Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

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Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:31 pm

I'm a junior associate and had a relatively wide range of experiences given my junior station in the game; I've gotten to see different practices and different relative lifestyles between practices and firms. My current position is actually pretty good as far as these things go, or at least I've seen and experienced a lot worse.

As I'm starting to think hard about where I want to aim my career path, I'm finding it difficult to choose anything related to what I've done or seen in biglaw. The carrot of financial security sounds nice, but it's pretty clear from my interaction with partnership that their financial success does not alleviate the stress. The stick of financial need due to large loans is lessened when I consider public/non-profit service (even if not as an attorney) or even IBR. I can see hanging out for another year or two as I continue to save money and figure out my next step, but beyond anything short term I'd feel like I'm wasting my life.

I have talked with a lot of other associates about the difficulty over the hours and pressure, but I have not really had discussions about the meaning found in the work.

I don't think I can ever be passionate about any of this. Is this "welcome to adulthood" or just part of the trap of a high-prestige, high-paying job that this industry offers?

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:07 pm

Some of the partners in their late 50s-60s seem reasonably happy. They just get to bring in business and talk about high level concepts and strategies, half of which are completely impossible to execute.

I can't think of one associate or junior to mid-career partner who seems "happy." And I don't even hate my job but there is just too damn much of it.

TLDR its a trap

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby UnicornHunter » Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is this "welcome to adulthood" or just part of the trap of a high-prestige, high-paying job that this industry offers?


Probably a little from column a, a little from column b. Job fulfillment is a large part of the reason public interest jobs can attract high-end talent with salaries that are a fraction of what big law folk make.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 17, 2015 7:07 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:Some of the partners in their late 50s-60s seem reasonably happy. They just get to bring in business and talk about high level concepts and strategies, half of which are completely impossible to execute.

I can't think of one associate or junior to mid-career partner who seems "happy." And I don't even hate my job but there is just too damn much of it.

TLDR its a trap


Being a non-service partner seems 180 as fuck. But it also seems impossible today. Even service partner seems impossible since current service partners will throw you under the bus preemptively.


Something about continuing to make significant sacrifices in my life for the next 5-7 years (allowing for time the firm won't count, possible changes in firm that will set back partnership consideration, etc.) to try to make junior partner, to then have to work even harder to establish yourself in partnership for some number of years, to then hopefully make it to a place where you can kind of kick back a bit....seems not worth it.

I don't need to love every moment of every day. Some days and weeks and months will suck. But there has to be something driving it all, and in biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon. The idea of making partner has entered my mind once or twice and I have summarily dismissed it as not worth it. I've looked up to junior partners that did everything right, they made it on time and everything, and even in the best case, that I follow their footsteps, it does not look worth it.

If I had a passion for championing for the large corporation's war chest of patents and IP rights, or facilitating a financing or issuance of debt, well then maybe this would all be well and good. There are two things that keep me coming to work: (1) the financial reward for doing so each next day and (2) that I haven't figured out something else yet.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Johann » Mon Aug 17, 2015 7:35 pm

nah. not worth it.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:02 pm

So what in the world are we doing?

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby thesealocust » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:03 pm

Happiness is just a social construct. Prestige is all that matters.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby kcdc1 » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:13 pm

In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:15 pm

kcdc1 wrote:
In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?

Given the amount of time you spend working in biglaw, you are essentially arguing against the notion of enjoying your life.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby 84651846190 » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:15 pm

The only biglawyers I know who are happy have severe mental illnesses.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby thesealocust » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:19 pm

Also, I think it's possible to love the work, but not love the devastating impact on your life outside of work. That comes pretty close to summing up my experience.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Johann » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:19 pm

kcdc1 wrote:
In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?


yes because it comes at the cost of ruining your life. look around at the people who make partner - their lives are in shambles compared to the avg educated family. you dont retire at 50 because its always one more year of the money.

especially when it is all things you dont need that isnt appreciated by anyone of the people you do it for. you think your kid is like thanks daddy for making 95% more money than you needed to make and missing all my tball games/recitals? your spouse is like thanks for having lots of money and never being there emotionally for my needs? no ones going to appreciate it because its all unnecessary.

nobody is saying you need to enjoy the work. we are saying you need to have a reason for doing the work. pissing away your 20s, 30s, and 40s to be the man in your 50s is dumb when youve alienated the people in your life along the way and your physical body has betrayed you from what you subjected it to for 20 years.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby 071816 » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:21 pm

humans: are any of us actually happy?

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby handsonthewheel » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:22 pm

kcdc1 wrote:
In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?


No it is not, and yes you do.

Financial security is surely a component of happiness, or at least financial insecurity is a large stress that can rob people of happiness. However, beyond a basic threshold of security, having a larger house will not make you incrementally happier.

I have been educated in entirely public schools and here I am a biglaw associate - I don't think private schools really are something I need to sacrifice my overall happiness to give to any future children. I actually would prefer public schools, albeit ones in decent districts (which cost more money to live in, of course).

Retirement at 50? I'm sure some partners do that, but I don't get the sense that a large number of partners hit some mark and say "ya, that's enough". Further, the idea of sacrificing friends and family and life experience through some very generative and important years over the course of a couple decades is of no small weight. Is the idea that you sacrifice life and happiness and you make it to 50 and suddenly then you're going to turn to life and finally live and be happy? Do you really think that's reasonable or even possible? Don't you think those decades of focus and stress and sacrifice wouldn't change you, wouldn't change what is in your life and who is around you?


So ya, I do think that enjoying what you do, or at least finding it redeeming and worthwhile and allowing for some balance of life, is an important aspect. And no, I don't think someone throwing money at you is enough to forego that.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby handsonthewheel » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:30 pm

JohannDeMann wrote:
kcdc1 wrote:
In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?


yes because it comes at the cost of ruining your life. look around at the people who make partner - their lives are in shambles compared to the avg educated family. you dont retire at 50 because its always one more year of the money.

especially when it is all things you dont need that isnt appreciated by anyone of the people you do it for. you think your kid is like thanks daddy for making 95% more money than you needed to make and missing all my tball games/recitals? your spouse is like thanks for having lots of money and never being there emotionally for my needs? no ones going to appreciate it because its all unnecessary.

nobody is saying you need to enjoy the work. we are saying you need to have a reason for doing the work. pissing away your 20s, 30s, and 40s to be the man in your 50s is dumb when youve alienated the people in your life along the way and your physical body has betrayed you from what you subjected it to for 20 years.


THISSSSSSS.

The most depressing thing about my job is not necessarily my work, the hours, or the stress; it is watching the "role models" sit in their office until nearly midnight many nights of the week despite a wife and children at home.

There is nothing that makes me want to leave faster than seeing the sacrifices that more senior attorneys continue to make, much of it functionally unnecessary. I'm more than happy to work hard and to make sacrifices at times, sometimes I even get into and want to do those things. But it doesn't stop. The prevailing culture is always billable hours, profit and commitment evidenced by sacrifice.

I wish I was motivated by the idea of making a million dollars a year. In fleeting moments I fall into that trap, seeing it as a possibility and wanting it.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:39 pm

kcdc1 wrote:
In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?

I didn't read the OP as much about enjoying the work as finding it meaningful (I guess it depends on how you interpret feeling passionate about it). 20-25 years is a long time to put in on work you think is meaningless/pointless/has no value. I know that for some people the benefits would outweigh that, but I can see why that would be an issue for others.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby handsonthewheel » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:42 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
kcdc1 wrote:
In biglaw I simply cannot find a single thing beyond money, security and the air with which to over-inflate my ego balloon.

Serious question -- is having the money and security to live in a nice house, send kids to private school, and be positioned for a financially defensible retirement at age 50 not enough? You really have to enjoy the work itself?

I didn't read the OP as much about enjoying the work as finding it meaningful (I guess it depends on how you interpret feeling passionate about it). 20-25 years is a long time to put in on work you think is meaningless/pointless/has no value. I know that for some people the benefits would outweigh that, but I can see why that would be an issue for others.


I think it may be a mix: if you do a meaningless job, but you do it 9-5, M-F, you at least have the opportunity to go find meaning elsewhere.

If you work long hours at a very meaningful job, it may be hard to fit in friends and family and hobbies, but there is at least a redeeming reason for your sacrifice.

But if you are sacrificing heavily for something without any meaning? That's just tough. That's regret-making material.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:43 pm

I'm not sure if this is addressed, but do you, OP, think that if you found meaning in your Big Law work and at least a semblance of a work-life balance, you'd be happy?

I'd guess that if you can find some area of law that has to do with something you care about, maybe it could work out.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby monsterman » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:47 pm

Only a 2L here so I'm wondering if there is a major difference between Biglaw in NYC/DC and the other large markets to those in smaller markets. The attorneys I've talked to claim there's a huge difference but I don't know how much truth there is in that

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:47 pm

handsonthewheel wrote:I think it may be a mix: if you do a meaningless job, but you do it 9-5, M-F, you at least have the opportunity to go find meaning elsewhere.

If you work long hours at a very meaningful job, it may be hard to fit in friends and family and hobbies, but there is at least a redeeming reason for your sacrifice.

But if you are sacrificing heavily for something without any meaning? That's just tough. That's regret-making material.
Totally agree. Meaningless when you have (and have time for) a personal life is fine. Having no personal life if you love your work and take great meaning in what you do can be fine, too. Meaningless work and no personal life really sucks.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm not sure if this is addressed, but do you, OP, think that if you found meaning in your Big Law work and at least a semblance of a work-life balance, you'd be happy?

I'd guess that if you can find some area of law that has to do with something you care about, maybe it could work out.


OP:

Of course. There is nothing inherent in the law that makes it bad. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed law school and material.

If I was putting work as high up in the hierarchy of my life as I do, but I was championing the rights of minority groups that were being oppressed? I'd probably be happier.

If I was still doing the same work I am now, but hours were a bit less and the explicit demand that work comes before life were not there, I'd be happier.

The problem is the combination. It is clear that the work always comes first, you are never offline, and everything else can wait. There is also little meaning, aside from greasing the gears of finance, to the work.

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Re: Biglaw associates: are any of us actually happy?

Postby handsonthewheel » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:52 pm

monsterman wrote:Only a 2L here so I'm wondering if there is a major difference between Biglaw in NYC/DC and the other large markets to those in smaller markets. The attorneys I've talked to claim there's a huge difference but I don't know how much truth there is in that


There are some general differences in markets that I've talked to people about, but they are not overriding differences.

The single biggest thing that will affect you is who you are working with/for. Law students never seem to understand this and buy into the firm branding game. Doesn't matter what the logo or summer associate spiel is, the only thing that matters is who you are working for.



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