Biglaw vs. Other Firms

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mojangles
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Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby mojangles » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:45 pm

So, here is my question, relating to working at firms and not relating to gov't/in house work. My limited understanding was biglaw provides, generally, certain advantages over other types of firms (with the exception possibly being boutiques). Those advantages include, among other things, prestige and salary. However, in exchange for those benefits, you essentially relinquish your work/life balance and end up spending a rather large portion of your life focused on work. Working in midlaw or a small firm provides you with better work/life balance, but you lose more in regard to pay as well as prestige of projects and cases.

I know this is easy to say as a 0L, but given that situation, I would say I am absolutely not biglaw or bust. I don't need 160k/year to be happy. I could be very happy living on much less, especially depending on COL wherever I end up living. However, everything I have recently read leads me to believe that essentially, working midlaw or in a small firm is all of the work you have to do in biglaw without the nice paycheck at the end of it. Does anyone around here have experience with this? Can anyone really confirm if working in a smaller firm you will still have to put in the same or similar hours? Just curious as to what the benefit, if any, would be to working midlaw. If there isn't any, why wouldn't we all go in with biglaw or bust attitudes (unless we were aiming for gov't/PI etc)?

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unlicensedpotato
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby unlicensedpotato » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:02 pm

Small and midlaw require way less hours. The work is nowhere near as bad/stressful as big law. I have no clue where you read anything that would even suggest that.

Your points about salary/lifestyle aren't necessarily wrong, but I would put a different spin on it. At a biglaw firm, during those extra hours working on more complicated projects, you acquire better and more diverse skills that can make you an attractive candidate for a lot of other positions. Lots of people are only in big law for 4 years or so. You're saying, hey I'll take the lower salary for the rest of my life in exchange for less hours. The problem is, that's not really the choice. If you're at a small firm and they let you go or the firm goes under or the economy dips or whatever, you are going to have a really hard time finding another job compared to someone leaving a big law position. If you start off higher up the totem pole then you have a lot more options and security later on.

mojangles
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby mojangles » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:09 pm

thank you for that, and for the additional POV on that issue. i will find what i read previously, but it was very confusing to me when i read it.

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Mce252
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby Mce252 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:19 pm

unlicensedpotato wrote:Small and midlaw require way less hours. The work is nowhere near as bad/stressful as big law. I have no clue where you read anything that would even suggest that.

Your points about salary/lifestyle aren't necessarily wrong, but I would put a different spin on it. At a biglaw firm, during those extra hours working on more complicated projects, you acquire better and more diverse skills that can make you an attractive candidate for a lot of other positions. Lots of people are only in big law for 4 years or so. You're saying, hey I'll take the lower salary for the rest of my life in exchange for less hours. The problem is, that's not really the choice. If you're at a small firm and they let you go or the firm goes under or the economy dips or whatever, you are going to have a really hard time finding another job compared to someone leaving a big law position. If you start off higher up the totem pole then you have a lot more options and security later on.



I have to disagree with this a bit. Not all small and mid-size firms are going to work you less than biglaw; they just pay you less and the clients are different. Sure, you might not pull as many all nighters doing due diligence, but you might be doing it preparing for trial or trying to balance being the only associate assigned to a partner who does a ton of work for smaller companies.

There is nothing about a small practice that really means you will be working less. If a practice with a small number of attorneys and limited resources hires you, chances are they are going to work you hard to make their investment worthwhile. I've heard of way more people sitting around waiting for work in biglaw than I have at a small shop.

why wouldn't we all go in with biglaw or bust attitudes (unless we were aiming for gov't/PI etc)?



It's really hard to get a job in biglaw. And you've gotta eat so people settle for other jobs.
Last edited by Mce252 on Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bk1
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby bk1 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:22 pm

unlicensedpotato wrote:Small and midlaw require way less hours. The work is nowhere near as bad/stressful as big law.

This is not necessarily true.

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unlicensedpotato
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby unlicensedpotato » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:28 pm

Of course there will be small firms that are total sweat shops. Associates are going to try and get out of those as fast as they can though. No one wants to work the same amount for less pay. I got the impression that OP was asking which was better, if you had a choice between biglaw and fewer hours for less pay/prestige.
If we're talking big law generally, we can say the average associate is billing 2000ish (Texas hours are lower than NYC). Maybe more. I don't think that your typical small firm has an average of 2000 hours billed per associate.

Agreed though, I was wrong to say that it wasn't as bad or stressful. Work at lots of small firms can be very bad/stressful, depending on your perspective.
Last edited by unlicensedpotato on Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

mojangles
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby mojangles » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:29 pm

Mce252 wrote:
why wouldn't we all go in with biglaw or bust attitudes (unless we were aiming for gov't/PI etc)?



It's really hard to get a job in biglaw. And you've gotta eat so people settle for other jobs.


right i get that, what i meant was a decent number of people seem to go in without the intent of gunning for biglaw. if i knew i had 2 options, both were going to work me just as hard, and one was going to pay significantly better, my attitude going in is i have one target in my sights. if i can't get it, that's one thing, but its what i'm going to fight for

Geaux12
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby Geaux12 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:55 pm

Many insurance defense firms have associates billing 2k easily. Hopefully you don't end up at a firm that pays associates less than $60k with no benefits. Then again, a lot of that kind of work is temporary; like BigLaw it's up or out at an ID firm. Plenty of associates move to the plaintiff's bar, which can be much less stressful (or more, depending on your volume/if you're going to trial frequently) because you're not on the billable hours model.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Biglaw vs. Other Firms

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:01 pm

I think, too, that a lot of people who say they're not gunning for biglaw are hoping to find midlaw places that do reasonably interesting work, pay reasonably, and don't work you quite as hard as big law. I don't think these places exist as much as people would like them to exist, but there's so much variety among small/midlaw, I'd imagine there are some out there (or at least, people want to think so).

The other thing that seems different about midlaw is that it seems to me you might have a better chance at making partner. This is mostly speculation on my part, but small/midlaw doesn't usually seem to hire big first-year associate classes on the assumption that most will be gone before they can even try for partner. So there might be a different kind of investment in you in midlaw than in biglaw. (But like I said, I'm speculating.)




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