What is big law really like?

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piney
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What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:28 pm

Several of my friends in my graduating undergrad class now work in big law. As I struggle to find a decent job, I'm thinking of following them. Everyone I've spoke to though has given me the same advice: "Don't go to law school unless you really want to be a lawyer." But honestly, I have no idea what it's like to work in big law.

What exactly are you doing day to day while you're in the office? Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? Another major concern I have is that I'll be forced to do something unethical while I'm on the job (lie, forge signatures, help conceal documents, etc.). Is this also something I should be concerned about if I want to go into big law? I'm especially worried about the last point.

splitmuch
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby splitmuch » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:30 pm

piney wrote:Several of my friends in my graduating undergrad class now work in big law. As I struggle to find a decent job, I'm thinking of following them. Everyone I've spoke to though has given me the same advice: "Don't go to law school unless you really want to be a lawyer." But honestly, I have no idea what it's like to work in big law.

What exactly are you doing day to day while you're in the office? Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? Another major concern I have is that I'll be forced to do something unethical while I'm on the job (lie, forge signatures, help conceal documents, etc.). Is this also something I should be concerned about if I want to go into big law? I'm especially worried about the last point.



Why don't you ask them?

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:45 pm

As to the ethical issue... I think when people might refer to biglaw as "unethical," they typically mean that large firms aid corporations in doing and/or getting away with business practices they find objectionable. That's obviously in the eye of the beholder, but I think that things that are illegal or actually unethical would probably be pretty rare, if only because the consequences for getting caught outweigh the benefits. Not to say it never happens, but I would guess it happens more on the lower rungs of the profession, where people have less to lose and are not facing off against another multimillion dollar legal team that is likely to uncover any of their wrongdoing.

Renzo
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby Renzo » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:47 pm

piney wrote:Several of my friends in my graduating undergrad class now work in big law. As I struggle to find a decent job, I'm thinking of following them. Everyone I've spoke to though has given me the same advice: "Don't go to law school unless you really want to be a lawyer." But honestly, I have no idea what it's like to work in big law.

What exactly are you doing day to day while you're in the office? Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? Another major concern I have is that I'll be forced to do something unethical while I'm on the job (lie, forge signatures, help conceal documents, etc.). Is this also something I should be concerned about if I want to go into big law? I'm especially worried about the last point.


The answer to the bolded is emphatically no, you should not worry about that; unless the firm you end up working at is run by actors and owned by a TV network.

As for the rest of your post, splitmuch is right. The best thing you can do is meet with and talk to lawyers, and find out how they spend their time. It's not a good job to stumble into because you think you don't have other options, but that's not to necessarily say it's a bad job.

piney
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:00 pm

splitmuch wrote:Why don't you ask them?


They're always at work, and I never see them.

Renzo
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby Renzo » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:02 pm

piney wrote:
splitmuch wrote:Why don't you ask them?


They're always at work, and I never see them.


Call them and see if you can come to their work and talk to them about it?

splitmuch
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby splitmuch » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:03 pm

piney wrote:
splitmuch wrote:Why don't you ask them?


They're always at work, and I never see them.


And yet you asked "Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? "

piney
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:22 pm

splitmuch wrote:And yet you asked "Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? "


I knew someone who worked in IB. When her family traveled across the country to visit her, she couldn't meet them for dinner because she had to work. Is big law that bad?

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kalvano
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby kalvano » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:30 pm

piney wrote:
splitmuch wrote:And yet you asked "Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? "


I knew someone who worked in IB. When her family traveled across the country to visit her, she couldn't meet them for dinner because she had to work. Is big law that bad?


A friend of mine who is doing Biglaw for the summer was at work the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend.

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby Big Shrimpin » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:32 pm

Like a never-ending cake eating contest where the prize is more cake.

piney
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:38 pm

And what exactly do you do after you sit down at work?

Cogburn87
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby Cogburn87 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:47 pm

piney wrote:And what exactly do you do after you sit down at work?


Start working?

This thread is fucking awful.

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby Big Shrimpin » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:49 pm

piney wrote:And what exactly do you do after you sit down at work?


You complete tasks. Get more tasks to do and complete them. It's a glorified desk job, breh.

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Icculus
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby Icculus » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:53 pm

piney wrote:And what exactly do you do after you sit down at work?


Have you ever had a job before?

piney
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:07 pm

Icculus wrote:Have you ever had a job before?


The daily tasks were different at every job I've had. And I assumed they kinds of activities a criminal defense attorney does on a daily basis were different from what someone in antitrust law or M&A law does. That's what I was asking, but it might have been a stupid question.

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rayiner
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby rayiner » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:15 pm

piney wrote:
splitmuch wrote:And yet you asked "Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? "


I knew someone who worked in IB. When her family traveled across the country to visit her, she couldn't meet them for dinner because she had to work. Is big law that bad?


It can be that bad. During my summer (which is supposed to be a cake-walk where you're mostly just there to be wined and dined) I got one assignment Friday afternoon which my associate said had to be done by that night. My girlfriend was flying in from Chicago and I had to leave her waiting for an hour at Grand Central.

That said, when I was an engineer I missed a party my parents threw for me because I was working on a product launch. My dad works public health consulting, and last Christmas he took a one-week vacation where I was averaging about 8-9 hours of work a day.

That said, it's not necessarily always like this. Work certainly has to come before social plans. However, it's not like the two are always in irreconcilable conflict. Whereas in some jobs your time is micro-managed, in big law you're pretty free to work when you want. Nobody cares if you take a long lunch with your SO so long as you answer your Blackberry. Also, things are much more civilized outside of NYC. I spent part of my summer in SF, and people seemed pretty happy. One associate had a toddler and would regularly meet his wife and baby for lunch. But you have to rearrange your life around work to a certain extent. E.g. if you and your SO work a long ways apart, you can't take advantage of these little moments of time.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:45 pm

ITT, people slam the OP to cover up their insecurity about not knowing the answers to OP's questions.

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dingbat
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby dingbat » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:50 pm

piney wrote:
splitmuch wrote:And yet you asked "Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? "


I knew someone who worked in IB. When her family traveled across the country to visit her, she couldn't meet them for dinner because she had to work. Is big law that bad?

I'll tell you a story from the other side - at my work, we're biglaw clients.
If I had a deal closing, I didn't care what the attorneys were doing, I expected them to get their shit done.
If there was a deadline looming, there were no excuses, it had to get done. I would call immediately after sending the paperwork - did you get it?
a little while later - are you reviewing it? (if no, why not?)
A little while later - are you done yet? why not? When can I expect you to finish?
Before the estimated time - are you almost done? When will you be mailing it?

On more than one occasion I was commanded by my boss to call literally every 15 minutes until it was done.
So yeah, biglaw can be that bad.

splitmuch
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby splitmuch » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:51 pm

rayiner wrote:
piney wrote:
splitmuch wrote:And yet you asked "Are you really handing over your entire life to the firm? "


I knew someone who worked in IB. When her family traveled across the country to visit her, she couldn't meet them for dinner because she had to work. Is big law that bad?


It can be that bad.


While it can be "that bad" in terms of having specific times where you just have to work, if you are talking about the hours of an entry level analyst in IB, its not that bad. That is, you may have a 90 hour week leading up to a trial or closing, but it won't be the average work week.

Some firms that are biglaw in terms of size but are in secondary markets can even be called "lifestyle" firms in that the hours, are not really bad at all. (Not 9-5 but maybe 50-60 hours a week). Of course, the pay is correspondingly lower (generally 110-125 without an hours billed bonus) and there will still be the days or weeks where you can't get out of finishing something no matter who is visiting you.

2012JayDee
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby 2012JayDee » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:54 pm

You obviously have ZERO work experience, based on the fact that you wonder what you do when you sit down at your desk.
Being a lawyer is a job. When you sat at your desk you begin doing your job. Reading, writing, researching, checking emails, reading the newspaper (or browsing the news on the web), meeting with mentors, sitting in on meetings, learning about things going on in the firm, talking to other attorneys.

Not every firm is the same but let's assume it works something like this:
You have a certain number of matters (client's issues) that you are assigned. These matters may can be large companies or individuals depending on the firm and the practice area.

Very new associates are never going to just be handed a bunch of clients and told to go lawyer them. More than likely you will have a supervising attorney (could be a senior associate or it could be a partner). You will be given a task and probably told about how many hours that task should take. Since lawyers bill by the hour this is important because it will determine how much the client will pay for your time (there are a lot of other factors that are considered, but this is generally speaking). It will likely take you twice as long to complete the task than the time you're given. The reason is because you don't know anything about the law and because every question presented to you seems to not exist in any legal context in your jurisdiction or in the country and you will spend hours in the firm's library or on a legal research site trying to find the "right answer" to the question you were presented with.

You will complete this dance all day long. Tasks come to your desk, you do the task, you eat lunch, you come back, you get a question, you answer the question, you go home. Rinse repeat.

Many firms provide you with a laptop, ipad, cell and whatever else you need to be productive when you're not sitting at your desk. You could be in the lunchroom and do work or your living room and do work. For every minute of the day you are working on behalf of a client you are creating a bill for the client, which generates revenue. It's in the firm's best interest to give you work that helps you learn lots of legal stuff and also allows you to bill the client because your rate is cheaper than that of a senior associate. It's win-win for you and the firm if you have lots of work, but kind of lose-lose for the client. If you're doing work for the client it's cheaper in cost but it'll likely take you longer to produce results. That's just how the firm works. But the more work you do the more comfortable and familiar you become with how things are done and the less time you'll take to do elementary legal tasks. Most new lawyers work long and hard because they're always behind and they're learning everything. The learning curve can be steep. Junior and senior associates work long and hard because they know what they're doing, they have a stack of clients that constantly need their attention, and they're trying to rack up a certain amount of hours so they can meet the firm's target number and possibly receive a bonus.

You should apply to work in a law firm as a paralegal since you are considering a career in law and have absolutely no idea what you're getting yourself into.

piney
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:01 pm

Do you work less on Sundays at least, or is the pressure constant all the time? How often are you expected to be in before 8? I have strict religious obligations, which is why I'm asking.

2012JayDee
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby 2012JayDee » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:08 pm

piney wrote:Do you work less on Sundays at least, or is the pressure constant all the time? How often are you expected to be in before 8? I have strict religious obligations, which is why I'm asking.


Working on weekends is never consistently required. It will always depend. If you've got some work that needs to be done over the weekend then you'll probably work from home over the weekends (hence the laptop). I've never heard of a firm that requires you to come in on the weekends. I've never heard of a firm that requires you to come in on a Tuesday. It's about producing work. You have to be an adult. You have to get quality work done on time--however that needs to happen.

No firm will violate your religious beliefs.
Law firms are full of people that have religious obligations (being home before sundown, being off for holy holidays). Whatever--they don't care. If in the end you're getting work done.

piney
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby piney » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:20 pm

2012JayDee wrote:You obviously have ZERO work experience, based on the fact that you wonder what you do when you sit down at your desk.

I have years of work experience. I work in a library. At my jobs, when I sit down at my desk, I catalog books and photographs or research them in the stacks. No job I have ever had is anything like what you describe, which is why I asked for details.

Also, my experience isn't enough to get me hired for any paralegal or clerical position. I can't get temp work, let alone a paralegal position in a major firm.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:26 pm

It doesn't have to be, but yes, it can be as bad as you think. If you think it's going to be, it will. But you have alternatives. Not everyone sells their soul. In fact, few do. If you'll recall, the devil lost the war for heaven. He won hell.

2012JayDee
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Re: What is big law really like?

Postby 2012JayDee » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:30 pm

piney wrote:
2012JayDee wrote:You obviously have ZERO work experience, based on the fact that you wonder what you do when you sit down at your desk.

I have years of work experience. I work in a library. At my jobs, when I sit down at my desk, I catalog books and photographs or research them in the stacks. No job I have ever had is anything like what you describe, which is why I asked for details.

Also, my experience isn't enough to get me hired for any paralegal or clerical position. I can't get temp work, let alone a paralegal position in a major firm.


I apologize for the assumption.
Law firm work is nothing like working in a library. If you're shy, sensitive, easily offended, don't take criticism well, not a perfectionist or willing to work for a bunch of people who are--law firm life is not for you.
That doesn't mean law school or being a lawyer is not. You'll have to decide that for yourself. But if you like a job with a standard 9-5 M-F with little chance of long hours or weekend or holiday hours then you are not looking to work in a law firm.




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