Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

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Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:40 pm

I graduated last December from a T50 law school in my home flyover state and took the February bar. My grades were poor at probably around the 30th-40th percentile (I HATED law school though I liked the law). I got a job with a relatively mid-size firm (by my state's standards) where I'll be the 11th attorney. I got placed in one of their rural offices with another attorney in an area where I do have some family, doing law that some elitists on this site might call "shit law" (family law, criminal law, etc.) - though I think I enjoy the fields enough and could find purpose in doing it. I graduated with a grand total of $9,000 of debt, so I really don't have any serious financial fears regarding my career. However, I recently found out that upon my (hopefully) passing the bar, my salary will only be about $45k/year. Even by my (relatively modest) school's numbers (where about 70% of employed graduates do actually report their salaries according to LST), this is well below the 25th percentile for associates. A partner assured me that after six months when I start taking over my own cases that my salary will increase significantly. I have no reason to disbelieve the partner individually, other than the fact that I am a typical cynic and don't usually trust law schools and law firms in general with all the madness in the legal market today.

I want to keep looking for another job, but my bad grades are making it rather difficult. However, I understand that my perceptions might be getting skewed by somewhat misleading numbers that my school is putting out. Also, the fact that my grades are poor, I'm working in a rural area, and I don't have any debt makes me think I shouldn't be all that disappointed with the outcome and I should just start getting experience. I've always planned on hanging my own shingle down the road and maybe I should just appreciate the experience (I really do work with some great attorneys), and not worry about the low salary. I really didn't expect a large salary given the field and geography of the practice, but I would've thought at least mid-50s or even 60k would be more reasonable. Am I right to be disappointed? Or is this normal and I should just be grateful I'm not in debt? Would you be suspicious of such a pay scheme? Anybody had similar a experience?


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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby lolwat » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:57 pm

IMO, no one graduating with "poor" grades from a T50 should be "disappointed" that they have an actual job in the legal field, no matter what it is, really. You aren't getting to biglaw with those stats unless your family is damn well connected. "Shitlaw" at a small firm is probably where you're going to find your success and while it might be looked down upon in terms of prestige on a board where everyone has the stats for clerkships and biglaw, you're still going to end up making money down the road. You'll just never be part of a 100-person team litigating Apple v. Samsung (and billing 2500 hours a year primarily doing discovery bullshit).

As for the firm, it sounds like you might actually enjoy working there and they'll essentially give you "your own cases" pretty early on, so I don't necessarily disbelieve their compensation structure of paying you 45k while you're doing shit work and learning, and then raising your salary once you start doing some real work instead of being a drain on the firm. Also, having the support staff and "some great attorneys" to mentor you is something most people take for granted. If nothing else, use them to get the experience you need to start your own firm later on.
Last edited by lolwat on Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby jchiles » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:58 pm

You probably need to get more info about the compensation structure -- is the partner implying that you will make more money when you bring in your own clients and handle their cases (fairly common to get a percentage of all revenue from your own clients even as an associate at a small firm) or is it tied to matters that you are considered the responsible attorney for? I share your skepticism that you will see a meaningful pay increase in the short term but depending on where you are 45k to start is probably not unusually low.

If you want to go solo eventually, like the attorneys you work with and the firm is giving you good experience you should probably stay. If they keep you at 45k for 5 years then yeah look elsewhere but it sounds like you have the opportunity to build the legal and business skills you need to go solo without the risk of being a solo with no income.

Idk if you should be disappointed or not, it's always cool to make more money but it sounds like you are in a good place for your long term goals. That may not be exciting but I don't think you should feel disappointed.


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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby Npret » Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:13 pm

What are your other options? If this it, don't be disappointed over a few thousand a year.


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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby foregetaboutdre » Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:15 pm

Would your life significantly change if you made 60k a year?

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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby nealric » Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:17 pm

Obviously, people will dispute semantics, but the term "shitlaw" actually comes out of the old JD Underground boards and was coined by those who felt sucked into practicing it (not biglaw people looking down at it). The term is not intended to apply to any non-biglaw practice area, but rote unfulfilling legal work that is not remunerative. Think nothing but copy-paste motions on the same nuisance slip and fall case you've seen 1,000 times.

What you have sounds like a reasonably good opportunity if the personalities involved are good. As a junior lawyer, you need experienced lawyers that can train you into a practice area and teach you the skills you need to be self-sufficient. It's not uncommon for arrangements like yours to have a fairly low starting salary that does grow once you are able to handle matters independently. If it doesn't, you will at least likely have the experience you need to be marketable to either other firms or to clients.


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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby Civilservant » Tue Apr 04, 2017 3:37 pm

Not to be too cute, but are you more disappointed by your outcome or your income? Outcome is a rather existential question of you wanted to be a lawyer and whether through the cruel reality of the market or overly high expectations, you are disappointed by how you ended up in life. Only you can answer your motivation to practice, and not sell ice cream cones in the Florida keys.

Income is a more quantitative measure. Are you making less than your peers? Probably. Do you have other options? Appears as though you dont. A bird in the hand... You do not know what the future holds, so I'd suggest doing a good job, learn to practice, and be kind to others who might help you down the line. The shit law and flyover country garbage is narcissism of minor differences message board stuff. I doubt the guy who has an endless pipeline of workers comp or dwi cases is upset by the lack of prestige he has on a message board.

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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 04, 2017 3:52 pm

You can probably make more in an administrative/assistant role at a larger law firm in a strong legal market.

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Re: Should I be disappointed with my outcome?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 04, 2017 4:09 pm

Give it time.

Entry level salaries suck. It will rise.

Source: Linkedin stalking of lawyers, stalking their salaries, scoping the market, etc.

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