Ask a lawyer anything

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
anattorney
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Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:19 pm

I've been practicing for 4 years. Was in biglaw for two seconds and now in a small firm/specialized practice area.

Near
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby Near » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:23 pm

How long were you in big law? Please describe your experience.

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:41 pm

I was there for about six months (started in 2008 and got laid off in the crash). I had two extremely busy months followed by four months of billing less than 5 hours a month.

For the couple of months I had work it was fine, I couldn't have personally sustained the pace over many years but the people were pretty nice if very office-politicky.

At this point, out of my class of 20something first years only one is still with the firm.

Trout et al
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby Trout et al » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:51 pm

What did you do to land on your feet after being laid off after only getting 6 months of experience?

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:05 pm

I was very lucky. While I was off I volunteered full time in my current practice field (family law) and then found an entry level position to apply to. My initial salary was pretty bad, considering my debt load, but has almost doubled since I started.

Trout et al
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby Trout et al » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:10 pm

What is a typical day like practicing family law?

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Mick Haller
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby Mick Haller » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:15 pm

anattorney wrote:I was very lucky. While I was off I volunteered full time in my current practice field (family law) and then found an entry level position to apply to. My initial salary was pretty bad, considering my debt load, but has almost doubled since I started.


Volunteered at like a court mediation program or something?

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txdude45
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby txdude45 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:21 pm

It is unheard of for someone to start out as an associate in one city and then transfer to another after a couple years? (NY-->TX for example)

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:23 pm

The days are widely varied. Overall, I do a lot of talking to clients on the phone, phone calls and letters with opposing counsel trying to settle various issues that come up during the case, draft discovery and respond to discovery, and draft/respond to motions for things like custody, support, domestic violence orders, attorney fees, etc. In court 0-5 times per month.

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:25 pm

Mick Haller wrote:
anattorney wrote:I was very lucky. While I was off I volunteered full time in my current practice field (family law) and then found an entry level position to apply to. My initial salary was pretty bad, considering my debt load, but has almost doubled since I started.


Volunteered at like a court mediation program or something?


I was at a non-profit that assists low income clients. Where I am they want about 5 years of experience for an attorney to act as a volunteer mediator in court.

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:28 pm

txdude45 wrote:It is unheard of for someone to start out as an associate in one city and then transfer to another after a couple years? (NY-->TX for example)


It wasn't uncommon at my firm.

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dextermorgan
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Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:37 am

Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby dextermorgan » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:52 pm

anattorney wrote:
Mick Haller wrote:
anattorney wrote:I was very lucky. While I was off I volunteered full time in my current practice field (family law) and then found an entry level position to apply to. My initial salary was pretty bad, considering my debt load, but has almost doubled since I started.


Volunteered at like a court mediation program or something?


I was at a non-profit that assists low income clients. Where I am they want about 5 years of experience for an attorney to act as a volunteer mediator in court.

What range of school did you go to? Did you volunteer at the organization while you were in school, or was it something you did later?

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:55 pm

Top 20 school. I volunteered at this place during law school also. I had always had the idea that I would transition into family law after a few years in biglaw, but now I see it would have been next to impossible and am glad that things shook out the way they did.

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dextermorgan
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby dextermorgan » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:57 pm

anattorney wrote:Top 20 school. I volunteered at this place during law school also. I had always had the idea that I would transition into family law after a few years in biglaw, but now I see it would have been next to impossible and am glad that things shook out the way they did.

Thanks! Did the organization give you decent experience? Obviously you marketed it well, but was the actual work you were doing for the organization applicable to private family law? I'm thinking of taking a similar path (hopefully).

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:06 pm

Yes, it was really good experience. I learned the basics of family law rules/practice, got tons of direct client contact/interviewing experience, and got experience drafting motions. All of what I did there, I also do in private practice. There's just more added on top in terms of the financial issues. It was also a good way to make connections in the family law world.

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kalvano
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby kalvano » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:21 pm

Can you give an idea about salary? You said it was less initially than what you needed, but that it got better.

Did it start in the $40K's? $50K's?

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:36 pm

kalvano wrote:Can you give an idea about salary? You said it was less initially than what you needed, but that it got better.

Did it start in the $40K's? $50K's?


I started around 60k and once my boss determined he liked me, I got a bump after 6 months and have gotten substantial raises every year. I'm now in low 100s and get a decent bonus. For high volume practices, I'd expect starting salary to be more like 40k.

Other random salary reference points from people I went to law school with (e.g. 4th-5th year attorneys):

-Public interest lawyer #1: 40k
-Public interest lawyer #2: 60k
-Government attorney (not DA/PD): 95k
-Civil litigation attorney at smallish firm: 80k
-Family law attorney in a different jurisdiction: 35k plus 'commissions' for cases she brings in

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bizzybone1313
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby bizzybone1313 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:43 pm

anattorney wrote:Top 20 school. I volunteered at this place during law school also. I had always had the idea that I would transition into family law after a few years in biglaw, but now I see it would have been next to impossible and am glad that things shook out the way they did.


You are the perfect person to ask this question: Do you think it is generally a bad idea for people to attend schools in the T-15 to T-20 range? Schools like UT, UCLA and Vanderbilt? Should most people not attend law school if they cannot attend a T-14 (or "T-13") school?

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kalvano
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby kalvano » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:52 pm

anattorney wrote:
kalvano wrote:Can you give an idea about salary? You said it was less initially than what you needed, but that it got better.

Did it start in the $40K's? $50K's?


I started around 60k and once my boss determined he liked me, I got a bump after 6 months and have gotten substantial raises every year. I'm now in low 100s and get a decent bonus. For high volume practices, I'd expect starting salary to be more like 40k.

Other random salary reference points from people I went to law school with (e.g. 4th-5th year attorneys):

-Public interest lawyer #1: 40k
-Public interest lawyer #2: 60k
-Government attorney (not DA/PD): 95k
-Civil litigation attorney at smallish firm: 80k
-Family law attorney in a different jurisdiction: 35k plus 'commissions' for cases she brings in


What do you mean by high volume? How is that different from what you do?

anattorney
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:12 pm

Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:58 pm

bizzybone1313 wrote:
anattorney wrote:Top 20 school. I volunteered at this place during law school also. I had always had the idea that I would transition into family law after a few years in biglaw, but now I see it would have been next to impossible and am glad that things shook out the way they did.


You are the perfect person to ask this question: Do you think it is generally a bad idea for people to attend schools in the T-15 to T-20 range? Schools like UT, UCLA and Vanderbilt? Should most people not attend law school if they cannot attend a T-14 (or "T-13") school?


Completely depends on how much you are paying and what your goals are (type of practice, location of practice). In some cases it may be a terrible idea, in some cases it may be a better idea than attending a T14.

Pokemon
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Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:58 pm

Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby Pokemon » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:03 pm

anattorney wrote:
kalvano wrote:Can you give an idea about salary? You said it was less initially than what you needed, but that it got better.

Did it start in the $40K's? $50K's?


I started around 60k and once my boss determined he liked me, I got a bump after 6 months and have gotten substantial raises every year. I'm now in low 100s and get a decent bonus. For high volume practices, I'd expect starting salary to be more like 40k.

Other random salary reference points from people I went to law school with (e.g. 4th-5th year attorneys):

-Public interest lawyer #1: 40k
-Public interest lawyer #2: 60k
-Government attorney (not DA/PD): 95k
-Civil litigation attorney at smallish firm: 80k
-Family law attorney in a different jurisdiction: 35k plus 'commissions' for cases she brings in


Can you also tell us about the people who lost their biglaw jobs in 2008. You said only 1 out of your class is there. What are the rest doing?

anattorney
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:12 pm

Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:03 pm

kalvano wrote:
anattorney wrote:
kalvano wrote:Can you give an idea about salary? You said it was less initially than what you needed, but that it got better.

Did it start in the $40K's? $50K's?


I started around 60k and once my boss determined he liked me, I got a bump after 6 months and have gotten substantial raises every year. I'm now in low 100s and get a decent bonus. For high volume practices, I'd expect starting salary to be more like 40k.

Other random salary reference points from people I went to law school with (e.g. 4th-5th year attorneys):

-Public interest lawyer #1: 40k
-Public interest lawyer #2: 60k
-Government attorney (not DA/PD): 95k
-Civil litigation attorney at smallish firm: 80k
-Family law attorney in a different jurisdiction: 35k plus 'commissions' for cases she brings in


What do you mean by high volume? How is that different from what you do?


High volume meaning you churn through lots of clients with small cases. I work with rich clients so I have fewer cases that usually generate a lot of fees.

anattorney
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:12 pm

Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:10 pm

Pokemon wrote:
anattorney wrote:
kalvano wrote:Can you give an idea about salary? You said it was less initially than what you needed, but that it got better.

Did it start in the $40K's? $50K's?


I started around 60k and once my boss determined he liked me, I got a bump after 6 months and have gotten substantial raises every year. I'm now in low 100s and get a decent bonus. For high volume practices, I'd expect starting salary to be more like 40k.

Other random salary reference points from people I went to law school with (e.g. 4th-5th year attorneys):

-Public interest lawyer #1: 40k
-Public interest lawyer #2: 60k
-Government attorney (not DA/PD): 95k
-Civil litigation attorney at smallish firm: 80k
-Family law attorney in a different jurisdiction: 35k plus 'commissions' for cases she brings in


Can you also tell us about the people who lost their biglaw jobs in 2008. You said only 1 out of your class is there. What are the rest doing?


People who lost their job - a few doing non-lawyer things. One does in house type stuff somewhere he had a connection. One started his own firm but I think is pretty much living off a trust fund.

Out of the ones that didn't lose their job - a bunch moved to smaller/boutique firms, a couple moved to other biglaw firms, a couple clerked, a few moved to government.

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bizzybone1313
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby bizzybone1313 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:14 pm

On average, how many hours a week do you work? Do you think you have the skills and/or ability to easily start a solo practice if you needed to on a whim?

anattorney
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Re: Ask a lawyer anything

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:23 pm

bizzybone1313 wrote:On average, how many hours a week do you work? Do you think you have the skills and/or ability to easily start a solo practice if you needed to on a whim?


I usually work 9 or 9:30 to 5:30 or 6 except occasional periods when I'm slammed. However, I do work on weekends fairly often because on weekdays people are calling me every 5 minutes so I can't concentrate on more sustained things like writing a motion.

I have thought about eventually going solo. For me to be comfortable doing it I would want about 5 more years experience, at least 30k in startup costs and a bigger professional network.

However, I do think I have the basic skills/ability to practice as a solo in the sense that I could handle cases that were not extremely complex from start to finish and would not be malpracticing all over everyone that walked through the door.




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