The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

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Anonymous User
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The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:02 pm

I've been considering exiting biglaw in the next 1-2 years for something more low stress (or better job security), but have been wondering how people adjust to the financial reality of what the public sector pays in comparison. My research shows that the public sector jobs near me are probably in the 70-90k range; firm salaries are on the 160k scale. While the difference isn't that great for a first or second year, by the time you hit years 6-8, you're talking about something on the order of a 60% pay cut. Even assuming you have completed paying back your student loans, how do you deal with that sort of massive change to your financial picture?

Any feedback from folks who have made this transition would be great.

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KD35
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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby KD35 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:11 pm

I haven't gone through this but I would say the majority of it is planning. You're at an advantage to the extent you know you want to do this several years from now (as opposed to being forced to leave biglaw with less notice). This means you have time to ferret away some of the biglaw salary and adjust to living on more limited means.

In addition, I think the situation changes based on whether you have a significant other/children/own a home. That info might help.

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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:17 pm

OP here. Spouse and I own a home. Spouse's income is much more on par with average non-attorney salaries (mid-5 figures) and is unlikely to see much upward movement over the next few years.

I think the part that I'm struggling most with is losing the ability for impulse purchases (sounds terrible, I know) due to no longer having that income as a safety net. That is not to say that we haven't planned appropriately for retirement, emergency fund, etc., because we have. It's more of the forward-looking picture, rather than saying "we didn't do enough in the past when we had the money," if that makes sense.

iliketurtles123
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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby iliketurtles123 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:42 pm

PSLF if you have eligible loans

If you aren't confident about PSLF or are worried about having the rug pulled from under you, think about investing rather than paying off loans. If in 10 years PSLF still exists, you'll have amassed capital and your loans will be forgiven. If not, then you can use your investments to pay off your loans. This depends on how risk averse you are though, your interest rate, and other factors.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:12 pm

Save every red cent you can while you're in biglaw and resist the constant temptation to let your expenses rise to match your income. It's as simple as that. A fed gov attorney makes comfortable money by any rational standard. Don't forget that, or get used to the idea that it's normal to make $200k at age 25 or whatever.

Now, for many people, the fact is they decide the paycut simply isn't worth it. If that's you... then the answer is don't go to government.

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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:16 pm

If you don't have student loans and/or a ridiculous mortgage, then you should be able to comfortably do this. Just save away for 2 years to give yourself a nice cushion and then do what most people do .... make a budget and try to save, invest and spend wisely.

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Lacepiece23
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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Lacepiece23 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:44 pm

iliketurtles123 wrote:PSLF if you have eligible loans

If you aren't confident about PSLF or are worried about having the rug pulled from under you, think about investing rather than paying off loans. If in 10 years PSLF still exists, you'll have amassed capital and your loans will be forgiven. If not, then you can use your investments to pay off your loans. This depends on how risk averse you are though, your interest rate, and other factors.


Yeah, this is what I'm doing. I invested in real estate, however. I currently own a duplex and pay $125 a month in mortgage. I do have a roommate and rent out the other side. I also just bough to SFHs. I realize this isn't doable for NYC peeps. Maybe LA, CHI, and DC though.

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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:36 pm

If you're talking about the federal government, you'd be coming in at around 130-145k (or higher if it's a 15 or manager position) as a 7th or 8th year associate to a GS agency and around 170-180 or higher at a financial services agency. It's still a big pay cut, but you're also still going to be making a great salary assuming your loans are paid off as long as you're not living an extremely wealthy lifestyle.

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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:If you're talking about the federal government, you'd be coming in at around 130-145k (or higher if it's a 15 or manager position) as a 7th or 8th year associate to a GS agency and around 170-180 or higher at a financial services agency. It's still a big pay cut, but you're also still going to be making a great salary assuming your loans are paid off as long as you're not living an extremely wealthy lifestyle.


OP here. I'm not talking about federal government, since those jobs don't really exist in my market. Looking at state government, which is in the 70-90k range from what I can see.

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Lacepiece23
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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:If you're talking about the federal government, you'd be coming in at around 130-145k (or higher if it's a 15 or manager position) as a 7th or 8th year associate to a GS agency and around 170-180 or higher at a financial services agency. It's still a big pay cut, but you're also still going to be making a great salary assuming your loans are paid off as long as you're not living an extremely wealthy lifestyle.


OP here. I'm not talking about federal government, since those jobs don't really exist in my market. Looking at state government, which is in the 70-90k range from what I can see.


That's still pretty decent money.

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jchiles
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Re: The Finances of Leaving Big Law for the Public Sector

Postby jchiles » Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:55 pm

I would probably take a few months or even a year and commit to living on what you'd expect a public sector salary would be and see how that goes before you make any decisions. It sounds like your fixed expenses are well within that salary level so you'd have to just adjust to not buying stuff or going out (which sucks because buying stuff is cool and acquiring more things is legit no matter what anyone says).




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