Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

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rpupkin

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Jul 12, 2016 9:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To narrow the contingencies, let's also assume Associate will be working in litigation, is capable of doing high-quality work reasonably efficiently, and that there will be no shortage of work at the firm.

Twist: the bolded means you will work more hours, not fewer. Efficient, high-quality associates are hard to find. If that really is you, everyone in lit will want you working on their shit. You'll be slammed constantly.

Often, the lit associates with the best big law "lifestyles" are mediocre workers/writers whom no one really wants to work with. Nevertheless, these associates are allowed to hang on for 3 to 5 years before getting the talk. Some of these folks get away with billing 1500 hours (or even less) a year for years. These are the true geniuses.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 8:37 am

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:To narrow the contingencies, let's also assume Associate will be working in litigation, is capable of doing high-quality work reasonably efficiently, and that there will be no shortage of work at the firm.

Twist: the bolded means you will work more hours, not fewer. Efficient, high-quality associates are hard to find. If that really is you, everyone in lit will want you working on their shit. You'll be slammed constantly.

Often, the lit associates with the best big law "lifestyles" are mediocre workers/writers whom no one really wants to work with. Nevertheless, these associates are allowed to hang on for 3 to 5 years before getting the talk. Some of these folks get away with billing 1500 hours (or even less) a year for years. These are the true geniuses.

OP here - I'll be at a firm where partnership is a reasonably realistic goal, assuming you're perceived as being very good at your job. So the goal is to establish and maintain that perception. I recognize that doing so may wind up being beyond my reach, but let's just assume I'm capable of being very good at my job if I put the time in since the discussion is moot otherwise.

Realistically, I think I'd be willing to give 2500-2800 hours all-in to work annually (averaging around 55 hours per week), which would probably put my billing around 2000-2400 assuming there's plenty of work available and I stay efficient. I feel that this amount of time is a fair contribution to the firm, and honestly, I would like I was sacrificing being with my family if I worked more than that.

My concern is that I'll have to say no to work to keep my hours within reasonable bounds. Do you have any advice for gracefully turning down work?

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:19 am

I do finance in a secondary market. I'm also a single mom with a special needs kid who is old enough to notice when mom is and is not around. I'm not sure that averaging 55 hours per week is a realistic goal, and I doubt that you'll be as efficient as you think you will be; if that's a firm line, depending on what type of hour requirement you have, it may not be a great fit for your lifestyle.

My partner is big on face time, so I try to be here when he is. Usually come in later in the morning between 9:30 and 10:30 since he gets in late. This buys me a little more time with my kid in the morning, if only so that we can eat breakfast together. I am usually here until about 7 or 8. I don't live that close to my office, so by the time I get home, I have at most 2 hours with him. Most of that time it spent with me sitting on the couch because I am exhausted instead of actually interacting with him as I would want to.

The best things that I have figured out are to try to match my partner's schedule so that I'm not physically in my office more than I need to be. If my partner leaves early, I try to leave early. If I know he's going to be out for the day, I try to keep my day short.

For turning down work gracefully -- someone already answered this one. The best thing would be having a partner who can step in and control your workflow. If you don't have that, be upfront with people: tell them you'd be happy to do it, but you have x, y and z, so if they are on a tight deadline, you may not be able to deliver a timely, quality work product. Usually, they will go to someone else if they need it urgently or they are fine with giving you a couple of extra days.

FWIW, if spending time with your kids is something you value, all of these tips won't be helpful. The difficulty of the work and the hours pale in comparison to the overwhelming sense of guilt that I have about not being there every day for my kid. I worry whether my kid will resent me for not being there for him. I don't like that, on top of before and after school care, I still need a nanny to pick him up every day and do all of the things with him that I should be doing. I feel an enormous amount of weight over whether I am making the best decision for the both of us by doing this. I felt awful when my kid told me that, when he grows up, he doesn't want to be a lawyer because he sees how much I work and how little I have time for other things.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:43 am

OP here -

Good info in above post, thanks.

My sense from my summer at the firm is that it's something close to a "free market" system in which I won't have a designated partner, but will instead have twenty people liable to give me work at any given moment. So the advice about communicating up front about deadlines and workload is well-taken.

I recognize that the 55 hour average may not be realistic -- thus, the impetus for this thread asking for advice. I suppose I'll do what it takes to be well-regarded, and if I find that the hours are unmanageable, I'll evaluate my options.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:17 am

55 hour average is actually quite realistic... Just realize that it may well be 100 hours one week and 40 the next with 20 of that non-billable where you are showing up just to be there for 8 hours. To put it in perspective, I'm 75% efficient this month counting 8 hours off for July 4, 82% without counting the 4th, and that's with a couple of pro-bono matters not being counted as billable in my reporting mechanism. However, last month I was only 37% efficient (I took a vacation), but it would have only been 52% efficient even with the vacation taken out. This is on pace for 255 working hours or 191 billable hours this month.

One problem you will have is that you can try to be efficient all you want, but I had a day last week where I only billed 3 hours working a 12 hour day because I was pulled in to do a new client interview/pitch and then a partner asked me to write a client alert, and then I was opening up a new pro-bono matter.

I try to see my kids for at least 1-2 hours a day on one end of my day. If I stayed late the night before, I will go in after they are up and we had breakfast if I can. If I can get away in the evening, I try to get home in time to bathe them and read their bedtime stories. Not sure I could balance it if my wife also worked full time though. Weekend work will usually be done early morning or late night after the kids are asleep, and I take naps with them on the weekend to try to catch up a bit on sleep...

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jul 13, 2016 2:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Realistically, I think I'd be willing to give 2500-2800 hours all-in to work annually (averaging around 55 hours per week), which would probably put my billing around 2000-2400 assuming there's plenty of work available and I stay efficient. I feel that this amount of time is a fair contribution to the firm, and honestly, I would like I was sacrificing being with my family if I worked more than that.

I think that's basically realistic--though keep in mind that "fair contribution to the firm" and "gunning for partner" are two different things. If partnership is your goal, I think your total 2500-2800 estimate (for total work hours) is probably low. And, as others have pointed out, a 55-60 hour a week average does not mean that you will be working 55-60 hours a week. You'll have some weeks where you work 20-30 hours and others where you work 80+ hours. I think that's what makes big law so hard for parents. You'll have some weeks where you can spend plenty of time with your kids. And you'll have some weeks where you basically don't see your kids at all. If you're not ok with that, you may want to reconsider your career path.

ETA: As for your request for advice about how to gracefully turn down work, I think you're already thinking about this the wrong way. When you're a junior associate, you can turn down work if you're busy. But if you're gunning for partner, you're going to need to start taking ownership over major parts of cases early in your career. You can't "turn down work" when you're in charge of motion practice for a case and you need to say until 11 p.m. for several nights straight to meet client and court deadlines. Your problem won't be that partners/senior associates are assigning you too many discrete tasks. Your problem is going to be that you will be responsible for major chunks of a case, and you're going to have to do what needs to be done. It's that kind of responsibility that may make it impractical to see your kids on a regular basis year-round.
Last edited by rpupkin on Wed Jul 13, 2016 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 2:32 pm

Don't work biglaw?

Biglaw isn't that much better in secondary markets guys....

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 3:36 pm

rpupkin wrote:You'll have some weeks where you work 20-30 hours and others where you work 80+ hours. I think that's what makes big law so hard for parents. You'll have some weeks where you can spend plenty of time with your kids. And you'll have some weeks where you basically don't see your kids at all.

I get this (I sampled the lifestyle as a summer), and I'm fine with it. My spouse will have a consistent and somewhat lighter schedule, so we can make the variance work.

You can't "turn down work" when you're in charge of motion practice for a case and you need to say until 11 p.m. for several nights straight to meet client and court deadlines. Your problem won't be that partners/senior associates are assigning you too many discrete tasks. Your problem is going to be that you will be responsible for major chunks of a case, and you're going to have to do what needs to be done. It's that kind of responsibility that may make it impractical to see your kids on a regular basis year-round.

I'm fine cranking out 18 hour days when work gets busy. What has me a bit concerned was seeing attorneys who seemed to be working 14 hour days consistently (presumably weekends as well) because they were were responsible for X cases at once, plus discrete tasks here and there.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 3:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:You'll have some weeks where you work 20-30 hours and others where you work 80+ hours. I think that's what makes big law so hard for parents. You'll have some weeks where you can spend plenty of time with your kids. And you'll have some weeks where you basically don't see your kids at all.

I get this (I sampled the lifestyle as a summer), and I'm fine with it. My spouse will have a consistent and somewhat lighter schedule, so we can make the variance work.

You can't "turn down work" when you're in charge of motion practice for a case and you need to say until 11 p.m. for several nights straight to meet client and court deadlines. Your problem won't be that partners/senior associates are assigning you too many discrete tasks. Your problem is going to be that you will be responsible for major chunks of a case, and you're going to have to do what needs to be done. It's that kind of responsibility that may make it impractical to see your kids on a regular basis year-round.

I'm fine cranking out 18 hour days when work gets busy. What has me a bit concerned was seeing attorneys who seemed to be working 14 hour days consistently (presumably weekends as well) because they were were responsible for X cases at once, plus discrete tasks here and there.


Welcome to biglaw!

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2016 4:29 pm

1. Come to terms with the reality that you won't see your kids while in big law.

2. Go corporate.

3. Dive deep into work for 3-5 years and develop your skills.

4. Exit to a more reasonable job with better hours and make up for lost time.

You're fighting what is most likely a losing battle. You'll also make your life more difficult by trying to balance that which cannot be balanced.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby sprezz » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:18 pm

WhiteCollarBlueShirt wrote:(1) VPN + laptop > VDI with or without a laptop (tech is your primary savior (and enemy))


just curious. why do you prefer VPN? we have the option of either and i have always used VDI so i don't have to carry the laptop home.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby SportsFan » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:46 pm

Do what I do and work for the government. Sure ya get paid like crap, but at least I've never had to stay past 6.

Really though, there are definitely a lot of people here (including my boss) who lateraled here from biglaw once they had/wanted kids. It's always an option after you do the biglaw thing for a year or two.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:00 pm

Yeah, unless your firm's networks are set-up in a completely odd way, or your VDI software sucks, there is no way VPN is faster and more reliable than VDI. I work from home nearly every day and basically want to die on the rare occasions than the VDI servers go down. Although I do use the VDI on my firm laptop, not a home computer.

That being said, I basically cannot convince attorneys I work with to use the virtual desktop instead. It is like they have some aversion to it because it looks different. The one downside is you cannot access local files, but you can just save that shit on your network drive instead.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:48 pm

I have a 45-60 minute train ride so firm laptop on the train accounts for probably 4-10 hours billed a week on the train. Huge difference for time with kids :)

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby WhiteCollarBlueShirt » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:15 am

sprezz wrote:
WhiteCollarBlueShirt wrote:(1) VPN + laptop > VDI with or without a laptop (tech is your primary savior (and enemy))


just curious. why do you prefer VPN? we have the option of either and i have always used VDI so i don't have to carry the laptop home.


We have both as well, and a few older partners prefer VDI for the same reason. However, VDI is contingent on having a strong connection and when it times out it can be very annoying... VPN, I can work on copies locally without internet, I can be timed off my connection and it doesn't matter, and I am never in need of nearly as fast internet to get the job done (I also live in a relatively rural area with a decently long commute to the office).

For me the calculus when it was VDI or nothing (and granted this was a particularly awful VDI system) was to stay late or return to the office lest I be booted off the system or develop some sort of lag.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby WhiteCollarBlueShirt » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:17 am

Anonymous User wrote:Yeah, unless your firm's networks are set-up in a completely odd way, or your VDI software sucks, there is no way VPN is faster and more reliable than VDI. I work from home nearly every day and basically want to die on the rare occasions than the VDI servers go down. Although I do use the VDI on my firm laptop, not a home computer.

That being said, I basically cannot convince attorneys I work with to use the virtual desktop instead. It is like they have some aversion to it because it looks different. The one downside is you cannot access local files, but you can just save that shit on your network drive instead.


Sounds good if you always have internet access at all times, sounds terrible if you don't live in a major city and travel a lot. And my old VDI software did suck, firm-wide issue there.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby bwh8813 » Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:54 am

I thought this might be of interest to this thread. The Top 10 Family Friendly Firms according to the Yale Law Women, along with various categories and top firms in NY/CA/DC.

http://yalelawwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Family-Friendly-Firms-Report-2016.pdf

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 15, 2016 11:16 am

bwh8813 wrote:I thought this might be of interest to this thread. The Top 10 Family Friendly Firms according to the Yale Law Women, along with various categories and top firms in NY/CA/DC.

http://yalelawwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Family-Friendly-Firms-Report-2016.pdf


Being at one of these firms, not sure how the methodology works. I mean the firm has many juniors who are slow and stick around, so I guess the hours may be a bonus, but its sort of a face-time place and some associates are very busy, so I'd think its probably more practice group related than firm related at most places?

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby fistfullofdollhairs » Fri Jul 15, 2016 11:47 am

Really loving this thread. I have a 10 and a 7 year old and Biglaw time demands are giving me serious pause. Thankfully, my partner is a software engineer with flexible hours so somebody will be home. I would like that person to be me sometimes.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby sprezz » Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:11 pm

WhiteCollarBlueShirt wrote:
sprezz wrote:
WhiteCollarBlueShirt wrote:(1) VPN + laptop > VDI with or without a laptop (tech is your primary savior (and enemy))


just curious. why do you prefer VPN? we have the option of either and i have always used VDI so i don't have to carry the laptop home.


We have both as well, and a few older partners prefer VDI for the same reason. However, VDI is contingent on having a strong connection and when it times out it can be very annoying... VPN, I can work on copies locally without internet, I can be timed off my connection and it doesn't matter, and I am never in need of nearly as fast internet to get the job done (I also live in a relatively rural area with a decently long commute to the office).

For me the calculus when it was VDI or nothing (and granted this was a particularly awful VDI system) was to stay late or return to the office lest I be booted off the system or develop some sort of lag.


appreciate the response. i have really good internet so that explains a lot. i do get annoyed that i can't access my personal word templates on VDI (saving those on our network is the clusterest of fucks) but that's the only thing i save locally and working around it is easy enough with 5 minutes of planning before i leave work. although now i know i can use VPN to work around even that!

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby ruski » Fri Jul 15, 2016 1:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have a 45-60 minute train ride so firm laptop on the train accounts for probably 4-10 hours billed a week on the train. Huge difference for time with kids :)


this doesn't make any sense. it's not like you have to reach 40 billed hours a week and once you do, you can stop working. you work until you finish the assignment. working on the train is painfully slow. any agreement I'm working on, i'll have at least 3 other documents open (one or more redlines, notes from a call, partner markup, precedent document, term sheet, etc). working 10 hours on the train will probably equal what I can do in the office in 1 hour. for sake of sanity, probably worth it just to relax on train, you really aren't saving yourself that much time.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby 1styearlateral » Fri Jul 15, 2016 1:07 pm

ruski wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have a 45-60 minute train ride so firm laptop on the train accounts for probably 4-10 hours billed a week on the train. Huge difference for time with kids :)


this doesn't make any sense. it's not like you have to reach 40 billed hours a week and once you do, you can stop working. you work until you finish the assignment. working on the train is painfully slow. any agreement I'm working on, i'll have at least 3 other documents open (one or more redlines, notes from a call, partner markup, precedent document, term sheet, etc). working 10 hours on the train will probably equal what I can do in the office in 1 hour. for sake of sanity, probably worth it just to relax on train, you really aren't saving yourself that much time.

My father works on the train and I have no clue how he does it. It's loud, bumpy, constant stops, etc. I'm with you on this one.

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Re: Advice for Biglaw Associates Who Like Seeing Their Kids?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:11 pm

1styearlateral wrote:
ruski wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have a 45-60 minute train ride so firm laptop on the train accounts for probably 4-10 hours billed a week on the train. Huge difference for time with kids :)


this doesn't make any sense. it's not like you have to reach 40 billed hours a week and once you do, you can stop working. you work until you finish the assignment. working on the train is painfully slow. any agreement I'm working on, i'll have at least 3 other documents open (one or more redlines, notes from a call, partner markup, precedent document, term sheet, etc). working 10 hours on the train will probably equal what I can do in the office in 1 hour. for sake of sanity, probably worth it just to relax on train, you really aren't saving yourself that much time.

My father works on the train and I have no clue how he does it. It's loud, bumpy, constant stops, etc. I'm with you on this one.


I just plan around it. Things I do on the train tend to be things like typing up meeting minutes, reading things and taking notes, drafting patent claims (if I'm doing any of that, small part of my practice), etc. I try to find something that I can do without needing to switch between more than 2 views and save that for the train. If I'm exhausted I'll just do it at home, but I can usually find something I can do pretty efficiently for 45 minutes on the train. For example, reading and marking up a contract is usually perfect for the train if I have a print out, because I don't necessarily want to sit there thinking up the exact wording for everything I flag in the first run through, often times I'd rather just mark it up with flags first to prioritize since you don't have time to negotiate every little point.



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