Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
User avatar
SweetTort
Posts: 2444
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 3:57 pm

Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby SweetTort » Tue Nov 25, 2014 2:53 pm

I am an undergraduate who has been wrestling with whether or not law is the route I should go down. My largest struggle has been, after reading much of TLS, seeing how much people hate their work.

My question is, say someone gets a full ride to a good school and does well in their class. For instance, Northwestern top 25% or Duke top 40%, graduating with no debt. Would this personal be able to live a normal, good life? If big law isn't required, could they get employed in a job where they work under 60 hours a week? Or is it true that law is bimodal regarding salaries, but that the hours are constant in shitlaw and big law?

Sorry for the rambling, and I apologize if this question has been answered to death.

Thanks!

User avatar
FSK
Posts: 6367
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:47 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby FSK » Tue Nov 25, 2014 2:57 pm

What is "normal" and "good" to you? What kind of career, and success in your career, do you need for happiness?

User avatar
Dr. Review
Posts: 1797
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:51 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby Dr. Review » Tue Nov 25, 2014 2:58 pm

Law firms generate revenue from the billable time entered by their attorneys. As a result, more time at the office means more money for the firm. The culmination of this is that many/most attorneys work long hours. It is absolutely possible to work under 60 hours per week. Hell, I do it now. I don't think it is a good policy to expect that you will be able to make that decision. Work/life balance can vary greatly from firm to firm, and market to market. It also varies from practice group to practice group. I would not enter the legal profession with the goal of finding work with a better work/life balance. Instead, I would be prepared for the worst, because that is often the best case scenario for loan repayment or even just for full time employment.

User avatar
FSK
Posts: 6367
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:47 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby FSK » Tue Nov 25, 2014 3:01 pm

Non-big law jobs exist, and people in your cited position are in a really good place to go get them. You still have to like what you're doing.

User avatar
SweetTort
Posts: 2444
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby SweetTort » Tue Nov 25, 2014 3:01 pm

As far as a normal lifestyle, I mean someone who can reasonably make plans for dinner at 9pm, and who can do things like sleep/workout/see the occasional show on weekends.

I'm not looking to have kids or do anything that would require extensive time outside the office, but just wondering if it's possible to continue the basic workings of a human being.

And if work-life balance isn't something you choose, do you just hope for the best? Or is it something where you can put in your time in a big firm and then try to lateral into a firm or market with better hours?

tomwatts
Posts: 1551
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:01 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby tomwatts » Tue Nov 25, 2014 4:00 pm

Just to fill out what flawschoolkid is getting at, a lot of people who go into law find out, after working a bit in a legal job, that they don't like working in legal jobs. They just don't like the work. Some people do like the work, but the complainers here are the ones who wouldn't be happy doing anything in law.

Totally separate from that, biglaw is notorious for overworking people (some firms more so than others). But there's also small-law, midlaw, government, public interest, in-house counsel, etc., many of which can have much more reasonable hours (though some don't). You'll be able to make dinner plans for 7 pm, most nights. You'll be able to have weekends mostly off — depending on the job, you might have to put in 4 hours on a weekend (or something), or you might have the weekend completely off.

These are two separate concerns, both of which are voiced on TLS. The latter is easy; just don't go into biglaw, and be sure to find out information about work/life balance before you apply to jobs during law school. You can avoid workaholic jobs if you want, as long as you're at a reasonably good school and have reasonably good grades and therefore are able to pick and choose what sort of job you go into (instead of scrambling for whoever will hire you). The former is much harder; there's no way I know of to determine whether you're going to like legal jobs before going to law school unless you work as a paralegal, talk a bunch with lawyers about what they do on a day-to-day basis, etc.

rabbit5000
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:06 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby rabbit5000 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 6:23 pm

I can tell you about 1L: it's a ridiculous amount of work, far more than undergrad and quite a bit more than a 9-5 job. I've made some awesome friends in law school, and when I do go out/hang out with them, it's a blast. It just happens way less than it did before I got here. I've also not been able to make it to the gym/relax nearly as much as I'd like. All of 1L is a huge grind, and as the semester draws to a close the work piles up and things get even more stressful. Honestly, it sucks.

2L and 3L are supposedly much much much better though.

Hutz_and_Goodman
Posts: 1413
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:42 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Wed Dec 17, 2014 6:27 pm

Law often appeals to people who are obsessive/workaholic, and revenue is generated based on the billable hour. If you don't like legal work or you don't want to work more than 60 hours a week at times then do not go to law school.

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2092
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Wed Dec 17, 2014 6:59 pm

No. Do not go to law school.

User avatar
sd5289
Posts: 1624
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:02 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby sd5289 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:06 pm

^ At least don't do it right away.

Everyone I know who is miserable jumped right in, or took "a year" (or two) off. If you're struggling with the idea of going, don't go. Go out and get a job, work for a while, live like an adult, and if somehow miraculously you decide that you want to be a lawyer, then go to law school. There is no other reason to go to law school. Only go when you're convinced that you don't want to do anything else than be a lawyer.

Also, I don't understand what you mean by a "normal" lifestyle. The so-called lifestyle of a 2nd grade teacher is going to be significantly different than that of a lawyer, which is significantly different than that of a cop. One thing that can generally be safely said about law is that you'll more than likely be working a ton. After all, that's better than the alternative (unemployed with debt).

User avatar
fats provolone
Posts: 7125
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 4:44 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby fats provolone » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:07 pm

i took several years off and had a wide variety of life experiences in several fields and countries before going to ls


don't go to law school

kcdc1
Posts: 930
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:48 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby kcdc1 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:30 pm

Bear in mind that there is some selection bias in who chooses to post.

User avatar
Kratos
Posts: 6778
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2014 3:50 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby Kratos » Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:03 pm

rabbit5000 wrote:I can tell you about 1L: it's a ridiculous amount of work, far more than undergrad and quite a bit more than a 9-5 job. I've made some awesome friends in law school, and when I do go out/hang out with them, it's a blast. It just happens way less than it did before I got here. I've also not been able to make it to the gym/relax nearly as much as I'd like. All of 1L is a huge grind, and as the semester draws to a close the work piles up and things get even more stressful. Honestly, it sucks.

2L and 3L are supposedly much much much better though.

I agree law school sucks, but you're doing it totally wrong if you think its an unmanageable amount of work or that you dont have time for gym/relaxation. Honestly if it's too much now, you should drop out cause real practice is probably gonna chew you up.

User avatar
lionelmessi
Posts: 29
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:06 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby lionelmessi » Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:47 pm

sd5289 wrote:^ At least don't do it right away.

Everyone I know who is miserable jumped right in, or took "a year" (or two) off. If you're struggling with the idea of going, don't go. Go out and get a job, work for a while, live like an adult, and if somehow miraculously you decide that you want to be a lawyer, then go to law school. There is no other reason to go to law school. Only go when you're convinced that you don't want to do anything else than be a lawyer.

Also, I don't understand what you mean by a "normal" lifestyle. The so-called lifestyle of a 2nd grade teacher is going to be significantly different than that of a lawyer, which is significantly different than that of a cop. One thing that can generally be safely said about law is that you'll more than likely be working a ton. After all, that's better than the alternative (unemployed with debt).


I second this 100%. I fit into one of the school/rank categories OP started with. I worked for a number of years before law school, and have a wife and kids. My experience is that biglaw can range from being pretty similar to every other professional job (which is, 60 or so hours a week, with crunches when things really matter) to something a bit worse than that. The range is mostly dependent on whether a firm's culture is to stay late and on weekends for the sake of it or only because you have to.

But the real shock for most law school grads is that employment in general pretty much sucks. Lots of 2nd grade teachers, cops, and others would tell you the same. Lots of professors, government employees, salesman, bankers, doctors, etc...would also tell you the same. And the point that not enough work is way worse than too much is so under-appreciated...

Unless someone else can steer me towards a job with a strong salary, in a growing industry, with a high level of job security, and interesting/stimulating work, and years of education/loans aren't required, that you don't you have to work 50-60 hours a week on average and much more than that when things matter most...

I"m not saying law, especially biglaw, is any or all of those things, but if you do find that unicorn, we should all ride that instead.

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2092
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:58 pm

kcdc1 wrote:Bear in mind that there is some selection bias in who chooses to post.


Yeah, the people who left law altogether and/or think law school is a really stupid idea definitely don't post here. The people who do post here generally thought law school was a good idea. Some of them (like me) may have changed their minds.
Last edited by ExBiglawAssociate on Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:02 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2092
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:01 am

If you are dead set on going to law school, you better make damn sure that there's not a single other thing in the entire world that you would EVER want to be; not a doctor, not an engineer, not a scientist, etc. That's not to say that you definitely won't be able to transition out of being a lawyer but it will probably be a hell of a lot harder to do than you can comprehend right now.

You can always go to law school, on the other hand--even after many years of working in an unrelated field.

User avatar
First Offense
Posts: 6461
Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:45 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby First Offense » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:07 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
kcdc1 wrote:Bear in mind that there is some selection bias in who chooses to post.


Yeah, the people who left law altogether and/or think law school is a really stupid idea definitely don't post here. The people who do post here generally thought law school was a good idea. Some of them (like me) may have changed their minds.

There are a ton of people who left law altogether and think law school is a stupid idea that post here.

I may have just been whooshed.

mvp99
Posts: 1384
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:00 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby mvp99 » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:25 am

ANY job that pays like biglaw you wont have the same qol as in other jobs...source? some of family members in mgmnt positions (vps coo etc) w/ no normal life

kcdc1
Posts: 930
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:48 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby kcdc1 » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:46 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
kcdc1 wrote:Bear in mind that there is some selection bias in who chooses to post.


Yeah, the people who left law altogether and/or think law school is a really stupid idea definitely don't post here. The people who do post here generally thought law school was a good idea. Some of them (like me) may have changed their minds.

Most of the working attorneys who post on TLS seem to junior associates at big firms who are uninterested in partner-track. I'm not saying that the opinions are illegitimate; just noting that we mostly hear from a particular portion of the legal career spectrum.

User avatar
ManoftheHour
Posts: 3402
Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:03 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby ManoftheHour » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:48 am

My friend is one year into being a public defender and she loves her life. Has time for her boyfriend and regular life stuff.

User avatar
JohannDeMann
Posts: 13831
Joined: Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:25 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby JohannDeMann » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:49 am

What's your major OP and how much money are you tryna make? Life goals or or just a more general life guide youd like to follow? You can def maintain a life in law but depends on the city and job.

User avatar
fats provolone
Posts: 7125
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 4:44 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby fats provolone » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:56 am

kcdc1 wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
kcdc1 wrote:Bear in mind that there is some selection bias in who chooses to post.


Yeah, the people who left law altogether and/or think law school is a really stupid idea definitely don't post here. The people who do post here generally thought law school was a good idea. Some of them (like me) may have changed their minds.

Most of the working attorneys who post on TLS seem to junior associates at big firms who are uninterested in partner-track. I'm not saying that the opinions are illegitimate; just noting that we mostly hear from a particular portion of the legal career spectrum.

why do you think the associates who post on TLS are "uninterested in partner-track"?

kcdc1
Posts: 930
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:48 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby kcdc1 » Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:52 am

fats provolone wrote:why do you think the associates who post on TLS are "uninterested in partner-track"?

Mostly because they're bored enough to post on TLS with frequency. I would guess that there's a pretty good correlation between work dissatisfaction and TLS-posting.

In any event, it'd be nice to hear more from the post-biglaw IH and fedlaw crowd.

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2092
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:18 pm

kcdc1 wrote:
fats provolone wrote:why do you think the associates who post on TLS are "uninterested in partner-track"?

Mostly because they're bored enough to post on TLS with frequency. I would guess that there's a pretty good correlation between work dissatisfaction and TLS-posting.

In any event, it'd be nice to hear more from the post-biglaw IH and fedlaw crowd.


Not sure if this was directed at me, but I wouldn't say I post "with frequency." I average about a post and a half per day. That's hardly comparable to some of the true megaposters on this site.

I can tell you that morale re making partner is uniformly low among associates at my V20. No one really thinks they have a good shot. Some people think they have a small shot (and kill themselves trying to make it).

For some context, there were between 120-200 people up for partner at my firm (numbers fudged to not out me) and around 10 of them made partner. Granted, this number includes some of counsel and other super-senior associates who have already been passed over once, but the odds are still really low that anyone will make partner during a particular year. I would guess at least 75% of these people were absolutely killing themselves to make partner. By that I mean spending 100% of their time focused on work with ZERO time spent on anything else. On top of billing a shitton you also have to develop a network, grab-ass with a few partners and become a top expert in a substantive area of law. All of these things take up an inordinate amount of time.

kcdc1
Posts: 930
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:48 am

Re: Is a normal lifestyle possible in law?

Postby kcdc1 » Thu Dec 18, 2014 7:37 pm

Wasn't directed at you. No offense intended whatsoever.

Also, I see no problem with the common practice of using 2-4 years in biglaw to pay down loans and open the door to IH or gov't positions. Just observing that it's reasonable to expect people to be less satisfied with their work during those 2-4 years; for them, it's a means to an end.




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Capitol_Idea and 6 guests