Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:23 am

I think Paul Campos' questions are excellent and really need to be addressed.

I don't think retiring in one's 30s is at all realistic (in part because you'll have 50 more years of life to try to figure out what to do with yourself in). Now if you want to be househusband/SAHD to your PhD wife that's one thing, but I don't consider that retired at all.

Edit: sorry, I hadn't seen your answers at the bottom of the previous page, I realize a lot of this is moot. (But seriously if you want to be a SAHD say that, that's really different from being retired in I think most people's minds.)

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby yost » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:45 am

Paul Campos wrote:Some questions nobody seems to be asking:

You want to support yourself and your family "comfortably" while retiring in your 30s. What does "comfortably" mean in terms of annual income? Even in as limited a universe as this board, people would give a gigantic range of answers to this question.

The rule of thumb is that to live off the income from your capital while not decreasing it in real inflation-adjusted terms, you shouldn't spend more than 4% of it per year. So if you "need" $100,000 per year to support you and your family comfortably, you have to accumulate $2.5 million in capital. I'm genuinely curious how anybody thinks an entry-level lawyer could reasonably expect to do this within ten years, more or less, of graduating.

How are you paying for law school? Full aid at HYS should still leave somebody with $150K or so of debt at graduation. How is that number, whatever it is, going to get paid off?

Are you planning to have a kid or kids? Because that changes all the numbers radically.

Also is your spouse getting a Ph.D. for funsies, or are they planning to have a career of some sort? That would seem very relevant to all these hypothetical calculations.


First, you're misstating the 4% rule. You're likely referencing the Trinity Study, which concluded that "portfolio success" over 30 years is almost guaranteed at a 4% withdrawal rate. But "portfolio success" was defined as greater than 0 principal remaining at the end of the time period. Pretty big difference. To maintain the value of a portfolio, you would need a significantly lower withdrawal rate.

Second, one needs to save about 65% of his after-tax income to retire in 10 years: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/ ... etirement/. This is hardly impossible on a big law salary, especially in a cheaper secondary market that pays market rate. If you check out the financial independence subreddit, there are tons of people doing this on lower salaries.

Debt, kids, etc. can affect all of this drastically, obviously.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby Night_L » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:46 am

Anonymous User wrote:My advice: go work with a great firm in Boston to be close to your wife and keep your options open.

I've already posted but I just want to reiterate/echo this because everything you've written since my earlier reply confirms that this is the way to go.

Go to Boston, put in your 2000 billables and actively explore the world of possibilities before you. Meet people, make connections, learn about other work/careers/ventures. After 2 years you can slide into some cushy in-house job if that's your thing (more time for outdoorsy stuff!). Or you may find that some other thing is worth your time and even a pay cut. Or you may love biglaw. Who knows.

You don't have to figure out the next 10 years - let alone the rest of your life (!) - right now. I am old enough to not only know but have experienced the fact that life rarely works out as planned anyway. The important thing is to actively keep your options open.

in house lawyer

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby in house lawyer » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:16 am

Paul Campos wrote:The rule of thumb is that to live off the income from your capital while not decreasing it in real inflation-adjusted terms, you shouldn't spend more than 4% of it per year. So if you "need" $100,000 per year to support you and your family comfortably, you have to accumulate $2.5 million in capital. I'm genuinely curious how anybody thinks an entry-level lawyer could reasonably expect to do this within ten years, more or less, of graduating.


I've been practicing less than 10 years and we recently hit the lower end of our retirement number range (even with a lower earning spouse and only a few years in biglaw). This is due to:

- No law school debt.
- Avoiding lifestyle inflation. We live in one of the most expensive parts of the country and definitely don't need $100k a year (home is paid off).
- 8 years of a bull market. Once we reached $1 million in investments, the compounding really took off.

yost wrote:one needs to save about 65% of his after-tax income to retire in 10 years: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/ ... etirement/. This is hardly impossible on a big law salary, especially in a cheaper secondary market that pays market rate. If you check out the financial independence subreddit, there are tons of people doing this on lower salaries.


Yep, this is basically what we did but in an expensive market. It sounds very achievable for OP.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:22 am

I think "home paid off" is a huge underlying assumption, though.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby redsox550 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:25 am

I feel like having a SCOTUS clerkship, if you could get one, on your resume would help you till the day you die - maybe not in terms of directly helping you be a better corporate/X attorney (probably will) but it will serve as a key for every job you apply.

If you wanna do something cool, apply to the FBI as an agent, and if you hate law, you can probably get a pretty prestigious consulting job.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby PeanutsNJam » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:50 am

in house lawyer wrote:- 8 years of a bull market. Once we reached $1 million in investments, the compounding really took off.


Did you invest primarily in index/mutual funds, or did you do some super aggressive stock heavy portfolio? Did you pick your own stocks or have a financial advisor?

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby Night_L » Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:02 am

So if you "need" $100,000 per year to support you and your family comfortably,

lol TLS. No one needs 100K to live confortably. If you do, you are in the wrong profession.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:25 am

redsox550 wrote:I feel like having a SCOTUS clerkship, if you could get one, on your resume would help you till the day you die - maybe not in terms of directly helping you be a better corporate/X attorney (probably will) but it will serve as a key for every job you apply.

If you wanna do something cool, apply to the FBI as an agent, and if you hate law, you can probably get a pretty prestigious consulting job.

The OP has already ruled this out, though. (I also think this is kind of overstated if you don't stay in law and don't have any idea what you want to do.)

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby elendinel » Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:18 pm

I echo Nony's concerns about expecting to stay in biglaw for 10+ years to retire super early if your attitude about work is "I dunno, I guess I can do whatever gets me the most money." Especially given the number of people who come here all the time 1-4 years in saying they can't possibly spend another minute in biglaw. If OP knew (s)he could really grind in a taxing job they have no interest in for the $$, I don't think this would be a problem. But OP said they don't have this experience, so I share the skepticism.

I was going to get into other specific concerns I have, but instead I'll just say I think you need to look a lot more carefully at what you're signing up for. I know nothing about you so take this with a huge grain of salt, but it seems like you chose this plan to biglaw -> ?? -> profit because you've been coasting on book smarts and being in school up until now and now all of a sudden need to figure out something to do with your life, and didn't use the time to learn about yourself, what you really want out of life, what kind of work may get you there, what you are really willing to give up to get those things, etc. Which is not the end of the world, but you need all that info before you can start worrying about particular markets and firms and whatnot.

This is not to say you need to have "passions" as far as your career go; it does mean you need to figure out what work is "meaningful" for you. I.e., you don't need to feel like corporate law is your calling, by any means, but you do need to at least read up a bit on what corporate lawyers do and think about whether you think you'd have fun doing it 12+ hours a day for several years (or whether you'd get bored with it really quickly) before you decide to base a 10+ year plan to retire early after biglaw on doing corporate law. You need to read up a bit on what other work you might find meaningful as an alternative if corporate work sucks (i.e., you need to develop the self-awareness to say "I like these tasks and don't like these tasks; so maybe I'll like ____ kind of law/work and not ____ kind of law/work"). And this is not to say you need to know (or even can know for sure) in 2L year that any particular field will be your thing for the rest of your career; it is to say you should start as soon as possible to develop skills for thinking through your career path and where you should move next. So better to start now than to take a shot in the dark and then have to try and develop these skills when you have a career and potentially a salary/family/other life goal on the line. All of these are things you can think about before deciding on markets and firms.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby Lettow » Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:09 pm

OP, don't let anyone talk you out of your goal of early retirement. The vast majority of people don't truly understand and haven't done the research and/or consideration to realize how mentally and financially possible it is to retire early.

You're top of your class at a top law school. You clearly have the willpower to make it happen. You can work a grind without passion for ten to fifteen years and make it. People have done it, and people are currently doing it. Don't let others' projections steer you away from your goals.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby blahblewblah » Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:32 pm

Lettow wrote:OP, don't let anyone talk you out of your goal of early retirement. The vast majority of people don't truly understand and haven't done the research and/or consideration to realize how mentally and financially possible it is to retire early.

You're top of your class at a top law school. You clearly have the willpower to make it happen. You can work a grind without passion for ten to fifteen years and make it. People have done it, and people are currently doing it. Don't let others' projections steer you away from your goals.


Nobody is saying it can't be done. It obviously can be. But it is naive to think that just because a person graduated at the top of the class in law school, he has the "willpower" to grind out 10 straight 2400+ hour years. Doing good in law school takes some combination of being smart and studying hard over a fairly short period of time. That is a lot different from the biglaw grind.

And I think the bigger point is that 10 years is a long time. You don't just come out on the other side of 10 years in a snap of the fingers. Things change. Relationships change. If OP can come out of that 10 years in law while maintaining a great relationship with his wife and kids, that is great. But it is not easy.

Trying to explain that grinding away your life for 10 years doing something you have no interest in isn't talking him out of it. It is informing him that these things have tradeoffs, and a lot of those tradeoffs are hard to see before you have fully appreciated what they entail.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby dabigchina » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:20 pm

in house lawyer wrote:
Paul Campos wrote:The rule of thumb is that to live off the income from your capital while not decreasing it in real inflation-adjusted terms, you shouldn't spend more than 4% of it per year. So if you "need" $100,000 per year to support you and your family comfortably, you have to accumulate $2.5 million in capital. I'm genuinely curious how anybody thinks an entry-level lawyer could reasonably expect to do this within ten years, more or less, of graduating.


I've been practicing less than 10 years and we recently hit the lower end of our retirement number range (even with a lower earning spouse and only a few years in biglaw). This is due to:

- No law school debt.
- Avoiding lifestyle inflation. We live in one of the most expensive parts of the country and definitely don't need $100k a year (home is paid off).
- 8 years of a bull market. Once we reached $1 million in investments, the compounding really took off.

yost wrote:one needs to save about 65% of his after-tax income to retire in 10 years: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/ ... etirement/. This is hardly impossible on a big law salary, especially in a cheaper secondary market that pays market rate. If you check out the financial independence subreddit, there are tons of people doing this on lower salaries.


Yep, this is basically what we did but in an expensive market. It sounds very achievable for OP.

It looks like you began making 160k in 2009? I wouldn't call your strategy reasonably reproducible for a 1L in 2017. OP should obviously save as much as possible, but I don't think any junior in biglaw can reasonably expect to retire in 10 years.

ETA: the 65% saving rate assumes averaging 5% return per year post inflation (so around 7%). Averaging that over a 30 year investment period is reasonable. Averaging that return over a 10 year period is much less certain; just ask anyone who started saving in 1999 thinking they were going to retire in 2009 (lol).

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby in house lawyer » Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:33 pm

Lettow wrote:OP, don't let anyone talk you out of your goal of early retirement. The vast majority of people don't truly understand and haven't done the research and/or consideration to realize how mentally and financially possible it is to retire early.

You're top of your class at a top law school. You clearly have the willpower to make it happen. You can work a grind without passion for ten to fifteen years and make it. People have done it, and people are currently doing it. Don't let others' projections steer you away from your goals.


Agreed. And everyone seems so focused on TEN YEARS IN BIGLAW. You don't need ten years in biglaw to retire - you have no debt and it sounds like your spouse will have a good income. You can do 3-4 years in biglaw and then coast in-house for 5ish years.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby Nebby » Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:36 pm

Just pick a random firm and allow your soul and any enjoyment you get out of life be crushed. You'll thank us because then you'll no longer come to us when you need little answers to questions like "what should I do with my life" because you'll know there's nothing you should do but be a cog in the machine.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby in house lawyer » Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:37 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:
in house lawyer wrote:- 8 years of a bull market. Once we reached $1 million in investments, the compounding really took off.


Did you invest primarily in index/mutual funds, or did you do some super aggressive stock heavy portfolio? Did you pick your own stocks or have a financial advisor?


I have some individual stocks left over from when I was stupid and buying dividend paying stocks but now most of our investments are in index funds. We have a pretty high stock allocation. No financial advisor.

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Re: Completely lost on how to choose firm/job

Postby elendinel » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:27 pm

in house lawyer wrote:
Lettow wrote:OP, don't let anyone talk you out of your goal of early retirement. The vast majority of people don't truly understand and haven't done the research and/or consideration to realize how mentally and financially possible it is to retire early.

You're top of your class at a top law school. You clearly have the willpower to make it happen. You can work a grind without passion for ten to fifteen years and make it. People have done it, and people are currently doing it. Don't let others' projections steer you away from your goals.


Agreed. And everyone seems so focused on TEN YEARS IN BIGLAW. You don't need ten years in biglaw to retire - you have no debt and it sounds like your spouse will have a good income. You can do 3-4 years in biglaw and then coast in-house for 5ish years.


It's not 10 years in biglaw specifically so much as it's the fact that retiring early requires a lot of dedication to career choices that can end up being literally nightmareish for people who don't put much thought into the prospect other than "Well it'll net me a lot of money."

People "have done" a lot of things. For every success story we can point to of someone doing some thing, we can point to at least half a dozen other people who thought "I can do that thing too!" and ended up burning out of the race early because it turns out what other people did wasn't the best thing for them to do. Which is why the best thing for OP to do is to make sure that OP is making a good decision for OP, and not to just pick a path that sounds good in the abstract. Part of doing that is actually going through the due diligence of making sure spending X years in biglaw is the best decision for OP, making sure retiring early is the best decision for OP, etc. Maybe OP will still feel this is the best move after giving it some deeper thought, and maybe OP will have to revise his/her plans after some thought. Either of those outcomes will arguably be preferable to saying "Well I'm book smart, I got through three years of law school, and random other people did it, I'm set" and ending the analysis there.



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