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

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wannabe_baller

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

Postby wannabe_baller » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:20 am

Interesting discussion in this thread. I thought I'd chime in and provide my side of story, since this thread seems to talk about any non-law corporate jobs in a vaguely positive light without any sound basis.

My background: attended low Ivy undergrad, graduated with econ major several years ago. My undergrad gpa was absolute trash and I barely graduated. (too much drinking, lol) With my shitty gpa, I couldn't score any legit internship in finance or consulting, which led to the inevitable status of unemployment after college.

I lived in the basement of my parents' home for like 6 months after college, thinking about what I should do with my life. I applied to tons of jobs, to no avail. At the time I thought the path of least resistance given my situation was to do either law school or MBA to 'reset' my career options. Well, since top MBA programs require several years of quality work experience, law school became the default option. I studied for LSAT for 3 months and scored 172. I applied to all of T14 several years back, but given my crap gpa, I only got into Georgetown law full sticker.

At about the same time, I got lucky and scored a back office corporate job paying 60k a year. (think low-end implementation consulting shops like Accenture, etc NOT front office strategy consulting like McKinsey, etc) At the time, I made the right call taking the job offer and turning down law school. I thought...In the end, I could always go back to law or mba grad school in future, if I so desired.

I REALLY hated my time working at this body-shop called 'consulting'. I've found out, based on my experience, that any 'consulting' gig outside of top echelons of pure biz strategy consulting shops (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Oliver Wyman, Parthenon, etc) are just glorified tech implementation gigs that frown upon any sort of creativity, critical thinking, or logical thinking from their employees. During my stint at this consulting shop, I've met fair share of coworkers, bosses, etc that would struggle with 7th grade level algebra. Well, now that I think about it, you wouldn't need any sort of intellect to do this low level job, anyway.. You just go out there and travel to random client sites, talk to clients all day about some boring operations / technology issues, hear what they wanna do, and take notes all day. Then you just write up endless 'requirement' documentations and make some random PPT slides summarizing all the shit that need to get done, and rinse & repeat.

There was one brutal project where I was staffed on a 6 month gig in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, on 'testing' the client's new tech implementation project. Taking notes here and there, testing to see if the new system working well or documenting defects here and there, and writing up 'test cases'. I felt no growth of any kind in my skill-set doing such a dead-end job like this. I felt brain-dead. To make things worse, in low-level consulting gigs, every waking fucking second of your life is being 'graded' or 'reviewed' by someone else for your performance. Every word you spit out in front of a client is being carefully monitored by at least one superior for performance review purposes. You can do everything right and say all the right things in front of a client and kiss all the asses, but if your boss doesn't like you at personal level, or if the client brings any sort of complaint with the firm or ANY aspect of the project, then all the higher-ups are busy identifying which of the under dogs to put the blames onto. It was just way too fucking political and toxic of an environment to work in. One day my boss walked into the cubicle where I spent 5 straight weeks of writing 'test cases' for the client's new IT system, and he asked me why I looked so fucking depressed. My reply: "This job fucking sucks".

I stayed at that consulting job for 2 years and got an offer to join a hedge fund in their back office, as a data analytics associate. To this day, it remains a mystery how I pulled such a dramatic move. Looking back, this offer has been my life saver. I've been here now close to 4 years. I got promoted once and got pay raises steadily.. now I make 120k a year, working 40 hours a week. And unlike my last job, here I got to build some tangible skill sets. I work with excel spreadsheets all day manipulating large quantity of data. I became an excel wizard, at modeling things out, using VBA, etc. Also, I got to play with the firm's database all day because I need to extract and manipulate large quantity of firm data. As a result, I became very strong in databased mgmt and SQL query skills. I also have experiences using SAS and Python, to run ad hoc analytics reports on firm's client segmentation models, etc. The work I do now is much more interesting and analytical than before with way less stress and no bullshit office politics.

My firm reimburses up to 20k a year in tuition for any sort of grad school program that qualified employees pursue. Last year I thought since I work in finance industry, it would benefit me to learn all the issues from compliance and legal stand point relevant to the industry. My thought process was.. since it is almost impossible to break into front office investment role at the fund I work at (or any other legit hedge fund these days...), doing MBA would be pointless, and since the firm is willing to pay, I should just do law school part time and see what happens. I enrolled in the local law school part time program last year. And not too much to my surprise, I hated it. I thought the classes were too theoretical and not practical enough. So I just decided to drop out after 1st semester.

I shifted my gear and began taking classes in stats, CS, and math early this year. My plan is to do part time masters in data science in near future. My goal would be to gain knowledge and skill set in stats and hard core programming, in a practical fashion, relevant to the industry. I predict that this skill-set would be in huge demand by employers in future. Based on talking to multiple headhunters in NYC, I got the impression that if you have the right balance of communications skills and the technical skills (stats, programming) with decent work experience, there are tons of jobs for managerial roles in analytics department, client services department, reporting department, at XYZ corporations for 200k/yr salary and up. And this line of work is, IMO, interesting and thought-provoking.

I would just say, if you really hate your current career as a lawyer, you have to do something about it. Life is too short, man. It's my belief that you have to work in a career that you feel optimistic about and feel passionate about. Otherwise, you will be very sorry in your deathbed, wishing you manned up and did things to better your situation when you were young. My last consulting gig could pay me half a million bucks a year to come back, but I wouldn't even consider taking that gig. (or any gigs like that)

If you enjoy data analysis and programming, I think master's degree in data science may be your thing. I am almost pushing towards 30 years old now, but I don't think it's too late to do this. Last time I took Calc was when I was in high school! I don't remember jack shit now lol. But still, I am re-taking and re-learning all the basic math and stats knowledge so that I can get into this masters program and learn the skills that I want to gain.

Good luck to all..

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jbagelboy

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

Postby jbagelboy » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:41 am

There are a lot of things I appreciate about the post above--particularly how there are alternatives to law in the business world that are often more worthwhile than law school (although its easier with a BA from Dartmouth than UC riverside). I take issue with the description of the consulting sector, which is not entirely useless but ultimately flawed. OP got arguably one of the worst consulting gigs that could still be considered in that field -- IT consulting. It is flatly false that if you aren't at McKinsey, you're not doing interesting work. (Also, Accenture is an amazing firm--its not an IT shop.) I worked as an analyst before law school and this does not fit my impressions.

For example, there are great opportunities in economic consulting at places like Analysis Group or Cornerstone that attract high quality talent with intellectual horsepower. There are project advisory firms like Navigant that place analysts on interesting international projects with great client connections. And there are firms that do a mix of strategy and supply chain logistics (scheduling, expert testimony, ect.) that offer a wide range of different projects if you're willing to travel. In other words, if you are stuck between "tech implementation" and so-called 'pure' strategy shops, you aren't looking deep enough into the field and there are a lot of decent paying ($60k+), intellectually demanding firms taking college grads (if you apply fall senior year and nail your case interviews) between the two.

whysoseriousbiglaw

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

Postby whysoseriousbiglaw » Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:53 am

wannabe_baller wrote:Interesting discussion in this thread. I thought I'd chime in and provide my side of story, since this thread seems to talk about any non-law corporate jobs in a vaguely positive light without any sound basis.

My background: attended low Ivy undergrad, graduated with econ major several years ago. My undergrad gpa was absolute trash and I barely graduated. (too much drinking, lol) With my shitty gpa, I couldn't score any legit internship in finance or consulting, which led to the inevitable status of unemployment after college.

I lived in the basement of my parents' home for like 6 months after college, thinking about what I should do with my life. I applied to tons of jobs, to no avail. At the time I thought the path of least resistance given my situation was to do either law school or MBA to 'reset' my career options. Well, since top MBA programs require several years of quality work experience, law school became the default option. I studied for LSAT for 3 months and scored 172. I applied to all of T14 several years back, but given my crap gpa, I only got into Georgetown law full sticker.

At about the same time, I got lucky and scored a back office corporate job paying 60k a year. (think low-end implementation consulting shops like Accenture, etc NOT front office strategy consulting like McKinsey, etc) At the time, I made the right call taking the job offer and turning down law school. I thought...In the end, I could always go back to law or mba grad school in future, if I so desired.

I REALLY hated my time working at this body-shop called 'consulting'. I've found out, based on my experience, that any 'consulting' gig outside of top echelons of pure biz strategy consulting shops (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Oliver Wyman, Parthenon, etc) are just glorified tech implementation gigs that frown upon any sort of creativity, critical thinking, or logical thinking from their employees. During my stint at this consulting shop, I've met fair share of coworkers, bosses, etc that would struggle with 7th grade level algebra. Well, now that I think about it, you wouldn't need any sort of intellect to do this low level job, anyway.. You just go out there and travel to random client sites, talk to clients all day about some boring operations / technology issues, hear what they wanna do, and take notes all day. Then you just write up endless 'requirement' documentations and make some random PPT slides summarizing all the shit that need to get done, and rinse & repeat.

There was one brutal project where I was staffed on a 6 month gig in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, on 'testing' the client's new tech implementation project. Taking notes here and there, testing to see if the new system working well or documenting defects here and there, and writing up 'test cases'. I felt no growth of any kind in my skill-set doing such a dead-end job like this. I felt brain-dead. To make things worse, in low-level consulting gigs, every waking fucking second of your life is being 'graded' or 'reviewed' by someone else for your performance. Every word you spit out in front of a client is being carefully monitored by at least one superior for performance review purposes. You can do everything right and say all the right things in front of a client and kiss all the asses, but if your boss doesn't like you at personal level, or if the client brings any sort of complaint with the firm or ANY aspect of the project, then all the higher-ups are busy identifying which of the under dogs to put the blames onto. It was just way too fucking political and toxic of an environment to work in. One day my boss walked into the cubicle where I spent 5 straight weeks of writing 'test cases' for the client's new IT system, and he asked me why I looked so fucking depressed. My reply: "This job fucking sucks".

I stayed at that consulting job for 2 years and got an offer to join a hedge fund in their back office, as a data analytics associate. To this day, it remains a mystery how I pulled such a dramatic move. Looking back, this offer has been my life saver. I've been here now close to 4 years. I got promoted once and got pay raises steadily.. now I make 120k a year, working 40 hours a week. And unlike my last job, here I got to build some tangible skill sets. I work with excel spreadsheets all day manipulating large quantity of data. I became an excel wizard, at modeling things out, using VBA, etc. Also, I got to play with the firm's database all day because I need to extract and manipulate large quantity of firm data. As a result, I became very strong in databased mgmt and SQL query skills. I also have experiences using SAS and Python, to run ad hoc analytics reports on firm's client segmentation models, etc. The work I do now is much more interesting and analytical than before with way less stress and no bullshit office politics.

My firm reimburses up to 20k a year in tuition for any sort of grad school program that qualified employees pursue. Last year I thought since I work in finance industry, it would benefit me to learn all the issues from compliance and legal stand point relevant to the industry. My thought process was.. since it is almost impossible to break into front office investment role at the fund I work at (or any other legit hedge fund these days...), doing MBA would be pointless, and since the firm is willing to pay, I should just do law school part time and see what happens. I enrolled in the local law school part time program last year. And not too much to my surprise, I hated it. I thought the classes were too theoretical and not practical enough. So I just decided to drop out after 1st semester.

I shifted my gear and began taking classes in stats, CS, and math early this year. My plan is to do part time masters in data science in near future. My goal would be to gain knowledge and skill set in stats and hard core programming, in a practical fashion, relevant to the industry. I predict that this skill-set would be in huge demand by employers in future. Based on talking to multiple headhunters in NYC, I got the impression that if you have the right balance of communications skills and the technical skills (stats, programming) with decent work experience, there are tons of jobs for managerial roles in analytics department, client services department, reporting department, at XYZ corporations for 200k/yr salary and up. And this line of work is, IMO, interesting and thought-provoking.

I would just say, if you really hate your current career as a lawyer, you have to do something about it. Life is too short, man. It's my belief that you have to work in a career that you feel optimistic about and feel passionate about. Otherwise, you will be very sorry in your deathbed, wishing you manned up and did things to better your situation when you were young. My last consulting gig could pay me half a million bucks a year to come back, but I wouldn't even consider taking that gig. (or any gigs like that)

If you enjoy data analysis and programming, I think master's degree in data science may be your thing. I am almost pushing towards 30 years old now, but I don't think it's too late to do this. Last time I took Calc was when I was in high school! I don't remember jack shit now lol. But still, I am re-taking and re-learning all the basic math and stats knowledge so that I can get into this masters program and learn the skills that I want to gain.

Good luck to all..


Thanks for your story. Glad you got an awesome job in the end. Question about data science - can you get a job with a Master's in Data Science if you don't have analyst work experience?

wannabe_baller

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

Postby wannabe_baller » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:52 pm

jbagelboy wrote:There are a lot of things I appreciate about the post above--particularly how there are alternatives to law in the business world that are often more worthwhile than law school (although its easier with a BA from Dartmouth than UC riverside). I take issue with the description of the consulting sector, which is not entirely useless but ultimately flawed. OP got arguably one of the worst consulting gigs that could still be considered in that field -- IT consulting. It is flatly false that if you aren't at McKinsey, you're not doing interesting work. (Also, Accenture is an amazing firm--its not an IT shop.) I worked as an analyst before law school and this does not fit my impressions.

For example, there are great opportunities in economic consulting at places like Analysis Group or Cornerstone that attract high quality talent with intellectual horsepower. There are project advisory firms like Navigant that place analysts on interesting international projects with great client connections. And there are firms that do a mix of strategy and supply chain logistics (scheduling, expert testimony, ect.) that offer a wide range of different projects if you're willing to travel. In other words, if you are stuck between "tech implementation" and so-called 'pure' strategy shops, you aren't looking deep enough into the field and there are a lot of decent paying ($60k+), intellectually demanding firms taking college grads (if you apply fall senior year and nail your case interviews) between the two.



I am not going to disagree with any of your points. But the non-tech implementation consulting shops you describe (economic consulting, etc) are almost as hard to get as top strategy consulting shops or they are niche specialty consulting shops, hence only hire candidates with specialized skill set. (stats major in undergrad, etc)

The majority of 'consulting' gigs at non-impressive companies such as Deloitte, Accenture, IBM, E&Y, or PWC are dead-end mindless implementation body shops where you won't likely to ever build any tangible skill or have access to fulfilling or challenging work.

Having had such a bad experience with low-end consulting, I actually now believe that even top management consulting jobs aren't all that special. There's a reason why the majority of post MBA consultants at Mckinsey stay put for only 2-3 years max and bounce to in-house jobs after, despite taking huge pay cuts. Sure, you get to think about business issues with the bent towards strategy and get to do fundamental analysis supporting the strategy, but largely the analysis that consultants work on are bullshit and don't get any more advanced than simple Excel financial modeling.

That being said, I truly believe data science and biz analytics is where the business strategy and the entire consulting industry are headed to in near future. I suspect not too many F500 clients will continue to be willing to pay comically astronomical consulting fees asked by McKinsey et al, for traditional 'generic' business strategy advice based on rather non-sophisticated approach to data analysis. Data analytics consulting may overtake the strategy consulting industry not too distant in future, just my opinion.

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

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:40 pm

whysoseriousbiglaw wrote:Thanks for your story. Glad you got an awesome job in the end. Question about data science - can you get a job with a Master's in Data Science if you don't have analyst work experience?


I haven't done masters in data science degree yet. I am now in the initial stages of preparing for the entrance to the program.. taking prerequisites. However, I did a lot of research on this program. I got in touch with a couple of students that graduated from this program from top places such as USC, U Texas, and Northwestern, and some of them didn't have any work experience before going into the program. Some were even liberal arts majors in undergrad and took math / stats courses in post bacc before gaining admission to these programs.

They all mentioned that masters in data science programs (at least at the places they went to) teach very relevant, practical skills that are sought-after by employers (such as running cluster analysis, machine running, segmentation techniques, running regression models) and run a very extensive school-sponsored internship program where students are guaranteed internship slots at major corporations' analytics departments and have the opportunity to display what they learned in classrooms to actual use. After that internship, most people get offers for full time jobs. The ones with no work experience whatsoever, I have heard, score job offers in low 100k range, with occasional manager-level employees (ones with 5+ years of some type of corporate work experience) scoring job offers up to 200k / yr straight out of the program.

As for me - I really like the place I work at now and have sane working hours so I have no plans to leave. Since I am not looking to switch to a different employer or industry, I am just going to a part time master's program, gain the skills from the program, and try to bribe my boss to promote me and staff me onto more analytical projects. If you are looking to completely switch your career from scratch, I would highly recommend that you take a close look at full time programs in data science. If you get good grades and impress employers within the school-sponsored internships, you will have your pick of jobs. And, trust me, any job in this field is going to be more intellectually rewarding and interesting than doing mindless paperwork with no end in sight. (aka being a corporate lawyer)

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JenDarby

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

Postby JenDarby » Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:07 am

^ eh, as a corporate lawyer I've transitioned into doing very little mindless paperwork (though I'm sure there are many people who find the specific type of corporate "paperwork" they do interesting). This isn't entirely unusual or impossible outside of maybe specific practice groups. I do a lot of regulatory work, some compliance work, I work with our portfolio managers on what they can and can't invest in, monitor all our accounts to make sure we don't have investments breaching regulatory or individual client guidelines, work with consultants regarding marketing, review a random array of contracts (IMAs, leases, vendor agreements, employment agreements), etc.

Not that I really wanted to be a lawyer, but doing data science sounds absolutely fucking terrible. I don't think you can broadly say it's more intellectually stimulating and rewarding!! than other jobs. My job isn't thrilling, but yours really doesn't sound thrilling either is I guess what I am trying to say.



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