm doing."

The work of a government attorney vis-a-vis one in the private sector is very different. Never mistake or presume that those two career paths are interchangeable.

Choose a career path that you feel you will enjoy, don't worry about the hours because if you really have gumption and career aspirations, working hard or long is almost a non-factor. Fear of working hard is for those who ultimately realize that they are nothing better than a modern day Willy Loman.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby kalvano » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:47 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
Even in the case of school teachers that is sometimes true, they spend an awful lot of time out of the classroom preparing lessons, grading, and tending to administrative tasks.


Bullshit. My sister is a NJ public school English teacher. She has a "prep period' of 1.5 hours during the SCHOOL DAY to do whatever minor nonsense she needs to do- i.e grade papers and such. She also has a teacher's assistant who she shovels most of this nonsense shitwork to. She literally spends most of the day shopping on Amazon and facebooking people. The whole "we take papers home to grade" hogwash is clever PR by the teacher's union. This isn't 1955.

BTW my sister is 8 years in and makes 72 K (base of 65 plus an extra 7 K to coach field hockey 2 days a week). She works 7:45 am to 2:00 pm, 180 days a year. It's really damn-near a "part-time" job. She tutors in the summer for SAT prep and gets $25 an hour for that too.

So yes, she is doing better than most lawyers. The school even paid 100% of the cost of her master's degree.



Breaking news: your sister's situation is by no means typical. My wife works for a fairly wealthy school district. They did not pay for her master's, she works 7:30 to 3:30, gets one class period a day to do lesson planning which is usually taken away by bullshit makework from the school, and no one has even heard of a teacher's assistant. If she's lucky, a parent will volunteer to make copies and whatnot. She takes papers home all the time to grade, or has to stay until well past 3:30 to do so. She makes about $46K a year at 6 years in, and got her first raise in about 3 years this year. All of $1000 a year.


Much like asking about "what life is like as Biglaw lawyer," sweeping generalities don't really hold up. It's not as if an attorney stays at $160K a year every year they work, like a lot of teachers do. And when you add in bonuses...

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby TheZoid » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:55 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
Most lawyers don't make that kind of money, sure, but most people have no hope of making that much elsewhere anyway.


LOL. Kids coming out of Ivy undergrads in finance (top Ivy like Harvard/Yale/Pricneton not rotfl "ivy" like Cornell) can get trading jobs in the "pit" and make 500 K to sky's the limit in their mid 20s. They also work a much shorter day and are cool, unlike some Biglaw drone paper pushing geek slaving away 90 hours a week for what works out to like $25 an hour, which you can make with a G.E.D. and a lawnmower/chainsaw/old pickup truck.

Of course, those "pit" jobs require some real math chops, which lawyers (who tend to be not-so-bright lib arts and BS undergrad majors) can't hack. My friend's husband (yale man) makes 800 K to 1.2 million most years trading oil futures, his boss has had 20 million-plus years and is like 45 yrs old.


Yup, it's super doable to just HYP undergrad, land a big time banking or finance gig and make seven figures. Btw, u mad bro? You sound like a bitter and miserable human being. Probly a debt slave ttt grad if I had to guess.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby TatNurner » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:04 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
Most lawyers don't make that kind of money, sure, but most people have no hope of making that much elsewhere anyway.


LOL. Kids coming out of Ivy undergrads in finance (top Ivy like Harvard/Yale/Pricneton not rotfl "ivy" like Cornell) can get trading jobs in the "pit" and make 500 K to sky's the limit in their mid 20s. They also work a much shorter day and are cool, unlike some Biglaw drone paper pushing geek slaving away 90 hours a week for what works out to like $25 an hour, which you can make with a G.E.D. and a lawnmower/chainsaw/old pickup truck.


Wow, so much stupidity. If you knew anything about getting a job in finance you'd know that employment prospects in that industry look even bleaker than Biglaw.

Not to mention that the ones who were lucky enough get trading jobs are now BEING REPLACED BY COMPUTERS.

This aint 2006 anymore. Do your research before talking smack.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:51 pm

FlanAl wrote:
sadsituationJD wrote:
But with that comes a nice paycheck.



Not really. Biglaw is not a 160 K a year job, it's two 80 K a year jobs. Lawyers, not being terribly good at math, often fail to realize this fact.

Divided out on a PER HOUR basis, many schoolteachers do better than lawyers, and have zero stress, total job security, and cupcake retirement plans/pensions. Cops too. Also, after you leave Biglaw you will never make anything close to 160 K again.


Add in the benefit of IBR or if your school has a great LRAP (think gtowns where you pay no loans until you break 100k) and on the hour you're kinda crushing it. You'll probably get close to 160k but the GC's of those huge companies are stuck at like 300k a year.


This is just objectively false. The vast majority of GCs at Fortune 500 companies are pulling seven figures. Some are even pulling eight figures. $300k is a GC at a medium-sized company or someone in the middle of the legal hierarchy at a Fortune 500 who has been there 10-15 years. Yes, they're not making as much as the CEO, but that's hardly the point, is it?

Edit: Posted just a few days ago. Reported median total compensation for General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies was $1.4M last year.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby dingbat » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:02 pm

sadsituationJD wrote:
Most lawyers don't make that kind of money, sure, but most people have no hope of making that much elsewhere anyway.


LOL. Kids coming out of Ivy undergrads in finance (top Ivy like Harvard/Yale/Pricneton not rotfl "ivy" like Cornell) can get trading jobs in the "pit" and make 500 K to sky's the limit in their mid 20s. They also work a much shorter day and are cool, unlike some Biglaw drone paper pushing geek slaving away 90 hours a week for what works out to like $25 an hour, which you can make with a G.E.D. and a lawnmower/chainsaw/old pickup truck.

Of course, those "pit" jobs require some real math chops, which lawyers (who tend to be not-so-bright lib arts and BS undergrad majors) can't hack. My friend's husband (yale man) makes 800 K to 1.2 million most years trading oil futures, his boss has had 20 million-plus years and is like 45 yrs old.

you really are clueless, aren't you?

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby ajr » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:05 am

sadsituationJD wrote:
Most lawyers don't make that kind of money, sure, but most people have no hope of making that much elsewhere anyway.


LOL. Kids coming out of Ivy undergrads in finance (top Ivy like Harvard/Yale/Pricneton not rotfl "ivy" like Cornell) can get trading jobs in the "pit" and make 500 K to sky's the limit in their mid 20s. They also work a much shorter day and are cool, unlike some Biglaw drone paper pushing geek slaving away 90 hours a week for what works out to like $25 an hour, which you can make with a G.E.D. and a lawnmower/chainsaw/old pickup truck.

Of course, those "pit" jobs require some real math chops, which lawyers (who tend to be not-so-bright lib arts and BS undergrad majors) can't hack. My friend's husband (yale man) makes 800 K to 1.2 million most years trading oil futures, his boss has had 20 million-plus years and is like 45 yrs old.


You ain't seen this pic of Sandy, bro? Yes, it's Goldman Sachs.
Image

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby cinephile » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:11 am

anon168 wrote:Choose a career path that you feel you will enjoy, don't worry about the hours because if you really have gumption and career aspirations, working hard or long is almost a non-factor. Fear of working hard is for those who ultimately realize that they are nothing better than a modern day Willy Loman.


This is the silliest thing I've ever heard on TLS. People have or want to have families, friends, and lives. No matter how much you like your job, the hours are still a big deal for a lot of people and it has nothing to do with a fear of working hard.

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby dingbat » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:32 am

\
anon168 wrote:Choose a career path that you feel you will enjoy, don't worry about the hours because if you really have gumption and career aspirations, working hard or long is almost a non-factor. Fear of working hard is for those who ultimately realize that they are nothing better than a modern day Willy Loman.

The difference between a job and a career:

A job, you walk in, do a little work, look at your watch and think "damn, only 10 o'clock? when can I go for lunch?"
A career, you walk in, do a little work, look at your watch and think "damn, already 4 o'clock? I'll skip lunch - again"

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Re: How bad are big law hours compared to government, really?

Postby b33eazy » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:10 am

cinephile wrote:
anon168 wrote:Choose a career path that you feel you will enjoy, don't worry about the hours because if you really have gumption and career aspirations, working hard or long is almost a non-factor. Fear of working hard is for those who ultimately realize that they are nothing better than a modern day Willy Loman.


This is the silliest thing I've ever heard on TLS. People have or want to have families, friends, and lives. No matter how much you like your job, the hours are still a big deal for a lot of people and it has nothing to do with a fear of working hard.


I disagree. Some people DO think that way. Some people who truly enjoy their jobs, ARE happy even if the hours are long. However, there are some people who are generally concerned about hours. There are a number of professionals who work long hours and love it; however, there are some that don't. On the other side, there are some that work short hours and love it and vice versa. There are a number of bankers and biglaw attorneys who work long hours, with a family, and enjoy their job and still can make it work with their families.

Also, I should add that I am the child of a professional who worked long hours and my mother still found to spend time with us and she loves her job and enjoys it because she feels she makes a difference (she works in medical field).




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