Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
crazyeddie
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Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:37 pm

I am a mid level Associate in a Chicago Big Law Firm (AmLaw 50) that used this forum when I was deciding to go to law school. I practice corporate law, mostly M&A, and went to a top 50 (but not T14) law school. Also, I have participated as an on-campus interviewer in my firms OCI process. Happy to answer any questions anyone might have about my experiences with law school, biglaw firms, corporate practice generally, etc.

BrainsyK
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby BrainsyK » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:16 pm

1. How are hours (not just now but as you've moved up)?

2. How is job security up to up senior levels?

3. Is it possible for someone with zero ties from Columbia to land Chicago firms at OCI?

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:21 pm

BrainsyK wrote:1. How are hours (not just now but as you've moved up)?

2. How is job security up to up senior levels?

3. Is it possible for someone with zero ties from Columbia to land Chicago firms at OCI?


1. I've always billed more than 2,000, never more than 2,400 straight billable hours. Add in roughly 50 pro bono and 50 firm activities hours per year also.

2. Corporate associates are in high demand right now. Very high.

3. Yes, Columbia is a great school.

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yyyuppp
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby yyyuppp » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:51 pm

what are the face time requirements like at your firm?

edit: removed quoted posts

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:50 pm

yyyuppp wrote:what are the face time requirements like at your firm?

edit: removed quoted posts


Low, to non-existent, if you're hitting your hours.

Halltheway
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Halltheway » Fri Jun 09, 2017 3:36 am

Hi, I have a couple of questions, mainly about OCI.

What are your general suggestions for OCI? Bidding, interviewing, etc.

How true and real are the gap & ranking cutoffs/requirements for bidding? Do I have a chance at a callback if I scored a lottery interview with much lower grades than a firm traditionally accepts?

Is there any truth to bidding a lot in NYC?

How do firms view students from UChi/Northwestern v. Loyola/DePaul/etc.

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btruj777
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby btruj777 » Fri Jun 09, 2017 8:57 am

Hi! Thank you for this, looking to do Chicago Big Law as well. I am most worried about quality of life and work life.

What are some things in your particular firm that you are surprised that people are more lenient with, when compared to any job you have had before law school. For example, I have heard it does not matter how late you come in so long as before 10? Is this true?

I have also heard that you can (as you become more senior) to work from home on occasion?

In short, how much autonomy do you have of your day?

How often haver your weekend plans or vacation plans been interfered with because of Big Law?

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:38 pm

Not OP but I work in Chicago biglaw.

Halltheway wrote:Hi, I have a couple of questions, mainly about OCI.

What are your general suggestions for OCI? Bidding, interviewing, etc.


There is a lot of advice on this site about OCI. OCI will be pretty easy and even a little fun if you (1) have good grades and (2) are a good interviewer. It will be less fun if you only have one of those two going for you. It will be excruciating if you have neither. Generally, you want to be very conversational and enthusiastic in your interviews. You want to show, not tell, your knowledge of the firm, the market, and the practice area you are interested in. If there is a lull in the conversation, it's on you to keep things going. Do not be scared if the conversation drifts into trivial subjects; that's actually a good thing.

Halltheway wrote:How true and real are the gap & ranking cutoffs/requirements for bidding?


I'm not sure if you're referring to your school's OCI process or the firm's selection requirements. If you have a lottery system you can bid on anyone. If you mean those general job postings each school has up on your OCI portal, those aren't too helpful. But if you're asking whether firms have grade cutoffs, then yes they do. Some are more selective than others, but all are pretty selective in Chicago. Plus Chicago firms have the luxury of not needing to hire as many people as they do in NYC or other markets. So they can be pretty picky in other areas besides grades.

Of the big firms, Kirkland and Sidley might be the least grade sensitive (maybe Skadden), since they need larger class sizes. But they still have cutoffs. And they will really only dip to someone slightly above median (but still above their cutoffs) at schools in the top 14 and otherwise really good interviewers/experience. Everyone wants to work at these firms, though, so it's probably a wash when it comes to competitiveness.

Halltheway wrote:Do I have a chance at a callback if I scored a lottery interview with much lower grades than a firm traditionally accepts?


Probably not much chance unless you are a URM, have a really strong business or other background or are otherwise a really special snowflake.

Halltheway wrote:Is there any truth to bidding a lot in NYC?


Yes.
Halltheway wrote:How do firms view students from UChi/Northwestern v. Loyola/DePaul/etc.


Chicago and NU are probably viewed as peers in Chicago, with possibly a slight edge to U Chicago. Firms hire a LOT of their students. I'm not privy to any special gradations of the other schools in Chicago. The big Chicago firms will hire from these schools, but only maybe one to two per summer class. You better have phenomenal grades and a good personality or you are not likely to get an offer.
Last edited by Vincent Adultman on Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:41 pm

btruj777 wrote:Hi! Thank you for this, looking to do Chicago Big Law as well. I am most worried about quality of life and work life.

What are some things in your particular firm that you are surprised that people are more lenient with, when compared to any job you have had before law school. For example, I have heard it does not matter how late you come in so long as before 10? Is this true?

I have also heard that you can (as you become more senior) to work from home on occasion?

In short, how much autonomy do you have of your day?

How often haver your weekend plans or vacation plans been interfered with because of Big Law?


This is all very firm dependent. Some firms don't care at all whether you work from home or whether you come in late or leave around five or six. What really matters is how many hours you are billing and who you are working for. Other firms have more strict policies on being in the office past a certain point. Even at firms with no face time requirements, you shouldn't make it a habit to work from home.

I have a lot of autonomy in my day, until I don't. When you have multiple people asking you to do 15 hours worth of work and to have it finished in 10 hours, I don't really feel like I am the master of my domain in any shape or form. But people also treat you like you're an adult and generally you are able to set your own priorities. I think I know what you're driving at with this question, though. Generally, I do NOT feel like I have a ton of autonomy. You have multiple bosses asking you for stuff at all hours of the day and night. It's not like owning your own business or something.

I have my weekday and weekend plans regularly ruined, but not all the time. More than that will come down to where and for whom you are specifically working. It's not as bad as NYC, but it's still pretty bad.

CPAlawHopefu
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby CPAlawHopefu » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:21 pm

1. How is UIUC viewed from employer perspective?

2. How well are asians represented in your firm? How well do Asians perform when it comes to becoming a partner (specifically at Chicago biglaws)? (I am Asian so this is important to me)

3. How much loan do you have, how much do you pay a month as loan payment, and how does that affect your lifestyle with your current salary?

4. How is the social culture like? Do assoicates with same alma mater stick together mostly or is it more of a "lets all co-mingle together" environment?

5. How common are lateral tranfers between regions? Say I start out at chicago but want to work at SF firm in california, how likely is this?

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:34 pm

CPAlawHopefu wrote:1. How is UIUC viewed from employer perspective?


This falls into the "big firms firms will likely hire one to two students per summer" category. You better have really good grade and be a strong interviewer or you will struggle.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:2. How well are asians represented in your firm? How well do Asians perform when it comes to becoming a partner (specifically at Chicago biglaws)? (I am Asian so this is important to me)


Asians are underrepresented, but not as compared to African Americans, Latinos or other minority groups. It's about as impossible to make partner as an Asian is it is for every other ethnic group.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:3. How much loan do you have, how much do you pay a month as loan payment, and how does that affect your lifestyle with your current salary?


My loan payments are more than manageable in biglaw. The only issue is I'm not sure how long I'm going to stay.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:4. How is the social culture like? Do assoicates with same alma mater stick together mostly or is it more of a "lets all co-mingle together" environment?


People who were friends in school tend to remain friends, but I'm also friends with lots of people I did not go to school with. The social culture is pretty sad at all law firms, though.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:5. How common are lateral tranfers between regions? Say I start out at chicago but want to work at SF firm in california, how likely is this?


It happens fairly often, so long as you come from a good firm and your practice area is in demand in your desired market.

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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby CPAlawHopefu » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:41 pm

Martin Brody wrote:
CPAlawHopefu wrote:1. How is UIUC viewed from employer perspective?


This falls into the "big firms firms will likely hire one to two students per summer" category. You better have really good grade and be a strong interviewer or you will struggle.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:2. How well are asians represented in your firm? How well do Asians perform when it comes to becoming a partner (specifically at Chicago biglaws)? (I am Asian so this is important to me)


Asians are underrepresented, but not as compared to African Americans, Latinos or other minority groups. It's about as impossible to make partner as an Asian is it is for every other ethnic group.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:3. How much loan do you have, how much do you pay a month as loan payment, and how does that affect your lifestyle with your current salary?


My loan payments are more than manageable in biglaw. The only issue is I'm not sure how long I'm going to stay.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:4. How is the social culture like? Do associates with same alma mater stick together mostly or is it more of a "lets all co-mingle together" environment?


People who were friends in school tend to remain friends, but I'm also friends with lots of people I did not go to school with. The social culture is pretty sad at all law firms, though.

CPAlawHopefu wrote:5. How common are lateral tranfers between regions? Say I start out at chicago but want to work at SF firm in california, how likely is this?


It happens fairly often, so long as you come from a good firm and your practice area is in demand in your desired market.


Thanks for the quick response!

With respect to #2, would you say that such is the case due to performance/personality issue or is it mostly due to some unexplainable reasons (i.e. "bamboo ceiling")?

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:45 pm

No, it's just generally impossible to make partner. At my firm, maybe one to two people per class will make partner. And those people are the smartest and hardest working and luckiest assholes around. Most people realize pretty early on partnership is neither possible nor desirable.

Do not go into a big firm expecting to make partner.

CPAlawHopefu
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby CPAlawHopefu » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:58 pm

Martin Brody wrote:No, it's just generally impossible to make partner. At my firm, maybe one to two people per class will make partner. And those people are the smartest and hardest working and luckiest assholes around. Most people realize pretty early on partnership is neither possible nor desirable.

Do not go into a big firm expecting to make partner.


Oh, I understand that making partner is difficult in general (and that is also an understatement) but I was concerned whether my Asian ethnicity will be a barrier in any way. But then this is still far far into the future. I'll worry about it if (and a big IF) I manage to land a biglaw gig (still far far away from that stage).

Thanks for the answers though. Really appreciate your quick responses.

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:07 pm

CPAlawHopefu wrote:
Martin Brody wrote:No, it's just generally impossible to make partner. At my firm, maybe one to two people per class will make partner. And those people are the smartest and hardest working and luckiest assholes around. Most people realize pretty early on partnership is neither possible nor desirable.

Do not go into a big firm expecting to make partner.


Oh, I understand that making partner is difficult in general (and that is also an understatement) but I was concerned whether my Asian ethnicity will be a barrier in any way. But then this is still far far into the future. I'll worry about it if (and a big IF) I manage to land a biglaw gig (still far far away from that stage).

Thanks for the answers though. Really appreciate your quick responses.


I'm not sure anyone can really answer this question. Law firms are run by old white men. They are doing their average to change that, but minority groups still face an uphill battle making it to partner. What does it matter though? Will a yes or no here change anything you're doing? And how does this differ from the rest of the outside world, where minority groups also face disadvantages as compared to white males?

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btruj777
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby btruj777 » Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:07 pm

I appreciate you guys helping us out.

What can you guys tell us about regarding practice groups and how that works in general? Is it on a firm-need basis, or do they let you pick a practice group?

Once you are part of a practice group, do you only do work related to X type of law/industry? Or is it more heterogeneous in nature - wherein you get work from many various sources and other groups.


How are you assigned to a case and how does work come down to you from up top?

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:12 pm

btruj777 wrote:I appreciate you guys helping us out.

What can you guys tell us about regarding practice groups and how that works in general? Is it on a firm-need basis, or do they let you pick a practice group?

If you get in a practice group do you only do work related to X type of law/industry? Or is it more heterogeneous in nature - wherein you get work from many various sources and other groups.


How are you assigned to a case and how does work come down to you from up top?


All of these are going to be firm dependent. I suggest you do some research on Chambers Associate, Vault, and here to learn more about firm-specific practices. Some firms hire directly into practice groups, others let you choose. You generally do NOT work for a specific industry at a large firm. Your clients operate in all sorts of industries. You are assigned cases/deals from an assigning partner or based on a free market system. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. But generally you start to build relationships with specific people and in either case begin working more for those people.

There isn't really much here that's specific to the Chicago market, though.

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:06 pm

btruj777 wrote:Hi! Thank you for this, looking to do Chicago Big Law as well. I am most worried about quality of life and work life.

What are some things in your particular firm that you are surprised that people are more lenient with, when compared to any job you have had before law school. For example, I have heard it does not matter how late you come in so long as before 10? Is this true?

I have also heard that you can (as you become more senior) to work from home on occasion?

In short, how much autonomy do you have of your day?

How often haver your weekend plans or vacation plans been interfered with because of Big Law?



When I come in doesn't matter unless I have a face to face meeting. I frequently work from home, nobody has ever said anything to me. I do primarily private equity transactions, so if a deal is moving I have to work nights and weekends frequently. Generally my firm respects vacations, which means I check emails and sometimes get on a call or two...but usually don't have to turn documents. I note, however, that I only take vacations 1-2 times per year, and I plan them during January/February and August, when corporate groups are usually less busy.

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:15 pm

Halltheway wrote:Hi, I have a couple of questions, mainly about OCI.

What are your general suggestions for OCI? Bidding, interviewing, etc.

How true and real are the gap & ranking cutoffs/requirements for bidding? Do I have a chance at a callback if I scored a lottery interview with much lower grades than a firm traditionally accepts?

Is there any truth to bidding a lot in NYC?

How do firms view students from UChi/Northwestern v. Loyola/DePaul/etc.


OCI Interviews are easy compared to interviews in finance, trading, etc. Just smile, be nice and ask great questions. Come off as humble and hard working. I've done OCI interviews for my firm and I avoid people that seem arrogant. Also, ask a lot of targeted questions and get your interviewer talking. It takes the burden off of you, and makes you seem prepared and interested.

Grade cutoffs are real, but every year students with lower than normal grades gets into a higher than expected firm. Do the things I stated above in your interviews.

I don't know about your NYC question.

UChi/Northwestern = Each of these schools place 3/4 students every year into our summer program. ND/UIUC = Each of these schools place 1/2 students every year into our summer program. Loyola/DePaul/Kent = Sometimes we take 1 student from one of these schools into our summer program, but not every year.

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:24 pm

CPAlawHopefu wrote:1. How is UIUC viewed from employer perspective?

2. How well are asians represented in your firm? How well do Asians perform when it comes to becoming a partner (specifically at Chicago biglaws)? (I am Asian so this is important to me)

3. How much loan do you have, how much do you pay a month as loan payment, and how does that affect your lifestyle with your current salary?

4. How is the social culture like? Do assoicates with same alma mater stick together mostly or is it more of a "lets all co-mingle together" environment?

5. How common are lateral tranfers between regions? Say I start out at chicago but want to work at SF firm in california, how likely is this?


1. We usually bring in 2 students from UIUC into our summer program every year at my firm.

2. Slightly underrepresented. Seem to perform well.

3. I got a scholarship and aggressively paid off my debt. I recommend you manage your debt tightly. Coming into this profession with a heavy debt-load is quite possibly something you will regret for a long time.

4. Relaxed social culture, not a ton of face time requirements if you don't want but plenty of events if you do. Nobody associates by school, rather by class year (if you were summers together) or by practice group / the people you work with on deals, etc.

5. If you work for a few years and establish yourself as a good associate, then my firm will allow you to move to other offices. This has happened with multiple associates I know.

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:30 pm

btruj777 wrote:I appreciate you guys helping us out.

What can you guys tell us about regarding practice groups and how that works in general? Is it on a firm-need basis, or do they let you pick a practice group?

Once you are part of a practice group, do you only do work related to X type of law/industry? Or is it more heterogeneous in nature - wherein you get work from many various sources and other groups.


How are you assigned to a case and how does work come down to you from up top?




My firm allows you to submit your preferences at the end of the summer, and will try to accommodate but it's always s/t firm needs. We have two large groups (litigation & corporate) and then smaller groups (tax, employee benefits, etc.) In the large groups you can work on various projects, in the smaller groups you tend to be more specialized.

I entered my firm with the goal of establishing relationships with partners who would mentor me. I now work for primarily 3 partners, but sometimes others. I get my work from these partners, and like to do repeat deals for the same clients to establish relationships. I bill more hours than the average associate at my firm, so if I am too busy to take on new work I tell the partners and they always respect it.

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:34 pm

Martin Brody wrote:No, it's just generally impossible to make partner. At my firm, maybe one to two people per class will make partner. And those people are the smartest and hardest working and luckiest assholes around. Most people realize pretty early on partnership is neither possible nor desirable.

Do not go into a big firm expecting to make partner.



I respectfully disagree. I feel partnership is obtainable at my firm, and at some firms it's very likely. For example, Kirkland & Ellis graduates the majority of its 6th year associates to "non-share" partnership status each year. Granted, much tougher to make "share" (i.e. "equity") partner there.

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Vincent Adultman
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby Vincent Adultman » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:37 pm

crazyeddie wrote:
Martin Brody wrote:No, it's just generally impossible to make partner. At my firm, maybe one to two people per class will make partner. And those people are the smartest and hardest working and luckiest assholes around. Most people realize pretty early on partnership is neither possible nor desirable.

Do not go into a big firm expecting to make partner.



I respectfully disagree. I feel partnership is obtainable at my firm, and at some firms it's very likely. For example, Kirkland & Ellis graduates the majority of its 6th year associates to "non-share" partnership status each year. Granted, much tougher to make "share" (i.e. "equity") partner there.


An NSP is a glorified senior associate. They are not partners.

crazyeddie
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby crazyeddie » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:47 pm

Martin Brody wrote:
crazyeddie wrote:
Martin Brody wrote:No, it's just generally impossible to make partner. At my firm, maybe one to two people per class will make partner. And those people are the smartest and hardest working and luckiest assholes around. Most people realize pretty early on partnership is neither possible nor desirable.

Do not go into a big firm expecting to make partner.



I respectfully disagree. I feel partnership is obtainable at my firm, and at some firms it's very likely. For example, Kirkland & Ellis graduates the majority of its 6th year associates to "non-share" partnership status each year. Granted, much tougher to make "share" (i.e. "equity") partner there.


An NSP is a glorified senior associate. They are not partners.


Agree, but they make around $400 to 500k and have "partner" from K&E on their resume as essentially a 7th year associate. Not a terrible deal.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Chicago Big Law - Taking Questions

Postby TatteredDignity » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:51 pm

For an associate with a non-working spouse, what's a reasonable amount of rent to pay? I'm trying to commute less than 30 mins each way, and $2200 seems like the minimum--at least for reasonably nice places.




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