3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

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3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 28, 2019 10:36 pm

As the title suggests, I am really sick of this big law life. I'm class of 2017 so once bonus hits at year end, I want to throw my hat in. A lot of threads have been popping up about how to survive in big law, frugality in big law, how to coast, and so forth, so I thought I'd try to get some advise from TLS collective wisdom on a topic that touches upon all of these.

I would love to go in-house but my exit options are not very good right now (i.e. think very niche finance, high yield debt capital markets type work). My understanding is that realistic exit is only to NYC banks as a 5th year. I am not going to make it that long and I do not want to exit into banking in any case.

So without a clear plan, my plan has defaulted to try to build up as big of a nest egg as I can and survive in big law as long as I can. I have a decent net worth right now ($250k) but its not fuck you money and certainly won't produce sufficient income at all for where I live and have lived my entire life (NYC).

I've read a lot of threads about people moving to low tax states (i.e. Texas) and I feel like it makes sense if the goal is to do 2 more years and save the max amount of money. Unfortunately that will be a giant change in QOL for me and I don't think I can adapt to Texas for personal reasons.

I am considering trying another law firm in NYC but I know that even with a change in practice area or ramp up and ramp down periods, it will eventually be the same again. Becoming a mid-level means things keep getting harder and this 24-7 on-call life is so hard.

The other option I've considered is doing a 2 year stint in London. 3rd year big law market salary plus 80k COL means after taxes, I think I'd be making an extra 50k in London compared to NYC. Is this idea crazy? I'm willing to do it and end up with no legal career at the end if it means 2 more years of biglaw in Europe and ending up with a NW of $600k.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby OneTwoThreeFour » Thu Nov 28, 2019 11:20 pm

Put it all on $QQQ options. Lever up baby.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby QContinuum » Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:21 am

Sure, Texas is very different from NYC, but if you're willing to move all the way to Brexit Britain, IMO Houston isn't that big of a lift.

The other thing cautioning against London is that, purportedly, BigLaw hours there are typically more brutal than Stateside. You already want to quit in a month. Realistically I don't see you lasting two more years in London cap markets.

I'd seriously reconsider Texas in your shoes.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby spyke123 » Fri Nov 29, 2019 10:13 am

If youve been at one firm since 2017, id try lateraling to another firm in nyc as ramp down and up time can give you some breathing room to continue cashing in w/o working as hard.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 29, 2019 11:05 am

Thanks all. I've heard that London can actually be better than NYC for hours in that you might have a few brutal ones but you also have really slow months. Might depend on shop. My thinking was also because of the COL and better tax upside, even 1.5 years in London is as good as 2+ in NYC.

Agree Texas sounds pretty good but I don't even know how to drive. I know that sounds like a silly reason and I guess I can learn now, but just to show you that I'm used to living in large urban area with public transport.

I've been saving the lateral to another NYC firm as my back pocket option where I coast a little in 2020 until it's apparent my firm is fed up and then I lateral mid-year to a place that guarantees my year end bonus (or even pays it upfront). I wanted to explore the above London option first though (and that get's its own ramp up and ramp down too)

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 29, 2019 11:14 am

My understanding is that London biglaw firms don't pay COLA anymore. Is that true?

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Neff » Fri Nov 29, 2019 1:22 pm

Having grown up there, I can say that Houston is an ugly-ass city located in an ugly-ass part of the state with virtually no desirable places to visit within a day's drive away -- BUT it is diverse, international, has a vigorous economy, and not really "Texas" (for non-Texans who fear that sort of thing). Think of LA minus the weather, the glamor, and the beaches, leaving intact the sprawl, the freeways, the strip malls, and (on the positive side) the infinite variety of good food and top-notch sports and arts scene. If you don't care that much about scenery, Houston is actually the perfect place to grind biglaw, because there is never a day when you wish you were outside doing something else.

Dallas is very similar, albeit as a city is less ugly than Houston.

I have a soft spot for London. If that COL adjustment is for real, go for it.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Ultramar vistas » Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:06 pm

Neff wrote:Having grown up there, I can say that Houston is an ugly-ass city located in an ugly-ass part of the state with virtually no desirable places to visit within a day's drive away -- BUT it is diverse, international, has a vigorous economy, and not really "Texas" (for non-Texans who fear that sort of thing). Think of LA minus the weather, the glamor, and the beaches, leaving intact the sprawl, the freeways, the strip malls, and (on the positive side) the infinite variety of good food and top-notch sports and arts scene. If you don't care that much about scenery, Houston is actually the perfect place to grind biglaw, because there is never a day when you wish you were outside doing something else.

Dallas is very similar, albeit as a city is less ugly than Houston.

I have a soft spot for London. If that COL adjustment is for real, go for it.


I always here this from folks who grew up outside the loop, but as someone who moved here from the north east and has always lived within 10 minutes of downtown, Houston is full of things to do, amazing food, great outdoor spaces and diverse neighborhoods. I don’t miss winter and I love the always-outdoors lifestyle. That said, you probably should learn to drive pretty quickly if you want to be here.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My understanding is that London biglaw firms don't pay COLA anymore. Is that true?


Don't think that is true. Had a collegue leave near end of summer and early Q4 and was about $75k COLA. When I spoke to recruiters they said it ranges from $50-100k, with the magic circle firms paying less than your US firms.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby RedGiant » Sun Dec 01, 2019 4:52 am

Honestly, if you're only a third year, I would retool to a part of corporate that is broader and more likely to lead you to a good in-house job. Take a look at tech firms in NY (if you don't want to leave NYC) and be very open about taking a years haircut. Yes, this will make you less money (slightly), but I promise that it will have better hours that HY cap markets.

I worked in London in HY cap markets (at Cravath, as a legal asst many moons ago) and the hours can be extremely brutal. I closed 9 deals in 12 weeks during one stretch, and was doing 1-2 all nighters a week at the printers and fo closings at that time. It was very hard on the body.

London is hands down 1 million times better than Houston though.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 01, 2019 3:27 pm

Don’t go to London. The hours aren’t worse but you are 5 hours off us time working on us time. You will regularly quite work late even in chill practices, although the european QOL is real. London has higher taxes, you will come out ahead of NY if cola is 50k or more, but not by much (especially if pound starts bouncing back). Most importantly, outside of US law firms, salaries are MUCH lower and it’s not as straightforward to just get an in house job back in the US. Similar in house roles in London pay much less, with higher taxes and NYC cost of living. London is amazing and if you wanted for partner sure it’s a great move, but you will go there, be ready to quit after a year, and will have fewer options than you do now.

TX makes a lot of economic sense if you can swing it. Just learn to drive, childish to let something like that dictate your career opportunities. That said your best bet is probably to lateral to another NY firm into a group that’s more marketable in house, tech trans or m+a or anything privacy related. Or just stick it out and try to go in house man. It’s a crap shoot - but you can stumble into amazing jobs. I’d recommend trying to do another year at your firm and just slack, apply everywhere in house while there and hope to get lucky. If not, lateral in NY (and get your 2020 bonus guaranteed) and repeat the process for another year or two when you should be able to land something decent.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:47 pm

How have you saved $250K after three years in biglaw??

180 (post tax ~100) + 200 (post tax ~120) + 220 (post tax ~140)

maybe net 40 in bonus.

so you've made ~400, saved $250?? That's impressive.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby spyke123 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How have you saved $250K after three years in biglaw??

180 (post tax ~100) + 200 (post tax ~120) + 220 (post tax ~140)

maybe net 40 in bonus.

so you've made ~400, saved $250?? That's impressive.


Actually i think the op only spent a bit over two years in biglaw (i.e. class of 2017)

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Neff » Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:31 pm

spyke123 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How have you saved $250K after three years in biglaw??

180 (post tax ~100) + 200 (post tax ~120) + 220 (post tax ~140)

maybe net 40 in bonus.

so you've made ~400, saved $250?? That's impressive.


Actually i think the op only spent a bit over two years in biglaw (i.e. class of 2017)


OP says s/he has a net worth of $250k, not the same thing as saving $250k. Could be pre-LS savings, spouse with money, inheritance, etc.

I made it from negative $80k net worth to $380k net worth (according to Mint) after starting in September 2015 (marrying contributed a negligible amount) -- not even at a firm that pays crazy bonuses. Saving like a mofo in Texas + catching part of the bull stock market, it's doable.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby ghostoftraynor » Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:43 pm

I think not being able to drive is probably a disqualifier for Texas. Learning how to drive is easy, and OP could do it, but the cultural gap is too large. You can be a liberal New Yorker and convince Texans you are not an out of touch elitist. Don't think you can be a New Yorker that is 21 years+ that doesn't know how to drive and be able to convince people of that.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby spyke123 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 8:54 am

Neff wrote:
spyke123 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How have you saved $250K after three years in biglaw??

180 (post tax ~100) + 200 (post tax ~120) + 220 (post tax ~140)

maybe net 40 in bonus.

so you've made ~400, saved $250?? That's impressive.


Actually i think the op only spent a bit over two years in biglaw (i.e. class of 2017)


OP says s/he has a net worth of $250k, not the same thing as saving $250k. Could be pre-LS savings, spouse with money, inheritance, etc.

I made it from negative $80k net worth to $380k net worth (according to Mint) after starting in September 2015 (marrying contributed a negligible amount) -- not even at a firm that pays crazy bonuses. Saving like a mofo in Texas + catching part of the bull stock market, it's doable.


Has the market been that good? Whats your monthly expenses? That still avg to be well over 100k a year in net worth growth. Given that post tax money is not significantly higher than 100k in the first few years, that growth rate is insane.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Neff » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:13 pm

spyke123 wrote:
Neff wrote:
spyke123 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How have you saved $250K after three years in biglaw??

180 (post tax ~100) + 200 (post tax ~120) + 220 (post tax ~140)

maybe net 40 in bonus.

so you've made ~400, saved $250?? That's impressive.


Actually i think the op only spent a bit over two years in biglaw (i.e. class of 2017)


OP says s/he has a net worth of $250k, not the same thing as saving $250k. Could be pre-LS savings, spouse with money, inheritance, etc.

I made it from negative $80k net worth to $380k net worth (according to Mint) after starting in September 2015 (marrying contributed a negligible amount) -- not even at a firm that pays crazy bonuses. Saving like a mofo in Texas + catching part of the bull stock market, it's doable.


Has the market been that good? Whats your monthly expenses? That still avg to be well over 100k a year in net worth growth. Given that post tax money is not significantly higher than 100k in the first few years, that growth rate is insane.


As a first year, my monthly expenses totaled about $3k (rented $1000 apartment in a sketch part of Houston). Now it’s around $5k (mind you this is strictly expenses, not eg the pay down of principal portion of mortgage which increases net worth). I’ve been increasing net worth by about $10k a month on average since my second year (again thanks to the stock market). Major expenses (not included in the monthly amounts above) have included three vacations in four years, depreciation on a Hyundai, gifts to family and charitable donations, an engagement ring (but no wedding), and furniture. I invest mostly into value index funds, max out 401(k) and a back-door IRA, try to do all the right things etc.

I am closing in on $1 million gross earnings since Sept 2015. For just over 4 years of work! I hope everyone in biglaw on this forum fully appreciates that they have an unprecedented opportunity to become financially independent very quickly in this profession PROVIDED they do the right things and resist certain temptations. You don’t need to like billing, but you don’t need to do it for long before you can exit.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:51 pm

Neff wrote:
spyke123 wrote:
Neff wrote:
spyke123 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How have you saved $250K after three years in biglaw??

180 (post tax ~100) + 200 (post tax ~120) + 220 (post tax ~140)

maybe net 40 in bonus.

so you've made ~400, saved $250?? That's impressive.


Actually i think the op only spent a bit over two years in biglaw (i.e. class of 2017)


OP says s/he has a net worth of $250k, not the same thing as saving $250k. Could be pre-LS savings, spouse with money, inheritance, etc.

I made it from negative $80k net worth to $380k net worth (according to Mint) after starting in September 2015 (marrying contributed a negligible amount) -- not even at a firm that pays crazy bonuses. Saving like a mofo in Texas + catching part of the bull stock market, it's doable.


Has the market been that good? Whats your monthly expenses? That still avg to be well over 100k a year in net worth growth. Given that post tax money is not significantly higher than 100k in the first few years, that growth rate is insane.


As a first year, my monthly expenses totaled about $3k (rented $1000 apartment in a sketch part of Houston). Now it’s around $5k (mind you this is strictly expenses, not eg the pay down of principal portion of mortgage which increases net worth). I’ve been increasing net worth by about $10k a month on average since my second year (again thanks to the stock market). Major expenses (not included in the monthly amounts above) have included three vacations in four years, depreciation on a Hyundai, gifts to family and charitable donations, an engagement ring (but no wedding), and furniture. I invest mostly into value index funds, max out 401(k) and a back-door IRA, try to do all the right things etc.

I am closing in on $1 million gross earnings since Sept 2015. For just over 4 years of work! I hope everyone in biglaw on this forum fully appreciates that they have an unprecedented opportunity to become financially independent very quickly in this profession PROVIDED they do the right things and resist certain temptations. You don’t need to like billing, but you don’t need to do it for long before you can exit.

Cosign above. Our household is double biglaw in SF/NYC/LA and our net worth goes up about 20k a month on average because of market gains and aggressive savings.

We live very frugally (I drive a 20 year old car I got for free from my parents and all of our furniture came from Craigslist). Being frugal is surprisingly easy for us. Everytime I want to buy something, I think about whether the happiness it will bring me outweighs the unhappiness that an extra x number of hours in biglaw would cause me. If the pro doesn't outweigh the con, I don't buy it.

If the market doesn't shit the bed, we should be at our retirement number in 3-5 years. After that, any additional year we work is all gravy we can use to do whatever the hell we want.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby QContinuum » Wed Dec 04, 2019 5:41 pm

ghostoftraynor wrote:I think not being able to drive is probably a disqualifier for Texas. Learning how to drive is easy, and OP could do it, but the cultural gap is too large. You can be a liberal New Yorker and convince Texans you are not an out of touch elitist. Don't think you can be a New Yorker that is 21 years+ that doesn't know how to drive and be able to convince people of that.

Come on, I refuse to believe a "New Yorker that is 21 year+ that doesn't know how to drive" can't get licensed within ~half a year or so max.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby ghostoftraynor » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:34 pm

QContinuum wrote:
ghostoftraynor wrote:I think not being able to drive is probably a disqualifier for Texas. Learning how to drive is easy, and OP could do it, but the cultural gap is too large. You can be a liberal New Yorker and convince Texans you are not an out of touch elitist. Don't think you can be a New Yorker that is 21 years+ that doesn't know how to drive and be able to convince people of that.

Come on, I refuse to believe a "New Yorker that is 21 year+ that doesn't know how to drive" can't get licensed within ~half a year or so max.


Think you misread my post. I said I'm sure OP can learn to drive. Just evidence that Texas isn't going to be a good cultural fit.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:41 pm

ghostoftraynor wrote:
QContinuum wrote:
ghostoftraynor wrote:I think not being able to drive is probably a disqualifier for Texas. Learning how to drive is easy, and OP could do it, but the cultural gap is too large. You can be a liberal New Yorker and convince Texans you are not an out of touch elitist. Don't think you can be a New Yorker that is 21 years+ that doesn't know how to drive and be able to convince people of that.

Come on, I refuse to believe a "New Yorker that is 21 year+ that doesn't know how to drive" can't get licensed within ~half a year or so max.


Think you misread my post. I said I'm sure OP can learn to drive. Just evidence that Texas isn't going to be a good cultural fit.


Texas, on average, might not be a great fit but OP can just live in the yuppie part of Houston and avoid all that without too much trouble. Especially if it's just a 3-year stint to fatten their retirement account.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby QContinuum » Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:42 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:Texas, on average, might not be a great fit but OP can just live in the yuppie part of Houston and avoid all that without too much trouble. Especially if it's just a 3-year stint to fatten their retirement account.

Exactly. No one's saying OP needs to fit in in rural east Texas or whatnot. So long as OP gets that driver's license (due to lack of decent mass transit in TX, not due to any cultural requirements), they're hardly going to have trouble fitting in in downtown Houston.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby TigerIsBack » Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:Our household is in SF/NYC/LA.

I drive a...car.


Lol, so you live/work in SF/LA.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Dec 10, 2019 2:20 pm

TigerIsBack wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Our household is in SF/NYC/LA.

I drive a...car.


Lol, so you live/work in SF/LA.

First, no need to try to smoke out where an anon lives.

Second, a surprisingly high number of NY associates have cars. Not folks living in Manhattan, obvs., or right across the river in Brooklyn or JC/Hoboken, but a good number live further out in Jersey, or even Nassau or Westchester, where having a car is pretty important.

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Re: 3rd year Big Law Associate at crossroads. How to make the most money the quickest?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Tue Dec 10, 2019 6:29 pm

If you don't commute from Darien, CT to Midtown every day, are you even living?



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