First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

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TTRansfer
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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby TTRansfer » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:58 am

SBL wrote:I mean dude, NLJ250 basically is biglaw, so I think you're all set


It's a smaller market. Yeah, smaller COL, but not enough to make up the difference in salary. I'd consider it midlaw.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby TTRansfer » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:59 am

AssumptionRequired wrote:
SBL wrote:I mean dude, NLJ250 basically is biglaw, so I think you're all set


I am guessing he means market salary based on the way it was said

Correct. Shit wording on my part.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby J90 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 2:10 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:Succeeding in biglaw depends on how much you love money. Do you really love money? If so, you'll gun your ass off, maybe make partner and enjoy quite a bit of your time in biglaw. If you're a chill bro who would be happy with cable tv, an occasional vacation and a sweet bike, then odds are that you'll hate biglaw. The work is mind-numbing, it's nearly impossible to make partner and the longer you stay the more surrounded you are by people trying to jack your hours/clients/partner relationships so they can make partner over you. You have to really love money A LOT to be willing to focus, kiss ass, and dedicate your life to the horde for nearly a decade just to have a 10-15% chance of making partner. At my firm there were over 100 people technically "up for partner" and less than 10% of them made it last year. Good luck.

I could not disagree more. Perhaps it is where we are in our careers.

I'm a midlevel corporate associate and I find the work extremely interesting. It is the hours, unpredictable schedule and stress that are terrible. I'm a pretty laid back guy and I still enjoy a lot of my job because I find the work so interesting. I do not live lavishly or really enjoy the money that much except for the security it brings - it's nice to pay down debt. Then again, I had a number of other jobs before law school, so maybe it is all about perspective. At my level, there is zero competition for partner. The ranks of midlevel associates are thin even at this stage, so prospects for partnership are fairly realistic at my firm if you put the time in. With all of this said, the idea of sticking it out until partnership makes me sick to my stomach. You have no life except when you happen to get lucky and clients aren't emailing you... and then you are probably worried that you need to go out and market more because work is too slow.


Could you expand on this?

Once you've secured a big law job and have been working for a couple years, how do you go out and market yourself? Is that marketing targeted at current clients (i.e. for more work), or new ones? How do you go about doing that?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:28 am

Another v10 associate here. To the OP, I sincerely hope it stays that way for you. This thread made me a bit wistful because I recall being happy with the job at this time of year in my first year. It was a lot of work but there was a lot of good that came with it too. At some point it became miserable, though. This is the case for most people I know, but there are also some people who still like it (at least enough to tolerate it), so I hope you are one of those people.

I think things often just get progressively worse as you get integrated into a regular work team (perhaps avoidable if you luck into a good team), and a lot of people just burn out. The hours suck but, similar to what Objection said, that isn't really the issue. It's the lack of control over your time (even where you have major life events happening), the politics of which associate is getting better work and which partner wants to work with which associate, the constant blame-shifting and incomprehensible expectations, etc. (and I say all this despite thinking that I work with people who, relative to most people in biglaw, are pretty good to work for). It's all so draining. You miss enough important personal commitments because there was no way to plan ahead and it stops seeming worth it.

That said, I agree with thesealocust - there is a reason they pay incoming associates $160k. Before starting the job, I thought the reason was that associates work a lot, and figured I could do that for 4 or 5 years to pay off loans and get better exit options (what "exit options" I wanted, I had no idea). I think a lot of people quickly learn that you aren't paid a huge sum to work hard - you are paid to put up with the physical and emotional drain - and leave earlier than expected because they decide other things are more important than the money. It's not a bad gig if the money is worth it to you, or if you have specific career goals that require quality biglaw experience. Most of us just go in assuming that the money will be worth it, because how could it not be? It makes you think about what you are willing to sacrifice to have a life, and it can seem well worth it to move into a lower salary job, maybe move to a lower cost of living city, and be on a tighter budget despite only paying minimum loan payments.

I guess this was sort of depressing, sorry. I think it can help to be prepared for it, though, or at least know what you're getting into. All these questions about "can you still maintain X in your lifestyle?"... the answer is pretty much always, sure, it is possible, but only to a limited extent and often at the expense of your long-term prospects at the firm (which you may or may not care about). That might be okay with you, at least for some time period, but it's very rare that someone can succeed long-term in biglaw and also have a legitimately happy family life, etc.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby 06102016 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:37 am

..

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby TatNurner » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:25 am

To those associates ITT in the anti-biglaw camp, had many of you worked in proper full time jobs before?

The reason I ask is because some of the disillusionment I read in this thread reminds me of when I was first entering the working world with my peers fresh out of school. The first 6 months we were like "this is awesome!" Then it started dawning on us that this new world of drastically reduced free time, non-existent weekends and constant work stress was what the rest of life held for us until we got old and died. Even the more senior people who've been successful in my field still work like crazy and its not uncommon for me to get emails from them on a Saturday night or at 2am during the week. Sunday is almost always a work day as people try to get ahead for the following week.

I specifically remember one of my friends saying "I can't believe all these adults around us live like this." We certainly gained a deeper appreciation for what our parents did.

I also have friends who are just out of med school and they have similar stories of working 70 hour weeks while missing birthdays etc.

It would seem to me that as young people entering the "real" world, if we are trying to make something of ourselves, then we are going to get our asses kicked no matter what field we are in. Is biglaw really that exceptional?

Edit: I forgot to add that it takes about 5-10 years (depending on how quickly you rise) in my field to make what you make as a first year in biglaw.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:03 pm

Yes, I worked at a F500 company for several years before going to law school. Biglaw is unimaginably worse in terms of inability to control your own schedule. What makes it worse is the fact that you're completely replaceable as a junior attorney and if you mess up partners will just stop giving you work. Nothing really prepares you for the politics. This definitely wouldn't happen in the medical field where there is a perpetual doctor shortage. Also, the only medical career that comes close to biglaw would be someone working in an ER because everything you do in biglaw is "time sensitive" and "high priority." Like an ER doctor, you have to be able to react quickly to new assignments and bring your A game every time. The vast majority of doctors, however, can plan ahead for patient visits and take their time to research conditions because they have a long queue of people waiting to see them, even as new doctors. As a new lawyer, you have to take what you can get when you can get it. There are no "shifts" like there are when you're a med resident. You're on all the time no matter what. Schedule-wise, it's kind of like being in a startup except you have no skin in the game.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby sfhaze » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:38 pm

Thanks to all for posting! This has been a fantastic resource.

Most of us just go in assuming that the money will be worth it, because how could it not be? It makes you think about what you are willing to sacrifice to have a life, and it can seem well worth it to move into a lower salary job, maybe move to a lower cost of living city, and be on a tighter budget despite only paying minimum loan payments.

If it's at all possible to generalize, how much lower is the salary upon exit? Are there clear practice areas, or sub-specialties within areas, one should gravitate to while at a law firm in order to ensure the best exit options both in terms of salary and opportunity?

Biglaw is unimaginably worse in terms of inability to control your own schedule. What makes it worse is the fact that you're completely replaceable as a junior attorney and if you mess up partners will just stop giving you work.

How different is the experience at smaller firms, really? I realize most here are/were in typical biglaw, but I'm sure you know at least a bit about life at smaller firms.

It seems the happiest attorneys are those who've moved into in-house jobs (i.e., big, stable company) from a law firm, any firm. Is the law firm model just universally rough, especially for non-partners?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Objection » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:46 pm

Smaller firms you're not as replaceable, you get more real work, and you have some actual input in the day to day.

The billable hour is a huge part of the problem, though. If you want to have more control over your life, go somewhere that doesn't live by the billable.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby TatNurner » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:51 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:Yes, I worked at a F500 company for several years before going to law school. Biglaw is unimaginably worse in terms of inability to control your own schedule. What makes it worse is the fact that you're completely replaceable as a junior attorney and if you mess up partners will just stop giving you work. Nothing really prepares you for the politics.



Interesting. So your F500 didn't have much politics?

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:32 pm

TatNurner wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:Yes, I worked at a F500 company for several years before going to law school. Biglaw is unimaginably worse in terms of inability to control your own schedule. What makes it worse is the fact that you're completely replaceable as a junior attorney and if you mess up partners will just stop giving you work. Nothing really prepares you for the politics.



Interesting. So your F500 didn't have much politics?


No, it did. Lawyers are just a lot more passive aggressive and annoying about it though. At most F500 companies, you are managed by b-school grads who know how to work with people, give feedback, etc. In biglaw firm's lit group, you almost never get substantive feedback, and when you do it's from some aspie, anal-retentive partner who got ahead in life by being more of a dick than you most likely are. Even at your formal reviews, the feedback I've usually gotten hasn't matched what I've worked on, how hard I've worked, or sometimes even who I've worked with. Partners just don't have time for high-quality review processes and, as a result, they are generally shitty. You couple a lack of feedback with the fact that you're working with people who get paid all day to come up with snide, passive aggressive arguments designed to annoy the other side and you get a completely unbearable situation. Add on the fact that the partners don't want you to make partner and the associates are gunning to outperform you and you get a lot of made up bullshit in your reviews. If you're lucky, your review is neutral because they're still keeping you around to do bitchwork before you get pushed out when you're too senior and/or you're a threat to other associates who are favored over you to make partner. As you get more senior, even the most asinine of "flaws" can nix your chances at partnership or progressing in the firm. For example, you didn't go to the same law school as someone on the partnership committee, or you didn't serve as an appellate clerk, or you didn't ask to work with some high-powered partner in a practice area you're not even interested in. The only tolerable people at my firm are the associates who are on their way out or have already committed themselves to exiting sooner rather than later.

TL;DR version: biglawyers are terrible managers.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby thesealocust » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:24 pm

Objection wrote:Smaller firms you're not as replaceable, you get more real work, and you have some actual input in the day to day.


I'm not sure you're wrong on average, but these are both broad over generalizations. There are 1st and 2nd years at big firms with insane amounts of real work/responsibility/input, and there are small firms which are insurance defense mills doing tasks both more tedious and less remunerative than the most sweatshoppy of big firms.

To expand on my first point - there's leverage and then there's leverage. Some partnerships achieve a high leverage ratio through a pyramid structure churning through a mountain of doc review, but some partnerships achieve a high leverage ratio because the associates can run deals or handle litigation matters, and are expected to take on huge amounts of responsibility early.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby desertlaw » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:32 pm

NYstate wrote:1. My firm is extremely supportive of pregnancy. Despite the culture, they are very family orientated. They love families and kids, it is just hard to be home. The one day no one works at my firm is Mother's Day. All other holidays someone is there.

2. You still have to get work done well.

3. Partners here have had scheduled C-sections so they can control their hours and work. I know people who have had clients call while they are in labor and also in the ER. Not joking. You need to understand how this works.


Don't firms have it in their interest to "love families"? Because, especially for male/father associates, it means that they have to keep providing and continue making biglaw coin (especially if Mom is home and wants nice things to replace the missing husband). I would think that a single male associate, especially one who is debt-free, is scary to a firm long-term because he could leave at any time. So, if both the single and the married guy are going to be working long hours, the firm wants the married guy because he's "pot-committed" to being at the firm whereas the single guy can leave whenever (especially if he has less debt, which probably does if he's not married and has more $ to pay off loans).

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Nickg415 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:34 pm

Tagging as a 0L here. Awesome thread! Will continually refer back to this when choosing which career path to follow in law.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby 09042014 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:39 pm

thesealocust wrote:I never understood people bitching about the $ vs. time in biglaw. You know there are people who work multiple nearly minimum wage jobs just to get by, right? And you know $160K pre-tax is smaller than the biggest fortunes, but puts you at like top 2% of wage earners in the country, right?

There are alternatives and I personally believe happiness is more important than anything else in this life, so follow your heart etc. - but the opportunity to earn big law bucks is a major one, even with brutal stress and hours.


You probably shouldn't compare yourself to the poorest of the poor. I don't have an opinion on the matter since I haven't spent a day in real big law, but I do know comparing yourself to someone struggling to not starve to death isn't a good idea.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby TatNurner » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:46 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
TatNurner wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:Yes, I worked at a F500 company for several years before going to law school. Biglaw is unimaginably worse in terms of inability to control your own schedule. What makes it worse is the fact that you're completely replaceable as a junior attorney and if you mess up partners will just stop giving you work. Nothing really prepares you for the politics.



Interesting. So your F500 didn't have much politics?


No, it did. Lawyers are just a lot more passive aggressive and annoying about it though. At most F500 companies, you are managed by b-school grads who know how to work with people, give feedback, etc. In biglaw firm's lit group, you almost never get substantive feedback, and when you do it's from some aspie, anal-retentive partner who got ahead in life by being more of a dick than you most likely are. Even at your formal reviews, the feedback I've usually gotten hasn't matched what I've worked on, how hard I've worked, or sometimes even who I've worked with. Partners just don't have time for high-quality review processes and, as a result, they are generally shitty. You couple a lack of feedback with the fact that you're working with people who get paid all day to come up with snide, passive aggressive arguments designed to annoy the other side and you get a completely unbearable situation. Add on the fact that the partners don't want you to make partner and the associates are gunning to outperform you and you get a lot of made up bullshit in your reviews. If you're lucky, your review is neutral because they're still keeping you around to do bitchwork before you get pushed out when you're too senior and/or you're a threat to other associates who are favored over you to make partner. As you get more senior, even the most asinine of "flaws" can nix your chances at partnership or progressing in the firm. For example, you didn't go to the same law school as someone on the partnership committee, or you didn't serve as an appellate clerk, or you didn't ask to work with some high-powered partner in a practice area you're not even interested in. The only tolerable people at my firm are the associates who are on their way out or have already committed themselves to exiting sooner rather than later.

TL;DR version: biglawyers are terrible managers.


Thanks for the candidness.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Objection » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:12 pm

thesealocust wrote:
Objection wrote:Smaller firms you're not as replaceable, you get more real work, and you have some actual input in the day to day.


I'm not sure you're wrong on average, but these are both broad over generalizations. There are 1st and 2nd years at big firms with insane amounts of real work/responsibility/input, and there are small firms which are insurance defense mills doing tasks both more tedious and less remunerative than the most sweatshoppy of big firms.


Exceptions that prove the rule.

but some partnerships achieve a high leverage ratio because the associates can run deals or handle litigation matters, and are expected to take on huge amounts of responsibility early.


Rarely. You can probably count on one hand the big law firms that are consistently like this. Boies and W&C are the two that come to mind. The others that come to mind on this front are boutiques.

I also think it depends on what you consider real responsibility. In litigation, unless you're in the position to be able to take depos (even low level), have a role in court on motions, or have some client contact (on billable matters), I don't think you really have "significant responsibility." Perhaps a good shorthand would be...'significant responsibility' means you have the chance to meaningfully screw things up for the client/case in real time. If everything you do goes through 20 channels before it has the chance to screw something up, I don't think that's significant responsibility.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby thesealocust » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:18 pm

Objection: I think a big source of our disconnect is that I do corporate/transactional, and it sounds like you do litigation. While both have some pros and tons of (lifestyle related) cons, I'm pretty sure corporate is much better - on average, at some firms - about early responsibility and substance.

Desert Fox wrote:
thesealocust wrote:I never understood people bitching about the $ vs. time in biglaw. You know there are people who work multiple nearly minimum wage jobs just to get by, right? And you know $160K pre-tax is smaller than the biggest fortunes, but puts you at like top 2% of wage earners in the country, right?

There are alternatives and I personally believe happiness is more important than anything else in this life, so follow your heart etc. - but the opportunity to earn big law bucks is a major one, even with brutal stress and hours.


You probably shouldn't compare yourself to the poorest of the poor. I don't have an opinion on the matter since I haven't spent a day in real big law, but I do know comparing yourself to someone struggling to not starve to death isn't a good idea.


Not sure what your point is here? We've got bills to pay, we've got mouths to feed, and ain't nothing in this world for free.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Objection » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:30 pm

Perhaps. I understand much more why corporate people go to big law for the work than I do litigation people.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:22 am

Desert Fox wrote:
thesealocust wrote:I never understood people bitching about the $ vs. time in biglaw. You know there are people who work multiple nearly minimum wage jobs just to get by, right? And you know $160K pre-tax is smaller than the biggest fortunes, but puts you at like top 2% of wage earners in the country, right?

There are alternatives and I personally believe happiness is more important than anything else in this life, so follow your heart etc. - but the opportunity to earn big law bucks is a major one, even with brutal stress and hours.


You probably shouldn't compare yourself to the poorest of the poor. I don't have an opinion on the matter since I haven't spent a day in real big law, but I do know comparing yourself to someone struggling to not starve to death isn't a good idea.

I really feel where sealocust is coming from. Before law school, with my shiny new undergraduate degree in hand (with honors!), I was working a crappy, mind-numbing $10/hr filing job all day with an hour commute in traffic. After each work day and commute, I'd freaking mow lawns and do yard maintenance until it was too dark to see. Then I'd go home to the apartment I could barely afford and the family I could barely feed and study for the LSAT.
We all come from different backgrounds, but you can't tell me that those experiences won't have an impact on my attitude when I'm working in the corporate department of the NYC V10 where I've accepted a position. In a matter of a few years, I'll have gone from mowing lawns and counting coins to order off the dollar menu to being a corporate lawyer in a huge firm in Manhattan putting real money in the bank. Forget work life balance, and thank you.
Not everyone waltzes through ivy undergrad to a t14 law school to big law on their parents' dime while turning down other solid options. For those who don't, the potential for rapid, catapulting upward mobility that big law provides is a seemingly unmatched opportunity. Maybe I'll forget that one day when I'm working 100 hour weeks and strapped to BMW and private school tuition payments. But probably not.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby worldtraveler » Fri Mar 15, 2013 6:01 am

Although I don't work in big law, I have a lot of classmates and friends who took that path and they all regularly vent to me about their lives. I'm that strange public interest person who only has big law friends. From what I can tell, people in patent law seem the happiest with their lives, I think because they mostly had professional work experience before coming to law school, they knew more what to expect, and a lot of them seem to be working on more interesting stuff right away. I also get the impression that firms might treat patent people better because they are harder to replace.

For the rest, it's not so awesome. I have one friend who has become seriously depressed after about a year of big law. He is not the same person he used to be, and he told me that some days he comes home and just sits and stares at the wall for an hour because he can't understand how he ended up so unhappy in life. This is a guy who used to be a lot of fun. Last time I talked to him he was contemplating trying to get fired so that he could collect unemployment for a while.

2 other friends quit big law in less than a year. Some other people are still there, but while they went in thinking they would try and make partner, now they're thinking about trying to leave after 2-3 years for other options. One dude seemed really happy with his life and spent money on a sports car and I'm pretty sure he regularly blows money on strip clubs. Then one day he called me after having a breakdown saying he was going to end up alone and miserable.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby NYstate » Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:05 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:
thesealocust wrote:I never understood people bitching about the $ vs. time in biglaw. You know there are people who work multiple nearly minimum wage jobs just to get by, right? And you know $160K pre-tax is smaller than the biggest fortunes, but puts you at like top 2% of wage earners in the country, right?

There are alternatives and I personally believe happiness is more important than anything else in this life, so follow your heart etc. - but the opportunity to earn big law bucks is a major one, even with brutal stress and hours.


You probably shouldn't compare yourself to the poorest of the poor. I don't have an opinion on the matter since I haven't spent a day in real big law, but I do know comparing yourself to someone struggling to not starve to death isn't a good idea.

I really feel where sealocust is coming from. Before law school, with my shiny new undergraduate degree in hand (with honors!), I was working a crappy, mind-numbing $10/hr filing job all day with an hour commute in traffic. After each work day and commute, I'd freaking mow lawns and do yard maintenance until it was too dark to see. Then I'd go home to the apartment I could barely afford and the family I could barely feed and study for the LSAT.
We all come from different backgrounds, but you can't tell me that those experiences won't have an impact on my attitude when I'm working in the corporate department of the NYC V10 where I've accepted a position. In a matter of a few years, I'll have gone from mowing lawns and counting coins to order off the dollar menu to being a corporate lawyer in a huge firm in Manhattan putting real money in the bank. Forget work life balance, and thank you.
Not everyone waltzes through ivy undergrad to a t14 law school to big law on their parents' dime while turning down other solid options. For those who don't, the potential for rapid, catapulting upward mobility that big law provides is a seemingly unmatched opportunity. Maybe I'll forget that one day when I'm working 100 hour weeks and strapped to BMW and private school tuition payments. But probably not.


Two points:
1. Most people in biglaw have huge student loan balances. New graduates are going to owe even more. I'm not sure why you think the people who are complaining about biglaw hours waltzed in on their parents dime. And don't assume that people who have wealthy parents have never had to work their ass off before they got to biglaw. People are complaining because they lose control of their lives. They are trying to explain what biglaw is like to 0Ls who see it like the holy grail, as you seem to. These complaints are valid despite whatever background you come from.

2. I would be careful about showing that attitude at work. Don't assume your co-workers are unhappy because they have always lived a privileged life compared to you. Just because you have needed money and have worked other low paying jobs just to pay rent, doesn't mean the biglaw life won't eat you alive the same way it sometimes eats other people alive. On the other hand, your willingness to work your ass off continually just to have gobs of money to own stuff is exactly what biglaw partners love to see.
One point: private school tuition is not that affordable on a biglaw salary at least not the first couple of years.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:32 am

NYstate wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:
thesealocust wrote:I never understood people bitching about the $ vs. time in biglaw. You know there are people who work multiple nearly minimum wage jobs just to get by, right? And you know $160K pre-tax is smaller than the biggest fortunes, but puts you at like top 2% of wage earners in the country, right?

There are alternatives and I personally believe happiness is more important than anything else in this life, so follow your heart etc. - but the opportunity to earn big law bucks is a major one, even with brutal stress and hours.


You probably shouldn't compare yourself to the poorest of the poor. I don't have an opinion on the matter since I haven't spent a day in real big law, but I do know comparing yourself to someone struggling to not starve to death isn't a good idea.

I really feel where sealocust is coming from. Before law school, with my shiny new undergraduate degree in hand (with honors!), I was working a crappy, mind-numbing $10/hr filing job all day with an hour commute in traffic. After each work day and commute, I'd freaking mow lawns and do yard maintenance until it was too dark to see. Then I'd go home to the apartment I could barely afford and the family I could barely feed and study for the LSAT.
We all come from different backgrounds, but you can't tell me that those experiences won't have an impact on my attitude when I'm working in the corporate department of the NYC V10 where I've accepted a position. In a matter of a few years, I'll have gone from mowing lawns and counting coins to order off the dollar menu to being a corporate lawyer in a huge firm in Manhattan putting real money in the bank. Forget work life balance, and thank you.
Not everyone waltzes through ivy undergrad to a t14 law school to big law on their parents' dime while turning down other solid options. For those who don't, the potential for rapid, catapulting upward mobility that big law provides is a seemingly unmatched opportunity. Maybe I'll forget that one day when I'm working 100 hour weeks and strapped to BMW and private school tuition payments. But probably not.


Two points:
1. Most people in biglaw have huge student loan balances. New graduates are going to owe even more. I'm not sure why you think the people who are complaining about biglaw hours waltzed in on their parents dime. And don't assume that people who have wealthy parents have never had to work their ass off before they got to biglaw. People are complaining because they lose control of their lives. They are trying to explain what biglaw is like to 0Ls who see it like the holy grail, as you seem to. These complaints are valid despite whatever background you come from.

2. I would be careful about showing that attitude at work. Don't assume your co-workers are unhappy because they have always lived a privileged life compared to you. Just because you have needed money and have worked other low paying jobs just to pay rent, doesn't mean the biglaw life won't eat you alive the same way it sometimes eats other people alive. On the other hand, your willingness to work your ass off continually just to have gobs of money to own stuff is exactly what biglaw partners love to see.
One point: private school tuition is not that affordable on a biglaw salary at least not the first couple of years.

Points taken. My anon post comes off the wrong way (which is my fault.)

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:40 am

Tagging to follow and, like so many others, to say thanks for all the insights.

I actually work as a paralegal at a fairly prestigious (very highly regarded in a couple of niche areas) midsize firm in NYC. I would have to say that my life as a paralegal there is absolutely nothing like most of what's been described here. The partners and associates I work for are almost always friendly and appreciative of my work. Although I do a lot of closing sets and boring tax-related work, they try to give me more interesting stuff when possible. Usually, the associates don't ask me to do things that are at strange hours/are rough in some other way because they feel like I don't get paid enough to do much beyond my set 35 hour weeks. (I'm serious about this.) Also, the compensation/benefits/perks are pretty great IMO, especially for someone like me who was straight out of undergrad with basically no marketable skills.

The lives' of the associates in my group don't seem as great as mine, but they also don't seem miserable. The most junior works about 10 am - 7 pm most weekdays and some on weekends (from home) when we have a really big deal (or deals) going. The seniors are at the office less, but I do get the feeling that they work from home a good deal.

Maybe I just landed in a NYC legal paradise, but it's worth noting that good firms with fairly caring partners and other seniors do exist.

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Re: First year at a big firm; brutal hours; like the job. AMA.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 16, 2013 4:51 am

sfhaze wrote:If it's at all possible to generalize, how much lower is the salary upon exit? Are there clear practice areas, or sub-specialties within areas, one should gravitate to while at a law firm in order to ensure the best exit options both in terms of salary and opportunity?

It depends a lot on when you leave and where you go, so it is hard to generalize. Some people (especially in litigation) go to smaller/other firms, and may take a salary hit but then also have better partnership potential. Going in-house often requires a salary decrease, especially if you do so in the first few (say, 4-5) years of practice. For in-house jobs at that level in F500s, I'd say starting pay seems to be anywhere from $80k-$140k (sometimes higher at, for e.g., banks). There tends not to be a lot of upward mobility, though. Best non-firm exit options are for transactional lawyers, as well as some specialty practices (e.g. labor and employment). Within corporate work, I don't know that the difference in options for sub-specialties is significant enough to make it a deciding factor vs. what you enjoy, but others here may have more insight.

thesealocust wrote:There are 1st and 2nd years at big firms with insane amounts of real work/responsibility/input, and there are small firms which are insurance defense mills doing tasks both more tedious and less remunerative than the most sweatshoppy of big firms.

I think the biggest difference here may be knowing what you're getting into. If you're looking at small firms, you should be able to talk to people and get a sense of what kind of work you'll get. In biglaw, at least in my experience, it's more of a gamble, since you don't always have a lot of control over who you work with. It is possible to force yourself into someone's usual work team, but most people I know who get "quality" work just lucked into working with someone who is willing to let juniors take on actual responsibility. Tough thing to plan for ahead of time since this varies so much within each firm (and even practice group).

worldtraveler wrote:From what I can tell, people in patent law seem the happiest with their lives...

I think this is true, at least for some types of patent practice. In some cases, it can be preferable because there are hard deadlines/timelines so the unpredictability issue isn't as common.




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