Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

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Desert Fox

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby Desert Fox » Tue Sep 27, 2016 1:46 pm

I'm fairly sure almost all lawyers could be nurses, but it's a hard job and a dirty job.
Last edited by Desert Fox on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby star fox » Tue Sep 27, 2016 1:47 pm

Cleaning up human adult shit sounds absolutely disgusting

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby whysoseriousbiglaw » Tue Sep 27, 2016 2:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Yeah, I'm looking to make the change now. It should have been telling when my favorite classes I took in law school were accounting and finance.....


To what? I hate biglaw and law in general like most lawyers and want out too. The JD has become a stain, though, so making a move is more difficult than in the past. Also, I agree with you about accounting, non-banking finance, and tech. The vast majority of my friends in those fields enjoy their jobs. The only friend group that is almost universally miserable is the lawyers.

To the dude with the grandpa flying up mountains into his 80s, did he spend his 20s through 60s desk-ridden and sedentary 12-16 hours per day? Honest question.


I have a lot of ideas, but not narrowed it down yet. I've thought about engineering (might be too old to start though), CPA, data science, nursing, high school teacher, actuary (exams are hard as hell though and there are a lot of them, so unlikely), real estate agent, etc. Fwiw, some CPAs have warned me against switching if I hate the law, but it seems like jobs are abundant for them in many more areas, and they can get an inhouse job working 9 to 5 pretty easily. My lazy ass friend from childhood is now a CPA in house - he works normal hours, there are lots of job opps, and he says that he "doesn't hate it or love it"....which is already a huge change from lawyers hating their jobs. It's also more numbers and fewer words (which I much prefer). All of my lawyer friends keep telling me to become a teacher for the "summers off" and for some reason are obsessed with the idea of teaching (one said it was the best time of his life when he taught); if they weren't so money obsessed they'd probably become teachers.

It's hard as hell to switch with a JD unless you do stuff like legal recruiter or work at a firm doing non legal work, but I'm willing to go back to school for a couple years (it will show dedication and also i probably need to take certain classes to switch anyway) if it's cheap/affordable and I end up doing a job that I can tolerate and don't hate on a daily basis. I also want a job that involves more numbers rather than words. If I taught, I'd probably teach math.

What have you considered switching to?


I actually did auditor to inhouse corporate finance before law school. It was a fine job. Went to law school interested in lit. Thought if it didn't work out it could be an MBA substitute. LOL. Obviously I'd know better now, but that info wasn't out there as widely then as now.

I knew I didn't want corporate. I saw what the GC did and it's mindless risk averse paper pushing. Sure, he may sit in on e-board meetings, but lol at the legal side having any real biz input. Anyway, I landed in corporate because you don't always get to pick your career path in biglaw. It's fucking miserable. It's also a lot harder to "just do BD" than this thread says.

I'm early 30s and most of my friends from those days are inhouse finance manager or something equiv. It's low 6 figures, great benefits, and a rock solid 9-5 no weekends with rare deviation, some travel. It's also a lot more interesting than corporate law, inhouse or otherwise, for just about every normal person out there.

Also, and relevant to the posts about rich biglaw partners still working like they do, I found the biz side to have much better people. More normal, more balanced, easier to talk to. So many fucking weirdos in law.

Your list of job considerations sounds like mine. I'm early 30s and almost back to 0, and that actually feels like a good thing (fuck this profession). I've also programmed in the past for fun, and have thought about going back for that. There are a lot of lawyers that feel the same way, but most are risk averse pussies and won't take the chance on a career change. Here's to hoping it works out for us.


Corporate finance sounds like an okay job, much better than law anyway - some of my friends who were CPAs ended up in corp finance in house. It's good hours, decent pay, lot more jobs than law, more mobility, more interesting, etc.

Yeah, transactional work is mindnumbingly boring/paper intensive/tedious/random/process oriented and yet biglaw makes it stressful at the same time.

Are you applying right now to non-legal jobs or will you go back for another (cheap/affordable) degree?

Also, I forgot to mention I've considered law enforcement too (FBI or police) - I need to get into tip top physical shape for the exams though. I doubt I'd be able to pass the exams right now.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby whysoseriousbiglaw » Tue Sep 27, 2016 2:10 pm

Desert Fox wrote:I'm fairly sure almost all lawyers could be nurses, but it's a hard job and a dirty job.


Yes, we could pretty much all do it (unless you're super out of shape/fat and immobile or whatever), but the question is whether we'd like it.

I know a few nurses and they all seem to enjoy their jobs - they work like 35-40 hours a week (some night shifts, which to me isn't that bad since I sleep at like 3 am anyway on the regular basis).

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby whysoseriousbiglaw » Tue Sep 27, 2016 2:15 pm

BernieTrump wrote:
Get out ASAP. You are basically me. I'm top undergraduate econ major, with a 3 year bulge bracket banking analyst line on my resume prior to Harvard lol school. I'm a senior associate now doing niche M&A, which I have always and continue to hate, but I started trying to do BD very early in my career, before I was senior and before I was specialized. I tried extremely hard to get into BD. I applied to startups. I applied to F500. I applied to everything in between. I applied to top tier consulting as a way to try to transition in. I applied through impeccably tailored cover letters. I applied online. I applied through networking. In at least one instance, I had a Cxx executive of a major international company (a client I work with a lot) pass along my resume and a glowing recommendation, and he BCCed me when he did it. He copied the HR person, the head of the department I wanted to join, and at least 3 other people that were multiple levels of executive seniority below him. I still never heard back, even after following up. I went through my undergraduate's career services when I was younger. I reached out to former classmates and alum connections. I probably applied to over 100 positions in this type of work. None of it worked. I received no offers to even sit down with them to formally interview. It is impossible to sneak a JD by HR departments for a true business role now. You would have been better off spending 5 years in drug rehab. Best you can hope for is to take a JD role and try to transition, but it's impossible to know which companies will let that happen.

I say this not to dissuade, but to tell you to move now. It gets harder every second you're not moving.


This is not giving me hope. Would it help to do a Master's in Finance or whatever if you can get into a cheap program? I know some people who have done MBAs after JD, but I don't have the stomach for paying for another expensive education again.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:02 pm

There's been a lot of discussion in here around thinking creatively about more (relatively) affordable housing in different areas of NY, but people in these threads consistently neglect talking about living in New Jersey as if its unfathomable or uncharted territory or something. I am a mid-level associate working in midtown and live in NJ. My commute is 30 minutes by bus or train (have access to both) to Port Authority or Penn Station, and then I can walk or take the subway from there. About an hour door-to-door, and about a half hour car ride home at night after 8 or 9. The most common areas where biglaw associates who do live in NJ, like Hoboken, Weehawken and Jersey City, are getting more expensive and I wouldn't necessarily recommend living there. But there are plenty of areas that are completely under the radar but that offer much more affordable housing (2 bedrooms in new high end developments for around 2100-2500). These areas have great restaurants and shops, and if you have a car, quick access to tons of other nearby towns. Areas such as Rutherford, Montclair, Ridgewood, etc. are all excellent. If you are single/without a roommate and have no idea about the area, moving there as a bright-eyed first year would certainly be a bold move, but once you get your bearings, these areas offer a ton at a much more affordable price. Plus you don't pay NYC taxes so you save another 3.5% there. Sure, I am not spending all of my free time, to the extent I have any, hanging out in MFH, but I find that working here and going in 1-2x a month is sufficient. Life is still tough, but you do feel like you are "living the life" a bit more this way than by what has been described in here to this point, and my quality of life, especially on the weekends, is definitely way higher than most.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:03 pm

whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Yeah, I'm looking to make the change now. It should have been telling when my favorite classes I took in law school were accounting and finance.....


To what? I hate biglaw and law in general like most lawyers and want out too. The JD has become a stain, though, so making a move is more difficult than in the past. Also, I agree with you about accounting, non-banking finance, and tech. The vast majority of my friends in those fields enjoy their jobs. The only friend group that is almost universally miserable is the lawyers.

To the dude with the grandpa flying up mountains into his 80s, did he spend his 20s through 60s desk-ridden and sedentary 12-16 hours per day? Honest question.


I have a lot of ideas, but not narrowed it down yet. I've thought about engineering (might be too old to start though), CPA, data science, nursing, high school teacher, actuary (exams are hard as hell though and there are a lot of them, so unlikely), real estate agent, etc. Fwiw, some CPAs have warned me against switching if I hate the law, but it seems like jobs are abundant for them in many more areas, and they can get an inhouse job working 9 to 5 pretty easily. My lazy ass friend from childhood is now a CPA in house - he works normal hours, there are lots of job opps, and he says that he "doesn't hate it or love it"....which is already a huge change from lawyers hating their jobs. It's also more numbers and fewer words (which I much prefer). All of my lawyer friends keep telling me to become a teacher for the "summers off" and for some reason are obsessed with the idea of teaching (one said it was the best time of his life when he taught); if they weren't so money obsessed they'd probably become teachers.

It's hard as hell to switch with a JD unless you do stuff like legal recruiter or work at a firm doing non legal work, but I'm willing to go back to school for a couple years (it will show dedication and also i probably need to take certain classes to switch anyway) if it's cheap/affordable and I end up doing a job that I can tolerate and don't hate on a daily basis. I also want a job that involves more numbers rather than words. If I taught, I'd probably teach math.

What have you considered switching to?


I actually did auditor to inhouse corporate finance before law school. It was a fine job. Went to law school interested in lit. Thought if it didn't work out it could be an MBA substitute. LOL. Obviously I'd know better now, but that info wasn't out there as widely then as now.

I knew I didn't want corporate. I saw what the GC did and it's mindless risk averse paper pushing. Sure, he may sit in on e-board meetings, but lol at the legal side having any real biz input. Anyway, I landed in corporate because you don't always get to pick your career path in biglaw. It's fucking miserable. It's also a lot harder to "just do BD" than this thread says.

I'm early 30s and most of my friends from those days are inhouse finance manager or something equiv. It's low 6 figures, great benefits, and a rock solid 9-5 no weekends with rare deviation, some travel. It's also a lot more interesting than corporate law, inhouse or otherwise, for just about every normal person out there.

Also, and relevant to the posts about rich biglaw partners still working like they do, I found the biz side to have much better people. More normal, more balanced, easier to talk to. So many fucking weirdos in law.

Your list of job considerations sounds like mine. I'm early 30s and almost back to 0, and that actually feels like a good thing (fuck this profession). I've also programmed in the past for fun, and have thought about going back for that. There are a lot of lawyers that feel the same way, but most are risk averse pussies and won't take the chance on a career change. Here's to hoping it works out for us.


Corporate finance sounds like an okay job, much better than law anyway - some of my friends who were CPAs ended up in corp finance in house. It's good hours, decent pay, lot more jobs than law, more mobility, more interesting, etc.

Yeah, transactional work is mindnumbingly boring/paper intensive/tedious/random/process oriented and yet biglaw makes it stressful at the same time.

Are you applying right now to non-legal jobs or will you go back for another (cheap/affordable) degree?

Also, I forgot to mention I've considered law enforcement too (FBI or police) - I need to get into tip top physical shape for the exams though. I doubt I'd be able to pass the exams right now.


I'm kind of in limbo bc I'll be moving back to low COL secondary with GF in a year. I've thought about trying to make a run at solo practice when we move. I think I'd like the biz aspects. My family ran small businesses growing up, so I'd enjoy that angle. Still law tho. Otherwise a cheap state school CS degree or moving back to inhouse finance is most likely. Unfortunately for most lawyers, though, none of this really works in NYC or similar COL locale.

LE sounds interesting, but I think that window has closed for me. Seems like a great job in the right situation but not so great in many places.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby nealric » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:About an hour door-to-door, and about a half hour car ride home at night after 8 or 9.


An hour commute is awful when you are working so much. That half hour over a Manhattan commute can very easily be the difference between having 30 minutes to unwind after work or having to crash straight into bed. Besides, you have to live in New Jersey.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:14 pm

nealric wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:About an hour door-to-door, and about a half hour car ride home at night after 8 or 9.


An hour commute is awful when you are working so much. That half hour over a Manhattan commute can very easily be the difference between having 30 minutes to unwind after work or having to crash straight into bed. Besides, you have to live in New Jersey.


The commute in the morning isn't so bad - you can always do a bit of work before commuting and also answer emails and such while commuting, and the separation does give you a bit of a chance to unwind, once you get used to it. Plus, people know you are commuting so its not as big of a deal to leave work earlier and pick it up from home, once you're established. And again, if you're crashing straight into bed, that means you'd be leaving work late at night...so you can take a half hour car home. Not bad at all. Living in NJ has been great - tons of BYO restaurants and cute shops, nice parks, etc. Definitely not what people think it is (at least in many areas).

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:25 pm

star fox wrote:A lot of lawyers appear wildly confident in their abilities.

:lol:

Also, I loled at the guy who said he is thinking of leaving to be a CPA or a real estate agent or a high school teacher or ...

These jobs have nothing in common, which makes it clear you are not thinking about what you WANT in a job -- just what you don't want, which appears to be "biglaw." You will never be happy in any profession if you just focus on what you dislike about it. And you'll never make an intelligent decision to change if it's motivated solely by getting out of something you hate.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby whysoseriousbiglaw » Tue Sep 27, 2016 6:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
Yeah, I'm looking to make the change now. It should have been telling when my favorite classes I took in law school were accounting and finance.....


To what? I hate biglaw and law in general like most lawyers and want out too. The JD has become a stain, though, so making a move is more difficult than in the past. Also, I agree with you about accounting, non-banking finance, and tech. The vast majority of my friends in those fields enjoy their jobs. The only friend group that is almost universally miserable is the lawyers.

To the dude with the grandpa flying up mountains into his 80s, did he spend his 20s through 60s desk-ridden and sedentary 12-16 hours per day? Honest question.


I have a lot of ideas, but not narrowed it down yet. I've thought about engineering (might be too old to start though), CPA, data science, nursing, high school teacher, actuary (exams are hard as hell though and there are a lot of them, so unlikely), real estate agent, etc. Fwiw, some CPAs have warned me against switching if I hate the law, but it seems like jobs are abundant for them in many more areas, and they can get an inhouse job working 9 to 5 pretty easily. My lazy ass friend from childhood is now a CPA in house - he works normal hours, there are lots of job opps, and he says that he "doesn't hate it or love it"....which is already a huge change from lawyers hating their jobs. It's also more numbers and fewer words (which I much prefer). All of my lawyer friends keep telling me to become a teacher for the "summers off" and for some reason are obsessed with the idea of teaching (one said it was the best time of his life when he taught); if they weren't so money obsessed they'd probably become teachers.

It's hard as hell to switch with a JD unless you do stuff like legal recruiter or work at a firm doing non legal work, but I'm willing to go back to school for a couple years (it will show dedication and also i probably need to take certain classes to switch anyway) if it's cheap/affordable and I end up doing a job that I can tolerate and don't hate on a daily basis. I also want a job that involves more numbers rather than words. If I taught, I'd probably teach math.

What have you considered switching to?


I actually did auditor to inhouse corporate finance before law school. It was a fine job. Went to law school interested in lit. Thought if it didn't work out it could be an MBA substitute. LOL. Obviously I'd know better now, but that info wasn't out there as widely then as now.

I knew I didn't want corporate. I saw what the GC did and it's mindless risk averse paper pushing. Sure, he may sit in on e-board meetings, but lol at the legal side having any real biz input. Anyway, I landed in corporate because you don't always get to pick your career path in biglaw. It's fucking miserable. It's also a lot harder to "just do BD" than this thread says.

I'm early 30s and most of my friends from those days are inhouse finance manager or something equiv. It's low 6 figures, great benefits, and a rock solid 9-5 no weekends with rare deviation, some travel. It's also a lot more interesting than corporate law, inhouse or otherwise, for just about every normal person out there.

Also, and relevant to the posts about rich biglaw partners still working like they do, I found the biz side to have much better people. More normal, more balanced, easier to talk to. So many fucking weirdos in law.

Your list of job considerations sounds like mine. I'm early 30s and almost back to 0, and that actually feels like a good thing (fuck this profession). I've also programmed in the past for fun, and have thought about going back for that. There are a lot of lawyers that feel the same way, but most are risk averse pussies and won't take the chance on a career change. Here's to hoping it works out for us.


Corporate finance sounds like an okay job, much better than law anyway - some of my friends who were CPAs ended up in corp finance in house. It's good hours, decent pay, lot more jobs than law, more mobility, more interesting, etc.

Yeah, transactional work is mindnumbingly boring/paper intensive/tedious/random/process oriented and yet biglaw makes it stressful at the same time.

Are you applying right now to non-legal jobs or will you go back for another (cheap/affordable) degree?

Also, I forgot to mention I've considered law enforcement too (FBI or police) - I need to get into tip top physical shape for the exams though. I doubt I'd be able to pass the exams right now.


I'm kind of in limbo bc I'll be moving back to low COL secondary with GF in a year. I've thought about trying to make a run at solo practice when we move. I think I'd like the biz aspects. My family ran small businesses growing up, so I'd enjoy that angle. Still law tho. Otherwise a cheap state school CS degree or moving back to inhouse finance is most likely. Unfortunately for most lawyers, though, none of this really works in NYC or similar COL locale.

LE sounds interesting, but I think that window has closed for me. Seems like a great job in the right situation but not so great in many places.


Sounds like a good plan. Yeah, I wish I were younger for LE, although I know a few people who made the switch in their 30s.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby whysoseriousbiglaw » Tue Sep 27, 2016 6:25 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:
star fox wrote:A lot of lawyers appear wildly confident in their abilities.

:lol:

Also, I loled at the guy who said he is thinking of leaving to be a CPA or a real estate agent or a high school teacher or ...

These jobs have nothing in common, which makes it clear you are not thinking about what you WANT in a job -- just what you don't want, which appears to be "biglaw." You will never be happy in any profession if you just focus on what you dislike about it. And you'll never make an intelligent decision to change if it's motivated solely by getting out of something you hate.


Fair enough, but at this point I'd be satisfied with a job that I don't dislike/hate, which is fairly achievable/obtainable with any of those professions IMO (and keep in mind that law has fewer jobs relative to most of those professions I listed, so it's probably easier to get a job in those fields if you are qualified). Guess I should go with the path of least resistance and do something in line with my education background. Most people don't enjoy working, but I don't think most people hate their jobs as much as biglawyers/lawyers do.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby unlicensedpotato » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:13 pm

whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:
star fox wrote:A lot of lawyers appear wildly confident in their abilities.

:lol:

Also, I loled at the guy who said he is thinking of leaving to be a CPA or a real estate agent or a high school teacher or ...

These jobs have nothing in common, which makes it clear you are not thinking about what you WANT in a job -- just what you don't want, which appears to be "biglaw." You will never be happy in any profession if you just focus on what you dislike about it. And you'll never make an intelligent decision to change if it's motivated solely by getting out of something you hate.


Fair enough, but at this point I'd be satisfied with a job that I don't dislike/hate, which is fairly achievable/obtainable with any of those professions IMO (and keep in mind that law has fewer jobs relative to most of those professions I listed, so it's probably easier to get a job in those fields if you are qualified). Guess I should go with the path of least resistance and do something in line with my education background. Most people don't enjoy working, but I don't think most people hate their jobs as much as biglawyers/lawyers do.


I have a huge amount of respect for intelligent people who teach high school. But I think you're really overestimating the quality of life/salary for working as a real estate agent or teacher. Those both sound horrible. "Average Joe" life is better in theory than practice. CPA is probably slightly better but more boring.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:40 pm

whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:
star fox wrote:A lot of lawyers appear wildly confident in their abilities.

:lol:

Also, I loled at the guy who said he is thinking of leaving to be a CPA or a real estate agent or a high school teacher or ...

These jobs have nothing in common, which makes it clear you are not thinking about what you WANT in a job -- just what you don't want, which appears to be "biglaw." You will never be happy in any profession if you just focus on what you dislike about it. And you'll never make an intelligent decision to change if it's motivated solely by getting out of something you hate.


Fair enough, but at this point I'd be satisfied with a job that I don't dislike/hate, which is fairly achievable/obtainable with any of those professions IMO (and keep in mind that law has fewer jobs relative to most of those professions I listed, so it's probably easier to get a job in those fields if you are qualified). Guess I should go with the path of least resistance and do something in line with my education background. Most people don't enjoy working, but I don't think most people hate their jobs as much as biglawyers/lawyers do.

I hear you, and I've been there ... was just about ready to quit for anything about a year ago, and in fact it's my decision to care less about my work and expect to get the boot in the medium term that's made it more tolerable. But in my experience, smart people with generic, strict 9-5, dead end jobs are even more miserable and more aimless than biglawyers. That's still a shitload of your life to spend tethered to a desk, and probably with less independence and respect than you get at a law firm and for a hell of a lot less money.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:51 pm

For the people who want to leave law to become a CPA, lol just lol.

To be taken seriously as a CPA nowadays you need big4 experience on your resume, preferably 4-7 years if you want that sweet 100k 9-5 job.

If you think biglaw is shitty, wait until you are working the same hours all year round for 1/3 your current salary.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby jchiles » Tue Sep 27, 2016 8:29 pm

Law school was a pretty fun way to spend three years of my early-mid 20s, and it was probably the most straightforward way to translate my fairly useless degree into a career with decent earning potential. But I didn't pay for school and don't do big law so I probably have a different perspective.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby RaceJudicata » Tue Sep 27, 2016 8:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For the people who want to leave law to become a CPA, lol just lol.

To be taken seriously as a CPA nowadays you need big4 experience on your resume, preferably 4-7 years if you want that sweet 100k 9-5 job.

If you think biglaw is shitty, wait until you are working the same hours all year round for 1/3 your current salary.


Ya all my friends that went cpa route freakin hate it. And you don't make near big law salary...

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby BernieTrump » Tue Sep 27, 2016 11:48 pm

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Last edited by BernieTrump on Thu May 11, 2017 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby unlicensedpotato » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:15 am

BernieTrump wrote:
There's more to executive level business than that. Strategic and transformative acquisitions and divestitures (deciding what will be the next thing, deciding what to sell), customer acquisition, retention and preferences, finance and financial decisions (what are rates going to do, should we take out long term financing now?), marketing. All of that is making judgment calls based on what you think is likely to happen and what costs are worth what benefits. You think for yourself. You get to exercise thought and creativity. It's not always glamorous. Little is, but you're a prime mover in the results.

But assuming it's just telling people to make all day breakfast. Remember, the lawyers job is to follow around those "boring" decisions and "paper" them with worthless legaleese that will never be read again for the people that really matter. So in this example, it might be boring to decide to serve breakfast. It's more boring to be the McDonald corporate lawyer, who after that decision is made (which he had no input in), spends the next 4 weeks reading every non-standard franchise agreement in existence to make sure no franchisees have any power to claim a breach for radical menu changes. Assuming there are 70 franchise agreements that say that (and you'll be in huge trouble if you and your team miss a right in the 700 contracts you review), you get to draft 70 amendments to those franchises agreements, all of which will need to be 5 pages and negotiated with the franchisees counsel. The amendments will just add "except with respect to All Day Breakfast, as defined in [__]" in the relevant section. This will take months of your life until all hours of the night. This is a styled example (franchisees in real life likely wouldn't have any veto rights), but you get the idea. You follow the "boring" decisions around and literally do the paper work they find so miserable they outsource.

Then you get to go to every English Muffin distributor contract with every place that sources muffins and amend all of those so that the right numbers of muffins can be ordered with less lead time, given the increased demand and demand volatility. Another 50 contracts to be reviewed (and career-limitng mistakes to be made if you miss something in long, boring contracts). Another 50 amendments. When the other side responds to the proposal, you summarize for the real people, who tell you what the documents can say in 5 minutes, though it will take you an hour to draft. Another missed family wedding, but god forbid the Revolving Muffing Agreement, Purchase Agreement, and Plan of Forming a Delicious Merger of Bacon, Egg & Cheese in the Mouths of Americans, dated as of September 13, 2008, as amended on October 18, 2012, with a major distributor says notice must be delivered by noon central time when the new corporate edict does not allow muffin Ks with notice times after noon New York time. You don't decide when or how many muffins you need. You just dutifully scribe the details of what the grown ups tell you. They hate you for it and think everything you're doing is a waste of time.


Thanks, that does make sense. And I definitely agree that lawyers are generally just papering stuff over decisions that already "happened." Right now I think I'm more interested in legal issues than business issues but that will probably change (and acknowledging that there are rarely true legal "issues," if that only includes things that, unresolved, would prevent the business side from doing what it wants to do).

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby BernieTrump » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:31 am

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Last edited by BernieTrump on Thu May 11, 2017 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2016 1:20 am

I interned in-house my 1L summer so these comments are based solely on what I observed during my limited time inside a F500 corporation and speaking with the attorneys who worked there about their jobs.

Corporate in-house attorneys probably have a little more discretion on decision-making within a corporation than BernieTrump presented. A not infrequent example and one I saw during my time interning is the corporation wants to end a relationship with a vendor/supplier for whatever reason. The other party is doing a bad job, they're dealing with competitors, etc. However, the contract with that other says you gotta stick with them for X amount of years. They turn to Legal and say "can we break it?" For the business people, they may think of Legal as the "Secretary of No" because often times the answer is "No, the contract says we have to stick with them for X amount of time." But of course there's usually wiggle room. Maybe you can take an aggressive stance and say they breached in accordance to the provision in the contract saying the corporation can get out of the deal if the other party breached. At a firm, you're always just giving advice, but in-house they may defer to you to make that final decision on if you end the contract or not. This will involve ultimately making a judgment call - how likely is it they are in breach? How likely is it they would raise a fuss about it if you end it? How much would a likely quick settlement be? How important is it to get out of the contract? This is ultimately a legal issue at the end of the day and why the corporation has in-house attorneys to begin with. I think, based on my conversations as an intern, that in-house attorneys are much more part of their team and will be deferred to on at least some decisions for the corporations when compared to outside counsel. I think most business people see lawyers as having at least a pretty important role within a company and only the most arrogant of individuals believe the lawyers to be nothing more than useless, wasteful scribes.

Again - not a real attorney so take what I say with a grain of salt.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby JenDarby » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:05 am

In-house at a large bank we definitely had the ability to end relationships with vendors if they were a nightmare to deal with in negotiations or throughout the relationship. It usually didn't get much pushback from the business side since there are almost always other suitable options. Generally we could push out players in the RFP stage because a relationship began as you can tell pretty quickly when you won't want to deal with another company. If it was the business side wanting to get out of a contract or relationship, they also deferred to us as to risks and costs and we could say "No."

We also had the ability to stop certain deals from going forward based on legal roadblocks. If it was a big enough deal, then it just meant more time negotiating to find a middle ground along with written approvals from heads of desks accepting the shortfalls, which they generally didn't want to provide unless they knew it was a sure thing money maker. We tried not to kill deals, of course, because our bonuses were tied to the banks profitability.

In-house in capital markets we didn't decide business points or numbers, but to the extent that they involved legal issues we were involved in all meetings with the business side to find a suitable compromise for BOTH SIDES. For instance if I was working on an ISDA then I worked with the FO and risk to determine suitable thresholds, whether initial margin was necessary, appropriate eligible collateral, NAV triggers, etc.

That being said, I don't think there's anything that stimulating or sexy about being a corporate lawyer. A fair amount of it is negotiating over issues and hypotheticals with other lawyers that almost certainly won't come into play. But I can't really complain.
Last edited by JenDarby on Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby unlicensedpotato » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:11 am

BernieTrump wrote:
unlicensedpotato wrote:
Thanks, that does make sense. And I definitely agree that lawyers are generally just papering stuff over decisions that already "happened." Right now I think I'm more interested in legal issues than business issues but that will probably change (and acknowledging that there are rarely true legal "issues," if that only includes things that, unresolved, would prevent the business side from doing what it wants to do).


In 8-9 years of practice, I've seen one real legal issue that might have real world results. Maybe two. Once or twice a year there will be a theoretical issue that lawyers will on all sides will jerk off to, mostly because their job is so boring. They'll play it up, but everyone realizes no matter what happens the needle does not move for the fundamental deal.

Practice isn't law school. 99.99% of what your write is from forms or documents that have been used 1000000 times before, because everyone knows them and judges all react the same way to them and the law is settled about them. You don't get paid to navigate the outer reaches of what's possible. You get paid to routinely close the deal without issues that end up in case books. Everything legal is done a certain way because it's middle fairway. You'll spend almost all of your time, even as a partner on the nuts and bolts (formulas, calculations, covenants, representations) that simply say what they say, and your job is to make sure that reflects the business deal the grown ups want. This is the example of what time you need to get notice of muffin deliveries above, noon or 1pm, from the in-house example. In biglaw, this mean you're reading merger agreement reps or purchase agreement reps and making sure that your guys can give that "no recent transactions with shareholders or other affiliates above 500K" rep/covenant, when they initially wanted a 750k threshold. You don't even know what the relevant transactions are half the time. You certainly don't know where they're getting the numbers for their formulas or the adjustments they need on those. It's not your job. You just ask, and plug in what they tell you as their scribe.


Completely agree. I'm in transactional tax and tax issues should never kill a deal. It's just a matter of working through them. But I wouldn't currently be a decider on either the legal or the business side. And right now I enjoy the macro issues (figuring out what the rule for everyone is/should be and why, then how does that rule apply to the client) more than the micro issues (what is best for our company and why).

Since I've been working there have been probably three significant developments that have altered business arrangements in ways you can't just paper over retroactively. You have to explain the consequences and provide new solutions. Recently was the Chancery Court holding on the Williams/ETE merger. The lawyers are clearly playing with real money in that one.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby unlicensedpotato » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:I interned in-house my 1L summer so these comments are based solely on what I observed during my limited time inside a F500 corporation and speaking with the attorneys who worked there about their jobs.

Corporate in-house attorneys probably have a little more discretion on decision-making within a corporation than BernieTrump presented. A not infrequent example and one I saw during my time interning is the corporation wants to end a relationship with a vendor/supplier for whatever reason. The other party is doing a bad job, they're dealing with competitors, etc. However, the contract with that other says you gotta stick with them for X amount of years. They turn to Legal and say "can we break it?" For the business people, they may think of Legal as the "Secretary of No" because often times the answer is "No, the contract says we have to stick with them for X amount of time." But of course there's usually wiggle room. Maybe you can take an aggressive stance and say they breached in accordance to the provision in the contract saying the corporation can get out of the deal if the other party breached. At a firm, you're always just giving advice, but in-house they may defer to you to make that final decision on if you end the contract or not. This will involve ultimately making a judgment call - how likely is it they are in breach? How likely is it they would raise a fuss about it if you end it? How much would a likely quick settlement be? How important is it to get out of the contract? This is ultimately a legal issue at the end of the day and why the corporation has in-house attorneys to begin with. I think, based on my conversations as an intern, that in-house attorneys are much more part of their team and will be deferred to on at least some decisions for the corporations when compared to outside counsel. I think most business people see lawyers as having at least a pretty important role within a company and only the most arrogant of individuals believe the lawyers to be nothing more than useless, wasteful scribes.

Again - not a real attorney so take what I say with a grain of salt.


JenDarby wrote:In-house at a large bank we definitely had the ability to end relationships with vendors if they were a nightmare to deal with in negotiations or throughout the relationship. It usually didn't get much pushback from the business side since there are almost always other suitable options. Generally we could push out players in the RFP stage because a relationship began as you can tell pretty quickly when you won't want to deal with another company. If it was the business side wanting to get out of a contract or relationship, they also deferred to us as to risks and costs and we could say "No."

We also had the ability to stop certain deals from going forward based on legal roadblocks. If it was a big enough deal, then it just meant more time negotiating to find a middle ground along with written approvals from heads of desks accepting the shortfalls, which they generally didn't want to provide unless they knew it was a sure thing money maker. We tried not to kill deals, of course, because our bonuses were tied to the banks profitability.

In-house in capital markets we didn't decide business points or numbers, but to the extent that they involved legal issues we were involved in all meetings with the business side to find a suitable compromise for BOTH SIDES. For instance if I was working on an ISDA then I worked with the FO and risk to determine suitable thresholds, whether initial margin was necessary, appropriate eligible collateral, NAV triggers, etc.

That being said, I don't think there's anything that stimulating or sexy about being a corporate lawyer. A fair amount of it is negotiating over issues and hypotheticals with other lawyers that almost certainly won't come into play. But I can't really complain.


Thanks, that's good to hear that in-house people are involved in decision-making and make some decisions. Yeah it seems like whether you're at a firm or in-house, you will have to say "no" occasionally, but it's expected that you can come up with a solution for the vast majority of issues.

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Re: Why do a lot of biglaw lawyers say they're not "living the life" financially-wise?

Postby PeanutsNJam » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:01 am

If you hate being in biglaw because you don't get to call any shots and just do what other people tell you, how are comp sci/nursing/teaching/CPA any different? Shot callers are like activist hedge funds, venture cap, or just like any entrepreneurial thing. Or try to get elected onto a board of directors.

These things either fall into your lap by dumb luck, or you went to some preftigious undergrad, booked your finance degree, and then went to some preftigious MBA. I mean, I don't think there's anything stopping a biglolyer from doing an MBA, other than cost and an aversion to more schooling. Although, I suspect even at these jobs, unless you're a firm partner, you're still doing due diligence and grunt work.



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