Starting at 85K in flyover country.

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273431
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 05, 2013 6:39 pm

One of the main COL differences between NYC and, say, Omaha is that there are more luxury goods available in NYC -- incredibly fancy restaurants, incredibly fancy apartments, etc. Therefore, someone living large in NYC is going to spend a lot more than someone living large in Omaha. However, that's not really an apples to apples comparison. COL calculators don't really do a good job of doing apples to apples comparisons. So, no, 85k is not really equivalent to 225k in NYC. That said, I think what the COL calculators do tell you is that you'll be pretty generally comfortable on 85k in Omaha (much like you'd be pretty comfortable on 225k in NYC) -- you'll be able to not only rent / pay the mortgage on some of the nicer-end housing options around, but will have a fair amount of disposable income to spend on vacations and whatnot.*

To return to the OP's main question, though, I know of a couple top firms in the biggest city in a mountain west state, and my understanding is that they start in the high $90,000s and increase by a couple thousand (<$3,000) every year into partner. It may not be a perfect comparison, given the significantly higher starting salary, but it does make me suspect that you shouldn't expect to see your salary increase that much from 85k -- hitting 100k in 5 years sounds pretty close to about right, actually. That said, I personally would probably take 85k increasing to 100k in Omaha (with midlaw hours) over 160k increasing to 220k in NYC (with biglaw hours) myself -- owning four $1,000 suits instead of two is not worth the extra 15 hours of work a week you'll be doing.

*There are also obviously intangibles that can't be quantified to living in both places. In NYC you're paying a premium to get to be in a bigass city. Omaha, on the other hand, is going to have a lot of its own QOL advantages.

User avatar
NinerFan
Posts: 482
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:51 pm

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby NinerFan » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:15 pm

You're thinking too much about the 85k thing. I can't imagine any of those states having a high COL. 85-95ish is pretty standard at the midlaw firms in my hometown and considering the low COL and low taxes, I would be surprised if those salaries don't have more spending power than 160k in NYC.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273431
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:31 pm

That said, I personally would probably take 85k increasing to 100k in Omaha (with midlaw hours) over 160k increasing to 220k in NYC (with biglaw hours) myself


This largely depends on your personal situation. If, like me, you have multiple children younger than school age and a spouse with a job that s/he loves but doesn't pay a ton, low $100s combined in Omaha evaporates pretty quickly. $2k a month for childcare, $2K a month for mortgage (you need a bigger place in a decent school district with 2-3 kids), $1k a month combined in student loans, $1k a month transportation (because you need to insure and fuel and pay for two cars). Assuming you're at $85k and your spouse is at $45k, and you're down to about $1500 a month of discretionary income, and you still haven't paid for food or utilities, not to mention vacations or dinners out or babysitters.

If you're in NYC (or to a lesser extent SF or Chicago or Boston), the mortgage and childcare go up a bit (probably about $1k a month each), but the transportation goes down a little. And the income skyrockets.

(Not saying I'd pick NYC/Chicago/SF. There's a lot to be said about "just scraping by" with an upper middle class lifestyle in a secondary or tertiary market vs. models and bottles in NYC. But the calculus changes so much that it's really not comparable.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 273431
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:41 pm

OP here. Just an FYI... found out at my firm that 5yr associates make between 115-140k and 7-9yrs (junior partners) make 190-200k+. I am certainly very (pleasantly) surprised.

ipguy
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 11:17 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby ipguy » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:31 am

Check the guidances in here, and see how the line up with the anecdotal evidence you've been hearing.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/DBM/M3/2011/Dow ... l_2013.pdf

User avatar
mr. wednesday
Posts: 406
Joined: Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:15 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby mr. wednesday » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:49 am

ipguy wrote:Check the guidances in here, and see how the line up with the anecdotal evidence you've been hearing.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/DBM/M3/2011/Dow ... l_2013.pdf

According to that methodology, associates in NYC biglaw are making 146k - 189k. They are just taking a national average and then multiplying it by the BLS cost of living index, which doesn't address actual salaries in a particular area or things that aren't captured by BLS, like the fact that $1 of student loan payments = $1 everywhere in the country. This skews the COL for anyone who is paying back any significant loan amount toward cities that pay more in real dollars, not COL-adjusted salary.

User avatar
guano
Posts: 2268
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:49 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby guano » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:51 am

thesealocust wrote:
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.

Ii'd bet that hookers are a lot cheaper in Omaha than in NY.

ipguy
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 11:17 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby ipguy » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:20 am

Did I miss it or is the biggest thing not posted in this thread yet is the actual hours worked at OP's firm. Is it 1500 or 2000? That to me would make a bigger difference than cost of living.

I agree with the other post about just using a COL calculator. That is far more meaningful if you're making national median salary and comparing two cities. This end of the spectrum is a bit off.

User avatar
guano
Posts: 2268
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:49 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby guano » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:
That said, I personally would probably take 85k increasing to 100k in Omaha (with midlaw hours) over 160k increasing to 220k in NYC (with biglaw hours) myself


This largely depends on your personal situation. If, like me, you have multiple children younger than school age and a spouse with a job that s/he loves but doesn't pay a ton, low $100s combined in Omaha evaporates pretty quickly. $2k a month for childcare, $2K a month for mortgage (you need a bigger place in a decent school district with 2-3 kids), $1k a month combined in student loans, $1k a month transportation (because you need to insure and fuel and pay for two cars). Assuming you're at $85k and your spouse is at $45k, and you're down to about $1500 a month of discretionary income, and you still haven't paid for food or utilities, not to mention vacations or dinners out or babysitters.

If you're in NYC (or to a lesser extent SF or Chicago or Boston), the mortgage and childcare go up a bit (probably about $1k a month each), but the transportation goes down a little. And the income skyrockets.

(Not saying I'd pick NYC/Chicago/SF. There's a lot to be said about "just scraping by" with an upper middle class lifestyle in a secondary or tertiary market vs. models and bottles in NYC. But the calculus changes so much that it's really not comparable.)

You have no idea

User avatar
worldtraveler
Posts: 7669
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2007 4:47 am

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby worldtraveler » Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:13 pm

I'm from flyover country, and I think the COL savings are usually overblown.

1. You MUST have a car. All of those cities do not have good public transportation, so while in DC/SF/NY you can get by on public transportation, LOL at doing that in Kansas City or Omaha.

2. If you like to eat anything other than bland Midwestern food, you will really pay for it. Red meat is usually cheaper, but if you like fresh fruit and vegetables...have fun with that.

3. Flights cost way more and depending on where you are it's a giant pain to get to the airport. If you like to travel or visit family in other cities this can really be a problem.

The only cost that is really that different is housing, which doesn't account for that big of a salary difference.

NotMyRealName09
Posts: 1394
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:32 pm

I'm no math wiz, and I agree those COL calculators come with caveats, but they still add value to the conversation. You're not buying or renting a 3000 sq. ft. anything in Manhatten, so of course you're not comparing that to a 3000 sq. ft. house in Omaha. But at the same time, you can buy a big ol' fat 3000 sq. ft. house in Omaha for cheap compared to housing in NYC. I don't know if there is a technical term for standard of living vs. cost of living, but at a basic level, the comparisons work. Your lifestyle on $85k in Omaha (what you drink, what you eat, what you wear, what car you drive, how you furnish your house, how big it is, etc.) will be - of course - far better than living on $85k in NYC. Period. Whether $85k in Omaha compares to $160k in NYC or some other number, who knows exactly. But we all know, intuitively, that your $85k dollars in NYC are simply not going to go as far. You pay a premium for life in the big city. Everyone knows that, and for some, thats great. But there aren't apples to apple comparisons, you have to apply some modifier to compare salaries in different regions.

NotMyRealName09
Posts: 1394
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Just an FYI... found out at my firm that 5yr associates make between 115-140k and 7-9yrs (junior partners) make 190-200k+. I am certainly very (pleasantly) surprised.


Those junior partners are probably also generating business. You don't just put in your time and get paid more (generally). You will eventually have to make it rain or you won't keep getting raises. You might already know this, but there it is.

Gorki
Posts: 772
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:41 pm

Re: Starting at 85K in flyover country.

Postby Gorki » Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote: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!


Re: Exit options in the Great Plains market. It is super state specific. If you are at the top firm in say Wyoming or Montana, your exit options will be pretty disparate as there are not a lot of firms peer to yours. On the other hand Sioux Falls, Des Moines, or Omaha are different beasts. I would really use Chamber & Associates, Martindale, Glassdoor or Salary.com (though these are not models of accuracy). NALP is totally useless for these areas. Best of luck! I really love that area (Iowa/NE not so much haha)




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.