Starting at 85K in flyover country.

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Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 02, 2013 1:27 pm

So, I got an offer starting at 85K with a 50-75 attorney firm located in the largest city within a flyover state (think Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Iowa, etc). While others may disagree, I'm actually quite happy with the location. However, the starting salary is certainly lower than I hoped (being just outside top 1/3 at T10). At this point, beggars can't be choosers, so I'm definitely going to happily accept. Mostly, I am just curious about the upside potential.

Anyone have any idea what I can expect to earn at this firm 3 to 5 years down the road? Also, anyone know what kind of exit options I can expect? FWIW, this firm is also one of the top firms in the state.

Many thanks in advance for your wisdom!

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:16 pm

85K in any of those states is a pretty great salary.

Hutz_and_Goodman
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:24 pm

Congratulations. No idea how to answer this without knowing the firm, but you will probably be $100 in two years and yeah that's a lot of money in those states.

target
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby target » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:32 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Congratulations. No idea how to answer this without knowing the firm, but you will probably be $100 in two years and yeah that's a lot of money in those states.


Upward potential and lateral mobility will depend on what types of work you do at the firm.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:07 pm

OP here. Yeah. I'm really grateful for this opportunity . . . especially considering my alternative was unemployment. I just have no idea what to expect going forward. Unfortunately, I did not summer at the firm and do not know any attorneys in the area. It'd just be nice to have some idea of what I can expect going forward. FWIW, I'll be doing corporate/transactional work (contracts/deals, exempt securities offerings, tax).


I've found this http://www.nalp.org/2005entry-levellawyersalaries, which shows that it typically takes 5 to 8 years to reach 6 figures at similar firms. This is kind of unexpected (less than a 20% increase over 5+ years). This is from 2005, so maybe it has gone up (down?). Anyone have any other data?

Again, much appreciated!

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:40 pm

I don't have any other data, but I don't think you can rely on data from 2005 - that's a whole universe ago in legal hiring. Also, that data has market rate for biglaw at $125K, not $160K, so I don't think the numbers hold up, especially since it's not broken down by region, so doesn't address the way-lower COL in the region you're going to vs. NYC/DC etc.

As for exit options, do you want to stay in that location? I mean, I don't see an automatic path from Wyoming/South Dakota/Nebraska to NYC/DC biglaw, for instance, and if it's one of the top firms in the state, then you're already in a pretty good position. Are there other similar firms in the region?

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Gunnar Stahl
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Gunnar Stahl » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:08 pm

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Last edited by Gunnar Stahl on Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:45 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I don't have any other data, but I don't think you can rely on data from 2005 - that's a whole universe ago in legal hiring. Also, that data has market rate for biglaw at $125K, not $160K, so I don't think the numbers hold up, especially since it's not broken down by region, so doesn't address the way-lower COL in the region you're going to vs. NYC/DC etc.

As for exit options, do you want to stay in that location? I mean, I don't see an automatic path from Wyoming/South Dakota/Nebraska to NYC/DC biglaw, for instance, and if it's one of the top firms in the state, then you're already in a pretty good position. Are there other similar firms in the region?


Well, I'd probably prefer to just stay with this firm and make partner, but it'd nice to know my options if that doesn't work out. As for other firms in the state, there are a couple semi-national firms with small regional offices (really small, 10 to 20 attorneys). From what I understand, these offices rarely hire right out of law school. When they do, it looks like they offer similar starting salaries (<90K).

Looking at the 2005 NALP survey, the total upside potential with these type of firms appears to be limited to a 20 to 25% increase in salary. While I'm actually pretty happy about starting at 85K, this limited upside is a little disappointing. (However, I'm still thrilled all things considered.) Do you think the NALP numbers are too low?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:55 pm

I don't know if the numbers are low; I just think there's a lot more variation among small firms in non-major markets, and the numbers are almost 8 years old. So I wouldn't rely too much on the increases listed there. (And of course, if you make partner the compensation is different anyway.)

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby thesealocust » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:00 pm

The numbers you're seeing are probably are not too low. If anything, starting salaries are much more uniform nationwide than more advanced salaries. Most big firms start at 160, and less big firms start near there, but the progression is often substantially more compressed outside of the big city/national firms.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:05 pm

thesealocust wrote:The numbers you're seeing are probably are not too low. If anything, starting salaries are much more uniform nationwide than more advanced salaries. Most big firms start at 160, and less big firms start near there, but the progression is often substantially more compressed outside of the big city/national firms.


Well. That's unfortunate. Thanks tho.

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thesealocust
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby thesealocust » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
thesealocust wrote:The numbers you're seeing are probably are not too low. If anything, starting salaries are much more uniform nationwide than more advanced salaries. Most big firms start at 160, and less big firms start near there, but the progression is often substantially more compressed outside of the big city/national firms.


Well. That's unfortunate. Thanks tho.


Keep it in perspective. Think of all the people experiencing one or more of the following: (a) substantially higher cost of living, (b) starting with salaries at 60K, 40K, or lower, (c) temp work (such as doc review) after getting their JD with no benefits or stability, and (d) never obtaining full time employment as lawyers.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Tiago Splitter » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:13 pm

This information is a little old but it gives you an idea of the kind of compression TSL is talking about.

http://www.infirmation.com/shared/searc ... _abbrev=NE

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Skye
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Skye » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:22 pm

A market where $85K works wonders sounds like a win. One question though, what amount of tuition debt do you have to service?

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby NYstate » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:27 pm

You won't be making $100,000 for a few years- maybe 5? at the earliest. Im guessibg bur i dont see a 20% increase coming fast. But cost of living will be lower. You can't really make a dollar to dollar comparison on gross salary.

I would love to see you make a budget and compare it to some of the NYC biglaw budgets. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. You will be able to afford a much nicer and larger place to live.

Also compare your hours and day to day life. My friends who have left NYC biglaw for other markets rave about reduced stress, pressure and more time with friends and family.
And then there is your increased chance of making partner and making partner sooner.

Then, of course, the comparison to unemployment is maybe the one you should be making. This sounds like a solid job with a promising future. Congrats on landing it.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:36 pm

I don't know the city you are in (obv) but for argument's sake if it's Omaha,NE the starting NYC big law salary of $165,000 is equivalent to $65,000 in Omaha. So $85k in Omaha is like $215-220k in NYC. I'm considering this type of trade off myself, and I think I'm probably going to choose to stay where I am after graduation rather than try for NYC because of considerations like cost of living, life quality, what is best for family/children.

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/sav ... lator.aspx

again, congratulations on the job. As the sea locust said above, many people at T14 schools would kill to be in your position.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Tiago Splitter » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:42 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:I don't know the city you are in (obv) but for argument's sake if it's Omaha,NE the starting NYC big law salary of $165,000 is equivalent to $65,000 in Omaha. So $80k in Omaha is like $200k in NYC. I'm considering this type of trade off myself, and I think I'm probably going to choose to stay where I am after graduation rather than try for NYC because of considerations like cost of living, life quality, what is best for family/children.

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/sav ... lator.aspx

again, congratulations on the job. As the sea locust said above, many people at T14 schools would kill to be in your position.

This has been discussed a million times before on TLS but those calculators can be very misleading, especially for someone with a lot of debt to pay down. Someone making 165K in NYC could easily have more disposable income than someone making 65K in Omaha has in gross income.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:53 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:I don't know the city you are in (obv) but for argument's sake if it's Omaha,NE the starting NYC big law salary of $165,000 is equivalent to $65,000 in Omaha. So $80k in Omaha is like $200k in NYC. I'm considering this type of trade off myself, and I think I'm probably going to choose to stay where I am after graduation rather than try for NYC because of considerations like cost of living, life quality, what is best for family/children.

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/sav ... lator.aspx

again, congratulations on the job. As the sea locust said above, many people at T14 schools would kill to be in your position.

This has been discussed a million times before on TLS but those calculators can be very misleading, especially for someone with a lot of debt to pay down. Someone making 165K in NYC could easily have more disposable income than someone making 65K in Omaha has in gross income.


This is a good point, taking into account loan payments. So if the disparity is less than $85k-$220k, I wonder how much it will be reduced. It still seems to me like this salary in a town like Omaha will at least be comparable to NYC big law in starting. Another factor is that my understanding is that the layoff ratio tends to be better in non-major markets than it is in NYC/LA/Boston/SF and other major markets, but correct me if this is wrong.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:02 pm

OP here. Yeah. I definitely know things could be a lot worse. (I was fully expecting to be unemployed before I got this offer). Also, I know logically I should prefer to get the higher salary from the start. It's just I was hoping for more upside potential. However, I feel very fortunate to have this option.

Unfortunately, I do have a lot of debt––I'll likely just go on IBR and my monthly payments should be capped at $600 (have a family). This is rough, but manageable.

Anyhow, thanks for all the replies!

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby thesealocust » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:06 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:This is a good point, taking into account loan payments. So if the disparity is less than $85k-$220k, I wonder how much it will be reduced. It still seems to me like this salary in a town like Omaha will at least be comparable to NYC big law in starting. Another factor is that my understanding is that the layoff ratio tends to be better in non-major markets than it is in NYC/LA/Boston/SF and other major markets, but correct me if this is wrong.


Woah there cowboy.

1. 85K in Omaha is in no way comparable to 160K in NYC. You can ~math~ it all day and all night, and argue over stupid shit, but cost of living calculators only help you with (wait for it) the cost of living. PRO TIP: the "cost of living" is far, far less than your salary.

A pretty reasonable NYC budget would be roughly $50,000 for living expenses, $50,000 for hookers, loan payments, savings, cocaine, etc. and $60,000 for Uncle Sam.

An $85,000 salary in Omaha breaks down to roughly $60,000 for you and $25,000 for Uncle Sam. So unless your rent + utilities + bla bla bla clock in under $10,000 or so, you will have fewer hookers in Omaha than in NYC. Sorry mate.

Other random shit worth considering are: bonuses, salary increases, transportation costs (or lack thereof), meal costs (or lack thereof), whether NYC sounds awesome or terrible to you, number of hours required to be worked for the salary, frequency clients yell at you and/or have insane emergencies, exit options, location of your family, bla bla bla. Plenty cuts away from NYC (or other major cities) but it's insane to punch the salaries into a CoL calculator and declare a nickle in Omaha is the same as a half million in NYC.

2. You're completely wrong about the "layoff ratio." Turnover is very high at large firms in big cities, but the people who start there tend to have lots of options at other firms, in other locations, government agencies, non-profits, and corporations. That's not false of people who start in smaller markets, and you can't say in a definitive way that somebody has better or more lasting options starting in a big city, but it's insane to suggest they are worse than people starting in smaller markets.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby target » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:26 pm

thesealocust wrote:...
An $85,000 salary in Omaha breaks down to roughly $60,000 for you and $25,000 for Uncle Sam. So unless your rent + utilities + bla bla bla clock in under $10,000 or so, you will have fewer hookers in Omaha than in NYC. Sorry mate.
...


tbf, there are actually fewer hookers in Omaha than NYC, so maybe that will be okay. :wink:

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:01 pm

Ok thanks for the correction. I see what you're saying that the #s I gave above are an overestimate of the difference, although if OP is left with 60K after taxes, and can live on 25k per year in [midwest city] that would still leave him with 35k per year + raises + bonuses to use toward loans or savings. I think that sounds pretty damn good.

The numbers that you gave leave a take home of 100k in NYC and 60k in Omaha.
That's 40k difference.
The disparity in rent alone between nyc and a city like omaha is probably 15k a year.
That brings the margin to 25k a year.
Whats the difference in food, entertainment costs, etc?

I don't know. The calculator says its 2.5 times more expensive in general, but obviously food is not 250% as expensive. I would guess that 10k in difference would not be unreasonable, which would leave a final margin of 15k.

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thesealocust
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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby thesealocust » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:13 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Ok thanks for the correction. I see what you're saying that the #s I gave above are an overestimate of the difference, although if OP is left with 60K after taxes, and can live on 25k per year in [midwest city] that would still leave him with 35k per year + raises + bonuses to use toward loans or savings. I think that sounds pretty damn good.

The numbers that you gave leave a take home of 100k in NYC and 60k in Omaha.
That's 40k difference.
The disparity in rent alone between nyc and a city like omaha is probably 15k a year.
That brings the margin to 25k a year.
Whats the difference in food, entertainment costs, etc?

I don't know. The calculator says its 2.5 times more expensive in general, but obviously food is not 250% as expensive. I would guess that 10k in difference would not be unreasonable, which would leave a final margin of 15k.


Those numbers come much closer to reasonable. At the end of the day though, it all boils down to choices. If you wanted a $3,000 / month mortgage in Omaha I'm sure you could find one. If you wanted to pay $1,000 / month rent in NYC you could make it happen.

At that point I assume the cost of living calculators would spontaneously combust?

A lot of stuff is more expensive in cities (housing) but some stuff is cheaper (transportation) and everyone has different personal values about what kind of place and where they want to spend their time.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:19 pm

thesealocust wrote:
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Ok thanks for the correction. I see what you're saying that the #s I gave above are an overestimate of the difference, although if OP is left with 60K after taxes, and can live on 25k per year in [midwest city] that would still leave him with 35k per year + raises + bonuses to use toward loans or savings. I think that sounds pretty damn good.

The numbers that you gave leave a take home of 100k in NYC and 60k in Omaha.
That's 40k difference.
The disparity in rent alone between nyc and a city like omaha is probably 15k a year.
That brings the margin to 25k a year.
Whats the difference in food, entertainment costs, etc?

I don't know. The calculator says its 2.5 times more expensive in general, but obviously food is not 250% as expensive. I would guess that 10k in difference would not be unreasonable, which would leave a final margin of 15k.


Those numbers come much closer to reasonable. At the end of the day though, it all boils down to choices. If you wanted a $3,000 / month mortgage in Omaha I'm sure you could find one. If you wanted to pay $1,000 / month rent in NYC you could make it happen.

At that point I assume the cost of living calculators would spontaneously combust?

A lot of stuff is more expensive in cities (housing) but some stuff is cheaper (transportation) and everyone has different personal values about what kind of place and where they want to spend their time.


I agree, and having had experience as a paralegal in an NYC firm and working now in a [secondary market] office of that type of firm, I think the hours and the amount of screaming/unpleasant interactions may be a bit better also.

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Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:51 pm

Yeah. I agree. I think any COL advantage is impossible to quantify. For instance, making 160K in NYC provides you with an opportunity to live cheap and save 50K+/year. That's just impossible to do on 85K. However, assuming I accept the offer (which I will, because I don't want to be homeless), it looks like we'll be renting a very nice 3 bd / 2 bath house for <$850/month and should be able to buy a nice house w. acreage in several years. That's not possible in NYC (or most other big cities). With that being said, there's a reason NYC is so expensive––there's a ton of stuff/opportunities there you just won't find elsewhere. Personally, I enjoy being closer to pristine wilderness/mountains and having more space, but I can certainly see the appeal.




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