I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
bruinfan10 wrote:
Veil of Ignorance wrote:Thanks for posting this, after reading so much negative stuff about law practice I had no idea that a six figure salary and reasonable work-life balance was possible. This gives me hope. What is vacation like? Could you save it up all year then take like a month off?

wait...is billing 2000 hours for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars less compensation than biglaw an exit to a "reasonable work-life balance" now? particularly when this small firm seems to expect a significant investment of time in business development? OP seems to have taken a massive pay cut and gotten more substantive work, but he's still working biglaw hours. I could bill 2000 at my particular biglaw firm for years and no one would raise an eyebrow, and would be making exponentially more money. how is this a good outcome? And if you're doing the substantive work you wanted, as you say you are, how is there any guarantee that you're not going to be prepping for a trial or a deposition around Halloween or any other holiday? I'm not trying to be negative, I just feel like I'm missing something huge, I don't see how this is better.


I think there are a couple of things you might be missing. First of all, billing 2,000 hours is not a typical biglaw workload, though I understand what you're saying - plenty of people coast by on 2,000 hours. They aren't going to make partner, but you can do it for a few years. I typically billed between 2,300 and 2,400 a year (including pro bono hours). And there is much to be said for having control over your hours. I no longer am answering to seven or eight different partners on a given day. I work with three other lawyers. They are all right here, in the office, within shouting distance. They leave at 5:30 or 6, and I can put my phone away for the rest of the night. I have not received a work email on a weekend. I'm not doing menial biglaw tasks (well, discovery always sucks. You aren't going to get away from that.). The other associate here told me that in 10 years or however long it is that he's worked here, he has worked one holiday - Memorial Day a few years ago with a trial looming.

A close friend and I at the big firm were talking a couple years ago, and we agreed that on the list of things that make biglaw a pain in the ass, the raw number of hours were pretty low on the list. People here obsess over that aspect a little too much. It's the surprises, the feeling that the next email or phone call is going to torpedo your day or week or month. And it's the bureaucracy. Oh, my God, the bureaucracy. The time spent on anal, neurotic details that are not going to be outcome-determinative in the case. Drove my nuts. But it's a necessary evil when you have eight or nine people staffed on a case and you have to make things easily decipherable for the person who gets the hand-off. But ... God, the bureaucracy.

My situation is a little different, too, because I lived in the suburbs with a family and commuted into the city. My commute time was cut from about 2 1/2 hours a day to 15-20 minutes a day.


I agree so much with all of this. Nothing to add, but this is absolutely TCR. And every hour billed is not the same. Days where I bill 11 hours in front of my computer with no meetings or anything to break up the day are miserable. Days where I have meetings, court, or a deposition with maybe 5-6 hours of sitting behind the computer drafting something are much, much better. And it's much easier to bill efficiently on the latter than the former.

lolwat

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby lolwat » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:52 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:
Veil of Ignorance wrote:Thanks for posting this, after reading so much negative stuff about law practice I had no idea that a six figure salary and reasonable work-life balance was possible. This gives me hope. What is vacation like? Could you save it up all year then take like a month off?

wait...is billing 2000 hours for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars less compensation than biglaw an exit to a "reasonable work-life balance" now? particularly when this small firm seems to expect a significant investment of time in business development? OP seems to have taken a massive pay cut and gotten more substantive work, but he's still working biglaw hours. I could bill 2000 at my particular biglaw firm for years and no one would raise an eyebrow, and would be making exponentially more money. how is this a good outcome? And if you're doing the substantive work you wanted, as you say you are, how is there any guarantee that you're not going to be prepping for a trial or a deposition around Halloween or any other holiday? I'm not trying to be negative, I just feel like I'm missing something huge, I don't see how this is better.


Biglaw firms vary widely but I think we are often talking about firms where people regularly bill well over 2k. Of course if you somehow landed at a firm where you can do 2k year after year and literally no one would ever care, that's a little different. I'm at a boutique but I'd probably get fired if I tried to only bill 2k now even though the stated minimum was below that when I started, lol... (Everything else has already been covered above so I'm not even going to try and repeat -- like how it's not necessarily just the raw number of hours but how disruptive those hours can be to life. It's very firm dependent.)

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:56 pm

OP here.

A lot of this, it should be said, comes down to what people value. If you don't mind being disrupted, or having to juggle things in the way you have to juggle things at biglaw, be my guest. It may be for you. Some people love it and thrive on it. (You have to juggle things at a small place, too, in different ways. It's possible biglaw personalities would, in fact, hate it.)

My dad worked the night shift at a factory and couldn't make it to all my games growing up, or even most. I turned out OK. That's just every family and individual's kind of decision to make.

I'll say this: If I didn't have children, I probably would find much of what biglaw throws at you a lot more manageable. It isn't necessarily intrinsically bad. It depends on what you value, what your goals are, etc.

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:To be fair, there are plenty of T6 graduates who end up practicing shitlaw because they just can't hack it at the bigger firms. It really takes a certain kind of personality to make it 8+ years in biglaw and I don't necessarily believe that law school ranking is indicative of that.


I agree it takes a certain type of personality. But I think that "can't hack it at the bigger firms" implies that people who leave actually desire to climb the ladder at such places. Life is short, and that is really driven home when you have children. There goes kindergarten. There goes first grade. There goes second grade. Last fall, I missed Halloween because I was out of town preparing a witness for trial. That was pretty devastating, personally. Another example, in late March, I was getting ready to watch the Final Four games with the family. We hung up basketball decorations in the basement and everything. Just as the teams are headed onto the court for the center jump, I get an email (this is Saturday night) from a partner who I hadn't heard from for two weeks, at least, who lived halfway across the country and who I'd met face to face just once. He needed something, immediately. (In fairness, the same guy emailed me the day I was leaving and told me I was a "wonderful lawyer" and wished me luck.)

Can't hack it? Eh, I guess. I could also whack myself in the head with a hammer for an hour every day to show I could do it. But why would I want to?

A lot of this has to do with how tied your identity is in practicing biglaw, or its equivalents (A-USA, GC at a Fortune 500 company, etc.). I just ... didn't care enough about it, or the marginal difference in earning potential, to stick with it day after day after day.


OP, your insights here are really terrific and helpful to me. Thanks for posting this. I am about to be a fourth year in September in NYC in a transactional group. I have thoughts of starting to look in NJ where my family is from soon, for all of the same reasons you have mentioned in this thread.

Question for you - in the event that you ever wanted to go back to biglaw or to a larger firm (maybe a mid-sized firm), do you think this experience could possibly hinder that, or will your time in biglaw be your time in biglaw, from a resume perspective. I am just worried that if I leave biglaw with 3-4 years of experience and go somewhere similar to what you're doing in suburban NJ, and then after 2 years or so want to go in house or to a larger firm or even to practice in a mid-sized legal market (think Denver or Philadelphia), that my experience in biglaw would be sort of "negated" by the current firm - meaning like, those places are happy to get someone coming from a prestigious biglaw firm, but not someone coming from a small suburban firm. Any thoughts?


Bump

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:05 pm

lolwat wrote:
bruinfan10 wrote:
Veil of Ignorance wrote:Thanks for posting this, after reading so much negative stuff about law practice I had no idea that a six figure salary and reasonable work-life balance was possible. This gives me hope. What is vacation like? Could you save it up all year then take like a month off?

wait...is billing 2000 hours for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars less compensation than biglaw an exit to a "reasonable work-life balance" now? particularly when this small firm seems to expect a significant investment of time in business development? OP seems to have taken a massive pay cut and gotten more substantive work, but he's still working biglaw hours. I could bill 2000 at my particular biglaw firm for years and no one would raise an eyebrow, and would be making exponentially more money. how is this a good outcome? And if you're doing the substantive work you wanted, as you say you are, how is there any guarantee that you're not going to be prepping for a trial or a deposition around Halloween or any other holiday? I'm not trying to be negative, I just feel like I'm missing something huge, I don't see how this is better.


Biglaw firms vary widely but I think we are often talking about firms where people regularly bill well over 2k. Of course if you somehow landed at a firm where you can do 2k year after year and literally no one would ever care, that's a little different. I'm at a boutique but I'd probably get fired if I tried to only bill 2k now even though the stated minimum was below that when I started, lol... (Everything else has already been covered above so I'm not even going to try and repeat -- like how it's not necessarily just the raw number of hours but how disruptive those hours can be to life. It's very firm dependent.)



I'm a biglaw midlevel and trying to figure out whether to exit to in-house or small law. Billing 2000 hours in small law actually makes me shudder. In my firm, one can certainly coast for several years billing 2000 as long as work product is good and you get along with folks. I really cannot imagine that any biglaw firm will ask you to leave if you have 2000 billables with good realization. It is not easy, nor does it make financial sense, to try to replace a midlevel billing 2000 hours. They may give you shit, but hey, they do that all the time anyway. I agree with all the negative points regarding biglaw raised in this thread, though. I'm wondering if the following negatives about small law are significant:
- Pay cut
- Chances of being stuck with bad personalities
- Less sophisticated clients who give you a headache
- Lack of stability if rainmaker partner or big client leaves.

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Posts: 327283
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:To be fair, there are plenty of T6 graduates who end up practicing shitlaw because they just can't hack it at the bigger firms. It really takes a certain kind of personality to make it 8+ years in biglaw and I don't necessarily believe that law school ranking is indicative of that.


I agree it takes a certain type of personality. But I think that "can't hack it at the bigger firms" implies that people who leave actually desire to climb the ladder at such places. Life is short, and that is really driven home when you have children. There goes kindergarten. There goes first grade. There goes second grade. Last fall, I missed Halloween because I was out of town preparing a witness for trial. That was pretty devastating, personally. Another example, in late March, I was getting ready to watch the Final Four games with the family. We hung up basketball decorations in the basement and everything. Just as the teams are headed onto the court for the center jump, I get an email (this is Saturday night) from a partner who I hadn't heard from for two weeks, at least, who lived halfway across the country and who I'd met face to face just once. He needed something, immediately. (In fairness, the same guy emailed me the day I was leaving and told me I was a "wonderful lawyer" and wished me luck.)

Can't hack it? Eh, I guess. I could also whack myself in the head with a hammer for an hour every day to show I could do it. But why would I want to?

A lot of this has to do with how tied your identity is in practicing biglaw, or its equivalents (A-USA, GC at a Fortune 500 company, etc.). I just ... didn't care enough about it, or the marginal difference in earning potential, to stick with it day after day after day.


OP, your insights here are really terrific and helpful to me. Thanks for posting this. I am about to be a fourth year in September in NYC in a transactional group. I have thoughts of starting to look in NJ where my family is from soon, for all of the same reasons you have mentioned in this thread.

Question for you - in the event that you ever wanted to go back to biglaw or to a larger firm (maybe a mid-sized firm), do you think this experience could possibly hinder that, or will your time in biglaw be your time in biglaw, from a resume perspective. I am just worried that if I leave biglaw with 3-4 years of experience and go somewhere similar to what you're doing in suburban NJ, and then after 2 years or so want to go in house or to a larger firm or even to practice in a mid-sized legal market (think Denver or Philadelphia), that my experience in biglaw would be sort of "negated" by the current firm - meaning like, those places are happy to get someone coming from a prestigious biglaw firm, but not someone coming from a small suburban firm. Any thoughts?


Bump


Hey, Anon. I definitely thought about this when making the move. I'll give some thoughts, to the extent I have some, later today. (I'm hustling to get a production out right now.) I haven't forgotten about you!

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
lolwat wrote:
bruinfan10 wrote:
Veil of Ignorance wrote:Thanks for posting this, after reading so much negative stuff about law practice I had no idea that a six figure salary and reasonable work-life balance was possible. This gives me hope. What is vacation like? Could you save it up all year then take like a month off?

wait...is billing 2000 hours for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars less compensation than biglaw an exit to a "reasonable work-life balance" now? particularly when this small firm seems to expect a significant investment of time in business development? OP seems to have taken a massive pay cut and gotten more substantive work, but he's still working biglaw hours. I could bill 2000 at my particular biglaw firm for years and no one would raise an eyebrow, and would be making exponentially more money. how is this a good outcome? And if you're doing the substantive work you wanted, as you say you are, how is there any guarantee that you're not going to be prepping for a trial or a deposition around Halloween or any other holiday? I'm not trying to be negative, I just feel like I'm missing something huge, I don't see how this is better.


Biglaw firms vary widely but I think we are often talking about firms where people regularly bill well over 2k. Of course if you somehow landed at a firm where you can do 2k year after year and literally no one would ever care, that's a little different. I'm at a boutique but I'd probably get fired if I tried to only bill 2k now even though the stated minimum was below that when I started, lol... (Everything else has already been covered above so I'm not even going to try and repeat -- like how it's not necessarily just the raw number of hours but how disruptive those hours can be to life. It's very firm dependent.)



I'm a biglaw midlevel and trying to figure out whether to exit to in-house or small law. Billing 2000 hours in small law actually makes me shudder. In my firm, one can certainly coast for several years billing 2000 as long as work product is good and you get along with folks. I really cannot imagine that any biglaw firm will ask you to leave if you have 2000 billables with good realization. It is not easy, nor does it make financial sense, to try to replace a midlevel billing 2000 hours. They may give you shit, but hey, they do that all the time anyway. I agree with all the negative points regarding biglaw raised in this thread, though. I'm wondering if the following negatives about small law are significant:
- Pay cut
- Chances of being stuck with bad personalities
- Less sophisticated clients who give you a headache
- Lack of stability if rainmaker partner or big client leaves.


All of that stuff is a concern, definitely. I'll talk about it more when I have more time.

Regarding the 2,000 hours, I must have said something indicating that I planned to bill 2,000 hours this year at my new firm. Maybe the partner saying they want people who want to make $200K? I took that as him meaning eventually, not necessarily right out the gate. I know my boss works a lot and seems wealthy. But I am not billing at a 2,000-hour pace at this point, and I haven't heard a cross word about it at all.

Jchance

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Jchance » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:11 pm

Lacepiece23 wrote:I agree so much with all of this. Nothing to add, but this is absolutely TCR. And every hour billed is not the same. Days where I bill 11 hours in front of my computer with no meetings or anything to break up the day are miserable. Days where I have meetings, court, or a deposition with maybe 5-6 hours of sitting behind the computer drafting something are much, much better. And it's much easier to bill efficiently on the latter than the former.


LOL, I'm like the exact opposite of this. I prefer the former much much more than the latter. I'm also more efficient on the former.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:11 pm

Jchance wrote:
Lacepiece23 wrote:I agree so much with all of this. Nothing to add, but this is absolutely TCR. And every hour billed is not the same. Days where I bill 11 hours in front of my computer with no meetings or anything to break up the day are miserable. Days where I have meetings, court, or a deposition with maybe 5-6 hours of sitting behind the computer drafting something are much, much better. And it's much easier to bill efficiently on the latter than the former.


LOL, I'm like the exact opposite of this. I prefer the former much much more than the latter. I'm also more efficient on the former.


Seriously? I guess everyone is different. Maybe you're more of an appellate person at heart? I do hear that some litigators prefer to just write all day. But that's definitely not me.

lolwat

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby lolwat » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:24 pm

I'm a biglaw midlevel and trying to figure out whether to exit to in-house or small law. Billing 2000 hours in small law actually makes me shudder. In my firm, one can certainly coast for several years billing 2000 as long as work product is good and you get along with folks. I really cannot imagine that any biglaw firm will ask you to leave if you have 2000 billables with good realization. It is not easy, nor does it make financial sense, to try to replace a midlevel billing 2000 hours. They may give you shit, but hey, they do that all the time anyway. I agree with all the negative points regarding biglaw raised in this thread, though. I'm wondering if the following negatives about small law are significant:
- Pay cut
- Chances of being stuck with bad personalities
- Less sophisticated clients who give you a headache
- Lack of stability if rainmaker partner or big client leaves.


This is absolutely the kind of concerns you should have about moving into small law or even a litigation boutique--especially the last one. You can't do anything about freak accidents, but you could probably at least ask during an interview how long the senior partners plan to stick around and if they've thought about any sort of succession plan for whenever they decide to retire. On the plus side, rainmaker partners are less likely to leave small firms because they have a ton of autonomy there that they wouldn't have if they were just a partner at some big firm. You can also probably ask about what kind of clients they serve and if there's any one client who makes up a huge chunk of the firm's business.

As for the other stuff, the pay cut is obvious, but that often correlates with fewer hours. You should be able to avoid being stuck with truly toxic personalities. The partners at small firms are often friends or people who get along very well with each other. That doesn't necessarily mean you are compatible with them, but you should be able to have some idea of that from either word of mouth (if they're in the market you currently practice in) or during the interview. Less sophisticated clients... well, who knows. Sometimes more sophisticated clients know just enough to be dangerous and annoying, too.

Seriously? I guess everyone is different. Maybe you're more of an appellate person at heart? I do hear that some litigators prefer to just write all day. But that's definitely not me.


I'm not the most efficient biller when I'm sitting in front of my computer, but I find researching and writing infinitely more fun than running around doing other shit. I can't complain about easy billable hours when I'm just sitting on a call taking notes while a partner talks to the client, or sitting in a strategy meeting for 2 hours and giving a couple thoughts here and there... but there's a difference between being able to bill hours and really enjoying those hours (as far as work goes). :)

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bruinfan10

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Re: I recently escaped biglaw for small law. Taking questions.

Postby bruinfan10 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a biglaw midlevel and trying to figure out whether to exit to in-house or small law. Billing 2000 hours in small law actually makes me shudder. In my firm, one can certainly coast for several years billing 2000 as long as work product is good and you get along with folks. I really cannot imagine that any biglaw firm will ask you to leave if you have 2000 billables with good realization. It is not easy, nor does it make financial sense, to try to replace a midlevel billing 2000 hours. They may give you shit, but hey, they do that all the time anyway. I agree with all the negative points regarding biglaw raised in this thread, though. I'm wondering if the following negatives about small law are significant:
- Pay cut
- Chances of being stuck with bad personalities
- Less sophisticated clients who give you a headache
- Lack of stability if rainmaker partner or big client leaves.

Yeah, 2000 might not make you a partner at like Weil or Latham, but lol, even billing 2600 hours, you're not making partner there anyway. 2000 hours will keep you in your job at a number of biglaw firms for a whole lot of years, my firm included.

If I'm going to take the kind of pay cut small law requires, no matter how interesting the work, I'm sure as sh!t not interested in billing 2000 hours. but i'm getting the sense that's not unheard of. just blows my mind. Nony has had it figured out the whole time man.



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