Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

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Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 3:13 pm

I'm a mid-level (think, 3rd-6th year) litigation associate in my early-to-mid 30s at a biglaw firm in a major market. While the first several years have gone smoothly, my firm's litigation group has slowed down a lot over the past 6-9 months. So now I'm constantly stressed about billables and am starting to feel burned out.

I'm starting to think about leaving and considering other opportunities. Here's where I'm at:

I've paid off lots of student loans and built up passive income over the past several years, so I can comfortably live on $2500/mo now. This affords me the opportunity to consider other types of positions since I don't need biglaw to pay off loans (though, of course I could save up a lot more if I stuck it out longer).

I eventually want a cushy in-house position but it's tough with my litigation background since most in-house positions are corporate. I've gotten one in-house interview at a major F500 company so far (got through 2 rounds of interviews but didn't get the position). Since I've been able to lower my expenses, I've been thinking about reaching out to startups or more established companies and offering to come in at a more junior/paralegal salary ($80-90k?) just to be able to get the initial experience and could potentially lateral up to a higher paying position in the future. Have any mid-level litigation associates been able to break into in-house? Advice on getting my first in-house position?

More realistically (at least for the near to mid-term), I'm also considering mid-law since those firms have lower billable requirements (around 1750-1800 compared to 2000+ for bigfirms). Even if other biglaw firms are busy, I don't want to bill 2000+ hrs a year anymore so mid-size firms might be a good fit.

Alternatively, since billables are a main concern for me right now, I could also reach out to my firm about going lower full time and get a correlating lower pay. The pay would roughly equal mid-law salaries and I could potentially get as low as a 1600 hrs requirement for a 20% pay cut. However, I'm not sure how this would come across to the firm (was told by a friend/former colleague that the firm may view it unfavorably).

Thoughts/advice? Have others dealt with similar situations?

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Lexaholik

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Lexaholik » Fri Feb 12, 2016 5:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a mid-level (think, 3rd-6th year) litigation associate in my early-to-mid 30s at a biglaw firm in a major market. While the first several years have gone smoothly, my firm's litigation group has slowed down a lot over the past 6-9 months. So now I'm constantly stressed about billables and am starting to feel burned out.

I'm starting to think about leaving and considering other opportunities. Here's where I'm at:

I've paid off lots of student loans and built up passive income over the past several years, so I can comfortably live on $2500/mo now. This affords me the opportunity to consider other types of positions since I don't need biglaw to pay off loans (though, of course I could save up a lot more if I stuck it out longer).

I eventually want a cushy in-house position but it's tough with my litigation background since most in-house positions are corporate. I've gotten one in-house interview at a major F500 company so far (got through 2 rounds of interviews but didn't get the position). Since I've been able to lower my expenses, I've been thinking about reaching out to startups or more established companies and offering to come in at a more junior/paralegal salary ($80-90k?) just to be able to get the initial experience and could potentially lateral up to a higher paying position in the future. Have any mid-level litigation associates been able to break into in-house? Advice on getting my first in-house position?

More realistically (at least for the near to mid-term), I'm also considering mid-law since those firms have lower billable requirements (around 1750-1800 compared to 2000+ for bigfirms). Even if other biglaw firms are busy, I don't want to bill 2000+ hrs a year anymore so mid-size firms might be a good fit.

Alternatively, since billables are a main concern for me right now, I could also reach out to my firm about going lower full time and get a correlating lower pay. The pay would roughly equal mid-law salaries and I could potentially get as low as a 1600 hrs requirement for a 20% pay cut. However, I'm not sure how this would come across to the firm (was told by a friend/former colleague that the firm may view it unfavorably).

Thoughts/advice? Have others dealt with similar situations?


I went through this a few years ago. I knocked out my debt first, built up some (meager) passive income, but most importantly saved up enough money to last me several years without working. Once that was done I chose a job that wasn't necessarily ideal but would make me happier.

The truth is you won't know which one of your options will be best for you. I can tell you my personal experience (the next job was better for my lifestyle, paid less, but eventually turned out to not be the right fit anyways) but it's not really going to have a bearing on your options. Nobody knows which option will be better for you. Instead you should figure out your long term goal, and pick the job that you believe will get you closer to that goal.

You don't have to be right--if you're wrong just switch. That's what the financial cushion is for. What you shouldn't do is stay at a job where you're constantly stressed or burned out just so you can have more money (unless that's your goal.) Too many biglawyers are afraid to make the jump and instead resign themselves to years, decades, or even an entire lifetime of misery.

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:02 pm

could either or both of you expand on your passive income strategies?

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:34 pm

OP here: Most of my passive income comes from real estate. I worked before law school and was able to buy two condos, which mostly cover my housing expenses. To a lesser extent, I also have some dividend producing stocks/bonds.

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:46 pm

flagging for interest. I'm in a similar position to OP. In the SF Bay Area.

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:18 pm

You're so far past 99% of the posters on here in terms of your portfolio and experience that I'd have to think there is a better forum to provide you with better feedback. Most of the people who will respond to you will be people you should be giving advice to, not vice versa.

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:flagging for interest. I'm in a similar position to OP. In the SF Bay Area.


I'm the poster who made this post. Guess I'll offer my thoughts to refute the jackass who thought we're all suckers.

I know a number of people who have successfully moved from litigation firm jobs to commercial/corporate/product counsel positions. They all say it takes a long time, is somewhat difficult to do, and that the smaller the company, the more likely they'll be willing to train you / let you not know what's going on for a little while. They also said that the skills you've built by litigating all these years are worth a lot, so you will add value once you get there. The best way to get these jobs -- and the trust required to hire you -- is through friendly recommendations. I've been trying that, but am considering doing what you said -- offering a bit less $ to try to jump in. The problem with going in at a low salary is that it's hard to negotiate salary once you've been hired. But maybe you could have the skills after a year to find a job at another startup.

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zot1

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby zot1 » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:45 pm

Government?

mvp99

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby mvp99 » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:46 pm

what kind of passive income?

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:53 pm

OP here: Government is an interesting option, but in-house (especially at a start-up) intrigues me more. I like the idea of becoming a generalist and constantly learning new parts of the law.

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zot1

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby zot1 » Fri Feb 12, 2016 8:02 pm

You can definitely work in several areas of the law depending on which government job you get. Also, you get great hours and benefits. And depending on the job, way over your monthly salary requirement.

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Lincoln

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Lincoln » Fri Feb 12, 2016 8:14 pm

Disclaimer: I am a litigator at a firm -- not in-house -- but I work very closely with some in-house people and also know at least two litigators who left my firm to go in-house.

The downside of dropping "down" to a more junior position is that the in-house ladder at bigger companies is not easy to climb. There is no up-or-out, so it's not given that you will rise in the ranks. Plus when new GCs come in they sometimes bring their own teams, mooting all the work you did to build a relationship with some assistant GC or whatever. In fact, unlike with a firm, lateraling to a different company is often the only way to climb the ranks, especially as you get a little more senior.

Start-ups are typically a little different. For one, more of your pay will be in equity, meaning that your rank doesn't matter as much. Roles are also likely to be more fluid, and as the company grows, your role can, too. For example, I know someone who was a litigator here at my firm, left for an IP counsel role at a start-up, was promoted to a mixed law/biz role with IP and products, and now moved to another tech company doing biz dev.

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Lexaholik

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Lexaholik » Fri Feb 12, 2016 8:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:could either or both of you expand on your passive income strategies?


I've got no exciting ideas. I've thus far avoided real estate because I'm averse to hands on management--I prefer something super passive and can accept lower yields in return. Most of my holdings are in:

1. Stocks: Most of my holdings are in Vanguard index funds which yield about 2% to 3% in qualified dividends. I also hold a couple of individual dividend stocks that yield 3%-6%.
2. Bonds: I've got some i-bonds which have a variable interest rate (tax-free) that's linked to inflation.
3. CDs: I had several 5-year CDs that yielded about 1.6% to 2.25%. Initially I felt weird about tying up my money for so long but after reviewing the fine print, I realized that Ally bank's early withdrawal penalties were so small that it made sense to get the higher yield and pay the penalty. (At least this was the case at the time--they've since increased their EWP) I ended up breaking only some of them--I still have 2 CDs at 1.6% and 2.25%.
4. High yield savings: I keep my savings with Ally, they pay 1% on my cash

The key is to amass sufficient assets so that your paltry 3% yield turns into sizeable cash flow. So for example saving up $2k won't get you much but if you're able to put away $20k, you get $50/month which means you're never paying for your monthly cell phone bill ever again. My yield is currently enough to cover my share of the rent.

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Re: Mid-level biglaw litigation associate considering leaving

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You're so far past 99% of the posters on here in terms of your portfolio and experience that I'd have to think there is a better forum to provide you with better feedback. Most of the people who will respond to you will be people you should be giving advice to, not vice versa.


I agree with this. Unfortunately I've never come across any TLS-like forums for experienced attorneys



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